education

Hats off to St. Mary’s grads

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The St. Mary’s graduating class of 2017 celebrates.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Rain didn’t stop the 84 St. Mary’s High School graduates as officials, teachers, parents, and friends gathered at Lynn Memorial Auditorium for the Class of 2017 commencement.

“People say time flies when you’re having fun,” said Katie Cadigan, salutatorian. “Time flies during the good and the bad. It has the power to rob you, and the power to give.”

Grace Cotter Regan, head of school, advised students to look at time as it flies by and find grace moments.

Those moments provide spiritual and personal growth, she said.

“Ask yourself what lights you up as you move forward and go with what that is,” she said.

Valedictorian Michael Cerulli, who will attend Boston College in September, compared the graduation from St. Mary’s to an interview he watched with former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

The reporter asked Bryant if he missed playing in the National Basketball Association.

“No, the NBA is always a part of me,” he said.

Cerulli’s said graduation from St. Mary’s is a lot like Bryant’s exit from the NBA.

“Although we are leaving St. Mary’s, we should never think of St. Mary’s leaving us,” he said “Everything we know stems from what we learned here.”

He went on to list the accomplishments and milestones he and his classmates achieved, such as state championships, an award-winning drama production, and the outstanding college selections of his peers.

“I’d like to think all these remarkable achievements aren’t a coincidence,” Cerulli said.

Alumnus John J. Green, who graduated in 1967, spoke to the Spartans after being in their position 50 years ago.

“Today, you join a very special club of 12,000 members,” he said. “You are an alum.”

Green discussed the changes at the school since he graduated, including the cost of St. Mary’s tuition, which was just $50 dollars in the 1960s.

“What hasn’t changed is the amount of students moving on to higher education,” he said. “In my day, we had about 95 percent of our class moving on to higher education. The same goes for today, with over 95 percent of graduates moving on to colleges and universities, a percentage that is higher than the Massachusetts average of 75 percent and the 65 percent national average.”

Regan said the environment at St. Mary’s has impacted graduates and prepared them for their next adventure.  

“There’s a culture of care, compassion, and love that differentiates St. Mary’s from any other school,” she said.


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Lynn teacher joins the march

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Miriam Rodriguez-Fusco is one of hundreds of teachers planning to attend the Rally for Public Education Saturday at the Boston Common.

The speech and language therapist in the Lynn Public Schools and parent of a third-grader at the Aborn Elementary School plans to board a bus in Lynn for the trip into Boston.

Rodriguez-Fusco, an educator for nearly two decades, said she feels strongly about her son’s future and the challenges of public school funding as traditional schools compete with charter schools for limited cash.

“We must raise our voices so that we can stand up to Trump and tell him we need adequate funding for public education that is free and not privatized,” she said.

The protest is sponsored by the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) and the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, a grassroots organization of students, parents, educators, and concerned community members who are dedicated to preserving public education.

Entertainment, education at ‘Harrington Reads’

The Alliance said since Donald Trump was elected president, they have been standing up for women, immigrants, science and now they’ve turned their attention to public schools.

Protesters plan to meet on the Common at 2 p.m. and later march to the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center on Boylston Street where delegates from MTA’s Annual Meeting are meeting.

On the recent vote to defeat funding for a pair of middle schools in Lynn, Rodriguez-Fusco said she was disappointed.

“No one wants to pay more taxes,” she said. “But we’re talking about the children who are our future and we have to invest in them or we will never have better.”   


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

Malden school faces state ACLU complaint

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed a complaint against Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for allegedly disciplining and suspending African-American and biracial students because their hairstyles violate school policy.

The Associated Press reports that the ACLU filed the complaint Monday with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for what it says is a discriminatory policy at the Malden charter school.

Coincidentally, the DESE headquarters are located on Pleasant Street in Malden Square.   

Mother says daughters punished for hairstyles

Parents say students were punished for wearing braids with hair extensions. They contend white students have not been disciplined for coloring their hair, which also is banned under the dress code, according to the AP.

The school does ban hair extensions, which tend to be “very expensive,” a statement last week on behalf of Mystic Valley Interim Director Alex Dan said. But Jennifer Rosenberg of Howell Communications, an agency representing the school, said Monday that braids are not banned.

Last week’s statement said the ban on hair extensions is designed to “foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism.”

ADL continues to push for change

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg addresses the crowd.

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — Days after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) questioned a Malden school for disciplining black students who wear hair extensions, more than 300 police, educators, and students packed the group’s Essex County Law and Education Day Breakfast on Wednesday.

“The school’s policy led to the student’s removal from participating in after school sports, banned from the school prom and numerous detentions,” said Melissa Garlick, ADL’s civil rights attorney about the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School which has faced criticism for its decision to punish African-American female students who wear braid extensions.  “ADL will continue to push for change at the school to ensure equal education opportunities and treatment for all.”

The 25th annual Law and Education Day at the Kernwood Country Club gathered legal, education, law enforcement, and interfaith leaders to honor individuals who have made contributions to the North Shore.

State Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) and Peter Quimby, headmaster of The Governor’s Academy, a Byfield private school, were recognized.

This year’s theme is “Gender and Bias: Building an equitable future for all.”

In her keynote address, state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said it appears not much progress has been made when it comes to equal pay for equal work.

A 5K to end human trafficking

“We have been talking about equal pay since almost before I was born,” she said. “In fact, in the 1970s my mother was talking about equal pay. I thank ADL for being on the front lines for combating discrimination in so many different ways and fighting for fair treatment and bringing people together.”

Goldberg cited data that in Massachusetts women earn 82 cents on a $1 compared to men, Asian women earn 80 cents, African American women get 62 cents and Latina women just 50 cents.

She said pay equity is not just a woman’s issue. Goldberg recalled as a candidate for treasurer she was approached by a blue collar worker.

“What’s your issue and why are you running, the man asked me,” she recalled. “I told him it’s wage equality. He said, ‘That’s my issue because I have a wife and three daughters and none of them get paid what they’re worth and it all falls on me.’ You could have knocked me over with a feather.”  

In closing remarks, Rhonda Gilberg, the North Shore Advisory Committee chairwoman, thanked participants for their contribution to the event.

“We are honored to have you as partners to stand together against bias and hate, working to build an equitable future for all,” she said.


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

 

Student ‘super excited’ to intern for Warren

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Dulce Gonzalez, a rising junior at Lesley University, will be interning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Washington D.C.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Dulce Gonzalez, a 20-year-old Lynn resident, and her family came to the United States from Guatemala 15 years ago, fleeing violence and seeking the American Dream.

This summer, Gonzalez will be interning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). A graduate of KIPP Academy, she was only one of eight alumni selected this year for the KIPPtern National Fellowship Program, and the only person chosen from Massachusetts.

Steve Mancini, director of public affairs for KIPP nationally, said KIPP supported eight alumni to find internships in congressional offices, including Gonzalez.

Through the program, interns have their costs covered in Washington D.C. for the summer. Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Schools in Massachusetts, said the program pays for room and board, and provides a generous stipend for the interns. He said the program is highly competitive, with 10,000 KIPP alumni across the country.

Gonzalez, a junior at Lesley University, said she applied for the program in early November, and found out she was accepted the following month, but didn’t learn that she had been accepted into Warren’s office for the summer until the end of March.

“I was super excited,” she said.

As a political science and global studies major, she said the internship is very aligned into her career path. She said she’ll be focused on Capitol Hill tours and working with constituents and their issues they bring to the table. She said she’ll be specifically focused on immigration and educational issues, which will include research.

Celebration time for North Shore students

Gonzalez said she is excited to get to know the team in Warren’s office, as “they’re doing incredible work across the country.”

Her past internships have included stints for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. She said she plans to go to law school after graduating and plans to study human rights law.

Gonzalez said she is passionate about human rights, and her goal is to work for the International Criminal Court in Switzerland. She has volunteered for the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, which has an office in Lynn, since her senior year of high school, and works as a project coordinator. Her father, Juan Gonzalez, is a representative for the organization, and also volunteers.

Gonzalez said her family came to the United States fleeing violence from the civil war in Guatemala, which included gang members and extortion. She said her family also came seeking the American Dream, which means different things to lots of people. For them, she said it means progressing. She said being “part of this amazing opportunity,” through the internship aligns with that.

Juan Gonzalez said he was proud of his daughter. When he left Guatemala 15 years ago, he said many of the immigrants were looking for the American Dream, so he thinks Dulce’s success is kind of that dream not just for him, but for her and the entire family.

“Dulce is an accomplished young woman already, as only still a junior at Lesley,” said Mancini. “Dulce is the child of Guatemalan immigrants who fled the civil war to come to America. She was an honors student at KIPP Lynn Collegiate, who (was) working through high school in her family restaurant … Dulce is a real go-getter.”


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

 

Gonzalez says Gov. Baker OK with status quo

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Jay Gonzalez speaks with The Item’s editorial board.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Democratic candidate for governor Jay Gonzalez isn’t shy about saying what’s needed to fix the Bay State’s troubled transportation system and underfunded schools: new taxes.

“I support the fair share tax on incomes in excess of $1 million,” he said. “This is the fairest way to raise meaningful new revenue, about $2 billion annually, to be used for transportation and education.”

In a wide ranging interview with The Item’s editorial board Tuesday, Gonzalez, 45, said he’s running to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker because the Republican’s no new taxes pledge is unacceptable.

“Our governor’s core operating principle is no new taxes and we’re going to make it work with what we have,” he said. “I don’t think he’s being honest with people about the fact that it won’t work. We starved the MBTA for way too long and the condition of our roads and bridges is one of the worst in the country and getting worse under this administration.”

Gonzalez, who served as the budget secretary for former Gov. Deval Patrick and resigned last year as president and CEO of CeltiCare Health, could face competition from Democratic Mayor Setti Warren of Newton.

In March, Warren set up a finance committee to explore a run for governor. The panel includes former Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Gov. Michael Dukakis, former Democratic Party chair Phil Johnston, former Boston City Councilor Michael Ross and is chaired by Josh Boger, the former Vertex Pharmaceuticals executive.

Whoever takes on Baker, won’t have it easy. In a WBUR survey earlier this year, Baker was more popular than liberal Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Only 44 percent said Warren deserves reelection, while 51 percent view her favorably.

A taxing decision for Lynn council

In contrast, Baker’s favorability rating is 59 percent — 8 points better than Warren. Even more striking is that only 29 percent of poll respondents think someone else should get a chance at the governor’s office, the survey said.

But Gonzalez dismissed the suggestion that Baker will be hard to beat.

“I’m less concerned with the polls and more concerned with what I’m hearing from people around the state that they are very concerned about issues that are holding them back,” he said. “I think it’s very easy to be popular when you don’t do anything, when you don’t take stands on big issues, when your entire approach to the job is about political caution instead of political courage.”

One of the core issues in his run for governor is support for the so-called millionaires’ tax. If approved by voters next year, it would amend the state constitution by imposing a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million. The money would be designated for schools and transportation.

About 20,000 or 0.5 percent of households in the state would be hit by the new tax and it would raise $1.9 billion annually, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Gonzalez said he’s running because he cares about people and wants to make a difference.

“Government plays a really important role in moving us forward to improve people’s lives,” he said. “I think Gov. Baker sees the job differently. He’s been way too satisfied with the status quo, too often sitting on the sidelines when we need him. I’ve been frustrated by how little he’s accomplished, but I’ve been more frustrated by how little he’s even tried.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com. Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

 

McGee: Every morning I’ll wake up determined

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Maria McGee listens to her husband, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, speak as he signs his papers March 27.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — State Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn) will kick off his campaign for mayor from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Knights of Columbus on Lynnfield Street.

“I will be a mayor who works hard, always listens, and wakes up every morning determined to create a better future for all Lynners,” McGee said in a statement.

McGee announced he would run for the position about two months ago. A lifelong Lynn resident, he has represented the Third Essex District in the Massachusetts State Senate since 2002. The district encompasses Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.

“Lynn is on the cusp of something big,” McGee said in a statement. “We have always had the assets: talented, hardworking, diverse citizens; amazing natural resources like the woods and the waterfront; a downtown that’s coming alive with the arts and culture; neighborhoods that reflect the best of America. This race is about who can best bring our city together and realize our incredible potential at this pivotal moment in Lynn’s history.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

McGee is running against Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who kicked off her campaign for a third term last month at the Porthole Restaurant. Kennedy was elected mayor in 2009 when she beat Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by 27 votes. In 2013, she beat Timothy Phelan by a 59 to 41 margin.

As senate chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, McGee has been an advocate for improving the state’s transportation system and fighting for regional equality. He also advocates for quality education and extended learning opportunities for children, ensuring accessible and affordable childcare and health care for working families, and expanding workforce training and development.

Before his election to the senate, McGee served four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives representing West Lynn and Nahant. Prior to holding office, he practiced law as an assistant district attorney for Essex County. He was elected to the Democratic State Committee in 1976 and served as chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party for three years from 2013 to 2016.

A taxing decision for Lynn council

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Five surrounding communities have raised nearly $20 million since 2009 by adopting the local option meals tax and the City Council wants a share of it to keep layoffs at bay.

Some restaurant owners say they favor the tax because it will fund services at a time when the city is cash-strapped, while others are not so sure and some won’t say.

In a lopsided 10-1 vote last week, the panel opted to impose a .0075 percent tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on meals. The new levy would add 75 cents to a $100 dinner bill, about 19 cents to a $25 meal and raise $700,000 annually for the city.

In 2009, the Legislature authorized communities to add the new fee on meals. While the sales tax goes to the general fund, the local option is given to the community to spend as it wishes. About half of the state’s cities and towns have adopted the change and have raised nearly $652 million.

Like other Massachusetts cities, Lynn has struggled to pay for schools and public safety. The Council said the time has come for the small increase that could do so much good.

“We are hurting financially, this will bring in some good revenue and the measure is long overdue,” said City Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton. “If I have breakfast at Brothers’ Deli, my $10 meal will only cost me another 8 cents.”

Robert Stilian, owner of the Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, said while no one is wild about a new tax, the amount is so small that it shouldn’t discourage anyone from eating out.

“At first I was quite upset, but I don’t think most people will even notice and I doubt it will have much of an impact on people’s decision to dine out,” he said.

Stilian noted that many other communities have adopted the tax.

“If it’s something that will benefit the city I understand why they’ve proposed it,” he said.  “For restaurant owners, unfortunately we have to pass on the cost to customers.”

Meals tax could set table for a Planner

Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood and a candidate for an at-large seat on the City Council, said he’s for it.

“Given the city’s financial crisis, I favor it,” he said.

George Markos, owner of Brothers’ Deli, said if the city adopts the new tax, he hopes they will use the money for public safety and schools.

“I will contribute to anything that is good for the city,” he said.  “But I would rather see the money spent on police, fire and schools because nothing is more important than safety and education.”

Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said the added revenue will reduce the chances of layoffs among city employees amid a budget crunch. He said Lynn is the only city in Essex County that has not opted to impose the additional tax.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said he favors the hike, and the sooner the better, as a way to restore cuts to the police and fire departments.

“We heard testimony from public safety officials at the last meeting of the necessity to fund police and fire,” he said. “I favor this.”

Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill said Lynn residents are already paying the tax when they eat out of town.

“Every other surrounding community has levied this tax upon us and we are just catching up,” he said. “We are under significant time constraints to implement this program to stave off layoffs in our police and fire departments.”

Blueprint could help close ‘achievement gap’

But Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is expected to veto the plan, setting the stage for an override.

