Lynn School Committee

English alumnus looks to return the favor

Brian Castellanos is a first-time candidate for Lynn School Committee and is a graduate of Lynn English High School.


For Brian Castellanos, it’s time to give back.  

Castellanos, 27, who works with children and families in Framingham, launched his campaign for the Lynn School Committee on Monday as a way to pay back the city’s school system for helping him through a tough time.

“I was homeless during my senior year at English High School,” he said. “I was at-risk and going through hard times and the school took me in and helped me be successful.”

Castellanos joins a dozen other candidates, including four incumbents, seeking a post on the seven-member panel that includes Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy as chair.

Earlier this month, two longstanding School Committee members said they will not seek reelection. Patricia Capano, the 55-year-old vice chairwoman who was first elected in 1997, and Maria Carrasco, a native of the Dominican Republic who has served since 2007, will not be on the ballot this fall.

If elected, the Framingham State University and Salem State University graduate, said he hopes to implement and expand programs that advance social and emotional learning skills.

“These skills foster resilience and help kids not only address core subjects but build character and manage emotions,” he said.

Castellanos also wants to make more mental health services available to students. He would like to see the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), which is available in some schools, expanded. CBHI encompasses multiple service systems that include: Intensive Care Coordination, Family Support and Training, In-Home Therapy, Therapeutic Mentoring, Outpatient Therapy, and Mobile Crisis Intervention.  In all services, the youth and caregivers play a role in determining treatment options and supports that will highlight the family’s strengths, according to the service provider.

He’s not sure how much implementing such programs would cost, but will recommend the city apply for grants to pay for them.

Castellanos admits he did not vote in the special election in March on the controversial proposal to build a pair of middle schools. The measure failed by a lopsided margin.

“I would have voted for it,” he said. “Building new schools would have been helpful for the city.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at



Uniform program gets a green light


LYNN — The school committee voted on Thursday to implement a pilot uniform policy at the Aborn and Callahan elementary schools.

Jared C. Nicholson, chair of the Ad Hoc Uniform Policy Sub-Committee, said the policy was authorized under principal direction for the 2017-2018 school year.

In March, principals Patricia Muxie and Brian Fay appeared before the committee to voice willingness for their schools to take part in a pilot program.

He said the only feedback the committee has received on the policy so far comes from a survey that was sent home with parents several months ago.

It was originally the comments of parents, however, that first brought the concept of implementing uniforms to the committee’s attention.

Nicholson said it’s a topic he’s been regularly asked about.

The design of the uniforms will be left up to the discretion of the principals and taking part in the program will be voluntary for students. Those who don’t wish to participate can choose to opt out.

“It’s been experiment-driven by parent feedback,” said Nicholson. He said there’s a lot to be learned from the pilot, which he called a thoughtful experiment.

Nicholson seeks second school committee term

Jared Nicholson is pictured in a file photo.


LYNN Jared Nicholson has announced his run for a second term on the Lynn School Committee.

“I ran for school Committee two years ago because of how important having great schools will be to Lynn’s growth and because I want to send my future kids to great Lynn public schools,” Nicholson said in a statement. “That passion still drives me.”

The district is facing pressing challenges that require effective leadership, including rising enrollment and financial instability, he added. Nicholson said he plans to continue focusing on the issues, drawing on his legal training and business experience.

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

Nicholson prides himself on the successes of his first term, including the opening of Thurgood Marshall Middle School and launch of a varsity wrestling team, an effort he headed for many years. The committee is building pathways for students to college and jobs, he said, noting that a Lynn student can take advantage of the Early College program and earn college credit taking free courses at North Shore Community College. Lynn Vocational Technical Institute will soon add internet technology, HVAC and health care programs.

The district has made progress with addressing the opioid crisis, on social-emotional learning, improving school nutrition, and increasing parent involvement, he said.

“Getting involved in local politics is a great way to act on concerns about where our country is headed,” said Nicholson. “Lynn, and specifically the Lynn Public Schools, are headed toward exciting yet challenging times. I am excited to continue to work on meeting those challenges to help out kids reach their potential so that we as a community can reach ours.”

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.


LYNN If voters reject the ballot initiative on Tuesday to build a pair of new middle schools, students face the possibility of split sessions, according to the superintendent.

“If we don’t build these schools, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be in double sessions in a very short period of time, possibly within two years,” said Dr. Catherine Latham.

