Unseen People: Attendance Clerk Ms. Cervantes


I’m Ms. Cervantes, and I’m one of the attendance clerks at Irvington. My job is to manage the attendance of students coming and going, making sure the attendance system reflects whether they were absent or present. If they left campus, then what time they left, and whether they returned or they didn’t because we want to make sure that the attendance reflects what’s correct because we get audited for that by the state. In order for us to get paid for our job, we have to make sure the ADA (Average Daily Attendance) is correct.

I handle everything from students going in for a medical appointment or for a passport appointment; it could be car trouble, it could be that they overslept, so I have to check whether it’s excused or unexcused. When they have to leave for a reason, I have those students noted down here along with their requests, including who has been called out absent. The ones that have requested, they’re marked off in the system already because they have an excused absence. And with COVID, we have to be extra careful because if a student could have COVID, we have to have them isolated. The trickiest thing about this job is managing the process of students always checking in and checking out.

Unfortunately, not all teachers do their attendance right away. Sometimes you have to wait till as late as the following day. Ms. Silva prints these sheets for teachers missing their attendance; those pink sheets over there are printed daily. It’s just an extra step to try to ensure this attendance is done right; because there’s a whole reason that we need to keep the record accurate. Since there are consequences when we get audited, I have to make sure that my record keeping is correct. 

We have office assistants who take out our passes for us. So we try and get parents to pick up their students according to whether they have an appointment; in that case, they have to give us a heads-up no later than the day before so that way, the student has their off-grounds pass. They need to have this on them to be able to leave the classroom at that time. If they don’t, we have to find the student and interrupt the class, for which we have to have an OA available at the time. The whole intention is that we’re trying to teach students to be adults, because in the work world, there’s a process that you have to follow; otherwise there’s consequences. And with COVID, since we didn’t have a chance to meet students, especially freshmen having to be online, they lost that stage of becoming independent.

I’ve pretty much always worked in the clerical field. I worked in medical offices as well as the county recording office. I like recording and keeping track of things. I got into working in schools because of my daughter. My daughter is hard of hearing. So I was at her class volunteering and little by little the principal started asking me to help out in classrooms or help out on the playground supervising. This was in Santa Cruz County and then we moved over here. We were thinking of having her go to school for the deaf. But she wanted to go to a public school so we put her in the Fremont Unified School District. I was working part-time as Office Assistant at Harvey Green Elementary; it gave me enough time to be home for my daughter. Then little by little I started going up, from office assistant at Harvey Green to attendance clerk at Irvington.

Another thing I have to deal with is the language barrier. Some parents have trouble contacting the office, because they don’t know English and they’re trying to find somebody that speaks their language. I get a lot of the people that are Spanish-speaking. Even though they’re not in my list alphabetically, I have to go through their situation. I will often specifically tell the parent to just call your attendance clerk and leave the voicemail in Spanish. Somebody will go through it and listen to it since it’s better that you contact us and make that effort. The whole point is that we need to make sure that the parent is aware that the student is not present in class. That’s why we have that automated call that goes out, once at 10 in the morning and then another one at 6. So whatever absences haven’t been taken care of, the automated call will pick them up, including the unexcused absences.