- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Students at the Health, Wellness & Environmental Sciences magnet school were able to receive one free haircut if their parents attended a parent-teacher conference.

The move came as school officials have noticed less and less attendance at parent-teacher conferences. Teacher Shalon Tate said the idea of offering haircuts came as teachers and administrators were trying to find ways to motivate more attendance. She said many times a haircut can be the last thing on a parent’s mind and that offering the cuts free of charge is one less thing they have to worry about.

“Our school is 100 percent free and reduced lunch, and we know many of our parents struggle with providing basic things to their children,” Tate said. “This is a weight off their pocketbook, and we’ve had parents tell us how appreciative they are.”

Tate said low attendance at parent-teacher conferences can stem from a number of reasons but a major one that she has noted in her discussion with teachers is a reluctance to come for fear of what they might hear about their children.

“They’re afraid they’ll just hear negative things about their children,” Tate said. “But we want to share the good things and show them all the bright things their child is doing in class. Sure, we might have a few concerns that we’re going to share with them, but we want to stress to the parents that these conferences are not a bad thing.”

Parent Megan Franklin brought one of her three children to get a free haircut, the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/2kHnJUH ) reported. She said providing the free haircuts are a great thing for the school to do.

“I think it’s a great experience for a child that maybe has never had a haircut or hasn’t gotten one in a while,” Franklin said. “I think it’s good that they get a haircut and have it look nice, that way it doesn’t get too long or impossible to brush.”

Franklin said she’s a proponent of parent-teacher conferences and said the meetings give her a chance to hear about what her children are doing in class.

“I think it’s a very important thing,” Franklin said. “To know how your child is doing and to know what’s expected of them makes everything easier. With these conferences I get to see what they are learning in class and hear what I can help my children work on at home.”

Tate said turnout for the haircuts was significant the first time they provided them. She said about 30 students received haircuts, and she plans to find other ways to provide haircuts for students in the future.

Tate said the decision to provide the haircuts was last minute, and she said the Northeast Arkansas Barber School and Eclipse agreed to send barbers and stylists.

“They came out here free of charge to help,” Tate said. “We’ve talked about partnering with the barber school in the future to provide more free haircuts.”

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