Massachusetts School Building Authority

Saugus supports schools plan

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Charis Allison holds a sign that she helped make asking for votes at the Veterans Elementary School.

SAUGUS — Residents voted to approve a $186 million investment in Saugus Public Schools in a special election Tuesday night.

By a more than 2-1 margin voters supported a plan that calls for $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school and a $25 million district-wide master plan that would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School.

The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.

The MSBA will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent — which is expected to increase — of eligible approved project costs for the middle-high school.

 

Saugus voters go to school

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Today, voters will be asked to support a $186 million investment in Saugus Public Schools in a special election.

The price tag includes $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school and a $25 million district-wide master plan that would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School.

The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.

The MSBA will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent — which is expected to increase — of eligible approved project costs for the middle-high school.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to the Town Clerk’s office.

Precinct Polling Place Polling Place Address
1 American Legion Hall Taylor Street
2 Veteran’s School Hurd Avenue
3 Hammersmith Nursing Home Chestnut Street
4 Belmonte Middle School Dow Street
5 Lynnhurst School Elm Street
6 Veteran’s School Hurd Avenue
7 Knights of Columbus 1 K of C Drive
8 Belmonte Middle School Dow Street
9 Oaklandvale School Main Street
10 Italian American Club 1 Beachview Avenue

 

A fact sheet provided by Town Manager Scott Crabtree details the cost to residents with average home value assessments. According to The Warren Group, in March, the median home value in Saugus was $374,950.

At $375,000, the cost would be $76 in 2018, $118 in 2019, and would continue gradually increasing until reaching $541 in 2024. The cost would then begin to gradually decline.

If the vote is successful, Crabtree said he will request a Special Town Meeting and submit an article to be voted by Town Meeting that will double the tax exemption for eligible seniors, veterans, and other taxpayers to assist with taxes associated with the investment in the proposed middle-high school district-wide master plan solution.


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

 

Should Saugus build new schools?

FILE PHOTO
An artist’s rendering of a new middle-high school to be built in Saugus.

YES: Stephanie Mastrocola

Mastrocola is the president of the Waybright Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization.

news | Item Live

As I walk through the Saugus Public Schools, I see the smiles of so many students. The smiles that pulled me into taking a position on the Parent Teacher Organization. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful for the future of my son and all of the children in Saugus.

On Tuesday, June 20, the residents will have a chance to change that future of education in this community. Our goal to achieve Level 1 status is within reach. The high school is at risk of losing its accreditation. As a nurse, I worry about health and safety concerns that affect our kids on a daily basis.

It’s truly disheartening when a student visits another district and sees all of the amenities that they don’t have in Saugus, such as robotics and fab labs, and student-centered and hands-on learning. Our theater students put their heart and soul into their work – don’t they deserve a state-of-the-art stage and black box theater? We don’t have equity. On a recent visit to the schools, I saw a child practicing the saxophone in the cafeteria while a truck was unloading the day’s lunches.

This new plan will dramatically improve the quality of education. It will provide our students with up-to-date learning styles and the tools they need to achieve success in their futures. Most importantly, this will give our children and community a sense of pride.

Traffic on site is a disaster now. A brand-new facility with streamlined drop-offs and adequate parking will only help remedy that.

With the highest-ever bond rating and inflating construction costs, now is a better time than ever to move forward with this solution. The new building and district plan will be a much more cost efficient alternative. This is a no-brainer.

A sense of community is why I moved to Saugus. We have placed Band-Aids on these schools for too long, and as taxpayers we will ultimately lose in the end.

We have to be the voice to fix this for these students and the community. This is not an option anymore, it’s a necessity. We need to stop being OK with OK. We need to vote YES.


NO: Patrick Darrigo

Darrigo is a member of the Highland’s Alliance, a group of residents opposed to Tuesday’s vote.

Vote no on Question 1-2. Why?

I believe that real estate taxes will be increased, traffic congestion within the school property and on public roads will be dramatically increased, student enrollment within one new building will be increased compared to having that same enrollment as currently in two buildings.

Also, in my opinion when comparing the new building with the current two, the new building square footage will be decreased, the number of parking spaces will be decreased, and, in addition and most importantly, safety for students, residents and the public safety for ambulance, police and fire will be decreased.

The design enrollment for the proposed High School/Middle School (HS/MS) project is 1,360 students. The Saugus district’s 2017 enrollment is 660 for middle school and 681 for high school for a total of 1,341 students, which give a difference of only 19 fewer than full capacity for the new school.

The total square footage of the current Saugus High School plus the square footage of the Belmonte Middle School is 353,000 square feet. The square footage of the proposed new Saugus High/Middle School is 271,320 square feet. This will make the new Saugus High/Middle School 81,880 square feet less than both current schools combined.

A comparison from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for Saugus HS/MS when compared to three other towns in which one had their HS/MS opened this school year and the other two will have their HS/MS opening next school year:

Winthrop HS/MS is 187,917 square feet and cost $81,818,740. The price per square foot was $435.40. Enrollment is 970 students.

Lunenberg HS/MS is 169,018 square feet and cost $72,975,321. The price per square foot was $431.76. Enrollment is 820.

Abington is 235,370 square feet and cost $ 96,400,000. The price per square foot was $409.57. Enrollment is 1,115.

Saugus will be 270,000 square feet. and cost $160,720,553. The price per square foot is $595.26. Enrollment will be 1,360 students.

Saugus Town Meeting gets out the vote

COURTESY PHOTO
A rendering of a possible new middle-high school.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Residents will hit the polls to vote on $186 million in improvements to the town’s public schools on June 20.

Town Meeting convened for its fourth meeting since the beginning of the month Tuesday night to determine that residents will vote on a new $160 million middle-high school and $25 million worth of improvements to two existing schools for reuse as upper and lower elementary schools.

“I’m not going to have children in my household going to a new school unless my household appears on the front page of The National Enquirer,” said Precinct 4 Town Meeting Member Al Dinardo. “But I am a supporter of democracy.”

Today is the final day to register to vote in the June 20 special election. The Town Clerk’s office will remain open until 8 p.m.

The School Building Committee recently approved a total budget investment of $186 million, which includes an investment of $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent — which is expected to increase — of eligible approved project costs.

In addition, a $25 million district-wide master plan would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the MSBA. The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the town’s recently earned S&P AA+ bond rating, which is the highest rating in the town’s history, will save taxpayers an estimated $7.2 million over the life of the bond.

A fact sheet provided by Crabtree details the cost to residents with average home value assessments. According to The Warren Group, in March, the median home value in Saugus was $374,950.

At $375,000, the cost would be $76 in 2018, $118 in 2019, and would continue gradually increasing until reaching $541 in 2024. The cost would then begin to gradually decline.

Council overrides mayor’s meal tax veto

Town Meeting members voted 42-2 in favor of both articles after more than an hour-and-a-half of discussion over whether individuals supported or opposed building a new high school.

Members Bill Brown and and Eugene Decareau, who voted against both articles, admitted there is a need for a new school, but argued that the plan in place is not right for the town.

“There is all kinds of construction going on — we’re building hotels, apartments, condos — and we don’t even have a West Side Fire Station,” said Decareau. “That’s public safety. Schools are important. So isn’t life and we’re going to have to address that.”

Brown said he was concerned with traffic and questioned whether the current high school site was the best location for a new school.

Jonathan McTague, a 2014 graduate of Saugus High School, described the need for improvements to his fellow Town Meeting members.

“We would be in class half the time and the teacher would ‘say some of you have to move because the ceiling is leaking,’” he said. “We were learning from books that didn’t include anything about our first black president. We don’t learn sitting in rows anymore being talked at by a teacher — we need those collaborative classroom spaces. Our community needs a chance, our youth needs a chance. Until we speak up, we’re not going to get anything that we need or deserve. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m a Town Meeting member.”

“This is pretty exciting news tonight,” said Crabtree. “Exciting things are happening here. We’ve been talking about a new high school for many years now — probably eight to 10 — even back when I was on the Board of Selectmen.

“My father was in the first graduating class there in 1956,” said Crabtree. “I look at that project and my grandfather and parents paid for that current school that’s there now. It’s been a long time since any of the generations have been able to contribute but it’s past its time. The needs of the community brought us into the current middle-high school model. I think that we’ve identified what the needs are in the community and what plan would address those needs. Ultimately the residents will decide the direction of the town.”

Town Meeting members did not reach a decision on the School Department’s budget or address any other articles before The Item’s deadline Tuesday night.


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

New Swampscott principal ‘a perfect fit’

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — After a nearly two-month search, Hadley Elementary School has a new principal.

School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has announced Ilana Bebchick as the new principal of the elementary school, effective July 1.

“Ms. Bebchick’s experience and successes as an instructional leader, collaborative approach, and diverse background make her a perfect fit for the Hadley School community,” Angelakis said in a statement. “I look forward to having her as a member of my leadership team and wish to welcome her to the Swampscott Public Schools.”

Bebchick is the former principal of Liberty Elementary School in Braintree and assistant head of school at The Meridian School in Seattle. She also has 14 years of experience from her time as a bilingual elementary classroom teacher in grades 1 to 3, a fourth grade classroom teacher, a field supervisor, and instructional coach, Angelakis said.

Bebchick has a bachelor’s from Tufts University and a master’s in education from Boston University.

“I am so excited and honored to be joining the Swampscott Public Schools as the principal of Hadley Elementary School, “ Bebchick reportedly told the superintendent. “I thoroughly enjoyed meeting district administrators and Hadley students, staff and parents during the interview process and look forward to starting in my new role this summer.”

Swampscott looks to fill Hadley needs

Bebchick could not be reached for comment.

A search committee, comprised of the director of curriculum and instruction, Clarke and Stanley School principals, and Hadley School teachers and parents, presented Bebchick as one of two finalists to Angelakis.

The vacancy was created after Stacy Phelan, Hadley’s principal for the past three years, announced her resignation in April after accepting the same position at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown.

Phelan cited the poor condition of the Hadley School building as one of her main reasons for leaving. She previously said that the building has been difficult to manage because of the maintenance. She said she wanted to focus on teaching and learning, and “while that is very much what we want here in Swampscott,” the building itself has taken her away from a lot of that work.

Following the resignation, Angelakis released a statement that “losing a principal of Stacy’s caliber with her many skills and talents is truly unfortunate” and that “our community needs to understand that our school district will continue to lose talented and skilled leaders who are passionate about educating our children if we do not tackle the issue of our significantly deficient elementary schools.”

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statement for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

Angelakis said the school district is working on a transition schedule with Phelan and Bebchick before the end of the school year, along with some parent coffees and/or meet and greets.


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

 

Meeting to consider Saugus school vote

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a rendering of a possible new school in Saugus.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS Town Meeting members will be asked Tuesday to decide whether residents will hit the polls on June 20 to vote on a new middle-high school.

The School Building Committee recently approved a total project budget investment of $186 million, which includes an investment of $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent which is expected to increase of eligible approved project costs.

In addition, a $25 million district-wide master plan would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the MSBA. The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the town’s recently earned S&P AA+ bond rating, which is the highest rating in the town’s history, will save taxpayers an estimated $7.2 million in savings over the life of the bond.

A fact sheet provided by Crabtree details the cost to residents with average home value assessments. According to The Warren Group, in March, the median home value in Saugus was $374,950.

At $375,000, the cost would be $76 in 2018, $118 in 2019, and would continue gradually increasing until reaching $541 in 2024. The cost would then begin to gradually decline.

With a home valued at $300,000, a resident would contribute an estimated $61 in 2018, $94 in the second year, and peak at $433 in 2014. If a resident’s home is valued at $150,000, they would pay $30 in the first year and peak at $216 in 2024.

