Today I welcomed our teachers back to an exciting 2011-2012 school year for Butte School District #1 and encouraged them in our core purpose of helping students be successful.

I really believe that teachers are the key to enabling our students to succeed not only in school but beyond school. Every one of us can think of a teacher that inspired us or encouraged us along our educational career. I think fondly of Mr. Donald Neu who encouraged my love of Biology which I later majored at Montana State University, Billings. Every Butte School District teacher will touch the lives of all Butte students and influence their success.

As a part of helping students to become successful, we are partnering with Denise Juneau, our State Superintendent of Instruction, in "graduation matters Butte." Our goal is to graduate more students from Butte High School ready for college and careers. Last year, our graduation rate improved to meet the state rate of 76 percent. However, we know that far too many students are dropping out of Butte High School short-circuiting their future. We will be aggressively addressing this problem with specific plans at the high school this year.

Why is it so important to graduate from high school? First, in today's global economy and job creation renaissance, there will be fewer and fewer jobs for non-skilled labor. Further, a student with a quality education will experience greater economic prosperity and job opportunity. As parents, taxpayers, business owners and educators, we cannot ignore the long-term economic consequences of individuals not graduating from high school.

Therefore, we are committed to graduate more students from high school equipped with the necessary skills to be successful in whatever he/she chooses. Second, the effects of dropping out are damaging to our city as well as our state. High school drop-outs make up 75 percent of incarcerated men and women. Tens of millions of dollars are spent each year in supportive services and remediation for adults who do not have a high school diploma. If the male high school graduation rate increased by just 5 percent, Montana's economy would see a combination of crime-related savings and additional revenue of $19.6 million each year.

This year at Butte High School we will be implementing three initiatives to increase the graduation rate. We will be monitoring each student's success through Student Advisory Teams. These teams will monitor students, freshman through seniors regarding their number of credits, emotional/social concerns, attendance and other concerns. Teachers, counselors, and administrators will actively intervene to help students be successful. Additionally these teams will help students to connect with other students through activities (music, sports, or clubs). We want to make sure that students don't fall behind, give up and quit. The second initiative is "career planning activities."

Every freshman will be given a survey to assess their interests and talents. These interests and talents will evolve into a career plan developed with the counselor for not only high school but also beyond high school. We will also be encouraging and developing job shadowing and/or intern opportunities with the business community. The third initiative is the Butte High 3+1+3 program with Montana Tech, which will be launched February 2012, where college credit can be earned within the high school setting along a career trajectory. We will give more specifics on this program prior to February 2012.

Finally, we need the help of our community to encourage students to stay in school. If you know of students who should be in school, please encourage them to go back and graduate. Second, if businesses hire student workers, check to see that they are in school and that they have a career goal. Every Butte student who graduates will benefit our Butte community economically. Every citizen can play a role in the encouragement of our youth. We can all inspire students to be someone important in our world. After all, our country needs our best Butte students for the challenges we face in the 21st century.

- Linda Reksten is the Superintendent of Butte School District #1.


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