Dr. Catherine Latham

Celebration time for North Shore students

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Lisette Orellana, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute graduate and North Shore Community College Class of 2018, was a student speaker.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — McKennsie Brunet, a high school freshman, celebrated the completion of her first two college courses Wednesday night.

More than 225 Lynn high school students earned college credits through the Early College Program at North Shore Community College this year. The Early College Program at NSCC allows qualified high school and home-schooled students to earn college credit while completing high school graduation requirements in a variety of ways.

Credits can be earned through dual enrollment in college courses offered at the high school, on the college campus, or online; by transferring approved course credits from high school course work to NSCC; by earning Advanced Placement credits from high school courses with a successful AP exam score; or by earning a qualifying score on a College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam.

Brunet, 15, was one of 12 freshmen to participate in the afternoons following her regular school day at Lynn Classical High School. She hopes to become a district music teacher and plays the clarinet, saxophone and piano.

“I’m planning on getting my first degree out of the way so I can go for my next degree,” she said.

Riley offers new point of view in Saugus

“It took a lot of courage to get to this point,” said Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools. “Just to sign up for a course took courage. And you did it. You have made all of us at Lynn Public Schools very proud. It validates what we do and what our teachers do.”

Dr. Patricia Gentile, president of NSCC, told the students they outperformed the school’s regular program students with 85 percent of enrolled students completing the program. About 79 percent of students who enroll in the regular college courses complete the classes, Gentile said. The average age of a regular student is 27 years old.

“These are college-level courses,” Gentile said. “They’re not watered down. By the time you graduate, you can have up to 30 credits to your name. That’s one full year of college; one full year of college free. It’s going to give you an edge that not every high school student gets.”

Applications for the Summer 2017 Early College program are due May 25. The semester runs from July 5 to Aug. 15.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Ruggiero put her best foot forward

She didn’t get picked to be Peabody’s next school superintendent, but Harrington School Principal Debra Ruggiero’s bid for the job reflected brilliantly on her and on Lynn public schools.

Ruggiero is a smart, committed, tough and ambitious educator who brought talent and experience to Peabody’s quest for a new school leader. She was the last candidate standing when the Peabody School Committee voted Wednesday to scrap its current superintendent search and keep Interim Superintendent Herb Levine on for another year.

Levine is an experienced superintendent with a steady hand and people in the know anticipate he will mentor an experienced veteran educator now working in the Peabody school system to become a superintendent candidate once a search resumes.

Committee members said they wanted candidates with collective bargaining and budget-building experience. At least one member pointed out the challenges of overseeing a school system with more than 6,000 students, 1,000 employees and a $72 million annual budget.

The Lynn public school’s enrollment, staff size and budget dwarfs the Peabody schools and Ruggiero is well-versed in the school system’s operations. She has literally sat in the front row at Lynn School Committee meetings and listened carefully as committee members and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham discuss school spending, personnel needs, enrollment and dozens of other topics.

Ruggiero denied Peabody superintendent post

As Harrington School principal, Ruggiero and fellow educators have made the big Art Deco school on Friend Street a place where pride dwells. Ruggiero has fostered a strong sense of school spirit during her tenure. She has supported an annual reading initiative and she takes a no-nonsense approach to education that puts a priority on kids and learning.

She is a strong, maybe the strongest, example of a Lynn principal embracing a principal’s responsibilities as defined by state law. She is clearly in charge at the Harrington and the school’s state assessment test scores speak to Ruggiero’s accomplishments and her ability to expect the best from her colleagues.

Peabody committee members made the safe choice in passing on Ruggiero in favor of continuing with Levine until a superintendent research can resume again in late 2018. Picking Ruggiero would have been a bolder move on the committee’s part. It would have also been a smart one.

Ruggiero has a strong connection to Peabody. She has hands-on leadership experience and it would be hard to find Lynn educators who do not think Ruggiero is a quick study when it comes to learning and mastering skills.

It will be interesting to see if Peabody’s next search for a superintendent yields a strong candidate crop. One or two candidates with superintendent experience are sure to be a perfect fit for Peabody. An associate or deputy superintendent will probably apply and bring strong budget and bargaining skills. Then again, a strong principal like Ruggiero will apply and seek an opportunity to show off his or her leadership skills.

 

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is pictured at a discussion on schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — No new schools will be built in the city anytime soon.

That was the decision of a city panel Tuesday that orchestrated a plan for construction of two middle schools to ease overcrowding and replace a dilapidated facility.

Following last Tuesday’s special election where voters resoundingly rejected a request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field, the Pickering School Building Committee withdrew its application for state funding.

