hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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November 29, 2012

More city students accepted to Whittier

City complained about enrollment in past years

The number of Haverhill students admitted to Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School each year has long been an issue of concern for Haverhill’s School Committee.

Committee members said that of the 11 communities served by Whittier, Haverhill pays the most, but in the past that wasn’t reflected in the number of Haverhill students that were accepted to the school.

They said the latest enrollment figures are encouraging, and that the number of Haverhill students being accepted to Whittier now better equates with what the city is spending. School officials say that by educating middle school students about what they can do to prepare for admittance to Whittier, it gives them a better chance at getting in.

”I would definitely say the numbers are up in Haverhill’s favor,” School Committee member Raymond Sierpina said. “I think right now, the amount of what we’re paying is coinciding with the number of kids who are going there.”

Sierpina brought up the issue at the last School Committee meeting and said that from time to time the committee wants to be informed about how many Haverhill students are being accepted and are enrolled.

”We do fund a large portion of Whittier’s budget, so we want to ensure what we’re paying for, we’re getting and it’s something we need to check on periodically,” Sierpina said.

Whittier’s admission criteria rate students on grades, attendance, recommendations by guidance counselors, discipline and conduct, and an interview. Mayor James Fiorentini has been critical in the past of Whittier’s admissions policy, calling it too stringent. Whittier officials have defended the policy as one that weeds out students with attendance and behavioral issues.

According to Haverhill Superintendent James Scully, 213 of Whittier’s 342 freshmen are from Haverhill. He said Haverhill students represent 62 percent of total grade nine enrollment. Students in that grade participate in all of Whittier’s 19 exploratory programs, then in grade 10 they select a particular career path.

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