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HNHS grad rates soar

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Huntington North High School’s (HNHS) graduation rates have steadily increased over the past four school years, but this year’s rates reached new heights, according to Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) reports.

Between the 2014-15 and 2016-17 school years, IDOE reports indicate HNHS’s graduation rate increased nearly 2 percentage points, from 90.2 percent to 91.75 percent respectively, but the 2017-18 school year saw a significant improvement to break a new ground at 95.43 percent.

“That is the highest graduation rate we’ve had, so while I congratulate (HNHS Principal) Dr. Degitz… that recognition goes to all of our staff,” HCCSC Superintendent Randy Harris said at a recent school board meeting.

HNHS’s graduation rate exceeded the state average of 88.1 percent, and when Degitz saw the report, he said he felt very positive, knowing that the entire HCCSC staff helped so many students receive their diploma, something Degitz said is “a key to their future, opening doors for them toward achieving their dreams and fulfilling their visions.”

“With us being the only high school in the county, I am hoping too that it creates a sense of community pride,” he added. “We always get compared to other schools, whether it’s athletically or with school data and test scores. To see us not only compete with other schools but to outpace many of them, hopefully it presents a source of community pride as well.”

He said the success should first be attributed to the class of 2018’s commitment to put in the hard work and hours of completing homework to obtain their credits, but he said a lot of the success should also be attributed to the entire HCCSC staff.

He said HCCSC made it a priority to watch school data and provide individualized plans for students once they hit eighth grade, but he said, “It’s not programs and data that make the rate, it’s the relationships that our staff establishes with the students to let them know that they’ve got a team that care about them.”

Over the past few years, HCCSC and HNHS staff have begun to think past graduation day, says Degitz. They now focus on a conceptual vision called “True North,” which gives students the tools they need to either enrolling in college or trade school, enlisting in the military or becoming employed right after they walk across the stage.

“The True North concept is just using the idea of the Vikings and how they had to find their direction when they navigated the seas,” Degitz said. “We are using True North to point our students in the direction they need for life.”

HCCSC added additional career-readiness courses this past school year, like criminal justice and welding classes, to help students find a career beyond high school.

“The students should, with all that we offer, be able to find meaningful opportunities during their school day, rather than just taking standard classes that are required but not having much interest in them,” Degitz said. “We truly try to get them plugged into areas they are interested in, and there’s a lot of opportunities for that.”

HCCSC is also increasing the amount of professional development that staff receive through eLearning Days.

“I think anytime we get an opportunity to equip our staff and help them grow professionally, it is only going to have a positive effect in the classroom,” Degitz said. “We are doing some things right now in our district that have never been done before, in positive ways, such as the training through eLearning or professional development training.”

Degitz said he won’t ever be satisfied until they reach a 100 percent graduation rate, adding that HCCSC staff won’t relax now that they’ve reached new heights. He said each graduating class brings its own challenges and complicating factors that affect the rates.

“There is always a need for us to think about ways that we can get that number higher,” he said. “We are always trying to push that.”

Socioeconomically, the breakdown of the graduation rates are as follows: 9 of 12 Hispanic students graduated, which is 75 percent; 313 of 325 Caucasian students graduated, which is 96.3 percent; 244 of 251 students who don’t receive free or reduced lunch graduated, which is 97.2 percent; 87 of 95 students who receive free or reduced lunch graduated, which is 91.6 percent; 298 or 306 general education students graduated, which is 97.4 percent; 33 of 40 special education students graduated, which is 82.5 percent; 168 of 175 female students graduated, which is 96 percent; 166 of 175 male students graduated, which is 94.8 percent.