On June 20, voters will need to approve both ballot questions for either initiative to move forward, Crabtree said.

The first question will ask residents to support the middle-high school building. The 270,000-square-foot school will have a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium, 750-seat auditorium, capacity for more than 1,300 students, state-of-the-art science labs, a sports complex, walking paths, and student gardens.

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The second question will ask residents to support the District-Wide Master Plan Solution, which will provide money to renovate and improve the Belmonte Middle School and Veterans Memorial School to be reused as the town’s only upper and lower elementary schools.

Town Meeting Members will also vote Tuesday on the School Department’s budget. Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi proposed cuts to the School Committee on Thursday that would make up for a potential $900,000 gap.

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.

To help close the gap, DeRuosi proposed closing the Ballard Early Education Center, which has several curriculum-based preschool classes, about five of which are integrated classes of both regular and special education.

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.

He originally suggested relocating the more self-contained classes to Saugus High School and the more inclusive classes to Veterans Memorial Elementary School but parents didn’t agree that a high school setting was the best place for their children.

He recrafted the plan, moving all children to Veterans Memorial instead. The Ballard students would use two classrooms and a first and a third grade class would see an increase in size to 27 and 28 students. He plans to allow parents to opt to send their children to other schools with smaller class sizes and expects the numbers will drop by the start of the school year.

Krista Follis, who has a 4-year-old son at Ballard, said she appreciates the changes DeRuosi has made to the plan but feels very uneasy going into June without knowing where her son will attend school.

A custodian and clerk who work at Ballard will be transfered to fill open positions from retiring employees at Veterans Memorial. The Ballard nurse will move to the high school to fill one of two vacant positions. A second vacant nursing position will not be filled. A kindergarten teacher at Veterans Memorial will be moved to fill an open position at Lynnhurst Elementary School.

“There will be a time that the early education center will not be in a stand alone building, it will be part of a Pre-K to (grade) 2,” said DeRuosi. “We’re making those moves now.”


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

Mulling a school move in Peabody

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — The City Council is supporting the lease of downtown office space for school administration, but some councilors question how that move will affect long-term plans for the district.

Thursday night, the council voted 7-3 to enter into a lease for 6,000 square feet of office space at 27 Lowell St. With the lease, about 18 school administrators will move from their current offices at the otherwise unused Kiley Elementary School in West Peabody.

“This will benefit the city in a number of ways,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. Having the office for the superintendent, assistant superintendent, finance director and other administrators downtown puts them closer to a greater number of students and families and should help spur local businesses, the mayor said.

The new offices will also provide a more professional setting.

“The conditions at the Kiley School are subpar,” said Bettencourt. “It is a substandard building that we have concerns about and not a professional space worthy of the talent working in the school administration offices.”

The office space at 27 Lowell St. is owned by Luciano Dinis of Peabody. The rent for the first year of the lease, according to the agreement, is $6,000 per month. That rate rises to $6,500 per month in July of 2018, and $7,000 per month in July of 2019.

The majority of the lease costs will be offset by energy saving costs at the Kiley School, Bettencourt said. The city currently spends about $90,000 per year on utilities at the Kiley, he said.

While a number of councilors supported moving the administrators out of a subpar building and closer to City Hall, there were questions about how the move would play into the potential future renovation of the Kiley School.

Ward 1 Councilor Jon Turco said the city sent a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for the renovation of the Kiley School. If the MSBA gives the okay, the state could reimburse up to 56 percent of the potential $15 million in renovations needed to bring the school back online as classroom space.

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Using the Kiley School for some special education and early childhood education programs would free up space at other elementary schools in the district and help ease overcrowding, according to Bettencourt.

If the reimbursement is not approved by the MSBA, Turco said the district could be faced with larger redistricting issues.

“The issue I have is that we are moving the school administration out of the Kiley in hopes of getting the MSBA loan to renovate the Kiley and maybe move some kids out of the Brown and other schools,” said Turco. “If that doesn’t happen, I’m asking (Bettencourt) as the chairman of the School Committee and the mayor to look at redistricting and see what we can do to alleviate overcrowding in the schools.”

Council President Joel Saslaw suggested the council hold off voting on the lease for 60 days to see if the MSBA approves the Kiley proposal. The state agency is expected to make a decision on the statement of interest in July, according to Bettencourt.

Turco also questioned why the city was looking to lease the former Lowell Street law offices when the building was up for sale just over a year ago for about $550,000.

“You had said you were looking to relocate for several years,” said Turco. “The total lease amount over five years is approximately the same amount as the purchase price for the building. Why didn’t we just purchase this building so we would have something to show for it after five years?”

School administration and the mayor considered purchasing the building, but Bettencourt said there were several factors that played into making leasing more desirable. He said the cost of upgrades to the Lowell Street building would significantly add to the cost, and that he also did not consider the move a long-term solution to housing the school administration. Future renovations or additions to the high school could include space for district administration offices, the mayor said.

Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz voted against the lease, saying he would rather see the schools utilize existing space at the high school or another school rather than leasing new office space.

Saslaw and Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin also voted against the lease agreement.

Marshalling a plan for former school building

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — City officials presented a plan to sell the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street on Thursday night, for a potential reuse that could include senior market-rate housing and a commercial component. But school officials opted to take no action.

City Council President Darren Cyr and James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, presented the option to the School Committee, requesting that the 19 Porter St. property be transferred to the Public Property Committee of the City Council to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids for its sale to a developer.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, chairwoman of the School Committee, said she was looking for the committee to make a motion to approve the transfer of the site, with a minimum asking price and timeline for when that sale could be complete. If those conditions weren’t met, the property would revert back to the School Committee.

School Committee members opted to set that minimum sales price at $4 million, and require the sale be completed within a year. The other condition set was that a School Committee member, John Ford, would sit on the RFP committee, the board responsible for preparing the document.

Ultimately, the School Committee opted to table a vote on the transfer of the property until their next meeting, upon a motion made by member Donna Coppola. Coppola said she wanted to take time to allow the committee’s attorney time to research the matter. Voting against the motion to table were Kennedy and Patricia Capano, vice-chair.

Cyr said the initial plan was to demolish the former Marshall Middle School, but a contractor reached out to city officials and wanted to buy it. His vision for the building wasn’t the vision the city had, but it let officials know there was interest in the property, Cyr said.

Lamanna said the cost to demolish the building is estimated at $2.2 million, which was part of the money bonded by the voters for the construction of the new Marshall Middle School, which opened last year on Brookline Street. If that money is not used for demolition, he said legally it could only be used for capital projects that could be bonded for 25 years, which would likely be for the construction of new buildings or additions on the school side. If the property is sold, he said the proceeds would go toward bondable projects more than five years. The proceeds would basically go into a reserve fund that would allow the city to plan ahead if, for example, a boiler in a building went.

Ford said he knows the issue is to sell the building and get some cash for the city in a cash drop situation, but he was hesitant about selling any more school property. He said there was some uncertainty about whether there would be any potential buyers, and he couldn’t see anybody paying big money for some place that’s going to cost lots of money to remediate.

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“We’re in a city where we’re land strapped,” Ford said. “We’re land poor. I don’t want to eliminate jobs on the city side. I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I really find myself in a position where it’s going to be hard for me to vote to give up any land.”

Kennedy was in favor of the transfer. For 25 years being in public life, she said she also disagreed with selling public land and felt that in most cases, it was better to bank that land.

“The reason why I’m capitulating on this particular piece of land, is that first of all it’s not big enough to build a new modern middle school, so that idea is right out,” Kennedy said. “So, it would only be usable for an elementary school or something of that size. It’s not appropriate for a police or a fire station or anything because it’s basically, it’s on a residential street.”

She said she was more comfortable letting go of this piece of land, because it wouldn’t even be appropriate for a new Cobbet or Tracy Elementary School, because it would be out of that general area of the city.

“And in light of the difficulties that we’re having making the budget come together in this year, it seems like a piece of land that may not be as valuable to the city as someplace that was located deeper into West Lynn,” Kennedy said.

Cyr said an RFP would potentially be to solicit bids for a mixed use, which would include senior market-rate apartments, as well as some commercial use, such as doctors’ offices that would cater to seniors. A small portion of those units, because of federal funding, could be allocated as affordable, he added. He said there is a true need for senior housing at marketable rate in Lynn.

Lamanna said the building was last assessed at $8 million. He said the Massachusetts School Building Authority funded the new Marshall Middle School because the assessment was that the old school on Porter Street was beyond repair. Cyr said it would cost upwards of $50 million to bring the former school up to today’s standards, for it to be restructured for a school use.

Cyr said he was a lot more hopeful after Thursday’s meeting that the transfer would be approved by the School Committee.


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

2 incumbents out in Swampscott

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Michael McClung photographs the election results as Laura Spathanas looks on.

SWAMPSCOTT — The Town Election had a low voter turnout on Tuesday, but featured two upsets, with the chairs of the Board of Health and the Trustees of the Public Library losing their seats.

Emily Cilley, a registered nurse, defeated Martha Dansdill, 678 to 579 for a seat on the Board of Health. Dansdill is the current chairwoman on the board, which she has been on for three terms and nine years.

Herrick Wales, a schoolteacher in Marblehead and chairman of the Library Trustees, was defeated by Ellen Winkler, an attorney in Marblehead and president of Friends of the Swampscott Public Library. Winkler, who was elected for a three-year term, received 619 votes to 567 for Wales.

The third contested race on the ballot was for School Committee, which saw the two incumbents, Suzanne Wright and Gargi Cooper, retain their seats for a second, three-year term, holding off a challenge from Melissa Camire. Wright was the top vote getter, receiving 876 votes, Cooper received 774 votes, while Camire had 524 votes.

Voter turnout was 13 percent.

“It’s been my privilege to serve on the Board of Health for these nine years,” said Dansdill, the former executive director of HealthLink, a North Shore environmental nonprofit organization, who now serves on its Board of Directors. “I wish Emily Cilley much success on the board.”

Cilley, who works for Northeast Clinical Services and as a substitute nurse in town, said she felt “amazing” after winning a seat on the board, and that she didn’t know what to expect before the results. She said she felt nervous, as Dansdill has been on the board for a long time, but was delighted.

Cilley, who was elected to a three-year term, said two issues she would be focused on are the opioid crisis and the health of the children in town. As a substitute nurse, she said she sees children in the schools, and gets to see all of the concerns happening.

“I want to focus on the health of our children and making sure we are aware of what their stresses are,” Cilley said.

When running, both Library Trustee candidates said it was an exciting time for the library, which is in the midst of its yearlong centennial celebration. The building on Burrill Street turned 100 on Jan. 20. The Friends group finances library programs and is funding the celebrations. Winkler said she would have to step down as president for her new role, but could remain a member of the Friends group.

“That’s wonderful,” Winkler said upon hearing the results. “I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m really glad.

Transforming the city’s waterfront

“I hope people will continue to celebrate the library this year and pay attention to what a great resource it is,” Winkler continued. “I look forward to working with people and making great plans for the future.”

She said her focus would be on figuring out how to use the library space in the best way possible.

“I want to congratulate Mrs. Winkler on her election as Library Trustee,” said Wales, who was running for a second, three-year term. “She is an avid supporter of the library and she will devote her energies and talents to further enrich our great library.”

Wright said she was excited to be re-elected to School Committee. She said her focus would be on facilities, a technology plan for the schools, a new school building, and getting the budget under control.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, one for replacement of Hadley Elementary School and the other with the intent to renovate Swampscott Middle School.

Cooper said she was happy and excited, and grateful for the votes and support from the community. To move the school district forward, she said continuity on the board is the best way. For her next term, she said her focus would be on technology, facilities and stabilizing the budget.

