Building Winthrop High School – New dual enrollment program with Salem State College highlights new initiatives

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By Cary Shuman

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

For the Transcript

As Winthrop high students prepare to head back to classes next Tuesday (September 2), high school principal Gail Conlon and the staff of the school have been busy preparing a growing and more diverse curriculum, the highlight of which is a new partnership with Salem State College and Revere High School.

“Through the Massachusetts Dual Enrollment program, our students will be able to take introductory level classes through Salem State College and earn credits toward their freshmen year of college, as part of the curriculum at Winthrop High School, at no cost to the student,” explained Conlon.

According to Conlon, the dual enrollment program is open to any registered high school student at Winthrop or Revere High, with college level classes being offered at Salem State College kin Salem or at Revere High during the first half of the school year and at Winthrop High beginning in January.

“Revere will serve as a satellite school for our students enrolled in Psychology 101 starting in September and that class will be on Tuesday’s from 3:15 p.m. until about 7 p.m.,” said Conlon. “Then starting in January, our school will be a satellite site for Introduction to Sociology on Thursday nights starting at 6:30 p.m. for about three hours.”

Conlon pointed out that the program is not limited to just the two courses being offered at the satellite sites, other introductory level courses will be offered at night or on Saturdays at Salem State.

“We  are just putting together what all of the course offerings are, so that the students interested in taking those classes will be able to make their selections when they return to school,” she said.

Conlon said the new program, if begun by an entering freshman this year and followed each semester through their four years at Winthrop High, could allow a student to essentially skip their freshman year of classes if they attend a state school for college or transfer their credits to another college once they graduate from Winthrop high.

“It’s a pretty good situation for kids to take advantage of, if they are willing to put in the extra work,” said Conlon. “I’m really very excited about what this can mean for our students and our school.”

There is one requirement of the dual enrollment program. Students enrolled in the program must attain and maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average while they are enrolled in the program.

As impressive as the new program is, it is just one of several initiatives that Conlon has undertaken since taking over as Winthrop High Principal three years ago.

“Through the Massachusetts Science Initiative Grant, we have also been building our AP course offerings,” noted Conlon. “Three years ago we had just four AP level courses, this year we’ll begin the year with nine AP courses, and I am hoping to add another course next year.”

Advanced Placement, or AP courses, are currently available to all sophomores, juniors and seniors who are academically qualified for the course work.

Another new program being offered by the school through a grant from the ARRA federal stimulus fund (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), is a credit recovery initiative aimed at helping students who, because of incompletes or failing grades, have fallen behind their classmates in their required coursework to graduate on time. The new program will allow students to use an on-line program called NovaNet, which will probably require a small cost on the part of students, as someone will have to monitor the students progress in their on-line coursework.

“In addition to the improvements we are making in the curriculum, we are also undertaking several improvements around the building as well,” added Conlon.

Over the summer, a program sponsored by CASA (Community Against Substance Abuse) and the 21st Centuries Community Learning Centers program brought eighth grade students who will enter Winthrop high this fall, into the building to work on physical improvements to the school’s courtyard.

The students completed a new mural for the courtyard, planted new shrubs and bushes and weeded the flower beds, helping to make the courtyard even more attractive.

“We were also, through a grant, able to get some new-used cafeteria furniture, and we’re having the cafeteria painted, so that when school opens, we’ll be able to have some nice tables and chairs, with booths along the side of the cafeteria,” said Conlon. “This school is really becoming a very, very good high school. I think that we can stand up there, alongside with the schools that people would think of as the best in state.”

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