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For Auburn, shift to Pinkerton nearly complete

Union Leader Correspondent

January 31. 2013 8:58PM

The closing months of eighth grade are inevitably a time of change for students and their families as they look ahead to the next four years, which, for better or worse, will set the course for much of their lives.

Students and parents in Auburn are now going through this process, but this time they are preparing for entry into a new school of record: Pinkerton Academy.

In 2011, Auburn residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of leaving their contract with the Manchester School District and moving to Pinkerton. At the time, about 80 Auburn students already attended the school through the town's transfer agreement with Manchester.

Pinkerton Academy officials have spoken warmly and enthusiastically about the change.

"We would like to welcome all of the students that are coming from Auburn," said Chris Harper, dean of academic affairs at Pinkerton. "We're thrilled to have them all coming here. . The students that we have had come here in the past have been awesome kids. They have done great when they take courses here. They have been extremely successful."

Of Auburn's 80 current high school freshmen, 66 are already attending Pinkerton Academy. After receiving overwhelming transfer requests from parents who did not want to see their kids go to Manchester by default, the district worked out an agreement with Manchester allowing the early shift.

"I don't see September being a dramatic change," said SAU 15 Superintendent Charles P. Littlefield. "There's been a lot of excitement over the last couple of years . but the transition's really already taken place. Our eighth-graders ended up at Pinkerton a year early."

The move is more than a simple change of school for Auburn, however. It's the beginning of an entirely new kind of high school arrangement for the town.

Unlike with Manchester, where the town simply paid to send its students but had little say in the district's management, Auburn will become one of Pinkerton's "member towns," enjoying a seat on the board of trustees along with Derry, Hampstead, and Chester.

Auburn students will have some influence on the school as well.

"One of the things that we do at Pinkerton is set the number of sections of courses based on the number of students who sign up," said Harper. "So those students that get in their registration materials can be sure we'll have a course for them."

Sometimes, student interests can even produce entirely new programs. For instance, a culinary arts program with brand new facilities was created last year, and next year, the school is set to open a cosmetology program. Both, Harper noted, were added to accommodate "new and changing needs for students."

Naturally, this can work in the opposite direction, with interest in programs fading or varying wildly from year to year. To counter this, many of the more specialized of Pinkerton's approximately 335 courses are rotated from year to year.

"We do that in order to give students broader opportunities to take courses," said Harper.

Some students from Auburn's sister districts, Hooksett and Candia, with which it shares an SAU and a superintendent, are also in the process of getting ready for their first year of high school at Pinkerton. In all, 13 Hooksett students and 10 Candia students will begin taking classes at Pinkerton in 2013.

Both districts currently have a contract with Manchester, but have been considering leaving the district (or in Hooksett's case, actively trying to leave) in recent months, largely due to overcrowding issues in Manchester.

Harper urges any current high school students who wish to transfer to Pinkerton contact his office so they can "ensure that we get them into classes." The Academic Affairs office at Pinkerton can be reached at 437-5200, ext. 2108.

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