“I can’t in good conscience agree to impose a new tax on Lynn residents less than two months after voters resoundingly rejected a proposed tax increase for two new schools,” she said.  “I heard them loud and clear. To approve it is being tone deaf and not listening to what the voters clearly told us.”

Kennedy is not moved by the fact that the amount of the increase is so small.

“A tax is a tax,” she said. “We have to show the people of Lynn we are trying to live within our means as much as possible,”

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi agreed and was the sole vote against the new tax.

“I am not inclined to support any tax,” he said. “In this instance, I was willing to support it if they designated the money towards public safety. But the city said they can’t do that and I can’t support it.

James Roumeliotis, owner of Superior Roast Beef, agrees. He  said while the city may be hurting for cash, he’s not sure diners should be asked to pay more.

“I’d rather not have it, people are already being taxed enough,” he said.

Not everyone was willing to discuss the possible change. Thomas Dill, owner of the Lazy Dog Sports Bar, did not return a call seeking comment. Chris Rossetti of the Rossetti Restaurant declined comment and chef Matt O’Neil of the Blue Ox did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


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

 

Blueprint could help close ‘achievement gap’

COURTESY PHOTO
Legislators want to help increase third grade reading proficiency rates.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — A group of  state senators have launched what they believe is a strategic blueprint to raise reading proficiency in third graders statewide, and enhance their lives overall.

Two local legislators, Sen. Jason Lewis, D-5th Middlesex, Malden, and Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, Cambridge,  are among the Senate’s Kids First working group, commissioned last October by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst.

To dramatically increase third grade reading proficiency rates and support the whole child, the Senate’s Kids First initiative has established four broad areas to focus specific strategies: Access, Quality, Readiness, and Integration.

“I am proud of the comprehensive vision put forth in the Kids First blueprint,” said Lewis.  “In it, the Senate makes a vital commitment to the fundamental integration of services in critical areas including mental health and social-emotional learning.  

“The social-emotional learning component of Kids First is essential to strengthening the critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal skills of our young people.  Kids First will serve as an invaluable guide, and it was a privilege to serve on the working group.”

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Lewis said the Kids First working group invited experts in diverse fields including early childhood development, health, education, housing, and nutrition, among others, to share their knowledge through questionnaires, meetings, and presentations.

Kids First announced it has tackled the challenges of the fact 40 percent of Massachusetts third graders are not reading at that grade level, with the number sharply rising to 60 percent among low-income students.

According to the Kids First report, the lack of reading proficiency creates “a growing achievement gap” for the future and action is needed immediately. The group proposes to reduce by half the number of third graders lacking grade level proficiency by the year 2027.

DiDomenico, chairman of the Kids First initiative, said the plan laid out in Kids First is not meant as a blueprint for a series of legislative initiatives or any piece of legislation in particular.  “It is offered as a statement of the Senate’s vision for children and a statement of budgetary priorities in the years to come,” DiDomenico said.

Getting a jump on jobs at Lynn Tech

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Carmen Arins, Lizabeth Acevedo and Yuleidy Pimenetel gather information about the Gregg Neighborhood House.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Emily Blaney won’t graduate high school until next year, but the 16-year-old already has a career plan.

“I work with special ed kids and I’ve noticed I’m very good at comforting them,” she said. “I’ve decided to be a kindergarten teacher or open a daycare center.”

The Lynn Vocational Technical Institute junior spoke with representatives from the region’s colleges Thursday at the school’s Career Fair about furthering her education. Tech offers a childcare program that provides her with hands-on classroom training with kids.

Blaney was one of more than 100 students who packed the school’s lobby to talk with recruiters from schools, companies, retailers, hospitals, nonprofits, the military and city departments, including police and fire.

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she was wowed by the number of employers gathered to consider Tech graduates.

“It’s so wonderful for our students to have such a diverse collection of opportunities all in one place,” she said. “Many of these organizations have taken on our students as part of the district’s co-op program.”

Amado and Cristian Roman, 17-year-old twins, said they are seeking opportunities to do an internship at a newspaper where they can use their video production skills.

“I already have lots of hands-on experience recording and editing videos,” said Amado. “I think I have a lot to offer a newspaper.”

Students get a taste of the Real World

His brother, Cristian, said they are considering programs at Emerson College and Fitchburg State University to enhance their skills.

Mary Zwiercan, human resources director at the North Shore Medical Center (NSMC), one of two dozen employers who had a booth at the fair, said the Salem-based hospital has more than 200 jobs available from cafeteria workers, security, radiation technicians and nurses.

“We have an aging workforce and we are hiring, that’s why I’m here,” she said.  

NSCM operates a co-op program at Tech in health sciences where juniors can earn their certified nursing assistant certification. Seniors can enroll in the co-op program which puts students in healthcare settings every other week for 30 hours at $12 per hour.

“They are my future certified nursing assistants and maybe future nurses and doctors,” Zwiercan said.  

Christopher Menjivar said he’s not sure what he’ll do following graduation next year. For now, the 17-year-old junior is founder of Eagles Handyman & Construction Co., a seven-person firm that does home remodeling.

“I’m considering UMass-Boston,” he said. “All things are possible.”


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

 

Saugus promotes new vision for schools

By THOR JOURGENSEN

SAUGUS — Town officials are organizing a June election in which residents will be asked “to support and invest” in a sweeping local school reorganization featuring a middle-high school district-wide facility.  

The plan, tentatively discussed to date with town educators and parents, proposes several significant changes. A grade 6-12 middle-high school is at the center of the plan.  Belmonte Middle School would be established as an “upper elementary school” for grades 3, 4 and 5, and Veterans Memorial Elementary School would become a “lower elementary school” for pre-kindergarten to grade 2.

“This is a real opportunity for the Town of Saugus to meet the goals of its educational plan,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “Challenging our students to reach their full potential necessitates that our schools have the resources and facilities to meet the academic needs of all students and prepare them for success should they pursue higher education or compete in today’s workforce.”  

The proposed middle-high school complex will total 270,000 total square feet including a 12,000 square-foot gymnasium and capacity for 1,360 students in grades 6-12. There will be state-of-the-art science labs and technology classrooms, fine and performing arts classrooms and a 750-seat auditorium.

In addition, the proposal includes a new sports complex and outdoor track, walking paths, outdoor classrooms, and student gardens. Veterans Memorial Elementary School and Belmonte Middle School will also receive construction updates.

A town statement outlining the proposed school changes emphasized their potential to move the Saugus public school system’s status under state education rankings from from a Level 3 to a Level 1 school district.

Profiles in courage

The statement says the proposed reconfiguration is also intended to provide fair and equal access to all students enabling them to reach their highest potential and to continue to prioritize education.

The proposal’s school building improvements are also intended to maintain accreditation with New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and address address health and safety issues including identified deficiencies in fire protection, sprinkler systems, and disability access compliance.

“Providing our students and staff with resources and facilities that achieves the vision of our Town’s educational plan is critical,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David DeRuosi. “This solution will facilitate a shift from teacher-centered to student-centered instruction, and an emphasis on the critical thinking, communication and technology skills needed to enhance 21st century skills our students need to be successful.”

The proposal’s additional elements include new science labs that meet state educational and safety standards. Building designs include work spaces for student collaboration and project-based learning in all subject areas; and shared instructional resources and opportunities for increased teacher collaboration.  

The town statement lists no specific June date for bringing the proposal before voters.

“This middle-high school district-wide solution is critical for the residents of Saugus because it will enhance our children’s education and change the way education is valued and delivered in the community,” said Jeanette Meredith, School Committee chairwoman and Saugus High School Project Building Committee.

A new approach to fighting opioids

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN The city and Medford will fight opioid addiction with a pair of first-in-the-nation financial settlements engineered by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

Medford Public Schools this week announced they would be using their $18,000 grant for an opioid education program designed as a curriculum addition in the schools. Malden officials are still formulating plans for use of the $21,000 grant they received through the program.

Medford Public Schools and the Malden Public Schools are two of 40 school systems or public service agencies receiving grants to fund two-year programs in conjunction with the attorney general’s newly-formed Youth Opioid Prevention (YOP) program.

Healey announced the formation of the program shorty after a  landmark $1.4 million settlement with CVS in November 2016 over opioid dispensing policies.

At that time Healey said $500,000 of the settlement funds would be seed money for the YOP program. Two months later, a second first-in-the-U.S. agreement on a $200,000 settlement with Walgreens was announced. All of those funds were designated for the YOP program, Healey said.

“Supporting youth opioid education and prevention programs is a top priority for my office and we are seeing an incredible unmet need for funding across the state,” Healey said. “That’s why we decided to structure these settlements to put as many resources into local communities as possible. This won’t allow us to fund every great proposal, but it’s an important step toward beating this epidemic.”

A representative from Healey’s office said the successful Malden and Medford grant applications were among 125 applicants who sought close to $4 million to fund proposals to educate youth on the dangers and consequences of opioid use and addiction.

Former PTO treasurer charged with larceny

Medford Public Schools plan to implement a multi-step program called The Michigan Model.

A report prepared  by the Medford High Health and Physical Education Department and Director Rachel Perry, is a “nationally-recognized comprehensive and skills-based health curriculum that is aligned to national health education standards” that has “consistently  shown effectiveness … including declining numbers in alcohol and drug use, unhealthy eating and other risky feelings such as anger and stress.”   

Medford School Superintendent Roy Belson noted the adoption of The Michigan Model system is intended to fortify opioid education from the ground up, not just at the high school level, on a schoolwide basis.

“Making good decisions is at the heart of any viable effort to prevent addiction … Our goal is to build resiliency and coping skills in our elementary and middle school students by providing them with strategies for healthy decision making,” Belson stated in a recent report to the Medford School Committee as it announced acceptance of the grant.

Malden city officials also welcomed the funding. “We are very pleased to receive this grant and it will be used to enhance our ongoing effort to educate our youth in our community,” Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said.

One of the most recent initiatives announced recently by activist group Malden Overcoming Addiction (MOA) and President Paul Hammersley, parallels Medford’s anti-addiction strategy by initiating an educational model on opioid addiction at the earliest levels in the school system.

“We will never get control of this epidemic until prevention becomes a priority,” Healey said in a statement. “With these grants, we will partner with schools and community organizations to empower young people and protect the next generation from falling victim to this public health crisis. But, these grants are only a start, we must continue to address this unmet need.”

 

Revere wants to close grocery gap

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
“Too many Revere residents have limited opportunities to buy fresh, healthy and affordable foods,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

REVERE — Mayor Brian Arrigo is worried about a new study that ranks the city fifth on a list of 10 Massachusetts communities suffering a “grocery gap.”

Newly released data by the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) reported that 2.8 million Massachusetts residents face transportation difficulties in getting to and from grocery stores in their communities or lack sufficient stores to provide competitive food pricing.

Chelsea ranks first on the grocery gap list and Lynn is ranked eighth.

Arrigo wants to work with the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, established by state law in 2014, to provide a flexible financing tool to help establish, renovate, or expand grocery stores and other fresh food retailers.

“Too many Revere residents have limited opportunities to buy fresh, healthy and affordable foods,” Arrigo said in a statement released by his office.

MHPA and other hunger prevention organizations worked with state legislators in 2015 and 2016 to secure $6 million in capital funds for use by the Trust as a financing source for efforts to increase available markets and grocers in communities.

Research cited by the mayor’s office shows that access to grocery stores is linked to lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.  New food enterprises can address those challenges, while also creating good paying jobs for people with varying levels of skills, education and language proficiency.

Math changes add up in Malden

Arrigo pointed to the Revere Farmers’ Market as a success story “serving as a vital access point to fresh, healthy produce not only for low-income families, seniors, and veterans, but also for students who can get a free lunch through the Summer Meals Program.”

Funded by the MGH Revere and Chelsea Health Centers over the past two years, the market bolsters business development in the city and provides a valuable space for small business incubation.

“Through the support of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, the Revere Farmers’ Market could become a year-round provider of fresh, local food for Revere residents, while creating job opportunities and spurring economic growth. The Massachusetts Food Trust would also encourage investment in other food businesses,” Arrigo said.

The market is preparing to launch a new Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program to match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients’ purchases of local fruits and vegetables.

To support the city’s request for Food Trust assistance, Arrigo has commissioned a “Community Food Assessment.”

Revere on the Move, a local community organization, is working with the city’s Healthy Community Initiatives, with the MGH Revere CARES Coalition, Tufts University students and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, to conduct the assessment.

Their research includes data collection through a city-wide business survey and public workshop.

For more information on the MHPA study, visit https://mapublichealth.org/priorities/access-to-healthy-affordable-food/ma-food-trust-program/.

 

Math changes add up in Malden

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — The Malden School Committee has approved sweeping changes in how Malden High School students will be taught mathematics and science.

First-year Malden High School principal Ted Lombardi proposed the major change in mathematics curriculum, forecasting potential improvements in Malden’s performance on state assessment tests.

Instead of taking the three traditional math classes of Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2 in that order in Grades 9,10 and 11, Malden High students will next year be taught a mix of the three separate subjects in courses called Math 1, Math 2 and Math 3.  

Lombardi, who came to Malden High after serving several years as principal at Lawrence High School, told the School Committee that he oversaw institution of similar curriculum changes at that school “and the (MCAS) scores went up.”

A renewed focus on improving state assessment test scores at Malden High School has been embraced by the school board. An example is its recent hire of a new superintendent of schools, John Oteri, who was questioned extensively in the interview process on his role in the dramatic improvement from a Level Three school system in Somerville to a Level One state rating. MCAS scores play a key part in this state assessment of school systems.

Costin recalls President Kennedy friendship

Lombardi said Malden would be joining “many districts (that have) moved to this curriculum,”  which involves joining together of math topics as opposed to learning one specific area or subject such as Algebra or Geometry.

In an effort to improve MCAS science test scores, the School Committee also approved a change in science curriculum proposed by Lombardi. Instead of freshmen students taking college preparatory classes in Biology, they would now be offered an Environmental Science class in ninth grade and would take Biology their sophomore year.

The Malden High principal said it made more sense for this change in the science curriculum since sophomores take the MCAS science test and it would give them a better chance at attaining higher scores.

In addition, Lombardi said exploratory classes in business and technical education would be offered to ninth graders in subjects such as woodshop, engineering and others.

“These changes will better suit our students and give them a better chance to succeed,” Lombardi said.

GE + NSCC = A bright future

IMAGE COURTESY OF GENSLER ARCHITECTURE
A rendering of the new GE building and location in Boston.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — If General Electric Co. is looking to partner with the region’s schools to further innovation, they need not look farther than North Shore Community College (NSCC).

As GE broke ground on Monday for it new corporate headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District, the $130 billion company is strengthening its Massachusetts ties.

“When GE creates products, we are here as a community college to be of service by creating a skilled workforce and to upskill their existing workforce,” said Dianne Palter Gill, the school’s dean of corporate and professional education. “We and our sister community colleges can provide them with skilled workers and they can help us with curriculum and scholarships.”

Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled, according to The Manufacturing Institute. There are two major contributing factors to the widening gap: baby boomer retirements and economic expansion.

GE’s new global headquarters in Boston is scheduled to open next year and will be the home for 800 employees.

Local reps vow to fight cuts to vets

As part of the project, the company will restore two historic brick buildings and build a 12-story building on a 2.4-acre campus.

Gill said GE has said they want to partner with local schools including universities, technical schools and community colleges.

Among the many programs NSCC offers include the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Certificate Program which provides an introduction to the manufacturing industry and prepares students for entry-level employment. In addition, electives allow students to focus on technical courses that align with individual educational and career goals in manufacturing, according to the school’s program description.

