Beaufort County School District officials hope a few tweaks might pack a punch when it comes to reducing the district's drop-out rate and increasing its on-time graduation rate.
New student service chief Gregory McCord is overseeing adjustments to alternative programs in the district, several of which focus on helping struggling middle-schoolers get back on track academically, which he said is key to reducing drop-out rates.
The Board of Education discussed at a recent work session ways the district could increase the district's 69.9-percent "on-time" graduation rate. The district also recently partnered with Grad Nation -- a national program that challenges schools to reach a 90-percent graduation rate by 2020.
Among the changes is moving the Springboard program to a central location. Springboard is for over-age eight-graders who have been held back in school. The 60 students enrolled will now attend classes at the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence. The program, which began this past school year, previously was held at Robert Smalls Middle School and H.E. McCracken Middle School.
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McCord said the change will ensure students on both sides of the county are getting the same program.
It will also allow students to participate in some technical and career-education courses, McCord said.
The district is also adding two middle school administrators. The two -- Susan Guillen and recently retired student service chief Cynthia Hayes -- will oversee the Springboard program. They are likely to have other responsibilities at the district's six middle schools, though those haven't been determined.
McCord said their duties might also include helping the middle schools fully implement the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports plan -- a districtwide approach to discipline that focuses on teaching and rewarding good behavior.
The two might also assist teachers and work to more quickly identify students at risk of dropping out of school.
Hayes said she's looking forward to working directly with students and teachers.
"We're really paying close attention to the drop-out numbers and working toward a decrease," she said.
Results won't be immediately measurable, McCord said, but he's hoping to see a decline in drop-out rates as middle-schoolers go on to graduate high school.
SC high school dropout rate declines slightly, July 13, 2012