Why they left McCallum


Sophie Ryland

the reasons people leave aren’t always as obvious as they seem. Graphic by Sophie Ryland.

Ellen Fox, staff reporter

Over the four years of their time, classes of high school get smaller. Every high school will have some students leave before graduation, and that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Students leave their original school for a variety of reasons, some personal and some environmental. The reasons can also be complicated and not as obvious as they originally appear.

We asked three students who have left McCallum to share their reasons for leaving. What emerges is that there is no one-size-fits-all school environment that will best meet the needs of each student who attends it.

Current sophomore Adrian Haley attended McCallum last year for his freshman year but over the summer made the switch over to the Liberal Arts and Science Academy. Originally, he hadn’t even wanted to go to McCallum; he knew he wanted to be a chemist, so he decided that LASA was a better fit for him.

“[My career choice] was a decision I had kind of already made when I took [Integrated Physics and Chemistry] at Kealing, which made me want to become a chemist. So naturally, when I learned that LASA offered organic chemistry, I was thrilled to enroll. Sadly I did not get in [out of middle school] and had to go to McCallum,” Haley said. “I thought I would be miserable all year, [but] eventually decided that I had to focus on what my needs were and left for LASA after successfully applying the second time.”

I found that … the climate [at LASA] is ironically quite similar [to McCallum]. There are those that try their best and do very well, those that enjoy complaining about work … and those that just don’t care.

— Adrian Haley

After spending around a semester at LASA, he said he adjusted to the culture well. As it is a science and math magnet, the workload can be a lot to handle, but Haley said he enjoyed the challenging coursework from a field he enjoyed.

“LASA does have a larger work load and consists of more difficult work that I have enjoyed doing by coming to LASA,” he said. “But I found that really the climate is ironically quite similar; there are those that try their best and do very well, those that enjoy complaining about work, because complaining is fun, and those that just don’t care. The difference is just the level of work, different stuff to talk about, and of course, complain about. Socially, I feel that people tend to form a net of close friends through personal relatability, and what’s different with LASA is that people form a net of friendships based on work … especially if one person is good at one subject and the other, thriving in a different one.”

One reason students why Haley left McCallum is what attracts many other students: the school’s specialty is fine arts, and some students believe that their future lies in another direction.

“I often found myself bored with the homework that was assigned and the level of what seemed to be just ‘busy work’ that sometimes I found just didn’t teach me very much,” Haley said. “The one exception I felt would really be English: that focused on a more discussion-based layout that I enjoyed. That I would say is superior to the LASA English classroom setup.”

Current junior Dexter Barrett also recently left McCallum, but for him the changes were because of family reasons.

“My dad got a really, really good job offer that would change our lives, but we had to move to New York City for the job,” Barrett said. “So if I wanted to go to high school in NYC, then I’d have to take all the new tests in NYC for school and still repeat junior year. Or I could just drop out of McCallum now and get my GED and then move to NYC; I can just do a year of community college instead of my senior year of high school. Then after that I could just go to regular college and live my life as normal, only I got out of school early.”

Students like Haley and Barrett are testament to the fact that not every students leaves because of McCallum itself; they simply are looking for a different experience elsewhere.

Some students, however, do find that the environment at McCallum isn’t for them. One such person, Harrison Smith, another current junior, transferred to Garza High School last year.

“I had never really been good at school; I found it difficult to concentrate on the mundane and repetitive busywork. … At McCallum I felt like I had no ability to succeed, and I repeatedly found myself feeling depressed and hopeless,” Smith said. “Switching to Garza was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Along with having a smaller class size and a self-paced curriculum, Garza hosts a tight-knit community of people like myself: smart individuals who either don’t work well in a traditional school or have responsibilities that clash with the extremely demanding workload of traditional high school.”

McCallum should … have a school garden and an agriculture class because … allowing students to work outside reduces stress and allows students to have a sense of how rewarding work can be.

— Harrison Smith

Unlike Haley, Smith said he did experience a much different climate at his new school; as a smaller school, students he said he gets more personal experiences with teachers and other students and that this personality is extremely important to him as a student, as opposed to the much-larger class sizes at McCallum.

“At McCallum, you are mostly friends with people that chose similar majors; for example, I was mostly friends with band kids and orchestra kids, because my girlfriend at the time was in orchestra. For me, [at] Garza I have noticed less camaraderie, but instead a closer sense of community and school purpose,” Smith said.

Smith says that Garza keeps the mental health of its students in mind, even prioritizing it over traditional measures of success.

“I believe that a majority of schools should operate like Garza; McCallum and other schools across Texas should be more forgiving and accommodating to its students by offering a self-paced, alternative curriculum, and should require service hours as mandatory for graduation,” he said. “McCallum should work closer with the surrounding community, as it has so much to offer. McCallum should also have a school garden and an agriculture class, because although I am not a member, it is clear to see that allowing students to work outside reduces stress and allows students to have a sense of how rewarding work can be.”

Smith also says that there is a more relaxed attitude surrounding life at Garza.

“All members of the McCallum community should also work to create an environment of respect between students and staff alike, rather than a stressful workplace that only seems to make students miserable,” he said. “Students should not dread going to school; it just doesn’t make sense.”

Regardless of the number who have left, not all people leave for the same reason, it’s not necessarily due to students dropping out; they may be seeking opportunities that are offered elsewhere. Or they may be leaving due to circumstances that are simply beyond their control.

There are choice programs, self-paced curricula and even new cities awaiting students; while they may not be walking across the Erwin Center stage with the their original class, they say that all they are looking for is a high school education that works for them.