Cloudy skies loom over Whiting High School on Friday.

Whiting High School Principal Scott Shoop is hoping to create a new job at the alternative high school that would focus on limiting the number of students who drop out.

Shoop and other principals of Albany County School District No. 1 discussed the 2018-2019 academic year with the school board on Wednesday and explained their budget priorities for the upcoming school year.

A draft description of the position states that the program facilitator will use a “team approach” to “work with students individually to identify barriers to success and coach students in developing skills and actions plans designed for barrier mitigation and/or removal, with the goal of gradual re-entry into the Whiting High School core program.”

If school board members approve the new position next week, it will be contingent on Whiting receiving funding from the federal School Improvement Grant program.

Shoop has proposed a minimum salary of $44,460 and envisions that the facilitator will coordinate “all student-related community and outside agency support in order to help students be successful in an intensive individual classroom environment,” including facilitating student access to heath care and making home visits.

“Whatever that barrier is that’s keeping them from being successful, let’s intensively try to remove or mitigate those barriers and try to get them back into a regular public school,” Shoop said.

In the last decade, Whiting’s four-year graduation has been below 50% most years, according to the Wyoming Department of Education. The school’s six-year graduation rate was typically around 60% in those years.

“When a student drops out, we essentially lose all of our ability to influence and impact their lives,” Shoop said Wednesday. “So the essential question I keep asking is: What more can we do?”

Explaining the need for action, Shoop noted a study from a 2013 Northwestern University that found that the average lifetime earnings for a high school dropout is $260,000 less than non-dropouts.

He also noted the high cost to taxpayers that dropouts create.

“I think those are compelling reasons to analyze this every year and do our best to improve it,” he said. “Our dropout issue is not our issue. It’s a community issue.”

Aside from the proposed new position, Shoop said Whiting is taking other actions to reduce dropouts.

This past year, the school began offering a training program for the HiSET exam, a high school equivalency test, that Shoop said served more than 20 students.

He also wants to expand the district’s Wyoming Works program, which focuses on employability, to be offered to more students.

“(Laramie High School) has some excellent programming for this, but it’s mostly serving the special needs population,” he said. “I want to expand that to all Whiting students, regardless of whether they have an (individualized education program).”

Shoop said he’d also like to create a “digital learning” program that allows for more flexible attendance.

“For some of our students, it’s not their fault that they can’t attend in the way that they want to, so we have to develop some other system to allow them to be successful,” he said.

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