By Chris Maza|
LONGMEADOW – For Lawrence Berte, the next month or so will surely be a bittersweet time.
At the end of the school year this June, Berte will officially retire as principal at Longmeadow High School, leaving the town with one of the strongest secondary education programs in the state.
A retirement dinner in his honor will take place on June 20 at Twin Hills Country Club. Call the high school at 565-4220 for more information.
“I have really enjoyed the years here; this is just a great place to be,” Berte said.
With nearly 30 years as an educator, including the last 16 as principal at Longmeadow High School, Berte said he was honored to have been a part of several projects and initiatives aimed a augmenting the level of education available to students, but the new high school building was among the accomplishments he was most appreciative to have had a hand in. It was of such importance, he explained, that he put off his retirement to ensure its completion.
“I was eligible to retire a couple of years earlier, but after a discussion with the superintendent [Marie Doyle] I decided to stay in order to see that through,” he said. “The reason I wanted to do that was because when you have been part of a place like this that has been so rewarding, I just couldn’t wait to see our kids and our faculty see it become a reality.”
The process, Berte said, was one that epitomized collaboration.
“We spent years just talking about the kind of school we wanted to have,” he said. “The architects sat down with the users – the teachers and the kids in the community – and decided what kind of school they wanted and the architects built it to those specifications. To listen to everyone talk about what was important in education in Longmeadow and then to see it become a reality was a pretty neat process to go through.
Community support was crucial to that process, but something Berte said has never been lacking in Longmeadow.
“I live in the community and I think that school is what it’s about here,” he said.
The emphasis on strong education starts in the community first, long before they reach the high school, Berte added.
“It starts with the parents and the fact that they send us great kids,” he said. “They send us kids that are well-prepared and kids that have expectations. The parents and the teachers have expectations for the students, of course, but these kids come in expecting to do well and work hard and be successful.”
While at the core of quality education is the interaction between educators and students, as years have gone on there have been several changes in the field, but none has had a more lasting impact that the infusion of technology, if you ask Berte.
“The explosion of technology has been a difference maker,” he said. “To see the things that kids can do and the exposure to information and the volume of information available at a moment’s notice is the biggest change I’ve seen.”
Berte also said he has seen a greater emphasis among students in giving back to their community.
“We’ve seen a lot more projects geared toward giving back a little bit and going out into the community and representing their parents, their school, their teachers,” he said. “I’ve seen a real trend in kids wanting to do more of that over the last 10 years or so. It was done before, but now there is a real focus on it and it’s a positive thing that our kids are giving back and saying, ‘thank you.’”
With Longmeadow High School Assistant Principal Thomas Landers taking the reins, Berte said he knows the school and its community are in good hands, but would offer him some advice.
“First, I would tell him to enjoy it. It’s just a great place to be,” he said. “The other thing I would say is have it be a team effort as it’s always been. One of the great things about Longmeadow is the interaction that happens between the kids and the teachers, coupled with the support we receive from the parents. Tom Landers is a great educator and I know he will see to it that that sense of community is maintained.”
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