Penn Manor’s graduation rate is top in the area and darn near perfect – 97.4 percent.
“A big credit goes to our teachers,” Phil Gale, Penn Manor’s head principal said about their top rate.
Gale was pleased to see Penn Manor at the top of the list for the second year in a row. The high school improved their rate by 0.5 from last year’s 96.9%. Their lead is only 0.2% ahead of Garden Spot, but it’s not a race or a competition. According to Gale, it’s about getting students on the right track after high school.
“No matter what, you need a high school diploma,” Gale noted, “We don’t want kids leaving, already set for failure.”
Other schools also have made progress, like McCaskey and Elizabethtown. Two years ago, McCaskey was in dead last with only 65 percent of their students graduating. Last year, the graduation rate jumped almost 17 percent to 82 percent.
According to the Lancaster New Era and Intelligencer Journal, they still rank low in the county but McCaskey Principal Dwight Nolt said, “For us to exceed 80 percent takes a lot of personal contact and many options for students.”
Elizabethtown is doing their part in trying to increase their graduation rate by hiring a student outreach worker to help troubled students, according to the same news report. Also, they joined with Lancaster County Career and Technology Center to enroll more students in CTC evening credit programs.
Along with those schools and others, Penn Manor has many programs to help students with troubles. One option is twilight school. Twilight school is offered in the evenings and is for students who are unwilling or unable to go to school during the regular school day. The classes are smaller which helps students continue to work on their education and get a diploma at the end of their high school years.
Another option, even though it is used primarily for punishment, is Saturday school. While Saturday school may not be fun, it is a way for a student to get their detention hours over more quickly. Another useful point of Saturday school is to allow students to work on their graduation project which is a requirement to graduate. The new and improved graduation project now focuses on life after high school and what career fields students plan on entering into once they do graduate.
Not only do the school’s programs help struggling students to graduate, the staff themselves are encouraged to reach out to students and lend a helping hand, Gale explained.
“In some cases, (Mindish) would call them to make sure they were out of bed and meet with some kids,” Gale said about the ex-head principal he replaced this year, Dr. Jan Mindish, “I think we (head principal and all of the assistant principals from last year) all do.”
Gale intends to continue all of the programs that Mindish created to help students graduate, but plans to put a stronger emphasis on kids who are struggling with staying in school or just want to drop out for whatever reason. He wants to work one-on-one with students to convince them that dropping out is not the way to go and make a plan with them so they feel more confident about staying in school.
Gale said attendance, or the lack of it, is the main indicator that a student may be in trouble. Once any student’s absences go through the roof, then they may be seriously thinking about giving up on high school, he said.
Also, once they rack up the absences, their grades might go down and things just keep toppling down on them, Gale explained.
Whether it’s getting kicked out of the house and having to work a lot, alongside with going to school or a loss in the family, etc., Gale and the staff will, like Mindish would do, try and talk with them to change their mind about dropping out.
“I think we’ll maintain a high rate,” said Gail, who expects the district to push it even higher in the upcoming years.
By: Alex Geli and Jake Shiner