“We offer a machining program and it would be great to have more connections around that and a partnership with GE would be great,” said Gill.


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

 

Land of A Thousand Hills hosts fun night

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jaileen Malave, front, James E. Austin, left, Sokhan Prak, and Esther Summersett enjoy the open mic event.

By DAVID WILSON

LYNN — It’s only about 10 minutes into the Finals Week Breather + Open Mic at Land of A Thousand Hills Coffee Company, and Emily Urbina is hopeful for a good crowd.

The event, hosted by the The Haven Project, was open from 5:30-8 p.m. Monday for students and young adults. “Take a break; vibe out with us; enjoy great talent,” said a small flyer for the event.

Urbina, program director for The Haven Project, said the talent could include poetry, hip-hop performances, and more. Her hope for the event was that it engages the community in a greater way, she said.

Inside the coffee shop is a mural, titled “Our story.” It says, “In 2012, The Haven Project opened a center for high-risk young adults without a safe, stable place to live.

“By purchasing coffee and food at this social enterprise, Land of a Thousand Hills, you are supporting our program which offers vital services such as access to education and job training.

“Most importantly, you are building a path to success for a vulnerable population in our community.”

Can’t keep a good (fire)man down

Inside the shop, on a counter, was a two-sheet, double-sided survey: The 2017 Youth Count Housing and Homelessness Survey.

Over the past two years, the results of similar surveys have helped the state legislature to invest $3 million in housing and services for young people who have experienced housing instability, it said.

The survey asked questions such as, “Where did you sleep last night?” and “Do you have a safe place where you can stay on a regular basis for at least the next 14 days?”

The answers to the survey remain confidential, it said, and are “a key contribution in helping Massachusetts better understand housing instability among youth and young adults.”

In addition, respondents to the survey were handed a ticket for a complimentary drink: A cold brew iced coffee, a peach Italian soda, or an iced green tea lemonade.

Visit  https://www.mahomeless.org/images/Youth_Count_2017_Survey_4-6-17.pdf  to find a copy of the survey.

Contact massachusettsyouthcount@gmail.com for more information about the work to expand housing and resources for youth and young adults experiencing housing instability.


David Wilson can be reached at dwilson@itemlive.com.

An evening full of laughter in Peabody

Accidentally on Purpose (AOP) Comedy Improv Troupe will improvise a laughter-filled evening at Northeast Arc’s ArcWorks Community Art Center, on Thursday, May 18 at 7 p.m. The event will launch the Patronicity crowd sourcing campaign for Peabody’s Black Box Theater.

“Patronicity is unique in that it not only provides the community with an opportunity to bring a new performance space to our city, it offers a 100 percent match for those grassroots gifts through Mass Development,” said Susan Ring Brown, Chief Development Officer, Northeast Arc.      

The Arc, in partnership with The Friends of the Black Box, plans to raise $50,000 by the end of June in order to qualify for a $50,000 match from Mass Development.  It is an “all or nothing” process, so the goal must be met in order for the project to receive any funding through the Patronicity Campaign. That $100,000, added to the $200,000 already raised through grants from the Peabody Community Development Authority, local corporations, private grants and individual contributions will allow construction to take place over the summer.

AOP’s performance is an R-rated comedy evening for guests 21 and over will feature Ted Neary of Peabody along with other North Shore favorites. The unique AOP style is similar to the hit TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and is complete with audience interaction.  Come and be prepared to offer suggestions for the group, then sit back, watch the laughter and madness ensue as the troupe puts your suggestions to work in hilarious improvisational scenes. Audience members contribute ideas and suggestions to the troupe, and (only if they desire) can also join the comedians onstage to participate. The cast will remain after the performance for a “talk back session” with the audience.    

Bringing a good thing to Lynn

“We are thankful to Ted and the AOP troupe both for helping to raise much needed funds for the theater and for illustrating one of the many future uses for the space,” said Brown.  

Once built, the theater will be available for rent for performances including comedy, dance, film, music, poetry and more, along with special events. Guests at A Night at the Improv will have the opportunity to see drawings for the theater and to log-on to the campaign site at www.patronicity.com/peabody to make an additional pledge for the project.

ArcWorks Community Art Center is located at 22 Foster Street in Peabody. Doors open and the reception begins at 7 p.m. Adult beverages and light appetizers will be served. Program begins at 7:45 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m.  Tickets cost $25 and may be purchased at http://bit.ly/nightatimprov.

Northeast Arc’s  Black Box Theater Project, located in the ArcWorks Community Art Center at 22 Foster St. in Peabody, will benefit people with and without disabilities.  Plans are to renovate existing space that will provide employment opportunities for local actors, musicians, set builders, ticket sellers and concessions workers. The space will also provide educational and recreational opportunities for as many as 7,800 local youth and adults annually. The theater will become an anchor in the city’s downtown cultural district.

 

Taking it to the streets in Peabody

COURTESY PHOTO
Officials are enforcing a new, lower speed limit on city streets and looking to replace a variety of faded signs.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY Slow down. The default speed limit on city streets has been lowered from 30 to 25 mph.

The change went into effect on May 1 after gaining City Council approval in February.

“We believe this change to our citywide speed limit will make everyone who lives, works or visits Peabody safer,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr.  “Police Chief (Thomas) Griffin and I spent a good deal of time discussing and analyzing this issue and we believe it makes sense for the community.” 

The new speed limit doesn’t apply on roads or sections of road that already have different speed limits posted. In those instances, the posted speed limits will continue to be valid and will not be affected by the new law.

“In terms of the new speed limit helping, if a vehicle is moving slower, I feel there will be fewer accidents,” Griffin said. “If there are accidents, we should have less property damage and fewer injuries if people are driving slower.”

Some of the biggest problem areas for speeding in the city include Bartholomew and Felton streets, the chief said.

Not to be fluffed off

While the new law looks to address speedy drivers, Griffin said the initial aim is to educate motorists, not necessarily to go on a ticket-writing binge.

There’s going to be a learning curve and an educational process we will have to put in place,” he said. “We were not out on the first day writing big tickets.

“For now, it’s about more education, changing behavior and getting drivers to slow down.”

As part of the change, dozens of new speed limit signs will be posted on major thoroughfares and secondary roadways throughout the city. The highly visible signs include a fluorescent yellow stripe and will be prominent at all major access points to the city.

The new speed limit signs won’t be the only change residents can expect to see over the coming months. Bettencourt said the city is undertaking a new initiative to remove or replace faded or outdated road signs.

The mayor is encouraging resident to let city officials know the location of faded signs throughout Peabody. The initiative does not include street signs (Main Street, Pulaski Street, etc.) since those signs are replaced on a regular rotation.

Revere to expand battle against opioids

By THOR JOURGENSEN

REVERE The city is stepping up its fight to end drug addiction by taking a multi-prong approach to opioid abuse and outlawing synthetic marijuana.

This week’s public forum highlighted work by the city Substance Use Disorder Initiatives Office. During the past year, the office has sought to coordinate all of the city’s substance abuse-fighting efforts under one roof.

The office expanded “drop-in center” hours allowing residents struggling with addiction or their family members to confidentially talk with health professionals, recovery coaches and public safety officials.

It is continuing the work of the city outreach team, combining police and fire department efforts to connect residents who have recently experienced an overdose with resources that can help.

The office has convened monthly leadership team meetings bringing together government, education, healthcare, treatment and recovery office and agency representatives to help guide the office’s work.

“While much has been accomplished, there is still much work to do,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo. “I am committed to providing the resources and support necessary to make this work successful.”

Office outreach workers estimate 87 lives were saved locally using the overdose reversal drug Narcan, and many more lives were indirectly aided by outreach workers helping connect residents with treatment and recovery programs.

The Substance Use Disorder Initiatives Office is located at 437 Revere St., and can be reached at SUDI@revere.org or (781) 629-4158.

The office’s goals for the next year include strengthening addiction-fighting efforts by bringing multiple social service agencies and government office representative to the table once a week to make plans to intervene and provide assistance to residents with high risk of harm from addiction.

Man charged with heroin trafficking

Using Partnership for Success grant money, office representatives will identify opportunities to work with and educate Revere youth to prevent future drug use.

That effort will be matched by a push to increase social media presence on addiction prevention and creating an advertising campaign that gets into coffee shops, restaurants, health care providers and convenience stores to make sure residents who may be in need of services know what is available.

At Arrigo’s request the Board of Health voted Tuesday to ban the sale of synthetic cannabinoids also known as “synthetic marijuana,” “K2,” “spice,” or bath salts  as dangerous substances.

Synthetic marijuana does not actually contain marijuana. Synthetic marijuana refers to a number of plants sprayed with chemicals. According to a mayor’s office statement, potential synthetic marijuana side effects include violent and aggressive behavior, rapid heartbeat, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, confusion, headaches and seizures.

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent told health board members that  “products containing synthetic marijuana cause dangerous and irrational behaviors by people who ingest them.”

The city of Boston banned the sale of synthetic cannabinoids last year, and numerous states and cities are considering bans as well.  

 

Stuff of Legend at Salem State

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
John Legend speaks at Salem State University.

By BILL BROTHERTON

SALEM — John Legend is making a difference in the world. He’s shining a light on social injustice and demanding that all children have a right to a great education and that too many Americans of color are ending up in jail. He’s dined with presidents for heaven’s sake.

So what’s he doing up on stage in Salem State University’s Rockett Arena singing a song about poo-poo in his daughter Luna’s diaper?

“Somebody’s got a stinky booty/And daddy’s going to clean it up.”

Lisa Hughes, the WBZ anchor and the host interviewer last night at the Salem State Series event honoring Legend, had asked the pop star/actor if he ever made up songs at home. The untitled poopy song was the result. It’s not quite the equal of “All of me/Loves all of you.”

Legend was on the Salem State University campus Tuesday night to perform three songs (“Love Me Now,” “Ordinary People” and the worldwide smash love song “All of Me) and to discuss his social activism on such issues as criminal justice reform and education. The award-winning entertainer received the inaugural Salem Advocate for Social Justice award from the Salem Award Foundation for Human Rights and Social Justice. The program lasted about an hour.

Monday night, Hollywood power couple, Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen, walked the red carpet at the star-studded Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The previous week, the couple attended the TIME 100 Gala, where Legend was honored as one of the magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the year. (Legend signed a copy of the magazine which was presented to Salem State’s retiring President Patricia Maguire Meservey.)

Welch Florist celebrates 70 years

Last night he quietly and passionately talked about the support he got from his parents (his dad was a factory worker; his mom stayed at home), teachers, guidance counselors and others. He excelled at school and was the first member of his family to go to college.

“Every child in America has that right,” he said to cheers. “America is great, but there are things America can do better, in regards to criminal justice, gun violence and providing a quality education for all kids. We lock up a higher number of people than they do anywhere else in the world. No matter what you think of other countries, they don’t incarcerate as many people as we do … and if someone does get in trouble, we should not just throw them away.”

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll likened Legend’s activism to keeping the message of the Salem Witch Trials alive, “and we believe that’s never been more important than this year,” she said.

The performer’s philanthropy and activism are, well, legendary. The Salem Award Foundation for Human Rights and Social Justice recognition is just the most recent acknowledgement of his efforts. Legend has worked throughout his career to make a difference in the lives of others, contributing time, money and his talents to dozens of charities and foundations, starting in 2007 when he traveled to Louisiana and helped families devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  

After reading Earth Institute founder Jeffrey Sachs’ book “The End of Poverty,” Legend immediately traveled to Ghana to learn firsthand the problems faced by African countries and steer residents in impoverished villages toward self-sufficiency. That led to his starting the successful Show Me Campaign to raise funds for those efforts.

A group of Salem State students attended the Black, Brown and College Bound Summit in Tampa, Fla., in February, where Legend was the keynote speaker. At Salem State, The Brotherhood is focused on academic success and retention, offering men of color resources and mentorship to reach academic and achievement goals. An effective Crowdfunding effort funded the trip. Those young men took a bow to wild cheers from the near-capacity audience last night.

Legend’s work has garnered him 19 Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe award, and a BET Award for best new artist, among others. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Legend recently won his first Golden Globe, a Grammy and a Critic’s Choice Award for his song “Glory,” which he wrote and performed with Common for the film “Selma.” He has worked with a who’s who of today’s musical stars, including Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Jay Z. Legend most recently played the role of a musician in “La La Land.” He will return to the area on June 19 for a concert at Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.

Online plant sale to help river restoration

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Saugus River Watershed Council is having an online plant sale to benefit river restoration and environmental education programs.

The Gardens in Bloom fundraiser can be accessed on the organization’s homepage at www.saugusriver.org. Shoppers can choose from 18 perennial and annual plants and spring bulb packages from Dutch Mill Bulbs.

Half of the profit from each plant sold will go to the council, which works to protect and restore the natural resources of the Saugus River Watershed.

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The council chose plants with a variety of colors. Hanging strawberry plants, everbearing strawberry plants, tiger lily flower bulbs, lavender astilbe plant, stella d’oro daylilies, bleeding hearts, hosta plants, and jaguar flower bulbs are just a few of the options.

Each will cost $10.

Shipping costs will be based on the number of packages. A flat fee of $10 will cover the cost of shipping one to four plants; $12 for five to 10 plants; $12 for 11 to 17 plants, $16 for 18 to 24, and free ground shipping for 25 or more.


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

Bettencourt announces re-election bid

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. is pictured in a file photo.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY Recent Peabody mayors have a habit of sticking around awhile.

Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. recently announced that he is seeking a fourth term as the city’s leader.

Bettencourt is only the fourth mayor Peabody has seen since Nicholas Mavroules was elected in 1966. Since then, mayors’ tenures have been more likely to be measured in decades than terms, with Peter Torigian serving for 23 years followed by a decade of leadership by Michael Bonfanti.

Bettencourt said he is proud of what he has helped the city accomplish in his first three terms and looks to continue to move the city forward.

“Our focus on economic development, education, public safety, quality of life and affordability has helped make Peabody one of the most desirable cities to live in all of Massachusetts,” Bettencourt said.

In a re-election statement, Bettencourt pointed to several accomplishments that have taken place during his administration, including the construction of the new Higgins Middle School and the redesign and beautification of Peabody Square.

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Other highlights of his first three terms include the completion of the South Peabody Trail Network, the dredging of Crystal Lake, taking over the management of Tillie’s Farm on Lynn Street, and an increase in the number of firefighters assigned to the city’s neighborhood stations from two to three.

“I am committed to maintaining Peabody’s affordability while still investing in our future and delivering the core services that residents expect,” Bettencourt said. “I love this city and I love this job. If the voters see fit, I will continue to give it my very best every single day.”

Bettencourt, who ran unopposed in 2015, has yet to see any challengers take out papers to run against him this year. Potential candidates have until July 21 to take out nomination papers, and those papers must be filed by July 25 with at least 50 certified signatures. The preliminary election is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 12 and the final election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

There’s already been a good amount on interest in City Council seats, both in several of the six wards and for the five at-large positions. There will be at least two new faces on the council come 2018, as Councilor-at-Large Tom Walsh will be focusing on his position as a state representative, and Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz has said he will not be running for re-election this year.

Potential at-large council candidates who have taken out nomination papers as of Monday morning include incumbents Tom Gould, David Gravel, and Anne-Manning Martin. School Committee member Tom Rossignoll, Ryan Melville, Stephen Collins, and Peter Bakula have also taken out papers.

