Watertown City School District board member Deltra B. Willis said she would be considered a dropout by state Education Department standards.
During a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, she said she needed an extra year to complete Grade 13 in Ontario because of the governments changing standards in education at the time. Now she possesses a bachelors and a masters degree.
The board discussed the 61.4 percent graduation rate reported for the 2007 four-year cohort during Superintendant Terry N. Fralicks report. He said seven students who transferred out of the district are unaccounted for and therefore considered dropouts.
Adding those seven students back in brings the graduation rate up to 64 percent. Adding the students who graduated or received a General Educational Development diploma or an Individualized Education Program diploma, the graduation rate increases to 76 percent.
It just shows that some students are more important for state Education than others, Mrs. Willis said. Unlike state Education, we think that students with disabilities should be recognized. Dignity for all students are just words. So much for dignified.
The Dignity for All Students Act to protect students against bullying at school went into effect Sunday.
However, some board members agreed the district needs to do more to hook students and persuade them to remain in school until they graduate.
We need to look at our student body and figure out where were losing these kids, board President Cynthia H. Bufalini said.
Mr. Fralick said he had a conversation with high-ranking officials at the state Education Department recently in which he proposed granting drivers licenses only to students who have graduated. He also told the officials that bringing back the local diploma would increase the graduation rate.
Board member Patrick J. Powers suggested asking the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services to offer career and technology courses to students in the ninth and 10th grades rather than making them wait until the last two years of high school. Several board members argued these vocational courses make education more relevant for some students.
Its hard to tell a ninth-grader, If you can hang in there for two years, we can direct you better, he said.
Other suggestions to keep students interested in school and graduating on time included looping middle and high school teachers, instituting a Big Brothers/Big Sisters-like program between seniors and freshmen, and getting more students involved in extracurricular activities.
Mrs. Bufalini said it is difficult to change a students attitude toward school if his or her family does not have a good attitude about education.
We cant change whats at home, board member Yvonne E. Gebo said. We can only change whats here.
Other items discussed were the two elementary teacher openings that have 104 applicants so far, according to Human Resources Director Jason Ring. The district also has openings for two special-education positions, a long-term substitute Spanish teacher and a speech teacher, among others. This is a year after the district laid off 27 employees because of budget cuts.