In addition to taking itself out of consideration for funds, Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager for the school proposal, said Lynn had a number of options. They included a plan to split the project into two and build one school first and then a second; build one school and renovate the Pickering Middle School; or build one school and use Pickering as an elementary school.

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

Before the vote to end the city’s bid for school dollars, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy invited Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, the grassroots organization that campaigned against the schools, to speak to the committee. The mayor said he had an alternative plan. But he declined.

School Committeewoman Donna Coppola voiced concern about where new students would be placed.

“We have kids coming in that will not have seats,” she said.

Edward Calnan said the committee did their job and despite the vote against the schools, the members should be proud of the work they did.

“We were told we needed to provide space for 1,600 students and that’s what we did,” he said. “We did an exhaustive search for sites in the city and came up with the best ones that were the least expensive to make the project viable.”

Off and running in Lynn

Kennedy said it’s clear the voters have no appetite for more taxes and she will honor their wishes.

“The people spoke loud and clear,” she said. “The problem was the price tag and I’m just ready to drop the whole thing. They say insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That’s what we would be doing if we did anything but drop it.”

With that, the 16-member group voted unanimously to tell the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the  quasi-independent government authority created to help pay for the construction of public schools, that Lynn won’t be seeking funds.

At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham choked back tears as she expressed her disappointment in the failure of the vote for the new schools.

“Our new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a model for the entire state and I was hoping that just viewing that could carry an equalized opportunity for all our students,” she said. “But it was not to be.” 

In an interview following the meeting, Castle defended his position not to speak to the committee.

“It was a bag job,” he said. “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn says no; so what now?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Cathy Rowe posts early returns Tuesday night at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — One day after a ballot question to build two middle schools lost in a landslide, proponents are reeling from the outcome.

“We knocked on doors and got great feedback from folks, so we were surprised and saddened by the outcome,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union. “I don’t know why there was such large opposition.”

In a special election on Tuesday, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the schools, managed to get the no vote out. They argued that the 44 acres near the proposed Parkland Avenue school site should be reserved exclusively for future burial grounds and open space.

At a meeting of the Pickering School Building Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, Lynn Stapleton, the school project manager, thanked the panel for their hard work and acknowledged the sadness in the room.

“It was an overwhelming no vote,” she said. “And the votes came from well beyond where the school was to be located. The outcome was really upsetting, but we will move on.”

Schools out in Lynn

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, said he plans to meet with the mayor in the coming weeks.  

“We want to give everyone time to consider the results,” he said.  “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site. And we ask the City Council to keep the 44 acres for the cemetery.”

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government authority that funds school construction projects, which agreed to fund a portion of the Lynn project, gives the city 10 days to explain why the vote failed and how the city wants to proceed. Under the agency’s rules, the city could withdraw or modify its plan and re-apply for funds by April 7 or meet next year’s April deadline.

One of the options is to build just one school, Stapleton said. Or the city could consider a phased option where construction begins on one school and then another. The other possibility is to simply add more classrooms at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. The city could also withdraw from the competitive funding process.

Given MSBA’s timelines, if the city decides to go forward with a new plan, nothing will happen until 2020.

Full results of Lynn school vote

But Stapleton suggested this was not the time to make any decisions.

“Emotions are a little raw right now,” she said. “Let’s think about it, schedule another meeting and see what we might come up with for alternatives. We don’t have lots of time. But if you think that you have any kind of plan that might conceivably work, I recommend that we submit it to the MSBA within 10 days and see if we can get them to work with us. Otherwise, your only other option is to withdraw from the program and submit next year and try to get back in.”

Following the meeting, Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was heartbroken for the school children and the city.

“I don’t think the vote was about the money, but I just don’t know,” she said. “I wish I knew.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she needs time to consider the vote.

“I need to figure out why they voted no,” she said.

Duncan, the union president, said the vote doesn’t resolve the need for more classroom space or the condition of school buildings.

“The Pickering’s roof was leaking significantly on election day from the melting snow,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to come up with a solution.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

Schools out in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Judy Odiorre, Jeanne Melanson, and Marie Muise celebrate the “Vote No” victory at the Old Tyme Restaurant.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Voters said no to a nearly $200 million proposal to build two middle schools Tuesday, rejecting the measure by a decisive margin.

The controversial ballot asked voters to green light construction of the schools while a second question sought approval to pay for them. The first vote failed 63 to 37 percent, the funding question lost 64 to 36 percent.

“I am really proud of my neighborhood grassroots group that stood up for what they believe in,” said Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, an advocacy organization founded to fight the ballot question. “The city, and in particular, the mayor and the superintendent, really need to reassess how they do business with taxpayers.”

