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FRANKLIN --- FHS Assistant Principal Eric Gearhart knows how Bob Barker feels. On May 20, about 1:45 p.m., Gearhart will announce the name of a lucky Franklin High School student whose good attendance has paid off in a big way -- winning a car donated by White Allen Chevrolet.

353 students, or 47% of the student body, are vying for the prize -- a 22% increase over last year. Students who don't win the car are eligible for other prizes including a TV, Reds tickets, and many gift certificates and coupons.

The program is Gearhart's brainchild. Two year ago, in his first year at FHS, he was not pleased with students' attendance rate and vowed that it would improve. "I told the teachers that I was going to get the attendance numbers up; they laughed," said Gearhart "I told them that I was going to give away a car to do it. They laughed harder."

Athletic Director Rodney Roberts put Gearhart in touch with Nick Monk, FHS grad and general manager at White Allen. Gearhart launched into his pitch for the car. Monk's reaction was immediate. "I'll do it," he said.

By several measures, the incentive is paying off. Student attendance is up: Last year, 182 students -- 25% of the student body -- qualified for the prize. The number has nearly doubled this year. Higher attendance is likely a contributor the the building having its highest-ever passing ever on the OGT's. Gearhart said, "Teachers told me that if I got the kids to come to school, they'd take care of the rest. You get an excellent education here -- if you're here. I don't care how much you spend on curriculum, books, or what your per pupil expenditure is, if the kids are not in school, it doesn't matter."

"The kids are excited about car and the buzz is building," said Gearhart. "Each quarter, when the list of eligible students is posted, I have lots of kids in my office asking about it and checking for accuracy."

Franklin High School is a member of the High Schools That Work program, but HSTW's program includes nothing like Franklin's attendance incentive. Gearhart said that after the news came out about last year's car giveaway, he received lots of calls form other schools about the program and has presented twice at the state level about it.

Last year's car winner, Kyle Wilson, gave the car to his sister, Keri. She parks it daily in slot #1; its visibility is a constant reminder that good attendance has rewards. On May 20, for one student, the reward will be sweet. 

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