Holiday present for Savin Hill

There was some good news this week on Savin Hill. After long months of negotiations, it was announced yesterday that an innovative, co-educational, college preparatory high school now located in Cambridge will relocate into the Savin Hill Avenue building that once was the home of St. William’s School.

Officials of North Cambridge Catholic High School (NCCHS) announced they will acquire the spacious parochial school building here and relocate to Dorchester. The school will be renamed as Christo Rey Boston, and the move is planned to be complete in time for the beginning of classes next fall.

In its press release, the school said that “The Cristo Rey (‘Christ the King’) Network is an association of 24 Catholic college preparatory high schools across the country that serves low-income students. All students at the Cristo Rey schools share entry-level jobs to earn tuition and gain professional experience, which requires them to make the commitment to both a longer school day and a longer year than required by other schools. The nation’s first Cristo Rey school was opened by the Society of Jesus in Chicago in 1996. Today, 5,892 Cristo Rey students share jobs at more than 1,400 businesses nationwide.” The Cambridge school claims that close to 100 percent of its graduates are accepted to college.

In an interview this week, development director Bob McCarthy said that the school employs a “work-study model,” requiring that each student hold a job and work five days a month, and 44 days per year. Calling the program a “temporary employment agency,” McCarthy said the jobs are shared with other students, and the income for the work is used to offset tuition.

Currently, McCarthy said, enrollment totals 260 students, 65 percent of whom live in Boston, the majority from Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. He said the school’s location, just a block down from the Savin Hill Red Line station, will add to the attraction of the school. He said the school has plans to expand to some 400 students.

The arrival of Cristo Rey Boston brings the promise of a unique educational option for local students. The program has a well-structured Corporate Work Study program leading to full time, entry-level clerical jobs. Students are employees of the school-operated program, and are assigned to jobs with sponsor companies, which pay a flat fee to the program. The academic schedule is structured so that students never miss a class; they arrive at school at 7:30 each day, and on work days they are shuttled back and forth to work sites in school vans.

For the current academic year, the school lists more than 80 work locations, including the American Red Cross of Mass Bay, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Bird Street Community Center, Boston College, Boston Medical Center, Caritas Christi Health Care, Harvard University, Jewish Vocational Services\, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, New England Aquarium, Neighborhood Health Plan, Northeastern University Partners HealthCare System, Inc., Pine Street Inn, Shields MRI, The Boston Foundation, and the United Way of Mass Bay & Merrimack Valley.

The school has a strong board, headed by former Lt. Governor Tom O’Neill, himself a 1962 graduate of the school, and Rev. William Neenan, SJ, former academic vice president and Dean of Faculties and now special assistant to the president of Boston College.