Castle said the vote turned on the process, financing, the site that includes land that the founding fathers intended as cemetery expansion, as well as wetlands.

It was a spirited campaign where proponents and opponents took their case to Facebook and in dueling op-ed pieces.  The Item editorialized in favor of the project on Page 1 twice in the final weeks of the campaign.

Of the 8,539 votes cast on the first question, 3,189 were in favor while 5,350 were against. On the second question, of the 8,454 votes, 3,014 were in favor while 5,440 opposed. The no vote was nearly unanimous in every ward and precinct across the city.  

Full results of Lynn school vote

The vote is a setback for Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the superintendent, the Lynn Teachers Association and nearly all of the city’s elected officials who were in favor of the project.

“I’m disappointed for the students more than anything,” said Kennedy.  

As far as renovating the existing Pickering Middle School, Kennedy said that is not possible.

“We can’t afford it,” she said. “That would be $44 million out of the city’s budget … there is absolutely no way we can afford to renovate Pickering.”

Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was greatly disappointed that the vote to build two new middle schools failed.  

“The greatest investment a city can make is for the education of its children,” she said in an email.  “Apparently our residents are unable to make such a investment at this time. I will continue to work with the state and the city to examine possible solutions to our school needs.”

If approved, the city would have built a 652-student school near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second school would have housed 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street. In making the case for the new schools, Latham said 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix. The new schools were needed to fix a problem of insufficient space and inadequate facilities.

The new schools would have added an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

City Council President Darren Cyr, an enthusiastic supporter of the new schools,  said he was extremely disappointed in the vote.

“I feel sorry for the kids in our city,” he said. “They are the losers. There are no winners.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

Friends grant gives students a chance to study the sea

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Thomas Campbell and his father Tom study species in tide pools at  Northeastern Marine Science Center in Nahant.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN – The Friends of Lynn & Nahant Beach have awarded a $5,000 grant to support marine education in the Lynn Public Schools.

The award, to the Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, will allow their staff to offer marine science programs to students at the Aborn, Brickett, Harrington, and Hood elementary schools.

“This is all about providing marine education activities and programs in the elementary schools closest to the ocean,” said Robert Tucker, president of the Friends of Lynn & Nahant Beach. “Educating the next generation about the importance of the ocean and our beaches is a priority.”

This latest grant brings to more than $10,000 in financial support the Friends have provided to the Center for the Lynn schools since 2014.

The grant will also support the attendance of seven dozen high school students from English, Classical and Lynn Vocational Technical high schools to attend the 2017 High School Marine Science Symposium in March.

Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Schools, said the grant provides some of the city’s youngest and oldest students with the quality marine science programming offered by Northeastern.

“We thank the Friends for their generosity and continued support,” Latham said in a statement.

Carole McCauley, Marine Science Center Outreach Program coordinator, said the grant allows them to continue to provide environmental literacy in Lynn elementary schools with hands-on marine education activities that help students understand and appreciate their environment.

Last year, the grant reached 775 Lynn elementary school children.

Friends is a 25-year-old organization whose mission is to enhance Lynn’s shore and Nahant Beach state reservations by partnering with residents, educators, elected officials, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The nonprofit raises money through membership dues and grants to pay for school programs, a summer concert series and other events.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn school custodians back where they began

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Janitor Don Dube cleans the lunchroom at the Drewicz Elementary school in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A 10-year-old decision to transfer management of the school’s janitors to the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is about to be reversed.

In a move by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy designed to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty, the city’s school janitors and maintenance staff are headed back to the school department.

The controversy erupted in 2006, when former Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy, shifted the janitors and maintenance staff from the school department to the city. The transfer came, officials said, because the schools were dirty and the janitors lacked supervision.

“The schools weren’t as clean as they are today, I can tell you that from personal experience,” said Michael Donovan, ISD director who took the added responsibility of monitoring the workers.

When Donovan inherited the 166-employee unit in 2007, it included 120 permanent custodians, 20 substitute contract workers who filled-in for absentees and 26 maintenance technicians for 26 schools.

“Since then, we changed the culture,” he said. “People were held accountable, we instituted attendance and timekeeping policies. Employees punched time cards, we tightened vacation rules, moved people if they were not working and outsourced lots of maintenance project work.”

The change also resulted in more of the maintenance crew doing more jobs, Donovan said.  The job descriptions that once consisted of specialized assignments such as painters, glaziers, master carpenters and cabinetmakers were changed to “maintenance craftsmen” so they could do any job as needed, he said.

Today, the department has 57 custodians and a dozen maintenance workers with a budget of $14 million.

While there’s agreement that ISD’s management of the janitors has worked well, Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said shifting the employees to the school department will add about $1 million to the city’s required school spending.

