Conlon Aims to Implement Goals Before Her Retirement in 2013

Winthrop High’s Principal, Gail Conlon, has been writing a two year Improvement Plan for the local school system since 2011. But before she retires after her 2013 contracted year, Conlon hopes to accomplish her goals of providing support for her students, having a new facility erected, and bettering SAT prep programs for upperclassman.

“Teaching all students is a big goal this year,” says Conlon, “to make sure that all kids have access to curriculum.”

Instead of MEPA (the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment), which tests ELL (English Language Learner) students in reading, writing, speaking and listening, the High School will be using the new WEDA program as prescribed by the Department of Schools. The tests are designed to access students’ knowledge of the English language to determine proficiency levels. Quarterly exams and PSATs have remained the same.

Winthrop High is working to improve SAT scores of the 143 juniors and 141 seniors. However, the proposition of having Kaplan visit the school is an expensive suggestion.  The organization that provides preparatory materials for standardized testing would cost about $800 per student. The school currently has an online Odyssey program that parents can pay for to prep their children for the SATs. Another possibility Conlon brought up at the September 13 Winthrop School Committee Meeting is having Kaplan come to the school to train the teachers, who would then be able to teach the Kaplan method at a lower cost to families. The principal hopes to eventually offer SAT prep to tenth graders as well, to help them learn to think more critically.

Last year, Winthrop High began working on becoming an I-20 school, and has finally received certification of approval to welcome international students, and expects to be accepting foreign exchange students from China and Korea next September. Tuition for this program will be approximately $11,000 per child for one year.

Winthrop High is also seeking funds for a part/full-time School Adjustment Counselor for students to confide in with personal issues that are not easy to face alone: for the child who has suffered through the loss of a loved one, is questioning his sexuality, is involved with drugs, or even one who is arguing with their best friend.

“Those kids need that person that can give them support, that can help them through these times,” says the compassionate and nurturing principal. “Sometimes we’re like surrogate mothers to these kids.”

She is proud of her students, who have designed and updated the school’s blue and gold, Viking-themed website with the assistance of some of the younger teachers. To improve involvement and communication, parents will also be invited to school assemblies.

The current facilities cannot accommodate the goals in the Improvement Plan. The school is unable to find parts to replace the broken pieces of the original boilers from 1965. Additional classrooms are necessary, and although students in AP Chemistry have done tremendously with the facilities they have now, their “science laboratories are woefully inadequate,” says Conlon, who will continue seeking the required resources for her Improvement Plan.

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