Houston County school board discusses graduation rates

CENTERVILLE -- Houston County school board members mulled Monday the recently released graduation rates at area high schools.

While Houston County’s graduation rate remained above the state average, the county’s schools slipped to 77.3 percent. The Houston County Career Academy’s rate fell to 28.6 percent, well below its 2013 graduation rate of 49.1 percent, according to rates released in late October.

“I’m just trying to understand what caused the (lower numbers),” board Vice Chairman Fred Wilson said Monday during the board’s monthly work session at Thomson Middle School.

Superintendent Mark Scott said a variety of factors influenced that low number. While any number of students might attend the school for various courses, only about 40 are considered full-time enrollees and count toward the school’s graduation rate. Among that number, some would have been placed there to help find a program that fits their academic needs.

Since the rates are based on a four-year cycle, students who need more than four years to graduate would count against the rate, Scott said.

“They may have already been a year behind when they enrolled in the school,” he said.

Specifically referring to the Career Academy, Scott expressed a desire to find a spot for students to complete the required course work to graduate.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure they have the best opportunity to do that,” he said.

Those efforts include online courses. Scott said virtual learning also could be available to students who had been removed from the school system due to disciplinary issues.

“Because we’re responsible for those kids whether they’re in the school or not,” he said.

Scott also outlined the system’s endeavors to analyze data related to students who aren’t graduating, from their involvement in pre-kindergarten, retention issues in elementary school and even transfer status.

In the end, the board said the goal was to find ways to get students to graduation, regardless of the time period.

“If the child or the student graduates, even after five years, then they’ve reached a goal that we should be proud of,” board Chairwoman Marianne Melnick said.

Also Monday, the board heard the financial report from Stephen Thublin, assistant superintendent for finance and business operations. Thublin said the system has received a 0.59 percent increase in local option sales tax receipts for the year over last year.

Among personnel matters, Scott highlighted 11 transportation vacancies with 11 vacancies in the county’s training program.

“That’s been a tough job this year to get our bus driver positions filled,” he said.

Meanwhile, revision of the county’s policy on student cellphone use was again postponed until after the November principals’ meeting, scheduled for this week.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.