By Brandon Dumsky

Fort Osage High School is improving academically and is achieving higher graduation rates, says Principal Jason Snodgrass.

"We (FOHS) truly believe you either get better or worse every day," Snodgrass told the Board of Education Tuesday as he shared recent data.

The number of FOHS students who took the ACT in 2013 is up 50 compared to 2009's number of ACT takers. Snodgrass also noted that all juniors will be required to take the ACT beginning next school year, as per the new MSIP 5 requirements.

The graduation rate has increased 11 percent over a five-year span, Snodgrass said. FOHS's graduation rate was 87.4 percent in 2010 and the expected percentage for this 2014 graduating class is 98.4 percent.

The dropout rate has signficantly decreased as well. Six students have dropped out of FOHS so far this year compared to 44 students during the 2009-10 school year.

More than half of all FOHS students participate in the A+ Program, said Snodgrass. Fifty-eight percent of all high schoolers have either completed or are currently involved in the program that provides funds for high school students to attend a technical school or community college for two years.

The principal said the high school is comprised of dedicated students and staff who are "very goal oriented." He told the board FOHS places emphasis on seeing graduating students pursue a post-secondary education.

"They (students) have a plan," he said. "Either they will be college bound, attend a technical school or enlist in the military. We want to get students more comfortable (with) what to expect when they go to college."

Snodgrass added that to encourage his students to attend college, faculty have signs displaying their alma mater posted on their classroom or office doors to get kids to ask questions about a particular college or university they are interested in attending.

Snodgrass announced that the school will have a full-time Missouri College Advising Corps adviser to aid students in the college enrollment process starting next school year.

MCAC is a program by the University of Missouri-Columbia that is externally funded by The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, according to MCAC representative Beth Tankersley-Bankhead. She told the board that the program is geared to help districts who are below the state's average of having students enrolled in college or have a high proportion of first generation college students, such as Fort Osage High School. MCAC is already implemented in the Independence, Raytown and Hickman Mills districts.

"We're not trying to send them just to MU," Tankersley-Bankhead told the board. "MCAC ensures students to have a post-secondary education."

The program ensures that each student at FOHS has a one-on-one advisement session, scheduled tours of various college campuses, and a full-time MCAC adviser stationed at the school to collaborate with counselors and staff.

She also said with all the 120-plus high schools in the state that are participating in MCAC, there has been a 10 percent increase in students enrolling in college at each school. "And we hope that will continually increase."

"There is a direct correlation with the principal and the overall improvement at Fort Osage High School," said Board Member David Shrout.

Board members also heard that the number of homeless students within the district has increased. During the district's program evaluation portion of the meeting, FOHS social worker Deanna Rymer said the number of homeless students attending the district is now at 360 compared to 250 a couple of years ago. But Assistant Superintendent Maria Fleming added their homelessless could be the result of various circumstances, such as living with "double-up families, where four or five kids are in the same room."

"Some children already have obstacles before school starts at 8 a.m.," said Superintendent Mark Enderle.