In a quirk in state law, while salaries for the janitors as city employees counts toward school spending, their health insurance premiums do not. By moving them, the city can add health insurance and reduce the deficit.

Last fall, the state Department of Education threatened to withhold $11 million in school funds until City Hall boosted its net school spending. In a letter to the mayor, the state said a review of the city’s end financial report discovered Lynn was in violation of state law.

“Your plan stated that in fiscal year 2016 through 2019 the city would appropriate $2.2 million in addition to each year’s net school spending requirement … the city did not even meet the fiscal year net school spending requirement and you have not budgeted sufficiently to meet the city’s obligation in fiscal year 2017,”  the state’s letter said.

Caron and Kennedy say moving the janitors to the school department will allow them to include those health care costs in the budget.

“The net school spending issue is a major factor in making this change,” Caron said.  ‘Going forward that money will start counting toward schools.”

While Donovan said he agreed to the change, he expressed concern about what will happen to the schools when they are no longer under ISD’s command.

“My fear is they will be dirty again because there will be no accountability for the employees,” he said.

But Kennedy disagrees.

“It will depend on who the superintendent hires to oversee the custodians,” she said. “Mike has been a good manager and if the superintendent hires the proper candidate, they will be able to run as tight a ship as Mike has.”

Richard Germano, vice president of AFSCME Local 1736 representing the workers, disagreed that the schools were not well-maintained when they were under school department management.

“You can go to any company and find some guys work at one pace, while others work at another pace, you won’t have perfect employees anywhere,” he said. “But we are happy to go back to work for the school department.”

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham declined to comment on the merits of taking on the janitorial staff.

“That’s a policy decision,” she said. “It’s up to the School Committee, the mayor and the City Council. I’ll work with whatever they decide.”

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the switch to the schools has a good chance of passage when it comes to the City Council for a public hearing and a vote on Feb. 14. If approved, the measure will be sent to Beacon Hill lawmakers for final approval.

 

Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

12-, 13-year-olds charged with rape

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Two minors who were arrested for rape this week are due back in court on Dec. 12.

A 13-year-old boy was taken into custody at Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School on Wednesday afternoon and a 12-year-old boy was arrested Thursday at about 11:30 a.m. at Breed Middle School, said Lynn Police Lt. Rick Donnelly.

Each boy has been arraigned in Lowell Juvenile Court and charged with one count of aggravated forcible rape of a child, according to Meghan Kelly, spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office.

“The events that resulted in arrests did not happen on school property or at a school-sponsored event,” said Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools. “There is an ongoing active police investigation in process about which I am unable to comment.”

Parents were not notified of the arrests because it would complicate the investigation, Latham said.

Kelly said she could not disclose where or when the incident occurred because it is a juvenile case.

“In cases involving minors charged as a delinquent and involving allegations of rape or sexual assault, this office as well as police departments would be restricted from releasing information pertaining to the case and must withhold such information,” she wrote in an email.

But Lynn police made the arrests as a courtesy to the North Reading Police Department, where the charges came from, Donnelly said.  

The prosecutor assigned to this case is Assistant District Attorney Rachel Perlman.

Robbery victim taken for $90K ride


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Latham’s steady hand

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Dr. Catherine Latham.

Dr. Catherine Latham, Lynn’s public school superintendent, knew she would face parental concerns when she proposed easing an elementary school space crunch in 2013 by opening an early education center.

Working with the School Committee, Latham listened to parents’ worries about putting kindergartners on buses and transporting them across the city. She devised a trial plan to make parents familiar with bus schedules and loading and unloading procedures and school officials opened the center in September, 2013 with few hitches and fewer complaints.

Latham is an urban school system leader who has demonstrated sound judgement and a steady hand in dealing with complicated and contentious problems.

Committee members gave her high marks in 2014 even as committee critics called into question her abilities. The committee majority demonstrated clear appreciation of Latham’s commitment to Lynn and her ability to surround herself with capable lieutenants.

At a time when school systems like Swampscott’s have lost superintendents to scandal and communities like Saugus have run through a succession of superintendents, Lynn is fortunate to have an experienced school leader like Latham at the helm.

The byproduct of that consistency is the increased number of Lynn schools achieving Level 1 status based on state achievement scores and the decrease in the high school dropout rate. Latham and her team established a multi-faceted plan for identifying students at risk of dropping out. Teachers and counselors work proactively with these students to keep them in school. Latham also demonstrated her ability in 2014 and 2015 to assemble a consensus and build community support for a new Marshall Middle School on Brookline Street.

