Support cited in grad rate success

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brookhaven School District officials are happy to see graduationrates substantially above the state average for last year.

The Mississippi Department of Education released graduation anddropout rates for the state Wednesday. The report showed Brookhavenwith an 81.3 percent graduation rate, as compared to the state’soverall 73.8 percent.

“It does appear our graduation rate improved from last year aswell,” said Superintendent Lea Barrett. “Also, our dropout ratedecreased, and we’re pleased about both of those things.”

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The city’s school district’s dropout rate of 5.1 percent wasless than a third of the state’s average, which rested at 15.9percent. Barrett said part of the reason kids stay in the system inBrookhaven is because of the community’s dedication toeducation.

“When the community becomes involved in its schools, it helpsimmensely with retention,” Barrett said. “The value our communityplaces on education is evident through the amount of parentalinvolvement, chamber of commerce support and Adopt-A-Schoolsponsorships … Everyone here believes children should be inschool.”

The school district’s completion rate rested at 91.5 percent,which Barrett said is the 13th highest rate out of 152 schooldistricts. The state’s overall completion rate averaged out at 80percent.

Those completing something other than the traditional diploma,such as special education programs, GED and vocational studies areadded to the graduating students to find the completion ratenumbers.

Barrett said part of what could be contributing to the retentionand subsequent graduation success experienced by the program is theMississippi Scholars Program, which encourages high school studentsto take a more rigorous curriculum in order to insure continuedsuccess in future endeavors.

While Barrett cited the program as a big help, she saidtradition also plays a big role in the success of the schooldistrict.

“I think in the Brookhaven and Lincoln County area, and in thisarea of the state, we value education,” she said. “When you look atBrookhaven’s history, we’ve always had a high graduation rate.”

In addition, she cited the efforts of Assistant SuperintendentJames Tillman in dropout prevention and Capt. Bobby Bell as thedistrict’s retention officer for keeping kids in the classroomwhere they belong.

“Mr. Tillman deserves the credit for working with the principalsand the state department for addressing any problems we have withdropouts,” she said. “And Capt. Bell, our attendance officer, hasalways been wonderful to work with. If we can’t find a child and wedon’t have a withdrawal on them, he’ll help us locate them.”

Dedicated teachers are also a large part of keeping children inschool, Barrett said, saying the school district can be proud ofthe crop of teachers they currently have guiding the city’sstudents.

“You need to have a quality teacher in every classroom who isable to teach to the students’ needs,” she said. “Our graduationrate tells me we’re doing a great job of doing that.”

One problem Barrett said she would like to see addressed notonly in by the city school district, but state and nationwide, isthe larger percentage of male dropouts. In the Brookhaven schools,the percentage of female dropouts stands at 2.1 percent, and 9.9percent for males.

“If we’re losing males, every school district statewide needs tothink what we’re doing that engages females and and not males,” shesaid. “It may be societal, since we live in a society thatemancipates young men much earlier than young women, but that in noway excuses the school district for their role in keeping boys inschool.”

Finally, Barrett said, district officials take great pride inproviding an atmosphere where children can flourish.

“I think these numbers reflect the genuine concern and care ourentire staff gives to every child,” she said. “Kids know whenthey’re in a place that’s safe, where people care and where thereare adults that show a concern about their well-being.”