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Crisp County High’s graduation rates jump

Crisp County High principal Rusty Sowell’s smile quickly became a grin when asked about the results of the Georgia Department of Education’s annual release of high school graduation rates.

“We finally broke 90 percent,” Sowell said. “In 2013 it was 62.5 percent and the most recent report had us at 90.85 percent. Were proud of it. There are not a whole lot of schools out there that can say that.”

And it seems to be a statewide trend. Georgia is celebrating a record year for the number of high school students that graduate. According to the Georgia Department of Education, the state’s overall graduation rate increased to 83.8 percent — an all-time high since the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law.

Sowell said some schools have things like career centers, off-campus schools, alternative schools and other schools within a school, but that often results in conflicting identities.

“We don’t need all that; we’re one high school with one identity,” he said. “Before the pandemic hit, we offered programs like after-school tutoring and Saturday School. Now we identify each kid and we look at their test scores and what classes they are struggling in, then we get them the extra help they

need. We have plan for them that starts in the ninth grade. If they get behind, we have individual credit recovery classes. If they are missing assignments, we call their parents.

      “We have a Cougar Period every day — 30 minutes built into the schedule — so they can get extra help on that class everyday. We’re putting them in the right spots and the students are taking advantage of what is being offered.”

       Sowell said the real reason behind the school’s success is the staff.

       “I have been principal at four other schools,” he said. “And I have had some really good staffs, but this staff is way above all the others. They meet the students where they’re at from their home-life to school life.”