In an uncontested race for Board of Selectmen, Naomi Dreeben and Laura Spathanas, chair and vice-chair respectively, were re-elected for a second, three-year term.

“I feel great,” Dreeben said. “I’m excited about what the next three years is going to hold for us and I’m pleased to be working with Sean (Fitzgerald), our new town administrator.”

For her next term, Dreeben said she will work hard to support the school’s vision and plans. She hopes to be able to do some economic development to be more proactive about bringing new businesses to town.

Spathanas said “it’s an honor” to be elected to the board. She said she hopes she can take the fact that she and Dreeben didn’t have any competition as people being happy that they are serving them and with the direction the town is going. She said her focus would be on a long-term capital plan, looking at the master plan, and prioritizing what the town needs and wants.

Another uncontested race was for Planning Board. Angela Ippolito, chairwoman, was re-elected for a second, five-year term. The Town Moderator race was also uncontested, with Michael McClung re-elected for a second, one-year term.


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

 

Swampscott looks to fill Hadley needs

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are forming a search committee to find the next principal of Hadley Elementary School after Stacy Phelan’s resignation earlier this month.

Phelan, 49, a Lynn resident who had been principal for the past three years, resigned after she accepted a job on March 31 at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown. She told The Item on Monday that one of her main reasons for leaving was because of the poor condition of the Hadley School building.

She will be at Hadley until June 30, and starts her new position the following day.

Anne Marie Condike, director of curriculum for Swampscott Public Schools, is forming the search committee, which will include three Hadley School parents/guardians and three Hadley staff members. The director of student services, and the principals from Stanley and Clarke elementary schools will also be on the interview team, Condike said.

The first round of interviews for the next principal will be during the first two weeks of May from 3 to 7 p.m. After a second round, two to three finalists will be selected, who will interview with the full teaching staff. A smaller subcommittee will conduct a site visit at each finalist’s school and they will interview with Swampscott school superintendent Pamela Angelakis. The position was posted online last Friday and as of Wednesday afternoon, there have been 12 applicants, Condike said.

“I think we have a very comprehensive interview process,” Condike said. “We want to make sure we get someone who is a really good fit for the Hadley School community.”

Phelan said the Hadley building has been very difficult to manage, because of the maintenance. Phelan said she wanted to focus on teaching and learning, and “while that is very much what we want here in Swampscott,” the building itself has taken her away from a lot of that work. Despite the building’s challenges, she said Swampscott has been a wonderful, rich community to work in.

On Tuesday, Angelakis released a lengthy statement about the resignation, calling Phelan a “passionate instructional leader who will be missed not only as part of my leadership team, but also in the community.  

“We, as educators, go into this business for the love of teaching and learning,” said Angelakis’ statement. “Curriculum and instruction is at the heart of our work. Spending time in classrooms, supporting teachers and students and analyzing data to increase student achievement is where our passions lie.

“The day-to-day management of a typical building with student and staffing issues is enough to get in the way of this work as a building principal. However, when you are trying to manage a building that is more than 100 years old, where the majority of your time is spent working with the district and facilities staff, it can become very frustrating.

“Losing a principal of Stacy’s caliber with her many skills and talents is truly unfortunate. Our community needs to understand that our school district will continue to lose talented and skilled leaders who are passionate about educating our children if we do not tackle the issue of our significantly deficient elementary facilities. Our students, teachers and principals deserve so much more than what we are currently providing.”

Ruggiero denied Peabody superintendent post

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statement for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

School Committee members responded to Phelan’s reason for resigning at their meeting  Wednesday night, and clarified what the principal does to manage the building. Committee member Suzanne Wright said Phelan is not actually “putting the hard hat on” with maintenance or managing the construction workers. She said the school system has a facilities director for that.

“What’s taking her time is having to shuffle kids around to different spaces and plan her testing in other locations and writing letters to parents and dealing with sort of that kind of fallout, which is taking her time,” Wright said. “So, I think people need to understand we do have a facilities person. We committed to an awful lot of money in our maintenance budget to try to stay on top of a lot of stuff because we do know it’s hard for the teachers and the administration to sort of keep themselves safe and all the kids safe and everything. We appreciate how taxing that is.”

Chairwoman Carin Marshall said the resignation puts the focus on the need for a new school.

“It brings up the bigger need of a new school and that is something that we’ve been working on, meaning the school committee and the school district,” said Marshall. “Individually, we’ve all been beating this drum for how many years. This is not new. It might seem new to some people who are reading these articles or hearing about this and wondering why more isn’t being done. Man, we’re trying. At the last meeting, we approved the statement of interest. We’re in the program. We’re trying. An entire project was already voted down once. We’re trying to make this happen as a school district and as a town.”

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

 

Swampscott principal blames building for exit

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT – Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan is citing the poor condition of the building as one of her main reasons for leaving for the same position at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown.

Phelan, 49, has been principal of Hadley School for three years. She will be leaving for her new job in July. During her tenure with Hadley, she said the maintenance of the building has taken up the majority of her management time.

“My leaving Swampscott is due to the fact that the building has been a very difficult building to manage due to the maintenance of the building,” Phelan said. “I always look forward to the next chapter, but it’s bittersweet because I feel like there could have been a little bit more work here before moving on, but I did feel overwhelmed by the building management.”

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Superintendent Pamela Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statemsent for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

Angelakis could not be reached for comment.

Phelan said she wants to focus on teaching and learning, and what she likes most about being a principal is being in the classroom. “Although that is very much what we want here in Swampscott, the building itself has taken me away from a lot of that work,” she said.

Phelan said she is out of her expertise in managing the infrastructure of the building. This year, she said she’s been managing a boiler replacement project and has been focused on the structure and quality of the building, rather than the education of the students.

She learned on March 31 that she would become principal of Lowell Elementary. Despite the building’s challenges, she said Swampscott has been a wonderful, rich community to work in.

“I was looking for a larger school that has more elementary grades offered in it and (was) looking for a change based on just curriculum initiatives,” Phelan said.

Lessons learned in Malden

John Brackett, interim superintendent of Watertown Public Schools, said Phelan will be replacing Phil Oates, the interim principal of Lowell Elementary School. He said the search process started in February, and yielded about 50 applicants. Two rounds of interviews were held, first with eight candidates and then with three finalists.

“We were just very impressed with her experience both in Swampscott and her experience with various schools she served in Lynn,” Brackett said. “She brought a lot of experience and knowledge about working in different kinds of schools. We were very impressed with her leadership abilities. We found her to be extremely knowledgeable around curriculum, instruction and assessment. What we’re really looking forward to is not only her high energy and her wonderful interpersonal skills, but we’re looking forward to her instructional leadership to help Lowell School continue to move forward.

“She just rose to the top,” he continued. “From day one, we just knew that this was going to be a great match for Lowell School.”

Brackett said the school has gone through some leadership transition, and there have been four principals in five years. He said the district was looking for her to come in and bring some stability to the position, as well as really focusing on the students and continuing a strong culture of working with the parents.

Phelan lives in Lynn with her husband, Tim. They have two children, a junior and senior in college. Before her time at Hadley, she spent three years as vice principal of Connery Elementary School in Lynn. She was at the school for five years in total. Before her time at Connery, she taught in various elementary schools in Lynn. Her teaching career started in 2001.

Phelan received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Salem State University.


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

Revere wants a new high school

REVERE — Mayor Brian Arrigo has submitted a Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a new high school.

The submission was made on behalf of the Revere School Committee, which voted at a March 21 meeting to submit the letter, dated April 6.

“I will be working closely with the superintendent and the rest of the School Committee in the coming years to make sure we are able to take the award-winning work performed by educators at Revere High School and move it into a modern building that will meet the needs of our students for decades to come,” said Arrigo in a column on his website titled ‘Investing in Revere’s Future.’

A notice from Superintendent Dr. Dianne Kelly to the school committee cites an obsolete, structurally unsound and overcrowded building at 101 School St. as the reason why a replacement is needed.

Kelly said at the meeting that the MSBA did not invite Revere into its core program last year.

She said the MSBA indicated the city had a strong application, but limited funding prevented the process from moving forward. Kelly said they were encouraged to apply again this year.

Waiting for an April baby

A statement of interest is the first required step in the lengthy process of securing funding for a new school. It doesn’t guarantee the application’s acceptance.

If the city is cleared to move forward in the process, a feasibility study  identifying siting options and the completion of a comprehensive planning process will need to be conducted, said Arrigo’s column.


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

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
Election coordinator Mary Jules greets state Sen. Thomas McGee and his wife, Maria, prior to McGee pulling his nomination papers.

By THOMAS GRILLO and THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The city’s worst kept secret that state Sen. Thomas McGee would seek the corner office became official Monday, when the Lynn Democrat pulled his nomination papers from the City Clerk’s office.

“I am excited to … start a discussion on where we can go and build a vision,” McGee said. “I think I can make a difference for the city.”

McGee is expected to face Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy next fall in what would be a no-holds-barred race to lead the city for the next four years.

McGee, 61, was elected to represent West Lynn and Nahant in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1994. After serving four terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2002 in a district that includes Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.  

He said his years in the Legislature has made him a unifier who can help bring this city together. In addition to “building consensus,” he said his legislative service has been marked by honing budget crafting skills and pursuing initiatives. He said economic growth and neighborhoods will be the focus of the campaign.

McGee called last week’s school referendum that sought taxpayer support for a pair of new middle schools “polarizing.” He said it’s time to take a deep breath and start a new conversation about the need for new schools.

“It means engaging people,” he said. “We need to talk about what new schools mean to the community.”

Benny Coviello: ‘The mayor of Stop & Shop’

McGee supported the ballot question that sought approval for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a  second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The $188.5 million project cost would have been offset by a minimum contribution of $97.1 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. But voters rejected the measure by a wide margin.

He is the son of legendary state Rep. Thomas W. McGee who served in the Massachusetts House for nearly three decades and as speaker for 10 of those years.

Kennedy became the city’s first female mayor in 2009, when as city councilor-at-large, she unseated incumbent Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by a few dozen votes. She won re-election 2013 when she soundly defeated Timothy Phelan.

The mayor declined to be interviewed.

In a statement she said “I’m looking forward to running on my record. I’m sure the campaign will offer voters a choice between two very different types of elected officials. May the best woman win.”


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

Photo by Mark Lorenz

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.

Lynn says no; so what now?

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools out in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

Full results of Lynn school vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

 

Swampscott wants new schools

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are seeking state support for a new school building, more than two years after the town rejected a district-wide elementary school.

“I will be submitting two Statement of Interests (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by the deadline of April 7,” Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said in an email. “Hadley School will be the primary submission, while I will also be submitting one for the middle school. The reason behind the two submissions is to demonstrate that Swampscott has a long-range vision for its schools. We’ve spent the last two and a half years reflecting on the last process and developing an Educational Vision K-12.”

In the statement of interest, the district is asked to identify perceived deficiencies in a school building, and also indicates what type of project it thinks is appropriate. The SOI is completed by districts seeking MSBA funding, according to the MSBA website.

Carin Marshall, school committee chairwoman, said the intent for Hadley Elementary School would be for replacement and a new building, while the interest for Swampscott Middle School would be for renovation. The new building to replace Hadley could potentially be the same size or larger, but those details haven’t been determined yet, she added.

The intent with a new school building, Marshall said, is to align with the educational vision. The K-12 educational vision, presented in November 2015, outlines the preferred educational model for Swampscott Public Schools, with that being grade level consolidation. Grade level groupings were determined by developmental, academic and social emotional needs. School officials determined that fifth grade belonged with the elementary level, rather than middle school, as the preferred model.

