FIRST STUDENT INPUT SESSION

June 25, 2011

Lawrence High School

On March 23, 2011 School Committee Member from District C, Pavel M. Payano, met with more than a dozen students from Lawrence High School.  These students were very excited and happy to see someone from the School Committee reaching out to them.  They spent an hour talking about their concerns and their ideas on how to make the LHS Campus a better educational facility.  There were 13 items that students identified as being important.  Below each of these items are listed with the student sentiments, a possible action item that is being recommended by students or School Committee Member Payano.



I. Unity: 
Students feel separated they only feel united in Sporting events.  Students understood that there was a need to divide the students up but they do not end up knowing their peers at the other academies.
Action Item: Students would like that the School Committee use their resources to find out ways to get students from the LHS campus more engaged as a campus than their own separate “academies” or high schools.
Action Item: Have a Spring Pep Rally for the Spring Sports and also the other student activities that the school offers.  Student leaders should be cheered and energized not just during the fall but spring as well. Pep Rallies offer a unique opportunity to energize and unite the student body.  
Question: Is a Spring Pep Rally possible? Who would be the person that would make sure this happened?
II. Classes:
Students believe that they are unable take classes unless they are in that high school. One student stated how he was interested in taking a class in computer graphics but he was unable to because it was offered in a different academy.  Another student from MST said that while AP Calculus, which is offered exclusively in his HS, allows other students to take it is a fact that is not known by everyone in the student body.  
Students are confused on how their classes are weighted and how they are offered. One student says that when he entered as a freshman he was offered honor math courses and that it would take someone else from another part of the LHS a few more years before it was offered to them.
There was one student who is an AP Class and he asked his guidance councilor to get him out of the class and he was told he couldn’t. He is now failing the class.  He feels like students should be able to drop out of any AP class they feel like they cant handle.
Action Item: The school department should identify certain STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) classes that should be opened to the entire student body.
Action Item: More students should be aware of the fact that they can take classes in other HS as long as it fits in their schedule.
Question: Is it possible to get a list of all classes that are offered by each HS?
Question: The student that wanted to drop out of the AP Class what are some possible reasons that he would not have been allowed to drop out?
Personal View: In order to prepare our students to the job market we must teach STEM classes not just in 1-2 buildings but also in all the buildings of the LHS. An honor student in the Arts High School should be able and asked to take the highest level of STEM courses that he or she is qualified to take without removing her interest in the arts.  If we are unable to do this it is a disservice to the students and our community because they will have a hard time in college and in obtaining jobs in the STEM field which are the jobs that both Massachusetts and the US economy will be based on in the future.
III.  Books:
“We have a lot of money for TV’s but no money for books” – There is a sentiment that they are not allowed to take their books home.
Action Item: Are students allowed to take their books home?
I (Pavel M. Payano) was told by Dr. Bergeron that all students should be allowed to take their books home but some teachers are unaware of that. The School Committee is also thinking of allocating an extra $200,000 to textbooks.
Question: Is it possible to get Dr. Bergeron and the Teachers Union President to send out a letter/email to teachers letting them know that they should allow their students to take books home?
Question: If the problem is that they are afraid that they will not get them back – what does the Lawrence School Department do to ensure that students or parents pay for lost or damaged books?
IV Schedules:
Students thought that all schools should run using the same schedule.  They said that some schools run in 90 minute blocks while other run in 60 minute blocks. I think they stated that this makes it harder for them to take classes in different buildings.
Question: What is the reasoning that some HS within the LHS use the 60 minute block and others use the 90 minute block? Why is it not standerized?
V. Environment:
There was concern from students that the Styrofoam lunch trays that we use are harmful to the environment while schools like Nobles are using material that is good to the environment.
Action Item: Students would like to know the following answers:
1)   What are the reasons that would stop us from switching to something that is more “green”
2)   What would be the cost associated with this change?
3)   Is it possible to get grants to help cover this cost?
VI. Teachers:
Students believe that most of their teachers are very caring and passionate. But some feel like they have a few teachers that do not do their best.
QuestionWhat is the best way for students to get their teachers to be more active in class?
-Student Advice: One student stated that students should have an honest conversation with their teacher. This student seemed to be in a similar situation and he/she stated that once the teacher knew that she was interested in the subject he/she got a better educational experience from the class.
Action Item: There should be a meeting between Students and Teachers where students can address their issues and get advice from other teachers on how they can get a better educational experience from a teacher they expect more from.
VII. Mentoring:
PFA has a mentoring program that has Seniors reach out to Freshman. PFA students feel like mentoring programs do a good job in getting students on the right path. Students think that many students need mentoring services because they lack the energy and drive to continue on with school.
Action Item: The LHS should have a list of all the mentoring programs that they run and identify which ones are student run and which ones are in partnership with other organizations.