In the wards, incumbents who have taken out papers include Ward 1 Councilor Jon Turco, Ward 2 Councilor Peter McGinn, Ward 3 Councilor James Moutsoulas, Ward 4 Councilor Ed Charest, and Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw. Michael Geomelos and Margaret Tierney have taken out papers to replace Sinewitz in Ward 6. Other potential challengers for the incumbents include Bukia Chalvire in Ward 4 and James Jeffrey and Andrew Diamond in Ward 5.

 

Hands-on education at Connery tree planting

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Hoda Britel is framed by one of the two new trees.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Arbor Day tree planting at Connery Elementary School kicked off Lynn’s participation in the Greening the Gateway Cities Program.

The program is administered by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The program targets the state’s gateway cities, including Lynn, or more specifically a section of the downtown and West Lynn, by providing free trees to residents and other partners.

Two dogwood trees were planted during the Arbor Day celebration at Connery School on Thursday, helped along by eager students. The school is within the area benefited by the program.

Fifth grader Ariana Camilo said she was looking forward to the trees growing nice and strong.

“I like it because it helps me breathe,” Camilo said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy joined in the tree planting.

“What this means to me is it’s a great chance to show these kids the importance that trees play in our lives, in all of our lives,” Kennedy said. “It gives them a chance to really care for and nurture a growing, living thing, and it gives them pride to be able to look back in many years from now and say: I helped to make that tree the beautiful thing that it has become.”

School deputy superintendent Patrick Tutwiler said the excitement the planting generated underscores how hands-on environmental studies is every bit as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Arbor Day is about 140 year tradition,” Tutwiler said. “They’re taking part in history.”

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The grant Lynn received through the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the program totals $1.5 million over three years, according to Andrew Hall, city Department of Public Works commissioner. During that time frame, he said 2,400 trees will be planted during fall and spring.

“The whole point of this is to increase tree canopy in areas where there is a marked lack of tree canopy,” said Hall.

The environmental and energy-efficiency initiative is designed to reduce household energy by planting trees ranging from six to 10-feet tall with the goal of adding 5 to 10 percent of tree canopy cover in targeted neighborhoods. Trees are planted by local crews and those from DCR.

The additional tree canopy is meant to have a larger benefit over an entire neighborhood by lowering wind speeds and temperature, in addition to providing direct shading.

The majority of trees planted through the program will be on private property. Those living in the targeted area can request trees through the DCR. A property visit will be scheduled by the agency to determine the best location for the trees. Residents and other partners must agree to a two-year watering program to ensure the trees’ survival.

The area in Lynn that will be part of the program includes Washington Street from the Lynnway to Western Avenue; Boston Street from Western Avenue to Summer Street; Summer Street from Boston to Western Avenue; Minot Street from Western to Bennett Street; Bennett Street to Commercial Street; and the Lynnway from Commercial to Washington.

The program targets areas with a small tree canopy, older housing stock, higher wind speeds and a larger rental population.

“We are very excited to be part of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program,” Kennedy said in a separate statement. “To be able to save energy while beautifying neighborhoods in the city is a win-win.”


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

 

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee adopted a policy to protect students from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It would be bad if we turned our backs on these kids,” said Oscar Ross, who has a daughter in Lynn Public Schools who dreams of being both a police officer and a cook. “If we don’t give them the chance to be what they want to be.”

Mary Sweeney, a retired teacher, said that during her career, students had to worry about getting their homework done.

“I never faced situations of kids being deeply afraid,” said Sweeney. “I think with the issues of immigration and ICE — it’s a reality.”

The panel voted unanimously to adopt a policy that affirms the schools are safe and welcoming sanctuaries for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The document said the resolutions are intended to ensure that all Lynn Public Schools students have the same right to a free, public education and will be treated equally.

“The mission of Lynn Public Schools is to maintain a multicultural school community dedicated to the realization of the full intellectual, physical, social and emotional potential of its students,” reads the resolution. “The city is enriched and strengthened by its diverse cultural heritage, multinational population, and welcoming attitude toward newcomers.”

Committee member John Ford pointed out that while he agreed with where the resolutions were coming from, he believed they were only reaffirming what the district already does. Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham agreed.

“I believe we have welcoming schools and that our teachers are wonderful and welcoming,” said Latham. “We have not had a case where ICE has come into our schools.”

She added that she believes ICE is restricted from taking immigrants into custody at schools and churches.

“Rather than us saying we already do that, we’ll be able to say that we have a policy for that,” said committee member Donna Coppola. “I think it would be a huge reassurance to our students. Let’s be upfront and be what we are — a proud community — and show others that we care.”

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Latham and committee members expressed concerns about a resolution included in the original draft that prohibited federal immigration law enforcement officers, or personnel assisting them, from entering a school building.

“I worry about training teachers not to allow law enforcement to come into the building,” she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy added that she was “very uncomfortable” with the section of the resolution because it should be recognized that federal law supersedes local law.

“It seems to me that it’s not a valid exercise of a city’s rights in the presence of federal government,” she said.

The panel amended the resolution to state that law enforcement can enter the building, but must remain in the main office until his or her credentials are verified and the superintendent is notified. The vote will be subject to final approval of the language.

Under the policy, the district will not inquire about, record, or request information intended to reveal the immigration status of a student or their family members. They will not disclose private information without parental consent, and staff will refuse to share all voluntary information with immigration agencies to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

All requests for information from a student’s education record will be immediately forwarded to the School Department’s attorney. The motion also noted that the district does not ask for immigration status when families register children for school.

A letter will be sent to parents and staff summarizing the resolutions in simple language. A list of all available resources, including community-based organizations and legal service organizations, will be provided to each student and made available at each school. It will be translated when necessary. Teachers will be trained on the policy before the start of the school year, when they become familiarized with all other policies.

In the next 90 days, Latham will be expected to develop a plan for training teachers, administrators and other staff on the new policy and best practices for ensuring the wellbeing of students, who may be affected by immigration enforcement actions. The plan will be implemented within five months.Legis

A copy of the resolution will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General and to Lynn’s federal, state, and local legislative representatives.


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

 

Classical High is career driven

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Students look at different tables set up for the career day.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Brandon Von isn’t sure what he’ll do after he graduates.

But the Classical High School senior couldn’t miss the two U.S. Marines dressed in uniform who manned a booth at the school’s Career Fair Thursday.

“The Marines have a band and I want to perform musically,” said Von, a clarinet player. “They told me it’s very competitive, but if I got accepted I’d play for the president.”      

Von was one of more than 700 seniors who crowded the school’s gym for the annual career event. In addition to all divisions of the military, a dozen schools and nonprofits were represented.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Aaron Smith, 20, who is stationed in Okinawa, Japan, made the pitch to a handful of students, including Von, who approached.

“I came out of high school, joined the Marines and it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Smith, a Gloucester resident.  “It’s an opportunity to travel, get a free college education and experience the world before you step out into it.”

On the possibility of seeing combat?

“Whatever happens, happens,” he said.

Dr. Bryan Cousin, a Lynn dentist who operates a dental assistant school that offers a certificate program, said the entry-level job is a way into the field. They offer two courses totaling $3,850.

“Some Classical students may not go to college and this is an alternative,” he said. “We have 2,000 graduates who earn between $15 to $20 per hour.”

Senior James DeOliveira talked with Cousin, but it’s unclear how serious he is about becoming a dental assistant.

“I need to floss more, but I keep forgetting,” he said. “If I was a dental assistant, it would be more of a reminder.”

Two heads better than one in Swampscott

Amy Lee, the admissions director at Southern Maine Community College, said the South Portland school is an excellent option for students who want the college experience at a community college price.

“We offer housing and programs for students who want to do trades like automotive, construction or machine work and live away from home,” she said.

Tuition for full room and board is about $9,000 annually for the two-year program.

The most popular booth was manned by the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics. The Woburn school offers skincare and spa training programs. Tuition ranges from $6,000 to $16,500, depending on the program.

Student Esthefania Martinez said she is intrigued by the possibility of an esthetics career.

“I would like to learn how to do makeup for a career. Since I was little, I’ve done my own makeup and practiced on my friends,” she said. “So, I think this might be the right career for me.”

Gene Constantino, Classical’s principal, said the fair provides students with a variety of career opportunities to consider.

“Many of us had no idea what we would do after high school,” he said. “I was trained as a social worker and never worked a day in that job. For 40 years, I’ve been an educator.”


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

 

North Shore Community Promise: free tuition

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
North Shore Community College will offer a “free college” pilot program starting in the fall.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN North Shore Community College is launching a program that will help students who don’t qualify for full financial aid go to school for free.

The school is seeking 100 new, full-time students to apply for the North Shore Promise Award pilot program, which will launch in the Fall 2017 semester. The initiative offers free college to prospective students who are being priced out of higher education because they are not poor enough to qualify for full federal and state grant aid but also can’t pay out of pocket.

NSCC will be the first community college in the Northeast to offer a self-funded free college program.

“Commonwealth residents are opting out of pursuing post-secondary education and training as the sticker shock of a college degree and pervasive stories of crippling student debt have many questioning the return on college investment,” NSCC President Patricia A. Gentile said in a statement. “This is especially true for lower and middle income families who are rapidly being priced out of the college-going market. And this is especially bad news for area employers competing for skilled and credentialed workers.”

Gentile said years of analyzing the school’s enrollment led to the realization that there are a significant amount of potential students who, despite the relative affordability of community college, fall into the gap of not believing they can afford an education. Annual tuition and fees for a full-time student total $6,060.

Health center may be news for Malden

“With a booming economy, these folks are choosing employment but we know that without post-secondary qualifications they are at great risk for unemployment or lack of advancement potential when the economy declines,” Gentile said. “NSCC is committed to making college affordable for even more students to achieve the life-long dream of a college degree with less student debt.”

Applications are being accepted at the school on a first-come, first-serve basis for the first 100 qualified students. Interested potential students need to apply for the award and be accepted by May 1.

To be eligible for the award, potential students must:

  • Enroll as a new student with at least 15 credits in an eligible Commonwealth commitment pathway or an eligible NSCC program for the Fall 2017 semester
  • Be a Massachusetts resident
  • Have a high school GPA of 2.3 or higher
  • File a 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to May 1
  • Be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant
  • Be willing to complete a degree at NSCC in two-and-a-half years or five continuous semesters
  • Meet NSCC’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements throughout enrollment

Gentile said the school anticipates that most of those who will take advantage of the program will be first-generation college goers who likely come from more disadvantaged North Shore neighborhoods.

“These are the folks who are having the most difficulty affording the cost of a college degree, yet they compose the largest untapped pool of underdeveloped talent for those future high and middle skilled jobs,” Gentile said.


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

 

Animal magnetism at Lynn Museum

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Vincent Lozzi IV, 11, pets a chinchilla during the Curious Creatures presentation.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Free Fun Family Day at the Lynn Museum gave children a chance to enhance their time off from school by interacting with animals and growing their own grass plants on Tuesday.

Judith Marshall, education and research specialist at Lynn Museum, said the museum usually holds one free family day a quarter, which typically have themes. Tuesday’s theme was Earth Day. She said the event is a great way to get all sorts of people to come into the museum.

Residents were invited to come to the museum for free for arts and crafts activities, such as coloring and word searches. Kids could grow their own grass plant and decorate their pots.

Children were also treated to a live animal program, featuring curious creatures such as a tortoise, snakes, a tarantula, flying squirrel, chinchilla and a little alligator.

“That’s always a hit,” Marshall said.

Conor Poverchuk, 7, said he liked the animals, specifically, the “little, tiny turtles.”

Jayla Walsh, 7, said she liked the “crocodile” because he had sharp teeth.

Huss Court fire under investigation

Martine Georges came with her children, Nailah, 6, and Isaiah, 9.

“I’m off work and the kids are on school vacation,” Georges said. “I love it here anyways so we came to have a good time.”

Nailah Georges said the “crocodile” was her favorite, also because she liked the sharp teeth. She also enjoyed planting grass.

“I came because it’s something nice to do with the kids and a nice learning experience for the kids,” said Evelyn Panias, who brought four of her grandchildren.

Michael Celona brought his two daughters, Isabella, 9, and Lucia, 8.

“I thought it was a great way to spend the day with my two daughters and teach them a little bit about the history of Lynn and where Lynn is looking in the future,” Celona said.

Drew Russo, executive director of Lynn Museum, said the event is an opportunity to give people in the community an opportunity to experience the museum at no cost. The Lynn Cultural Council provided some of the funds for Free Fun Family Day. The museum does four of the events a year, and he is hoping to do six next year. He said the museum is seeking additional funding sources for the events.


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

 

Saugus school magic number: $900,000

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The closure of the Ballard Early Education Center is among the proposed cuts to help bridge a potential $900,000 budget gap.

Should the building have to close its doors, the program would move to other public school facilities, said Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.

“My worst case scenario is on paper right now,” DeRuosi said.

The School Committee voted a $29.6 million budget but the Finance Committee is supporting Town Manager Scott Crabtree’s recommendation for $1.6 million less. After making adjustments to the department’s critical needs, DeRuosi said the district would still face a $900,000 shortfall. Town Meeting will vote on the budget May 1.

At a meeting Tuesday, he proposed cuts that included closing the center and not replacing seven retiring employees, six teachers and a nurse, and cutting one elementary school teacher. Six paraprofessional positions would also be eliminated to save the district between $98,000 and $114,000.

The Ballard Early Education Center has several curriculum-based preschool classes, about five of which are integrated classes of both regular and special education. DeRuosi proposed relocating the more self-contained classes to Saugus High School and the more inclusive classes to Veterans Memorial Elementary School. This year the school has 118 children, though some are half-day and part-time students. Moving the program would save the district between $140,000 and $145,000, he said.

“When you’re spending over $1 million on 45 students, you have to look at how you can do that more efficiently,” said Chairwoman Jeannie Meredith.

Federal loan paves way for Malden streets

DeRuosi also questioned whether two retiring custodians needed to be replaced and whether a currently open position needed to be filled.

DeRuosi added that as a long-term goal, the master plan includes having fewer school buildings. He and School Committee members shared a vision that high school juniors and seniors could take child development courses and volunteer in classrooms to help prepare them to pursue degrees in fields such as social work and education.

By not replacing teachers, some schools would be faced with larger class sizes of up to 26 students, DeRuosi said. He added that parents would have the option to move their children to another school with smaller class sizes.

School Committee member Peter Manoogian argued that keeping smaller class sizes should be a priority when looking at the budget. Member Arthur Grabowski said he would rather see higher paying positions eliminated than teachers and nurses.

The panel also discussed whether the Belmonte Middle School needed its current two vice principals, three councilors and an adjustment counselor in addition to Principal Kerry Robbins.


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

‘Just a beautiful lady’: 4 years after bombings

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Boston Marathon bombing victim Krystle Campbell.

By STEVE FREKER

MEDFORD — It has been four years since the Boston Marathon bombings changed the city of Boston and the region forever; the reverberations of the day hit Medford hard with the death of Krystle Campbell.

The 29-year-old Medford High graduate and former University of Massachusetts-Boston student was one of three people killed during the initial attack April 15, 2013.

Medford has embraced her memory with an annual Medford High Mustang girls softball tournament coordinated by head coach Jack Dempsey.

The fourth tournament will be held this weekend at the Columbus School. Event proceeds, including “Medford Strong” T-shirts and raffles, will go toward the Krystle Campbell Scholarship Fund at Medford High.

“Krystle was a three-year member of the softball team when she was at Medford High and we thought it was fitting to honor her memory since her passing,” Dempsey said. “Our softball team looks forward to this tournament every (year) and the Medford community and the local businesses really get behind it. It’s a fantastic weekend for a great cause.”

