Malden News

Malden High School welcomes Principal Ted Lombardi

morning-greeting1During the early spring of 2015, Lawrence High School Principal Ted Lombardi was strolling down his school’s empty hallway when his phone received a SchoolSpring alert of a high school principal opening. Lombardi appreciated these alerts not as a job search, but as an administrator’s news feed of job transitions in the state. This alert plucked a familiar chord since Lombardi vaguely knew Malden High School’s Principal Dana Brown.  

Lombardi flagged a fellow educator who knew the Malden School District very well.  “Did you know that Dana Brown is leaving Malden High School?”

The quick reply, “yes, he decided last year”, resonated with Lombardi.

Lombardi continued on for another thirty feet down the hallway, when he heard the fellow educator banter,  “You are going to apply for that position, right?”

Lombardi stopped in his tracks and spun around,“I don’t know. I haven’t updated my resume in a decade.” Lombardi thought to himself, “ I love Lawrence and plan to continue working here for years.” Lombardi has been teaching or leading at the Lawrence Humanities and Leadership Development High School since 2005.

Lombardi questioned the other fellow,  “Why do you think I should apply, because I am from there?”

A serious reply rang down the hallway,  “I know that place and that place is perfectly in line with everything you believe in”.  

Lombardi decided to take a cursory look.  

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Ted Lombardi walked in for the first interview one Saturday morning last November.  He was expecting four to five people to be on the panel.  Lombardi chuckles as he reminisces, “ It looked like a senate congressional hearing.  There were fifteen people on the interview panel.  There was one table, one chair and a bottle of water for me.”  Reflecting on the interview Lombardi comments,   “It was wonderful because it was evident of a strong level of community involvement. Even the police chief was there.” The interview and hiring process held an Olympic pace. Lombardi’s  first interview was in November, a long public interview was conducted in December, and the contract was signed in January.  This quick process granted Lombardi over six months to acclimate to Malden High School while working at full-bore in Lawrence. Lombardi states, “Principal Dana Brown was amazing, setting up meetings for me with all the partners of Malden High School, guidance counselors, house principals, adjustment counselors, many, many people. I came to the Junior Varieties show which was fun. I tried to go to a basketball game, but it was snowed out (Lombardi’s wife, Valerie, enjoyed a Ferry Street Food and Drink dinner out of the deal). July 1st didn’t feel like my first day.  The efficient process made the transition much easier.”

office2During one of Lombardi’s first visits to MHS, Brown sent out one of the students to pick up coffee and doughnuts for an event.  This reminded Lombardi of his informal Lawrence student relationships. Lombardi mulled, “Maybe, “he” is right…this does feel like the right place”. Lombardi had an interview and tour with four fantastic seniors and were fascinated by these students. They talked about the myriad ways of their involvement with the school culture. Lombardi laughs, “It was so much fun that I forgot that I was on an interview.”

student-giftWhen his wife, Valerie, asked how the students’ interview went, Lombardi replied, “It went really well.  If had you asked me while I was driving over, I would have said “maybe” to whether I want the job, but now I say “YES!”  That interview day was a shift for me. That was when I knew it was authentic. The shift happened when I met the people involved. It was a unique community involvement.”

Edward Lombardi’s mother worked as a school nurse in the Malden school system for about 13 years.  Lombardi recalls,  “The most contact people from Malden have with me is they either grew up with my dad or worked with my mom.”   One of Malden High School’s paraprofessionals bought a house where his dad’s family grew up near Lombardi’s  family home.  “Recently,  I walked in the door {at MHS} and I hear, “TEDDY!”  followed by a quick apology from the family friend.  I laughed!  To be part of this community again is wonderful and fun”.  Lombardi emphasizes, “There is a lot of work to be done and it is important work that we do. It is work that is made better when it is done with and not to.  There are bright and competent people here and if you let people do good things; good things happen for the school.”

Lombardi is impressed by the community overlap and ties within Malden and the school district.  As he acquaints himself with the different governmental or educational branches of Malden, often he hears comments such as, “oh..by the way, I have a junior at Malden High School”.  This cements the commitment of key players.  Lombardi states, “ It is a good unifier for the community. It is an authentic interest in the school when people have children in the school system.  You can care about your schools, but then you really care about your schools when your kids are in your schools.  It keeps everyone accountable in a good way, but pushes a level of engagement with the community that I think is important.  It clearly exists here and has existed here for some time.”

Lombardi continues, “If the principal job is done well enough then it becomes not the most important job in the world. We have a committed and amazing staff. It is my job to steer the ship in the sea. It is about letting people do their jobs and allow them to do the best job they can. Making oneself irrelevant is a good thing. Micro-managers have good intentions, but micromanaging raises the blood pressure of everyone involved. The principal needs a bigger perspective on where the school is going and what their role is. It is about putting good people in the right place.”

