Kids on the School Council endorsed the policy, telling the principal, “We want this.” Similarly, he instituted a policy making certain that work missed through absences was made up. The push to improve the academic program resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of students attending advanced placement, or AP, courses, from 66 to 280.
For the 1,800 kids at what is the largest school on the North Shore, he says, “The level of respect has gone up tremendously.”
At the same time, he believes the school retains a collegial atmosphere.
“I have not been the type of principal that you’re afraid to approach,” he says. His door stays open.
It was football that got Sapienza into the education game as a kid. Growing up in Everett, he played well enough in high school to win a year at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, one of the nation’s oldest prep schools. The blue-collar kid fit right in and even matured a bit.
“Because I played football,” he smiles, “I don’t think the kids saw much of a difference.”
He next graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and later took master’s degrees in administration at Salem State and in computer education at Lesley College. His teaching fields were math and science, and he rates keeping Peabody High online electronically one of his signal accomplishments.
In fact, he was taking computer courses in the days when people like Steve Jobs were still tinkering in the garage. Others warned he was wasting his time. “I didn’t listen,” his eyes twinkle.
If Peabody High has shortcomings in terms of rusting roofs and dark hallways, the outgoing principal is confident he’s kept it technologically up to date.
”The school is wall-to-wall wireless,” he says.
Sports have also been a big part of Sapienza’s contribution. He’s been a coach and offers the hope that the Peabody High football team is merely in a temporary slump and new coach Mark Bettencourt can bring the blue and white back to its winning ways.