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  • Principal Trevor Courtney of Mascenic Regional High School holds the trophy following its presentation to the school for academic excellence Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Principal Trevor Courtney of Mascenic Regional High School waves the trophy following its presentation to the school for academic excellence Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Mascenic Regional High School sophomore Justin Schaffer learns to cut using a band saw from Wood Shop teacher Pete Kelleher Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Mascenic Regional High School freshman Kailey Allen creates an outline for a wooden toy in Wood Shop that will be sent to the CHaD program at Children's Hospital Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • The auto body shop and classroom at Mascenic Regional High School Thursday, April 12, 2012
  • Principal Trevor Courtney of Mascenic Regional High School holds the trophy following its presentation to the school for academic excellence Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Principal Trevor Courtney of Mascenic Regional High School waves the trophy following its presentation to the school for academic excellence Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Physical Science teacher Julie Farhm instructs freshman Emily Rines during class Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Physical Science teacher Julie Farhm instructs freshman Griffin Marek during class Thursday, April 12, 2012.
  • Freshman Kailey Allen learns to use a table saw from Woodshop teacher Pete Kelleher Thursday, April 12, 2012.
Friday, April 13, 2012

Mascenic Regional named high school of the year by state

NEW IPSWICH – A large metal bell rang loudly at Mascenic Regional High School on Thursday morning, but the sound didn’t signal the end of class.

Rather, the bell and its clanging officially declared Mascenic as the 2012 New Hampshire High School of Excellence.

“As of now, we are the best school in the state of New Hampshire,” Principal Trevor Courtney said.

He raised the award high and smiled as the student body cheered in the auditorium.

The award is part of the New Hampshire Excellence in Education Awards program, which recognizes the best elementary, middle and high schools in the state.

“It’s a true validation of our teachers and how hard these kids have worked,” Courtney said after the ceremony.

Mascenic’s victory is a huge step forward for the SAU 87 school district in New Ipswich, said Cynthia Freyberger, co-chairwoman of the selection committee.

“Four years ago, it was a school district no one really wanted to look at,” Freyberger said. “The school district wasn’t really on the map.”

Courtney, who has been principal for two years, said the local school board demanded higher expectations. The district has implemented a rigorous management style and flexibility in teaching options, including one unique experiment that has worked wonders.

Mascenic High has a longer school day than others in the state – by a full 22 minutes. The school calendar runs about a week shorter, but the extra period in the day has allowed teachers to be more creative and flexible.

In a five-block schedule, teachers have a full block every day for professional development or one-on-one work with kids, Courtney said.

It can also create more opportunities for students. Last year, Courtney noticed Mascenic students scoring poorly on their SATs, so he offered a stipend to a teacher to use that fifth block as an SAT prep course.

“We created something that hasn’t been done in any school in the country,” he said. “Being able to adapt to market forces rapidly, that’s when you can kick it up.”

In 2007, Mascenic juniors achieved 67 percent proficiency in reading and 22 percent proficiency in math on the New England Common Assessment Program. But their scores have improved steadily since, and Mascenic has turned things around to embody excellence, said selection committee co-chairwoman Polly St. Hilaire.

“It’s a school that other schools will want to look to and ask, ‘What did you do to improve your scores?’ ” she said.

Student pride in the school and a wide curriculum of classes, from firefighting to AP physics, were other factors in the decision to pick Mascenic, Freyberger said. The school also offers many extended-learning opportunities with local businesses, she said.

“That really stands out to us,” she said. “It’s something other schools can pattern their practices and policies after.”

A committee of 13 volunteers makes the decision, including high school administrators and teachers in higher education.

The main sponsor of the awards is McDonald’s Restaurants. It will offer a check for $2,000 to Alvirne High School to commend its efforts.

Alvirne, in Hudson, won the award last year and in 2001. Nashua High School North won the award in 2006.

South Meadow School in Peterborough won the middle school category, while Marston Elementary School in Hampton took the elementary excellence award.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).