It’s been less than a month since the tassels were turned at the completion of SEarCH, Shaw Academy, and Scotland High School’s graduations. Over 500 Scotland County Schools’ students walked across the 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 2016-17) was at an all-time high of 82.8 percent. Additionally, our dropout rate was at an all-time low of 1.6 percent (28 students) in 2016-17 as compared to 2.5 percent (46 students) in 2015-16. We were also one of the six districts in the state recognized by the Department of Public Instruction for having one of the largest three-year decreases in our high-school dropout count. 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 43 SEarCH graduates, 35 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 almost 1,200 college courses through our ongoing partnership with RCC. Our students have also earned over 1,600 industry recognized credentials in areas such as OSHA, Microsoft, Adobe Suite, ServeSafe, Work Keys, CNA, and welding. This past school year we increased our Career and Technical Education course offerings by adding EMT I, Pharmacy Tech, and Drafting to the selection. We will continue to expand our CTE options in the upcoming school year by adding Law, Public Safety, Correction and Security classes. We will also expand our popular EMT career pathway by implementing the EMT II course. Another course that we are adding and anticipate to be a popular choice because of the ever expanding career opportunities is Advance Studies Drone Course. The Class of 2018 is not only graduating with college credits and credentials; they are also graduating having earned well over $3.5 million in scholarships and awards from colleges and universities.
We continue to see the benefits from our students that participate in the arts and athletics. With data showing higher grades and better attendance for the over 3,500 students who participate in sports or that are involved in art, chorus, drama, or band, it is essential that we continue to increase these types of opportunities for our students. We expanded our sports teams to include swimming and bowling at the high school and wrestling, and track at the middle schools this past school year. Not only did our students compete in these sports, but they were competitive, bringing home conference and state awards. For the upcoming school year, we will be adding girls track to the 2018-19 opportunities for our middle school 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 last year which will provide every student with their own computer to use in school and take home as well. The successful rollout began with students at Scotland High School during 2017-18, and will continue with grades 3–8 in 2018-19. Our first and second graders will each have their own iPads to use in the classroom as well. This forward thinking decision and plan equals the playing field for our students and better equips them for an increasingly competitive job market.
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.
As you can tell, we have a lot to celebrate (and this is only a fraction of the list)! However, in an era that seems to increasingly emphasize the negative and highlight what divides us, we must remind ourselves to ‘starve our distractions and to feed our focus’. As a community, it is vital for us all that our focus remains on children and the ability to collectively work together to ensure that they can be successful. In working together for the betterment of our students, we are in essence creating a foundation of success making Scotland County a great place to work, live, LEARN, and play for us all.
Ron Hargrave, superintendent of Scotland County Public Schools, wrote this week’s Focus on Scotland, an effort by community leaders on making Laurinburg/Scotland County a better place to work, live, and play.