The existing public school configuration is preschool, three K-4 elementary schools — Hadley, Clarke and Stanley — a grade 5-8 middle school and a grade 9-12 high school. The preferred new configuration would be a pre-K to 2 early education center, grade 3-5 elementary school, grade 6-8 middle school and a grade 9-12 high school, according to the educational vision.

Conceivably, the new school could be part of that goal, possibly a K-2 school, Marshall said, but plans are uncertain at this stage. She said the most likely scenario is a new elementary school, as that is the highest need.

Marshall said the middle school needs some serious renovation, including all new windows and roofs, and would need to be brought up to today’s educational standards. Even though the building is relatively modern, as it was built in 1958, she said “it is still very different from what you would build today for educational needs in 2016.”

City stands to collect $175K for parking tickets

Hadley School is the oldest school building in town and why it’s the primary statement of interest, Marshall said. She said an example of the building’s current condition would be the large amount school officials are paying to replace all of the boilers in that school just to keep it heated and safe for the children.

The cost of the project is more than $400,000. She said the money there is an example of how the building is negatively affecting the town. Conditions at Hadley have caused students to miss school in the past.

“We’re constantly having to put money into this building that’s far past its useful life,” Marshall said. “We’re spending money to keep these buildings limping along and it’s ultimately not fair to the students or all the taxpayers in town. We have to address these issues.”

Going forward, Marshall said all of the K-8 students need new or upgraded facilities.

The effort started after the failed Town Meeting vote in 2014 for a consolidated elementary school on the site of Swampscott Middle School on Forest Avenue. A task force was put together, made up of people for and against the new school, with the intent to put another statement of interest in.

In July 2014, the MSBA gave final approval for a district-wide elementary school in Swampscott. The plans included building a new school for grades 1-4 on land adjacent to the middle school. Clarke School would have been converted to house pre-kindergarten to kindergarten. Stanley School would have been demolished with the land converted to athletic fields and playgrounds. The proposed project cost $52.6 million, and the town would have been responsible for approximately $35 million.

The proposal had to pass two votes, a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting and a town-wide ballot vote requiring a simple majority. Town Meeting voted 140-98 in favor of the school in October 2014, falling short of the two-thirds majority. The school was rejected by more than 2,500 votes on the ballot initiative that year.

“In 2014, the community was presented with a plan without much conversation to address their concerns,” Angelakis said in an email. “Moving forward, once the SOIs are submitted and while we wait to hear if we are accepted back into the program, there will be outreach to the community. The plan for community outreach right now includes community forums, building tours, meetings with individual town boards and committees.

“It’s important to note that no site has been selected at this time and that site determination comes as part of the feasibility study when and if we are accepted by the MSBA,” Angelakis continued.

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the statements of interest on March 22. The Board of Selectmen would also have to approve the statements before the April 7 MSBA deadline, Marshall said.

If Swampscott is accepted by the MSBA, Town Meeting would have to approve funding for a feasibility study. Once the study is completed, architects would be hired to design the building and then Town Meeting would have to approve funding the school. A ballot vote would also be needed for the project.


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

Lynn voters being put to the test

(Left) ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This sign is on the corner of Lynnfield Street and Kernwood Dr.
(Right) PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pat Burke (adult standing) and Mia Duncan (with sign), of Lynn, at the “Get the Vote Out Rally” for the March 14 vote for two new schools. The meeting was held at the Lynn Teachers Union on Western Avenue.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN After months of campaigning, it all comes down to a vote on Tuesday.

The March 14 special election has pit Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove which opposes the $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools against 2 Schools for Lynn, which includes parents, teachers and city officials who say the more than 100-year-old Pickering Middle School should be replaced.

As a powerful nor’easter threatens to shut down the region on Tuesday with more than a foot of snow, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is considering postponing the election. The city solicitor’s office will consult with the election division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State this morning and make a decision by 5 p.m.

On Friday, Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said if the city wants to reschedule the vote due to inclement weather, they would have to appear before a judge this morning to make the request.

If approved by voters, the Pickering on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery that would house 652 students. A larger second school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Property owners will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be paid for by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

Voters will be asked two questions: whether the city should borrow the money to build the schools and a second question on whether taxpayers are willing to exempt the plan from Proposition 2 ½.

On one side are the proponents who say every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child. They point to the gleaming Thurgood Marshall Middle School that opened last year which offers its students an ideal place to learn with lots of natural light, studios for art, music and television production, science labs and all the modern tools to learn home economics.

On the opposing side are some Pine Hill residents who say when they purchased their homes they expected their nearest neighbors to be in the graveyard, not school children and the traffic that comes with it. They say Parkland is not only the wrong site, but the project is too expensive and the city must protect the nearby reservoir.

Gary Welch, a member of the opposition, said he favors a plan that would build the West Lynn school first at the McManus site, move the Pickering students to the new facility, demolish the current Pickering School and build the new school at the Pickering site.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham has been equally passionate in noting the building committee examined more than a dozen sites and concluded Parkland Avenue makes the most sense.

While people have suggested a parcel on Federal Street near the fire station, it is contaminated land, while another site at Magnolia Avenue is in a floodplain and has a water line, Latham said. The other location suggested at Union Hospital is not owned by the city and would exacerbate traffic on Lynnfield Street.

At press time, each group was planning to hold events on the weekend before the vote.

The 2 Schools for Lynn group scheduled a “Get Out the Vote Rally” on Saturday at the  Lynn Teachers Union. Among those expected to attend were state Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, Rep. Brendan Crighton, City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, School Committee members Maria Carrasco, John Ford, Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson.

Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove planned a walk-through of the Parkland Avenue site on Sunday at B Street Place and Basse Road.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.


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

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with the Item at her office.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy won’t say whether she will seek a third term this fall, but the city’s chief executive is sure acting like a candidate.

In a wide ranging interview with The Item this week, the mayor laid out her goals for 2017.

At the top of her list is winning Tuesday’s vote for construction of two new middle schools. The special election on March 14 asks homeowners to approve a property tax increase for 25 years for the $188.5 million project that would build a school on Parkland Avenue and a second in West Lynn.

“Next week will give us an indication of whether we will be able to move forward with providing our students with the same kind of education they receive at the new Marshall Middle School,” she said.  “I just hope there is no confusion that voters need to vote yes on both questions in order for it to pass. If you favor the new schools, vote yes for both or it will fail.”

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

While the mayor is optimistic that voters will approve the ballot initiative, she is considering Plan B should the vote fail.

‘We would go back to the Massachusetts School Building Authority and start over,” said the mayor, referring to the quasi-independent government agency that funds a portion of school construction projects. “And hope that within a few years we could turn the vote around.”

While opponents of the school site on Parkland Avenue say a better alternative is to renovate the Pickering Middle School, the mayor said the city lacks the $44.2 million it would take to gut the 90,000-square-foot facility and install new systems, classrooms, gym, cafeteria and labs.

“We simply can’t afford it out of the city budget,” she said.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Also in the planning stages is a marketing staffer for the Lynn Auditorium, the city’s 2,100-seat concert hall, that would be paid for by ticket sales.

“We could reach more people and expand if we had someone to do marketing,” she said.

Kennedy is also planning to spend $400,000 for a study to replace Engine 9 on Tower Hill and Engine 7 on Pine Hill with a fire safety building in West Lynn at a cost of $15-20 million.

“Those buildings are 100 years old and continuing to show signs of aging,” she said.  “We would build one facility and perhaps move dispatch into the new station and save on rent.”

The mayor also plans to seek $100,000 in grants to restore the Angell Memorial Fountain at Broad and Nahant streets. Built in the early 1900s  in memory of George T. Angell, the founder of Boston’s Angell Memorial Hospital, the fountain once served as a horse trough.

In addition, the mayor said summer job applications for teens are available at the personnel office in City Hall. Selection for the 120 jobs will be done by lottery.

While no one has declared their candidacy for mayor, local political observers say Kennedy will run. State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre have said they are exploring the possibility of running. McGee recently held a fundraiser in Boston and may have been the person behind a citywide poll on the race.

Kennedy and LaPierre said they had nothing to do with the poll. But a McGee spokeswoman did not respond when asked the question.


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

Peabody needs to raise a roof

By LEAH DEARBORN

PEABODY — Peabody Veterans Memorial High School has plans to raise the roof this summer.  

Interim Superintendent Herbert W. Levine said the city had its application for a new roof approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

He said that while the final repair cost numbers haven’t been set in stone, a reimbursement of around 56 percent of total costs through the MSBA is typical.

“It’s just New England weather, wear and tear,” said Levine about the rationale for the replacement.

Facilities manager Timothy Healy said the last time the high school’s roof was replaced was about three decades ago.

He said the project will include a partial roof replacement of about 70,000 square-feet encompassing the field house, an academic section and the auditorium.

“We’re being proactive about it. It’s reached the end of its useful life, as they say,” said Healy.

The City of Peabody placed an advertisement for bids on the project in February, asking interested parties to contact the city purchasing agent.  

Healy said the plan is to do most of the work over the course of summer in order to prevent the repairs from disrupting students while they’re in school.

While the high school field house underwent a lighting replacement during February vacation, Healy said there are no other major school renovation projects in the works.


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

Lynn mayor offers tax cuts to seniors

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Trying to head off opposition to a $188.5 million school construction project, City Hall is offering more tax relief for seniors.

Under a plan proposed by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to offset the cost of building two new middle schools, the city plans to boost the real estate tax exemption to seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

“We believe adopting these options will provide the necessary relief to seniors who would be most affected by a tax increase,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I have spoken to many seniors who are supportive of the new schools’ proposal, but understandably concerned about the impact on their taxes. Hopefully, this will make them feel more comfortable about a ‘yes’ vote.”

On Tuesday, March 14, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million of the project cost. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, said it will contribute $97.1 million.

School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years.

If voters reject the tax hike, the increased tax exemption would be dropped.

Kennedy said she’s heard the concerns of seniors who are worried about a $200 tax increase if voters approve two new schools. The mayor asked the Board of Assessors to explore options for providing additional tax relief.

The tax exemption is available to income-eligible seniors. A couple can earn no more than $29,804 and have assets of less than $45,974, not including a home and car. A single senior can earn up to $23,792 with assets no more than $42,908.

Today, about 100 seniors receive the $500 deduction, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

Caron said most seniors who receive the exemption have homes valued around or under the average single-family value of $273,600. As a result, he said, the $200 additional exemption would mitigate the tax increase required to pay for the city’s share of the school building project.

“We have made a concerted effort to answer questions and address concerns related to the new schools,” Kennedy said. “It is critical that we build these schools in order to have the space required for the 20 percent increase in enrollment we will see in the next two years.”

Gary Welch, a member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the location of the Parkland Avenue school, declined comment. Donald Castle, a founding member of the group, could not be reached for comment.


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

Mayor, super make case for new schools

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks to a crowded room at Stadium Condominiums in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is taking no chances when it comes to passing a controversial ballot question to fund a pair of new middle schools.

On Wednesday night, the mayor and her City Hall team made the case for the $188.5 million project to more than three dozen seniors who packed the recreation room at the Stadium Condominiums.

“Right now, the library at Pickering consists of two rolling carts with books and there are no science labs,” Kennedy said. “When you contrast that with what we see at the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the kids are simply not getting the same educational experience.”

In a passionate plea, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child.

“Our beautiful new Marshall has cooking, sewing, wood shop, a TV studio, three-dimensional art rooms, music rooms and they should be available to everyone in Lynn,” she said.

Latham said there is lots of misinformation about the project. The city looked at more than a dozen sites, she said.

