EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 25, 2013

Leaders see hope in lower dropout rate

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — Hispanic and African American leaders are hopeful that the lower student dropout rate in Lawrence is a sign of improvement for the city and its educational system.

“I’m very happy,” said Mayor William Lantigua. “This is a good indicator and it’s due to the efforts and progressive actions of Superintendent Jeffrey Riley. “I have no doubt that there will be better results in the future because of the programs he has implemented.

According to the State Department of Education, Lawrence Public Schools is one of five urban districts that have made the largest gain in reducing the number of dropouts between 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.

The city had 224 fewer students drop out in 2011-12 than in 2007-08, 7 percentage point improvement, from 12.9 percent to 5.9 percent.

“This is is good for the city of Lawrence and the kids,” said State Rep. Frank Moran. “Our kids are getting educated because they realize that without an education, they are not going to get far in life,” Moran said.

Having Lawrence students graduate from high school and subsequently go on to college, helps the community, said Moran, also president of the Lawrence City Council.

“I’m happy to hear those numbers because as our school system is getting better, it attracts family with children to invest in the city.”

Dawna Perez, at Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence said participation by state, local and parental involvement in the turnaround plan has brought a lot of change for school system.

“The improvement over the dropout rate is important because students will have more opportunities to get an education and as the economy recovers, they can have a better chance to pursue their career goal,” Perez said.

The Rev. Susasn Santos is parent education facilitator for Lawrence Public Schools and works with parents who have children at Phoenix Academy for students who have dropped out of school. She said parents are happy with the attention their children receive, including calling them when students are absent.

“The students are getting the individual help in the areas they need it the most. When a student stays in school and graduates, he is literally writing his future full of prosperity,” said Santos. “It’s also good for the city because they are not hanging out on the streets being tempted and there will be less

Pavel Payano, a member of the Lawrence School Committee remembers seeing the auditorium full of classmates as a freshman and 40 percent of them did not graduate.

“I’m extremely happy, and it’s important to acknowledge that improvement. But it’s still 20 percent. It’s great that we’re retaining more student, but this is not something we should have a party about,” Payano said.