BY KERIANN COFFEY, valley dispatch contributor
PELHAM — Every year only about one or two students drop out of Pelham High School, making the school’s dropout rate one of the lowest in the state of New Hampshire.
This statistic, however, does not satisfy Gov. John Lynch and Commissioner of Education Lionel Tracy, who believe even one student dropping out of high school is one too many.
Lynch and Tracy recently traveled to Pelham High School to speak to students and community members about finding an effective way to keep kids in school. Lynch wants to lower New Hampshire’s dropout rate, which is as high as 20 percent in some towns, by raising the legal age at which a student can leave school from 16 to 18. Lynch and Tracy, however, want to do more than make kids stay in school — they want to motivate kids to want the education option.
“For me education is all about opportunity,” said Lynch during his speech at Pelham High School. He also said he would like to implement vocational programs, internships and mentor programs to help encourage kids to stay in school.
At the end of his speech Lynch gave Elaine Cutler, the superintendent of schools, and Dorothy Mohr, Pelham High School principal, a chance to speak about their thoughts on the drop out rate.
“It’s hard to compete with a paycheck in hand,” said Mohr, who feels that the work force is a school’s biggest rival when it comes to keeping kids in school. Mohr believes it’s hard to compete with a job when they give you a paycheck at the end of the week, while school gives you homework.
Mohr agrees that schools need to have programs that encourage at-risk students to stay in school. She also asked Gov. Lynch to look into the reason high-school students are allowed to work 30-plus hours a week.
“It’s time we make lowering the dropout rate a priority,” said Lynch, who believes that at 18 there is a much higher chance a student will finish out high school.
Keriann Coffey, a senior at Pelham High School, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org