School behavior translates to success

Students must behave to stay in school and graduate.

In Catawba County, overall student behavior is improving, but additional work must be done to keep more students in the classroom until graduation, school leaders said Thursday.

N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released state and district statistics on crime and violence incidents, suspensions and expulsions, and dropout rates for the 2010-11 school year.

According to DPI information, the number of statewide school dropouts hit an all-time low in 2010-11. Catawba County Schools' (CCS) number of dropouts decreased from 149 in 2009-10 to 130 in 2010-11, while Newton-Conover City Schools' (NCCS) number of dropouts increased from 20 to 45 in the same time period.

"That's cause for concern, there's no question about that," said NCCS Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond. "We must continue to make connections with kids to make sure they have plenty of contact with teachers and mentors, down to athletic participation, band and ROTC to make sure they are connected with good student groups."

Redmond said students with discipline issues are usually the first to drop out. Like many systems that have been affected by budget cuts, NCCS cut its dropout prevention coordinator position several years ago. However, NCCS leaders have utilized programs and strong teachers to improve behavior and keep students in school, Redmond said.

CCS has developed a program at Catawba Rosenwald Education Center this year to help modify students' poor behavior and improve their success in the classroom, said Superintendent Glenn Barger.

"You'll never be satisfied until you get 100 percent of your students in school, staying in school and graduating in time," Barger said.

"This county's made some strong statements that if you want to get a job in this county, you'll have to have a high school diploma, minimum, so you have to stay in school. We're encouraged as long as we continue making progress."

Barger said he believes CCS behavior has progressed in recent years, too.

"There are not as many fighting incidents in our schools as there were 15 years ago," he said. "Our youngsters today are more willing to work things out without fighting than they were in the past. Maybe they realize the consequences. Our board has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bad behavior."

According to DPI, the number of reported crime and violence acts in high schools statewide decreased by 6 percent from 2009-10 to 2010-11.

Those acts include incidents like robberies, assaults, bomb threats, alcohol and firearm possession, rapes and sexual offenses.

"Part of the reason it could be dropping is kids are finally realizing they have to stay in school to have any chance," Redmond said. "You've got to behave to do that. We've also emphasized work with anti-bullying. I believe that's also had an affect on the dropping rate across the state. My hat's off to teachers and students who realize the ticket to better hope is more education."

The number of total reported crime and violence acts statewide across all grades — 11,757 — increased by less than a percent in 2010-11 from the previous year. Barger said behavior issues, however, have changed drastically in recent years.

"Facebook has replaced the old thing of people writing on the bathroom walls," he said. "We're having to deal with more of those things. A threat is made over Facebook.

Those things are more difficult to track down. It takes our administrators a lot longer in some cases to resolve those kinds of issues."