By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Michael Qualter was inspired to become a teacher by his football and basketball coaches in high school.
“Coach is another word for teaching whether on the court or on the field,” said Qualter, headmaster at Lawrence High School. “I got into education because of coaching as a way to give back. I wanted to teach students to make the right decision for themselves, the community and the country.”
After close to 40 years educating city students, Qualter, 60, is retiring at the end of the month. Michael Fiato, principal of the Humanities and Leadership Development High School, one of the six academies at Lawrence High, has been named interim headmaster of the school.
There are 3,150 students and 285 staff members at the school.
“I have mixed emotions about leaving, after reflecting on these years, I think of the caring, dedicated and hard working people that I’ve worked with,” he said yesterday. “I’ll miss the friendships I’ve made and being with the kids on a daily basis. That’s something that keeps me moving and keeps a smile on my face.”
Born and raised in Lawrence, Qualter graduated in 1971 from Central Catholic High School. He has a bachelor’s in social studies from Salem State College and a master in education and administration also from Salem State.
Qualter played football at Central Catholic for four years and was team captain as a senior. He also played basketball. He started coaching high school football during his junior year at Salem State, which he continued doing for 28 years. He also coached indoor and outdoor track for 26 years.
He started his career in 1975 at Central Catholic. He has taught social studies, English and physical education. In addition to Central Catholic, he taught at the Kane and Bruce schools and was in-house suspension teacher at Arlington School.
He has been at Lawrence High since 1993.
Qualter and his wife, Elizabeth have three sons and six grandchildren.
“I want to spend time with my family when I retire,” he said noting two of his sons live in Washington, D.C., West Virginia and another in Everett.
Fiato, 46, is also a Lawrence native and a 1985 graduate of Lawrence High.
“I’m extremely excited and humbled to be afforded the opportunity to serve,” he said. “I have to admit I’m a little nervous because this is a new experience, but it will help me to grow and be a leader.”
Fiato has a bachelor’s degree from Worcester State College and a master’s degree from UMass Lowell. He is pursuing a doctorate in education leadership at Northeastern University.
The first in his family to graduate from college, Fiato was inspired by his parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches to study education.
“They constantly reinforced us the importance of education not only to become economically stable, but to be literate and better spoken,” Fiato said. “I became a teacher to continue delivering that message to kids in Lawrence.”
He began working as urban affairs director in the Lawrence public schools in 1999. After that, he became ninth grade facilitator and dean of discipline at Lawrence High. Fiato was academic administrator in the Math, Science and Technology High School for two years before becoming a principal at the high school in 2007.
Fiato is married with three daughters.