Session Schedule & Descriptions

8:15 AM – 8:45 AM: Symposium check-in and breakfast

8:45 AM - 9:00 AM: Welcome and Introductions

  • Susan Grabski, Executive Director, Lawrence History Center (LHC)
  • Sara Morin Barth, President, LHC Board of Directors
  • Jineyda Tapia, Member, LHC Board of Directors

9:00 AM – 9:45 AM: 

  • Opening Keynote Speaker: Lorena Germán

    "Textured Teaching in These Times"

    What should students be learning in school? How should they be learning? What skills will this learning build to meet the needs of our changing country and world? In this keynote, we will explore these questions by drawing connections, analyzing our educational journeys, and exploring an innovative teaching framework.

9:45 AM – 10:45 AM:

  • Panel: Anticipating Educational Needs in the Immigrant City Across a Century
    Moderator: Sara Morin Barth, President, LHC Board of Directors
    • Roman Catholic Parochial Schools: the case of Ste. Anne's of Lawrence and French-Canadian Cultural Survival
      Presenter: Jim Beauchesne, retired Visitor Services Supervisor, Lawrence Heritage State Park

      The arrival of large numbers of Roman Catholic immigrants in the mid-19th century, starting with the Irish Potato Famine wave, posed a difficult challenge to the existing public education system in Yankee New England. Irish-Catholic communities complained to authorities about bias against the Irish and Catholicism, not only in attitudes but in curriculum and substance. Prayer in public schools involved Protestant versions of prayers and Biblical references. Textbooks depicted Catholic countries as backward and superstition-bound. Frustration over these issues lead to the American Catholic Church hierarchy's 1884 decision to encourage parishes to create their own schools... parochial schools... and to urge Catholic parents to send their children to those schools.

      This admonition was vigorously embraced by the next large wave of Catholic immigrants to New England, the French-Canadians, who arrived with a sense of cultural vulnerability due to the British, and Protestant, conquest of Canada, i.e. New France, and a century of perceived second-class citizenship. French-Canadian elites coined the term “Survivance” to describe an ethic of cultural survival emphasizing maintenance of the Roman Catholic faith and French language. This cultural imperative travelled with the immigrants to New England. As this presentation will describe, the original French-Canadian parish in Lawrence, Ste. Anne's, manifested this ethic in many ways but particularly through its schools. While adjusting to cultural and legal pressures encouraging assimilation, the parish and its schools effectively kept its members both French and Catholic for multiple generations.

    • The Development of the Lawrence Vocational School
      Presenter: Kathleen S. Flynn

      Industrialization and manufacturing were developing strengths in the United States at the dawn of the twentieth century, especially in the Northeast section of the country. However, similar strides were occurring in Europe, especially Germany. There was national concern about the US losing its global foothold within this industrial rivalry. Studies were focused on German progress and various plans were developed within the manufacturing states. Massachusetts was one of these states and Lawrence was one of its major manufacturing centers.

      Massachusetts studies focused on the growing need for skilled workers. New manufacturing facilities in Lawrence such as the Wood Mill, the Ayer Mill and the Everett Mill were only a few years away from completion and the hiring of thousands was anticipated by 1910, many of whom would need to have manufacturing skills. Local attempts at skill training existed; but were insufficient to meet the current and anticipated needs. Lawrence and its manufacturers could only profit by paying attention to the plan for focused skill education developed by the state legislature.

      The presentation will focus on the above context, the state-wide plan proposed by Beacon Hill and the response it generated within the city of Lawrence. While none doubted the need for the training of skilled workmen, the manufacturers, local politicians, and the residents of the city had varied responses to the state's plan.

    • Early Years of NECC in Lawrence, 1985 - 2000
      Presenter: Katharine K. Rodger, EdD

      Northern Essex Community College’s expansion into the city of Lawrence in 1984 was the Commonwealth’s direct response to address the causes of the city’s ‘riots’ which occurred in the city in August of that year. Responding to a proposal from NECC President John R. Dimitry, a special state allocation of approximately $225,000 to establish the Lawrence Education Employment Project (LEEP), a program designed to provide English as a Second Language (ESL), Literacy, and Short-Term intensive skill training programs to meet the skills level needs of the city’s residents.