This year will be the anniversary of the unveiling of the $1.2 million Krystle Campbell Peace Garden in Medford. Initiated by former Medford Mayor Michael J. McGlynn, the memorial on Riverside Avenue was funded by state and federal grants along with private donations.

Fourteen months in the making, the garden was unveiled in September 2016 with Medford Mayor Stephanie M. Burke, McGlynn, state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, and others in attendance.

Sears protester: They know what happened

William Campbell said his family was deeply moved by the tribute to his daughter. “She was a beautiful lady,” he said. “Just a beautiful lady. She would come to a place like this.”

The garden was designed to replicate the marathon course, with bronze plaques identifying many of the mile markers. A central seating area faces four fountains which represent the four fatalities, surrounding a fifth fountain for the more than 250 who were injured; a number of whom were seriously hurt and lost limbs. Plaques representing the lives of the four killed were installed as the four points on a compass.

An April 8 ceremony at the garden and luncheon at the adjacent Medford Senior Center included the presentation of $5,000 scholarships to two UMass Boston students: Leona Smith of Revere and Eden Blakeley of Dorchester. Both plan to pursue their education at Krystle Campbell’s alma mater.  

Seven runners that ran Monday’s marathon in Krystle Campbell’s honor gathered outside Medford City Hall, dressed in yellow, long-sleeved shirts and bright blue tank tops bearing her name.

A mile run through Medford passed by the Campbell family home. Burke, in remarks at the April 8 luncheon, said $680,000 of a $1 million goal had already been raised for the scholarship fund.

“We will continue to remember Krystle in her home city of Medford,” Burke said. “We will always honor her legacy.”

Homebuying seminars to be held at bank.

North Shore Bank has partnered with Coastal Homebuyer Education, Inc., to offer a series of education programs that are designed to demystify the home buying process. Typically offered on a monthly basis, these two-day programs feature topics like:

  • How to obtain a mortgage
  • Learning to work with realtors
  • The importance of home inspections
  • The role of attorneys
  • How to purchase insurance
  • Special issues for condominiums and multi-family homes

These workshops are also certified by Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) and MassHousing. This is a particularly important distinction as completion of a first time home buying education program is often required by lenders as a precondition for obtaining a mortgage.

North Shore Bank will also provide a closing cost credit of $250 to those who attend a seminar and then obtain a first-time homebuyer mortgage through the bank. Please note this offer can also be combined with our existing First-Time Homebuyer credit — bringing your savings to $750.*
To check out the schedule of upcoming workshops, or to reserve your space, CLICK HERE

*Subject to credit approval — NMLS Number. 466007

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.

 

Higgins named principal at South School

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY – A familiar face is returning to the South School as its new principal.

Mark Higgins, a former South School assistant principal who has been principal at the Witchcraft Heights Elementary School in Salem for the past decade, has been named to replace Monique Nappi at the South School.

Nappi is retiring effective June 30, and Higgins will take the reins on July 1.

“Dr. Higgins brings a wealth of educational and leadership experience to this position, as he has been a very successful principal in Salem for the past 13 years and recently earned his doctoral degree as well,” interim superintendent Herb Levine stated in a letter to the school committee. “I know Dr. Higgins to be a wonderful human being, someone who loves kids and has superb interpersonal skills as well. I am certain that Dr. Higgins will be a great fit for the terrific South School community.”

Lynn could get new bakery, coffee shop

Levine said Higgins was the one finalist moved forward by a screening committee of parents, teachers, and school administrators and community members. Levine said he and Higgins were able to quickly agree on a contract.

Higgins is a Peabody resident, and said he is happy to be coming back to the community where he lives and his three children go to school.

“It’s nice to come back and to not be a stranger,” said Higgins. He said that while he does know a number of people in Peabody, he is looking forward to meeting the new students and families of the South School community.

While Higgins said he is happy to return to Peabody, he appreciated the years he spent in Salem.

“I went to Salem 13 years ago from the South School,” he said. “I loved my time there, and Salem was my hometown, so it worked out great.”

There will be a meet and greet with Higgins for members of the South School community at the school on Tuesday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m.

“I hope that as many of the South School community as possible will be able to join us in welcoming Dr. Higgins to the Peabody Public Schools,” Levine said.

 

McGee leading transit talk tour

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
State Sen. Thomas McGee speaks with The Item.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It might be one of the few times when you talk and politicians listen.

Two dozen state senators are expected to attend the latest Commonwealth Conversations next Tuesday at the J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody at 6:30 p.m.  

But don’t expect speeches, these Town Hall-style forums put the microphone in your hands.

“We don’t talk, we listen,” said state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “You get two minutes to make a comment, ask a question or both.”

The Massachusetts Senate launched the statewide listening tour in 2015 designed to connect legislators with constituents to hear their ideas, concerns and suggestions.

“On that tour, we got input from the public that helped us develop our legislative priorities for the session,” McGee said.

Two years ago, legislators heard from the public about the cost of higher education, mounting student debt, college affordability and income inequality.

“As a result of those listening tours in eight Massachusetts regions, we passed legislation to create the college savings plan and expanded the earned income tax credit,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport).

Time for adult conversations

So far, the common denominator at forums in Greater Boston, the South Coast, South Shore, MetroWest and Western Massachusetts have brought out voters who are fired up about immigration issues, global warming and renewable energy.

“We’ve been surprised at how energized people are about what’s happening in Washington,” said Rodrigues. “We expected that in the more progressive parts of the state, like MetroWest, Northampton and Amherst, but we heard the same in Ashland.”

The sessions have had anti-President Donald Trump undertones, the senators said.

“There hasn’t been much speaking directly at the president, but clearly they oppose his policies on immigration and climate change,” said McGee. “That has been universal.”

A separate transportation forum will be on the same day from noon to 2 at the Lynn Museum. Sponsored by the Barr Foundation, the Boston-based nonprofit with assets of $1.6 billion, will explore ways to improve and increase investment in transportation.

“We need to transform our state so that it has a fair and equitable transportation system that benefits everyone,” McGee said.

The senators acknowledge the biggest challenge on transit and infrastructure improvements is raising the money.

“It all boils down to dollars,” Rodrigues said. “It’s difficult to have an adult conversation around taxes because there’s an innate mistrust of government that we don’t spend tax dollars wisely. Everyone thinks about tax policy on their own wallet … it’s challenging.”


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

 

‘I feel grateful to fit into a new, peaceful country’

By YOSRA GIRDIA

Yosra Girdia

My life seems to be like a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

When I was 15, a newscaster on the television alerted our area that we needed to leave Benghazi, Libya immediately. We would have only six hours before bombs would be dropped on our city. In that moment, our family was immobilized with grief and  embraced each other through tears and prayers. As soon as we could, my family left our war-torn city for Darfur in Sudan, my parents’ homeland, only to be met with more chaos and violence.

Tired, hungry and terrified, we ended up in a refugee camp between Egypt and Libya. Although we were safe, we had lost our home.

In 2013, after a year in camp, the United Nations gave us permission to travel to the United States. I eagerly looked forward to the journey because I missed being in school. I had great hopes for the education I would receive in the United States. When I entered school, my hopes were not disappointed. I was thrilled by the quality of education in U.S.

However, school was not without challenges. I knew only basic English, so I had difficulty completing class assignments.  To make matters worse, there was an instance in which a fellow student called me a terrorist in the middle of class. My classmates know that I am a Muslim because I wear a hijab, and this traditional piece of clothing is part of my of identity, and I am proud to wear it every day.

I don’t blame that student for calling me a terrorist, because I know that many people base their opinions about Muslims from what they see in the media. However, I also know that this was only one individual, and the rest of the students have all been accepting of me and my religion.

I really appreciate that I am Muslim, I feel that I had a positive experience at Lynn Classical High School.

But I wish that more students and people who have never had a chance to meet a Muslim would get to know me.

I thought back to my studies in the refugee camp, and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt stood out in my mind. “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out of the best schools  that I have ever attend and get to have negative experience eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”  I hoped to live this quote.  

Eventually, my U.S. experience became positive. Kind, caring, nonjudgmental and supportive teachers encouraged thinking and use of the imagination which is illegal back in Libya.  Without fear, I started reaching out to others and meeting this new world head on. I feel grateful to fit into a new, peaceful country that treats people with dignity and respect.

‘You first learn about prejudice from your family’

Today, I dream of empowering girls in my home country. My mother’s family did not believe that girls should be educated or speak out, but people think differently in America. Furthermore, my experience impacted me so that I hope to go back to Sudan, especially Darfur, to open schools for women. I am proud to say my father supports my goals. It is because of America that my family and I began to embrace life again.

Running for days to escape war and living in camp conditions was all worth the suffering. The challenges made me stronger and gave me a sense of purpose. I survived for a reason. I believe I can fulfill my purpose in life much more profoundly because in my heart, I can call the U.S.A. my home. The Hollywood blockbuster isn’t over. You just read the opening scenes.


Yosra Girdia​ is a senior at Lynn Classical High School.

 

Bigotry happens so often ‘I have lost track’

By HONG NET

Hong Net

Studies have shown that every ethnic group has to deal with some sort of bigotry toward them or their lifestyle. Every person, young or old, is labeled with either positive or negative traits. It is part of our everyday life. We hear it every day and everywhere.

In my opinion, bigotry in any form is a big problem in our modern society. It puts labels about how a person should act or live according to their sex, race and personality. I also believe that bigotry is among the most unsavory of realities and it involves verbal abuse that targets people with disabilities and specific sexual orientations, purposely and sometimes inadvertently.

Bigotry occurs when an individual starts to make remarks about the way we look, the way we dress, the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we act, the way we eat and the language that we speak. We know that we get criticized about what we hear every single day. We even are criticized in which music we listen to and who we hang out with.

There were times that I was not so open to the idea of meeting new people and making new friends. I did not want to go outside, because I had put my own set of rules in this world. I once  was a very different person. I had an upbringing with a lot of views that were not exactly open-minded, and as a result those were the views I held. Even if I have deluded myself into thinking I do not, I thought I was somewhat better than others, particularly my fellow Cambodian children in my village and could not believe or see things differently.

Perhaps it was because I was so sheltered from other points of view that I really had no idea what they were all about. For having been born into and raised by a Cambodian-Chinese family, I thought my fellow Cambodians in the village who had darker skin than mine were more primitive than I was. Because of the fluent language from my Chinese grandfather, most of the time I preferred to befriend Chinese kids or people with light skin. We had put the bar way up high, maybe too high for our potentials. I was convinced that people with light skin were smarter because all I saw was that they worked for my grandfather and other Chinese families at the time. When I looked at them, the first thing that I would look for is that they spoke proper language and what color their skin was.

Besides judging others from what I saw, I also judged them from what I heard from other people.  Once or twice I had participated in making fun of people with disabilities by impersonating them for how they walked, but I never let them see what I did. I also had been feeling uncomfortable being around LGBT people and had difficulty accepting them. The media, however, had me believe that black people were better at sports and music, but were more prone to violence.

There was a time that I disliked the way people were sagging their pants. I even made comments that when it comes to trouble, the people with saggy pants would be left behind for being unable to run. I also heard people call Hispanics “beans” because they assumed that Hispanics eat only beans. Because of such remarks, it took me some time to want to try Hispanic food because I am not a big fan of beans or peas.

People with disabilities ‘are people, just like you’

As a young person, I was convinced that it was true the Muslims were cocky by hearing the story told by elderly people in the community I lived in. They even made remarks that the Muslims’ fingers can reach the sky.

However, things started to change when I was judged by other people, and as well as when I became exposed to many more people and more points of view. In life, people prejudge others by their appearance, but I have learned that it is not what should be judged.

Bigotry has happened to me so many times, I have lost track. Every time that it has happened, I expected someone to stop it, but I got let down. So it came to the point that it did not bother me any more. But what about the people who are new to this place, and they are used to people who look the same? And when they first experience bigotry, they might only feel very sad and not even know what to do. They might also think that it is OK to do it to someone else and expect not to get punished for it.  

I have come across some bigots and close-minded purists in my life. I got pushed around by bigger kids. I was forced to eat grass and called names. I was called big head in a mean way.  During the Khmer Rouge regime, I was sent to a hard labor camp because of my Chinese name.  They called me a capitalist. They believed that Cambodian-Chinese or people with light skin deserved to be severely punished, even put to death because they used to have an easier life than the pure Khmers. They said that it was time for them to pay for being more advanced in life than they were. The Khmer Rouge soldiers were predominantly made up of pure Khmers with dark skin, uneducated, and speaking with heavy accents. In refugee camps in Thailand, I was beaten and kicked numerous times by drunk Thai guards just for being a refugee. They would laugh and joke by saying, they all just refugee animals, refugees in our land.

In Bangkok International Airport, I was shooed away from the public area by the airport employees just because I was a refugee boy with bare feet and rags. They would stare at me with disgust. Therefore, I came to believe that it was my karma. These abusive actions have left a traumatizing effect on me and it somehow still remains in me to this day.

Another time that had occurred, when I first arrived in the U.S, one of my history teachers in high school yelled in my face saying that I was a “lazy little Cambodian” for not understanding the new language. I was so embarrassed and started to cry in front of my classmates. Then some students tried to lure me to a fistfight with them. They said, “Come on Bruce Lee, you wanna fight?” One of the kids threw a punch at me, I then twisted his arm throwing him into a pile of snow on the ground in front of a school building. From then on, everyone assumed that all Asians knew karate or kung fu.

In college, my academic advisor told me that I should not have majored in politics because of my appearance and my heavy accent. She said that only tall people with blue eyes and have no accents could be in politics.

I also had been followed and pulled over multiple times when I borrowed my parents’ new car, and they were making remarks toward me the way that they should not have made.   

Having been educated from past experiences, it is best to get to know a person before judging him or her. I also have learned that appearance is not everything. What a person looks like may not be exactly what he or she is like on the inside. I have met many people that I thought were amazing and everything that I looked for in them, but I was proven wrong. After I got to know them, they were mean and thought too highly of themselves. I realized then, that I should get to know the person’s personality before I judge him or her based on looks or what I’ve heard about from other people. I believe that people who have not been in this kind of mindset simply cannot comprehend it. Their perceptions of how bigots think which only ends up making an even bigger mess of things when they get into arguments and debates. I strongly believe that knowing a single story of a person or a country can cause misunderstanding and create a bigot. Bigots have enormous impact on people’s feelings and can cause people to feel lonely and sometimes depressed. Let’s stop judging people before we even get to know them.  

Learning from my own experiences, bigotry is creating problems in children. These problems can create confusion in them because they are growing up thinking that there should be one way because society thinks that is the ideal. A bigot also creates false ideas of how children interact with others. Our kids should be taught to value other people for what they are, not what they appear to be.

We are the new generation, it is our responsibility to do something to avoid these problems. We can start to change our perceptions of bigotry, therefore, it is important to teach our kids to respect each other regardless of race, culture, religion, sex, sexual orientation, personality, and more. It is our moral obligation to teach them these values because they are the future of our society.  


Hong Net is a Lynn City Councilor at large first elected in 2011 and a state Department of Revenue employee.

Nahant eyes guidelines for new developments

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — The Planning Board will discuss whether the town should set guidelines for incoming religious and educational developments at a public hearing tonight at Town Hall.

The panel will make a recommendation for if Town Meeting should add a new section to the zoning bylaws that would require a site plan review for the construction of buildings that would be used for religious and educational purposes.

“There are one or more state statutes that exempt religious and educational developments from local review,” said Richard Snyder, chairman of the Planning Board. “It’s often referred to as the so-called Dover Amendment. It was passed by the state so that cities and towns could not prevent educational and religious uses within town. That right allows them to override various provisions of local zoning laws.”