“We’ve heard people suggest a site on Federal Street near the fire station,” she said. “But it’s contaminated land and that is not a possibility. Magnolia Avenue has flood plains and an MWRA water line. Some have told us to use the Union Hospital site; we don’t own it.”  

The building committee also considered renovating the existing Pickering and that would cost $44 million without any state reimbursement, Latham said.

If approved by voters on March 14, the Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir that would house 652 students, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Residents will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

But Donald Castle, a Stadium unit owner and founder of the Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, urged the crowd to vote no.

“Your taxes will go up above and beyond the legal limit for 25 years,” he said. “The land should be preserved for a cemetery. We ask the city to protect our cemetery and protect our reservoir.”

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the school will use about a dozen acres of the 44-acre site. The rest, he said, will be preserved for cemetery expansion. In addition, he said, the project will fund a $1 million road and bridge that the Cemetery Commission could not afford. Without the school, the land could not be accessed for new graveyards.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he favors construction of the two schools.

“No matter where kids live in Lynn, they should have the same opportunities as kids get in Swampscott, Marblehead and Lynnfield,” he said. “Every one of us has a chance to change kids’ lives and by voting yes on March 14, you will give those kids a chance that they will not get otherwise.”

School Committee member Lorraine Gately said a yes vote is essential for the city’s children.

“If we don’t support this, our future is larger class sizes and double sessions,” she said.

Moving on time in Lynn


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

Council makes a house call for school

COURTESY PHOTO
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN There could be a happy ending after all for Janet Guanci and her ranch-style home on Parkland Avenue.

Facing the possibility of losing her 1,000-square-foot house to eminent domain for construction of a new middle school, the City Council is considering a plan to move the house 200 yards away.

Guanci, who bought the two-bedroom house in 2004 for $267,900, listened as the Public Property & Parks Committee unveiled the idea Tuesday night.

“We are trying to keep you in the same neighborhood because I know you like it there,” said Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant. “We’d like to keep you happy. All of us feel bad about the possibility of eminent domain and we are trying to work with you.”   

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said this is one option in a complicated process for a new middle school proposed for the neighborhood near Pine Grove Cemetery.

“We are trying to be creative,” said Lamanna. “Rather than demolish your home at 97 Parkland Ave., we could relocate it down toward the salt shed. The city is trying to give you as many options as possible.”

Moving the house at a cost of about $60,000 would be far less costly for the city than paying Guanci the appraised value of nearly $300,000, officials said.

“It’s something to think about,” Guanci told the panel. “It’s not our first choice, but I’ll think about it.”

Pickering in middle of ballot debate

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the council has not taken a vote to seize the property.

“We are exploring all options,” he said.

Following the meeting, Guanci told The Item this is the first time she’s heard of the option of moving her home farther down Parkland Avenue.

“This was a surprise,” she said. “I thought they were going to tell me they were considering a different route. It’s a good offer, but we need to take a look at it and give it more thought.” Guanci’s home would only be taken or moved by the city if voters agree to a controversial ballot question set for March 14. If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

The 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second 1,008 student-school would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. If voters reject the measure, the city could lose the state money.

Proponents say the city needs the two new schools to keep pace with school enrollment which has increased by 17 percent over the past five years.

But opponents say the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery and should not be used for a school.


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

Pickering in middle of ballot debate

COURTESY PHOTO
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  — If mother knows best, then an organized group of moms could be hard to stop as they push for two new middle schools in the city.

For the first time in Lynn’s history, voters will be asked to voluntarily raise their real estate taxes to pay for a school to be built near Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility on Commercial Street for West Lynn. Local moms say it’s worth it.

“There’s simply not enough room in the existing middle school and the conditions are terrible,” said Christine “Krissi” Pannell, the parent of a 4-year-old who attends the Busy Bee Nursery School. “The reasons that people want to vote no are petty compared to the reasons why we should be voting yes.”

The special election, scheduled for Tuesday, March 14, is pitting mothers against a vocal opposition who insist they are not against new schools. Instead, they say the city should find an alternative to the Pine Grove site that has been reserved for the graveyard’s expansion.                                                            

If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.      

Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said the actual cost of the project could be as much as $16 million less because the city is required to include contingencies that may not be needed. As a result, she said, the taxpayer contribution would be lower and the average cost per homeowner could drop below $200 annually.                                

“We are not opposed to the new schools, but we object to using Pine Grove Cemetery property and we oppose any effort to take that land for a school,” said Gary Welch, 63. “We are not anti-education and NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) activists. We are fine with the West Lynn site.”

Still, others who oppose the school have raised the issue of more traffic in the Parkland Avenue neighborhood, and the prospect of higher taxes.                                                                               

But the opposition hasn’t stopped moms from organizing to get out the vote in favor of the schools.                                       

Pannell said she has no patience with any of the arguments against the Parkland Avenue school.                                           

“I can’t believe people would vote no because they might have to wait a couple of extra minutes in the morning to get onto Parkland Avenue,” she said. “Traffic happens wherever there’s a school, so you plan ahead. Are we really going to deny these kids a better education and better conditions because we don’t want to figure out a little traffic pattern? As far as the cemetery is concerned, bury me anywhere. We’re talking about a new school for kids versus where we are going to bury people in 15 years when they die. Give me a break.”                               

Welch said opponents of the Parkland Avenue school are also concerned that the new access road would have a detrimental impact on the nearby reservoir. The city should consider other sites such as a parcel off Federal Street near Market Basket and one on Magnolia that would have less impact, he said.

But the School Building Committee said they vetted other sites and Parkland Avenue makes the most sense. They argued that no matter where a school is built, there will be opposition.         

Tara Osgood, whose two boys attend the Sisson Elementary School, said Pickering has outlived its usefulness.

“I attended Pickering when it was a junior high school when it had a seventh and eighth grade, and now there’s a sixth grade crammed into it,” she said. “It’s horrifying. It’s falling apart and there are 30 kids in a classroom. That’s major wear and tear on a 100-year-old building. It was never meant for that many kids and that many grades.”                                                        

Osgood said the condition of Lynn’s school buildings is driving parents out of the city.                                                          

“People who lived here their entire lives are moving out, not because of crime or taxes, it’s because the schools are falling down on the kids,” she said. “Nobody likes paying more taxes, but I am willing to pay a few hundred more for better school buildings for our children.”                                                       

But not everyone agrees. About 200 opponents packed the Hibernian Hall on Federal Street Saturday night to fight the proposal. The group, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, raised $7,200 to continue the battle, according to Donald Castle, one of the founders.                                                       

Despite the well-financed opposition, Kristen Hawes, whose children attend Lynn Woods Elementary School, said she intends to vote yes for new schools.                                     

“These schools will benefit our children,” she said. “I understand there are issues about the cemetery and taxes. But  I’d rather pay for two brand new schools than have my taxes go to another charter school.”                                                         

Emily LeBlanc-Perrone, who is pregnant with her first child, said voters need to invest in the city if they want Lynn to improve.                                                                                      

“It will cost a few hundred more, but that’s not much when you consider we are investing in our children and for the community,” she said. “These are the people who will run the city someday and we want to provide them with the best education we can.”

Swampscott is showing signs of love


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

Swampscott school race draws contenders

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two incumbents are vying to retain their seats on the School Committee.

Suzanne Wright and Gargi Cooper could face a challenge from Melissa Camire, who also pulled nomination papers for a chance to fill one of the two open seats.

Wright and Cooper are running for a second, three-year term on the school committee.

Candidates have until March 3 to obtain nomination papers and until March 7 to return them. Fifty certified signatures are required for a candidate to appear on the ballot. The local election is April 25.

Wright said she decided to run because she is enjoying the whole process of being on the committee. She said it took almost a full year to get up to speed after initially being elected.

“Now, I feel we’re working really well as a committee,” Wright said. “It’s been really rewarding.”

If re-elected, Wright said she is looking forward to some new projects, including seeing a new school get built. School officials intend to submit a statement of intent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by April. Officials are seeking state support for one or several new school buildings in Swampscott, which would be for a new elementary or middle school.

Wright said she wants to be a part of the continuation of the mental health initiative in town. Two new programs were recently unveiled at Swampscott High School, aimed at providing a supportive environment for students suffering from mental or emotional health concerns. Wright said she wants to see those programs introduced at the middle school. She also wants to see a comprehensive technology plan for the entire district.

Cooper said she decided to run for a second term because she believes in her tenure, the committee has created transparency between the school department and the community.

“I feel that we have made positive movement on many initiative(s) that help unite resources for the town and the school department,” Cooper said in an email. “The school department underwent a large amount of changes over the past three years during my term and I am proud that during this process a lot of important initiatives have occurred, including a new facilities director that has helped unite the school and town on improving our aging facilities.

“I believe continuity is also important in our school department and feel that I will help continue this positive momentum,” she said.

Camire could not be reached for comment.

Elections taking shape in Swampscott

Amy O’Connor, vice-chair of the school committee, also spoke about the importance of continuity on the board, and endorsed her fellow members. If Wright and Cooper win, she said it would be the first time in more than 10 years that there is consistency on the board.

“With all the turnovers in school leadership in the past decade, Swampscott can’t seem to maintain any traction,” O’Connor wrote in a text message. “Hopefully, we will this time … We’ve had so many (superintendents) and principals. This is traction we need. We are in the midst of making difficult decisions.

“If you had asked me two years ago if I would support their re-election, I’m not sure what my answer would have been,” O’Connor said. “It was a slow start. But I can say categorically that I support them now. We disagree on a lot, but it is great discourse and positive friction. Each one of us is pushing the others to be our best.”

There is one open seat on the Planning Board. Angela Ippolito, chairwoman of the board, is running for a second five-year term.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to run again for another term,” Ippolito said. “I love the work that we do on the planning board. I think it’s really important.”

Ippolito said the planning board is the authority for site plan review. She said the board manages the town’s zoning bylaws and any change comes before it. The board doesn’t look at zoning as putting restrictions on what a developer can do, but rather as trying to encourage the right type of development in town.

She said the board also develops and executes a master plan. The town’s master plan was completed last spring, and will be implemented over a 10-year period. Many municipal departments and boards have responsibility for various parts of the plan, but the planning board coordinates and oversees the process, she added.

Ippolito said she also wants to continue to work on spearheading the town’s effort to purchase White Court, the former Marian Court College, and utilize the property for a public use. The 6.2-acre site is owned by the Sisters of Mercy.

“We are doing all those things finally,” she said. “I feel that it’s a board working really well together.”

As reported in The Item on Wednesday, Naomi Dreeben and Laura Spathanas, chair and vice-chair of the Board of Selectmen respectively, have announced they will be running for a second, three-year term. Both said they want to continue to see town projects move forward, as part of their reason for running.

There are four other open seats in town, and all of the incumbents are running. As of Thursday afternoon, no challengers have pulled papers. Only Michael McClung, town moderator, has returned his papers and is guaranteed to appear on the ballot, according to Town Clerk Susan Duplin. He is running for a second, one-year term.

William Sullivan is running for another three-year term on the Board of Assessors. Martha Dansdill is trying for another three-year term on the Board of Health.

Duplin said local elections usually average about 20 percent voter turnout.


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

Saugus schools head to drawing board

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Massachusetts School Building Authority approved the town’s plan for a combination middle and high school building concept, allowing officials to move on to the design.

The quasi-independent government agency that funds public schools is working with Saugus to construct a new building.

“Now we will move on to modular four of the project with the MSBA, the schematic design phase,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “Over the next year we will work with the architects to design the actual building.”

