Superintendent says graduation rate too low

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Mississippi Report Card data reflects a “good solid B” for theBrookhaven School District, says Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds, buthe added there are several areas of concern that needaddressing.

High on the list of concerns is graduation data that placed thecity school district in the lower third of the state.

For the 2000-01 school year, the most recent year available, thedistrict had a graduation rate of 71.56 percent, which placed it108th in the state. The state average was 76.56 percent.

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“I’m extremely disappointed with the graduation rate,” Boundsaid. “I think it’s just a glitch for that one year.”

The Mississippi Report Card ranks the state’s 152 schooldistricts on information such as student-teacher data, finances,special education, career technical education and other areas. Thereport card has included accreditation data in the past, but itcurrently does not as the state is in the process of changing themethod used to compare districts and individual schools.

In the 1998-99 school year, Brookhaven had a graduation rate of82 percent and placed 33rd in the state. In 1999-2000, thedistrict’s graduation rate was 78 percent and good enough for 70th,still in the upper half of the districts.

Bounds said the graduation rate is based on the number ofstudents who enter the ninth grade compared to those who receivediplomas at the end of their senior year. He said some studentsdrop out while others may transfer elsewhere and cannot berelocated, and that counts against the district’s rate.

“You’ve got four years where they can disappear on you,” Boundssaid.

Bounds said the most recent graduation data has been brought toa lot of people’s attention within the district. He said he isencouraging school officials to take another look at the district’sdrop out prevention program and other efforts to encourage studentsto stay in school.

“I’m hoping this is just an unusual year,” Bounds said, “buteven at that, I’m not happy.”

Bounds was optimistic about the new Mississippi Student TrackingSystem, which is designed to follow students’ progress throughgrades.

“I think that’s going to help us more accurately track ourstudents,” Bounds said.

Other totals contained in the report were “pretty good,” Boundssaid.

He pointed out an attendance to enrollment percentage of 97.41percent. That was higher than the state average of 96.65 percentand ranked Brookhaven 35th.

“We are always working hard to increase our enrollment,” Boundssaid, recalling one of his familiar sayings on the schoolattendance subject. “Students can’t learn if they are not in theclassroom.”

Bounds was also pleased with the district’s percentage ofteachers with advanced degrees.

In the district, 39.96 percent have advanced degrees, whichexceeded the state average of 38.37 percent and placed the district52nd. Bounds mentioned local efforts to attract additionaladvanced-degree instructors and that should be reflected in futurereport cards.

Other high points for the district were its percentage of giftedstudents and the number of Carnegie Units offered.

The report card said 10.40 percent of students in grades twothrough 12 were in the gifted program. That surpassed the stateaverage of 7.14 percent and ranked the district 28th in thestate.

The number of Carnegie Units, courses that count towardgraduation, was 110, which was was good enough to put the district23rd in the state. The state Carnegie Unit average was 83.29units.

“That means our kids are getting the opportunity to be exposedto more educational areas and are getting good preparation forlife,” Bounds said.

In financial data, the city school district’s per pupilexpenditures in the report card year was $5,853. That was higherthan the state average of $5,717 per pupil and placed the district67th.

Bounds said the expenditure totals signify the district’sdiversity. But it also means more costs for teachers and space tobe able to offer the wide range of courses.

“This community puts a lot of value in quality education,”Bounds said. “In this community, we are spending the money toensure that our kids get a quality education.”

At number 36, the city school district was in the top quarter inthe area of property value per student. With a valuation of $34,271per student, the district was higher than the state average of$32,031 per student.

In another financial area, the city school district was in thetop third in the amount of revenue going to administrativeexpenditures.

At 4.26 percent, the city district was more than three-quartersof a percentage point above the state average of 3.46 percent.Brookhaven ranked 109th in the state.

“We’re a little top heavy in the percent of administrativeexpenditures,” Bounds said.

The city school district has three assistantsuperintendents.

Also contributing to the above-average percentage, Bounds said,were dedicated staff positions for athletic director,transportation director and 16th Section Lands director. Whileacknowledging the high administrative expenditures, Bounds alsocited benefits of the specific positions.

“All of those are a plus for the district because it allows usto give more attention to details,” the superintendent said.

Overall, Bounds said the report card indicates a “good solid B”for his district.

“We’ve got a lot of good positive things and I think theBrookhaven School District fits on the honor roll of the state,”Bounds said.

Bounds said the city school district remains one of the betterones in the state, but there are some areas in need of improvementand attention.

“The areas that need improvement and attention will definitelyget them, I assure you,” Bounds said.

Thursday: Lincoln County results.