The City of Lawrence, located just 25
miles north of Boston, is commonly referred to as the “Ellis Island of
Massachusetts.” Since the mid-1800s, the City has welcomed waves of
immigrants who have helped shape Lawrence’s rich culture and heritage.
Public education in Lawrence, though, has not always had such a positive
trajectory, with the City plagued in more recent years by a chronically
underperforming school system. In fact, during the 2010-11 school year,
only 19% of 8th grade students were demonstrating grade-level
proficiency in math. Annually, more than one out of every four students
dropped out of high school.
In November 2011, the Lawrence Public Schools was placed into state receivership by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary & Secondary Education. The state receiver brought in UP Education Network to help in the efforts to transform an entire school district. We are proud to be a partner in this historic work, helping ensure that all students—particularly those who are English language learners or who are students with disabilities—have access to an excellent education.
In making bold changes to the existing schools, we serve the same students that attended the struggling schools.
We have restarted and continue to manage two schools in Lawrence:
- UP Academy Leonard: formerly the James F. Leonard Middle School, where fewer than 1 in 5 students could read and do math at grade level.
- UP Academy Oliver: formerly the Henry K. Oliver Middle School, where fewer than 1 in 5 students could read and do math at grade level.
Our two schools in Lawrence have remained traditional neighborhood, non-charter schools through their transformation process. Enrollment in these schools, like all K-8 schools in Lawrence, is determined strictly by a student’s home address within the city rather than through a lottery system. As a result, our schools enroll many tens of new students throughout the academic year, including many students who have just moved to the United States for the first time.
An Insider’s Guide to Lawrence, MA
The City of Lawrence offers many recreational, historical and cultural attractions. To name just a few, Lawrence features:
- 31 parks, including Campagnone Common, where community events are held; Den Rock, an ideal area to hike or bird-watch; and Riverfront Park, which provides boat access to Merrimack River.
- Essex Art Center, the City’s main art exhibition space and host for a wide range of cultural activities.
- The Feast of Three Saints (also known as the Italian Festival), which has been celebrated in Lawrence for 91 years and draws close to 75,000 visitors from throughout New England.
- The Bread and Roses Festival, which has been celebrated in Lawrence for over 30 years. The Festival pays tribute to the city’s contributions to the development of labor laws in the nation. The festival is about creating and maintaining a dialogue on labor and social justice history, and encouraging action to resolve issues that persist in the present day.
- Semana Hispana (Hispanic Week), which was founded in 1979 by a group of Hispanic leaders to promote the richness of the Hispanic culture in Lawrence.
- Dining spots every foodie will love, with delicious Dominican food at El Tipico Restaurant and Pollo Tipico, Mexican delights at Café Azteca, Italian favorites at Salvatore’s, El Salvadorean wonders at Tacos Lupitas, and fresh breads and pastries at Tripoli Bakery.
Living Options Galore
When you work in Lawrence, you have the flexibility to decide whether to live the city life, reside in a small town, or find a mix in an eclectic neighborhood.
- Does loft living appeal? Several old mill properties in Lawrence have been renovated and feature a stylish and more affordable alternative to the pricey Boston rental market. The Monarch Lofts offer sophisticated, eco-friendly space along the banks of the Merrimack River.
- Nearby Lowell has a vibrant downtown space, full of shops, art studios, and restaurants. You can find an affordable urban loft apartment or a single family home with a yard a short commute to work.
- Boston is a quick 30-minute drive south of Lawrence, and offers a plethora of city-living options.
- Southern New Hampshire is just a short drive away from our Lawrence schools, allowing you to build roots in a small community.
- The small New England communities of Salem, Reading, and Wakefield offer a cozy, family-friendly option for living.
Prime New England Access
Lawrence is conveniently located to some of New England’s great treasures.
- Spend some time exploring the city, getting on the river with the Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program or exploring the Lawrence Heritage State Park.
- Spend a weekend on nearby Plum Island or Newburyport and take in views of the Atlantic.
- Jump on I-95 and spend a weekend exploring Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Many have said the food in Portsmouth rivals the cuisine of Boston or New York City.
- Enjoy fresh apples and baked goods from the farm stand at Smolak Farms, a 15 minute drive from Lawrence.
- Stay active! Breathe in some fresh air and take in the magnificent views while you hike the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Be a Community Change Agent
Lawrence is a “gateway” city, home to some of the most culturally rich and vibrant communities in New England. Although the city has struggled, it is now at the forefront of a revitalization effort where you could play a unique role in being part of Massachusetts’ first turnaround school district. Join Groundwork Lawrence, GLYPN, or Lawrence Community Works in community change. Your work matters here in a big way.