The project is expected to cost about $153 million. In June, Town Meeting will be presented with a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion vote that would increase the tax levy beyond the state limit of 2.4 percent for more than 20 years or until the project is paid off, Crabtree said. The question will then go to the polls. The amount that could be added to residents’ bills to fund the investment is still unknown, he said.

The new middle-high school would be constructed on the same property as the existing high school. A new football stadium with multi-use fields would replace the current building.

The building process began when the town sent a letter of interest to the MSBA at the end of 2013, which was accepted the next month. By last February, PMA Consultants was chosen as the owner’s project manager and HMFH Architects Inc. was chosen to design the new building.

Cambridge-based HMFH is known for its user-centered designs and use of color in their work. The company has experience working with the state on combination middle-high school and standalone high school projects.

HMFH project director Lori Cowles described a pod-style layout focused on keeping students within one area of the school, rather than a compartmental design that keeps clusters of classrooms teaching one subject together.

“I think it’s very exciting to move onto the next phase of the school building project,” Crabtree said. “This will be the school district and the town’s time to work with the residents and parents and students of the community on designing a plan that fits and is designed to support the new education plan that was voted by the school committee and building committee.”

Additional public outreach meetings are planned for the next year in an attempt to engage more residents in the process and ensure voters make informed decisions when it comes to funding the project, he said.

“We are on sort of an accelerated rate of trying to move the project forward,” Crabtree said. “We have been able to make some of the benchmarks sooner than scheduled. We look forward to continuing to have a partnership with the MSBA.”

Sergeant approved as new harbormaster


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

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy explains how the school funding works. 

By BETHANY DOANE

LYNN — More than three dozen educators and parents gathered at the Knights of Pythias Tuesday night to support construction of a pair of middle schools.

The group, which calls itself  “Two Schools for Lynn,” is advocating a yes vote on next month’s ballot question. If approved, homeowners will pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills. The two schools would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

“I spent 40 years in the Lynn schools and we owe it to Lynn teachers and school children to get this vote through,” said Bart Conlon, former director of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Proponents say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment and and modernize students’ educational experiences.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

“We are already squeezing students into every possible classroom space,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who also attended the session. “We need the space that the new schools would allow  and our students need modernity in their school experience.”

The new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School, which opened last year, features natural light, air conditioning, a state-of-the-art security system, and other amenities that cater to middle school student’s needs, the mayor said.

“An address shouldn’t prevent a child from an equitable learning experience,” Kennedy said. “We must have schools in urban core, where all the largest number of middle school children live.”

If construction of two new middle schools fails to win voter approval, the city will go to the end of the line for state funding, she said.

Lynn’s schools are the fifth largest in the state, with more than 16,000 students. Student population has swelled by 17 percent in the past five years.

Mary Ann Duncan, a Lynn guidance counselor,  said overcrowding is becoming a major issue.

“We want to make sure we have a yes vote on March 14,” she said.

Still, the proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir, citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

Home Depot nails down learning cafe


Thomas Grillo contributed to this report and can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Saugus parents grade school plans

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Parents were schooled on the future of Saugus Public Schools at a meeting Monday afternoon.

Residents learned more about the combination middle and high school building plans as officials prepare for the project to enter its next phase with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent government agency that funds public schools.

The School Building Committee will present plans to the MSBA on Wednesday and expects to hear in coming weeks that they’ve progressed to the next phase, schematic design, which lasts about a year and a half.

The project is expected to cost about $153.4 million, In June, Town Meeting will be presented with a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion vote that would increase the tax levy beyond the state limit of 2.4 percent for more than 20 years or until the project is paid off, said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. The amount that could be added to residents’ bills to fund the investment is still unknown, he said.

Taxpayers asked questions and gave their opinions at a meeting intended to gather input from residents. The feedback will help the committee with the design and educational space for the new school building.

The new middle-high school would be constructed on the same property as the existing high school. A new football stadium with multi-use fields would replace the current building.

The building process began when the town sent a letter of interest to the MSBA at the end of 2013, which was accepted the next month. By last February, PMA Consultants was chosen as the owner’s project manager and HMFH Architects Inc. was chosen to design the new building.

Cambridge-based HMFH is known for its user-centered designs and use of color in their work. The company has experience working with the state on combination middle-high school and standalone high school projects.

HMFH project director Lori Cowles described a pod-style layout focused on keeping students within one area of the school, rather than a compartmental design that keeps clusters of classrooms teaching one subject together.

The school will vary from three to four floors with the high school on one side and middle school on the other.

“We’re trying to provide a 21st century education in structures that were built in the 1950s and worked for the 1950s,” said Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem. “The infrastructure needs to change to match our education plan. Right now you have a kid who goes to school without a cafeteria — they have combined space — a cafegymitorium.”

Hashem said the current science labs are a major concern with undersized spaces and desks that too short to be functional and are cemented to the ground.

Resident Anna Ruggiero was concerned with the traffic implications of a combined school.

“The traffic is already crazy coming out of Highland Avenue, never mind on Main Street,” Ruggiero said. “We’re going to have middle-schoolers now that will be walking down the street, never mind the high-schoolers.”

Project Manager Kevin Nigro of PMA said a traffic study is already underway. The data will be compiled and presented at a future building committee meeting.

Other residents worried about added traffic at the town’s other school buildings that could result from the district-wide master plan for schools.

By 2020, the school system could be transformed to contain one lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2; one upper elementary for grades 3-5; and a combination middle and high school. The new school structure would replace the existing Pre-K, four elementary schools, middle school and high school.

Sixteen-year-old Veterans Memorial Elementary School would become the lower elementary building. Modifications would be made to the Belmonte Middle School and it would become the Belmonte STEAM Academy. The upper elementary school would have a special focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Cowles said the Veterans school would serve the same amount of students as it currently does. Traffic implications to the other buildings would be addressed as the master plan progresses.

Others raised questions about athletic fields and facilities. An athletic field will be constructed where the current school sits and a track will surround the grassy area.

Hashem said students would see a new fitness center.

“We’re dealing with a childhood obesity issue and we don’t have a place to show (students) how to deal with it with a healthier lifestyle,” Hashem said.

Crabtree said a solution to the shortage of athletic fields would be discussed in future public outreach sessions.

Cowles said building a new school is the cheapest option because it will be completed in one phase rather than a series of renovations over several years. Construction time is expected to be the shortest of all options and it will cause the least amount of disruption to the educational delivery.

Brain power in Nahant


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

Saugus spending to address school changes

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — As the demographics of the district change, the school committee delivered a budget that they pledge will support students.  

The panel approved a $29.6 million spending plan for fiscal year 2018, up from $28.1 million last year. The request will be reviewed by Town Manager Scott Crabtree and the Board of Selectmen.

As a result of the increase, Spanish will be a requirement, rather than an elective, a cut that was made for last year’s budget. An allocation of $82,000 will fund Chromebooks, which will be necessary next year when MCAS testing will require a computer, according to committee member Arthur Grabowski.

“Down the road, all state testing will be done online,” said Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi. “ELL (English language learner) testing is already online and MCAS is making the transition.”

Two new transition counselors and an expansion of the English language learning department are included in the budget to help the needs of the district’s changing demographics.

During a presentation Monday, DeRuosi described the financial impacts of the change. In 2012, the district had 88 ELL students. Last year, that swelled to 126, he said. The public schools have students who have “very limited English skills. Some don’t even have skills in their own language,” he said.

About 40 percent of students are considered low-income and qualify for a free or reduced price lunch program. They are also eligible to ride to school at no cost, he said.

The homeless population has increased steadily over the past five years and reached 40 students in 2016.

“Enrollment might be dropping but the kids that we have are becoming absolutely more needy than the kids we had before as a population,” DeRuosi said. “As a district, we are beginning to feel the effects of a changing student demographic.”

Transition councilors would help with the social-emotional needs of students, which would help them remained focused and get more out of their educational experience.

Swampscott tries to bridge a gap

More than $300,000 will be saved in cost containments, including two students who will no longer need to be transported out of the district, retiring employees whose jobs will be filled with newbies at a lower salary and cuts in the cafeterias.

“It is the responsibility of the school committee to advocate for an educationally sound budget, whatever that budget number might be,” said Grabowski. “To advocate for something less or to make a request that’s not inclusive of what our needs might be, from my point of view, is irresponsible.”

The budget will be presented to the town manager and board of selectmen by Feb. 1.

The Saugus High School Project Building Committee is asking for parents, teachers, members of the Parent Teacher Organization and residents to attend their next meeting on Monday to provide feedback on the combination middle-high school project.

Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the committee, said she hopes to hear from residents before the project enters its next phase with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent government agency that funds public schools.

The feedback will help the committee with the design and educational space for the new school building, she said.

The new middle-high school would be constructed on the same property as the existing high school. A new football stadium with multi-use fields would replace the current building.

By 2020, the school system could be transformed to contain one lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2; one upper elementary for grades 3-5; and a combination middle and high school. The new school structure would replace the existing Pre-K, four elementary schools, middle school and high school.

Sixteen-year-old Veterans Memorial Elementary School would become the lower elementary building. Modifications would be made to the Belmonte Middle School and it would become the Belmonte STEAM Academy. The upper elementary school would have a special focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The building process began when the town sent a letter of interest to the MSBA at the end of 2013, which was accepted the next month. By last February, PMA Consultants was chosen as the owner’s project manager and HMFH Architects Inc. was chosen to design the new building.

Cambridge-based HMFH is known for its user-centered designs and use of color in their work. The company has experience working with the state on combination middle-high school and standalone high school projects.

The meeting will be held at Saugus Town Hall at 4 p.m.


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

Lynn council costs out middle school plan

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Voters will be asked to fund two new schools during a special election on March 14.

The City Council unanimously approved putting a question on the ballot asking voters to approve the $188 million project, which would be for the construction of two schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Voters will also see a question asking if the project should be allowed to be exempt from Proposition 2 1/2, which places limits on the amount a community can raise through property taxes.

Voters would be responsible for an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills. The Massachusetts School Building Authority would reimburse about 60 percent of the funds, or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

Real deal: $7.5M sale in Lynn

In a previous interview with The Item, City Attorney James Lamanna said under the city charter, the council was required to put the question on the ballot. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million.

If voters approve the funding, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second 1,008 student-school would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. If voters reject the measure, the city could lose the state money.

Officials in favor of the project, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, spoke about the need for new facilities to keep up with increasing enrollment.

Kennedy said there has been a 17 percent increase in the student population over the past five years. Latham added there are more than 16,000 students in Lynn Public Schools, making it the fifth largest district in the state.

Kennedy said she couldn’t emphasize enough the education inequity occurring at the middle school level, after the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School opened. She said it wasn’t right that students in the Pickering district have to go to a school of inferior quality, or that students in the Breed district are squeezed into a school that is overcrowded.

“The only way the city can bear the $200 million approximated price tag of these two schools is to do this as a debt exclusion,” Kennedy said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much we need to have these modern middle schools in the city of Lynn.”

Latham said if the schools aren’t approved, the district would be in dire need of more classroom space. There might need to be a return to half-day kindergarten, she added.

Donald Castle, president of Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove Cemetery, said the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery. The city’s law department became aware of documents from 1893 in the fall suggesting that the land belongs to the cemetery.

“We’re not against the schools,” he said. “We’re against the site.”

Lamanna said it’s the opinion of the law department that the city owns the land, and would prevail in court if challenged.

Following the unanimous vote, city councilors weighed in on the potential schools. City Council President Darren Cyr said building two new schools to replace 100-year-old buildings was about providing students with the same opportunities kids in neighboring communities have.

“If we don’t build these new schools, we could have as many as 40 to 50 kids in a classroom,” Cyr said.

