GPSD7 may hire a specialist to improve graduation rates

Grants Pass, Ore. —  Grants Pass School District has a new budget. It’s increased several million dollars from last year. Some of that increase will go toward a new employee to help students reach a successful end to their high school career.

“The budget is up about five million dollars over last year,” said Sherry Ely, Director of Business Services for Grants Pass School District.

A big increase for GPSD7. About 3 million is from grants for seismic rehabilitation. Some of the remaining funds may come from Measure 98. That money has to be used to increase the graduation rate.

According to GPSD7, that rate is about 70% for kids who finish in four years – so what does that look like? Hypothetically, if the school district had 500 students in its total senior class, a 70% graduation rate would show 350 students leaving high school in June with a diploma in hand. But it would also mean 150 students would not.

“Ideally, all children would graduate so that’s our ultimate goal,” said Todd Bloomquist, Director of Special Services for GPSD7.

But the school district may need some extra help to reach that goal. The job description for a graduation coach can differ by school district – but they all have the same underlying goal.

“Somebody who’s helping to remove barriers for students and families,” Bloomquist said.

Common barriers for some students in GPSD7 are sometimes sensitive, and the hardest to deal with.

“Families that have high-poverty rates and there’s a lot of stressors at home. So school doesn’t necessarily seem to be the most important thing. Actually finding housing might be the most important thing,” he said.

That’s where a graduation coach can step in.

“Part of a graduation coach’s job is what are those barriers and are there ways we can connect resources together to help the family,” he said.

But Bloomquist said getting through school isn’t always the problem, sometimes for students not seeing beyond graduation is a bigger issue.

“See not only the purpose for where they are right now and why they need to be attending, but also applies to what happens next,” he said.

Though the district said, ideally, it would like its graduation rate to rise to 80% It also stresses this is not a numbers game.

“It really is about helping each individual student on their pathway. The more that they are engaged in their learning and the purposes for why they’re here and what they’re doing next. The more likely they’re going to stay in school and go onto those next things,” he said.

GPSD7 said it has also committed to hiring a full-time staff member to work with special needs students.

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