Heritage drops high school

New principal promoted from within as enrollment for upper grades declines

  • Stacy Sawyer of Rindge, secretary at the Heritage Christian School, stands in the classroom where high school was taught last year. The classroom will be used by third and fourth graders next year.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)

RINDGE — The Heritage Christian School, a private Christian evangelical school, is in the midst of a major transition this summer, to include doing away with its fledgling high school program and hiring a new principal.

Nine teachers at Heritage provided Biblical and academic instruction for 61 students from 10 towns surrounding Rindge in the 2012-13 school year . The school has offered kindergarten through eighth grade education since its founding in 1991, but it began a high school program two years ago in response to demand from students.

“Some students wanted to stay on for high school,” said Stacy Sawyer, secretary at the Heritage Christian School, in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript at the school on Monday . “Otherwise they got to eighth grade and would have to find a new school.”

The first high school class at the Heritage Christian School was established in 2011 in a rented space above A.T.A. Construction, five minutes away from the main school building on North Street . The class was relocated to a classroom in the main school building in October of this year to avoid the cost of rent.

But Heritage’s School Board decided to cut the high school program at its last meeting on July 1 because it was suffering from poor enrollment.

Though the high school attracted six students last year, only one student was enrolled for next year, said Susan Stenerson of Rindge, a School Board member, in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Monday . “It was not financially feasible,” she said.

The School Board hopes to reintroduce the high school program in the 2014-15 academic year, Stenerson said. By that time, several students currently in lower grades may choose to stay on for high school, she said.

“It’s definitely a shame, but I understand why. If you don’t have the enrollment, you can’t pay your teachers,” said Vanessa Pantagoso , who was the high school’s only teacher, in addition to one aide. Pantagoso taught the high school students the “A Beka Curriculum,” a program — used in all grades at the Heritage Christian School — that emphasizes education from a Christian perspective.

Pantagoso said she was not bitter that she could not return to teach next year, since she planned on retiring to care for her one-year-old anyway.

The high school graduated one senior before it closed its doors. Shannon Cotter of Wilton will go down in history as the first student to graduate from the high school, and the only one for at least two more years.

Cotter took online courses published by A Beka Books, in addition to receiving regular instruction from Pantagoso.

“This girl, she is an undying optimist,” Pantagoso said in praise of Cotter. “She is everybody’s friend and very concerned all the time about other people. She always looks outside herself to help other people. I can’t say enough about her.”

Cotter is currently working as a waitress at Gary’s Harvest Restaurant in Wilton. She plans on going to college to study for a career in counseling . “She’s going to do great things,” Pantagoso said.

Other major changes are under way at the Heritage Christian School, too. The school board recently selected a new principal. Bill Broughton, a pastor at the Greenville Community Christian Church and teacher at the Heritage Christian School, will fill the role of principal next year. Broughton will replace Ron Kennedy, who led the school for six years before retiring due to health issues.

Broughton came to Heritage two years ago with a background in education. He taught at the Laconia Christian School in Laconia and Adfontes Academy in Virginia, before joining the Heritage Christian School staff of teachers. He instructed students in math and English as a teacher in Heritage’s junior high school and also worked as an aide in Heritage’s high school, before his promotion.

“Most of my background is in teaching,” Broughton said in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Tuesday . “This is the first time I’m in a more administrative role.”

Broughton said he will serve as principal part-time, in addition to continuing as pastor at the Greenville Community Christian Church. He added that he does not plan on introducing any big changes to the school.

“I like Bill. He’s been there for a while so he knows the feel of the school,” Stenerson said.

Sawyer said, “He’s the type of guy who’s really quiet, but he has a lot of wisdom. When he speaks, you should listen. The children all respect him. He’s a good fit for the school. I think it’s going to be really good.”

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