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Aggressive Programs Push Durham Dropout Numbers Down

Posted February 2, 2007

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— While the number of high school dropouts increased statewide and in some area school districts last year, the number of Durham Public Schools students dropping out dropped by 6 percent.

The district has aggressively addressed truancy problems, which administrators said can ultimately help cut down on dropouts. It also has developed high school programs to provide more support for students.

"We have the social workers. We have an attendance officer. We have truancy officers. We have a lot of people looking at kids, saying, 'You need to be in school,'" Jordan High School Principal Richard Webber said.

Last year, 65 Jordan High students dropped out, down from 88 the previous year and 92 the year before that.

In recent years, the school launched a Freshman Academy, which divides the freshman class into teams to create a small learning environment. Each team's core teachers send home progress reports every two weeks.

"It definitely helps the student struggling with high school," guidance counselor Elizabeth Gordon said. "They come from middle school, where expectations are different from high school, and most students come from smaller to larger schools."

Jordon High also has an Adopt-a-Student program in which staff members mentor students who need extra support.

Debbi Huntoon, the school's social worker, has moved from part-time to full-time status to address truancy and the dropout problem. She acts as a liaison between the school and troubled students' families.

"Hopefully, we develop a relationship with them and their families. We try to emphasize how important it is to stay in school so that, when they reach 16, they will want to stay in school," Huntoon said.
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