Missoula County Public Schools are tops in Montana, according to a district analysis released Friday of data from the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
In the last school year, Sentinel, Big Sky and Hellgate high schools had the highest graduation rates in the state among Class AA high schools. Sentinel had a 92.7 percent graduation rate, the highest, and Big Sky and Hellgate each hit an 88.9 percent graduation rate, according to a news release from the district.
“I am so proud of the work that our high school staff, as well as our students, parents and community members, are doing to support students and families throughout their high school experience,” Superintendent Alex Apostle said in a prepared statement.
The news comes on the heels of other OPI data showing Missoula’s public high schools have among the lowest dropout rates in Montana. In the 2011-12 school year, Big Sky had the lowest dropout rate in the state at 1.9 percent and Sentinel had a 2 percent rate.
The achievements reflect the support of the entire community, Apostle said. In 2010, the district launched Graduation Matters Missoula to bring the community together to support keeping students in school, and it has kicked off programs to “provide more meaningful experiences for students,” reads the news release.
Those include the International Baccalaureate Programme at Hellgate, Health Science Academy at Big Sky, and “a more enhanced program of Advanced Placement and dual credit classes” at Sentinel. “Additional programs are in development in support of the District’s 21st Century Model of Education.”
The news comes at a time the community is debating Apostle’s recent 13 percent raise, which pushed his salary to $175,000 this year and to $200,000 by 2014-15. The raise is expected to draw public comment at the 6 p.m. board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the small gym at Sentinel High School, 910 South Ave. W.; the district will have signs to lead the way to the gym.
Trustees approved the salary increase on a split vote, and supporters on the board and in the community describe Apostle as a “superstar” and point to successes such as the increased graduation rates the district touted Friday and decreased dropout rates.
Opponents note the raise comes at a time when teachers are short of textbooks, buying their own supplies, and without adequate classroom support or raises of their own.
At its upcoming meeting, the board also will consider placing two technology levies on the ballot to replace and repair computers, support educational development for educators, and introduce students and staff to new technologies. Trustees will vote on whether to increase the elementary technology levy from $302,000 to $850,000 and the high school levy from $450,000 to $750,000.
If approved, taxpayers who own a $200,000 home in the district would pay $14.31 per year to support the elementary district levy, and residents who live in the high school district would pay $4.57 annually.
Residents who live in both districts would pay $18.88.
Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, firstname.lastname@example.org or on MissoulaRedTape.com.