Columbia Falls High School’s graduation rate is now 90.6 percent, the highest it’s ever been.
The school’s graduation rate in recent years has been around 87 to 88 percent, principal Scott Gaiser said. Slowly the rate has gone up and Gaiser credited a team effort on the part of the entire school staff.
“We’ve never been at 90 percent,” he said. “... I think it’s reflective of a lot of factors.”
The school over the past few years has instituted a host of innovative programs and added staff in key areas. Today it has a graduation coach that works with freshmen and sophomores to identify students who are in danger of failing, helping them to get their grades and credits back in order.
They’ve added a student-family advocate — basically a social worker in the school, to help students with family and other life problems.
But Gaiser said it’s really a cultural shift of the faculty across the board.
He said over the past few years he’s heard a lot of positive remarks from parents “where the faculty have gone out of their way to help a student,” he said.
The school has also added innovative programs designed to help students get skilled jobs straight out of high school, including building trades and welding, to name a couple. The school also offers classes that also count to college credits.
Students can enter college nowadays with a semester, sometimes more, worth of credits, at no or little cost to the student.
But the number of staff that’s involved in extra-curricular activities has blossomed as well, he said and that involvement in student lives pays dividends.
“Relationships have a huge impact,” he said. “That’s what bleed blue (the school slogan) is all about.”