AISD employees will be rewarded with tickets to UT athletic events for attendance records

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Austin Independent School District Superintendent Meria Carstarphen speaks Monday morning about The Attendance Incentive Program between AISD and the University. In order to promote higher faculty attendance rates, AISD will give employees with consistent attendance free tickets to UT athletic events.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

Austin Independent School District employees with the best attendance records will get free tickets to UT athletic events after the district begins a new initiative aimed at improving faculty attendance rates.

The University, working in conjunction with AISD, will reward employees who demonstrate consistent attendance with ticket vouchers to UT sporting events, officials announced Monday. The Attendance Incentive Program will kick off Friday night, when AISD employees and their families are invited to watch the Texas Longhorns soccer team play Fresno State at the Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium at no charge.

The incentive program is part of a new effort to promote higher faculty attendance rates in the AISD system’s 124 schools. Over the course of the school year, UT will distribute approximately 15,000 ticket vouchers through the program, AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said. Of the 15,000 tickets, approximately 12,000 will be redeemable for soccer games. The rest will be designated for basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. None have been allocated for football.

Carstarphen said AISD’s current overall employee attendance rate hovers between 90 percent and 95 percent across all divisions. She said her goal is 98 percent attendance for the district’s 12,000 employees. She said the motivations behind the initiative are both educational and financial.

“When you match student attendance with staff attendance, there is far more instructional contact time between those two groups, and that is what really makes a difference for the student,” Carstarphen said.

Outside the classroom, the district also stands to benefit financially from increased teacher attendance. Michael Houser, AISD chief human capital officer, said the district spent approximately $8 million to hire substitute teachers last year.

The attendance initiative also ties in to a larger AISD goal: improving faculty health and wellness. Tracy Diggs Lunoff, AISD administrative supervisor of Student Health Services, said she hopes employees will understand the link between improved fitness and higher attendance rates.

“The hope is that incentives will inspire people to make healthier choices, which will ultimately allow for greater productivity,” Lunoff said.

UT athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky said they are thrilled to work with AISD on the attendance initiative.

“We are part of a larger community, and we are constantly looking for ways to connect back to Austin,” Plonsky said. “With all of the events we hold each year, this just seemed like such an easy way for us to provide a connection and incentive to [the AISD] staff.”

Dodds said the partnership between the University and AISD would bring benefits to both institutions.

“We are in the same business, the kid business,” Dodds said. “We want to be as helpful as we can in this project. I think it is a good one. And if it is good for them, it is good for us.”