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Is zero dropouts possible at PHS?

When she took over as the attendance officer 16 years ago, Shelley Cantrell never thought she would one day be asked if it were possible to bring dropout levels down to zero in the Pickens school system.

But after wrapping up the past academic year with a mere 14 dropouts from a student population of 4,345, it will be hard to make much further progress without eliminating the problem completely.

“Problems are opportunities. I always try to set the goal high,” Cantrell said. “Zero dropouts is possible. Last year we had a couple of months with no dropouts, and that was something I never thought I would see when I started this 16 years ago.”

But zero dropouts, while possible, won’t come easily, as at least two of the 14 who quit school last year didn’t have much choice. One was expelled and one incarcerated, according to the reasons listed on the statistics provided each month to the school board by Cantrell.

Considering that the high drop out rate in Pickens County  schools was a regular subject of jokes less than a decade ago, having the number whittled down to 14 last year is remarkable.

Last year’s total 14 more than cut in half the 37 who elected to leave school in the previous (2009-2010) academic year. Each of the past five years, the schools have seen more students follow the motto, “School’s in, don’t be out” with drop out numbers dropping in solid steps from a record number of 84 in the 2005-2006 year down to the 14 of last year.




Bob Hayles
+3 #1 Bob Hayles 2011-06-03 09:51
There is a lot to complain about in our local schols, but this shows there are some bright spots as well. Congrats Ms Cantrell and students!
Terence Green
0 #2 Terence Green 2011-06-07 07:39
This is trully a mark of success for our local school system, the counselors/educ ators, the parents, and most importantly these students on the fence that are staying in school and expanding their future opportunities. Looking at neighboring counties in Northwest Ga. a decline in the drop-out rate especially in this challenging economy is certainly a benchmark to be lauded. Congrats to Ms Cantrell and all those that positively influence our teens.
Valerie Stancil
0 #3 Valerie Stancil 2011-06-07 21:13
It's definitely possible. I think the key will be making school more engaging for students through increasing curricular opportunities and sustaining and supporting the fantastic visual and performing arts programs the high school already offers. Also, the high school needs to work on getting families and the wider community involved more in the school in order to support our students who are at risk of dropping out (and even to support students who aren't at risk). Some are already doing a great job with this, but I think the administration can always do more. Good luck to the new principal in this endeavor.

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