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Volunteers and parents will soon fan out to Buffalo neighborhoods to spark a community discussion about absenteeism in Buffalo Public Schools.

The work will be part of a three-year project aimed at creating an action plan “to reduce absenteeism, increase school readiness and address racial inequities in education.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation plans to announce today that it has awarded a $500,000 grant to the Public Policy and Education Fund to engage low-income parents in Buffalo for the project.

“There are organizations and people out there who have already done a tremendous amount of work around this issue, and we are going to work directly with them to get the community voice and community involvement in really making policies that we can all work with,” said Brian Trzeciak, lead organizer for Citizen Action’s Western New York office. The Public Policy and Education Fund is the research affiliate of Citizen Action.

The grant is one of 30 the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is awarding to projects across the nation that focus on family engagement in early childhood education. The foundation received more than 1,130 applications for funding.

Trzeciak said the project, named Present Student Future Leader, also will build on work Citizen Action and the Alliance for Quality Education have done to encourage the Buffalo Board of Education to adopt a new code of conduct to reduce school suspensions.

“Our role is really to organize and engage the community to come up with these solutions on how to address this issue,” Trzeciak said.

Trzeciak said the project would begin within the next few weeks with volunteers and staff members going door to door in communities affected by absenteeism to gather information about obstacles to improving school attendance and ideas for reducing absenteeism.

“There’s got to be a reason why things are happening, why absenteeism is such a problem,” said Angelica Rivera, a mother of twin boys in the Buffalo school system’s pre-kindergarten program and a parent leader with Citizen Action. “It’s good that we’re finally addressing it.”

email: djgee@buffnews.com