Today, 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

“Our schools cannot sustain that many students,” she said. Under double sessions, one group of students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the next group would arrive at 1 p.m. and go until 5:30 p.m., she said.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Latham, Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, Edward Calnan, member of the Pickering Middle School Building Committee, and Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, made the case for the $188.5 million project.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

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

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

Calnan said they explored more than a dozen potential sites, but they were dropped due to a variety of issues. Some were in a flood zone or marsh land, others had hazardous waste that precluded school construction. A site at Magnolia Street would boost building costs by as much as $800,000 to move a water pipe that serves Swampscott and Marblehead, officials said.

A vacant parcel on Rockdale Avenue and Verona Street was examined, but the committee found the tight residential neighborhood was difficult to access and is privately-owned. They also looked at General Electric Co. properties on Bennett Street and on Elmwood Avenue. But those were rejected because of environmental concerns, they said.

Latham said all of the city’s middle school students should have the same experience as those attending the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Last spring, the 181,847-square-foot school opened for more than 1,000 students. The three buildings are divided by clusters, each distinguished by a different color. In addition to an outdoor courtyard, lots of natural light, the soundproof classrooms block any hint of the commuter rail trains that run past the rear of the school and the sounds of musical instruments from several music classes.  

In addition, there are suites for special education and art. The school boasts computer rooms complete with Apple computers. It contains home economics rooms, a woodworking shop, a television production studio and a health center.

Iarrobino, who serves as the liaison between the schools and the School Committee, said any discussion of school must include a link to the local economy.

“If folks are contemplating opening a business in Lynn, the first thing they will ask about is where will their employees attend school and what are the schools like,” he said. “We have an obligation to them and they have a right to the best quality education that is available to them, not just in the suburbs, but right here in an urban district.”  

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Search for special ed administrator continues


LYNN There will be a delay in bringing a new special education administrator to the schools.

Thursday night, the Lynn School Committee unanimously approved Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham’s recommendation to repost the position.

“I feel strongly that we have not yet interviewed the candidate we need,” said Latham. “We need someone with district-level experience.”

Latham said six candidates were in the running for the position, with resumes reviewed, interviews conducted and references called.

However, she said none of the candidates had the kind of district-wide experience in a large school system that she feels is necessary to succeed in Lynn.

The school committee has final say on the position and could have gone ahead to appoint a candidate without a recommendation from the superintendent. But the board agreed to repost the position and have Latham present the qualifications she would like to see from candidates to the committee.

In addition to district-wide experience, Latham said she would like to see someone who has a strong curriculum background.

“I hope to have someone in place by July 1,” she said.

Lynn art students show off in Boston

The position will pay about $110,000, but could vary slightly based on experience and education, committee member Jared Nicholson said. He said the person hired would oversee all of the special education services in the Lynn Public Schools.

Prior to the Thursday meeting, members of the school committee unanimously put forward two names for the superintendent’s consideration, Ellen Kelleher-Rojas and Lesia Diego. John Ford, a school committee member, also submitted a third name, Jeffrey Lappin.

But on Thursday night, the members agreed that they should select someone who has Latham’s trust and recommendation.

“On the reposting, I would like to see who is out there,” said committee member Lorraine Gately.

Three seek Special school job


LYNN — Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham is expected to make her recommendation for the next administrator of special education to the Lynn School Committee on Thursday.

Members of the school committee unanimously put forward two names for the superintendent’s consideration, Ellen Kelleher-Rojas and Lesia Diego. John Ford, a school committee member, also submitted a third name, Jeffrey Lappin.

Information on the finalists’ backgrounds, including current job positions, was not made available by school officials on Monday. But Ford said all of the candidates are working in various aspects of special education in Massachusetts school systems.

Latham could not be reached for comment.

Sacred Heart rebooting curriculum

Jared Nicholson, a school committee member, said the position will pay about $110,000, but could vary slightly based on experience and education. He said the person hired would oversee all of the special education services in the Lynn Public Schools.

Nicholson said the committee would have to vote on a candidate, but ultimately hires on the recommendation of the superintendent. Six people were interviewed by the school committee and top administrators publicly last week, and from that pool, three finalists were chosen.

“I thought they had good leadership experience, good subject matter experience,” Nicholson said of Kelleher-Rojas and Diego, the two names he put forward.

He said they were able to discuss formally what their philosophies were for special education, how to run the department and had more relevant experience than the other candidates.

Nicholson said he was looking for experience in a candidate, someone who has in-depth involvement in special education and is ready to take on a position of great responsibility and great importance to the district. He was also interested in the philosophy they bring and the commitment to making sure students have all of the resources they need.

Ford said he also submitted Lappin’s name because he thought he was worth notice.

“I just thought I saw something in him that might be good,” Ford said. “His resume was pretty good.”

With the other two candidates, Ford said he thought they interviewed well and had the experience.

Ford said the superintendent could decline to recommend anyone to the school committee on Thursday, and instead choose to repost the position.

