Worcester Preparatory challenges its student body
By Don Klein
If there is a private school with a reputation for high standards in this part of the state it has to be Worcester Preparatory School in the Ocean City-Ocean Pines backyard. Where else can it be said that every graduating twelfth grader goes to college?
“That’s right, 100 percent go to college,” Dr. Barry W. Tull, Worcester headmaster, said trying not to brag too much, “every one of our Upper School graduates are accepted at the college level.” There were 46 graduates in 2005.
Recent graduates of Worcester Prep are attending 73 colleges and universities throughout the nation, mostly along the east coast.
But college may not be on the minds of all 560 students from pre-school to twelfth grade when they first enter the secluded institute situated on 39 bucolic acres on the fringe of historic Berlin town.
More likely they will be thinking of the five major subjects they will be required to study: English, history, foreign language, math and science. As they progress through the grades they must choose from such diverse electives as dance, engineering, paleontology, art and music appreciation, working a kiln, and a full range of advanced placement courses available to students seeking college credits.
“We have a record number of applicants this year,” he said, “the largest freshman high school class ever at 58.” The faculty has 55 full time teachers and three who work part time.
When students and teachers return for reopening of classes September 6 they will find a new admissions and development center nearing completion. It is being built as a gift to the school by developer John H. Burbage, Jr., whose two sons are Worcester Prep alumni and whose grandson just entered pre-school.
A few years ago the school opened the elegant Guerrieri Library to join the other facilities on campus such as an Athletic and Performing Art Center, the Brent Thompson Field House, an Alumni House, a Children’s Garden & Bird Sanctuary, a pond area, a Lower School playground, and athletic fields.
“We are fortunate to have very generous donors,” Dr. Tull acknowledged.
The school always makes physical changes during the summer break to “give a clean fresh, positive environment” to the returning classmates, he explained.
“We are a traditional school with traditional values operating with Judeo-Christian ethics. We have a wide variety of faiths and ethnicities, including a ten percent registration of minorities,” he proudly reported. The school’s official colors are red, white and blue.
Dr. Tull explained that students wear standardized dress (otherwise called uniforms) between October 15 and May 1. Boys don slacks, shirts and ties and girls wear jumpers or skorts. And for official occasions, upper class boys and girls don Navy blue blazers. As a concession to the warm weather the rest of the year, casual attire is allowed.
This year, in keeping with the school’s concept of adopting an annual theme, Dr. Tull said these top the list: Have courage to stick to your core values. Find adults you can trust. Be skeptical of those selling you a bill of goods. Enjoy the journey by not always focusing on the outcome.
With the start of the September semester, Dr. Tull will begin his 21st year as headmaster at Worcester, so it could be said he knows more about the school than any one.
Actually Dr. Tull has been there since the school’s founding 36 years ago. The first year, when the school was called Worcester Country School, he taught fifth grade. The second year he became head of the Lower School and assistant headmaster. In 1985 Tull was named headmaster.
Current enrollment at Worcester Prep is evidence it is a Delmarva school down to its very heart with 61 percent of the student body hailing from Maryland, 38 percent from Delaware and 1 percent from Virginia. “Our most distant student comes from Onancock, Va.,” the headmaster claimed. Others come from as far away as Seaford and Laurel in Delaware and Crisfield in Maryland while the majority of the student body come from Worcester and Wicomico Counties.
Tuition at Worcester Prep is on a graduated scale ranging from $6,350 for pre-school and kindergarten to $9,300 for the upper four grades. There are a number of additional fees for certain activities, supplies and services.
Asked about the future, Dr. Tull said the board is always looking ahead and committed to strategic planning. He emphasized its most important goal is to “maintain our high quality.”
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