09 August 2013
Carolyn Steeves, Enquirer Journal
Union County Public Schools’ 2013 graduation rate is 90.8 percent. Last year’s graduation rate was 89.5 percent. “I am very, very proud of that,” Superintendent Mary Ellis said. “I think it was the power of like-minded people, and by that I mean teachers and counselors and students and parents, who did not take ‘can’t’ for an answer.”
Across the state, the four-year graduate rate was 82.5 percent, compared to last year’s rate of 80.4 percent. Several high schools had a graduation rate above 95 percent. Those schools were Central Academy of Technology and Performing Arts, Cuthbertson, Marvin Ridge, Union County Early College and Weddington. Ellis said they are working toward a “my size fits me” model the system is working toward, which gives students the opportunity to find a model of learning that best suits them. “Every high school acts as if it’s the only place in the world, and I mean that in a positive manner, that they have the only kids...I think that a very intense focus on children helps children,” Ellis said.
She said the schools try to provide support for children at risk of not graduating. “They deserve the credit, along with the parents,” Ellis said. Ellis’ motto remains “good, better, best” as they move forward. “We have children who we have not reached. That is unacceptable,” she said. The system is continuing to roll out new programs to help every student, including a night school and more online courses. for children who need to learn in a different environment for whatever reason. “Graduating high school is not the be-all, end-all,” Ellis said.“It is the bare bones beginning and we have to get them to the beginning so they can start the race of life.” She added that graduation is the jumping off point, not the ending. “The things that really matter are children and teachers and running a school system that does the right thing for teachers,” Ellis said. “I am thrilled beyond belief to work in this school system.”
Ellis said she could not be happier because the teachers of Union County have shown everybody in the state why Union County continues to be among the top in graduation rates and other metrics.
“Raising graduation rates begins in kindergarten and involves educators at every grade level. This is wonderful news for our principals, teachers, counselors and students. Thanks to all of our educators for their hard work and congratulations on this success,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a statement. Atkinson went on to say that graduating all North Carolina public school students has been one of her primary goals since she took office. “I won’t rest until every single student earns a high school diploma,” according to a statement released by her office.