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State Education Department reveals latest graduation rates

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Nearly 35 percent of Clifton-Fine Central School District students who started at the Star Lake high school in 2008 did not graduate four years later, according to the state Education Department.

Clifton-Fine (65.4 percent) and Harrisville Central (68.8 percent) had the lowest graduation rates in the north country last year, with summer school graduates being taken into consideration.

Interim Clifton-Fine Superintendent Beverly L. Ouderkirk said of the six students labeled as dropouts by the department, three chose to take another year to get their diploma.

“That’s really a rotten shame for kids that tried to take the extra time to complete,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement. There’s still work to be done, but it sends the wrong message to the students that sometimes work the hardest.”

The 2012 statewide graduation rate was 74 percent, higher than that of the five biggest school districts in the state as well as a handful of districts in the region. Including those with the two lowest rates in the region, Watertown City School District, Hammond Central, Massena Central, Morristown Central and Ogdensburg City School District are all below the state average.

In total, Jefferson County schools’ average four-year graduation rate, including August graduates, was 86.4 percent. Lewis Country averaged 83.6 percent while St. Lawrence County averaged 78.7 percent.

“I guess the big thing for me is that we have a lot smaller numbers at the school, so one or two kids that don’t graduate on time makes a big difference,” acting Harrisville Superintendent Robert N. Finster said.

Mrs. Ouderkirk said the same of her small district.

Mr. Finster also said Harrisville’s graduation rate would be closer to 94 percent if the data extended to January.

“The truth of the matter is that we only lost one student,” he said. “Honestly, this year, we’re going to have a 100 percent graduation rate.”

The most current numbers show a rise in the Watertown City School District’s graduation rates. Education Department data showed that 61.4 percent of students who began high school in 2007 graduated four years later. Approximately 70.5 percent of the 2008 cohort graduated by last August, nearly a 10 percent increase.

Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said he would need a few days to look over the data but was “certainly encouraged by that.”

With a 95.5 percent graduation rate, Parishville-Hopkinton had the highest in the region.

“We’re very happy with that data,” Superintendent Darin P. Saiff said. “Certainly our goal would be 100 percent.”

He said the high graduation rate was because of the hard work of the Board of Education, the surrounding community, faculty and students.

“We set our expectations high, and that’s the expectation of the community,” he said. “Our staff does an excellent job of making connections with students and tying that into creating meaningful relationships.”

Lyme Central School District had the second highest graduation rate at 94.7 percent.

Superintendent Karen M. Donahue congratulated the staff and students for their hard work to consistently have the top graduation rates in the region.

“By design, our kids do well,” she said. “We support them, and it’s paid off.”

Trailing not far behind was Thousand Islands Central with a 94.4 percent graduation rate.

“We really have an outstanding faculty out here all the way through,” Superintendent Frank C. House said. “Everyone does a great job of getting the kids through.”

He said the district tends to have high graduation rates every year. He thanked the Board of Education, administration, teachers, parents and students for helping to get a high school diploma into as many hands as possible.

“It is surprising in a sense that we worry about it every year, but the school always does well,” Mr. House said.

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