Robynne Prince came to work Wednesday ready to lead Bowie High School students and staff on a successful day of academic achievement.
The principal didn’t expect Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell and other school personnel to visit the school and shake pom-poms, hold balloons, cheer loudly and hold a banner to celebrate the school having a 90 percent graduate rate from last year’s senior class.
“I am breathing so hard,” Prince said while panting and smiling. “It’s a good feeling to have when your superintendent and central office personnel come in and recognize your hard work of the scholars and the teachers.”
Maxwell led a “congratulatory bus tour” Wednesday to visit eight schools that achieved a 90 percent or higher graduation rate in the county. Overall, the school system had an 81 percent graduate rate in the 2015-16 school year and the highest ever since the four-year cohort scaling system began in Maryland in 2010.
The county had the second-highest percentage increase statewide behind Cecil County. According to the state Department of Education’s Report Card, Surrattsville High School in Clinton had one of the biggest graduate rate increases in the county, rising from 80 percent to 90 percent.
Record graduation rates also showed increases among black students from 81 percent to 85 percent. The figure ranks higher than the statewide rate of 84 percent among black students.
“We want to congratulate the schools with the successes they have had in raising graduation rates,” Maxwell said. “Behind those numbers are graduates who walk across the stage with a diploma that gives them opportunities they were not getting three years ago. We are thrilled.”
One program Maxwell praised as one reason for the high graduation rates is the county’s Early Warning System, which help administrators work with and support at-risk ninth-grade students to assess attendance, academics and other factors.
The tour bus left Bowie and headed to DuVal High School in Lanham, which had one of the highest graduation rates at 92 percent. Maxwell, central office and school staff walked through the halls behind the DuVal Tiger Pep Band and waved at students who peeked out their classrooms.
Although Khadijah Abu heard Maxwell address the school on the P.A. system, she missed all the excitement in the hallways while in another building inside her Advanced Placement computer science class.
Abu, 17, has been accepted into five colleges, with one of those, Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, offering her a $23,000 scholarship.
“DuVal usually got the bad rap,” said the senior, who wants to become a defense attorney. “I love DuVal so much and it is getting so much better. [Teachers and administrators] just push us hard.
“We used to think, ‘Oh my God, why are they doing this? Why are they implementing these rules? They are doing too much, basically,’” she said. “Then you look back at it and they are doing it for our own good. If they would just let us just roam around the halls and do whatever, then we wouldn’t be graduating at a 93 percent rate.”