When city planners sat in a room and started talking about a new Marshall, they knew they faced a daunting task. The city had not asked state officials for money to build a new schools in 20 years and finding space for one in a land-poor city like Lynn meant making tough and not universally-popular decisions.

Latham played a central role in the planning process and she finds herself again in the middle of the even more contentious discussion over building two more middle schools. Critics have already emerged to challenge plans for a school site off Parkland Avenue.

The site is a tough choice and it is an easy one to criticize. But detractors are being narrow minded, even delusional, if they don’t step into Latham’s shoes and consider what is best for the city as a whole when it comes to middle school planning.

Every student in Lynn and the generations that will follow them into the classroom deserve new schools. Scrapping the Parkland Avenue site proposal and delaying new middle school construction for two more years, even longer, won’t keep Pickering Middle School from being a disgrace to educational quality in Lynn.

Siting a new school is a tough call to make in an old city. Fortunately, Catherine Latham is no stranger to tough calls.

Unforgettable remembered in Lynn

 PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Judith Kalaora entertains guests with her play about Christa McAuliffe titled “Challenger: Soaring with Christa” during the annual Lynn Business Education Foundation dinner on Wednesday at Lynn Public Library.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Educational programming took center stage at the annual meeting of the Lynn Business Education Foundation.

Judith Kalaora, the artistic director of History at Play, portrays influential but often overlooked women in history. She has performed pieces on Lucy Stone, a suffragist and human rights activist; Annie Adams Fields, an author and philanthropist; and Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

Her performance Wednesday night told the story of Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from Concord, N.H., who was chosen for the NASA Teacher in Space Project. McAuliffe was one of seven crewmembers killed when the space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into its launch in 1986.

All fourth grade teachers from the public schools were invited to the event because it aligned with their curriculum, which includes space exploration, said Fred Cole, executive director of the foundation.

The organization works to provide special programs, along the lines of History at Play. It also tries to get businesses to sponsor schools and send representatives to visit with the children. It secures grants, scholarships and other funds that are only available to nonprofit organizations.

To date, the foundation has provided more than $91,000 for the schools, said Greg Ambrose, who served as president for the past two years.

“It has been 30 years and (the foundation) has done a lot of great things over that time,” Ambrose said.

He added that funds raised have been used to purchase iPads for students, Legos for elementary school classrooms and to support the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute Robotics Team, among many other things.

“The Business Education Foundation is a great partner to the Lynn Public Schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham. “It has worked out so well.”

Cole said the foundation is working to fund additional robotics programs, among other initiatives. Gale Thomas will serve as president for the next two years.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Garelick Farms pours money into fire safety

Fire Chief James McDonald, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy receiving check for $10,000 from Aubrey Leake of Garelick Farms Lynn, Nick Piccolo of Garelick Farms Lynn and Dr. Catherine C. Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Garelick Farms is sparking improvements for fire safety.

Dean Foods, also known as Garelick Farms Lynn, made a $10,000 donation to the city to fund a fire prevention program.

With 50 percent of the money, the fire department will purchase smoke alarms and install them in homes of Lynn Public Schools students who need them. Chief James McDonald estimated the funds would cover the cost of about 100 alarms.

The other half will pay for firefighters to visit the children’s homes and talk to families about fire safety and prevention, cooking safety, electrical hazards and other common fire causes like candles and driers.

“The kids can be any age from the public schools,” said Lt. Israel Gonzalez, from the Fire Prevention Division. “Even a five-year-old should learn what to do in a fire.”

This year’s program will be an extension of a project funded three years ago by a federal grant. More than $295,000 from the U.S. Fire Administration allowed firefighters to install about 5,000 smoke alarms in 1,700 homes, said Gonzalez.

The average two-family home should have seven detectors, and single-family homes should have three to four, he said. Many low-income households lack the devices all together, and others have alarms that have far exceeded their 10-year expected lifespan.

It’s difficult for the department to regulate alarms and other fire codes in one- and two-family homes, said McDonald. Houses with three or more apartments are subject to random inspections.

Recent models have a built-in battery that can’t be changed out, to help ensure the devices are replaced often, Gonzalez said.

“This is super,” said Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools. “This is going to make a difference.”

Fliers will be sent home with students to explain the program to parents in the next few months.

Aubrey Leake, plant manager of Garelick Farms Lynn, said the company is safety-oriented and wants to be a good neighbor and help the community.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Latham honored by health center

Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, is awarded the John S. Moran Award for Community Service by Lori Abrams Berry, executive director of Lynn Community Health Center. Photo by Paula Muller.

By Bridget Turcotte

 

NAHANT — Dr. Catherine Latham received the 2016 John S. Moran Award for Community Service at the Lynn Community Health Center’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

The award is named after the former executive editor of The Item. Among many things, Moran was a member of Lynn Community Health Center’s Board of Directors. He contributed a lot of time and expertise to support the center and the community.  

