PCHS gets high marks

Published 7:29 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Polk County High School students on the first day of the 2010-2011 school year.

PCHS in state’s top 10 for lowest reportable crimes, short-term suspensions

Polk County Schools placed in the top 10 on two out of three lists for superior performance on the state school board’s 2009-2010 Consolidated Data Report.

The Consolidated Data Report monitors the frequency of crime, violence, suspension and expulsions in schools. The report also provides a glance at dropout rates across North Carolina.

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Superintendent Bill Miller said he felt Polk County schools deserved praise for their efforts but also noted the work never stops.

“Our teachers and staff continue to work hard to meet the needs of our students,” Miller said. “We are certainly pleased with the results demonstrated in the consolidated report. However, we continue to believe that any student that drops out of school is making a mistake and that we have not succeeded in helping that student obtain the skills they will need to work in an ever-changing global economy. Our focus remains on each student and not our percentage or rate.”

This year the Polk County School system placed in two of the three “top 10” lists for superior performance in the decrease of annual rates of crime, short-term suspensions and dropouts.

Only seven other school systems in the state share this distinction.

Polk County, along with Clay, Lexington City and Jones City, had zero reportable acts of crime among their ninth-12th grade students.

The most common reportable acts of crime within the high school population include possession of a controlled substance in violation of the law, possession of a weapon, including firearms or powerful explosives, or possession of an alcoholic beverage.

Polk County High School Principal Aaron Greene said this doesn’t mean you’ll never find two teenagers getting into a heated argument in the cafeteria. What it does mean, he said, is the system takes a unique approach to dealing with potentially escalating situations.

“Being a small school is of great benefit to us in that we know our kids and our families for the most part and work very hard to not use a cookie-cutter approach to anything,” Greene said. “We take the opportunity to talk to the kids and everyone involved in the situation and ask, ‘Why did that happen? Do you have some kind of underlying issue that led you to do this?’

“We’ve found if we can do that on some of the lesser things that happen we can often avoid a bigger situation down the road. We really do try and take an individual look at all of these things.”

This year’s reporting also classified Polk County as one of five schools with the largest three-year decrease in reportable criminal acts.

Last year, North Carolina schools statewide handed down 131,607 ninth-12th-grade short-term suspensions. On average this means one of six high school students in North Carolina face an out-of-school short-term suspension. Polk County schools accounted for about 30 of those suspensions, one of the lowest rates in the state. Greene said they’ve dealt with about 300 in-school suspensions last year, which relate to minor incidents.

Again, Polk County also saw one of the largest three-year decreases in suspensions.

North Carolina high schools saw 16,804 students drop out last year, which was a decrease of about 12.2 percent. During the 2008-2009 school year, 19,184 North Carolina students dropped out. In total, 70 percent of school districts also saw a decrease in their dropout rates from 2009-2010.

The only area in which Polk County did not place highly was its overall percentage of dropouts for last school year. Its dropout percentage was 2.8 percent, which amounts to 21 students who chose to leave school prior to graduation.

Greene said in a small school it’s easy for this rate to fluctuate anywhere from 2 and 4 percent.

“We were extremely low this year. But one dropout is one too many,” Greene said. “Anything we can do to help a kid get access to a curriculum and make it through, we’ll do it.”

Greene said some students simply have extreme life circumstances that prevent them from getting over the hurdles and making it through to graduation. He said PCHS staff and faculty work hard to prevent studentsfrom feeling as if they have no other choice but to drop out.

He said faculty hold regular meetings to brainstorm solutions for troubled students, as well as offering remediation and assistance through the Academic Recovery Center.

“We really try to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to it, including providing an Academic Recovery Center to help those students recover credits and move forward with their education.”

The district reporting the lowest drop-out rates were Chapel-Hill Carrboro, Elkin City, Dare County, Union County, Newton Conover City, Cherokee County, Gattes County, Iredell-Statesville, Tyrell County and Mooresville City.