Harrington is the 1

LYNN – As comebacks go, this was part Lazarus, part 2004 Red Sox.Students, teachers and administrators at the E.J. Harrington Elementary School are beaming with pride after attaining Level 1 status based on the assessment data recently released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE). Harrington?s position among the top-ranked schools in the state comes only four years after the school was Level 4, or under-performing, which is one step away from state takeover.?It makes the whole city feel good about the school system when something like this happens,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine C. Latham. “Everyone (at Harrington) is on the same page. They all worked together to make his happen, and it was spectacular to see.”While there is plenty of credit to go around, Harrington?s success starts at the top with Principal Debra Ruggiero, who was transferred from Brickett four years ago to spearhead the turnaround.?I was shocked when the results were released,” Ruggiero said. “I was expecting Level 2; I felt strongly we had improved enough to get to that level. When I saw that we were Level 1, I screamed.”Harrington teachers were equally surprised and excited, though, like Ruggiero, they knew how much work had been put in to extricate the school from the Level 4 morass.?We?re very proud. A lot of sweat and tears went into this,” said third grade teacher Nikki Spyropoulos, who is in her 18th year at the school. “It?s not an easy process.”That?s an understatement. While the Level 4 designation brings with it a significant infusion of resources, especially financial, the apostle Luke would say “to whom much is given, much will be required.”?We needed to change the inaccurate perception of Harrington as a failing school where the kids don?t care, parents don?t care and teachers were not working hard,” Ruggiero said.It started with uniformity of instruction.?All the teachers and kids are using the same strategies,” Ruggiero said. “By the time students get to fifth grade, they have the strategies down pat. We?re teaching strategies and skills that can be applied to anything; we?re not teaching to the test. That was a total shift in culture.”The type of turnaround accomplished at Harrington requires a high level of buy-in from the staff.?We have a staff that was willing to put in the time, effort, heart and drive to make it work,” said Patti Mendonca, a curriculum instruction teacher and former third and fifth grade teacher at Harrington. “Being under the microscope made us better teachers. It was uncomfortable at times, but it made us reflective. To be a teacher at Harrington takes a special person.”?The morale is one reason I stay here,” Spyropoulos added. “I?m fortunate to work with a great staff, and the administration sets the tone. Together is how we came out of under-performing.”The first step on the road to Level 1 was moving out of Level 4. That required Harrington to meet a series of goals set forth by the DESE. The district also had to complete a Level 4 Schools Exit Assurances Application, guaranteeing it would continue to fund the turnaround strategies. When the plan was accepted, Harrington and Connery, which also became Level 4 in 2010, were advanced to Level 3 last year.Connery, under the direction of principal Dr. Mary Dill, has also made great strides and remains at Level 3 only because it is in the 18th percentile of schools statewide, and anything less than the 20th percentile prevents a school from advancing past Level 3.Ruggiero said that in addition to the added resources, the Lynn Teachers Union?s agreeing to protect Harrington teachers from the bumping process and affording her the authority to select her staff from both within and outside the district were key factors in the turnaround.Also important was the fact that Harrington had already gone through one “under-performing” episode a decade ago and thus knew which initiatives were effective.?We got to see what mistake

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