USD 489 BOE discusses student success

BY ALICIA FEYERHERM

Student success is on the rise at USD 489. 

Superintendent Ron Wilson discussed recent post-secondary progress reports at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. 

Each year, the National Clearinghouse creates a report based on students two years after high school graduation. The Clearinghouse determines any student who has enrolled in any certificate programs or is currently enrolled in a post-secondary school as “successful.” 

In 2020, the graduation rate was 91.1 percent. Students from the class of 2020 currently have a 76.3 percent success rate. 

“That’s unbelievable. If you go back here just a year we were at 74,” Wilson said.

Success rates have continued to improve each year, even during the pandemic.

“The graduating class of 2020 would’ve had such a tough starting and we’re still seeing our highest numbers in the most challenging year of our world,” Board Member Tammy Wellbrock said.

Assistant Superintendent Shanna Dinkel emphasized these successes are the culmination of years of dedication from lots of individuals.

“Everybody plays a part in our successful high school graduate, so this is a celebration from Pre-K all the way up to high school because all of those pieces put together are what really helps kids be able to be successful,” Dinkel said.

Wilson also discussed Hays High’s Career Exploration program which currently has 97 students. Through the program, students are able to go to local businesses and medical offices to shadow during the school day.

“That’s one of our goals is to get kids out and give them opportunities to see some work and careers that they may be considering,” Wilson said.

Inside the classroom, students are also given opportunities to enroll in concurrent credit classes. These classes count for both Hays High credit as well as college credits, allowing students to enter post-secondary school with a head start.

Over 250 students are enrolled in concurrent credit courses. Courses range from General Education courses like Math and English to specific programs such as Certified Nursing Aides and Pharmacy Technicians.

USD 489 is working with Fort Hays State to offer Intro to Military and Military Health starting in the spring of 2023.

The district is also making strides to improve the mental health of students.

Parents of students grades 3-12 are asked to opt their children into the social-emotional survey which will take place September 26.

“Those tools, in addition to attendance, behavior, course grades are ways in which we can identify kids who need some extra support,” Dinkel said. 

Last year, 193 students were served through the district’s Mental Health Initiative with High Plains Mental Health Center. Of those, 88 students showed improvement in attendance and academics and 146 showed improved internalized behaviors.

“Internalizing behaviors are those behaviors that sometimes we don’t necessarily always see it’s what they’re feeling, thinking and I think that’s the key of the program,” Wilson said.

The program has been in such high demand that High Plains has added four additional hours of therapy to the middle school. These additional hours will be telehealth.

“We’re very grateful for that and we’ll see how the telehealth goes but that’s exciting,” Dinkel said.

Wilson recognizes the importance of mental health and is glad to see growth in that area as well.

“Good things are being done through our mental health initiative as we’re working with students daily,” Wilson said.

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