By Ralph Pokorny
Nevada Daily Mail
There are many reasons why students drop out of high school, but lack of hours of credit for graduation isn't one of them, Dr. David Stephens, Nevada R-5 superintendent, told about 50 community members, R-5 board members and R-5 staff members during a working lunch Wednesday at the Bowman Building.
Stephens said that he recently compiled a list of the reasons students have dropped out of the R-5 district and found that lack of credits was not even on the list.
He said the top reason students dropped out was peer issues, followed by teen pregnancy, workplace, independent living, family issues, home schooling, aging out of foster care, substance abuse, runaway issues and conflict with the law.
"These are all community issues that the school doesn't have much influence on," Stephens said.
Nevertheless, they're working on solutions.
He said that in 2009 the Nevada R-5 Board of Education developed and eventually adopted a strategic plan for the district and first objective in the plan is: The graduation rate at Nevada R-5 will be 100 percent.
He said that in discussions with people from around the state the point is raised that no school district will have a 100 percent graduation rate and some of them feel it is unreachable.
He said that while you can say that a 95 percent graduation rate is good, you need to consider the remaining 5 percent.
"This doesn't make sense," he said.
"I want to begin a discussion about the district drop-out rate," he said.
"A community is only as healthy as its school district and a school district is only as healthy as its community," he said.
Stephens told the group that he would like to work toward pooling community resources to "see what we can do to meet the unique needs of this community," he said.
He told the group that he thinks one of the underlying causes of the district's drop-out rate is the level of poverty in the district, which can be roughly tracked with the percentage of students who are receiving free and reduced lunches.
This percentage has been on the increase on both the state level and local level for several years.
In 2009, the statewide level was 43.7 percent; and in the R-5 district, 45.8 percent of students were receiving free and reduced lunches. In 2010, it was 46.9 percent and 48.2 percent, respectively; and in 2012, it was 49.5 percent statewide and 51.7 percent in the Nevada district.
"Note this only includes the students who apply and qualify," Stephens said, adding that not all of the students who are eligible to participate apply for the program.