For the past few weeks, I have discussed in this space the changes and future of the educational state at Ottawa High School. Thus far, we have explained our accreditation procedures, the adoption and implementation of Common Core Standards, the dramatic changes in the assessment procedures for our students, and the “Cyclone Connect” proposal that would provide a computer for every student at OHS. In closing, I wanted to provide information on our Positive Behavior Supports program, facilities and graduation rates.

Upon the arrival of Derek Bland at OHS, we began working on a program to acknowledge our students who do great things every day. Through the help and partnership of a number of local businesses, we now offer several programs that are intended to help motivate students to make good decisions and reward them when they do. This program includes the “Cyclone Citizenship Card,” which teachers can give to students who are seen making a positive impact upon another student or our school as a whole.

A card is drawn every week for one boy and one girl, and they are given a gift certificate for a local restaurant. We also provide a weekly cash award of $10 for two students from every class who show excellence in attendance and academics. A monthly $50 cash award is given to one student who excels academically and one student who has no attendance issues. In an effort to further reward academia and attendance, OHS plays host to a quarterly academic pep assembly in which we provide our students breakfast and a certificate for their efforts at OHS. Throughout the school year, we provide points toward a trip to Worlds of Fun. The class with the highest number of points earns the entire group a paid trip to Worlds of Fun at the end of the year. Lastly, we provide a Cyclone T-shirt to every student enrolled at OHS. All of these programs were designed to foster pride in our school, motivate our students to be great and reward them for their efforts.

This year, we truly began looking at our facilities and our needs. The Ottawa school district, under the direction of Jeanne Stroh, our superintendent, developed a facilities committee, involving about 25 community members, to look at our facilities district-wide and make a recommendation to the school board for future projects. The formation of this group has provided OHS the opportunity to shed some light on our issues with our science classrooms, the configuration of classrooms in the 200 hallway, the lack of a performing arts center for our students, problems with the administrative office areas, safety concerns with the access to our building, the need to update our Career and Technical Education facilities, problems with our locker rooms, and a number of other issues affecting our student body. Although we do not yet know what the committee will propose to the school board, the opportunity to bring some of these issues to light has been a positive experience for our school.

Finally, and perhaps the most important of all changes, is our continued work to improve the graduation rate of OHS students. In the years prior to the placement of the current administration, our school was mired in a graduation percentage in the low 70s. After the implementation of several programs, including the return of summer school, a true credit recovery program, mentoring programs led by our staff, and Communities In Schools, we have seen our graduation rates soar in comparison.

In 2012, we approached an 80 percent graduation rate for the first time in more than five years. Last year, we fell just short of 85 percent. Thus far, this year, we still have nearly 90 percent of our senior class still enrolled. Furthermore, the future looks great for our progress as 95 percent of our juniors are still attending school and 98 percent of our sophomores are still enrolled.

An issue that has a dramatic negative impact on these statistics includes the transient nature of our population. For the class of 2013, we had nearly the same number of students transfer in and out of our school than we graduated. We deal with a number of students who transfer in with us, and then transfer out of our school, or who will transfer in and discontinue their education. Our graduation rate for students who transition from Ottawa Middle School is much higher than our overall graduation rate.

As you can see if you have followed this column now for the past four installments, the work done at OHS has been extensive and is centered around making our school a better place for our students. We are excited about the opportunities ahead of us and our students and look forward to seeing the effects of our labors take hold in the very near future.

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at or call (785) 229-8020.