Principal: Colleen Lennon
Mission: To ensure all students meet or exceed grade level standards. Students have opportunities to participate in a wide array of learning experiences outside the regular curriculum, including athletics, leadership, wellness, technology, and the arts, as well as academic support. Students and staff strive for excellence and care deeply about community, family, and each other.
The student population at Wetherbee K-12 School has similar characteristics to the student population of Lawrence Public Schools. However, Wetherbee has smaller populations of students whose first language is not English and who are English language learners than the district as a whole.
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.
Principal Colleen Lennon has a dry wit and runs a tight, but loving, ship. A few things stood out to her about the Academies during our interview. First, she has been amazed at how popular the Academies have become over the years. "You would never think that students would want to come on vacation, but they were dying to come," she said. She attributes that enthusiasm to the fact that students realize that they are being provided an opportunity that is not available to everyone in the school and they enjoy the recognition. She thinks that the prizes that are given away at lunchtime or at the end of the day are also a big draw. The support from parents has been gratifying to her as well, and the school has carefully cultivated family-school partnership. A staff member calls every family that doesn’t return the Golden Ticket. This school also holds a dinner for parents of students who did well during the Academies and made progress on the state assessment.
"When you put all of the stakeholders together, the message is that this matters, it makes a difference, and I think the data across the district really shows that," said Lennon.
One of the distinctive features of the Academies at the Wetherbee has been the focus on science, in addition to Math and English Language Arts. The science classrooms at the school were very dynamic and the students seemed to have a strong sense of personal agency. In addition, during the Academies, there is greater use of technology such as iPads and Chromebooks than during the regular school year.
Students at the Wetherbee were very vocal about their experience at the Academies. “I’d rather be here with my friends than being at home wasting time and watching TV or playing video games," one student told us. Another said: "[The teacher] tries her hardest to make everything as fun as possible, but so that we learn something. She gets us to try to push our limits." We were particularly impressed by a student who welcomed the chance to struggle "so you can learn from your mistakes, which helps you in the future."