Test scores prove ‘Townie Pride’ is still alive in East Providence schools

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To the editor,

With last Thursday’s (Sept. 20) release of the 2012 NECAP Science scores that showed that the East Providence High School Class of 2013 scored 5 points above the state average while outperforming such schools as Smithfield, Classical, Cranston West and East, Coventry, North Kingston and Tiverton amongst others, I felt myself overcome by a strange emotion. I found myself stopping random groups of students walking down the hall and at Friday night’s football game, telling them this news. High fives and hugs were being shared by people that normally say “Good morning”, and “Have a good evening.”

I began to receive congratulatory e-mails from colleagues in other departments in the school.  When Principle Sheehan met with the Science Department to personally offer her congratulations, I realized that the best word to qualify this feeling was…pride.

Pride. Was this the legendary Townie Pride that I first heard of when I started teaching at Martin Junior High in 1990? Back then, teachers had to keep track of “Townie Pride Points”. These were points awarded to students for various accomplishments (academics achievement, athletics, extracurricular activities …ect).  The awarding of these points never seemed to stir much emotion in the recipients. For us, it seemed to be just another task that must be carried out before final grades were submitted. Having not been from East Providence (which seemed to put me in the minority at this time), I wasn’t even sure what a Townie was.

In the days following the news release, I did some research on “Townie Pride”. What I found was that it was attributed to former Superintendent of Schools Mr.Myron J. Francis who coined the phrase following media coverage of a rather ugly incident at the High School in 1979.  “Our students and our citizens carry with them a great heritage left to them by the thousands of good people who have gone before them.”  The term
“Townie” has long been used to describe East Providence residents because the community had been the largest town in the country before it was chartered a city in 1958. “Pride” was what he wanted to instill in the students regardless of what was being reported in the media.

These are difficult times for most of us. Manufacturing jobs that had been the backbone of our economy for decades have gone away. Homes that people have invested their lifesavings to purchase have been lost. Our schools are in dire need of repair. Our 24 hour news cycle is constantly reporting on atrocities at home and abroad. Our political views seem to be shaped by extremists from the Right and Left so that mediation and compromise for the common good is as out dated as tricorner hats and wooden teeth.

Was this why I failed to recognize this emotion? Maybe so. Perhaps I have been so long removed from my first years at Martin, when my career was all in front of me. When I felt pride walking into and out of school each day. When a 7th grader would seemed shocked to run into me in a store or restaurant and asked excitedly, “What are you doing here?!”

The more I think about it, the more pride I feel. Not just about the scores, and the excitement that is starting to filter thru the Class of 2013 as they wait to find out their own individual scores. Not just for the science department that has worked long and diligent hours during and afterschool helping students to reach proficiency.  But for our entire school community, for let there be no mistake, this is the result of the efforts, directly or indirectly, of the ENTIRE school community. From teachers who behave as professionals each day, dealing with new challenges that did not exist in East Providence twenty years ago, dealing with lack of supplies , larger class sizes, competing against other school systems without the same economic challenges as us, all the while knowing that they are the lowest paid teachers in the State. From guidance councilors who are currently servicing students at a ratio of 300:1. From administrators who understand that they must now be educational  leaders taking their schools into a new age of academic accountability and not just managers of the status quo, from parents trying to make ends meet and providing their children with a chance at the American Dream. From EPEA leadership that has worked tirelessly to ensure that educational integrity is maintained against those who would love nothing more than to see our scores plummet and use this for their own political gain.

This is not meant to be a knock on the past, but an acknowledgement that this is a new day. The more I thought on this, the more proud I became to be part of such
a community, a town, a city.  Townie Pride…. Yeah…its still alive. You just have to know where to look. The Class of 2013 is a good place to start. Well done Seniors. Mr Francis would be proud.

Don Lurgio
Chemistry Teacher
East Providence High School

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One Comment;

  1. Townie Teacher said:

    Well done, Mr. Lurgio. Congratulations to you for helping to raise the test scores. I am glad that the teachers in the science department were finally allowed to create a curriculum that makes sense. You may not be from East Providence but you have the heart of a Townie and you value all of the children of the community. That is what it takes to be a Townie.

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