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August 28. 2013 8:36PM

Pinkerton greets 250 students from Auburn

DERRY— About 250 students from Auburn attended classes at Pinkerton Academy for the first time on Wednesday.

The addition of the new Auburn students means enrollment will remain at last year's figure of 3,100 students, said Chip Underhill, the school's executive director of public relations and external affairs.

"Despite the fact that there are enrollment projections showing high school age kids going down, we are stable," Underhill said as he walked across the college-like campus.

Along with Auburn, students from Derry, Chester and Hampstead attend the high school. The school also accepts up to 75 students from other towns in the state, he said.

On Wednesday, students attended abbreviated classes that were shortened from the usual 45 minutes to 23 minutes, Underhill said.

Administrators said the transition from summer break to the classroom went smoothly.

A new cosmetology program was unveiled this year, and the school is transitioning for the first time to a state common core curriculum. The curriculum is competency based and doesn't require schools to teach a certain way, Underhill added.

Across the campus, a new class of freshmen attended classes in the Academy Building, where they will spend about 99 percent of their time at the school, Underhill said.

Services and instruction have improved dramatically during the crucial first year of high school, said William Lonergan, associate dean of students for freshmen.

The program is modeled after others known as the "freshmen academy" method and is designed to help students transition to the upper grades, he said. Freshmen academies are smaller communities of students within the larger high school.

Administrators have also implemented a plan to involve parents and teachers in a kind of collaboration to determine the best path for freshmen. Under this approach, teachers call parents and discuss, for example, possible ways to improve a student's academic performance, Lonergan said.

"What we do know is if freshmen don't transition well, and by that, pass all their classes and get involved in an activity, the chances of them graduating on time decrease hugely compared to those kids who do," Lonergan said.

The school first tried the method two years ago and experienced a "bumpy" first year, Lonergan said. Since then, though, there has been tremendous improvement as recent statistics prove, he said.

In 2011, 16 students were suspended for fighting, Lonergan said. Last year only three students were suspended. Cafeteria infractions also declined sharply from 133 in 2011 to 55 last year; bullying incidents declined from 21 in 2011 to 14 last year; and class skipping dropped from 207 to 70 last year, he said.

"We don't lose kids the way we lost kids in the past," Lonergan said.

Pinkerton Academy will celebrate its 200th anniversary in January.


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