By the time the tassels are turned at the completion of Scotland High School’s graduation on Saturday, over 400 Scotland County students will have walked across a stage, received their diploma, and walked into a world of opportunity.
Many of our graduates’ next steps will take them to college, some into the military, or for some, right into the work place. And while graduation is perhaps one of the most tangible examples of school systems’ and student’s success, we are proud to say that it is just one of the many celebrations for our district, our schools, our staff, and most importantly, our students.
When the most recent data was released in the fall, our graduation rate (for 2015-16) was at an all-time high of 82.5 percent. Additionally, our dropout rate was at an all-time low of 2.5 percent (46 students) in 2015-16 as compared to 4.98 percent (97 students) in 2014-15. In essence, not only are we doing a better job than ever before at ensuring that our students come to and stay in school, but we are continuing to put programs, initiatives, and layers of support in place so that more of our students earn a diploma and leave with skills which will open doors of opportunities for all students to know success.
Not only are more of our students earning high school diplomas, but many are earning Associate’s Degrees and college credit while they are in high school. Of the 52 SEarCH graduates, 42 graduated with a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree from Richmond Community College. In total, Scotland County Schools’ students have earned credit for 1,245 college courses through our ongoing partnership with RCC. Our students have also earned over 500 industry recognized credentials in areas such as OSHA, Microsoft, Adobe Suite, ServeSafe, Work Keys, CNA, and welding. Beginning in 2017-18, we will be expanding our Career and Technical Education courses by adding EMT, Pharmacy Tech, and Drafting to the course selection. The Class of 2017 is not only graduating with college credits and credentials; they are also graduating having earned over $2.9 million in scholarships and awards from colleges and universities.
This school year, high school level courses (Spanish, English 1, Math 1) began being offered in our middle schools. Now students, if they choose, can complete those graduation requirements before entering the 9th grade. When they do go to high school, having these courses completed will allow them even more opportunities to take college level courses and earn college credit. And on the heels of the success of our expanded middle school sports offerings to golf and cross country this past year, we will add swimming and bowling at the high school and wrestling, and track at the middle schools to the 2017-18 opportunities for our student-athletes.
Many of the careers of today, and more so in the future, are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based. We have placed a strong emphasis on making sure that our students have the 21st century skills and technology that will equip them for an ever-changing job market. The Board of Education approved our 1:1 Technology Plan which will provide every student with their own computer to use in school and take home as well. The rollout will begin with students at Scotland High School in 2017-18, then to the middle school students in 2018-19, and finally in the elementary schools in 2019-2020. This forward thinking decision and plan will equal the playing field for our students and better equip them for increasingly competitive job market.
We believe in supporting the arts with expanded opportunities to showcase our visual and performing arts. We also believe not only in the expansion of the arts, but the connection it has to STEM. This summer, our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math/Manufacturing/Medicine ) Mobile Classroom will literally be hitting the roads in our community allowing students to create, experiment, and learn during the break. Then next school year, the STEAM Mobile Classroom will be exposing our students to these ever expanding fields of study and careers.
And speaking of job market and careers, we continue to provide our students with opportunities to job shadow and intern with community businesses, industries, and organizations. We realize that if we don’t give our students the chance to put the skills that they are learning and developing in the classroom into play in a real life job or situation, they cannot truly know if the career that they want to pursue is their calling in life. Believing that all of our students can be successful, we provide opportunities to learn life and job readiness skills in our Grounds for Success programs. This initiative was put in place for our students with disabilities to gain life and job readiness experiences. And all the while, we know that character education is a key component to success for today and in the future. With leadership development and community service as a focus, our Bow Tie and Bows Clubs, Men and Women of Excellence groups, and our academic and service clubs and organizations continue to develop the whole child.
And the list of celebrations could literally go on and on… However, we know that we can’t be satisfied with the accomplishments of past school years. We must continue to increasingly do our part to use our successes as a foundation on which we continue to strive for ways to make sure our students are successful and Scotland County a great place to work, live, and play.
Dr. Ron Hargrave, superintendent of Scotland County Schools, wrote this week’s Focus on Scotland, an effort by community leaders to make Scotland County a better place to work, live, and play.