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Why We Love This Place Wednesdays: Lita “Sara” Smith

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By Terra Avilla

We as a society have spent a lot of time praising our teachers and educators during this pandemic. And do not get me wrong, they rightfully deserve all the credit for adapting in such bizarre times. But, through my time at Lassen High School I have noticed a very integral person who does not get any recognition, but due to the pandemic has had her workload quadrupled.

This week I wanted to shine a spotlight on Sara Smith, the Lassen High School Attendance Administrator. On face value Sara works very hard in normal circumstances to build relationships with teen students. If you are tardy, you are going to have to get a slip from Ms. Sara. You want to leave early, you better get that pass approved by Ms. Sara. You ditched your sixth period. Yep. That’s Ms. Sara who you will face.

The catch is, she is not just a face that sometimes gives you a consequence like Saturday school for your attendance. She is an amazingly caring person who gets to know her frequent students, and can tell when something is wrong, untrue or if the student needs a safe reprieve in the school.

I have sat in her office and watched student after student come to her window. She knows them all by name and knows the intricacies of their lives. She makes it a point to converse with them when they are receiving their class admit slips, “How was your game?” or “I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Sara makes it very clear to the students that she cares about them as people.

In fact, during breaks and lunch, you can usually find a variety of students in her office, just wanting to check in with her, or share something they are proud of. Sara has an innate ability to be stern with them, but in a way that they know she cares. When they do well Sara is usually one of the very first people the students want to check in with. She holds them accountable, but then she goes above and beyond to try to set them up for success.

I have sat in numerous truancy meetings with Sara while, instead of sitting there and simply stating the facts, (i.e.” You are truant- Come to school”) she actually works with the student and tries to make a very feasible plan with the other team members to get them back on track.

Moreover, because she is so attentive, Sara is also able to report unusual patterns in our students attendance that may indicate that something not so pleasant is occurring in the student’s personal life. The students talk to her, and she doesn’t miss a beat. She has sent me on several welfare checks, in which, for the student’s wellbeing, we should all be grateful Sara is a conscientious as she is.

And that is what she does in “normal years.” Mix in a pandemic and her job became a crazy cluster of paperwork.

Moving students to distance learning, and then back to in-person school, and then moving and tracking which days, and the rotating schedules. Yet somehow she manages to sort it all straight and is a constant person I can go to whenever I need help at the school.

Besides the excellent job she does at the school, Sara is an adoring wife and incredibly proud mother. She is an excellent role model for her own daughter, but also for the hundreds of students at Lassen High School. She is one of my very funniest friends, and one of the reasons I love the place we live.

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