While local municipalities cannot prevent the organizations from coming to town, they can ask the developers to work with them on a plan.

“This zoning ordinance is intended to provide that the town can play a role in any such development and hopefully influence its nature for the benefit of the town,” Snyder said. “What we try to do is tailor what we want done to make it consistent with the way our town looks. Our zoning bylaw prevents most buildings from being greater than 2.5 stories high. We’re trying to keep it consistent so the landscape is not disturbed.”

Revere wants a new high school

The other hearing will require a recommendation on whether Town Meeting should amend the storm-water bylaws voted two years ago. The bylaw was intended to minimize soil erosion during construction and development by requiring that construction projects mitigate runoff.

In August 2015, the attorney general struck down three sections of the bylaws because they did not correctly identify how to assess and enforce fines and penalties, Snyder said. The revised version includes a fee up to $100 for each day that a criminal violation occurs. Non-criminal fines are proposed to be $25 for the first violation, $50 for the second and $100 for the third.

“Town Meeting passed it and in the course of a review by the attorney general, certain technical aspects of the law were found incomplete and we were asked to correct them and that’s what this seeks to do,” said Snyder.

The revision was drafted on advice from Town Counsel, he said.


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

The Irish know about ‘receiving end of bigotry’

By EDWARD T. CALNAN

Edward T. Calnan

When I consider the notion of bigotry I am reminded of what my parents, who were immigrants from Ireland, experienced and what we, their children, experienced as first-generation Americans. As Irish citizens my parents grew up in a country as subjects of a colonial power that, over an 800-year period, subjected them and their ancestors to cruel injustices and brutal oppression in a program of ethnic cleansing that was as bad as the world had seen to that point. Through a series of punitive laws priests were killed for saying Mass; small farmers were evicted from their fertile holdings, which were then given to others; education was forbidden; and the Gaelic language was outlawed.

In the mid-1500s Oliver Cromwell appeared on the scene and he and his army swept across Ireland indiscriminately killing men, women and children. He captured more than 50,000 Irish, mostly women and children, herded them aboard sailing ships and transported them to the West Indies. There they were sold to plantation owners in Barbados and other islands for slave labor in the sugarcane fields. The Irish were among the first slaves in the Western Hemisphere.

In the early part of the 20th century the Irish once again tried to throw off the yoke of oppression. And this time, through a series of events, they were successful. The first event was a long labor strike by the Transport and General Workers Union in Dublin in 1913. Next came the armed Easter Uprising in Dublin 1916. Finally, in 1919, Ireland’s War of Independence was launched. My father fought in this war when he was in his late teens. In mid-1921 a truce was called by England and, for the first time in 800 years, Ireland became self-ruling and on the way to establishing a republic.

Great numbers of the Irish arrived in this country in the mid-1800s to escape poverty and widespread hunger in Ireland. They were opposed by anti-Irish nativist gangs that formed a secretive entity called The American Party, also known as the “Know Nothings” and their bigoted rhetoric led to violent attacks on the newcomers. This was the period when “No Irish Need Apply” signs were hung in windows of businesses. Caricatures of the Irish as ape-like barbarians prone to lawlessness, laziness and drunkenness abounded. So after all this, I would say the Irish know a thing or two about how it feels to be on the receiving end of bigotry.

My parents met in the mid-1920s upon their arrival in this country. They settled in the Brickyard section of Lynn. Before long the family grew to include eight children. The Brickyard could be described in those days as a multi-cultural, multi-racial place. There were many nationalities living there. Besides Irish there were Italians, Greeks, French, Polish, Lithuanians, West Indians, Armenians, Scots and Chinese, among others. Whites were prominent but Blacks and Asians were part of the mosaic as well. The one thing we had in common was a recognition that most of us were poor.

‘We all have the bigotry demon inside of us’

Stereotypical terms such as harps, thick micks, paddies, greenhorns, lace curtain Irish, kitchen canaries and other names were prevalent in describing the Irish in the neighborhood. The police wagon was called the Paddy Wagon and the term is still used by some people and is as objectionable to Irish people now as it was many years ago. To be sure, the stereotypes existed for each of the nationalities in the neighborhood and the Irish were as guilty as any others in exploiting the differences of the groups. I’m just glad that through education and time spent in getting to know others as individuals, we’ve collectively determined that we have more in common with each other than we have differences.

For many Irish people St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day. It’s also a day that is celebrated by people the world over whether they’re Irish or not. Besides honoring our patron saint, it is a way to celebrate the waning of winter and the promise of a warmer spring. It’s a very social day, people aren’t expecting presents and they can just have a good time. Greeting-card companies, however, hold on to some of the themes of those bygone days and cartoon-like images that display the Irish in many of the old and hurtful ways can be found in any store selling St. Patrick’s Day cards.

Some years ago the national office of the Ancient Order of Hibernians urged their local divisions to be vigilant and to protest directly to local merchants. One of my local heroes in this regard was Joe Kidney, division 10 president who took it upon himself each year around St. Patrick’s Day to visit local merchants and talk to them about it. Joe delivered his message in a polite but firm way as he described how the most egregious cards offended Irish people. Most of these business people were fair and bought into Joe’s argument, removing the cards in question. Joe did his part along with others across the country to blunt the effects of bigotry in a small, but meaningful way.

Many lessons can be learned from the Irish immigration experience as well as the experience of other nationalities that encountered bigotry during their journeys to assimilate and to become an integral part of American society. Everyone here now is an immigrant in the historical sense. We need to be more sensitive to that reality. The present-day newcomers to our country should be given the chance we had without being disparaged because of their accents, beliefs and customs. We need to get to know people better to dispel feelings of suspicion and create a welcoming atmosphere. We will all be stronger for it.


Edward T. Calnan is a former city councilor and director of community development in Lynn.

‘We all have the bigotry demon inside of us’

By CAROLINA TRUJILLO

Carolina Trujillo

Am I a bigot? Maybe. In all honesty, I think we all are, and as we gently move through life, we release our bigotry every step of the way. Sometimes by finely mumbling in between our teeth and sometimes harshly with a putdown or an insult, or by making simple assumptions in the form of a question or a “well intended” comment.

On a personal note, I’ve experienced bigotry multiple times. I am a Latino woman, with a perceivable accent and fair skin, born in Colombia. Out of all my descriptive characteristics, my place of birth has probably gotten me in more stereotypical situations of bigotry than anything else. Apparently here in the United States, being a Colombian automatically makes a me a close relative of the well-known, and thankfully, now dead, Pablo Escobar.

As a Colombian, I have carried this “drug dealing” legacy everywhere I go. To me, being associated with Pablo Escobar is the biggest sign of bigotry that I’ve ever had to face. It doesn’t really matter that I’m an educated woman, have two Master’s degrees, and honestly it doesn’t really matter how much I perfect my English, because every time I open my mouth and say “I’m from Colombia,” somebody inevitably will reply with “Oh the land of drug lord Pablo Escobar” to which I respond, “Yeah, no ties to him.” Some people have the nerve to follow up and say, “Really, you don’t have a cocaine route?” At that point I just walk away.

I’m daily consumed with the mental debate of becoming a more verbal bigot myself in the name of righting people’s wrongs. I run these mental images where I act poorly justified in others acting poorly. Should I just unleash my hatred and say what I think? Maybe? Maybe not? What I am certain of is that we all have the bigotry demon inside of us, we just choose when to let it out to play.

‘I’ve been expected to be a spokeswoman for every black person’

Harrington principal among 3 super finalists

ITEM PHOTO BY ADAM SWIFT
Pictured is Harrington Elementary School Principal Debra Ruggiero.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Debra Ruggiero, principal of the Harrington Elementary School in Lynn, is one of three finalists for superintendent in Peabody.

Somerville High School Headmaster John Oteri and Gloucester Assistant Superintendent Arthur Unobskey are the other two finalists to replace interim Superintendent Herb Levine.

“I’m certainly very excited and honored that they see me as a candidate who is viable to be superintendent,” Ruggiero said. “I’ve worked very hard in my career, and I hope (the School Committee) sees that in the site visits and final interview.”

Over the coming weeks, the Peabody School Committee will be visiting the home school districts of the three finalists followed by visits by the finalists to Peabody and a final interview before the committee.E

School Committee members will visit Lynn on March 30, and Ruggiero said she will be visiting Peabody in April for the site visit and interview. During the visit to Peabody, the finalists will meet with city leaders, such as the police and fire chiefs, as well as school officials.

Ruggiero said she understands it is a big jump from elementary school principal, but said she believes she has the educational experience to make her a qualified candidate for the position. Ruggiero is also the only superintendent candidate who calls Peabody home.

“I know that it is a key part that they are looking for someone to be invested in Peabody as a whole, whether they are a resident or not,” said Ruggiero. “I have lived in Peabody for a long time, and have been involved, particularly when my children were younger.”

Stability is principal concern in Swampscott

At the first round of interviews with the School Committee earlier this week, Oteri said he places a premium on hiring educators who go above and beyond and are able to communicate clearly and concisely.

“The objective (in a classroom) should be very clear,” Oteri said. “I should go in the classroom, a grandmother should be able to go in there and know what they are doing within five minutes.”

Unobskey, who met with the School Committee last week, said he has an educational philosophy that serves all kids and makes sure all teachers are heard. He said he’s done his research on Peabody and would love to be a part of the community.

“I really think that the diversity and the size is a wonderful combination for me,” Unobskey said.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. said he is happy with the candidates the School Committee selected to move forward to the next round of the process.

“The superintendent in Peabody is a very challenging position and we want to make sure the next superintendent is the right person to handle all the responsibilities of the position,” said Bettencourt. “This is the most important decision the School Committee will make, and the three candidates are worthy to continue the process and for us to learn more about.”

School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne voted against moving forward with the three finalists, citing the candidates’ lack of experience as superintendents.

“I’m personally disappointed, I had hoped we would have had someone apply who had been a superintendent, possibly in a smaller district,” said Dunne. “Peabody is a big district with a lot of moving parts, I think someone with experience as a superintendent would be better than someone who has not been a superintendent before.”

The position was advertised with a salary range of $175,000-$190,000 with a three-year initial contract. The official posted start date is July 1.

Dunne said she is also concerned about the salary level, since when it was approved, she said the committee was basing those numbers on bringing in someone with superintendent experience.

“I was willing to pay for someone with experience,” said Dunne. “Now it’s a really good salary range for someone who has not been a superintendent. All three finalists are fine people, and I think they will make fine superintendents, just not in Peabody … this is a huge job.”

Stability is principal concern in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Superintendent Pamela Angelakis appointed Jason Calichman and Robert Murphy as the permanent principals of Swampscott Middle School and High School, removing their interim labels effective immediately and foregoing a formal search process.

“Mr. Murphy and Mr. Calichman have done an outstanding job in their respective buildings,” Angelakis said. “They have demonstrated an extremely high level of student-centered leadership, as well as the ability to make difficult decisions. They are highly engaged with their school communities and have exhibited the ability and commitment necessary to implement the vision for their schools.

“Through personal observation and overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, teachers and staff, it is clear to me that Mr. Murphy and Mr. Calichman are the right leaders at their schools and for our district,” Angelakis continued. “They have exhibited an understanding of the critical need to balance academic achievement with the social-emotional well-being of students, which has proven to be a high priority in our district. They have changed the culture in their schools to further emphasize the importance of educating the whole child.”

Angelakis made her announcement at a School Committee meeting Wednesday night, with Calichman and Murphy in attendance. Last March, the superintendent appointed both men as interim principals of the middle and high school.

Murphy, 48, a Danvers resident, moved into the high school position from the middle school, where he served as principal for four years.

“It’s exciting, humbling and exciting,” Murphy said. “You try to do the best you can and to be recognized for that is an honor. Having grown up here in Swampscott, it’s almost like a double honor. In my youth days, I never would have imagined myself being the principal of Swampscott High School.”

Calichman, 40, a Swampscott resident, was the assistant principal of the middle school for four years before he was upgraded to the principal position.

“I’m honored and so proud and so happy to be part of this district,” Calichman said. “I live here, work here. I’m going to have two kids going through the schools here and there’s not a more important job to me than the middle school job. I take the challenge very seriously and I look forward to growing in the position for hopefully a lot of years.”

Lynn budget under the knife

Both have been in their interim positions since July 1, which was initially slated to be for the entirety of the current school year, with the superintendent intending to post the permanent positions and start a search process. Last year, when appointing Calichman and Murphy to their interim positions, Angelakis said she considered the instability that the high turnover rate in the high school principal position has caused. She had posted the high school principal position in December 2015, but halted the search process because she was unhappy with the applicants.

Edward Rozmiarek, the former high school principal, resigned on Dec. 15, 2015, after a Beverly police investigation revealed that he had a series of graphic Internet chats with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl. The police report revealed that he was actually corresponding with a decoy from a nonprofit group called The Perverted Justice Foundation.

Previously, Angelakis had appointed Frank Kowalski, assistant high school principal, as interim principal of the high school from January through June 2016.

Angelakis said she doesn’t see the wisdom in investing an extensive amount of time in a search for the two schools’ principals when she is confident she has the right people in place, referring to Calichman and Murphy.

“When I appointed Mr. Murphy and Mr. Calichman, I was confident in their ability to do the job, but they have both exceeded all reasonable expectations,” Angelakis said. “And while they may be relatively new to their roles and have an opportunity to further grow into them, their performance has me convinced that they should be leading these schools into the future.”

Before he became principal at Swampscott Middle School and High School, Murphy spent five years as principal of Pickering Middle School in Lynn, two years as assistant principal at Revere High School and two years as an assistant principal at Marblehead High School. Before that, he was a world history and geography teacher at Lynn Classical High School for nine years. He grew up in Swampscott and went to Hadley Elementary School.

Murphy said he was trying to create a sense of stability at the high school, citing the turnover in the position, and create a strong sense of pride back at the high school. He said he was focused on moving the school forward and preparing its students for the next steps of their lives after high school, and also on making sure staff and administrators are doing what’s best for the whole child.

“I look forward to being here for a very long time, until my retirement,” Murphy said. “I’ve come back home and I’m staying, and I’m not going anywhere as long as you’ll have me.”

Before his time at Swampscott Middle School, Calichman spent eight years in Wakefield as a sixth grade English and social studies teacher. For the last six months at Galvin Middle School, he filled in as the assistant principal. He spent two years teaching the same subjects to seventh- and eighth-graders in New Jersey.

Calichman said that the middle school has been focused on the whole child, making sure students are happy and healthy, while also having high academic expectations.

“My No. 1 goal is to make sure every student here feels like they can come to us with any sort of issue, whether it’s academic or a social issue, and we’re going to work with them to figure it out,” Calichman said.


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

Marblehead schools budget for the future

By LEAH DEARBORN

MARBLEHEAD The 2018 fiscal year budget for the Marblehead Public Schools saw a 5.1 percent increase from last year.

At a public hearing Thursday in the L.H. Coffin Elementary School , Superintendent Maryann Perry said most of the additional cost came from contractual increases across all grades.

Textbook and curriculum renewal is a priority, said Perry, as well as continuing to update technology accessible to students and teachers.

She said additional interpretation services were contracted over the past year as the student base in town continues to diversify.

“We want to make sure every child and their family feels welcome here in Marblehead schools,” said Perry.

She said a separate $115,000 was granted by the town finance committee to supplement recent federal cuts to Title I program funding. Title I focuses on narrowing the education gap for at-risk learners.

