After bidding farewell to Madrone High School’s largest graduating class in recent years, school officials at the continuation school are striving to improve it’s "bad kids" reputation.
“Because we are a continuation school, so many people think [our students] are the ‘bad kids,’” art teacher Stuart Shepherd said. “That reputation comes from people who don’t know us.”
Tucked in a corner of campus, Madrone helps students who are behind in class credits graduate on time. The school has five classrooms that served approximately 70 students this year, according to Principal Jane Songer. Because students transfer to Madrone from or San Rafael high schools, they are often deemed as trouble makers by their peers.
From 2006 to 2009, Madrone’s average graduation rate hovered under 70 percent, 24 percent below the county average and 9 percent below the state average, according to the California Department of Education’s database.
This year, the graduation rate was 95 percent, according to Songer.
“The students are so proud of their work this year. We’ve had many firsts,” Songer said.
Those firsts include a student representative on the San Rafael City School Board, Madrone’s Jon Jones scoring a perfect 100 on the College of Marin’s English placement test and four graduates passing the Marin Sheriff’s Academy with flying colors.
Madrone students are also debunking the ‘bad kids’ myth by being more involved in school district events. For San Rafael High School’s homecoming, Madrone students crafted a float for the parade. Some students also volunteer as counselors for elementary or middle schools on field trips.
“People think everyone at Madrone does drugs or they are here because of bad behavior,” said class speaker Karla Medrano. “But it’s not like that at all. Everyone here is part of a community.”
Medrano was put on the “Madrone List” as a junior when she missed several classes due to health problems. Originally from Terra Linda High School, she was able to complete all her graduation requirements after Madrone teachers and counselors helped her get back on track.
Now, Medrano is heading off to Heald College and eventually hopes to become a nurse.
“[Madrone] made me realize the importance of graduating and finishing what you start,” she said.
Because many students come to Madrone from low-income households or broken homes, the classroom also serves as a support system. For many of the Madrone graduates, college is a question of when they can afford it, Songer said.
“A lot of our students see Madrone as more of a home than their own home,” Songer said. “That’s why that ‘bad kids’ image is something we’re trying to overcome.”
of Madrone's 2011 graduation ceremony.