After he died in February of 1990, the board created the award in his memory and honors a worthy recipient each year.

To be eligible, a person should have strong ties to the city and advocate for a healthier Lynn community and health center. They should be someone who has shown leadership and made a difference for the community.

Latham, the superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, was chosen as this year’s honoree because of her work with providing children with proper healthcare.

There are 13 schools in the city with school-based health centers for student use, said Lori Abrams Berry, executive director of the LCHC.

“No one has made the commitment to providing health and mental health service more than Cathy Latham has,” Berry said. “She has been an enormous source of support for this program.”

Latham is a lifelong Lynn resident. She graduated from Lynn English High School, where she later taught math. Though gracious about receiving the award, she attributed the success of the program to the room full of health center employees.

“I do very little,” she said. “It’s you people, the Lynn Community Health Center and the wonderful folks who work there. I can want the world for our students, but without people like you, I couldn’t do it.”

The Lynn Community Health Center is a nonprofit that offers care to the community, regardless of ability to pay. It targets children and families, low-income, minorities, non-English speaking patients, teens and elderly.

More than 90 percent of the center’s patients live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 50 percent are best served in a language other than English, according to their website.

The health center recognized its long-standing employees individually.

Bob Dempkowski received the Andrea Gaulzetti Award for Excellence in Public Health, named after the health center’s chief of clinical operations who died in 2015.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Making books count for kids

American Latino Committee members who contributed $1,000 to Lynn public school literacy efforts made a commitment to help children read that far outweighs the organization’s financial generosity.

Reading, School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said last week, “is probably the most important thing we teach in the Lynn schools.”

Those words spoken by a woman responsible for the education of 16,000 students bear contemplating. Reading is more important than all the 21st-century technology and innovation skills teachers can teach students because it is the foundation for all forms of learning.

Reading is also the most elemental form of education. Parents only need a book and time to pass on the gift of reading to children. Parents who can’t read English can learn to read the language even as they help their kids read.

Committee organizers reading is a gift that keeps on giving and that is why they showed up at a downtown ceremony last week with a big piece of cardboard made up to look like a check and handed it to First Book organizers and school officials.

First Book’s 10 year history in Lynn is based on the simple idea that children truly get an opportunity to read if they can call a book their own. Organizers plan to hand out thousands of books to kids in December, relying on the generosity of book distributors who are interested in putting their surplus book stock into students’ hands.

Even a short decade ago, reading meant picking up a book or a newspaper. Today, more often than not, it means clicking on the iPad or some other electronic device. Technology has exploded access to the written word and allowed readers to carry a library around in their back pocket.

But not every kid has access to an electronic device and libraries aren’t always an easy option for families, even though Lynn’s public library is constantly expanding its reading opportunities for children.

The chance to build up a small bedside library and to turn a few minutes of the evening after school into time spent with a book can open the boundless territory of imagination for a child. One book, one compelling character in a story, can send a child on a lifetime journey into literature and knowledge. Books are the ground writers and thinkers spring from and every child should be able to know the joys and take the journeys fostered by intellectual development.

At first glance, surplus books don’t stack up as an exciting handout for kids who spend  more and more time buried in social media. But a book is tangible. It doesn’t need recharging. No one can break it and chances are slim anyone is going to steal it.

The American Latino Committee’s investment in Lynn literacy is a true tribute to Latham’s reminder that “it takes a whole city to raise our children.”

Grand gesture by Latinos

Council President Daniel F. Cahill, left, and Jose Alvarez chat before a ceremony at which the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace donated $1,000 to the First Book iniative of Lynn. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thor Jourgensen

LYNN — Latino community members reached out on Thursday to support efforts to put surplus books into the hands of local schoolchildren.

The American Latino Committee representatives joined Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham and elected officials at Land of 1000 Hills coffee shop to donate $1,000 to the First Book initiative.

Launched 10 years ago as a way to boost reading among public school students, First Book provided 45,000 surplus books to children in 2014. The books are donated by distributors who might otherwise turn them into recycled paper. In return, local fundraising efforts supplement the literacy incentive effort with a goal this year of raising $9,000.

That sum includes the committee’s $1,000 donation from receipts it received after hosting a July Latino festival.

“This is a chance to showcase the opportunity for more involvement by Latinos in the community. We hope to contribute whatever we can,” said committee volunteer Dulce Gonzalez.

Latham said the committee’s contribution reflects the Latino community’s understanding “that it takes a whole city to raise our children.”

