With more than 1,300 students, having 27 drop out might not seem like a very big number. It is a small percentage, but it is still too many for Principal Ken Rickard.


At a recent school board meeting, he said that was the highest number he has seen at the school in his nine years there.



Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories by James Jordan about dropouts from Newton High School.

With more than 1,300 students, having 27 drop out might not seem like a very big number. It is a small percentage, but it is still too many for Principal Ken Rickard.

At a recent school board meeting, he said that was the highest number he has seen at the school in his nine years there.
"It is a real challenge we have," he said about trying to keep students in school. "We work hard to show them the advantages of staying in school."

He said he was not sure why there are more this year, and there are many reasons a student might decide to drop out. Students between the ages of 16 and 18 must have parental approval — called signing a disclaimer — and students older than 18 may quit without parental permission.

Sometimes students just have a hard time making it and get discouraged to the point of leaving. Others might have to work to support their families. But Rickard said it is frustrating when parents are not only giving permission, but even encouraging students to quit.

"I have never met a parent who did not want their child to succeed. But some are frustrated and throw up their arms. Others have done OK without a high school diploma and feel their child can too," he said.

For several years District 373 had an alternative school at the Axtel school, and that was another step for some students. It kept them in school and Rikard said more than half of them eventually graduated or got their GED.
"It was one additional step we had," he said.

Budget cuts have forced the district to end the alternative school option.
Some students quit and get their GED, but Rikard said the student has to have some structure there because it is easy for them to just never get it done.

Newton assistant principal Lisa Moore said the key is the relationship that teachers, coaches and other school officials have with students.
"We try to help them see the big picture. That is so much easier when you have that relationship," she said.

She goes over the options with the students, and takes a look at their grades and what it will take for them to graduate.
One thing she tries to get across is that life will not be easier when they quit school.

"We tell them that getting up in the morning isn’t easy but it is just a part of life. It is establishing a routine, being responsible, getting organized," she said.