Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Magee Family

Hi, my name is Sue Magee and I have 4 kids, 3 of whom have graduated from Millard South High School, and one who is currently a student there. I, too, have tremendous concerns about the impact of LB800 and LB463 on families in Nebraska. My 3 oldest kids would have all been classified as "at risk" under these laws, so here are their stories:

With 6 people in our family, we weren't lucky enough to escape passing illnesses around to one another, so all of my kids missed the usual number of days staying home with colds, coughs, sore throats, stomach viruses, etc. Let's assume they each missed around 5 days each year due to illnesses or doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments.

My daughter was an excellent student. She graduated in the top 10 of her class of 500, was on superior honor role all 4 years, took numerous AP classes, was named the top vocal music student her senior year, and received various other honors and awards. She went on to college and to graduate school, and is currently working as a school psychologist.

While she was in middle school, she was given the opportunity to travel to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji with her grandparents. The trip was planned for her to go over Christmas vacation, but, because it was a 3-week tour, she ended up missing a week of school. We, as her parents, knew that she was a good enough student that she would be conscientious about making up the classwork she missed, so we made the decision to allow her to go on the trip. It was an incredible learning experience, and it instilled in her a love of travel and exploring other cultures. She has since travelled to South Africa, Japan, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, numerous countries in Western Europe and even got a summer job in London while she was in college. The trip to Australia put her over 10 days of absences. If LB463 would have been in effect then, she would have been labeled "at risk" and we would have been dealing with the authorities. What a unnecessary stress that would have been on our family, and what a waste of everyone's time turning her over to juvenile justice.

Then when my daughter went on to high school, she sang for the Bel Canto choir, which was the top children’s choir in the state of Nebraska. The choir director was Z. Randall Stroope (the composer Millard commissioned to write the song in tribute to Vicki Kaspar.) This choir was invited to sing at Regional and National Choir Directors Conventions, an honor reserved for only a select few children’s choirs in the country. So several times during the school year, my daughter would miss school to travel with Dr. Stroope and the choir to Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and various other locations throughout the country.

We, as her parents, knew she was very capable of making up the work she missed, so we encouraged her to go on these trips. We wanted her to have the performing experience, and the experience of working under an internationally recognized composer/choir director. These trips with the choir put her over 10 days of absences/school year. Again, how horrible it would have been had we been reported to HHS and criminal justice. And it would have been even more horrible had we kept her home, for she will tell you that being a part of that choir had the biggest impact on her work ethic and desire to strive for perfection than any other thing in her life.

My son did not excel at academics like his sister, but he was blessed with athletic ability. He started running in 5th grade, and joined the Omaha Racers Running Club. In addition to competing on his middle school and high school track and cross-country teams, he competed with the Racers in the Jr. Olympic events. After several years of dedicated hard work and training, he was able to qualify to compete in the Jr. Olympic Regionals for cross country, and at those meets, he qualified to go to the Jr. Olympic Nationals. So 2 different years we had him miss school to go to places like Madison, WI, Minneapolis, MN, and Providence, RI to be one of the runners representing the state of Nebraska in the Jr. Olympics.

We, as his parents, wanted him to have the opportunities to compete on a regional and national level, and we helped him to make up the work he had missed. When he did the Jr. Olympic Nationals in Rhode Island, we took 2 extra days and drove to Boston, where we hired a retired history teacher to take us on a historical tour of the Boston area, and my son was able to see the places he had been reading about at school as they studied the Revolutionary War. He missed more than 10 days of school those 2 years, but those experiences had a big impact on the course his life would take. After high school, he moved to Colorado to work with a triathlon coach, and after a couple of years of training and competing in triathlons, he was invited to join the USA Team at the World Competition in Budapest , Hungary. He is currently working with a coach in Boulder, CO, concentrating on competitive cycling, and will most likely become a professional cyclist in the near future. Again, what a shame it would have been if we had felt that, due to a law such as LB463, we could not let my son miss more than 10 days of school, for fear that we would be turned over to the authorities.

I will just add one last note: I have 2 friends who were getting "the letters" concerning their high school kids. Both of them signed the papers to have their kids drop out of high school rather than deal with the authorities because of their kids' absences. Those 2 kids are now working on getting their GEDs. Do the lawmakers understand that the dropout rate in the state of Nebraska will most likely increase if these laws are left as is? Nobody wants to deal with that much government interference!

Sue Magee
Millard Public Schools
2010/2011 School Year

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