“We are more than thrilled with this donation. Getting these books is like Christmas for our children,” Latham said.

Money contributed by the Latino community will be supplemented by money raised at an Oct. 19 fundraising event and contributions from local unions.

“The $1,000 from the committee is a wonderful boost. We hope to replicate what we did in 2014,” said Lynn Teachers Union President Brant Duncan.

State Reps. Daniel F. Cahill and Brendan Crighton attended Thursday’s donation presentation and praised First Book and the American Latino Committee.

“We’re so grateful people reinvest back in Lynn,” Cahill said.

Voters schooled on new polling places

Lynn City Clerk Mary Audley holds signs instructing voters of new voting locations in this week’s primary election. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke.

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Voters will cast ballots at two new locations for the first time on Thursday.

While residents may have been worried about who will fill the Essex County Sherriff’s seat or which Democrat will face State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) in the November election, City Clerk Mary Audley was determining where.

Ward 4 precincts 1 and 2 will vote at KIPP Academy at 90 High Rock St. Ward 4 precincts 3 and 4 will cast votes at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society.

The Ward 3 polling place is now at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Brookline Street, rather than Lynn English High School.

Audley, who also runs the Elections Department, said the change allows for more space for the 2,650 registered voters in Ward 4 precincts 1 and 2. More than 7,600 residents are registered to vote at Marshall.

“The people of Ward 3 have been waiting to go to the new Marshall,” she said. “English is in Ward 2 and voting was disruptive to students at English. Marshall has more parking and more space. The gym is further away from the rest of the school and it won’t disrupt the kids. That’s the case at KIPP, too.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said Lynn’s public schools will be open on Thursday.

“We are happy to act as a host during election days, but we ask that people be respectful of the education of our students,” she said. “If possible, voters should plan to avoid school opening and dismissal times. During those times sidewalks and streets will be crowded and parking may be difficult.”

Alternatively, students at KIPP will have the day off, said Jennifer Startek, director of school operations. Voters will access the school through the gym entrance, located on the left rear side of the building. Parking will be made available nearby.

Preparations for the election began months ago. Audley determined the best locations and made a recommendation to the city council, who approved the changes. Voting equipment was tested last week and prepared for delivery to each of the 28 polling places.

Letters were sent to the residents in all of Ward 3 and in Ward 4 precincts 1 and 2, reminding them of the changes. Still, large signs will be posted at Lynn English to alert voters that they are at the wrong place, she said.

Click here to find out where your polling location is


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Lynn, Peabody, Revere superintendents urge ‘no’ on marijuana question

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she’s very concerned about anything to do with legalizing marijuana, and said she heard it’s a gateway drug.

BY DILLON DURST

The region’s school superintendents are united on one thing: they oppose the legalization of marijuana.

In November, a ballot question will ask voters whether to make recreational pot legal for anyone over 21. The initiative follows landslide approval in 2012 by the Bay State’s electorate to approve medical marijuana.

“I think we’re sending mixed messages to kids,” said Revere Superintendent Dianne Kelly.

Schools are telling kids how bad marijuana is and to stay away from it, but if it’s legalized, it’ll be contradicting, she added.

The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS), which represents 277 superintendents and 148 assistant superintendents, has joined the fight against the legalization of pot.

The trade group said they are concerned about use among minors in states where marijuana is legal, routine use of the drug starting in adolescence that leads to brain impairment, and the exposure of marijuana to more young children.

“As superintendents, our primary focus is on helping each and every student reach their full potential, and we believe the commercial legalization of marijuana runs directly counter to that goal,” said Thomas Scott, MASS executive director, in a statement. “Where marijuana is legal, we see increased use and abuse by young people. We urge all parents in our communities to vote against this proposal this fall.”

Herb Levine, interim Peabody superintendent, said research proves that pot hurts young brains and school grades.

“I believe the push to legalize marijuana for recreational use is wrong-headed,” he said.

Lynn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she’s very concerned about anything to do with legalizing marijuana, and said she heard it’s a gateway drug.

But not everyone agrees. Proponents say regulating marijuana will replace an underground market with a system of licensed businesses that only sell to adults. They argue that products will be tested, packaged and labeled to ensure marijuana is safe. It will free police to spend more of their time and limited resources on violent crimes, and taxing marijuana sales will raise millions in new revenue annually.

James Borghesani, a spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said keeping marijuana illegal is dangerous for consumers because they’re buying marijuana that is untested and not properly labeled or packaged in child-resistant containers.

“We share the goal of reducing marijuana use among youth, but we think regulating it is much better than leaving drug cartels and criminals in control,” Borghesani said in a statement.

