RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- The Randolph County School System is seeing high school dropout numbers at a 20-year low and it has a lot to do with the success of the school system’s dropout prevention program.
The most recent data from the North Carolina Department of Instruction shows the school system’s dropout rate for the 2017/2018 school year was at 1.54 percent.
“In [1998-1999], our dropout rate was about over 8 and now [2017-2018] it had gone to just barely over 1,” Randolph County School System Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gainey said.
Gainey says in 1998-1999 when the district dropout rate was at 8 percent -- that number was two points over the state average.
He says this most recent school year’s 1.54 percent is under the state average.
The success is contributed to what started at Trinity High School.
In 1996, Kim Wagoner began her role as Trinity’s dropout prevention coordinator
Graduates Kimberly Gillaspie and Ashley Teague were on the verge of dropping out while they were students at Trinity, but says Wagoner kept them motivated not to give up.
“She was my peace. She was my safe haven,” Gillaspie said.
“If I had any problem, her door was open and she's a big heart, always encouraging,” Teague said.
“It's all about keeping students in school and making relationships and letting them know how important they are to you and letting them know that their life matters to you,” Wagoner said.
For several years, Trinity was the only school that offered that position, but around 2008-2009, the Randolph County Board of Education took steps to offer the role in other schools.
That was the beginning of Wagoner becoming the dropout prevention coordinator for the school system.
“It started where everybody had one at the high school level, over time as the board could afford it, and then it got down into the middle school,” Gainey said.
They are now referred to as student advocates.
One of their responsibilities is monitoring attendance.
After about three to five absences, they will meet with students to figure out why they are missing days in school and discuss a solution.
Wagoner is proud that the latest numbers reflect real lives and success stories.