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Columbus school board hopes to graduate more

While the atmosphere appeared lighthearted with the Northland Vikings High School Band playing on the field there was a much more serious topic at hand. If current trends continue four out of ten of these sixth graders will not receive high school diplomas. School officials want to significantly reduce that drop out rate.

Two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin, was the key note speaker.

This is the time to make real choices in your life. It is your opportunity to step up to the challenge of working hard every day, avoiding those whose dreams are not as far reaching as yours. I want you to stay in school. The dream of earning a high school diploma and then going on to college are realities.

Griffin wore his graduation cap and gown and told students he wanted to see them in theirs in 2012.

I want you to look to your left. Now look to your right. I want all three of you to graduate from high school. You can help each other reach that goal and I challenge you to do so.

The sixth-graders are part of what's being called Project two-thousand-12. The school district is setting a long-term goal of raising the graduation rate from 60-percent to 90-percent, the state standard, in just six years.

Superintendent Gene Harris says raising the high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2012 is not a lofty goal. Instead, Harris says it's a necessary one. She says getting students, teachers and parents focused on this goal is the best way to achieve it.

We know that we have the ability to get it done. We've got great curriculum in the classroom, we've hired some really fabulous teachers, we've got great leadership in our buildings. We are working very hard to get and to keep parents involved.

But Harris says parental involvement is just one part of the plan. She says the school system is realigning some of its programs that are already in place while implementing others that have proved successful in other systems.

We are developing more innovated programs. We are replicating some successful programs we have seen at middle schools and we're going to install them in our middle schools. We are working very hard to extend their school year so students have more opportunities for learning. We're going to stay in touch with parents.

Harris ended the rally with a vision of what their life could be like in six years.

You are the class of 2012, you are the class of 2012, you are the class of 2012.