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Community, students, VISD staff talk dropout rate

By Carolina Astrain
Sept. 10, 2012 at 4:10 a.m.
Updated Sept. 11, 2012 at 4:11 a.m.

Left to right: Allie Adams, Jake Flores and Bethany Garza.

Allie Adams had a lot on her mind as she walked up to the lectern Monday night.

In front of about 100 community members and Victoria school district staff members, the 17-year-old shared her tumultuous family history to illustrate how much teachers have changed her life for the better.

Allie's mother moved out when she was 4 years old.

"I can't really remember why," Allie said.

At one point Allie tried living with her mom again - but because of an inconsistent environment she moved in with her grandmother to get through middle school.

And at the beginning of her freshman year at Victoria East High School, her mother tried to get her to move back in.

"I couldn't do it. I refused," Allie said. "I did everything in my power to stay with my grandmother."

The junior credits the support from her middle and high school teachers for the strength she needed to stand her ground.

"We have amazing teachers who understand what we're going through," Allie said. "Mrs. Pam Edge was a motivator for not only me, but a lot of students."

In the auditorium Monday night, Allie's speech was received with a standing ovation.

The public had gathered to work on a plan to reduce the dropout rate and improve attendance at VISD schools.

For the past 10 years, attendance has been under 95 percent and pales in comparison to other school districts, including Calhoun, Lukfin and Seguin.

At the first meeting of this series, a state demographer presented the district with numbers that projected a dim economic outlook for Victoria if the dropout rate and low attendance numbers continue.

This projection spurred the formation of seven focus groups dedicated to reducing the rate.

The groups divided by sections are: communication and partnerships, character education, mentoring/support services, compulsory attendance support, educational awareness for parents, school improvement and career preparation.

Victoria East High School Assistant Principal Reymundo Gomez took a phone call during his presentation to demonstrate how easy it is for kids to be distracted with technology.

"There's a lot of support available here in the community," Gomez said. "There's something important at stake here."

Other students that took the lectern were Jake Flores, a recent graduate from Liberty Academy, and Bethany Garza, as also known as Miss Victoria.

"The majority of absentee students are workers," Garza said. "I've spoken with students who work close to 40 hours a week."

Parents and school board members all agreed that the main bulk of the students missing school are those working long hours to help their families pay bills.

"There is a good work ethic in this town and kids see the need to make money earlier than they need to," said school board member Lou Svetlik.



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