City Councilor Dan Cahill said Lynn can’t be a community of folks who don’t invest in their youth. “If we don’t make this investment, I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen in the city of Lynn,” he said.

In other news, a public hearing was set down for Feb. 14, regarding moving 57 custodians from city employment to the jurisdiction of the school department.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department director, said the move was to meet the net school spending requirement. When they worked for the city, he said, their health insurance didn’t work toward net school spending. If the move is passed, their benefits would be going toward that.

Donovan said the custodians are working for inspectional services now, which cleans school buildings. They would just have a different employer in the school department.

“The school will be paying for them if this proposal passes,” Donovan said.


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

 

Helping dollars make sense in Lynn

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — City officials entered into a community compact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Tuesday, a program designed to strengthen the partnership between local and state government.

“The idea of getting some technical assistance on our capital long-range planning was a really intriguing possibility to pursue,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “And after speaking with the CFO, Peter Caron, and understanding that we would be getting financial assistance to obtain the technical planning expertise, it seemed like a no-brainer to accept the offer from the commonwealth. So, with that, we contacted the governor’s office and arranged to become … the 254th community to sign onto the compact.”

Kennedy said there are two places where the compact will be especially helpful to city government. She said the city is in desperate need of modernizing its IT (Information Technology) department, which consists of only two employees. She said Caron also serves as head of that department, and would like to see that change, as IT and financial expertise don’t always go hand in hand.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Through the compact, which city officials signed onto with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at City Hall, Lynn will work with the commonwealth to implement three financial management best practices. The city will work to develop and use a long-range planning/forecasting model, prepare a capital improvement plan, and review and evaluate financial management structure to improve efficiency.

Also on hand for the signing was Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Mass) and state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus).

Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said Lynn secured a $75,000 grant through the consulting group hired by the commonwealth, PFM (Public Financial Management), to pay for the three best practices.

The mayor also spoke about the importance of long-term planning. Kennedy said the city is currently operating five schools that are more than 100 years old. She said officials have recently replaced one of the middle schools and have applied to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a second middle school. But because of the large student population growth, she said the MSBA told officials that they would either need to build the largest middle school in the commonwealth or build two schools.

“So, this has obviously put some strains on our ability to focus on and capitalize (on) our long-term plans,” Kennedy said. “So, we are going out for a debt exclusion to the public on March 14 to try to fund those two middle schools.”

Polito said the compact program is not an unfunded mandate, but a funded, best practices voluntary program. She said the program grew out of conversations with municipal leaders on how state government can be a better, more reliable partner. Through the compact, she said, municipalities can apply to programs for IT grants, complete streets and for regionalization and efficiency.

“Every single compact is unique because you, as municipal leaders, decide what you want to work on,” Polito said. “In this case, the mayor and your CFO will talk about the best practices and why you’ve chosen them, but certainly around financial planning, capital planning, financial management.

“You’re at a point in time where the expertise from our office and others through the grant that we will provide you can really professionalize and update the policies that you want in place, as your city continues to grow, both population-wise, because I know you’re stretched out in your schools, and economic-wise, because you’re really starting to develop your economy here in a more meaningful way,” she continued. “So, this is like reset, and laying a solid foundation for you to then continue to build on in municipal government.”


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

New schools would cost $200 per household

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city council is set to put a question on the ballot in March that asks taxpayers to fund two new schools.

Voters will be asked to pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

The school committee voted last week to request the council take the action. Under the city charter, the 11-member council is obligated to put the question on the ballot, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million. A special election is expected to be held Tuesday, March 14.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Kane’s makes a tasty wager

Officials say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment. Today, there are about 16,000 students in the Lynn Public Schools. But it has been increasing at a rate of 3 percent, or 500 new students annually, according to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“Enrollment continues to grow and we are out of space,” said Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee.

“If voters reject the bond, we could be at a point where we were many years ago when we offered only a half-day kindergarten. Public schools are everyone’s right and everyone’s tax responsibility.”

The other factor in play is the contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects. The department would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost. But if voters reject the bond authorization, the city stands to lose the state money.

The proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

But last month, the Pickering Middle School Building Committee reaffirmed its decision to locate the school off Parkland Avenue.


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

Marblehead is ready for 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — Significant renovations to the Marblehead Community Center and the first floor of the Abbot Public Library were two of the year’s highlights and accomplishments cited by Marblehead town officials.

Town Administrator John McGinn said the community center project was undertaken partly for a more equitable distribution of space between the Council on Aging and the Recreation and Parks Commission, since both have offices there.

The $85,000 renovation, started in the spring and completed in November, included the installation of air conditioning in meeting rooms and improved meeting space. McGinn said a space study was completed to see how the building could be better used.

McGinn said the library’s renovated children’s room and large meeting room on the first floor was a  $220,000 project completed with trust fund money donated to the library. The children’s room received new flooring and the town is also looking at further repairs for the library.

“There’s sort of a much more inviting look to the place than there was before,” he said.

McGinn said he was also happy with the four historic documents that were unveiled last spring, which dated to revolutionary times. The documents are on display in the selectmen’s room at Abbot Hall.

Documents included a letter from George Washington to the inhabitants of the town of Marblehead in 1789, Elbridge Gerry’s letter to the selectmen accepting an appointment to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in 1774, Paul Revere’s letter to Jonathan Glover and the selectmen attempting to procure surplus cannon from the town, written in 1787, and a resolution of the Massachusetts General Court Senate and House relative to a Marblehead petition, signed by John Hancock and Samuel Adams, written in 1784.

Another highlight, McGinn said, was the purchase of a fire pumper truck. In May, the town approved a $620,000 fire truck, which he said should be delivered next spring.

He said the town also had its AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s reaffirmed last August for the eighth consecutive year, which allows Marblehead to borrow at lower interest rates. Marblehead was one of just 46 of the 351 communities across Massachusetts to achieve the rating, the highest possible from Standard and Poor’s, a crediting agency.

McGinn said another highlight was progress on the renovation of the Elbridge Gerry School. Town Meeting members approved funding a $750,000 feasibility study last May, which allows the Gerry School Building Committee to follow the process required by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Voters approved the ballot initiative a month later. The state will pay about $243,525 for the study, with taxpayers responsible for $506,475.

The K-1 school has never been improved since it was built in 1906. The project would have to be approved at Town Meeting in 2018. Construction options would be considered after the study’s completion, which could take up to two years.

McGinn said the town is looking at options that would involve combining the school with Coffin School, or combining Gerry, Coffin and Bell School.

Landfill capping, an ongoing project for several years, wrapped up in November. The landfill closure began in 2014 and accounts for more than $17 million of the $23 million allocated for the Marblehead transfer station upgrade.

Marblehead entered into a consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Protection to cap and close the landfill in the early 2000s. Before the capping, the town hadn’t landfilled material since 1975.

The town’s existing landfill was constructed in the 1930s and the incinerator was built in 1950. During those years, there was open pit burning, with material, including products containing lead and heavy metals, brought on site, burned and placed in the landfill.

The Woodfin Terrace transfer station is also slated for demolition. Most of the 1950 building was razed last spring, but the trash compactor is still in place. The bidding process for a new transfer station isn’t expected to begin until next spring.

After more than a decade, William Pattison Landing, the town’s newest pier opened. The $370,000 project at Stramski Way and West Shore Drive was previously referred to as Stramski Pier, for the family that owned the surrounding park before the town bought it.

The pier, which provides access to Salem Harbor from West Shore Drive, was named after William Pattison, a former member of the Harbors and Waters Board. Pattison was passionate about the project. He died in 2010 and never saw its completion.

To complete the project, a permit was required from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, which couldn’t be issued until the completion of a $12.5 million sewer pipe replacement, which connects the Stramski area underneath the harbor to South Essex Sewerage District’s treatment facilities in Salem.

The controversial Marblehead Mariner project, which would have been the town’s first assisted living facility, was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals last May. The ZBA rejected a special permit for the facility, which was the final approval needed for the developers, Coastal Streets and Harbor Street Development.

Board members said the application was rejected because the design was too large and incompatible with the neighborhood. The facility would have been built on Pleasant Street, and would have included 87 apartments on a 4.5-acre site. It would have featured parks, walking paths, seating areas, patios and gardens.

Phil Helmes, one of the developers, serves as chairman on the town’s Planning Board, which granted site plan review approval. The developers filed an appeal of the ZBA decision with the Massachusetts Land Court on June 16.

“That’s really out of the town’s hands at this point,” said McGinn.

Phase 2 of a three part drainage project will continue this spring with culvert work on Pleasant and School streets. Proposed work includes upgrading stone culverts that are more than 100 years old, replacing it with 48-inch PVC pipe.

The town was successful with securing more than $1 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds in 2015 to move forward on the project. The first phase was completed three years ago on portions of Atlantic Avenue, Essex and Spring streets.

“Under certain weather conditions, we would experience flooding in those areas and a lot of water that would go into those buildings,” McGinn said. “The project was originally designed to be an almost $5 million project.”

Marblehead had to quickly hire a new trash hauler, JRM Hauling, after their former collector, Hiltz Waste Disposal stopped services with about a day’s notice. Marblehead entered into a 10-year contract with JRM, and is paying $795,000 for the first year, which includes the cost of all recycling disposal. McGinn said despite the unexpected termination of their contract with Hiltz, the town didn’t miss a day of trash service with its transition to JRM. Hiltz later declared bankruptcy.


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

 

Swampscott is building a case

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT School officials are seeking state support for one or several new school buildings in Swampscott.

Suzanne Wright, a member of the school committee, said town officials plan on submitting a statement of intent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by the April deadline. Superintendent Pamela Angelakis is leading a task force devoted to planning new schools.

“The statement of interest would just have to say we need a new elementary or middle school,” Wright said.

Wright said there would likely be statements of interest for both. She said there are more than 20 options being floated around by members of the task force.

Some options could include building a new elementary school to replace Hadley School, building a consolidated elementary school to replace the three operating ones, or building a new middle school because the current one has issues, Wright said.

Wright said the superintendent and her leadership team have deemed that a consolidated K-5 model is the best option. Another option would be a consolidated elementary school, with one building for K-2 and another for grades 3-5. But she said more buildings mean more difficulty in receiving MSBA funding.

“We’re going to submit to the MSBA because we need a new school, but what we get approved for is sort of out of our hands,” Wright said. “Right now, it’s like throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.”

Swampscott under new management

New facilities are needed and aging infrastructure in existing buildings needs to be fixed, Wright said. Collectively, the elementary schools are older, but the middle school has space issues.

Wright said the effort started after the failed Town Meeting vote in 2014 for a consolidated elementary school on the site of Swampscott Middle School on Forest Avenue. A task force was put together, made up of people for and against the new school, and the intent was always to put another statement of interest in.

In July 2014, the MSBA gave final approval for a district-wide elementary school in Swampscott. The plans included building a new school for grades 1-4 on land adjacent to the middle school. Clarke School would have been converted to house pre-kindergarten to kindergarten. Stanley School would have been demolished with the land converted to athletic fields and playgrounds. The proposed project cost $52.6 million, and the town would have been responsible for approximately $35 million.

The proposal had to pass two votes, a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting, and a town-wide ballot vote requiring a simple majority. Town Meeting voted 140-98 in favor of the school in October 2014, falling short of the two-thirds majority. The school was rejected by more than 2,500 votes on the ballot initiative that year.

Wright said the previous effort for a consolidated school may have failed because of the change in superintendent leadership, as the statement of interest was submitted by Angelakis’ predecessor. Another contributing factor could have been that the school would have been on the Forest Avenue site along with the current middle school, which would have caused congested traffic and reduced outdoor play space.

