HUNTERSVILLE – Hopewell High School had the third highest percentage increase in graduation rate in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools for the 2012-13 school year.

Across the district, 81 percent of students graduated within four years. That’s an increase of 4.6 percentage points from the previous year and 14.9 percentage points in 2008-09, Superintendent Heath Morrison announced Aug. 7 at Hopewell.

For its first year under the leadership of Principal Mike Jones, Hopewell’s graduation rate increased from 78.7 percent in 2012 to 86.5 percent in 2013.

“It’s my personal passion and mission to graduate every Titan as career-ready, college-ready globally-productive citizens. So I think the first order of business when I took the seat last July was to make sure we were clear on why we’re here,” Jones said. “The ultimate goal for every high school student is graduation.”

Once that mission was set, Jones said it was told to all of the school’s community stakeholders. The school developed a school improvement plan, which included credit-recovery options, student tutors, effective teachers in every classroom, supportive administration and community involvement.

Hopewell High’s success could be traced to the intentionality of Jones and his staff, said Rhonda Lennon, CMS School Board Member for District 1.

School counselors would review transcripts, identify students at-risk of not graduating and provide them with additional support and resources to finish high school on time.

“When a student knows that they are accountable to somebody who is watching what they’re doing and following what they’re doing, I think that they’re responsive to that,” Lennon said.

That intentionality was affectionately referred to as “harassment” by West Mecklenburg High Principal Eric Ward to describe the way his school’s staff was persistent with at-risk students. West Mecklenburg had a graduation rate of 77.4 percent, an increase of 9.8 percentage points.

West Charlotte High saw the largest increase at 15 percent, from 56.1 to 71.1 percent. Assistant Principal Timisha Barnes-Jones attributed the success to developing an atmosphere where “failure was not an option.”

The district also narrowed its graduation gap to that of the state’s, which was 82.5 percent this year.

CMS also saw graduation rate increases for all of its student subpopulations except for Limited English Proficient, which stayed at 46.1 percent. Exceptional Children saw largest gain, increasing from 44.8 percent to 53.5 percent.

“I am so proud of our school district today,” Morrison said Aug. 7, explaining that increased graduation rates are not the success of just high schools but also middle schools, elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs. “Everyone owns graduation rates. Our community owns it.”

Though the increase is considered a success, the work of the district is not done, Morrison added.

“I can message it five ways from Sunday, but what I always come back to is if we’re going to be about every child, everyday for a better tomorrow – 81 percent, that’s still 19 percent of our students who aren’t graduating,” Morrison said. “We’re still not satisfied at 81 percent. We will continue to look at each school, every program, every initiative to increase that rate, not because we need the district accolades or the school accolades but because we are about every child, everyday for a better tomorrow.”

North Mecklenburg High reported an 88 percent graduation rate, an increase of 7.5 percentage points.

Hough High’s rate decreased from 97.1 to 92.2 percent. It was one of the district’s seven schools to report a decrease in graduation rate.