School committee member Donna Coppola said she thought Kelleher-Rojas and Diego had lots of experience.

“It could look like a good match for us, for Lynn,” she said. “We’re trying to look for the right match. For me personally, this job is a very big job.”

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

School Committee member is in a class by herself

Patricia Capano


LYNN — The longest sitting member on the Lynn School Committee has received state recognition for her leadership, sustained service and commitment to students.

Patricia Capano, school committee vice-chair, is being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), at an awards dinner tonight at 7 p.m. at the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis, 35 Scudder Ave.

“It’s humbling immediately,” Capano said. “That’s how I immediately felt. I was surprised. Then, I was humbled by it.”

Capano has served on the school committee, which is a member of MASC, for 20 years. She said it’s the first time a member from the city’s school committee has been recognized with the award during her tenure.

Glenn Koocher, MASC executive director, said he couldn’t recall the last time someone was recognized from Lynn. Capano was nominated by the MASC Board of Directors.

“She’s being recognized for her two decades of work on the school committee, for her civic involvement and for someone who’s recognized as a leader on the board,” said Koocher.

Koocher said Capano is one of 10 people being given a lifetime achievement award at the dinner.

When she found out she was being recognized, Capano said she started reflecting back on her time as a school committee member. A lot has changed in education, she added, citing the revamping of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and schools transitioning to treating the child as a whole, with a growth of social workers in the buildings. She said Lynn schools have also become more diverse with a higher enrollment of English language learners.

“I think Lynn is a standout,” she said. “Lynn is doing a great job of serving and meeting the needs of so many students.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said it was “absolutely fitting” that Capano was being honored for her work on the school committee.

“She has worked tirelessly over the past 20 years as a strong advocate for children in Lynn, supporting all of the superintendents, principals and teachers with whom she has worked,” she said. “She consistently and thoroughly researches important issues and educates herself and her fellow school committee members on key policy decisions before voting. Mrs. Capano is reliable, dependable and highly ethical, and it has been my honor, pleasure and privilege to work directly with her for the past eight years.”

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

Success sparks smiles in Lynn schools

Under Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham’s direction and backing from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and fellow school committee members, Lynn schools started spending $3 million beginning in 2014 on improving curriculums for reading and related subjects. Item file photo

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham is a numbers person, and the latest numbers for student test scores and dropout rates give Latham plenty of reasons to smile.

The latest assessment scores for Lynn public school students tripled the number of schools ranked as Level One from two in 2015 to six this year. Thanks to improved student proficiency in reading and mathematics, schools like Pickering Middle School and Harrington Elementary School saw dramatic test score improvements from Level Three to Level One status.

Lynn is ranked as a Level Three district among large urban school systems grouped into their own category by state educators. But that mid-range ranking does not tell the story of improvements and academic strides made in Lynn schools.

Under Latham’s direction and backing from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and fellow school committee members, Lynn schools started spending $3 million beginning in 2014 on improving curriculums for reading and related subjects.

Truckloads of boxes filled with books arrived at local schools with as many as 27 boxes dropped off in each classroom. Knowing that students for testing purposes need to be proficient in mathematics as well as English language arts, Latham and fellow administrators launched innovative math programs with names like “First in Math” and “Go Math.”

School officials didn’t simply throw shiny new books and fancy math study programs at students and turn their backs. They introduced a battery of academic intervention programs designed to closely monitor student progress. At the first sign of a student faltering or falling behind, teachers provided after-school help.

The payoff from spending millions of dollars and two years on academic improvement is measurably dramatic. Eight years’ worth of test numbers shows how Lynn public schools have narrowed the gap between local test scores and statewide average scores in all tested subjects.

The public school dropout rate for 2015 stands at 3.8 percent compared to 5.4 percent five years ago. Deputy School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said local dropout prevention programs are making strides in giving students a reason to stay in school. The reasons vary from student to student, but as Tutwiler noted, keeping students from dropping out starts well before high school.

The important point to never forget about the Lynn schools is that their hallways and classrooms fill up every September with children from countries around the world and from families with sometimes serious problems. People, not machines and books, educate these children and, hopefully, set them on the path to becoming productive adults.

Under Latham’s direction, the public schools also assembled a social and emotional education program built around social workers with help from the Essex County District Attorney, Lynn Police Department and local organizations, including Project COPE. At the center of the program stand teachers who draw on compassion and a love for their job to help kids overcome tough family situations.

The latest test score results tell a success story about student academic improvement, but the real success story in Lynn is about school leaders who took the time to design and execute a plan to improve local schools by improving student success.

Lynn parents have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the schools their kids walk into every day.

