Wanted: Higher graduation rate

Oktibbeha County School District officials have set a goal to see a substantially increased graduation rate within the next four years.
During a regularly scheduled meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees held Monday night at East Oktibbeha Elementary School, Supt. James Covington explained that the district goal is to have a graduation rate of 85 percent or higher by the year 2014. For the short term, district officials set a goal to have a 70 percent graduation rate by the end of this school year.
Covington added that one major factor in determining graduation rate is the attendance of students.
“We looked at attendance, and if kids are not in school, then that would certainly contribute to kids not graduating,” he said.
When looking at attendance, administrators compared attendance records from the first month of the 2009-2010 school year, to the attendance records from the first month of this school year.
Covington explained that last year’s first month records showed attendance was at 93.87 percent, and this year’s first month attendance is at 94.89 percent.
Each school in the district increased their attendance percentage by at least .2 of a percent at West Elementary to almost 2.5 percent at East Elementary.
Covington attributes the increase in attendance to the district’s upgraded school messenger system. By 10:45 a.m. each morning, the school messenger system automatically calls the parents of any child marked absent.
The system almost makes a record of if a parent answered the phone, left a message or if the phone call was disconnected.
“We get those reports daily,” he said of the messaging system.
Covington recounted an incident where one mother was unaware her child had missed school. Covington recalled that the mother explained she had personally put her child on the bus that morning, and then later received a phone call that he was not in school.
Covington also explained that if e-mail addresses are provided by parents, the school messenger system will send an e-mail informing the parent of the child’s absence. And when a number has been disconnected, the principals are immediately inform so that they may work to find an updated number.
Also in new business, Covington asked the board to look over their previous agendas, calendars and monitoring reports as the Mississippi School Boards Association advised during its recent school board member conference.
MSBA advised superintendents to enquire about board documents to ensure all board members are receiving information in the format most helpful to them.
Board member Yvette Rice explained that at the MSBA had suggested that when applicable, information should be put in graph form as it is a simple format to comprehend, and that she was impressed with Covington’s initiative to present information at this board meeting in such a format.
The next regularly schedule board meeting will be Dec. 6 at the central office.