the second year in a row, the on-time graduation rate for Dare County
Schools is the best among the state’s 115 school districts. At a rate
of 90.5 percent, Dare was the only North Carolina school district to
break the 90 percent threshold, also for the second consecutive year.
Rounding out the top five districts were Chapel Hill/Carrboro at 89
percent, Newton-Conover at 88.6 percent, and Elkin City and Clay
County, both at 86.5 percent. Only 29 of 115 districts met or exceeded
the State Board of Education’s target of 80 percent. The average
on-time graduation rate for the entire state was 74.2 percent.
For the Class of 2010, Dare County’s bragging rights went to First
Flight High School, with an on-time graduation rate of 95.9 percent.
Manteo High followed at 92.3 percent. The Cape Hatteras Secondary
School of Coastal Studies achieved an on-time graduation rate of 90.7
Board Chairman David Oaksmith expressed his delight at the stellar
“Dare County has ranked first or second in the state for three years in
a row on this measure,” said Oaksmith. “Our superintendent really
emphasizes this, with excellent results.”
“All three of our regular high schools surpassed the 90 percent on-time
rate,” said Superintendent Sue Burgess, “and Dare County Alternative
School helps us get some students through that might not otherwise make
“We follow the academic career of each individual ninth grader who
enrolls at First Flight High,” explained Principal Arty Tillett. “We’re
responsible to get them across the graduation stage within four years.”
Even if students move away from Dare County after enrolling in ninth
grade, school officials must know where the students are and if they
are enrolled in other schools or the students count against Dare
County’s graduation rate.
“It is one matter dealing with the students who are with you,
encouraging them to stay in school or to come back. But it is very
difficult to keep track of where everyone moves,” said Manteo High
School Principal John Luciano. “Our office and guidance staffs are
relentless about finding out where the students go.”
Dare County’s graduation achievements have been recognized at special
ceremonies sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Public
Instruction in Raleigh for the last two years. As a result, Dare County
personnel have been in demand as workshop presenters around the state
on the topic of increasing the graduation rate and on the related topic
of lowering the dropout rate.
“Back in 2001,” said Assistant Superintendent John Winston, “Dare
County was 96th out of 115 districts in the state for the dropout rate.
For the last five years, we’ve been no lower than sixth. When you
consider that we are also number one in the graduation rate for two
years in a row, it’s no wonder that other districts are asking us to
share the secrets of our success.
What is Dare’s secret?
There are no secrets or simple answers,” said Burgess, “other than
stressing the importance of completing high school and deciding that
each student matters. Our teachers continue to make school an engaging
place where learning is relevant and challenging enough to keep
Burgess also acknowledged the key roles played by principals, guidance
counselors, and Director of Secondary Instruction Nancy Griffin.
“A lot of people have worked very hard to achieve this milestone. And
let’s not forget to say ‘Congratulations’ to the Class of 2010 for
setting a new graduation record for the State of North Carolina.”