Lynn committee approves garden plan

Principal Thomas Strangie presented the idea of expanding an existing food garden at Lynn English.


LYNN — Lynn English High School is growing its garden space as part of a historic tribute.  

Principal Thomas Strangie presented the idea of expanding an existing food garden at English High to the unanimous support of the Lynn School Committee on Wednesday.  

Strangie said that a garden with five beds is at the school now and students will be adding two more beds by bringing in extra soil to update and expand the growing space.

The expansion of the garden will coincide with the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton will attend at a ceremony at English High on Sept. 11 from 9-10 a.m.

A number of student-run projects will take place following the ceremony, including work on the garden.

“English is fortunate enough to be hosting this event, doing the welcoming and the Pledge of Allegiance before turning things over to Seth Moulton,” said Strangie.

In other committee business Wednesday night, it was a busy first meeting of the fall semester with members reviewing potential building sites for schools to replace Pickering Middle School.

In August, a building committee unanimously voted to support a two-school option in place of the outdated Pickering, which is being replaced to service a growing student population.

Architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. presented site options for the committee to review and narrow down to a single choice for further schematic development.

Union Hospital, slated to close, is listed among potential new school sites. But Raymond said it is not a preferred site for a new middle school.

“We just don’t think it’s in the right place and we don’t think we can count on their timing for when, or if, they’re going to close,” said Raymond about the hospital.  

At the end of the presentation, the committee voted sites on Parkland Avenue and McManus Field as the preferred options for new school buildings.

Raymond said those sites were considered to be the most favorable from a traffic flow and curriculum development perspective.

The sites will be submitted for a review process to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

The second public forum for information on Pickering will take place on Sept. 14 at the Marshall Middle School, said Superintendent Catherine C. Latham.

Turning 48 today. Or is it 12?

A homemade February 2016 calendar illustrating leap year.


LYNN — It only happens every four years, but for some, Leap Day is a special day that they can call their own.

Frank Mitchell of Lynn is turning 48, or 12, depending on how you look at it. Mitchell was born on Feb. 29, 1968 at Lynn Hospital.

“I would always get teased,” Mitchell said. “My brothers and sisters would tell me I was the biggest four-year-old they knew.”

Mitchell said on non-leap years, he celebrates his birthday on Feb. 28 with his brother and sister who are twins and were born on that day. Frank’s brother, Edward Mitchell, has taken over the planning for Mitchell’s special day.

“All of them (Leap Year birthdays) were great,” said Mitchell. “The thing I loved the most was that when I had that one birthday, the day was focused on me. My family would all come. People I didn’t see for so long would come because they knew it didn’t happen every year.”

Feb. 29 is also the birthday of Brittany Gorski’s dog, Charlie, whom she adopted in September of 2013 from the Northeast Animal Shelter.

“Feb. 29 will be his fourth birthday,” said Gorski.

Charlie, a German Shepard Corgi mix, loves taking walks. Gorski said she will take Charlie to the pet store to pick out a new toy and let him have a special treat.

While some look forward to Leap Day, others, like Peter DeAmelio of Revere, treat it like any other day.

“I plan on going about my day,” said DeAmelio. “If I had a birthday on Leap Year maybe it would be more special.”

Lynn School Committee member Jared Nicholson said that the extra day will make an already grueling 2016 presidential election season one day longer.

While some will celebrate a birthday, or enjoy a nice Monday, Lynn City Council President Dan Cahill plans to take advantage of the extra day.

Cahill joked that he plans to run up a large balance on his credit cards and dispute the charges on March 1.

So, who knows what can happen. Take a leap, try something new, or be spontaneous. You won’t have another chance until 2020.

Gabe Martinez can be reached at follow him on Twitter @gemartinez92.


J. Raymond Smith, 75

LYNNJ. Raymond Smith, age 75, of Lynn, passed at home, unexpectedly, on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.

A lifelong resident of Lynn, he was the son of the late Charles James Smith Sr., and Anne (Greeley) Smith. He was a graduate of Lynn Classical High School, where he was Senior Class President and a varsity football player. He earned a bachelor’s degree from African Missions Seminary, a graduate degree from the University of Lowell, and a master’s degree and PHD in psychology from Boston College. He had a very successful and illustrious work history as a psychologist in private practice, and as a school psychologist in the Cambridge and Lynn school systems and a rehabilitation counselor and teacher. He had also served on the Lynn School Committee for several years. His love of learning continued up until the present time.

He was an avid sports fan of the Boston teams and his passion was for the theater in all capacities; actor, producer and writer. He truly was an entertainer and never missed an opportunity to tell a joke. He performed with the Winthrop Playmakers, as well as many local theater groups, and was also a member of the Barbershop Quartet. A parishioner of St. Mary’s Parish, he had also served as an usher at the Church.

