DRACUT -- Had Monday night's Dracut School Committee meeting been scored like a football game, the outcome may have been: Good news, 42; bad news, zero.
A pair of ovations for student-athletes who won two state titles, a glowing report of rapid progress being made by Dracut High's advance-placement math, science and English students, and the announced launch of the school district's upgraded website and inaugural newsletter highlighted a two-hour-long good-news fest at Harmony Hall.
At the invitation of Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone, the senior field director of the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative John Smolinski made a slide show presentation showing charts and data that indicated Dracut High's "vertical" progress being made in the number of students taking advanced-placement classes in math, science and English at the high school.
Dracut High's AP participation has grown from 137 students in 2009 to 258 this year, or an increase of 81 percent, Smolinski reported. Also, there has been a corresponding increase in the percentages of AP students achieving a qualifying score of 3 to make them eligible to receive college credit for taking the classes, many of which are held Saturdays, Smolinski said.
"I can remember how excited the students were at the AP courses kickoff event two years ago," said School Committee Chairman Michael McNamara. "The data shows AP courses are having a very positive impact on our Dracut High students."
Athletic Director Tim Woods introduced several student-athletes who represented Dracut High in picking up the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's 2012 Sportsmanship Award at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 16, recognizing the Middies' on-field sportsmanship and off-field community-service work ahead of 60 high schools that comprise District A.
Captain of the Middies varsity football team Zach Bassett, who was among the group of DHS student-athletes who traveled to Foxboro to accept the award, said the speech by New England Patriot Hall-of-Famer Andre Tippett about being a role model on and off the field will have a lasting impact on him and other students, Bassett told the School Committee.
"Being able to knock his opponent down on the football field and then helping that same person up was something (Tippett) really prided himself on, and I pride myself on it as well," said Bassett.
The School Committee also formally recognized and applauded several representatives of Dracut High's cheerleading team for winning the state high-school cheerleading title over about 100 schools in Division 2, Woods said.
It was the second time in four years the Dracut High cheerleaders won the state title, noted School Committee member Mike Miles, who praised the girls and their coach, Scott Rigoli, for their achievements on Woods' watch.
In other news, Stone encouraged Dracut school parents and residents to visit the new and improved Dracut Public School District website, which will contain more information, photos and updates than ever before, Stone promised.
School Committee Chairman credited Stone for creating the most pleasant "surprise" of the school year to-date, with the launch of the district's inaugural "Lighthouse" newsletter.
The 13-page document, which features a message from Stone and update on the $60 million renovation of Dracut High by Principal Richard Manley, is available for downloading on the DPS website.
Hard copies can be read at the Dracut Library, Town Hall, and Town Hall-Annex, Stone said.
School Committee member Matt Sheehan said another innovation that Stone has introduced during his first few months on the job is installing a "Wall of Pride" in the Central Office building, students' best academic work will be displayed monthly on a rotating basis.
"I happened to be at the Central Offices a few weeks back and saw a family there -- not for a meeting with anybody, just because their kid's work was up on the wall and they wanted to see it, and the kid was ecstatic about it and parents were too. A simple thing, but a great idea, making a student happy that his work was recognized."
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