Concerns

Peabody may lack guidance

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY The loss of two high school guidance counselors will have a major impact on student services, according to department staff.

This week, the School Committee held a public hearing before approving the $71,894,793 2017-18 school budget. Cuts in the budget include trimming the number of guidance counselors at the high school from seven to five.

“Guidance counselors are a vital part of what happens and of the support that students get at Peabody High School,” said Antonio Braganca, the head of the high school guidance department.

Cutting the two positions would increase the caseload for each high school counselor from 240 to 305, said Braganca.

“I believe the proposed cuts would jeopardize the upcoming PVMHS accreditation and the current coordinated program review,” said the 36-year veteran of the Peabody schools. “The decreased staff in guidance does not make sense to me.”

Bucchiere Park offers warm-weather fun

Guidance services are more complicated than they have been in past years, and include mental health services that students might not be able to get outside the schools, Braganca said.

Michaline Hague, head of the high school’s English department, agreed.

“We have found that in our classrooms, we have many more students with social and emotional concerns and they need to go to their guidance counselors,” said Hague. “We need to keep staff here. There are definite reasons that students need to leave the classroom when they suddenly have an anxiety attack or a panic attack. Those are things that have not remotely occurred except in recent years.”

Will English is one of the two high school counselors expected to not make the cut for 2017-18. He said he has a strong support network and expects to find another job, but that he has concerns about how the cuts will affect students.

“Mental health issues are on the rise and schools are increasingly the safety net,” said English. “For many of my students, this cut will mean their third guidance counselor in three years. Counseling is a relationship-based undertaking, and I strongly encourage you to reconsider this.”

School Committee member Brandi Carpenter said she also has concerns about the cuts to high school guidance, but noted that putting together the school budget is difficult.

 

Wayne Alarm: Security tips renters should know

SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY

SPONSORED BY WAYNE ALARM AND HONEYWELL.

Renters are just as likely to have burglary, a fire, and any other form of danger that any homeowner can experience as well. Renting a home can be an entirely different experience, however, since it all depends on the landlord. There is nothing to worry about, there are still options on securing your apartment!

  1. As most common entrances for burglary are through windows and back doors, it’s important to ensure they are closed at all time. If your door doesn’t have a deadbolt, and your landlord won’t provide one, see if you can install one yourself, or even a chain lock. If a deadbolt is installed, consider asking the landlord to replace it, provide them with a spare key if necessary.
  2. Strike plates, the metal plate on your door frame, are often found old and worn out in rental homes. This means it is not as secure as it once was. Instead, try replacing the screws with longer ones to secure it or replace it with a more secure plate altogether.

When living on the first floor of a building, windows should be your main priority. You want to always make sure all of your windows lock.

  1. Most importantly, however, don’t make it easier for thieves to hide.  Avoid having tall plants or shrubbery near your windows and use a rod on the tracks of a sliding window or sliding a glass door. Since these don’t require much maintenance or work to do in a rental, making it perfect for renters.
  2. Avoid placing your most valuable items near your windows. You don’t necessarily have to hide your valuables, but don’t place big screen TVs and such by the windows as it can intrigue thieves to take it.

Most importantly, make sure you’re aware of your neighbors and get to know them. Not only can they help in case of any emergency, but can also share any privacy concern that they might have. It also helps to keep a line of communication between your landlord and yourself, so you can feel comfortable in bringing any security concerns.

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“Here yesterday… Here today…Here tomorrow.”

www.waynealarm.com

Swampscott sizes up rail trail plan

COURTESY PHOTO
A map shows the path of the planned Swampscott Rail Trail. 

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents got a chance to sound off on plans to convert abandoned railroad tracks into a community rail trail on Thursday night with opponents citing safety, privacy, wildlife and cost concerns. Proponents say the trail provides health benefits and a safe, alternative mode of travel.

Residents packed a room at Swampscott High School for an informational meeting on the rail trail, with heated comments and questions fielded by Peter Kane, director of community development, who started off the discussion with a presentation.

Elizabeth Pappalardo, an abutter of where the trail would be, said her concern was not just about privacy with people making use of it near her property. Her backyard has become home to wildlife, she said, and she sees deer, foxes and skunks. She said she was concerned for the animals who would be displaced.

Pappalardo said she and other neighbors may not be comfortable having swing sets in their backyards, with people cruising through Salem and Marblehead, as the trail would link to the ones in those two communities. She was worried about safety, saying she wouldn’t be able to have her kids in the backyard by themselves any more.

“We’re asking for your help to protect our children, privacy, safety and our town,” Pappalardo said.

