Mrs. McKenna sits down with the Herald for Interview



Holyoke High School, Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

Patrick Sweeney, Editor-in-Chief

The Thanksgiving break is fast approaching at HHS and the year has been moving quite rapidly. There have been many events going on around the school, from Knight Time to the conclusion of fall sports. New policies have also been implemented to pave the way for student success. 

Recently, Holyoke High School North Principal Mrs. Lori McKenna sat down with the Herald for an interview about upcoming events and policies. She also weighed in on the start of the school year. 

Holyoke High School has been hosting many events over the past few weeks, which are aimed at building school culture and bringing the community together. The Holyoke High School Theater Company’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is set to premiere on Wednesday, November 16th and will be running through the 18th. McKenna stated that local middle and elementary school students had the opportunity to visit HHS for dress rehearsals. She stated that students who exemplified “good behavior” in their respective schools were invited, adding that they were able to see “what high school is all about” during their visit. 

On Thursday, November 18th and Friday, November 19th, Gear Up, in partnership with HHS, is hosting the MCAC (MA College Application Celebration) for Seniors. McKenna is “very excited” for the event in which students “can complete on the spot interviews and be accepted.” For more information about the MCAC, please refer to the School Counseling Google Classroom. 

There are also many upcoming events being held during the week of Thanksgiving. There will be a perfect attendance breakfast on Monday as well as a “full day town hall experience” on Tuesday leading up to the Pep Rally. McKenna expressed enthusiasm for both events, particularly the town hall on Tuesday. She stated that Holyoke Medical Center will be among the local organizations taking part. Three representatives from three different positions at the medical center will be present. HHS partnered with Karen Legace from the US Attorney’s Office over the summer, who helped coordinate the guest speakers. 

Students in grades 10-12 will be able to engage in academy-themed activities, while the community members will be reserved for 9th grade students. 

Many HHS students have been looking forward to next week’s Pep Rally. McKenna is no exception. She stated that it will be wonderful to have a fully in-person rally, adding that there will be some “tradition tweaks” in store. This year, the Pep Rally will feature a Cheerleading Competition, a Unified Basketball vs. Faculty game, Senior Spirit Court and much more! 

McKenna also previewed some upcoming December events at HHS, which may include a basketball three-point contest. She also made sure to emphasize the importance of students “digging in and working hard” since December is a very “choppy” month. 

At the end of October, the first term grades closed at HHS. McKenna expressed many positive aspects about the first ten weeks of school, citing an 88% average attendance rate, up from 86% last year. Additionally, the number of behavioral referrals has dropped 8% year over year.

Freshman and Sophomores also completed the ANet exams during the first term, which are a way for teachers and administrators to “do interim assessments” of student learning. McKenna was pleased with the results, expressing gratitude to the teachers who analyzed the data during professional development and made plans for future learning.  

Another recurring event at HHS over the past few months has been “Knight Time,” a schoolwide Zoom in which administrators speak to students about topics such as GPAs and college/career planning. McKenna stated that administration is currently in the process of reflecting on the impact “Knight Time” is having on the greater school community. Surveys were recently distributed to teachers and will be sent to students within the next month. 

One of the major issues at HHS this school year has been students skipping classes. McKenna spoke of this as a “school-wide concern,” adding that 400 BST referrals were distributed in the first term. In order to combat the issue, administration recently released a new “skipping policy” aimed at teacher commitment to resolving the issue. 

 McKenna repeatedly noted that teachers are taking the initiative with the issue, saying that “every teacher/faculty member made a commitment…to [improve] skipping in the school.” While each teacher does something different, they all have one main goal: keeping students in class and staying on track. 

McKenna also added that the consequences will escalate for each skipping referral, saying that “suspensions” can ensue if the student “becomes a safety issue.” She also acknowledged that course work may be difficult for some students, saying that “avoidance is natural.” However, students need to learn to “attack the hard parts and [not just] the easy parts.” 

The fall sports season has been slowly coming to an end at HHS. McKenna expressed great pride for all teams, saying that she “appreciates” the effort she witnessed throughout the season. Additionally, McKenna enjoyed watching the “passion for the sports” and the fact that no players “give up,” even in tough games. 

McKenna also gave a shout out to the Girls Volleyball team for making it to the state playoffs and the Unified Basketball team for winning both of their jamboree games on November 15th. Speaking to Unified Basketball, McKenna said it was very humbling to watch their games and how players on both teams support one another. 

Overall, Mrs. McKenna is feeling “really good” about the start of the school year and is “looking forward to the rest of the year.”