Principal: Robert Cayer
Assistant Principal: James White
Mission: The High School Learning Center (HLC) operates under the Seven Principles of Effective Alternative Programs: 1) clear mission statement, 2) small class size, 3) informal and personal teacher student relationships, 4) committed personnel, 5) fair systems of discipline, 6) flexible scheduling, and 7) acknowledgement of student voice in curriculum and daily operations. The program offers many options for students in grades 9-12 who are at-risk of dropping out of school. Diploma Plus, a two-year program, offers students intensive instruction and dual enrollment at Northern Essex Community College. Students at HLC also participate in community service projects to fulfill graduation requirements.
In 2014 and 2015, the February Acceleration Academies focused primarily on ELA and the April Academies focused on math. Being invited to one Academy did not preclude students from being invited to the second in a given year. In other words, in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, some students participated in one of the two Academies, some participated in both, and some did not participate in either. In 2016 (the 2015-16 school year), the district decided to dedicate the February Academy to English language learners, and held the ELA and math Academies concurrently in April.
The High School Learning Center (HLC) is a warm and welcoming environment for students who have struggled in the traditional system or who have dropped out of school altogether and are returning to get a diploma."They're probably the most resilient group of students that I have ever met," Principal Bob Cayer told us. Originally, HLC was not a site for the Academies, but former Chief of Staff Shalimar Quiles, a Lawrence native, saw the potential to adapt the model for students on the main campus who needed to pass the high-stakes state (MCAS) test, or juniors and seniors at HLC who were close to graduating and needed an extra push. She sold the idea to Superintendent Riley, and the Academies have been running successfully at HLC ever since. Principal Cayer and his team are highly attuned to the individual needs of students and literally feed them well: egg sandwiches every morning, a pizza party at the end of the week, and healthy snacks in between. The young people we met at HLC were grateful for the chance to earn credits and prepare for the MCAS. They seemed relieved to be in a place in which they could gain mastery of math skills that seemed unattainable to them previously, and relished the experience of talking about the Declaration of Human Rights or learning about the social activism of Muhammed Ali.