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People key to Wausau's graduation rate success


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – Wausau's success as a statewide leader in high graduation rates boils down to one simple concept, district officials say – building a community that supports at-risk students.

A team of district officials shared that story with hundreds of educators at a statewide graduation summit last week in Pewaukee.

Associate Wausau West High School principal David Munoz says districts can have all the programs in place that they want to serve students, but finding people who care and are willing to make sure that students graduate is key.

The district's approach is evident in numbers that show less than 1 percent of students who drop out each year. Fourteen students failed to earn a diploma in 2007-2008, the last school year for which figures were available. The number of dropouts had been as high as 49 in the 2001-2002 school year.

Munoz cited three programs that help at-risk students in Wausau. Two of them are at Northcentral Technical College. The other, Operation Fresh Start, puts students to work building a house while teaching them life and construction skills.

“They’re going to graduate,” Munoz said. “Maybe not when you think they should graduate in June – we stay on ‘em, we stay after ‘em.”