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HS graduation rate highest in area

By Kay S. Pedrotti The graduation rate for students who finished high school in four years, and met all state requirements, is 91.23% for 2015, superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson told the board of education last week. ’We are running with the top-performing systems in the state,’ Wilson said. ‘This is happening in a system that defies statistics that find the highest graduation rates occur in higher socio-economic systems. Historically, we have a free/reduced lunch rate around 72% each year, and our graduation rate continues to rise despite these odds: from 75.6 in 2012, to 77.2 in 2013, to 89.2 in 2014, and now 91.23 for 2015.’ Lamar County is among the top performers in the area, with Spalding at 69.2, Pike at 83.7, Monroe at 87.8, Henry at 84.1, Crawford at 82.1, Meriwether at 84.0, Clayton at 66.4, Butts at 85.7, Coweta at 86.3 and Thomaston- Upson at 85.1. Fayette, one of the more affluent southside counties, is just a few points ahead of Lamar at 92.0. The state average graduation rate for 2015 is 78.8. ’That 91.23 figure speaks volumes about how our students, staff and community are working together to ensure the young people in Lamar County finish high school,’ Wilson added. ‘We are beginning to get calls from other school systems asking ‘˜what is it your system doing?” The superintendent also reported the FTE (full time equivalent) student count for this school year at 2,607 (not counting pre-K), up from the October 2014 count of 2,513 and the March 2015 count of 2,560. These counts are based only on 10 days in October of each year and 10 days each March. Twothirds of the FTE weighting formula is based on October and one-third on March, Wilson said. The weighting formula delineates categories of students and the estimated expense to educate a student at each level, such as kindergarten, EIP (Early Intervention Program), gifted and special education. Wilson gave examples of funding for a ‘regular’ high school student as the lowest cost at about $2,743 per school year, and a student with severe learning disabilities at the highest, about $19,349 per year. The board also appointed Horace Hightower as chair for 2016; Danny Turner, vice chair, and Sue O’Neal and Susan Byars as financial representatives. Outgoing chair Ron Smith promised to support them. The five-year Strategic Plan was adopted and is available for viewing on the system’s website. David Carpenter and Janie Baxter of Leadership Associates were facilitators of the plan. The strategic planning team included the five board members and 49 other community and school representatives on various committees. Carpenter described Lamar County as ‘a great school system that’s all about celebrating the kids.’ Wilson expressed gratitude for their assistance and was complimentary of their work, noting that goals and objectives ‘truly fit the needs of Lamar County students.’

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