How did a high school for the performing arts end up in the blue-collar steel town of Midland, Pennsylvania? The answer has a lot to do with a visionary educator, known affectionately as "Dr. T," who wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
Dr. Nick Trombetta was a former wrestling coach who, like most members of the Midland community, felt the loss when the town's high school closed in 1986. The steel industry had left Midland, and the town was forced to send its high school students across the border to Ohio, when an agreement to place them in local school districts could not be reached.
It was a black eye for public education in Pennsylvania, but Dr. Trombetta turned it into one of the state's great success stories. After the Legislature authorized the formation of charter schools in 1997, Trombetta founded the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, with the goal of using online education to keep Midland students in Pennsylvania. From a first-year enrollment of less than 50 students, PA Cyber has grown into an educational powerhouse that now serves more than 10,000 students, grades K through 12, from all across the Commonwealth.
This stunning success would be enough for most educators, but Trombetta refused to rest on his laurels. After enjoying a concert at an area high school and noting the excitement that surrounded the performance, he dreamed up the idea of another charter school – this time, a brick-and-mortar facility that would focus on the arts. He envisioned it rising from the ashes of the old Midland High School, on the same site and backed by historic Lincoln Park, a seven-acre green space in the heart of Midland. Ground was broken on the project in 2002, and more than a few curious onlookers watched as Trombetta's dream took shape.
The result of a pioneering public-private partnership were unveiled to the public in June 2006, when the $23.5 million Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center had its grand opening. And that fall, the center welcomed its primary tenant: the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, which opened its first year with more than 250 students.
Since that time, enrollment at the school has more than doubled; the school has made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) in each year of its operation; and the arts opportunities for students and the community have continually increased. Lincoln Park has forged lasting relationships with leading artists and arts organizations -- like the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Broadway legend Marvin Hamlisch, jazz guitar great Joe Negri, Oscar-winning special effects artist Joe Letteri, the Warhol Museum, and poet Jim Daniels.
Meanwhile, athletics made a triumphant return to Midland in 2007, and Lincoln Park saw its first four-year graduating class depart in the spring of 2010. The school's graduates have begun pursuing careers at some of the nation's finest colleges, and when they return to their alma mater, they are likely to find that Lincoln Park's continued growth has necessitated construction of a new dining hall and amphitheatre, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013.
Lincoln Park may have started as one man's dream, but as Dr. Trombetta himself is fond of pointing out when addressing students, "We built this school for you." The realized hopes and aspirations of those students have become the true history of Lincoln Park, and long as there are students who dream big and work hard, the school's history will remain satisfyingly unfinished.