Mattituck Cutchogue School District

New Mattituck diploma program ‘a game changer’

Sophomore students at Mattituck High School may have the option to elevate their diploma under a new program pitched to the Board of Education last week.

The district is planning to begin offering a rigorous Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma program, which officials said will focus on college-level research and collaboration skills.

“This is a game changer for our students,” Superintendent Jill Gierasch said Monday.

According to high school principal Shawn Petretti and instructional support administrator Ilana Finnegan, who are spearheading the initiative, the program would consist of two AP courses taken sequentially.

According to Ms. Finnegan, students would first take an AP seminar course in 10th grade followed by an AP research course as either a junior or senior to earn a distinctive certificate in addition to their diploma.

Students who complete the program while also receiving a score of 3 or higher on four additional AP exams could also earn an advanced AP Capstone Diploma.

Ms. Finnegan noted that the program has been endorsed by more than 140 colleges and over 150 schools in New York are already offering the program.

Throughout the course, students learn how to research interdisciplinary topics of their own choosing and analyze information while working on both individual and group presentations.

“Whatever your passion is, you can become a bigger expert on it,” Ms. Finnegan said.

District officials said they plan to begin recruiting freshman students who are already on an honors and AP track to participate in the program next year in addition to holding parent information sessions.

“You don’t have to be on an AP track or honors English [to participate], but for our first year we are recommending that we use that cohort,” Ms. Gierasch explained. “It’s not an easy class.”

Board of Education member Patricia Arslanian said she was impressed by the program’s merits. 

“The skillset … is so relevant, because in college, right away you’re given research projects and many colleges and universities, in order to graduate with an honors degree, you have to do a thesis, you have to collaborate with others,” she said. “[The course] creates the skill set that you need to be successful.”

In addition to the capstone program, Mr. Petretti said five additional courses may be added next year, including an AP Computer Science course and AP European History course after a group of 12 students petitioned for its return.

Two new culinary classes and a new acting class are also proposed.

“I’ve lived through times when we were on austerity budgets and we were dismantling programs and that was awful,” Mr. Petretti said. “So it’s great to move forward and bring things in for the kids, especially when it’s their interests that are driving [the growth].”