The hearing was part of the regular School Committee meeting.

Harrington principal among 3 super finalists

Before the budget hearing, the future of the Elbridge Gerry School was discussed. Committee member David Harris said this week kicks off the hiring process for an owner’s project manager to direct the feasibility phase of consolidating the Gerry and Coffin schools.

He said the committee is analyzing an alternate possibility of combining the Gerry, Coffin and Malcom L. Bell schools that would support 450 students, a course Harris described as a means of preparing for the future growth.

The Gerry School Building Committee entered the 270-day eligibility period with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in March and was given the green light to move forward to the next phase of gathering information.

“They’re right there with you from start to finish,” said Harris about the project manager position.

He said whomever is hired will work hand-in-hand with the building committee and architect in a process the MSBA estimates will take an average of 18-24 months.

The feasibility study is estimated to cost up to $750,000, according to the Marblehead Public Schools website. The MSBA will reimburse the town approximately 32 percent of the study cost.

The first of the public project manager interviews is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tonight at Marblehead High School. The remaining two will take place on Monday, and a final recommendation will be brought before the committee on April 6.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Malden reflective of Community N’ Unity

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — The city has evolved into one of the most diverse in Massachusetts over the past 15 years and has made major strides toward community unity and inclusion. But there’s still work to be done, according to a Boston-based consulting group’s report.

Working with Strategy Matters of Boston, city and public school officials brought together residents for a series of meetings titled, Community ‘N Unity. Strategy Matters of Boston helped the city coordinate the meetings and released a report on its findings.

At the meetings, residents told stories of their personal experiences and those of their families and friends living in Malden, which led to the report.  

The city is already addressing one key finding of the report: Increasing racial and cultural awareness among municipal employees. The city Human Resources Department has plans for cultural competency and awareness training for all city employees.

“The best part of the whole process is that everyone has the same goal: Bring Malden closer and keep everyone working to make our entire community a welcoming and vibrant one for all of our residents,” said Malden City Councilor at large Debbie DeMaria.

Librarian of Congress checks out Malden

Mayor Gary Christenson announced the creation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Racial Harmony which is expected to develop strategies and goals for the coming year and beyond.

“The report identifies the group’s findings and includes Malden’s strengths as well as areas for improvement,” said Christenson, adding, “(The report) also offers suggestions and recommendations for promoting community cohesion and strength.”

One of the Strategy Matters of Boston report’s findings focuses on local public school efforts to increase diversity. Close to 70 percent of Malden’s public school population is of African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic descent, while the majority of teachers and staff are Caucasian.

Malden’s interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Grandson IV is the first African-American to hold Malden’s top education post.

“It was an excellent series of forums and we were thrilled with the response citywide. We heard a lot of good experiences and got a lot of information presented,” said DeMaria, a former Malden School Committee member.

School committee members seek 2nd term

COURTESY PHOTOS
Pictured is Gargi Cooper, left, and Suzanne Wright.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two incumbents vying to retain their seats on the School Committee are stressing the importance of continuity and consistency on the board. One challenger argues that there needs to be more transparency and communication from the committee.

Suzanne Wright and Gargi Cooper have each decided to run for a second, three-year term on the school committee. They face a challenge from Melissa Camire, who will also appear on the ballot for the April 25 local election.

Camire, who has lived in Swampscott for the past five years, said she would bring a unique perspective to the committee, because she has a six-year-old child in the school system and her partner teaches at Swampscott High School.

Camire wants to see more transparency among the committee. If elected, she said she would do more investigation into the budget and said there could have been more transparency and communication about why certain cuts were made.

Wright, in advocating for consistency, said there have been lots of leadership changes in recent years, both on the board and in the administration.

“For the first time in years, we have a school committee and a superintendent who are able to offer our students and the district staff a level of continuity and consistency of policy that has too often been lacking prior to this administration,” Wright said in a statement.

“Last year was the first time in nearly two decades that we saw a school committee that stayed intact for more than a single year. The constant turnover in the past created an inconsistency that presented a number of problems, not the least of which is having the same leadership from one teachers’ union contract to the following one,” Wright continued.

Cooper also cited the district leadership and school committee turnover prior to her time on the board.

“This lack of consistency has caused the district great difficulties in gaining traction on many important initiatives, including addressing mental health support and technology needs,” Cooper said in a statement. “I am proud to contribute to the district strategic plan that places the emotional and behavioral safety of our students at the forefront.

“I would like to see the mental health initiatives (SWIFT and Harbor programs) that were introduced into the high school this year expand to our middle school because they will provide our children with the support needed to address the needs of students reentering school after absences, due to serious mental health challenges or medical illness,” Cooper continued.

Affordable housing for seniors on the agenda

Wright said she also wants to see them expand to the middle school. She said the need for both mental health initiatives is unquestionable and the difference they are making for students is undeniable. Wright also wants to continue work on a district-wide technology plan to benefit students.

Camire said she disagrees with the continuity argument. She said both candidates had a chance to effect change in their three years, and their plans should already be underway. She said the district should start looking into a panel of parents, students and educators to hire the next high school principal. She said the turnover in administration needs to stop and people need to be hired who “fit our vision for what we want the Swampscott school district to become.”

Camire said the schools are “crumbling around us” and some are not ADA compliant, and there seems to be no technology budget. She is for school consolidation for the lower grades, rather than smaller neighborhood schools, arguing that at just 13,000 residents, Swampscott is already a neighborhood.

“We need to start making that forward progress towards stronger schools for a stronger community,” Camire said.  

Cooper cited her work as chairwoman of the Joint Facilities Task Force, saying that she led the school system to work with town administration to strengthen Swampscott’s infrastructure and improve efficiencies. She said hiring a joint facilities director, a shared position between town government and the school department, has made the district become proactive.

“Our current school board has been working collaboratively and has been able to drive our district forward,” Cooper said in a statement. “Continuity on the board is paramount to continuing our district’s positive momentum. With the knowledge and experience I have gained over these past three years, I am truly invested and committed to bring these and many other much-needed initiatives to completion.”

In addition to her role on the school committee, Cooper said she remains involved in the public schools as a parent and PTA volunteer. She works as a nurse practitioner and runs the medical outreach program out of the Lynn Community Health Center that provides medical care to the homeless in Lynn.

Wright said her four children have all been educated through Swampscott Public Schools.

“If we are going to have the kind of public schools that Swampscott residents expect and are paying for, we need to provide stable, even-handed vision that lasts beyond each year’s election,” Wright said in a statement.

“Right now, there is a healthy diversity of skills, personalities and opinions on the school committee,” Wright continued. “We work well together and respectfully challenge each other and the school administration to make sure we are doing the best we can for the students. We are committed to tackling issues large and small, including the tough financial issues we need to solve. We are seeing results.”


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

Librarian of Congress checks out Malden

COURTESY PHOTO
Touring​ ​the​ ​library​ are, from​ ​left,​ ​Dr.​ ​Carla​ ​Hayden,​ ​Mayor​ ​Gary​ ​Christenson,​ ​Library Trustee​ ​President​ ​John​ ​Tramondozzi,​ ​Dr.​ ​Susan​ ​Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. ​Ed​ward ​Markey.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN —​ ​United​ ​States​ ​Librarian of​ ​Congress​ ​Dr.​ ​Carla​ ​Hayden​ picked Malden to make her first-ever visit to a Massachusetts city.

The​ ​first​ ​woman​ ​and​ ​African​-​American​ ​to​ ​hold​ ​her​ ​position,​ Hayden ​joined U.S.​ ​Sen.​ ​Ed​ward ​Markey ​(D-Mass.),​ ​Malden​ ​Mayor​ ​Gary​ ​Christenson,​ ​Malden​ ​Library Director​ ​Dora​ ​St.​ ​​ ​Martin​ ​and​ ​other​ ​city​ ​staff​ ​and​ ​officials Sunday for an event attended by 200 librarians from across the state.

Hayden led ​a​ ​discussion​ ​on education,​ ​the​ ​role​ ​of​ ​libraries​ ​in​ ​communities ​and​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​funding​ ​libraries​ ​to ensure​ ​access​ ​to​ ​opportunities.​

​​“​I​ ​couldn’t​ ​be​ ​more​ ​honored​ ​and​ ​proud​ ​as​ ​mayor​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​this​ ​momentous occasion,”​ ​Christenson said.

​​Malden​ ​Board​ ​of​ ​Library​ ​Trustees​ ​President​ John​ ​Tramon​dozzi​ ​led​ ​a​ ​private​ ​tour​ ​of​ ​the library​. After the tour,​ ​Markey​ ​and​ ​Hayden​ ​read​ ​to​ ​a​ ​large​ ​group of​ ​children​ ​and​ ​​parents​ ​in​ ​the​ library’s ​Maccario​ ​Room.​ ​

As a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Markey​ ​authored legislation called  ​the​ ​E-Rate​ or Education​ ​Rate program. Created​ ​as​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​1996​ ​Telecommunications​ ​Act, E-Rate has​ ​provided​ ​more​ ​than​ ​$44​ ​billion​ ​nationwide​ ​and​ ​more​ ​than​ ​$600​ ​million​ ​in Massachusetts​ ​to​ ​schools​ ​and​ ​libraries​ ​to​ ​support​ ​internet​ ​access.

​“Public​ ​libraries​ ​are​ ​an integral​ ​and​ ​invaluable​ ​asset​ ​for​ ​a​ ​community,”​ ​said ​Markey,​ ​who​ ​also​ ​​ ​recalled spending “countless​ ​hours​ ​studying​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Malden​ ​Public​ ​Library​ ​as​ ​a​ ​college​ ​and​ ​law​ ​school student.”​ ​​ ​​

Finding the right fit in Medford

Christenson​ ​presented​ ​Hayden​ ​with​ ​a​ ​reproduction​ ​of​ ​Malden’s​ ​May​ ​27,​ ​1776​ ​document​ ​titled​, ​“Instructions​ ​of the​ ​Inhabitants​ ​of​ ​Malden,​ ​Massachusetts​ ​to​ ​their​ ​Representatives​ ​in​ ​Congress.”  

​​Librarians in attendance shared their concerns during a ​question​ ​and​ ​answer​ ​period​, focusing on​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​keeping​ ​libraries​ ​funded,​ ​maintaining​ ​access​ ​to​ ​computers and​ internet,​ ​and​ ​preserving​ ​educational​ ​programming​ ​and​ ​cultural​ ​opportunities​ ​for communities.​  

Legend’s Salem State visit rescheduled

COURTESY PHOTO
John Legend, left, is pictured in a scene with Ryan Gosling in “La La Land.”

SALEM — John Legend fans will have wait a little longer to see their idol.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the award-winning singer-songwriter’s appearance at Salem State University has been rescheduled to May 2. The initial date was March 30.

The May 2 Salem State speakers series event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the university’s Rockett Arena. All tickets purchased for the March 30 event are valid for May 2 and may be used for entry. Questions or concerns should be directed to the series box office at (978) 542-7555 or seriestickets@salemstate.edu on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

At Salem State, Legend will perform some of his hit songs in addition to discussing his initiative, the Show Me Campaign, which focuses on education as a key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and the #FREEAMERICA campaign, which is aimed at ending the school-to-prison pipeline. At the event, Legend will receive the inaugural Salem Advocate for Social Justice award from the Salem Award Foundation.

Tickets, $25 to $100, may be purchased at salemstate.edu/series or by calling the box office.

Legend is an award-winning singer-songwriter whose work has garnered him 19 Grammy awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe award, and a BET Award for best new artist, among others.

The Salem State series is presented by the Salem State Foundation which was incorporated in 1977 as a 501(c) (3) private, nonprofit organization. Its mission is to help Salem State achieve its goals by raising, investing and distributing private contributions for the benefit of the university. In so doing, the foundation provides the opportunity to meet the needs of the Salem State community not met through public funding.

Denorabilia LLC is the presenting sponsor for this event. The Salem State series is solely funded through corporate sponsorships and individual ticket sales.

Sheriff settles into his new office

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger talks about this first three months in office.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MIDDLETON Former Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, settling into his new job as Essex County sheriff after being sworn in in January, is focusing on the budget and reducing the recidivism rate among inmates at the Essex County Correctional Facility.

The biggest issue right now is the budget, Coppinger said. The department has a projected $19 million deficit through June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Out of the 14 sheriff’s departments in the state, he said Essex County is one of the four that have been traditionally underfunded and lives off supplemental budgets through the legislature.

Coppinger said his goal is to get the budget stabilized and fully funded as of July 1 each year. He said the budget cycle for FY18 is ongoing, but right now, the struggle is to come up with the $19 million to get through the rest of the fiscal year.

The sheriff said one of the reasons he ran, after 34 years as a cop, was because he wanted to see some change. He’s a third-generation police officer, who started off with the Lynnfield Police Department, before transferring to Lynn.

Coppinger said he often saw the same individuals arrested and brought back. He said it was a revolving wheel, and called the department’s 47 percent recidivism rate last year outrageous. He wants to see some changes, and plans on a program audit to look at all of the different programs in the department. The goal is to improve the programs for the inmates to address that cycle.

“When the inmates come in, the goal is when they are released, they’re released in better shape than when they came in,” Coppinger said. “Again, the long-term goal is that they don’t recidivate. So, somebody commits a crime, they get sentenced here — the average sentence is nine months. We want to make sure (when) they leave the door, they don’t come back.”

A candid look at life on the streets

One of the department’s highlights, Coppinger said, is the detox program, which works closely with the courts, particularly the drug courts. There is a program for men and women, which includes 42 beds in each unit and 28-day programs. Other programs include anger management, GED for their high school equivalencies and work releases, he added.

The work program for inmates is through the pre-release center in Lawrence, better known as the farm. Coppinger said it’s getting to the point in the season where the sheriff’s department will do a lot more community service work, so inmate work crews will be sent to the municipalities and nonprofits if they want something done.

Coppinger said it also helps the department to send inmates to be released back into the communities to the pre-release center.

“They don’t just sit in a cell for nine months and then we open up the doors and they go home,” he said. “We put them through programs. They leave here and they go to Lawrence. They’re hopefully a work release. They come back at night. Some of them are on bracelets. Some of them are in our custody full-time. And then, you slowly get them acclimated to go back into community life. It’s a multi-faceted set of goals we have.”

Coppinger said the facilities for inmates in the department also operate on a risk-based system. For instance, those involved in the work release are not violent or career criminals, but low-risk inmates who may be serving time for motor vehicle violations or child support issues. With the detox programs, drug dealers would not be allowed in, but those charged with drug possession would.

He said there are also segregation cells for the hardcore criminals. Gang members have to be separated from each other. The key is classification, Coppinger said, and when the inmate comes in the door, the goal is to gather as much information on them as possible to get them into the right buildings and programs. In Middleton, where the sheriff’s office is located, there are 11 buildings for the jail.

A women’s facility is in Salisbury. Most women go to Framingham, including all those convicted of violent crimes, Coppinger said. There are 24 beds in Salisbury, he said, and when women can be held there for other, more minor offenses, they are.

The department also oversees offices of community correction in Lynn, Lawrence and Salisbury, Coppinger said.

Keeping inmates busy with programs keeps them productive, Coppinger said. By sending more productive members back into the community, he said it might lighten the load on law enforcement. There could be fewer calls to police, and they could better address other issues that need their attention. Reform is not a new philosophy, he said, but he and his staff are just bringing a new perspective.

