'At-risk' students targeted in new program

By Andrea Ray | May 10, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino and Beyond School Time director Jane Fondulis

Out of the 584 students in Wareham High School last year, 51 students dropped out. The 8.7 percent dropout rate put the school at number 516 out of 523 overall districts in the state.

Now, new programs have been put in place to help stem the flow of dropouts and boost Wareham’s rating.

Jane Fondulis, the director of Wareham’s Beyond School Time Program, and Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino revealed Wednesday night that the program recently received a MassGrad Promising Practices Grant from the state. The grant is intended to provide ”supplementary support” to schools with high concentrations of students at-risk for dropping out.

Though Fondulis did not note the exact amount of the grant, it was enough to cover the hiring of two part-time social workers. The social workers work 15 hours per week during the school day.

The two social workers, along with the school guidance counselors, Palladino and Assistant Principal Debbie Freitas, worked to identify the 41 students in the school who were at the highest risk of dropping out, and prioritize them by their risk.

In the three months since the social workers began, they’ve made 23 visits to the homes of the identified at-risk students. “Out of the 41 students, 24 are in line to be promoted to the next grade as of today,” Fondulis noted. She explained that the social workers are in touch with family, teachers and the students themselves, and follow up routinely with phone calls and emails.

“It troubles me that we have to have a grant to do something so constructive,” said school committee member Geoff Swett. “ But you’ve reached 24 out of 41 students. If you can really impact these kids, the dropout rate will plummet, so I’m thrilled to hear that.”

Swett also asked if Fondulis felt the process of identifying at-risk students was a good one, noting that the people who choose to drop out might not be among the 41 targeted.

“We actually identified 76 at-risk students at the beginning of the year,” Palladino explained. “But unfortunately because the social workers didn’t start until February, we decided that this year we would target only the 41 students who were the most at-risk.” He said that, provided grant funding remained, the the social workers would be able to tackle more cases in the fall, as they would start at the beginning of the year.

“These dropout numbers are horrendous,” Swett said. “I’m thrilled to see something constructive is happening.”

Comments (8)
Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 11, 2017 08:28

All of Wareham Public Schools only has 584 kids?  K-12 at all schools? That seems low.  Considering the amount of kids that I see and know through my own, it seems like there are more.


An 8.7% dropout rate is shockingly bad.  Putting Wareham 516 out of 523 is awful.  It doesn't get much worse.  I'm sometimes known to point out negatives.  But even I'm having a hard time believing this.


Question: Did all 51 quit school entirely?  Wareham is a transient place.  People move in and out of the cottages and motels.  Did some of the 51 just leave Wareham and resume somewhere else?

Posted by: Matthew Bernat | May 11, 2017 09:16

Hi WBTS, The 584 number is actually just the number of students in the high school. That was a typo and it has been corrected. Thank you for pointing it out. If anyone is wondering, the total number of students in the district is 2,461.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | May 11, 2017 10:47

Hi Matt, I figured something like that was the case.  Too bad the dropout rate wasn't based on total number of students!  51/2461 is a lot less than 8.7%!  Anyways, I recall an article in another paper long before WarehamWeek existed.  They actually referred to Wareham as a "dropout factory". That wasn't good then and certainly this isn't good now.  The transient nature of Wareham was blamed then.  I have a feeling it's partly still to blame.

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | May 11, 2017 10:52

I hope that this keeps the kids in school.  The kids may not realize it at the moment, but school will be important to them throughout their lives.


I do find it strange that this would be presented at a meeting and they wouldn't have the information about the exact amount of $ the grant provided with them.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | May 11, 2017 11:49

When Wareham's Cooperative School which serviced at risk students was located in a building separate from the High School, I had an opportunity to talk with a number of the school's senior class members as graduation drew near. All of those that I spoke with had plans for further education, and attributed their successful completion of high school to a combination of unique educational and socialization experiences made possible not only by Cooperative School teachers and support staff, but also by the availability of a school environment separate and different from that of Wareham High School, which they indicated for a variety of reasons had been problematic for them both academically and socially.


A few years ago the Cooperative School was moved from the building which was separate from the high school back into the high school. Does anyone know if the fairly recent return of the Cooperative School's at risk students to the high school environment has had an impact on at risk student drop out rates and/or success rates?

Posted by: Peaches0409 | May 11, 2017 12:13

This number is very deceiving. Included in this number are kids who leave WPS and attend private / charter schools. The are "lost" if you will in the shuffle. Unless the enroll in another public school in MA they are considered drop outs. Don't be so alarmed at a number that really isn't a true representation.

Posted by: Onset_mom | May 11, 2017 14:03

Good question Andrea!  I would also love to know if moving the co-op school back to the high school affected the learning of those students and if any of those affected dropped out altogether.

Posted by: brazz | May 11, 2017 18:52

Before throwing money at this, why not have officials do a little digging and find out how many of those students went to another school? Is it not worth it to make 54 calls ever year to check on the drop outs? Offer them a second chance? Sounds like we don't know the real reason those numbers are so high.

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