April 27, 2005
An estimated 16 million American students will grab their lunchboxes and head to work on Thursday to participate in a national program to raise career awareness.
But not in the East Valley — if parents get the message school officials have been sending out.
Ms. Foundation for Women, a national nonprofit organization created to address women’s issues from poverty to leadership skills, began "Take Our Daughters to Work" in 1993 to encourage adults — not necessarily parents — to take girls between 8 and 12 years old to work to spur discussion about their future careers. In 2003, the foundation expanded its program to include boys.
Empty school desks and interrupted lesson plans prompted East Valley schools over the past few years to ask community businesses to create the same opportunity for parents and students in June after school breaks for summer.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who appeared on NBC’s "Today" show on Tuesday, also has been urging that the event be moved to summer.
School officials could not provide exact figures in attendance drops, but said some classes have had half of their desks empty when the event is observed in April.
"It’s very disruptive to instruction when a number of students are absent on a given day," said Julia Kelly, Las Sendas Elementary School principal in the Mesa Unified School District.
Susan Carlson, executive director of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition — a group of business and education leaders in support of kindergarten through 12th grade education — said businesses and organizations — including Mesa — are receptive to observing the event on June 16.
"The businesses are concerned, too," she said. "They want to be part of keeping the focus on learning, so they are doing it both by supporting an alternate day and hosting special activities at their workplace in June."
Zach Norenberg, a sixth-grader at Hermosa Vista Elementary School in Mesa, said June is "better."
"I feel like we have a lot going on," the 12-year-old said. "It’s the end of the year and it’s winding down, so we have to study and do our work extra hard this time of year."