By Haddon Libby

Four in five California high schoolers will graduate putting us on par with the national average of 81%. Iowa has the highest graduation rate at 90% while Oregon is the lowest at 68% while the District of Columbia graduates 60% of high schoolers.

Looking only at low income families, 75% of California high schoolers graduate making us 25th in the nation.  With an average graduation rate of 73%, Kentucky does the best at 85% while Alaska is worst at 59.5%.  The District of Columbia graduates 59%.

Looking at things here in the desert, Palm Springs Unified has the highest graduation rate at 90.8% with only 5.7% dropping out.  Desert Sands Unified comes in a close second at 89.4% (6.2% dropout) while Coachella Unified graduates 83.4% (11.8% dropout)


For Riverside County, Murrieta had the highest graduation rates at 92.5% (5.1% dropout) while Banning was the worst at 78% (17.8% dropout rate).

Heat Exhaustion

Last week numerous people fell ill to heat exhaustion when Palm Desert High School held their graduation ceremonies outdoors in the sun on a day when the temperature rose to between 115 and 119 degrees across most of the Coachella Valley.   Spokesman Mary Perry said that there was ‘no way’ they could have anticipated the heat levels.  Perry said this despite many days of warnings that extreme heat was coming…and the fact that it was June in the desert.  The daytime ceremony replaced evening ceremonies a few years ago as administrators were concerned that evening ceremonies were responsible for late night ‘celebrations’ by students.

If graduations are going to be held outside in the sun in 100 degree temperatures in June, having students wear non-breathable gowns over another layer of clothing seems a tad reckless given that temperatures are likely to exceed 100 degrees this time of year.  Also, people should not be allowed to stake out seats early in the day as that exposes them to too much time underneath a harsh sun in high temperatures.

People have asked me who was responsible for this failure of judgement.

While I doubt the decision was made by only one person, the principal of that school is Robert Hicks, the Superintendent of Desert Sands Unified is Gary Rutherford and the Board of Directors are Michael Duran, Donald Griffith, Wendy Jonathan, Matt Monica and Gary Tomak.

While all of the people named are good and smart people who have the best interests of the students in mind, common sense needs to be applied.  Hopefully this event will cause school administrators to look at how they handle future graduation ceremonies.

While we are thinking about the welfare of our children while at school, can we rethink the idea of starting school in mid-August?  Temperatures often exceed 110 degrees through September.  This is one area where the Coachella Valley should vary from teaching standards and apply common sense standards.

Commonly Misspelled Words

Google recently published a list of top spelling mistakes by the people of each state.  Here in California, ‘desert’ was the most misspelled word.  Connecticut, Indiana and Idaho also struggle with this word.  So that you do not make this mistake, remember that your dessert should never be deserted in the desert.

Our neighbors to the south in Arizona misspell ‘diarrhea’ the most.  One wonders why this is the most misspelled word…I’m thinking lots of cases of food poisoning.  Also, ‘neighbor’ is the top misspelled word by New Mexico (Arizona’s neighbor).

As far as other notable misspellings, Alaskans spell ‘Hawaii’ poorly while Hawaiians misspell ‘boutonniere’ (who can spell this?).  Texas and Nevada struggle with ‘niece’ while Maine, Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin add an extra ‘c’ or miss a ‘u’ when spelling ‘vacuum’.

Haddon Libby is an Investment Advisor for Winslow Drake and can be reached at or 760.449.6349.