Signs of Growth are Everywhere in Lawrence – By Lawrence High Principal Tom Sharkey

Lawrence High Principal Thomas Sharkey
Principal Thomas Sharkey

By: Tom Sharkey – September, 2004

The development of the mill buildings, the construction of a new rail center, and the repairs to City Hall and to Veterans Stadium speak to a community coming together to shape its future. Though still in its early stages, emerging as another success story for the City is Lawrence High School.

During the 2003-2004 School Year, LHS took the final step toward re-securing accreditation by hosting a Visiting Team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

From March 27 to March 30, a team of 18 educators from New England visited the High School and interviewed parents, students, and teachers. They shadowed students through their classes for consecutive periods, examined samples of student work, and visited every teacher’s classroom. They have filed a report with NEASC that will be acted upon in September.

The entire school community – students, parents, and faculty, are optimistic about the outcome of this review. A positive review is anticipated. Among the achievements attained in recent years at LHS are the restructuring of the High School into small schools, a revision of all courses of study, the assignment of an adult mentor for every student, the creation of teaching teams for Grades 9 and 10 students, and the study of student achievement data by the faculty that has led to further changes in teaching strategies and support programs.

Signs of growth are in evidence everywhere.

In 2003-2004, the daily attendance rate rose to 90% – a gain of 6% from two years ago. MCAS scores rose over 10% in English Language Arts and in Mathematics with further improvement expected with the release of the May scores in September. A modern record of 420 seniors graduated in June and August and the number of students leaving the High School declined by 10%.

Among the seniors who graduated, over 75% will be attending a university or college in 2004-2005. Though well below the target now set by the school (90%), the growth in the number of students going on to school has been steady.

Students will be attending Brown, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, Syracuse, U Mass Lowell and U Mass Amherst, Merrimack, Salem State, Northern Essex, and over 75 other colleges and universities in the East.

The stories of our graduates are indicative of their resiliency, their persistence, and the hard work of the faculty. Rosa, who came to the US when she was ten knowing no English, has, with the encouragement of an aunt and her guidance counselor, overcome many family struggles and transitions, mastered English, performed on stage in music and theater, and will be attending the University of Massachusetts in the Fall.

 Diana was almost forced to leave school to help support her family and her son.

 Instead, with the support of her family she managed to remain in school. She attended the Latino Nursing Program this summer and will attend Middlesex Community College. Speaking re-cently to her guidance counselor, she said: “My life changed considerably since my son was born.

 I am determined to become a nurse to help others and be able to provide for my son. As you know, being a single parent is not easy. I am determined to succeed and I know that getting an education is the only way out.”

 As one of the top students in the class of over 420 students, Yahaira consistently achieved excellent grades in one of the most challenging load of courses any student could take in any school. She graduated with honors and will be the first in her family to attend college and begin fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor.

 Ramon’s family was a military family so Ramon changed schools frequently and still managed to maintain excellent grades. He lost his dad at age 12, but became perfectly bilingual, was at the top of his class, earned a black belt, and did community service in his church. He has earned a full scholarship to Gordon College.

 Viseth is the epitome of the American Dream. He came to the US as a refugee from Cambodia at age seven. He learned English quickly, became an honor student, and is accepted into Brown University. Viseth works to help his family and still finds time to do the community service for which he has received awards. Hundreds of the graduating seniors are reflected in these stories of a few graduates.

 Looking ahead to the 2004-2005 School Year, the High School seeks to maintain steady growth in student achievement.

 The NEASC Report’s recommendations for improvement will be studied and acted upon. The curriculum will be strengthened and all sophomores will take the PSAT’s in October. LHS will also host SAT’s in December and June for the first time in many many years. The High School seeks to raise the percentage of college-attending seniors to 80% of the Class of 2005. Within the classroom, attention will be devoted to learning effective teaching strategies that will support the over 85% of our students for whom English is a second language. 

And with the new High School now 25% completed and built so that every student can experience personalized attention in a small school environment, the faculty will begin a two year planning of how the six small schools in the New Lawrence High School can accomplish their mission to bring all students to college-readiness.

 The strides that parents, students and faculty have taken together at LHS are significant and are powerful signs of the positive changes taking place within the Lawrence Public Schools. Continued growth is clearly targeted for this coming year and for the years ahead in the New Lawrence High School.