Marblehead Superintendent MaryAnn Perry and Swampscott Superintendent Pamela Angelakis did not return calls seeking requests for comment.


Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

 

A United front to tackle dropout rate

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — A joint initiative of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, AmeriCorps and Lynn Public Schools is showing improvements in academic engagement and reducing the dropout rate among immigrant students in Lynn.

The program, which engages middle and high school students, is adding Lynn English High School and Lynn Vocational Technical Institute for the 2015-16 school year.

“We have been extremely pleased and fortunate to have AmeriCorps volunteers in our schools through the United Way’s Lynn AmeriCorps Program,” said Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools. “They have helped many of our newcomers overcome their language-learning challenges and bolster the strength of our services, and they are great examples of the merit of public service. AmeriCorps has become a valuable program for Lynn Public Schools and it is our hope that this program will continue to grow.”

For three years, an AmeriCorps team has worked alongside Lynn Public Schools and community-based organizations in the city to tutor, mentor and provide family support services to immigrant students who may be facing academic challenges.

Nearly 470 middle and high school students received services during the 2014-15 school year. Seventy-five percent showed improved academic engagement and were promoted to the next grade. Sixty percent showed increased performance in a core academic class.

Immigrant and English Language Learning (ELL) students from Lynn Classical High School who received services earned an average grade of 80 percent in the core subject in which they worked with an AmeriCorps member. Immigrant and ELL students at Lynn Classical who did not get AmeriCorps help earned an average grade of 71 percent in the same courses.

“Key to the successful outcomes for students is the increased coordination and communication between the schools and the community-based organizations who are typically providing after-school programmings,” said Michael K. Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “With AmeriCorps team members as connectors, staff from the Lynn schools and the out-of-school time programs could identify students in need of academic support and provide them with tutoring and other services. It’s an example of leveraging all the resources that the city has to offer to help students succeed.”

There are 15 AmeriCorps team members working at Marshall Middle School, Breed Middle School, Lynn Classical High School, Lynn English High School, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development (LHAND), Girls Inc., New American Center, Lynn YMCA and La Vida and Children’s Law Center.

The partnership selected Lynn because of its concentrated immigrant population. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 54 percent of students in Lynn Public Schools live in a household where English is not the primary language, compared to 18 percent of students statewide.

The graduation rate among ELL students in Lynn is 56 percent, compared to 85 percent statewide, according to the department.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

A United front to tackle dropout rate

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn Superintendent of Schools Catherine Latham praised United Way’s Lynn AmeriCorps program.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — A joint initiative of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, AmeriCorps and Lynn Public Schools is showing improvements in academic engagement and reducing the dropout rate among immigrant students in Lynn.

The program, which engages middle and high school students, is adding Lynn English High School and Lynn Vocational Technical Institute for the 2015-16 school year.

“We have been extremely pleased and fortunate to have AmeriCorps volunteers in our schools through the United Way’s Lynn AmeriCorps Program,” said Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools. “They have helped many of our newcomers overcome their language-learning challenges and bolster the strength of our services, and they are great examples of the merit of public service. AmeriCorps has become a valuable program for Lynn Public Schools and it is our hope that this program will continue to grow.”

For three years, an AmeriCorps team has worked alongside Lynn Public Schools and community-based organizations in the city to tutor, mentor and provide family support services to immigrant students who may be facing academic challenges.

Nearly 470 middle and high school students received services during the 2014-15 school year. Seventy-five percent showed improved academic engagement and were promoted to the next grade. Sixty percent showed increased performance in a core academic class.

Immigrant and English Language Learning (ELL) students from Lynn Classical High School who received services earned an average grade of 80 percent in the core subject in which they worked with an AmeriCorps member. Immigrant and ELL students at Lynn Classical who did not get AmeriCorps help earned an average grade of 71 percent in the same courses.

“Key to the successful outcomes for students is the increased coordination and communication between the schools and the community-based organizations who are typically providing after-school programmings,” said Michael K. Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “With AmeriCorps team members as connectors, staff from the Lynn schools and the out-of-school time programs could identify students in need of academic support and provide them with tutoring and other services. It’s an example of leveraging all the resources that the city has to offer to help students succeed.”

There are 15 AmeriCorps team members working at Marshall Middle School, Breed Middle School, Lynn Classical High School, Lynn English High School, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development (LHAND), Girls Inc., New American Center, Lynn YMCA and La Vida and Children’s Law Center.

The partnership selected Lynn because of its concentrated immigrant population. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 54 percent of students in Lynn Public Schools live in a household where English is not the primary language, compared to 18 percent of students statewide.

The graduation rate among ELL students in Lynn is 56 percent, compared to 85 percent statewide, according to the department.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.