Vocal Point: Rogers High beats its rap

THURSDAY, DEC. 1, 2011

This weekend I got something in the mail from my son’s high school that thrilled me. The quarterly issue of The Pirate Treasure Chest had arrived and the updates in this newsletter were impressive. First, Rogers High School’s test scores have improved across the board. Second, the dropout rate has been going down.

The best part, though, was about student involvement in the community. Over 100 students from the groups DECA, Interact, Leadership, LINK crew, Drama, Air Force Junior ROTC, Key Club and the National Honor Society raised over $8,000 earlier this month for the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

There was also a blood drive held at school in which more than 100 pints were collected. In recent years I have been nothing but impressed with how the students get involved with different causes, both local and far away.

Just over five years ago my kids and I moved to Spokane to start a new life. I wanted to be sure that whatever schools my kids attended would offer them as many opportunities and as much diversity as possible. We got our start here in Spokane through a shelter, and the one thing I kept hearing from the locals was stay away from Rogers High School. It was in a rough part of town and had some pretty tough kids there. Taking their advice, I enrolled my girls in Lewis and Clark. Their experience was fine and my oldest daughter graduated there in 2008. It was definitely diverse and I liked the teachers my girls had.

While my second daughter was a sophomore there, our family moved to the northeast part of town. Everyone finished out their school year where they were presently going except for my daughter. She was starting to struggle with the group of kids she associated with and ended up dropping out of school mid-year. Over the next few months things for her settled down and she started school in the fall, but this time was enrolled in her new neighborhood school – Rogers.

I won’t lie, I was nervous. Rogers has a long-standing reputation that’s hard to ignore. It has been reported that Rogers is in one of the poorest zip codes in the city. Most of the kids going to this school are at the lower end of the tax bracket and currently almost 75 percent are recipients of the free lunch program and other community services. Quite frankly, the kids at this school come from families that struggle, in more ways than one, to make ends meet.

Graduation rates in the past have suffered and there have been issues with gangs and drugs. The reputation this school had wasn’t just some myth made up to sound tough. The problems this school and community have faced have been very real. But things have been changing and I’m not sure our city has recognized this. I don’t think enough good can be said about the staff and leadership at this school. Principal Lori Wyborney has set the bar high for what she wants from all of those in her charge and they are meeting her expectations. She has a passion for these kids and they know it.

It turns out that I don’t need to worry about my child attending Rogers any more than I would worry about them attending any high school. My daughter entered Rogers as a junior in the fall of 2008 and thrived. She had a lot of work to do to make up lost credits so she could graduate on time, but had great counselors and teachers that wanted to see their students succeed.

She found herself in college prep and AP classes and loved the challenge, graduating on time. I currently have a son following in his sister’s academic footsteps. He, too, is thriving with the challenging classes offered and has great things to say about each of his teachers. In fact Rogers has one of the lowest teacher-to-student ratios in the city, at one teacher for every 15 students.

When all is said and done, I will have had a child at Rogers for 15 consecutive years. I have decided that even if the opportunity arises for me to move, I won’t be moving out of Hillyard. This has become our home and our community and we love it.

It’s time that Spokane recognizes that today’s Rogers High School is not the same school it was in years past. It’s time to put that old reputation to rest and it’s time to remember this: We are from Rogers. We will work hard. We will work together. We are winners. We are the PIRATES!

Reach Linda Radford by email at lradford@spokanecounty.org.

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