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“Most Important Year” In Minuteman High’s History… August 26, 2015

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Submitted by Judy Bass
The upcoming year may be “the most important in Minuteman High School’s history,” said Principal Jack Dillon.
A pending initiative that will significantly affect the Lexington-based school for decades to come is likely to make substantial progress toward being resolved in the next 12 months.

It involves winning local approval and bonding for a new Minuteman school building.  Member towns will be “well aware” of all the details in plenty of time to vote on funding for the project, according to Minuteman’s Superintendent, Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the state agency which reimburses cities, towns and regional school districts for school construction projects, has extended the deadline for that vote to June 30, 2016.

A major step in bringing this project closer to fruition was taken on August 6, 2015, when the MSBA voted unanimously to authorize Minuteman to construct a new school for 628 students at a cost of $144.9 million. It would be paid for by the MSBA – which would foot the bill for 40 percent of eligible costs – and Minuteman’s 16 member towns.

The MSBA also gave its approval for Minuteman to create schematic drawings for the new school building.  Dr. Bouquillon said that over the next several months, he intends to ask for input about that from Minuteman staff, students, parents and the towns in the Minuteman district.

In addition, Dr. Bouquillon will be seeking ideas for ways to utilize the current Minuteman school building in “the highest and best interests of the district” after it is vacated.

Another major initiative, a multi-year effort led by the school to achieve unanimous approval on a new Regional Agreement, did not bear fruit. Dr. Bouquillon said the proposed new Agreement is, “for all intents and purposes, now in the hands of the selectmen” of the towns in the Minuteman district.

Minuteman’s students are already gearing up for the 2015-2016 school year. Freshmen, transfers and new students start on Monday, August 31 with a half-day session ending at 12:30 pm. The first full day for all students is Tuesday, Sept. 1.

There will be many new employees at Minuteman when the year starts.  They include Heather Plater, Athletic Director; Shantel Schonour, Reading & Literacy Specialist; Allison Barry – Design & Visual Communication Instructor; George Protopopescu, Environmental Science Instructor; Ernest Chandler, Technical Assistant in Welding; Donna Skeffington, Administrative Assistant to the Principal; Allison Salisbury, Administrative Assistant to Community Education; Geraldine Dale, Part-Time Administrative Assistant for Educational Technology; Joe Pitta, Coordinator of Workforce & Economic Development; and Dylan English, Long-Term Substitute Teacher.

The positions of Technical Assistant for Telecommunications, Welding Instructor and Engineering Instructor still need to be filled.

Principal Dillon praised Assistant Principal and Director of Admissions George M. Clement, who was appointed to his position in June.  “He has done a fabulous job with his transition.  I’m excited to see what he can do.”   Dr. Bouquillon mentioned that he is really looking forward to putting Minuteman’s new marketing, recruitment and retention plan, which Assistant Principal Clement spearheaded, into action.  It will, in Dr. Bouquillon’s opinion, “deepen our approach to educating families about the value of Minuteman.”

Changes to the schedule of Exploratory will be implemented.  This program allows students to spend time in several of the 20 technical programs Minuteman offers at the beginning of their freshman year so they can make an informed choice of one to remain in for the rest of their high school career.

First, explained Principal Dillon, the students will go through all of the technical programs for a one-hour overview of each.  That entire process takes three to four days.  Then, students pick their top five programs to spend a week in, plus they are assigned to two more programs for a total of seven.  At the conclusion of the seven weeks, the students are asked to choose the one they want most.

In previous years during Exploratory, the freshmen spent more time in every one of the technical programs. This new approach, which came about as a result of student feedback, provides “a deeper Exploratory experience, rather than a very broad one, that is geared to the interests, abilities and aptitudes of each student,” said Dr. Bouquillon.

The momentum generated by various developments at Minuteman during the summer is anticipated to continue as the school year gets underway.

The Girls in STEM Career Exploratory held in August attracted 34 female middle-school students who spent an enjoyable and enlightening week working on educational projects, being mentored by members of Minuteman’s Girls in STEM Club, and receiving encouragement for their desire to pursue further education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

A highlight of the event was a visit by State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.  She said these girls are already positioning themselves to compete with men for high-paying, cutting-edge jobs in thriving industries such as finance, health care, biotechnology and high-tech.

In June, the Girls in STEM initiative at Minuteman was awarded the 2015 Grand Prize in SkillsUSA’s Student2Student Mentoring Program.  SkillsUSA allows students in career and technical education to participate in a host of challenging technical and leadership competitions.

Minuteman’s Career and Technical Education Director Michelle Roche did a great job getting Girls in STEM off the ground, with assistance from Engineering Instructor Becky Quay, said Principal Dillon.

Both Girls in STEM programs in February and August were filled to capacity with waiting lists for each.

Several middle school participants submitted their applications to attend Minuteman as a result. Principal Dillon said, “These are the types of programs that will attract more in-district students to come to Minuteman full-time for grades 9 through 12.”

Minuteman is an award-winning regional high school that gives its graduates a competitive edge in the new global economy by providing them with a high-quality career and technical education, coupled with a rigorous grounding in mathematics, English, science, and social studies.

At Minuteman, students can currently major in 20 career and technical education programs at the same time they take rigorous academic courses, similar to those in traditional academic high schools.  Minuteman offers a wide selection of academic courses and programs.

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