By John Lynds
A decade ago the Eliot School was a failing Boston Public School and its future bleak. However, the arrival of two dynamic educators in 2007 put the Eliot on the map and a few short years later the Eliot emerged as arguably the best public school in the city,
On Friday, the Eliot community joined elected officials and BPS administrators in honoring Principal Traci Griffin and Vice Principal Lydia Torres for 10 years of service to the school.
The surprise party for Griffin and Torres was held at the Steriti Rink in the North End and organized by school staff and parents.
“I’m honored to be here today,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “We often talk about the problems with schools but very seldomly talk about solutions. For 10 years Traci and Lydia have been finding solutions and transforming educations in the city. I wanted to be here today to thank you both on your successes. We have an education system with 120 schools and my goal is to have those school be just like this school.”
Since taking over the school’s reigns a decade ago, the Eliot grew from a struggling elementary school with one building on Charter Street to a school that expanded to include an Upper School at 585 Commercial St. and a soon-to-be opened third facility on North Bennett Street.
That coupled with soaring MCAS scores and a success rate for of students getting into Boston’s distinguished exam schools is second to none.
“I didn’t go to to the Eliot School when I was younger because the Eliot School back then wasn’t a school you went to,” said Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a North End resident. “In 2007 the school was in a crisis and we in the neighborhood didn’t know what the future was going to be with parents fleeing the school. The real big moment in the school’s history was when the two of you showed up with your team, with your teachers. What you have done for the future of the school and neighborhood is amazing and we are all excited for the next 10 years.”
BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang dropped by the celebration and told the crowd of students, parents and staff that is was, “A great honor to be here with Traci and Lydia who both remain committed to their mission and inspire the entire school district.”
BPS Instructional Superintendent Tommy Welch added that he really appreciated being at last Friday’s celebration and have the chance to thank Lydia and Traci.
Welch said he was thanking them for, “Not only 10 years of being at the Eliot but 10 years of doing a fantastic job for our teachers and our students and our families. So I just wanted to publically thank the two of you on behalf of the hundreds of students that walked the halls of the Eliot and the hundreds of more that will walk the halls in the future.”
Sen. Joseph Boncore added that Griffin and Torres not only rebuilt a school but built a community around the school.
At the end of the celebration, Principal Griffin spoke on behalf of her and Torres.
“Ten years ago I came here and it was a little scary,” said Griffin. “Playing and learning at high levels didn’t exist here. But I met wonderful students and wonderful parents that were commitmented to turn around this public school and making it the best for the community.”
But Griffin was also deeply committed to the school so she moved her family to the West End, enrolled her kids in the Eliot and began rebuilding the school’s reputation and success.
“We’ve created an amazing opportunity for students with art and music and theater but all of it would not be possible without these wonderful Eliot families, community members but most importantly the teachers that helped design this educational revolution and turned this school around.”