Bangor High School seniors Silvia Davids (left) and Emma Youngblood (right) share a smile while waiting to receive their diplomas during Sunday's graduation ceremony at the Cross Insurance Center.  Credit: Kathleen O'Brien / BDN

A higher percentage of Bangor High School seniors graduated in four years this past spring than any other class before them.

Bangor High’s class of 2022 boasted a four-year graduation rate of 89.86 percent, with 248 completing high school within four years. That’s the highest graduation rate in the school department’s history, according to Superintendent James Tager.

The achievement meets the goal of a 90 percent four-year graduation rate the school department set for itself in its 10-year strategic plan published in 2020.

And while the comparable figure from last spring for the entire state isn’t yet available, Bangor’s new graduation rate exceeds the statewide average over the past decade.

Tager said he wanted to improve the high school’s graduation rate when he became superintendent last year. Bangor’s graduation rate has lagged the statewide rate since 2018. Some 82.44 percent of the class of 2021 completed high school within four years, compared with 86.07 percent statewide that year.

“For me, the graduation rate target would be 100 percent,” he said. “If you think about 82 percent, you’re leaving 18 kids out of 100, and that bothers me.”

What helped bring the school’s graduation rate to 90 percent was not necessarily academic changes, Tager said, but changes to the school’s culture that made students feel safe, supported and encouraged.

The addition of graduation coaches at the high school and the school department’s mentorship program — which has matched hundreds of students with adult mentors over the past year, with the help of federal COVID relief funds — helped boost the school’s graduation rate because students suddenly had someone looking out for and encouraging them.

“I think there are kids every year who would rather walk around and not be bothered,” Tager said. “It’s up to us as the significant adults in the building to approach those students. Once people are seen, there’s a better chance that they’ll be successful. If kids have even one person who motivates them, they’re going to come to school every day.”

While Bangor managed to increase its four-year high school graduation rate last spring, it still has a notable graduation rate gap between male and female students, according to data from the district.

Some 88 percent of male students graduated from Bangor High School in four years this past spring, compared with 92 percent of female students.

While stark, the gap between graduating male and female students tightened slightly from 2021, when five percentage points separated the number of male and female students who graduated from Bangor High School in four years. The gender gap statewide in 2021 had reached its widest point since 2014.

Tager said the data point from last spring’s graduation numbers that he’s most proud of is the virtual absence of a gap between the graduation rates of white and nonwhite students, which were 89.87 and 89.74 percent respectively.

The demographic of Bangor High School students with the lowest graduation rate last spring were the school’s five seniors experiencing homelessness. Three, or 60 percent, had graduated within four years last spring, according to the department.

As a new school year begins, Tager said he’d like the high school’s four-year graduation rate to remain at or exceed 90 percent next spring. But that’s going to take some work, Tager said.

Part of that work involves the school department’s initiatives aimed at becoming more inclusive and welcoming of students of all backgrounds, which started after reports about racism at Bangor High became public in 2020.

“The district’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging work only helps with that more,” Tager said. “Can we hire more folks that look like our students? Our high school now is about 18 percent non-white and our demographics are changing, so we should be changing, too.”

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...