The first item on every Scotland County Schools’ meeting agenda is the opportunity to share out our district, school, or most importantly our students’ celebrations.
It continues to be a goal of Scotland County Schools to create and cultivate a ‘culture of celebration’. While we all know that one does not need to look very far to find news articles or individuals that are eager to point out our shortcomings or challenges, we must realize that we have far more celebrations than challenges.
One of the proudest moments for anyone in education is to see a student walk across the stage at graduation, receive a diploma, and know that they have a plan for their successful future. This simple act is representative of the culmination of thirteen years of hard work put in by the student, their teachers, family, and community. And this past year was particularly significant as the graduation rate for Scotland County Schools was the highest ever since graduation rates began being tracked in 2004. 82.5% of our seniors received a high school diploma in 2015-16 and additionally, 52 of our SEarCH graduates were awarded a two-year Associate’s Degree as well. Our dropout rate was at an all-time low as well. Falling from 96 students that dropped out in 2014-15 to 46 students in 2015-16 indicates that our students are more focused, engaged, and are taking advantage of the opportunities that are available to them. Although we continue to celebrate these significant milestones, we are more determined than ever to ensure that All of our students walk across that stage on graduation day.
And reflecting on the opportunities that Scotland County Schools’ students have, there are many and the list continues to grow. We continue to expand our dual-enrollment course offerings at Scotland High allowing students to earn college credits while still in high school. Just this past semester, our students earned 634 college credits. In addition to taking the rigorous Advanced Placement courses, these college courses are free to students and with the rising costs of higher education, this opportunity saves our students and their families thousands of dollars while also strengthening their college application resumes.
We celebrate that just this past fall semester, our students earned 287 industry recognized certifications and credentials. Whether going directly into the workforce, the military, or college, having these certifications places our students at a distinct advantage and adds to the foundation in which they’ll build their future upon.
We know that one of the challenges for our community is not necessarily that there are not jobs available, but rather we don’t have the skilled labor force that’s needed to fill them. Working collaboratively and in partnership with our local and area businesses and industries, we are responsive to their needs and continue to add courses to our already robust Career and Technical Exploration curriculum that will result in a more skilled labor force.
Another point of pride and progress for Scotland County Schools includes expanding our extracurricular opportunities for our students. Cross country and golf were added to the athletic team options last year in middle school and looking forward, we are exploring adding wresting, track, swimming, and even bowling. We are keenly aware that the more activities you involve children in, there’s less opportunity for them to find other, less productive, things to do with their time after school.
Knowing that the majority of careers that will be open to our students will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related, we continue to provide opportunities for our students to explore these concepts and careers. We’ve added Lego Robotics clubs at our elementary and middle schools and we’ll literally be ‘rolling out’ our STEM Mobile Classroom this year.
And finally, recognizing that the world today is technology based and driven, we are giving our students the tools necessary to prepare them for the world today and for the world and careers that have yet to even be imagined. Our 1:World Technology Plan that rolls out next school year, first to our high school students, puts a Google Chromebook in the hands of every Scotland County Schools’ student grades 3-12 by the year 2019-2020. They will be allowed to take this piece of technology home with them thus extending the learning day. This advantage is one that many, even in other larger and more urban districts, does not have and is reflective of our Board of Education’s commitment to provide our students – our community’s future – every benefit possible to ensure their, and truly our, future is bright and that Scotland County remains a great place to live, work, LEARN, 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.