School attendance still hard to gather after hurricanes hit, Puerto Rico Education secretary says
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher said Monday that despite the challenges in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and María, her department is making every effort to obtain the most accurate data on student, and teaching and non-teaching staff attendance.
She argued that the lack of electric power service is the toughest challenge, along with the setbacks resulting from internet connectivity problems in sectors of the island as well as the challenges linked to telephony service.
“It is unacceptable that in these times, even if a catastrophic hurricane had not passed, we are working with certain technical advances but without being able to obtain accurate and immediate data that allow us to make correct and fair management decisions. Thus, we recognize the limitations and we are working hard in the search of administrative alternatives to implement new internal controls that adapt to the new reality,” the head of Education said in a press release.
The official thanked the work of those in the effort who have been tasked with finding more effective tools to confirm attendance and other data that are essential to administrate the department.
She said that among the temporary solutions are accepting photos of reports sent via text message, data given over the phone and receiving them by the usual means, email, from sectors where there is electricity and internet service.
Regarding the procedure to collect data on schools, districts and regions, the secretary explained that school directors count the number of students, deliver the data to the district, where statisticians complete a report and send it to the Auxiliary Office of Transformation, Planning and Performance (SATPRe by its Spanish acronym), which then produces the final reports.
Regarding teaching and non-teaching staff in schools where there is no electric power, the procedure entails filling out the online attendance form, DE 14, from any internet-connected device.
Employees who do not have a connected device can fill out the form and hand it to the school principal, who must deliver it to the district office and from there it is sent to the regional and central offices.
To determine the attendance of the faculty and non-teaching staff in areas where there is electric power and internet service, the KRONOS system is used, from which the central offices receive the data.
One of the school districts with which the Education Department has faced major challenges is Utuado, which includes the municipalities of Jayuya, Adjuntas and Utuado (part of the Ponce educational region), where Hurricane María caused substantial damage to electrical and communications infrastructures.
Barely any daily information is received from this town, thus the department is looking for alternatives to obtain the needed attendance data.
“With their passage, the hurricanes brought with them countless challenges for the Department of Education. We have been working tirelessly in search of alternatives to all of them, which, little by little, lead to the normalization of the system. In turn, all these efforts result in the wellbeing of students, who are the focus of everyone at the Education Department,” Dr. Yanira I. Raíces, SATPRe’s deputy secretary, added in the release.