Hancock board looks at issue of student retention

HANCOCK – During the work session meeting of the Hancock Public Schools Board of Education Monday, a discussion about the current audit of the district evolved into a discussion on whether there is a problem with retaining students in the district.

Monica Healy, Hancock Public Schools superintendent, said the district was waiting for information from the state, and the person doing the audit was not available, but it should be completed next week.

Healy said the district, at 822 now, is down a net of six students from last fall when it had 828.

“It’s not good, but not as much as we thought it would be,” she said.

Healy said the district gained students in some grades, and lost students in other grades. Some students moved to the district from other local districts and some came from out of state.

“It was across all grade levels,” she said.

Board member Glenn North said he was concerned students were leaving the district. According to a survey by Jack Dueweke, emergency measures coordinator for Houghton and Keweenaw counties, more than 100 students living in Hancock attended Houghton-Portage Township School District in 2012.

“That’s quite a few,” he said. “If there’s something going on in Hancock that students are leaving, we (have to) address the problems and figure it out.”

Healy said when she asks parents why they want to leave the district, she gets various answers, some of them rather vague. Some parents said they work in Houghton and it’s easier to drop their children at Houghton schools on their way to work.

Often she doesn’t know students are leaving the district until just before a new school year starts, Healy said.

“The way the system is, it’s tough to catch them before they leave,” she said.

In years past, Healy said the district would mail questionnaires to parents who have left the district with little success.

“We got some good feedback on that,” she said.

Board member Paula Nutini said it would be a good idea to survey parents who have left the district.

“We should be able to say, ‘We lost however many students. Here’s the reasons why,'” she said.

Board Secretary Chris Heikkinen said the reason students leave may have more to do with the availability of jobs in the area than any problems with the district.

“I know a lot of these students who go over to Houghton, their parents work in Houghton,” he said.

Hancock Central High School Principal John Sanregret said the high school student population is stable.

“Once students get to high school, it’s not as likely they will transfer,” he said.

Sanregret said the high school receives many students because of schools of choice.

Interim board President Robbyn Lucier said it may be a good idea for the board to do a public relations project to let parents know what the district has to offer students.

Sanregret said he’s working on a project to promote the Hancock Award, which provides tuition remission for attending Finlandia University to Hancock Central High School graduates who qualify.

Work sessions are for discussion only. No action was taken.

In other business, board members:

heard from Healy two applications to fill the seat of board members and president Mark Peters who resigned from the board last month. Board members may take action on the applications at the regular meeting on Oct. 28.

heard from Healy bids for snow removal and sanding have been received.