The transformation of Bellmont High School into an Early College High School is advancing it into an elite class in Indiana, and good schools can be a powerful economic development tool, a point underscored again and again at Tuesday night's meeting of Decatur City Council.
Bellmont Principal Scot Croner, a driving force behind the program, was on hand to lay out details of the program, what it means to the students and their parents, and to the community as a whole.
Representatives of IPFW and Ivy Tech in Fort Wayne, both of which are partnering with Bellmont on the program, were on hand, along with North Adams Superintendent Wylie Sirk and Adams County Economic Development Director Larry Macklin.
Mayor John Schultz, who is on the program's advisory board, called it "exciting for our community and our school."
Croner pointed out that through the program, students can graduate with a high school diploma and up to two years of college credits. He said the program prepares students for success in a rigorous, well-structured program. It also provides students support based on both academic and social needs.
The principal listed two goals of the program: 1. BHS students will graduate with skills, knowledge and work ethic necessary for college success; and 2. Students will graduate having had access to acquire two years of transferrable college credits.
Bellmont is likely to receive its accreditation as an Early College High School this year, which would make it the first such school in Indiana outside of Marion County.
"We offer a ton of college credits," Croner said, and he offered high praise for the BHS faculty, many of whom are now teaching at the college level after considerable preparation.
The program began this school year with 34 freshmen enrolled, and it will subsequently be offered to incoming freshmen each school year. Croner said 50 students already are signed up and approved for 2011-12.
He also praised the cooperation of Ivy Tech and IPFW officials, and noted that Trine University also is becoming a partner.
One of the most attractive aspects of the program is how it can significantly lower college costs if a student already has some two years of college credits when he/she enrolls in college.
"This (program) goes miles in helping our cause," Macklin told city council, referring to the time-worn adage that good schools can be a major attraction for a community. "This program is wonderful news from an economic development standpoint."
Speaking briefly, Sirk offered more praise for the school's faculty and for the Ivy Tech and IPFW partners. City Attorney Tim Baker hailed the program as a great opportunity for those who will become Decatur's and Adams County's future leaders.