Action Item: Lawrence School Department should make an effort to enhance and create more mentoring opportunities for students.
Students were very passionate over this and they feel like a lot of their peers just need someone to give them little pushes or to tell them that forgetting about school and focusing on dreams of being a Baseball Star or a Rapper are “unrealistic goals”.
VIII. Academics/GPA:
There are students who are playing sports that have bad GPA’s and are failing classes. Students pointed out that they feel that it is unfair that student athletes are not being pushed in their academics.  A lot of students have unreal goals of being rappers or basketball stars and they do not understand how academics are the best sure way to be successful.  These students might be great stars but some of them do not have the academic background to either enter college or succeed while they are in there. 
Action Item:  Students feel that if an athlete is getting a below average GPA he or she should not be allowed to play.  Coaches should set up mentoring programs and with the help of teachers they should track the student grades to not allow this to happen.
Personal View: I know that there are standards and there is a minimum GPA for student athletes but is this policy enforced? If a student is failing a class does he or she still get to compete? If possible I would like to hear from the Athletic Director how they track this and how they help the student athletes that are failing get back on track. I remember being in HS and knowing several athletes that were failing classes yet were still competing in sports – at the time I was not aware if there was a minimum GPA for students.
IX. Security:
At any particular part of the day students feel that as long as you are wearing your uniform you can walk in or out of the schools. Security Guards do not ask students what they are doing…students feel like they mostly let students do what they want. One student mentioned that if a student makes friends with the security guard that security guard is not likely to ask that student why he/she is out of class.
Action Item: School Department leaders should meet with the LHS security guard and let them be aware that their actions or lack of action is resonating across the LHS Campus.
While students spoke well about some of the Security staff and it seemed like they could trust them if an issue came up they did not like that some students get to break rules that most of them follow.  I have always noticed that the Security staff has always been attentive to the security cameras and who comes in an out of the school during my afterschool visits but if students do not feel like enough is being done or that the Security staff should do more then we must come up with something to let them know that their Security staff are on the task.
X. In House Suspension:
Students unanimously felt like detention and in house suspension was a joke.
Question: Is it possible to get whatever administrator heads this up at a future meeting with some students so they can get input from them on how to fix this?
XI. Guidance Councilors:
 Students feel like they are not getting the proper help from guidance councilors. Guidance councilors do not know what other schools are doing and what programs they offer outside of school. Some students have excellent guidance councilors but most felt like they received no help from their Guidance Councilor. One student stated, “most of the attention go to the Seniors”.  Another student who in her freshman and sophomore year was an A/B student but now is failing classes went to her guidance councilor for help and the only thing that was offered was summer school. Students asked if it was possible that Seniors had separate guidance councilors so that they could have a guidance councilor that would spend more time on them.
XII. Library
Students feel like the LHS library should be open for longer hours.  Since they are in the school it is a lot easier for them to use the LHS library than take a bus to the Lawrence Public Library and a bus back if they live in South Lawrence.
Action Item: Have the LHS Library open until 6pm.
Question: What would be the financial cost to making this happen?
XII. Broadcasting:
Students like the morning broadcast and they feel like all the HS should have them.
Question: Why are only some of the HS doing the broadcasting and how can we get all of the HS to do it?
XII Transportation:
A lot more students would do sports team and after school activities but transportation is a problem. 
Question: How much would it cost to provide some type of transportation for students that stay after school? What if the students themselves paid a monthly/daily amount?
XIII Parent Involvement:
Students do not see their parents involved. They go to games and they see other schools fill up the stand with Parents.  They want to find a way to get more parents involved in their lives. Most parents have no idea what their children are doing in HS.
Question: I would like to know who are the people that in charge of getting the parents involved. I know that is one of the tasks that has been given to the Parent Liaisons…but how is that evaluated?
Are there goals that are set up?
How do they try to reach out to parents and get them in the school?
How much of their duties go to try to increase PTO and general parent involvement? Are most of their time going to calling parents with children that are constantly absent or in trouble?
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About pavelpayano

Pavel Payano graduated with a BA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2006. After graduation he became the Outreach Director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. He served in this role until 2007 when he joined the staff of Congresswoman Tsongas becoming her Special Assistant and Immigration Specialist. In June 2011 he graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a Masters of Science in Public Affairs. Mr. Payano is an active member of the Lawrence community; in 2010 he co-founded the Greater Lawrence Young Professionals Network, an organization that hopes to bridge the gap between local government, business leaders and young professionals who care about the development and well being of the greater Lawrence communities. He is also serving his second term as a Lawrence School Committee member.

View all posts by pavelpayano

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