It was with great pride that Peabody school officials formally opened the at earlier this month.
The program, in much the same way the old alternative school functioned before it was finally cut from the school budget, serves students at risk of dropping out or failing classes at PVMHS. The at the was created along a similar premise.
The physical space for the new program lives in a new computer lab in the school library ( from the Analogic Corp.), but students have the ability to log on and do their studies at home or anywhere else they have Internet access.
The alternative school curriculum, which includes core subjects and electives, is fully accessible for students through NovaNET, allowing them to learn at their own pace and find jobs during the day while doing their studies at night. The students can also get work-study credits through the program.
NovaNET is a software program each student uses, guided by an instructor, to cover specific coursework designed to assist that student to achieve the highest level of learning. There are built-in achievement tests that help with initial placement and monitoring progress.
Many high schools utilize NovaNET as an alternative learning option. School hours in the lab are held from 4-8 p.m.
“Everyone doesn’t march through life at the same pace,” PVMHS Principal Edward Sapienza said.
He added that the night school presents an important opportunity for these students. “Without an education, the good jobs out there are few and far between,” he said.
“My advice is just don’t give up,” Sapienza said, as the students paused from their work for the ceremony. “Welcome back on board, I hope to see you at graduation.”
There are currently 15 students enrolled in night school, although program director and veteran teacher Neil Hagstrom says he has several more students and their parents already inquiring about space.
Hagstrom, the school attendance officer for truancy and habitual offenders, said mostly, the students are “kids he’s known since they were eight- to 10-years-old” and all “good kids” who want to get their diplomas. In some cases, students accelerate through courses and get their credits early.
Hagstrom said most of the students come from staff referrals. He and two other teachers – Leonard Brand and Kate Skerry – run the program. Additional funds were secured with federal Race to the Top money.
“It’s for kids that maybe learn a little bit differently than mainstream students,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Herb Levine said of the program. He added how “proud” he was to offer it to pupils who have “taken a detour” in life and their education, but are now ready to get on the “right track.”
Levine, who grew up in Revere, said his hometown could have used this program when he was in school, and in fact when he returned to Revere as a teacher, he started an alternative school program there. He said it’s still running today.
“I think a new day has dawned to really take a slingshot into the future…to make Peabody a first-class public education [system],” he said.
Mayor Ted Bettencourt, speaking briefly, said he was “proud to be from Peabody” and a product of the public school system. Likewise, he was “proud” to provide such a program for students who are struggling.
James Green and Doug Rosenfeld of Analogic both noted how the jobs market is now vastly different than 30-40 years ago, when these students’ parents were entering the workforce. In fact, it’s very much a “war for jobs” right now, said Rosenfeld, given the poor economy and a lot of talented applicants.
“Today it’s very difficult to get a job without a high school education,” Green said, adding that what’s left is usually just seasonal labor-intensive work that may or may not pay well.
Many of the manufacturing jobs at Analogic, for example, do require some specialized training, but candidates do need to have a high school degree.
“We are really proud to be part of this…this is where it counts,” said Green.
“There are people who will look at you kids and say you blew it…you had a chance and you didn’t take it…but we say you deserve another chance,” said Levine.