Franklin schools has Johnson County’s lowest graduation rate, and to turn that around candidates running for school board want to find ways to ensure more students finish high school.
The seven school board candidates running for three open seats want to be sure students can connect with teachers or other employees who can explain why it’s important for them to graduate on time. They also want to evaluate the high school’s classes to be sure Franklin has enough courses to interest students who don’t plan to attend a four-year college.
Incumbent William Maschmeyer and Timothy Lavery are running for one open Franklin Township seat. Cory Cooper, Kristine Ott,
D. Christopher Bass, Joseph Skeel and Bryan Wertz are running for two open Franklin city seats. All voters in the Franklin school district can vote in the school board races.
The three winners will vote during the school board’s monthly meetings on any changes to Franklin’s courses or educational policies, approve the yearly budget and evaluate the superintendent.
The candidates also want to find ways to continue building on the school district’s Finish Strong program, which gives current and former students the chance to earn their diploma through online courses. If they can do that then the graduation rate could rise above 85 percent, they said.
“We keep kids in school and bring kids back by giving them alternate education programs, such as Finish Strong, such as (Central Nine Career Center). And as kids change, we have to change too. And we have to be the provider of choice in the area,” Maschmeyer said.
Maschmeyer, Cooper and Ott said Finish Strong’s online degree program is a great alternative for students who aren’t succeeding in traditional classrooms. Bass said Franklin can reach even more students by creating additional online courses.
“It may not work for all (students), but it definitely is a step we can take in the right direction,” he said.
Cooper, Lavery and Ott said Franklin needs to find additional ways for students to connect with teachers, guidance counselors, or anyone else who can emphasize the importance of finishing high school.
“If they identify with one person, then they can usually keep that student at school, doing their best. When they can’t identify with anybody, that’s usually when they feel like they don’t belong and drop out,” Cooper said.
Lavery said counselors have a major impact on students by identifying reasons students may be struggling and helping find solutions. He wants Franklin to examine how many counselors they have at the schools, look at what they’re doing to keep students in school and how they can have even more success.
Students also should be taught lessons in different formats based on how they learn, so they’ll be more focused and less likely to drop out, Wertz said.
“Students learn in different ways. School board members need to come up with ways to engage students that have left schools or are considering leaving,” he said.
Ott said that, even if more programs are added, teachers, administrators and parents need to regularly talk with students about how important it is for them to finish high school.
Lavery and Cooper also said Franklin shouldn’t expect that every student will go to a four-year college.
Franklin needs to provide more industrial technology and agriculture-related courses and find new ways it can work with Central Nine. The courses will appeal to more students who are ready to start working once they finish high school, Cooper said.
“I think that right now we only focus on one path,” he said. “We focus on the student that’s going to get four years of college.”
Skeel said dropout prevention should start early with teachers talking to parents about the importance of education at the elementary school level. Students don’t usually drop out from one bad school experience, he added.
“(We) should try to change the culture within a family atmosphere. Early intervention is key,” he said.