Greenport School District

Greenport principal wants school board to change dropout age

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Greenport High School principal Leonard Skuggevik, seen here at a school function in Spetember, asked the district's Board of Education to raise the compulsory attendance age to 17 in an effort to improve graduation rates.

Greenport School District students considering not finishing school may need to rethink their plans.

In an effort to improve the graduation rate, high school principal Leonard Skuggevik is asking the Board of Education to consider raising the minimum dropout age to 17.

“New York State says kids can drop out as young as 16 years old,” Mr. Skuggevik said at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting. “That means some students can drop out after their sophomore year. At that point they’re thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do another two years.’

“If you raise it to 17, now they’re thinking ‘I can make this. I only have one more year left.'”

That’s where the Greenport Board of Education comes in. While the New York State Department of Education sets the compulsory attendance age at 16, Mr. Skuggevik says school districts have the right to raise the age by one year.

He hopes that could help Greenport High improve its overall graduation rate, which came in at 76 percent for the 2010-11 school year. Mr. Skuggevik said Monday that eight district students dropped out last year.

While the graduation rate implies that 24 percent of seniors failed to graduate last year, Mr. Skuggevik said that number can be misleading. Class levels are determined at the start of each freshman year, and students are then expected to graduate within four years. If it takes a student a fifth year to graduate, regardless of when in high school he or she was held back, the graduation rate is not changed.

School board member Heather Wolf asked the principal if there was any downside to the board taking such an action.

“If I have a kid who doesn’t want to be here, he’s forced to be here,” Mr. Skuggevik said.

For that reason, board member Michael Mazzaferro said that while he isn’t opposed to the idea, he’d have some concerns.

“Wouldn’t the students who don’t want to be there, serve as a disruption?” he asked.

Mr. Skuggevik said it would ultimately be his job to bring those students along to see them through their senior year.

“And I’m really good at it,” he said.

Superintendent Michael Comanda said that if the board wants to consider raising the compulsory attendance age to 17, he would begin drafting the change in policy in the coming month. The board took no action Monday.

Greenport’s 76 percent graduation rate was up from 70 percent in the 2009-10 school year, about 3 percentage points below the statewide average and the lowest percentage on the East End.

Mr. Skuggevik said he also hopes the Odyssey Credit Recovery program will also improve graduation rates. The program allows students to repeat certain classes they failed the year before through the school’s Academic Resource Center, while attending classes at the next grade level in the same subject.

Read more from Monday’s school board meeting in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

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