District Employees’ Errors Created False Impression of High City Dropout Rate

(WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill Superintendent James F. Scully set the record straight on the city’s dropout rate, deflating one of the central issues in this year’s School Committee race.

At recent candidate forums, School Committee candidates have been asked to explain how they would address the rate, which has been reported at 5.9 percent, nearly three times the state average.

Moments after Thursday’s School Committee meeting, candidate Richard Rosa told WHAV the fact that the rate is lower than previously believed is good news for the city.

The falsely elevated rate has been a topic of discussion at community forums and among members of the City Council during budget negotiations.

Scully, who has disputed the accuracy of the reports for the past few years, told the School Committee an in-house investigation showed that data entered in the school department’s records incorrectly counted as dropouts students who moved, transferred to other schools or even began attending the city’s alternative school.

Rosa said the city should build on its better-than-expected dropout rate.

“The City of Haverhill now has an opportunity to reduce its dropout rate well below the state average and to be a leader among urban districts in lowering the dropout rate. Haverhill does not have to settle for average,” Rosa said.

According to Scully, of 107 students who were listed as dropouts, 59 were coded in error. Only 43 actually dropped out of school, Scully said. That computes as a 2.3 percent dropout rate. According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state rate for 2015-2016, the last year for which numbers are available, was 1.9 percent.

The superintendent said three or four district employees were responsible for the coding errors, marking students who moved out of state, or transferred to Central Catholic, Phillips, Brooks, Presentation of Mary Academy and other regional high schools as dropouts.

Scully said every one of the 59 students has been identified and the district has confirmed that all are attending other schools.

Rosa suggested the district look at an innovation school to focus on students at risk of dropping out.

“It is time we start a conversation about how we reduce the dropout rate further. We can use what we have learned from the success of the Haverhill Alternative High School and the Youth Engaging in Success (YES) Program, which ended in 2015 after the federal grant money dried up, to build an academy or innovation school at the high school,” he said.

Three members will be chosen to serve four-year terms on the School Committee during the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 7. In addition to Rosa, challengers are Richard E. Smyth, Katrina Hobbs Everett, and incumbents Paul A. Magliocchetti and Maura Ryan-Ciardiello.


9 thoughts on “District Employees’ Errors Created False Impression of High City Dropout Rate

  1. Meanwhile, a liberal advocacy group estimates there are 1,100 students attending Haverhill Public Schools who are children of parents illegally in this country. This is costing Haverhill taxpayers $14.3MILLION EVERY year!!! By the time just one year of kids go from grades 1~12 it will cost taxpayers $171.6MILLION !!

    Hey, Rich Rosa…..is this fair? Should Haverhill taxpayers have to pay to educate kids who are criminally trespassing in this country?

  2. WHAV ought to make a freedom of information act request on this one. The school department can redact the names of students. This looks a lot like Scully cooking the books (pause for exclamations of shock and disbelief) to make his regime look better. “Three or four” employees? What were their jobs? Why doesn’t he know how many? Name a single student who transferred to Brooks or Phillips from good ole HHS.

    Trouble is, nobody checks on what comes out of Scully’s mouth. He learned a lot about manipulating the media since he was wacked in Lawrence, amidst issued raised about hiring, spending and his overall dismal performance and a failed attempt to transfer to another job in the system to save his precious pension. Maybe he learned a few things from his days in the E-T family.

    It all reminds me of when they opened HHS after the reconstruction. A commentor noted the disastrous way the entrance was configured. Scully had some changes made, then took credit for recognizing the problem, even though he saw nothing wrong with it when the school system decided the school should be reopened.

    His ability to ewriting history to his favor is excellent.

    • Mary, during his time leading the Lawrence school system Jim Scully became the longest tenured Superintendent of Schools in one city in Massachusetts state history. If you have one, a logical mind would suggest he must have been doing something right.

      He was wacked in Lawrence because of a power hungry incompetent female with a grudge, and a immature child city councilor trying to make a name for himself. It’s very well known that Scully’s departure in Lawrence was completely political, and had nothing to do with his performance.

      “Precious pension”? When Supt Scully accepted the superintendent’s job in Haverhill he was already retired and receiving his pension. When he took the Haverhill Supt job he “voluntarily” stopped taking his pension, which was something he did not have to do. When have you EVER seen a public employee do that? That decision has now cost Supt Scully personally over $700,000.00.

      To question Supt Scully’s professional and personal integrity shows how little you know about the man.
      But then again, given your tone, what’s your grudge, Mary?

        • Cee….

          Sorry…I forgot women are a liberal “protected class” not to be called out for promoting outright lies and misinformation. I’ll try to remember that next time. Mary doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about and you defending her based on her gender and not her statements is hilarious.

          Cee, I do have to say, I’m impressed…..at least you didn’t call me a racist !

    • I agree..All I could say after I read this article was “Sure, what a bunch of crap”l..After reading this article, I have zero respect for this guy, and those who are behind this ridiculous assertion. Be real, suck it up and move on…put your efforts towards changes these reprehensible statistics and while at it make efforts to change the MCAS scores. Looking at those results, Lawrence overall is doing a better job of educating it’s students..Get real Scully!

      • Sue,
        Sorry…you have it wrong about Supt Scully….AGAIN!

        What would you have him do, publicly reveal the employees who made the mistake? That’s not what someone in a position of leadership does. Someone in a position of leadership protects those who report to him, even when they mess up.

        Praise publicly, scorn privately….that’s what leaders do to build trust and loyalty. That’s what Supt Scully is doing here.

  3. Meanwhile, according to the latest MCAS scores, only 83% of students were proficient in “ELA”, and fail in both science and math. Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational Technical performed better in both math and English. Lawrence folks, a cesspool of a city due social and economic engineering did better than Haverhill.