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AHS Graduation

Decorated mortar boards are seen at Auburn High School's graduation ceremony in June.

The most recent graduation rates from Cayuga County-area high schools are mixed, according to data recently released by the state education department.

Of nine Cayuga County-area school districts, four had their numbers decline from June 2017 to June 2018, while four rose. One high school — Cato-Meridian — was flat from year to year, at 93 percent.

Auburn High School had the biggest dip of the nine high schools, from an 80 percent rate in June 2017 to 75 percent in June 2018. A total of 220 students out of 294 graduated in June 2018, while 260 out of 327 students graduated in June 2017. 

Auburn Enlarged City School District Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said the district's August 2018 rate was higher than June's, at 81 percent, down from 84 percent in August 2017. He said the rates are affected by the number of dropouts every year. He said he goes with one of four social workers every Friday to visit students and parents of students who aren't attending school. While Pirozzolo and the counselors emphasize the importance of getting a diploma to all students, if the child is in high school, possibilities such as a BOCES program or a GED program may be suggested, Pirozzolo said.

The high school's June 2017 dropout rate was 13 percent, with 37 students, more than the 10 percent rate in June 2017 of 32 students.

While the district wants every child to graduate, Pirozzolo said, those numbers are not as important as making sure every child has a way to be prepared for the workforce, such as through BOCES. He noted some children simply do not handle a traditional classroom setting well and are well-suited to a hands-on approach, such as through BOCES. He emphasized that the district's goal is still to have every student graduate and attend school regularly.

"They don't reflect some of the successes in our school district," Pirozzolo said of the graduation rate numbers.

Auburn has the largest graduating class out of the Cayuga County-area high schools.

Auburn was the only high school of the nine to be under the 80 percent state average for June 2018. Southern Cayuga matched the state average in June 2018, and also experienced the largest year-to-year decrease of the nine high schools, from 91 percent in June 2017 to 80 percent a year later.

Southern Cayuga Junior-Senior High School Principal Luke Carnicelli said that June 2018 drop can be connected to four students who enrolled with the district and later moved out of state. Carnicelli said these students were Students with Interrupted/Inconsistent Formal Education. The majority of these kinds of students, according to a page on the state Education Department's website, often have low or no literacy skills in any language.

Carnicelli said the school has had an increasing amount of this type of student. Some of these students are the children of people who have come from other countries to work on local farms, he said. He said some of the students have worked through their challenges and succeeded. The district has brought in staff to help meet these needs, he said.

"We're doing immensely well considering what we have, but it creates a considerable challenge," Carnicelli said.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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Education Reporter