By Taylor Giuffre-Catalano
“I knew there was something broken in the system at Seacoast High School,” said Dr. Stacey Mulligan, a principal at Seacoast High School for the past three years: “I realized, these are [students who would benefit from] alternative education.” Dr. Mulligan, now in the role of principal at the new CityLab High School, cited her reasoning for spearheading the transition from the former Seacoast High School, “I want to do right by the students.”
CityLab High School opens its doors today (Sept. 7), at 15 Everard St., in the Beachmont School building. “This has been an eight-month process,” Dr. Mulligan noted, “where staff, families, and students transformed the school into something the kids wanted.” Since January, CityLab has been developed into a STEAM innovation high school that offers an alternative curriculum model, compared to the traditional high school experience.
At CityLab, students now have the opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences and project-based learning. While the school still offers a core high school education, Dr. Mulligan’s vision also implements career and college-oriented learning opportunities to push students to their full potential. At CityLab, students will have the opportunity to earn college credit, work in studios and labs, and take on apprenticeship programs while still earning their high school diploma.
Dr. Mulligan explained, “I wasn’t here for the creation of Seacoast, and the school did a good job of getting kids their diploma, but I decided to look for more.” Dr. Mulligan, working with Assistant Principal Stacey Livote, took her search to the Massachusetts Department of Education, where she connected with Dr. Sarah Cherry-Rice, a design partner at DesignReady, a nonprofit that helps develop nontraditional school curriculum to accelerate students learning and career-readiness skills. “Before, kids were sent to Seacoast with no choice in their education,” Dr. Mulligan noted. Now, “The school is meant to be exploratory for different paths, because every student can have a different path,” Dr. Mulligan explained. She stressed her praise for her partners in this transformation: “I couldn’t have done it without my Assistant Principal, Stacey Livote and Dr. Sarah Cherry-Rice.”
Dr. Sarah Cherry-Rice, of DesignReady, further explained the nonprofit’s mission in redesigning education: “Our goal is to re-imagine what high school looks like, by working with high schools, industry, and higher education.” She explained the “connected pathway” style of education, which CityLab now bolsters, “Students design their path, they’re in the driver’s seat.” The goal? “A high wage job,” Dr. Cherry-Rice explained.
CityLab is a pioneer, Dr. Cherry-Rice explained, as it is the “first full high school model” of connected pathway learning. “The students are excited to design their pathway,” she noted. She then explained the schools model: In ninth grade, students learn in the CityLab building, and in 10th grade, students begin to be able to venture out and explore other learning opportunities such as college courses and apprenticeship programs, while still also learning in the building for at least half of the time. By 11th and 12th grade, students will spend more time learning in external environments, “Hence the CityLab name,” Dr. Cherry-Rice noted.
“We want to give students industry opportunities,” she explained, “and give them their autonomy.” Another big change, Dr. Cherry-Rice explained, is that “teachers are more facilitators of learning, as opposed to lecturers. [The classroom experience] will be more project-based, and hands on.”
These educators, and their students and staff alike, have expressed their excitement about the new school and curriculum. Under the guidance of Dr. Mulligan, Ms. Livote, and Dr. Cherry-Rice, CityLab opens its doors as a breath of fresh air to education in the City of Revere.