COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Muscogee County School Board is celebrating recent news that the district has increased its graduation rate to about 76 percent, which is an improvement of about 4 percent over last year and a far greater number than the state average.
But the superintendent and board say they're still not satisfied and they're looking for ways to get the numbers even higher.
Board member John Wells illustrated the point by describing an encounter he had with a high school student begging for money on the street. Wells said he confronted the teenager, who explained that he was not in class because he was serving a three day suspension. He told Wells it was punishment for skipping school a week earlier.
"You've got to do something to him, you've got to have discipline, but there are other kinds of discipline that we can do besides sending the kid home," says Wells.
Wells says by suspending a student for skipping school, the punishment is forcing the student to do the very thing he's being asked not to do. Wells also considers it counter-productive to the goal of increasing the graduation rate.
"If a person has a disciplinary action of three days, that means they're getting zeroes for all three of those days. It's almost impossible to make that grade up. You've got to make straight A's for weeks to overcome zeroes in class," says Wells.
Superintendent Lewis said has not yet verified the details of this incident and he says he'll be working on that first thing tomorrow morning. But if the story is true, he says this punishment is not in line with the district's policy.
"A more appropriate consequence would be, of course, involving the parent in the issue, and then, should it be necessary, in-school suspension - something that will keep the student in school," says Wells.
The discussion comes less than a week after a committee from the Georgia capitol visited the Muscogee School District to examine its disciplinary techniques as part of a statewide comparison.
Also mentioned at the work session Monday, Nov. 10, was the receipt of over $4 million federal dollars to help the district develop awareness of students with mental health issues, and to train the staff to recognize potential problems.
Students identified as having mental health problems will be connected externally to professionals.