Deena M. Paramo, Ed.D.
Address: 501 N. Gulkana Palmer, AK 99645
|Please enjoy Dr. Paramo's Welcome speech from the MSBSD Opening Day Ceremony!|
Dear Mat-Su students, parents, families, and community stakeholders,
Graduation is approaching! Now less than a month away for Mat-Su seniors, I personally want to congratulate every young man and woman as you complete your high school education. As a teacher, principal, administrator, and now Superintendent, I have watched many of you grow and mature from childhood, learning how to make wise decisions and navigate the myriad of educational choices and experiences. I am proud of you—our graduates—and know that you will continue to achieve success and forge high personal accomplishments.
I reflect on why we call it commencement and want students leaving the District to grasp that the moment is a beginning, not an ending, for each of them. The ceremony in which we confer the high school graduation and award the diplomas is symbolic of the privileges and honors for you, our students, your parents, and other family members to celebrate this milestone in each student’s life. Many organizations in the United States look to high school graduation as one stepping stone in achieving lifetime success through skills building, social learning, and preparation for future education or jobs.
What is the significance in achieving high school graduation? The U.S. Department of Education reports, “In 2010, the difference in annual earnings between workers with some high school education and those who had completed high school was about $10,000.” Research shows links, historically, between economic depression and rising graduation rates. As skills necessary to meet labor demands change, education policies and programs follow to ensure that students are prepared to meet the developing changes of employers.
In the Mat-Su Borough School District, the graduation rate is about 72%. The dropout rate stands at about 3%. So, what happens with the remaining 25% of students? Alaska’s graduation rate is measured and reported based on a four-year cohort of students. Once a student enters the freshman year of high school, the four-year clock starts ticking. If for any reason a student fails to graduate high school within the exact four-year time frame, he/she is not counted in the graduation rate numbers. An individual may graduate after five years of high school, sometimes referred to as a “super senior”, or may complete graduation requirements in the first few months after the final bell sounds June 30th. We have many students who complete their course requirements in the summer or within a few months of regular graduation in May, but fail to complete by June 30th of their fourth and final year of cohort standing. That is how the actual dropout rate stands at about 3%. Our students do graduate from high school—just not all within the standard required four-year reporting period.
Perhaps you’ve heard me speak words of encouragement to you as I visit your school or at other times through the years. This final encouragement comes from a place of resilience, and is a quote from actor, Denzel Washington: “I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success. You’ve got to take risks. You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. There is no doubt about it. Never be discouraged. Never look back. Give everything you’ve got. And when you fall throughout life, fall forward.” Be resilient. Be Mat-Su proud!
Dr. Deena M. Paramo