EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 25, 2013

Number of city's students accepted to Whittier High rises

Three-year trend eases admissions criticism

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — In recent years, parents and city leaders have grumbled that too many Haverhill students have been denied admission to Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Those complaints appear to be softening, however, as the city’s enrollments climb at the Haverhill-based vocational school, which serves 11 communities.

According to Whittier’s enrollment numbers, there were 764 Haverhill students there at the start of this school year, compared to 745 the prior year, 731 the year before that and 695 in 2009. Groveland sent the next highest number of students to the school this year — 74.

The current Haverhill enrollment represents 68.5 percent of the school’s 1,234 student population, according to information on the vocational school’s website.

“It’s not the issue it’s been in the past,” Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully said of Haverhill students being rejected by the school. “But that’s subject to change at any time if there’s a complaint from a parent of a student who doesn’t get in.

“They (Whittier officials) have policies and procedures in place for how they accept students and I trust their judgement,’’ Scully said. “The administration and especially Superintendent (William) DeRosa are always willing to take a second look at a student whenever we ask them to.”

Tonight, Scully is scheduled to brief the Haverhill School Committee on how many Haverhill students are expected to attend Whittier next year. School Committeeman Shaun Toohey is one of two Haverhill representatives to the Whittier School Board. Tonight’s meeting is at 7 in City Hall.

In the past, Mayor James Fioerentini and other city officials have complained that too many Haverhill students were being denied admission to Whittier based on tougher admissions standards than the school had several years ago. These complaints have been driven, in part, by the fact that Haverhill pays significantly more than any other member community toward the school’s annual budget.

This year, for instance, Haverhill is paying $7.1 million of the school’s $19.2 million operating budget. The next highest assessment went to Amesbury, which is paying $838,000. The school also received $7.5 million from the state this year.

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

Eighth-graders who want to attend Whittier must first pass the math and English courses required at their grade level, according to the vocational school’s admissions policy, which has been approved by the state Department of Education. The Whittier admissions policy gives equal weight to five areas: Scholastic achievement, attendance, disciplinary record, a profile based on comments from guidance counselors and/or teachers, and an interview with a Whittier guidance counselor.

The applicant earns a maximum of 20 points for each of those areas, according to the policy. A minimum score of 67 is required for admission. Most applicants are notified by April 1 if they’ve been admitted.