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Cathedral High to change its educational format

Date: 3/21/2011

March 21, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — After 128 years, Cathedral High School is changing its educational format from a high school to a preparatory school.

"This is a very important moment in history," Sister M. Andrea Ciszewski, FSSJ, superintendent of schools for the Springfield diocese, said.

School officials met with the press on March 16 to discuss the appointment of Dr. Ann Southworth as the new president of the school. Southworth, the former assistant school superintendent for the Springfield public schools, compared the new educational mission to that of schools such as Deerfield Academy.

She explained there are no Catholic preparatory schools in Western Massachusetts and that most such schools are in major metropolitan markets.

Southworth said the creation of the academy format is "key in my mind in turning Springfield around."

Changes to the school will begin in the fall and Southworth said Cathedral would be completely changed to the new format within four years.

There will be four major strategies guiding the school's transformation, she explained:

The new curriculum will include Catholic moral and religious teachings in every course; the school will add an international baccalaureate program; the school day will extend, running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and internships will be added to the school's curriculum.

"The [academy] model is a big, big change," Southworth explained. She added the shift could be accomplished because Cathedral is "an excellent high school."

The academy would be open to non-Catholics as is Cathedral, Southworth said.

The educational offerings will extend into the traditional summer vacation, she said. The staff intends to seek ways to offer foreign travel during that time as part of the curriculum.

The summer would also be used to place students in businesses for work-study opportunities to help pay for tuition, as well as job shadowing to assist in determining career paths, Southworth noted.

An English as a Second Language program will also be added, as Southworth anticipates the school will attract foreign students. Already there are six students from South Korea who attend Cathedral.

Unlike many preparatory schools, Cathedral will not offer housing for international students and Southworth said the school, which has a capacity for 500 students, would not seek to add to that cap.

The current enrollment is 400 students, John Miller, principal of Cathedral added.

Miller said the current tuition is $8,700 and there will be an increase next school year. Officials are trying to keep that increase "as small as possible," Miller added. About 50 percent of the current students receive some sort of financial aid.

Southworth began her career in education as a teacher in Springfield. She served as an assistant principal and principal before her tenure as an assistant superintendent.

She is familiar with the school as her son is a Cathedral graduate.

She said she had "a beautiful career" and loved working with children.

Southworth added that now "is the time to totally give back to God."

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