      More than 8,000 LEEP flyers were distributed to churches, schools, and community agencies throughout Lawrence. The flyers were written in 5 languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Vietnamese) to ensure that Lawrence immigrants would know about the project and its proposed services. Activity was intense as people enrolled in ESL classes, basic literacy (on both English and Spanish), and even a Basic Math Skills Program. Training Programs in Electronics, Machining, and Welding were established at training centers in the city.

      Building on the success of LEEP, and with the acquisition of the Prudential Life Insurance Company site on Franklin Street in 1991, NECC expanded its presence opening the John R. Dimitry Building, as well as a second education site on Amesbury Street. With an actual campus now in Lawrence, President Dimitry moved important college program to the city: Registered Nursing, Licensed Practical Nursing, Radiological and Respiratory Technology, Dental Assistant, Paralegal, and Criminal Justice.

      This presentation will focus on NECC’s early efforts and activities culminating in the creation of a full-service campus in Lawrence.

10:45 AM – 11:00 AM: BREAK

11:00 AM – 11:30 AM:

  • The Lawrence Plan for Education in Citizenship (1918)
    Presenter: Brian Sheehy, History Department Coordinator at North Andover High School, North Andover / Member, LHC Board of Directors

    At the turn of the century the mill city of Lawrence, MA was an immigrant city with different nationalities and ethnicities drawn to the job opportunities in the vast network of mills that called Lawrence home. Immigrants were tolerated and accepted as long as they followed the rules and did not complain or challenge the labor structure of the city. In 1912 and 1919 labor strife and strikes challenged that status quo and forced the power structure to reassess how they could control this largely immigrant labor force and, in many ways, “Americanize” them. One of the plans to Americanize this labor force was ingraining ideas of patriotism and citizenship to those immigrant laborers’ children in the public school system. English language courses and naturalization programs had existed in the city before, but none had focused on children. According to the Journal of Educational Method, 11/01/1921, Vol.2 (3) “The Lawrence Plan for Education in Citizenship, set on foot in May 1918 was an attempt to discover through sane experimentation what changes should be made in the curriculum, the teaching practices, and the general conduct of an ordinary elementary public school in order to engage more directly and more purposely in its most fundamental task, the making of intelligent, responsible, and loyal citizens in our American democracy.” Its core components promote Citizenship- Freedom and Personal Obligation and Patriotism-Devotion to Country. This “plan” also extended to newspaper ads, pamphlets, and posters, the goal being to show that “good Americans” did not question or challenge the laborer/ management dynamic.

    The presentation will examine the origins of the movement in Lawrence, the larger reach of this plan, and the overall impact that this movement had on Lawrence.

11:30 AM -12:30 PM:

  • Our Future, Our Schools: The Fight for Democratic Control of the Lawrence Public Schools
    Presenters: HomePlace Collective (Dr. Marianela Rivera, Kassie Infante, Wadscar Gomez)

    In November 2011, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to designate the Lawrence Public Schools as “chronically underperforming” and place the district in state receivership. The events that ensued after this decision led to the sparking of an educational justice movement. Presenters will provide an analysis of the state and federal policies that lead to the takeover of the Lawrence Public schools and the impact that the receivership has had in the community.

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM: LUNCH


    Reimagining and Reshaping the Landscape of Public School Education 
    Facilitator: Nathan Baez, Elevated Thought
    Panelists: Lawrence High School students (Adelina, Angelica, Arlyng & Marcelo)

    Students take the lead in reimagining and reshaping the landscape of public school education, playing an active role in their own educational journey. Youth will explore the following topics:

    • Student-Centric Learning
      Explore innovative approaches to a student-centric learning environment. Discuss how tailoring education to individual needs can enhance the overall learning experience.
    • Redefining the Modern Classroom:
      Envision the ideal modern classroom and how it fosters creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. Discuss the integration of technology and interactive learning methods.
    • Balancing Structure and Flexibility:
      Delve into the concept of a balanced school day that allows for structured learning while providing flexibility for students to explore their interests and passions.
    • Curriculum Co-Creation:
      Address the importance of students actively participating in the development of the curriculum. Discuss how a collaborative approach ensures that the content is relevant, diverse, and engaging.
    • Teacher-Student Collaboration:
      Explore ways to strengthen the collaboration between teachers and students. Discuss the impact of open communication and mutual respect in creating a positive and empowering educational environment.

