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Students return to Central Falls High School

August 19, 2010

Central Falls High School students are getting a taste of what the next year will be like, under a state-ordered school overhaul to address years of low test scores. Orientation is today for ninth and 10th graders. Wednesday evening it was the seniors’ turn.

“Our community is depending on you to lead the way,” said Principal Sonn Sam as he welcomed the class of 2011. He told about 100 students that expectations will be high for academics and behavior.

“From where you are today we want you to think about where is it that you’re going, and what you’re going to need,” said Victor Capellan, the district’s transformation officer. “Please, please if you’ve been here for four years, the most important number is not those four years,” he told them. “It’s those 25 credits that you need to graduate.”

School officials say their focus for the next school year is improving school culture, raising Math scores and slashing the dropout rate. They’re already reaching out to a dozen students who have dropped out and say a few have agreed to return. Students at Wednesday’s orientation said they’re feeling optimistic.

“I feel like they’re willing to change,” said 17-year-old Josemarie Torres, who noted this was the first time she had ever seen her schedule prior to the first day of school. Her mother, Marguerita Borgos, said she was pleased with the tone set by the two new principals.

“I already have one [child] that graduated from here, and I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm as this year,” She said. “You can see on their faces they are into it, so I’m expecting the changes this time.”

State officials are also expecting changes. Central Falls High School could face state takeover if test scores and graduation rates do not improve.

The school made national headlines in February when district officials threatened to fire all of the teachers as part of the turnaround plan. They eventually reached a deal with union officials that includes a longer school day and more time for teacher training and tutoring.

Superintendent Fran Gallo says just four teachers have told her they will not return for the new school year. She expects a few more letters of resignation to cross her desk between now and the first day of school on September 1st.

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