Catawba County celebrates graduation rate

North Carolina public school leaders are celebrating the classrooms that manage to keep kids going to the end of their high school careers.

Schools and districts with the highest graduation rates were honored in Durham on Tuesday at a recognition lunch. The event honors the 23 schools around the state that graduated every student last year. Also getting special recognition are the schools with the highest graduation rates for their size.

Catawba County Schools took honors for medium-sized districts with an 86 percent graduation rate. The district ranked ninth overall in the state for students who graduated in their four-year cohort.

Catawba County Schools Superintendent Glenn Barger; Joyce Spencer, chairwoman of the board of education; Kelly Rhoney, the system's director of accountability; and Sally Bradshaw, principal of Fred T. Foard High School, attended the lunch. Foard had the highest graduation rate of any high school in Catawba County at 90.4 percent.

"The state average has gone up," Barger said. "The number of people who were there at the event who had been there before was striking. They not only reach it but have maintained. That's going to be a challenge for us to be able to continue to grow that number."

Districts with fewer than 1,000 students were led by Elkin City Schools, where 92 percent graduated. Union County Public Schools did the best among large school districts of more than 2,000 students with a graduation rate of 89 percent last year.

Newton-Conover City Schools ranked 24th with 83 percent of its students graduating with their four-year cohort. In Hickory Public Schools, 77.8 percent of students graduated, a tick above the state average of 77.7 percent.