He is survived by a brother, Charles James Smith Jr., and his wife, Susan, nieces, Laura Sullivan, Lisa Robinson, Linda McInnis, Maura Jones, Sylvia Sheridan and Sarah Lee, as well as many other family and friends. He is predeceased in death by his parents, his brother, Lawrence Joseph Smith Sr., and his nephew, Lawrence Joseph Smith Jr.

Service information: A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, at 10:30 a.m., in St. Mary’s Church. Following Mass, there will a celebration of Ray’s Life at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 177 Lynnfield St., Lynn. At Ray’s request there will be no visiting hours. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Arrangements are under the direction of the SOLIMINE FUNERAL HOMES, 426 BROADWAY (Route 129), Lynn. Directions and guest book at

Time to get a student view on local schools

Here’s to the Lynn School Committee for moving forward with a plan to bring a student representative into its Bennett Street administration building meetings.

The idea has a number of benefits and new committee member Jared Nicholson, an energetic supporter of the idea, and his committee colleagues are quick to point them out. First of all, placing an “ex-officio” non voting student on the seven-member committee is an exercise in democracy that will not be lost on students.

Under state law, a five-member student advisory committee representing local public high schools, is required to meet at least every other month during the school year with their adult counterparts. This advisory body’s last major responsibility prior to the end of an academic year is to pick the student representative who will bring student concerns to the School Committee.

Adults run schools and elected school committee members map out the policies for school operations, but students know what their peers think and they know what is “really going on” in a school.

It’s easy to say teenagers are too busy with mobile devices, homework, sports and social lives to want to participate in essential democratic exercises like picking someone to be their voice on Bennett Street, but that viewpoint is narrow and stereotypical.

Leaders emerge from every walk of life but young leaders must be nurtured and encouraged to grow and take risks. Local high schools already embrace this belief by participating in Posse scholarships. Posse sends high school students who emerge from a rigorous leadership testing process off to college with their tuition paid and surrounded by fellow Posse leaders.

The scholars are more than likely to be the same students who seek election in their schools to the student advisory committee and take an interest in becoming student representative to the School Committee.

It won’t take a great leap of imagination for a student representative sitting in the committee’s Bennett Street meeting room to glance at Nicholson and say, “I can follow in those footsteps,” and then look at older and more veteran committee members and follow the examples they set.

In return, committee members can look at local schools through the eyes of a student representative. The view may not always be a rosy one. As Committee member John Ford said last week, students can be “pretty outspoken” about successes and shortcomings in local schools.

But how else will elected school officials get an honest view on teenage substance abuse, sexual relationships and other challenges as well as student achievement if they are not listening to and speaking with students?

Developer opens Gateway to night-time learning

Tom Bauer receives a memento representing the city of Lynn from Maria Carrasco at the Early Childhood Center on Commercial Street in Lynn.


LYNN — Members of the Lynn City Council, School Committee and Lynn Vocational Technical Institute accepted a $10,000 check Monday to go toward the Lynn Community Enrichment Program.

The money was donated by development managers of Hub Holdings LLC of Boston, the builders of the planned Gateway Residences on Washington Street. Tom Bauer, President of Hub Holdings, presented the check to School Committee member Maria Carrasco.

The program is a cooperative effort by the New Lynn Coalition and the Lynn School Department, which has made space available at the Lynn Tech annex on Commercial Street.

The program consists of wide variety of night-school classes in topics ranging from volleyball to yoga to welding to cake decorating. And its scope has impressed Bauer.

“I am excited about your vision of education,” Bauer said.

In turn, Lynn’s elected officials are grateful that Bauer and his company have stepped up to donate money.

“(Tom) is a hero for us,” said Carrasco.

Bauer thanked local union members, and local and state officials for making the public-private project possible.

“This day could not have happened without my partner, Neighborhood Development Associates,” said Bauer. “As well as the local and state officials who were all extremely helpful.”

School Committee member Jared Nicholson believes the donation will help the enrichment program establish solid footing.

“The goal is for the program to be self-sustaining,” said. Nicholson. “We want people who are interested in classes to be able to take them.”

Nicholson hoped that the donation could also be a good example of a private-public partnership that could be replicated throughout the city in other scenarios.

The enrichment program is overseen by a board of local citizens and Lynn school officials.

The Gateway Residences are a 71-unit rental apartment complex located across from North Shore Community College that will feature 53 affordable units in Downtown Lynn. The project is expected to cost $28 million and its estimated completion is early fall 2017.