EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 20, 2010

Half of Haverhill applicants to Whittier won't make cut

HAVERHILL — Hundreds of students in Haverhill and 10 neighboring communities are keeping their fingers crossed as they wait to hear whether they have been accepted by Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Whittier officials said decision letters will be mailed to applicants within the next few weeks.

But many teenagers who hope to attend the Haverhill-based school won't make the cut. A strict admission policy established in 2005 means about half of Haverhill students who applied to the vocational school — anywhere from 100 to 200 students in a typical year — will be rejected.

Whittier Superintendent William DeRosa did not respond to requests from The Eagle-Tribune for community-by-community enrollment and admission numbers. However, at last week's Whittier School Committee meeting, the superintendent said the school has accepted 344 students, including 68 who live in communities outside the Whittier district, for the next school year. DeRosa said the school tries to keep the annual enrollment around 1,200 for the entire school.

Whittier's five-part application process rates students on grades, attendance, recommendations, discipline and an interview. Students can earn up to 20 points in each category. A minimum score of 67 is required for admission. Some applicants who score close to 67 are given a chance to boost their score and enter the school late, school officials said.

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini has been critical of Whittier's admission policy. He said he has been told anywhere from 45 to 55 percent of Haverhill eighth-grade applicants are rejected, despite the fact that Haverhill pays $7.1 million of the $11.1 million the Whittier district's 11 communities put toward the school's $18.1 million budget.

The state pays the remainder.

Whittier serves Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Merrimac, West Newbury, Groveland, Georgetown, Haverhill and Ipswich.

Fiorentini said many vocational schools in other cities and states don't have admission policies with standards like Whittier's. He also noted that state law prevents charter schools from using admission standards to set enrollments. Charter schools must use a lottery to select students.

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