Jonathan Leamon, a Swampscott resident, said he is in favor of the trail. As a bicycle rider, he said it’s pretty much a downer when the trail comes into Swampscott and just ends. He argued that the incidences of crime along the rail trails is actually down.

“My goal is to have a rail trail in my lifetime,” Leamon said. “Now that I’m retired, I’d really like to ride on it while I can still ride a bicycle.”

Town Meeting members in May will be asked to approve a warrant article requesting $850,000 to be used for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of the easement rights, as previously reported in The Item.

The Town Meeting funds would not be for construction of the trail, which would be paid for by donations, grants and private funds, officials said.

Kane said $240,000 of those requested funds would be used to hire professionals for design and engineering costs. About $610,000 would for acquisition of easement rights, where the town would work with the property owners (National Grid and/or other parties) to secure the rights. This may be done through eminent domain, with compensation for owners, or by donation/gift of the land.

Town officials met with National Grid representatives in 2014 and 2015, who were believed to be the sole owners of the easement wanted by the town for the trail. Officials said the town had previously been in discussions to acquire the easement from the company for little to no cost, but it has since been learned that National Grid doesn’t appear to own all of the land. Through a title process, numerous owners have been identified, which could include abutters.

The two-plus mile trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue connecting with the Marblehead Rail Trail, which also links to trails in Salem. The 10-feet wide trail would cross Paradise Road, Walker Road and Humphrey Street and then go into Marblehead, officials said.

The rail bed, where National Grid power lines run to Marblehead, has been vacant since the 1960s, when the Marblehead railroad branch shut down. It was sold to National Grid’s predecessor.

The town has full rights to the area that separates the ballfields behind the middle school and the middle school. The town would have to acquire the remainder of the easement for recreational use.

Warren: Unless we fight, they won’t believe us

Brian Maloney said he was one of the abutters who thinks that he owns land on part of the easement the town is looking to acquire. He said he has legitimate concerns about crime at his house. There have been breaking and enterings up and down the path, he said. Another abutter, who didn’t want to share his name, said he had been robbed three times, and the way the people got access was through the trail.

Maloney said he was also a father of three children and said “I never would have bought this house if I knew this was the case.” He had also grown up in the house, which has been in his family for three generations.

Town Meeting has voted for the creation of the trail on four separate occasions, including three times since 2002, Kane said. In 2009, Town Meeting gave the town the authority to use eminent domain for a recreational easement, but didn’t allocate the funds for that process.

“After 17 years, we sit here tonight,” said Paul Dwyer, an abutter. “We’re going to bet $850,000 that we may be able to finish this with donations.”

Not all abutters were against the trail.

“I don’t have any concerns,” said Frances Weiner. “I welcome the trail.”

Weiner said she was not afraid of being killed on the rail trail. She said she was more afraid of being killed on her bike riding to the rail trail.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Peabody has say in statewide conversation

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Patrick Maguire talks to Massachusetts state senators about real estate.

By LEAH DEARBORN

PEABODY — It was the North Shore’s turn to host a Commonwealth Conversation in the form of a Town Hall Forum at the Higgins Middle School on Tuesday night.

Commonwealth Conversations began as a way for members of the Senate and local government to hear citizen concerns in nine areas of the state.

Members of the audience were given two minutes to stand before legislators and speak their minds on whatever issue they wished to address.

State Sen. Joan Lovely of the Second Essex District was one of nine senators present for the forum, along with State Rep. Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody).

Earlier in the day, the legislators visited Roca in Chelsea, attended a forum regarding transportation at the Lynn Museum and took a development walking tour of Malden.

“You’re going to see something very unusual. Twenty-five percent of the state Senate not saying a word,” said State Sen. Michael Rodrigues.

A few topics, such as climate change, the privatization of the MBTA, and animal cruelty came up several times throughout the night, but the concerns of citizens ran a wide gamut.

Patrick Maguire, president-elect of the North Shore Association of Realtors came to the podium to talk about housing affordability, which he said faces barriers in local zoning laws and could be addressed through the passage of Bill S.94.

Lynn talks transportation

Carl Nellis, a Gloucester resident who works in Peabody, was at the forum on behalf of political group Essex County #6 Indivisible in support of the Safe Communities Act, designed to prevent local law officers from becoming involved with immigration enforcement.   

Others in the audience sought support for carbon pricing bills as a means of cutting carbon emissions in the state. Sue Kirby of Salem endorsed the incremental raising of the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021.

“No one should work full-time and make so little that they can’t make ends meet,” she said.

The town hall forums are part of the process by which the Senate sets its agenda. Commentary provided in the forums was written up in a report at the end of the senators’ previous tour.