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Bulldogs Welcome Ospreys for Information Night

By Sarah E. Murphy

Students presentnigLawrence School hosted Grade 6 Information Night for Clipper families on November 29, offering incoming 7th graders a general overview of what to expect as they make the transition from Morse Pond School to Lawrence for the 2024/2025 school year. Principal Tom Bushy, Assistant Principal Derrick Zarra, and Special Education Building Administrator Dr. Meg Valdes were all in attendance, along with several staff members, but it was the Bulldogs who took the lead by welcoming the younger students, passing out programs and serving as school ambassadors for self-guided tours. 

The evening began with a Q&A period in the auditorium, hosted by Mr. Bushy, featuring a student panel that also included Mr. Zarra and Behavioral Support Counselor Stephanie Andrade. 

“We appreciate you taking the time to come out on a chilly night to learn about Lawrence School. The people who work here will say it’s our home away from home,” Mr. Bushy said.  

He also spoke as a parent of four children in the district. His wife, Traci, was in attendance with their daughter, a sixth-grader at Morse Pond. Their three sons, now at Falmouth High School, all attended Lawrence. 

Mr. Bushy emphasized Falmouth Public Schools’ commitment to easing the transition from 6th to 7th grade as much as possible, acknowledging that the process is sometimes more difficult for the parent than the student. To that end, Lawrence will host a curriculum night later this winter, focusing on standards and curricular components. Additionally, counselors from the Lawrence Guidance Department will visit Morse Pond to discuss scheduling with students, and finally, the sixth-graders will have the opportunity to visit Lawrence for student-led tours of the building. 

Mr. Bushy introduced Falmouth High School Principal Dr. Alan Harris, now in his second year at FHS, who addressed the overall transition and the course to Clipper graduation. Dr. Harris and his wife, Morse Pond 6th grade teacher Katrina Harris, moved to Falmouth from California in Summer 2022, therefore he knows what it’s like to be a newcomer. 

He is impressed by the expansive offerings available to students in Falmouth Public Schools, and in particular, at Lawrence. 

“The very first person who helped me learn about Falmouth was Mr. Bushy, and it’s been a real honor and pleasure to work with him, but also to learn about what an excellent education students get at Lawrence School,” he said. 

“I’ve worked in five different districts across three states in K-12, and I have not been at a high school where students come to 9th grade so prepared, not only in their skill sets, but as writers, as students who are creative, and good at problem-solving, and also as human beings.”

Dr. Harris said he empathizes with parents who face multiple decisions in regard to school choice, emphasizing the district’s commitment to open communication. He, Mr. Bushy and Morse Pond School Principal Tim Adams collaborate in an effort to make the process positive for all Clipper families. 

“We are very grateful that you choose Falmouth, and I want you to know, as you go through this process, our doors are always open. You’re more than welcome to contact us and ask questions - what does it look like to go to Falmouth High School and prepare to enter a top tier Ivy League school? Because we have students who go there. What does it look like to go through Lawrence and on to high school and enter a career in construction, or in child development? We can help you do that. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions. We really are working together,” he said. 

Mr. Bushy reiterated the sentiment, assuring parents they will receive a weekly email communication from him, inviting them to contact him with any concerns. 

“I want every single student to have a safe, challenging experience,” he said. 

He also shared the Lawrence School motto: Pride, Respect, Responsibility, and Compassion. 

“We’re proud of those hallmarks, and we try to weave them into our daily interactions,” he said. 

Mr. Bushy welcomed inquiries from everyone in the audience, while stressing the event was geared to the Ospreys, encouraging them to take advantage of the situation to gain as much information as possible from the Bulldog students. Seventh-graders Kamrin Domino, Avery Spence, and Laura Felicio were joined by eighth-graders Adrianna Mosso, Dylan Kenney, Brayan Miranda to offer their perspective, answering questions about day to day life, managing a rotating schedule, and other topics important to the students, the first being, “What’s it like not having recess?” 

“It’s not that bad,” said Kamrin, who explained the 30-minute lunch period is divided into two portions enabling students to go outside after they eat if they choose for a few minutes of fresh air and/or physical activity. 

The students also offered insight about core academic classes, such as math, ELA, science, and history; world languages, including French and Spanish, and trimester enrichments, such as art, engineering, and digital literacy innovation.

When one Osprey asked if the science lab is “cool,” Mr. Zarra, a former science teacher, responded enthusiastically, describing the tangible educational opportunities.

“It’s not just really cool, it’s awesome! The 7th and 8th grade curriculum includes a lot of labs geared to hands-on learning. We have lab tables and sinks so you can have that experience. I guarantee you’re going to love it, and science is going to be your favorite subject ever,” he said. 

When asked about the initial transition at the beginning of the school year, Laura assured the Ospreys that even if the first few days are confusing, they won’t be alone. 

“There’s always going to be someone there to help you,” she said. 

When asked for one piece of advice, Ms. Andrade, now in her second year at Lawrence, agreed with Laura.

“Don’t be nervous. You’re walking into a very helpful, supportive environment,” she said. 

The Ospreys got a glimpse of the creative expression they’ll have the opportunity to explore by viewing the first trimester art show, on display in the cafeteria, boasting an array of  work by Tiffany Van Mooy and Karyn Phares’ 7th and 8th grade students respectively.

They also had the chance to learn more about Lawrence's extensive theatrical and musical offerings, such as choir, band, jazz band, and theater, providing interested students with special opportunities, including participation in district, state, and national programs.

The night concluded with an activities fair in the gymnasium, featuring student representatives from several clubs, sports, and organizations that enhance Bulldog life. 

Eighth-grader Estella Harmon couldn’t contain her excitement as she discussed the Math Team. 

“It’s really welcoming, and it’s an absolutely brilliant way to learn. Bring your A-Game,” she said with a smile. 

Jasmine Williams, who also served as a tour guide, and panel member Brayan Miranda, were there to represent the Racial and Social Justice Club, along with their advisor, Connect Program teacher Abir Zaineh. 

Jasmine believes the club provides a valuable educational and social outlet. 

“It’s important to learn about the world and the reality of things that are going on,” she said. 

Brayan agreed. 

“We get to learn about other people’s cultures and how important it is to speak up for your rights and what you think is right,” he said. 

Sixth-grader Aiden O’Loughlin attended the event with his mother and grandmother. He enjoyed having the opportunity to get acclimated to the school in advance of the transition and found the evening to be helpful. 

“I like how it’s laid out and organized,” he said. 

Lisa O’Connell, whose daughter is in sixth grade, also appreciated the program, in particular how it showcased the Bulldog spirit. 

“I thought it was really impressive, and I loved seeing the camaraderie between the students and teachers,” she said.