John Monfredo: Hurrah For Harrity!
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Singing Harrity’s Praises
Speaker after speaker spoke about Harrity’s commitment and her dedication to education. “I feel very confident that the only person in this room who was surprised was Shelia,” joked Governor Deval Patrick in one of the best lines of the evening. He went on to say how Principal Harrity has been able to shape the future of her students and has given her students the opportunity to be productive citizens.
Mayor Joseph Petty spoke about how the graduation rate at WTHS has increased from 79% in 2006 to 96.4% in 2012 and the dropout rate has fallen by 6.5% during that same time. Additionally, the percentage of student going to college has also climbed during Harrity’s tenure. The Mayor concluded by mentioning how proud the city is of Harrity’s accomplishments and how her leadership has made a difference.
Next up was State Senator Michael Moore who stated that Harrity—who is the first female principal of a Worcester vocation school—exemplifies the true meaning of this award. “She has empowered students to reach for new heights and has raised the academic performance of WTHS to become one of the best in the nation,” said Moore.
Dr. Matthew Malone, Secretary of Education for Massachusetts rounded out the speakers praising Harrity for her distributive leadership at the school. ”When they complain about problems at their school I ask them have you visited Worcester Technical High School?” said Malone, who consistently urges academic administrators to visit WTHS.
The Woman of the Hour
Then the star of the day, Principal Harrity came up to the microphone to speak as the student body burst out in wild applause. Harrity, speaking from the heart, praised her family and blurted out, “How long did my mother know about this day?”
Harrity went on to thank numerous individuals including Edward “Ted” Coghlin, Jr., chairman of the Worcester Vocational Schools Advisory Board, president of the Skyline Technical Fund, and owner of Coghlin Electric Contractors Inc., for being a driving force for the school. Thanks to Mr. Coghlin’s work, these funds created accounts designed to purchase and maintain updated equipment and continues to bring in the needed revenue to assist the various departments.
She then thanked the anonymous “dream maker” donor who has continued to pay for a series of nationally known motivational speakers since the school opened in 2006. The purpose of the speakers has been to encourage the students to dream big and believe in themselves before MCAS testing.
Harrity went on to thank her staff for their hard work and willingness to go the extra mile for their students. A final thank you went out to her family for their support and love.
Harrity’s Award-Winning Past
During the past few years Principal Harrity has been on a roll in the awards department. She recently received her doctorate degree. Additionally, her—Worcester Technical High School—has won a series of awards including the MetLife Foundation award, which recognized for its ability to raise the academic performance of a high poverty population, and the Vex Robotic Competition Award. The school was also one of 15 public schools nationally recognized for outstanding student gains in MCAS by the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University.
When asked in an interview how she came up with the idea of motivating the students for the MCAS test, she replied:
“I believe that motivation is important for student and staff success. When I was a basketball player at Providence College, I never ran onto the court without a pre-game talk from a coach who provided the inspiration and motivation to win. Much of what we do at Worcester Tech draws on this lesson from the world of sports.
“For example, two weeks before students sit for the state exams, the entire student body and faculty take a field trip to The Hanover Theatre to hear a speaker who has overcome personal adversity address students about the importance of overcoming obstacles and reaching personal potential.
“Such events are the cornerstone of our school’s effort to address the needs of our students and the challenges that they face as residents of our city. The reforms that have been undertaken in our school give students the vehicle they need to take them to a successful life. This assembly motivational program and our school’s general focus on the importance of student success provide them with the motivation.”
What’s Next for Harrity?
After receiving the award, MetLife representative Kevin Daly, announced that Dr. Harrity would join other State award winning principals from September 18 to 21 at the Principal’s Institute in Washington D.C. to share ideas with one another and be honored at a formal dinner. In addition, Dr. Harrity will receive a $5,000 grant for her school to be used for staff development or for school improvements projects.
In 2009, Worcester Technical High School celebrated its 100th anniversary. The school originally accommodated 52 student woodworkers and ironworkers as Worcester Boys Trade. It was the first vocational school in Massachusetts and one of the first in the United States. And now, thanks to the leadership of Harrity, WTHS is continuing its rich tradition and will surely impact students for years to come.
I’d like to congratulate WTHS and Harrity and may you continue to achieve success in the future. The City of Worcester is very proud of your accomplishments.
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