School Superintendent Feels Vindicated By City Dropout Rate Decreasing 60%

Superintendent James F. Scully and Haverhill High School Principal Beth Kitsos. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill’s school superintendent says he feels vindicated by a report released by the state Monday that shows the city’s student dropout rate has decreased 60 percent.

Last fall, Superintendent James F. Scully disputed the accuracy of Haverhill’s dropout rate, saying an in-house investigation showed that data entered in the school department’s records incorrectly counted students who moved, transferred to other schools or began attending the city’s alternative school. While he is not sure if the state used his corrected numbers, Scully told WHAV Haverhill schools have been making continual progress.

“Even though some have doubted me, we’ve been addressing this for the past five or six years, and I think the press release today—and my conversations with the state today—indicate that we’ve been moving in the right direction all along,” Scully said.

Haverhill was one of five school districts cited by Gov. Charlie Baker for reducing high school dropout rates by more than 50 percent. The governor said state’s four-year graduation rate improved for the 11th consecutive year. The annual dropout rate fell to 1.8 percent in the last school year—the lowest overall rate in more than three decades.

Haverhill had 62 fewer students drop out last year than during 2011-2012 school year.

In any event, Scully says, urban schools cannot easily be compared with other districts

“I’ve been an urban superintendent over 19 years and to fix a school system in an urban setting is not an overnight deal. It takes time,” he said.

The superintendent took issue with the criticism that has been leveled at him and the school district over the years.

“A lot of people that are not experienced in being a superintendent in urban districts jump on the buzzwords of the moment and don’t look up all of the critical components that make up the school system.”

Scully credited Assistant Superintendent Jared Fulgoni and the various school principals for their roles in tackling dropout rates.