Dropout rate falls

Published 8:47 pm Thursday, July 3, 2014

On-time graduation and dropout rates in Suffolk’s public high schools are improving, according to data presented to School Board members at their annual retreat last month.

Division-wide, 87.24 percent of high school seniors graduated on time in 2013. That compares with previous results ranging from 84.08 percent in 2012 to 77.83 percent in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2013, that’s an improvement of almost 10 percentage points.

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The dropout rate has seen similar improvement, according to the data. From 14.72 percent in 2009, it has consistently dropped each following year, landing at 8.11 percent in 2013.

An increasing number of students are taking dual-credit courses, it was also reported: Division-wide, from 122 in 2013 to 152 for 2014.

Of the three high schools, King’s Fork has seen the biggest jump in dual-credit takers, almost doubling from 16 to 31 students.

Meanwhile, district Finance Director Wendy Forsman discussed funding and teacher salary issues. In 2013-2014, depending on their experience levels, Suffolk public school teachers ranked 10th and eighth for pay among 11 of 15 school divisions in Region II.

Connected to this, district Purchasing Manager Susan Redmon updated the board on a compensation and classification study. The scope and a request for proposals would be finalized by mid-July, she reported, and a contract for the services awarded by the end of September.

Redmon estimated that results would be reported back to the district by Jan. 5, 2015, comparing the Suffolk division’s salaries and benefits to other division and the general market.

The report would also provide a classification structure for all current positions and standards to classify new positions, an estimate of implementation cost, and training for some district staff administration for “administration of the plan and techniques for future needs,” according to Redmon.

The retreat also broached issues from 2014’s new arrangements for graduation ceremonies. Suggestions included increasing the time between ceremonies, and measures to prevent overruns, at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, where Nansemond River and King’s Fork high schools held theirs on the same day this year.

Another issue was the heat of Lakeland’s onsite, outdoor ceremony, as well as traffic flow, parking and lack of seating at the high school.

The retreat also looked at costs associated with the new arrangements: Against $24,191 for graduations at the three high schools in 2013, this year, two ceremonies at the Norfolk venue and one onsite in Suffolk cost $20,821; and bringing all three events to the convocation center would cost $18,500.

Douglas Dohey, the district’s director of secondary leadership, updated board members on advanced and specialty programs, including growing enrollment in 2014 in Advanced Placement courses almost across the board.

Details on specialty programs included 20 students selected for the biomedical sciences program, beginning this year.

The retreat also included reports from district Chief of Operations Kevin Alston on pupil transportation and school resource officers.