1:30 PM – 2:15 PM:

  • Violence and School Desegregation in Lowell, MA in the 1980s
    Presenters: Professor Robert Forrant, Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Lowell; Chandaranee Khoeun, UMass Lowell undergraduate student

    “In the war, he never died. Why did he come here and die?”
    What Does the Unremembered (For Some) Death of 13-Year-Old Vandy Phorng Reveal About Lowell, Massachusetts and the Commonwealth?

    Starting in the 1970s, Lowell faced a highly contentious issue as its economy and population changed. From the late 1970s, a majority of the city’s white elected leaders metaphorically stood in the schoolhouse doorway blocking equality and opportunity in education and politics for the city’s nonwhite young people until forced to do otherwise. As Southeast Asian refugee numbers grew, along with Spanish speakers, the schools struggled to accommodate the increased numbers of non-English speakers. The School Committee publicly and loudly refused to listen to parents when they requested translators so that they could advocate for their children. Only a federal lawsuit filed by Southeast Asian and Latino parents forced the city to revamp education delivery.

    The rapid growth of Lowell’s Asian and Latino populations challenged long-established leaders in the city’s schools. Anti-immigrant resentment developed just as it had earlier in the 20th century when the city’s mills attracted French Canadian migrants and anti-Catholicism had sparked widespread violence against Irish immigrants. Outspoken members of Lowell’s elected School Committee led a campaign to make English the ‘official’ language of the city. When Southeast Asian parents joined with Latino parents, to demand educational access and equity for their children in the 1980s the backlash escalated. This is borne out by the public statements of George Kouloheras, chair of the Lowell School Committee: “English is our mother tongue and it’s the language that’s going to be used at our meetings. This is an English-Only School Committee in an English-Only America.”

    With anti-immigrant rhetoric a prominent feature of the 1987 city elections, tensions were high in the city at the start of the new school year. On September 15 an eleven-year-old white student confronted thirteen-year-old Vandy Phorng and assaulted him. Phorng ended up in the fast-moving water of the Pawtucket Canal and drowned despite the best efforts of a UMass Lowell student and others who jumped into the canal to save him. The heated anti-immigrant rhetoric continued unabated. In the elections in November, the loudest anti-desegregation candidates carried the day while one of the most outspoken advocates for the plan lost his School Committee seat.

    Using oral histories from the UMass Lowell Southeast Asian Digital Archives and newspaper accounts, presenters will tell the story.

2:15 PM - 3:00 PM:

  • Community Education at the Bread and Roses Festival
    Including “Weaving Justice in the Global Textile Industry: Labor Arts Education in Mill Cities”

    Moderator: Jim Beauchesne, President, Friends of Lawrence Heritage State Park
    Presenters: Wangeci Gitau, Secretary, Bread & Roses Heritage Committee; Elizabeth Pellerito, Vice President, Bread & Roses Heritage Committee / Director, Labor Education Program, University of Massachusetts Lowell

    In 2024, the Bread & Roses Heritage Festival will celebrate its fortieth anniversary. Each year on Labor Day, the Festival brings to Campagnone Common a variety of musical acts, arts and crafts vendors, groups for working people, and talks about the past and present of labor activism. This interactive panel discussion will explore the ways in which the Festival provides a unique opportunity to educate a diverse group of people in the city about labor heritage, labor rights, and activism.

    Presenters will explore the models of education provided by the Festival. Rooted in models of popular education articulated by Paolo Freire, bell hooks and others, the Festival creates education in action that is rooted in the experiences of everyday people, and that is aimed at creating social change for a more liberated world. The techniques used at the Festival echo the techniques used by the Bread and Roses strikers themselves, who were able to communicate with one another across many languages and cultures in order to build a movement for workers. This model allows us to connect history to the present moment, and asks the question, what can the past teach us about how we get free - from capitalism, from racism, from oppression - in the twenty-first century?

