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Wilfredo Laboy: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Embattled Lawrence Superintendent of Schools, Wilfredo Laboy has passed his English proficiency test on the fourth try, saving his job and saving the Lawrence School System from turmoil and further scandal.  

For Laboy (and the city) it marks the end of an embarrassing media spotlight ripe with ridicule and fraught with questions over testing requirements for teachers and students. For the children of Lawrence it marks the beginning of what could be a new learning environment in the Lawrence public schools.  

Laboy told the Eagle Tribune, "This has absolutely made me stronger…This makes me an example to all the kids in the district who have trouble with another test called MCAS,"  

Laboy is now taking his lemons and turning them into lemonade.

His struggle to pass the English exam and his three failures are now a shining example to our kids that you do not fail unless you stop trying. That race, culture, immigration status and poverty have nothing to do with your ability to learn and succeed as long as you have the will to work harder.  

The our school kids now have a role model to look up to when faced with difficult classes, tough homework assignments and yes the dreaded MCAS. They have a real life experience to call upon when things seem overwhelming. And they have a man running the school system who knows first hand how to identify with them on a personal level.

I can hear seventh grade student in the future saying, "If Mr. Laboy can pass his English test, I can pass mine."  

For Laboy, it was embarrassing, probably humiliating, and given the passing of his mother only days before the exam it must have seemed overwhelming, even impossible.  

He took the test knowing the whole country was watching and that many were hoping he would fail. He took verbal assaults in the media (even from myself) and he was unfairly made fun of by national radio and television pundits who just assumed that he couldn't speak English because the story read: Laboy fails English test.

But he kept moving forward and he focused on what was most important to him and our school system. Laboy's failure would be Lawrence's failure. Surely if he had failed again a state takeover would again be on the docket at the State Board of Education and Lawrence would again be the laughing stock of the state if not the nation.  

And while he may not have handled the situation perfectly (who among us ever does) and he made several avoidable mistakes in not telling the school board, Wilfredo Laboy can now hold his head up high with pride and legitimacy when he walks into a classroom and inspires our children to try harder.  

Long after the scandal has been forgotten by Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr, Wilfredo Laboy will still be visiting classrooms and encouraging our kids to look to him as an example, telling them of his personal frustration and keeping them focused on the task at hand: educational excellence.

Yes, in the end Lawrence Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy learned a valuable lesson and he is committed to teaching that lesson to the students in our schools.

If he doesn't forget about all this it when the headlines are gone the benefits to our school system and the way we think about education will be immeasurable.

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