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Malden High School has developed many partnerships such as Tufts University and Bunker Hill Community College which has orbited the school ten years ahead of other high schools. The different partnerships has created a less traditional school. Lombardi states, “MHS has melded the high school and the college experience. I think that is where high schools are headed, particularly in the 11-12 grades when we want to support kids preparing for their future. Before, public education performed at different extremes: students either attended vocational schools to learn different trades; students studied at the traditional high school to prepare for college; and then the rest fell in the middle. This school does a great job of addressing each student and guiding every kid onto an appropriate path. The key for Malden High School is to stay ahead. That is what is so hard. One has to be perceptive and intuitive to stay ahead.”

Lombardi leans back and mentions, “I have some ideas to stay ahead. We need to keep our existing partnerships and increase the programs that are coming out of those partnerships to reach more kids. For instance, there is a lot happening with virtual learning. We could expand what MHS has now for online learning. How does that look like for a public high school?  Kids are supposed to be in a classroom at a particular time. The next step is to make online learning a bigger and better program. The challenge is maintaining the present growth and the fantastic school culture where kids celebrate their differences and individual identity. But, at the same time, keep looking ahead. It is a danger when you think you are ahead. You have to keep pushing that envelope a little bit. The school has been a trailblazer in a lot of areas and we have to keep doing that.”

One of past Principal Brown’s priorities was social and emotional support for the students of Malden High School. Lombardi strongly believes in this mission. It can be difficult to secure funding for these efforts. Lombardi contemplates, “You can tangibly attach test results to obtain money to increase scores for end results. Treating social and emotional needs in young adults is a different entity. How do you measure your results?  In the negative?; in the less negative? This brings us back to what I believe strongly in and how it aligns with Malden High School.” Lombardi continues, “Lawrence was hyper-focused on whole child education, focusing on social and emotional needs. The parallels between my old school and Malden High are so striking similar. We are building the same thing at the same time. Lombardi questions, “How do you do this with less resources when resources mean money? State funding is an issue for every district in the state. There is no easy answer. The cities are forced to make decisions of what is more or less important. That is really difficult because everything is really, really important for our children. It is important to look at resources beyond money, such as continuing to educate the staff and students about these issues. This culture exists here.  Once established, the maintenance is not expensive. It is about maintaining a mindset about these issues and being consistent.”

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On September 16, the next Professional Day will be conducted with Malden Promise, a collaborative of nonprofit organizations. It will be a day of workshops dealing entirely with social and  emotional support for students. During the morning, the workshops will be open to the entire community including the high school staff. Then the afternoon workshops will be geared towards more targeted work with first responders, such as crisis counselors, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, and nurses. who would see the first impacts of trauma on a student. Lombardi concludes, “It is a priority for me to continue the work that has been done because it can be undone very quickly.”

Another major gain will be Malden High School’s Starr Health Center. Senator Jason Lewis secured the starting funds for the center. The mayor and the school district are very committed to this long term project. Lombardi remarks, “Cambridge Health Alliance has been an amazing  support for us, the Starr Center in particular. To have this open in a formal way and to have a home to treat the issues that need to be treated on a daily basis is tremendous for our school and community.”

office1Another resource can be families. Lombardi continues, “We have an active school council that include parents who are inherently involved. There is a large subset of parents who are involved with different events. For each one of them, there are countless number of parents who need to feel the open door and invitation. There is a general philosophy from some cultures that out of respect, parents believe that they should not interfere with what the school needs to do during the school day. In the states, there is another culture of assimilating the school culture into the family. We can not say just one thing to make everyone feel welcome.” Lombardi smiles, “But, we can be consistently open and offer food.” 

Regarding the ballot measure, Question 2, Lombardi reflects, “Politics can get in the way of school systems. All schools want the best for their students. The Malden kids at all the different schools are our kids. They play town sports, they live in our neighborhoods. Kids are kids.  It is dangerous to pit schools against each other and politics can bring that about. I understand the monetary side of this issue and how public school budgets can be decimated by charters. That is really difficult. Perhaps there is a better way monies can be balanced in the future.”

Lombardi continues, “I want our school to be the best it can be and be the best option for all students.   It can hurt a public high school the most by having other options.  Not here, but in other places, the public high school can be perceived as the fall back option. But, Malden High School offers such a unique range of programming, services, theater, arts and extracurricular groups, that a ton of kids make hugely conscious decisions to be here at Malden High School instead of another school.  I think the option here is a great one.  My philosophy is that if there are a bunch of great schools in the area, doing great things, that helps. It drives you do better things. It makes you think out of the box. It makes you think about what can bring kids here.  At the end of the day, it is okay to sit in the office and say, wow, Mystic Valley, that is a good idea, we need to get on the ball and do that!” –Photos by Elizabeth Scorsello

2 Comments on Malden High School welcomes Principal Ted Lombardi

  1. Great photos! Liz! thank you!

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