School board president challenges how rate is calculated

School board members raised a question about how graduation rates are figured even while expressing pride in Hagerstown High School’s performance.

At 98.88%, HHS showed the highest 2022 graduation rate among Wayne County schools, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Only one student who started as a freshman at the school did not graduate.

The percentage of 2023 graduates is expected to be lower because some students will receive a certificate of completion rather than a diploma.

“I’m asking, complaining publicly, some of these certificate kids count negatively toward the graduation rate. Why?” Nettle Creek School Board President Dan Davis Jr. said during the Feb. 8 board meeting.

Superintendent Emily Schaeffer said HHS is “on track to have every student who is … eligible graduate. But we will have two students who will get a certificate and count against us in graduation. … It is very deceiving. It sometimes looks like our graduation rate is dropping and it isn’t.”

Certificates of completion are awarded to students, often those in special education, who have not completed a regular high school diploma. They are awarded at commencement, just like diplomas, Schaeffer said.

Board member Shaun Lieberman wondered how people who graduate with a certificate list it on a job application or resume.

Schaeffer said the certificates recognize that students are prepared with the “social skills to be able to go into the community and be productive citizens.”

FFA members from the Hagerstown Jr.-Sr. High School chapter spoke to the Nettle Creek School Board on Feb. 8 about the personal benefits of FFA participation. The chapter is observing National FFA Week. Pictured, from left, are Lowell Berger, chapter vice president; Dawson Bell, a Greenhand or first-year member; and Braylon Doerstler. Photo by Bob Hansen

In business, the board approved several personnel changes.

Certified staff hirings: Kendra Sanders, band director; Amy Dickerson and Brynden Alvey, both IREAD tutors.

Non-certified staff hirings: Roxane Thornburg, HHS instructional assistant; Darla Warner, substitute nurse; Brittany Thompson and Cortney Sizemore, both Hagerstown Elementary instructional assistants; Stacey Sutherland, HES custodian; James Edwards, HHS ISS supervisor; Cortney Sizemore, substitute teacher; Barbara Sullivan, long-term sub for fifth-grade math.

Resignations: Genna Rees, HHS instructional assistant; Sherri Ludwig, HES custodian; Aja Smith, HES teacher.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, in the Hagerstown Elementary LGI room, 299 N. Sycamore St., a week later than usual. The public may attend.

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Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.