Public High Schools Compete To Attract Students
By: Patricia Peal, November 27, 2013
Cape and islands high schools are opening their doors to middle school students to showcase what they have to offer in grades 9 through 12. Bourne High School opened its doors last Wednesday evening. Sandwich High School and Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School (UCT) will each host similar events next Thursday, December 5.
“These open houses are new to the high school scene” said Amy K. Cetner, principal of Bourne High School. “We held the first one three years ago, the first year I became principal.”
There is no longer an assumption that if a student lives in a town, he will automatically go to school in that town.
Home schooling, charter schools, parochial schools, private schools, trade schools and public schools are all choices available to Cape students, regardless of their hometowns. Parents, and the students themselves, are actively engaged in making the choice. The process is now very similar to choosing a college.
Open houses and then private tours and meetings with guidance counselors are today’s normal procedure for students to see what a prospective high school is like and for parents to see how schools compare. The majority of Cape middle schools do not allow high schools outside of their district to solicit students within their schools, during the school day.
Bourne Public Schools superintendent Steven M. Lamarche just recently made the decision not to have UCT come to his middle school this year, and got some flack from the superintendent at UCT, Robert A. Dutch. “It’s nothing personal,” Mr. Lamarche said. “This decision was more about not taking time away from student instruction and learning. There are other events where students can get the UCT information. We don’t take time during the day for Sturgis or the academies either.”
Mr. Dutch was frustrated by the news that his guidance counselors will not be presenting in Bourne this year. Each of the past three years another school system has said no to them. “Falmouth in 2011, Wareham in 2012, and now Bourne. To hear it once or twice is disappointing but a third time is frustrating.” Mr. Dutch said. “I think of our presentations as career counseling and that is time spent learning.” Each year UCT has 180 freshman seats available. Those seats were filled for this 2013-2014 year, with another 100 students on a waiting list.
Mr. Dutch plans to reach out to the school superintendents for ideas on student’s access to information on their high school choices. “I am confident that other school superintendents have ideas and will want to come together to discuss some realistic possibilities. We just have to brainstorm on the other mechanisms for informing students about their choices,” Mr. Dutch said.
Ellin J. Booras, principal of Sandwich High School said, “Each year, Upper Cape Tech High School visits each of the three K-8 schools [in Sandwich] and conducts an information session in the form of an assembly for grade 8 students. That occurs each year early in November, and did occur this year.”
Sandwich is the only Upper Cape town that still schedules UCT to come in to its schools for a presentation.
Public high schools seem to be focusing on their own presentation to students but are doing it after hours when parents can also attend, and it will not interrupt a school day.
There are approximately 180, 8th grade students in Bourne Middle School and approximately 162 of them attended the Bourne High School open house last week.
Ms. Cetner, the principal, gave families a PowerPoint overview of what to expect during high school and what to expect after high school, with lists of colleges and universities that BHS students have gone on to attend.
“We want to eventually be able to report to families student success in and out of college as well. That information is also a measure of how we served those students,” Mr. Lamarche said.
“Students are your best representation at the open houses,” Ms. Cetner said. “We had students speaking and representing every department and club the high school has to offer. One of our speakers was a student who left private school to come here. The kids ultimately want to see who they will be in school with and what we have that interests them. We showed them all that and our purple pride.”