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May 22, 2014

Duncan High wraps school year with tonight’s graduation

DUNCAN — Tonight will be a night to remember for Duncan High School seniors.

The school’s commencement ceremony is set to begin at 8 p.m. at Halliburton Stadium. And as the students move to finish their high school careers, Justin Smith wraps his first year as high school principal, already having gone through two graduation ceremonies as assistant principal.

This year, 219 seniors will graduate, riding high on their achievements from the school year. Graduation will be followed by the Project Graduation program at the Simmons Center. Project Graduation provides a lock-in atmosphere where students can celebrate their graduation in a safe environment.

“We’ve had a good year, a lot of student successes,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of successes in and out of the classroom.”

Senior Counselor Paula Belcher agreed, noting the school had 17 Oklahoma Academic Scholars and two All-State Scholars, which was two more than the school had for the 2012-13 school year. This year’s All-State Scholars from Duncan included Sam Allen and Sam Moffatt.

This school year has featured a higher composite ACT score with several students testing with scores between 30 and 34. The highest a student can receive on the ACT is a 36.

Several students will also attend school out of state to study medicine, Belcher said. The schools students have been accepted to include Johns Hopkins, Rice, Baylor and Texas A&M. Many of the students not going to school for medicine began the application process before the school year started.

Belcher, who previously worked in advance education at the Duncan Middle School, worked with many of the students in their formative years, and knew at the time they would have successes by the time their high school years concluded.

“They’ve had the initiative and the drive,” Belcher said. “They not only compete with each other, they compete within themselves.”

The end of secondary education for Duncan High School seniors also means the end of the school year for all Duncan students. All-in-all, Smith has been happy with how well this year has gone.

The 2013-14 school year created a challenge by introducing students to construction on campus, which in turn caused the shifting of classes and required students to take alternative routes around campus.

But the end result will make this year’s challenge worth the effort, Smith said.

“Staff members are packing up to move to other classrooms, and we’ve put out bids for furniture,” Smith said. “We’ll begin the preliminary move for the Ninth Grade Center, (which will be placed in the school’s West Building). That will be helpful we think.”

When the school year started, the high school hired 20 new teachers, many of whom will continue with the high school for the 2014-15 school year. This summer will be dedicated to hiring 10 to 12 more teachers to fill vacant positions, while coming up with a three-year plan for improvement. Smith’s sights are set on making Duncan High School a Blue Ribbon School, a high honor for schools.

“This year has gone really fast,” Smith said. “Overall, student discipline has been good this year. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

And as the senior class prepares to walk across the stage, each student dressed in a red cap and gown, Smith said he has a fond appreciation for the class.

“We have a great group of seniors,” Smith said. “Three years I’ve been here, and this is the most academic class we’ve had.”

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