    Second, presenters will look at the ways in which the Festival has changed over time. By some metrics, the Festival was perhaps more “successful” in the 80s when it was founded: with internationally-known performers like Judy Collins and Odetta, larger audience numbers, and more funding dollars. However, members of the current board argue that the Festival today has morphed into something truly unique and special, if not quite as large as it once was. The anthropological lens prevalent in folk festivals of the 80s and early 90s “others” both the cultures and the people of Lawrence and presumes that cultures must be preserved as they were at an unspecified point in the past to be “authentic.” Instead, we focus on a model that asks how cultures change, combine and fuse; what their struggles for liberation are in the current moment, and how the arts can move those struggles forward and create change for justice.

    Finally, presenters will examine how the physical geography of the city provides an opportunity to reimagine structures of oppression and sites of liberation and self-determination. What does it mean to see the mills empty, crumbling, repurposed as community spaces, repurposed as sites of gentrification - in a new light? How can we use arts education to uplift the history of struggle against exploitation and racism and reimagine these decaying hulks as monuments to a people’s history of strength and resilience?

3:00 PM – 3:15 PM: BREAK

3:15 PM - 4:00 PM:

  • Carving a Path for Teacher Diversity in Lawrence: A Close Look at the UML-LPS Paraprofessional Pathway 
    Moderator: Glennys Sánchez, Director of DEIB, Lawrence Public Schools 
    Presenters: Stacy Szczesiul, Associate Dean of Online Education, Accreditation & Licensing, College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, UMass Lowell; Dr. Marianela Rivera, Lawrence Pathway Coach

    Critical shortages and persistent diversity gaps plague the nation’s teacher workforce. Across the U.S. there are an estimated 200,000 vacant positions. Last April there were 7,000 unfilled teaching positions in the Commonwealth with over 4,000 teachers working on emergency licenses. Under-resourced districts, like Lawrence, serving low-income communities with high concentrations of Students of Color carry the largest burden, claiming 10% of the Commonwealth’s underqualified teachers (i.e., emergency licensed teachers and teachers working out of field). The combined impacts of teacher shortages and deep ethnoracial mismatches between educators and students leave students in communities like Lawrence at a considerable disadvantage. There is a considerable body of evidence supporting the theory that race-match efforts are essential to closing the equity gap for Students of Color. Same-race teacher matches improve test scores, graduation and suspension rates, relationship building, attendance, student attitudes about school, and parental involvement.

    We know that increasing the supply (while also improving the retention) of qualified, racially diverse teachers into high-need fields (namely mathematics, science, special education, and bilingual/ESL education) and locations (urban and rural areas) is best accomplished through a suite of interventions including financial incentives (provided by the state) and high-retention Grow Your Own (GYO) pathways because the largest potential supply of future Teachers of Color—the next generation of teachers—can be found in public schools around the country (i.e., high school students and paraprofessionals). Moreover, we believe that addressing these problems requires a community-based, PK-16 teacher preparation model because the path to becoming a teacher begins way before the first teaching assignment is accepted and because it is the people in the community who bring the much-needed cultural wealth that is scarce in our current teacher workforce.

    In an effort to make our beliefs actionable, partners at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Lawrence Public Schools launched the UML-LPS Paraprofessional Pathway in the Fall of 2023. The pathway reflects a shared commitment to building a strong and sustainable teacher workforce in Lawrence. The pathway aims to increase the number of eligible, high quality, bilingual, Latino/a/x teachers to serve the district and to mitigate the disparities in educational outcomes that are associated with a largely white, monolingual teacher workforce.

    Presenters will share the values and beliefs that underpin the pathway:

    • Educational justice is the driving force.
    • Teaching is elevated as a noble profession.
    • Students are empowered through curriculum and pedagogy.
    • Community and family are explicitly valued.
    • Students are supported: financially, academically, and emotionally.
    • Share the current state of the pathway, including how it is structured, staffed, and funded.
    • Elevate the voices of paraprofessionals in the program and to learn from their lived experiences.
    • Seek feedback and recommendations for improving the pathway from community members.

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM:

  • Conversation and Feedback Session: Transitioning from State Receivership 
    Facilitator: Jonathan Guzman, Lawrence School Committee  


4:30 PM: Closing Remarks