By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Cherokee High School had a graduation rate for the 2010-11 school year of 78.82 percent that was higher than the state (72.8 percent) and national average (71.7 percent) according to school officials. That rate marks a vast improvement for the school which recorded a 49.59 percent graduation rate the year before.
Cherokee’s graduation and dropout rates were brought to light a few weeks ago with the release of a report entitled “Assessing the Economic and Non-Economic Impacts of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, North Carolina” that was prepared by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
In addition to reviewing the overall impact Harrah’s Cherokee Casino has made to the surrounding area, the study looked at graduation and dropout rates for area high schools including Cherokee High School. The state dropout rate for 1997-98 was 3.43. A decade later, in 2007-08, the rate remained just about unchanged at 3.4.
Cherokee High School reported rates much higher than the state average for the five years examined in the study including: 2004-05 dropout rate of 6.8, 2005-06 dropout rate of 8.4, 2006-07 dropout rate of 4.6, 2007-08 dropout rate of 12.5, and 2008-09 dropout rate of 12.8.
The school also recorded low graduation rates for the years studied including a 50 percent rate in 2006-07, 57.1 percent in 2008-09, and the above reported 49.59 percent for 2009-10.
During that span, the dropout rate dropped dramatically from 12.77 percent in 2009 to 5.76 percent in 2011.
Jason Ormsby, CHS principal, credited the staff, new programs and incentives, high expectations and community involvement with the improvement.
“We, the staff, will do whatever it takes to make our students successful,” he said. “My staff is awesome. Our goal is to be the best.”
“I think our staff has some high expectations, and we’ve made a lot of changes,” Ormsby added. “But, also the staff that’s been here awhile, I think they’ve changed and their expectations of the child have changed.”
“I think all of that combined has improved our graduation rate, has improved our dropout rate, and has improved our academics.”
In addition to graduation and dropout rates, EOC (End-of-Class) scores have also improved. A total of 72.5 percent passed the English I EOC in 2010-11 compared to 48 percent in 2006-07.
Other EOC comparisons from 2006-07 to 2010-11 include:
* Algebra I – 18% to 69.32%
* Algebra II – 15% to 65.57%
* Biology – 19% to 56.10%
* Writing – 22.08% to 56.90%
“We are trying to promote a sense of community – teachers, support staff, administration and students all together,” said Debora Foerst, the new Assistant Principal at Cherokee High School. “We’re all part of the same community, and when you’re part of the same community you don’t let someone fall behind. You don’t let someone slip through the cracks or fall through.”
“We want to provide as many safety nets as we can while maintaining those high expectations.”
Ormsby and Foerst related that many new programs have been implemented to help students achieve including: starting introduction classes to Algebra I & II and Geometry, making English I & II year-long classes, making tutoring available at the end of the school day for all students and making it mandatory for student-athletes, and increasing communication with parents.
Foerst said the students are taking more of an ownership in their own education. “They’re stepping up. They’re interested in knowing what their scores are the minute we know what they are.”
She said a few years ago the environment was much different. “I think there’s a stronger sense of self-efficacy among the students and the teachers as well.”
If you have questions about Cherokee High School, contact the school’s main line at 554-5030, Principal Ormsby at 554-5032 or Asst. Principal Foerst at 554-5055.