“I just think I bring a little bit different perspective based on my law enforcement background,” Coppinger said. “I know what the root causes of crime are. I watched them for 30 odd years. You see what drives a lot of folks to crime. Hopefully, between these initiatives and working with the cities and towns and even in prevention mechanisms, we can make a dent. We’re certainly not going to completely eradicate crime. If we can knock down that recidivism rate, it’s all the better.”


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

The 6 ‘alternative facts’ of school no-voters

COMMENTARY BY CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT DARREN CYR

I write as president of the Lynn City Council and for the councilors-at-large. We cannot in good conscience sit by and allow the negative, defamatory statements, distortions and outright lies from the “vote no on two new schools” team go unanswered.  

The negativity and outright venom spewed by the opposition shocks the values that we hold true in our hearts. We are utterly disgusted to read social media posts stating that “those children” from foreign countries who speak with accents do not deserve a quality education.  

The anger and nastiness of this campaign by the “vote no” supporters makes the recent presidential election look like a hug fest.

We as Lynners have a unique opportunity to literally change the lives of more than 100,000 of our children for the next century. It is ironic that the residents of Ward 1 who pay some of the highest property taxes in the city are forced to send their children to a crumbling building that does not meet the educational needs of the 21st century.  

Not so long ago, a former Marblehead state representative told his constituents they should support strong state school funding for Lynn. Swampscott raises captains of industry, he said, who “need very well educated employees.”

As Lynners, we find that statement and such a sentiment to be a slap in the face.  We sincerely hope that no Lynner believes that we should be looked down upon by any other community.  

We are proud to be from Lynn and want nothing but the very best for our families and children.  

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

The irony is not lost on us collectively that Swampscott educational leaders have toured the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School and intend to model future construction in their town on this project that was finished on time and under budget. The proposed schools in large part will be modeled after Marshall and the West Lynn site will be almost identical.

“Alternative fact No. 1” put forth by the opposition claims that Lynn can simply go back to the drawing board and select a new site. This is just not true. Lynn has spent almost $1.1 million on architectural drawings, traffic studies, sewer studies and wetland/drinking supply protection studies. There is no more money to funnel into additional studies and plans.  

The plain fact of the matter is that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has insisted that one of the schools be located in the East Lynn District. There are no other sites in East Lynn that exist that are financially or environmentally feasible.  

The Magnolia Avenue site is not a viable option. That  land is located in a flood zone. There is an existing Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe that runs underneath the playground that supplies water to the citizens from Swampscott and Marblehead.  The site is not large enough to accommodate a 600-plus student facility without taking by eminent domain a portion of the neighboring elderly apartment complex. Such a taking would result in dozens of elderly persons being relocated to new homes.

If the citizens of Lynn reject the two modern state-of-the-art educational facilities, Lynn will go to the end of the line and be forced to submit a new application. Exploding enrollment projects show that by 2021, Lynn will have either double sessions or classrooms with 50 children.  In all likelihood, Lynn would not get back to the front of the line at the MSBA until 2019 or 2020.  

This ensures double sessions or students crammed into classrooms like sardines. But even this ignores the fact that there are no other viable sites in East Lynn. Therefore, it makes no sense to re-apply. Lynn will just dump good money after bad fixing up a Pickering Middle School that can never be adequately rebuilt for today’s middle school educational needs.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

“Alternative Fact No. 2” as put forth by the opposition states Lynn will be taking multiple homes at the reservoir site. This is just not true. Lynn heard the voices of the opposition and redrew the plans so that only one home will be taken by eminent domain.  

The wonderful woman who was the subject of news coverage several months ago will not lose her home. The younger woman who would be required to relocate has and will continue to be offered every reasonable accommodation. The Lynn City Council has gone on record supporting the idea of moving her home several hundred yards down the road so that she can remain in the home she built.

Opponents ignore the fact that two homes were taken by eminent domain in order to construct Thurgood Marshall. Those relocated for Marshall were residents of Ward 3 and we know for a fact that they were extremely satisfied with the efforts Lynn undertook to relocate them to a new home of their choosing.  

“Alternative fact No. 3” put forth by the opposition states that the cost of the school project will be $5,000 per taxpayer. This figure will be spread out over 25 years. In return, Lynners will see their property values soar. Think about it: Residents with children looking to buy property will not want to buy in Lynn if our schools are an embarrassment. We urge Lynners to take a tour of the existing Pickering.

Quite simply, the physical condition of Pickering is an embarrassment.

The more families are satisfied with the conditions of our schools, the greater the demand will be for our own homes. Our greatest assets are our homes. With the construction of two new schools, our homes will go up in value considerably.  By approving these two new schools, we have just increased our own net worth by tens of thousands of dollars almost immediately.  

“Alternative fact No. 4” put forth by the opposition states that the property is part of Lynn Woods. This outright fabrication can simply be rebutted by the fact that the Friends of Lynn Woods have publicly said that the land is not part of the Lynn Woods Reservation.

“Alternative fact No. 5” put forth by the opposition states that the land is cemetery land. The deeds for the subject land clearly state that the City of Lynn owns this land with no restrictions. An attorney for the “vote no” group has conceded at a public hearing before the Lynn City Council that the deeds on file at the Registry of Deeds contain no restrictions requiring this land to be used for cemetery purposes.

Conversely, the Lynn City Council is on record as supporting the sale of 32 acres to the Pine Grove Cemetery and said deed will state the land will be used solely for cemetery purposes.  Because there exists no deed restrictions or conditions on file at the Registry of Deeds, the Lynn City Council would be free to sell this land to a developer to construct hundreds of new homes.

The Lynn City Council did not seek such a solution. Rather, it unanimously voted to commence the process to transfer this land to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission at no cost.

“Alternative fact No. 6” put forth by the opposition states that the selection of these sites was done behind closed doors with no public input. All meetings of the Pickering Site Committee have been open to the public.  Three public forums were held where our community could speak up on the proposed sites.

Members of the Lynn City Council have personally met and spoke with the leader of the opposition on almost a dozen occasions. Our city council colleagues have attempted to address or mitigate each and every one of their stated concerns.  

Now is the time for us as a community to step up.  The negativity and anger is unacceptable. We are supporting the two new schools because our only interest is the children of Lynn.  

Our fellow Lynners: Let’s vote yes on two new schools so that our children will have the necessary tools to be captains of industry for generations to come.  


Editor’s note: City Council President Darren P. Cyr wrote this editorial and signed it with fellow councilors Buzzy Barton, Council Vice President, and Councilors-at-large Daniel F. Cahill, Brian P. LaPierre and Hong L. Net.

 

Lynn principal candidate for Peabody super

ITEM PHOTO BY ADAM SWIFT
Pictured is Harrington Elementary School Principal Debra Ruggiero.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Harrington Elementary School Principal Debra Ruggiero, a longtime fixture in Lynn education, is one of six candidates looking to take over the top spot in the Peabody schools.

Ruggiero was one of three candidates interviewed by the Peabody School Committee Wednesday night for the superintendent’s position. The committee will interview the remaining three candidates Monday night at City Hall.

“I’m a 24-year resident of Peabody with 32 years of experience in education,” said Ruggiero. “I am humbled and honored that you have chosen me as a viable candidate for the superintendent post.”

Ruggiero has experience as a regular education, curriculum and instruction, and special education teacher, as well as a principal.

“I have always been a proactive, collaborative, data-driven and reflective educator,” she said. “Through these practices, I’ve been able to work with teachers, parents, district and state in helping a school move from a Level 4 school to a Level 1 school.”

All Massachusetts districts and schools with sufficient data are classified into one of five accountability and assistance levels, with the highest performing in Level 1 and the lowest performing in Level 5.

At the Harrington School, Ruggiero said she has been able to put into practice her educational philosophy of focusing on the whole child, not just the academic side of a student. She also said schools must look at teaching to the individual abilities of the students and innovative ways to help them learn.

“It’s not about the the tests,” Ruggiero said. “It’s about teaching skills and strategies where students can learn no matter what is in front of them.”

Lynn fashionistas strut their prom stuff

As the only Peabody resident in the field of six candidates being interviewed, Ruggiero said she has a deep connection to the city. Her children went through the Peabody school system and Ruggiero has been involved in youth sports, among other activities.

The school committee also interviewed Laura Chesson, an assistant superintendent in Arlington, and Arthur Unobskey, an assistant superintendent in Gloucester, on Wednesday night.

The committee is scheduled to interview Peter Badalament, former principal of Concord-Carlisle High School; Lourenco Garcia, principal at Revere High School; and John Oteri, headmaster at Somerville High School, on Monday.

The six candidates were selected from 19 applicants by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), which was hired by the city to oversee the superintendent search process. It is expected that after the interviews are finished, the school committee will conduct site visits in the home districts of several of the candidates, with an eye toward hiring a replacement for interim superintendent Herb Levine within the next three to four weeks.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. said he was happy with the quality of the candidates brought forward by the MASC.

The new superintendent would start work in Peabody on July 1.

Malden’s city council race is on

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Steve Winslow.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — Steve Winslow has formally thrown his hat in the ring as a candidate for Malden City Councilor at large in this fall’s municipal election.

The former four-term Malden School Committeeman and co-founder of the regional Bike to the Sea group will seek one of the three at large seats on the 11-member body, which also features eight ward councilors,

Winslow, in a campaign statement, detailed his background and described himself as a well-rounded, committed local citizen who has immersed in Malden community concerns focused on education, community development, land use and preservation and an inclusive and accessible municipal government.

“I want to be a progressive, community-focused voice on the council,” he said. “As someone who cares deeply about the city that has been my home for 28 years, I want to use my experience and skills to move Malden forward.”

Winslow, a senior project manager for the city of Gloucester responsible for planning, funding and building community development projects, added, “Smart development will be one key focus of my work — including affordable housing, effective public transportation and a safe environment for people who drive, bike or walk.”

He served on the committee from 2007 to 2013 and said he is well aware of the importance of the city’s school system and the challenges it faces.

“Public education is a critically important part of our city and our democracy,” Winslow said in his statement. “I am fully aware of the practical challenges our schools face. I will continue to work hard for equitable funding, smaller class sizes, strong leadership and the best education we can provide for all of our children.”

Let the transformation begin in Malden

Winslow is perhaps best known for the nearly 25 years he has been actively involved in Bike to the Sea, a nonprofit organization “which has worked since 1993 to make the Northern Strand Community Trail and Bikeway Community Garden a reality.”  

An extensive, paved bicycle path now exists that runs from Everett through the heart of Malden due to the efforts of Bike to the Sea and there are ongoing efforts to extend the path.

“My experience — as an attorney, community development project manager and School Committee member — have given me a profound appreciation for what we can accomplish when we work together,” Winslow said.

He wants to be in the forefront of supporting inclusiveness and accessibility locally.

“Malden’s diverse mix of residents enriches our city, generating enormous potential for creative ideas and innovative solutions. I plan to tap into this potential in ways that benefit everyone. I will be a champion for every Malden resident and neighborhood and will ensure that residents have a strong voice in key decision-making processes,” he said.

Winslow is the second candidate to make a formal announcement of a campaign for one of the three councilor at large seats, joining incumbent Councilor at large Debbie DeMaria, who announced she would seek re-election earlier this year.

Fellow incumbent councilors at large David D’Arcangelo and Craig Spadafora, the longest-serving member on the council, have not formally announced their intentions for this fall’s election, but they are both expected to seek re-election this year.

Swampscott Huddle focuses on change

ITEM PHOTO BY DAVID WILSON 
Members of the Swampscott Huddle group pose for a photo at the Panera Bread in Vinnin Square.

By DAVID WILSON

SWAMPSCOTT — Abbe Smith is quick to say not everyone in the room is necessarily a Democrat.

There may have been an independent; heck, there may have been a Republican. But looking around, it’s safe to say that any Donald Trump supporter in the room had an incredible amount of restraint.

The Swampscott Huddle — 13 men and women so far — got together Friday night at the Panera Bread in Vinnin Square.

The concept of a huddle was born out of the women’s marches; “a small group of friends, family, neighbors and fellow marchers … and a space to meet” is all that’s necessary, according to the website for the Women’s March on Washington.

The purpose of a huddle, the website says, is to “keep the women’s march spirit alive, build the movement beyond those who marched, and set a concrete plan of action.”

Smith, of Swampscott, said she had planned on being in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20; spending the day watching the inauguration of the country’s first female president. It was a plan that never came.

“I didn’t want to be anywhere near Washington” on that day, she said Friday over a coffee. Instead, she went to Florida. The day after Trump’s inauguration, she was at the women’s march in West Palm Beach.

“One of the reasons the women’s march was so powerful is it wasn’t anti-Republican, it wasn’t partisan and it wasn’t anti-Trump; it was pro-humanist, it was pro-our values, pro-family,” Smith said.

Lynn marchers see hope, but feel doubt

Fear of a Trump presidency was one of the topics that led off the discussion in the back room of the restaurant. We’ve got to make it another three-and-three-quarter years before another election, event organizer and Swampscott resident Brian Felder says.

“I’m not so sure it’s gonna take that long,” one discussion member interjects to laughter. 

Felder said people need to be aware “it’s not just that we don’t like (Trump), or we’re scared of him … but we have a damn good reason to be.”

“What are we afraid of?” one member later asks; it’s a question that silences the room for a moment.

Debbie Friedlander of Swampscott said she’s concerned the current administration is becoming, as she puts it, a kleptocracy: a form of government in which officials use their power to steal.

“I really don’t believe (former Exxon Mobil CEO) Rex Tillerson is acting in good faith as secretary of State,” she said. “That’s my greatest fear; there’s no transparency.”

Another question is asked: “What is the thing that hurts us the most?”

A few things, Felder says. “One is the view from the outside of what this country is right now; the other is … (losing) what this country stands for,” he said. “It is really frightening to think of what we’ve already sacrificed in the last 100 days, never mind what we could over the next (three-and-three-quarter years).”

It’s a period that may appear long to some, but this was not a meeting to complain. Members spoke of making phone calls; writing letters — Smith came with stationary — while others flipped through a 15-page contact list for elected officials.

April 15 is coming up. One member mentioned that an act of protest could be to send blank tax forms to the White House; “We want to see your taxes, (Trump),” she says to nods and agreement.

Getting youth involved was another topic touched upon. Their passion and love for their country is something that should be taken advantage of, members said.

“I think young people communicate very different than our age group,” said Friedlander, who is retired. “I also don’t think they associate with political parties, (but it) doesn’t mean they are not politically knowledgeable.”

“I think they see political parties as old-school,” she said. “I think they see it as part of a corporate bureaucracy; and I think they’re very distrustful.”

Felder, a member of the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee, said young voters want elected officials to listen to them.

“We know there are these groups in high schools and in colleges, and would they say they’re lined up with our party? No,” Felder said. “Would they be willing to sit down and talk with us about what would get through to them? Absolutely.”

Smith posed a question to the group: what are your three big concerns under a Trump administration. Could we gather a consensus, she asked.

It wasn’t easy; the “Russia issue” — the country’s alleged involvement in the U.S. election — could prove Trump a traitor, one member said. Other answers ranged from education to climate change; the Affordable Care Act to Tillerson’s role at the State Department.

Friedlander, again, went in on Tillerson. Once the State Department goes, we’re finished; it won’t matter what kind of health care we have, she said.

But under the first months of a Trump presidency, there’s one group most discussion members saved praise for: the press. Members rattled off publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, that, they say hold a spotlight on the administration.

Because without the press, Smith said, the country could fall further “down the rabbit hole.”

The next Swampscott Huddle meeting will be held from 7-9 p.m. Friday, March 24 in the back room of Panera Bread in Vinnin Square.


David Wilson can be reached at dwilson@itemlive.com.