With 20 options on the table, Wright said a consolidated elementary school is still a favorite. She said the superintendent has been educating the school district on some of the benefits, including the cost-effectiveness of consolidation.

If the statement of interest is approved by the MSBA, Wright said Town Meeting would have to approve funding for a feasibility study for officials to look at sites that would be viable for the new school or schools. Once the study is completed, architects would be hired to design the building, and then Town Meeting would have to approve funding the school. A ballot vote would also be needed for the project.

“If we get the statement of intent approved, we’re in a much better position to move forward than we were last time,” Wright said.

Angelakis was unavailable for comment.


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

Middle school passing the test in Peabody

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY – It’s been almost nothing but sunshine since the new Higgins Middle School opened its doors to students this fall. But for the last few weeks, there’s been maybe a little bit too much of a good thing.

“We’re looking into the sunlight coming into the building,” said School Committee member Beverley Dunne at Tuesday night’s board meeting. “There was a little too much the other day.”

Dunne, who updated the board on  the remaining punch list items and issues at the new building, said that with the sun at its lowest point in the sky this time of the year, said some students were forced to wear sunglasses in the middle of December.

While most of the remaining construction tasks are proceeding without a hitch, including outside lighting and signage, Dunne said there have been some issues with bright sunshine at the school over the past week or so.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. added there have also been some issues with bright sunlight in the gym, especially during early morning basketball games.

The new, $92.6-million school was built with plenty of open space and windows to let in natural light.

‘Trouble the Dog’ joins Lynn police

Bettencourt and Dunne said there have been discussions with the contractor to address the sunlight issues, especially in the cafeteria and office areas as well as the gym.

There is also some work being done to make sure the heating system is working properly, Dunne said. Outside the building, the old middle school has been demolished and work has begun on the athletic fields.

The final configuration of the fields will likely include a football field and additional open space that can be used for soccer and other sports.

“The construction of the athletic fields is ongoing and it is all going according to schedule,” said Dunne.

Construction began on the new school, only feet away from the old Higgins Middle School, in the summer of 2014. The Massachusetts School Building Authority is covering just under $44 million of the project cost.

The price of education increases by $5M

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNNIt’s going to cost more to build two new schools in the city.

The School Building Committee approved an amended construction plan on Thursday for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn at an estimated cost of $188.5 million, up from $183.2 million last summer, a nearly 3 percent increase.

Under the proposal, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

While the revised costs for the new Pickering fell to $85.8 million, down from $86.1 million thanks to a more compact design, the West Lynn facility saw its budget rise by nearly 6 percent to $102.7 million, up from $97.1 million.

Making friends in a new language

Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager, explained that the cost to build the foundation drove the price estimate up.

Still, there was some good news. Access to the new Pickering from Shoemaker Road has been eliminated, settling a hot button issue in the neighborhood. In addition, only one home, not two, would be taken by eminent domain for the proposed Pickering.

Typically, when a home is taken by a municipality, an independent appraisal is completed and the property owner receives fair market value, plus moving expenses.

“Our intention is not to harm,” said Stapleton.

School building plans have been submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent government agency that funds school projects. If approved, the agency would contribute more than 60 percent of the cost.

Still, to pay for building new schools, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike of more than $160 annually to their real estate tax bill for 25 years.


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

Protesters sound off on school plans

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN Three to four dozen protesters gathered at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting to protest the construction of a potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir and the loss of homes the city could take to build it.

The School Committee discussed requesting the City Council vote for eminent domain of two properties adjacent to the reservoir, including 103 Parkland Ave., owned by Luise Fonseca.

Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said the properties would be used to create an intersection and improve traffic.

“I saved up all my life to buy it,” Fonseca said. “I have deer in my backyard. It’s a beautiful spot.”

Fonseca said the second property is 97 Parkland Ave.

“(Fonseca) is a 77-year-old woman, she bought her house to live there for life,” said Donald Castle, a neighborhood advocate. “Parkland Avenue is the most expensive site. Pick another site. I don’t see voters approving this.”

“It’s very difficult to sit here and know the woman is very ill and you want to take her home,” said School Committee Member Lorraine Gately.

Middle school offers a lesson in NIMBY

The panel voted to table the discussion and hold a special meeting on Dec. 15, after the Building Committee discusses other options, which Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said are less expensive.

Kennedy said voting in favor of the recommendation would not be a vote to take the properties but it would keep the option open and comply with the demands of the timeline necessary to fulfill Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) requirements. The quasi-independent government funds public school projects.

If the MSBA approves, the agency would contribute $114.5 million toward the two schools, 62.5 percent of the cost.

Voters will be asked to support a so-called debt exclusion next spring. Residents would have a $163 annual hike in their real estate tax bills for the next 25 years.

The city’s School Building Committee gave approval to build two new schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn in October. The $183 million proposal includes a 652-student school to be built near the reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second school on McManus Field on Commercial Street to serve 1,008 students.

City Attorney James Lamanna said by law residents need to be notified months before they need to vacate their homes. The houses will be appraised and the property owners will have the opportunity to challenge the amount. They are assisted with relocation and compensated for additional costs if necessary.

“It’s not like winning the lottery, but property owners will make out much better,” Lamanna said.  

Lynn charter gets second state hearing

The committee also voted unanimously to request the Lynn Park Commission and Conservation Commission vote to convert the park land at McManus Field into a school and replace the park land at the reservoir site.

The protesters filled the meeting room equipped with signs and information packets.

Castle is against the site for legal and moral reasons.

“We’re all in favor of a new school,” he said. “We have 200 people in our group. Hundreds of people oppose this site. There’s not a few of us, there’s a lot of us. We’re not just disgruntled. The process hasn’t been fair.”

Brian Field, a resident and funeral director, argued that the Parkland Avenue property was intended for cemetery use, citing a document from 1893.

“Pine Grove Cemetery will be full in 10 years,” Field said. “The city will be without a cemetery in 10 years’ time.”

Lamanna said there are “no restrictions” on the property and feels confident the court would not “put a burden on any property owner or buyer to go to the Lynn Museum or the Lynn Library” to find documents.

Proposed plans include taking four-and-a-half acres of park land from McManus Field. To replace them at another location in the city, fields will be created at the Parkland Avenue site, Stapleton said.

“We’re just looking to replace it at this point, we don’t have plans other than to protect it,” she said. “We have room for two turfed fields, football field size fields. There is a potential for a third turfed field there.”

Fonseca said the discussion didn’t give her much relief. “They’re only prolonging my agony,” she said.

The project requires voter approval. Registered voters will decide in March.


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

Residents rail against Pickering plans

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Peter Grocki argues against the Breeds Pond Reservoir site plan for a potential new Pickering Middle School.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — On Wednesday night, residents at a public forum had another chance to weigh in on potential new Pickering Middle School sites.

Project architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. presented information about the project before a crowd that nearly filled the auditorium of the old Pickering.

The forum focused on the site near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, which has drawn heavy criticism from residents at past meetings.

One of the more contentious points discussed over the course of the evening was the possibility of private homes being removed in order to provide the new school with two points of access.

Of the potential areas being considered for a school location, only the reservoir site would require the taking of private homes by eminent domain.

Raymond said one option is to create a route across from Richardson Road, which would require the removal of two homes. The Lynnfield Street option would take one home at the end of Shoemaker Road and another at the end of Severance Street. A third option near Basse Road would not require the removal of any homes.

Raymond added that the results of an ongoing traffic study may help shed light on the best location.

“Don’t tell us this is a plan, then tell us you’re going to take someone’s home,” said Gayle Chandler of Parkland Avenue during the public commentary session. Chandler added that residents should continue to fight the development in court if necessary.   

Ellen Barr of Richardson Road voiced traffic and safety concerns. She said parking along Parkland Avenue already begins early in the morning and that it’s a common route for large trucks.

Other residents were angered by the encroachment of the development on Lynn Woods and Pine Grove Cemetery.

“The woods across the street from the cemetery is the cemetery,” said Donald Castle of Bellevue Road.

Attendee Elizabeth Sutherland, who lives on Woodside Terrace, said she was skipping school for the night to come to the forum.

“By the time I had a flier in my mail it was only a few days from when something was happening,” said Sutherland.

Former city councilor Joseph Scanlon, who also lives on Parkland Avenue, said he was at the forum to listen.

“I’ve been to all three meetings and they seem to change all the time,” said Scanlon.

The forum was the third of its kind and Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said there will be another sometime in the next several weeks to discuss the proposed McManus Field middle school site.

Stapleton said that while a formal recommendation should be forthcoming from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on Nov. 9, there’s still another year in the development process left to go.

Moving forward on middle schools

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

Is there anyone who wants Lynn middle school students to continue getting an education in the dilapidated Pickering Middle School with its water-stained walls and World War I-era classrooms?

That is exactly what is going to happen if local leaders and residents living off Parkland Avenue cannot come to an agreement over a proposal, endorsed by a 10-1 vote on Oct. 7 by the city’s School Building Committee, to build a new middle school near Breeds Pond.

The choice of woodland near the pond as a school site reflects the never-changing dilemma burdening Lynn when it comes to building new schools. The city, plainly speaking, is land poor.

Marshall Middle School occupies a former industrial site. The other site for a second, new middle school is McManus Field, where there is no outcry over putting a 1,000-student school between Commercial Street and Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Breeds Pond site opponents launched a barrage against the proposed site this week by sending state School Building Authority officials a big stack of 19th-century documents outlining, according to opponents, the intended use of the Parkland Avenue land by Pine Grove Cemetery.

If a middle school cannot be built near Breeds Pond, where is it going to go to be built? No one is standing up and saying, “Hey, we don’t need a school” or suggesting one school built at McManus Field is going to house a tidal wave of students rolling out of elementary schools and into local middle schools.

Suggestions for building a middle school on the site of Union Hospital or in Gallagher Playground and Magnolia Avenue Playground range from problematic to patently absurd.

The former site is a battleground for local efforts to preserve acute medical care in Lynn and both playgrounds are well-used recreation locations where a strong coalition of neighbors backed by local elected officials are never going to let a school be built.

Is Breeds Pond an ideal site with minimal traffic and neighborhood disruption? The answer is no. But if the city fails in its bid to get Massachusetts School Building Authority approval for two new schools, the middle-school-siting-debate will become fodder for what is sure to be a highly contentious 2017 election year.

Turning middle schools into a political football will potentially delay by one year, maybe two or more, the push to get new schools built. In the meantime, Pickering students will continue to go to school in a physically deficient building and the city will continue throwing good money after bad to patch and upgrade Pickering.

It’s time for a calm and reasonable meeting of the minds to sort out the Breeds Pond disagreement. If the cemetery is in need of future additional land, then let the search begin to determine how to meet that need even as a school site is carved out of land off Parkland Avenue.

New schools are the single most expensive project a municipality can tackle and, arguably, the most important. Competition among cities and towns for state school building dollars is fierce and state officials won’t wait around for Lynn to get its act together and settle arguments over building near Breeds Pond.

The time for the city to move forward and build new middle schools is now.

School issues come to a boil in Marblehead

Heat at the Gerry School in Marblehead is provided by a 1953 oil-fired boiler, which failed three times in 2015. (Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bridget Turcotte

 

MARBLEHEAD — The school committee will be updated on progress made with the Elbridge Gerry School project at its Thursday meeting.

David Harris, chair of the building committee and a school committee member, said the group has been looking at projected enrollment numbers.

“The number of kids in school ultimately determines how big the school needs to be,” he said. “The size of the school ultimately becomes the cost of the school.”

The Gerry School Building Committee entered the 270-day eligibility period with the Massachusetts School Building Authority in March. During this phase of the process, the town completes several tasks to help the MSBA determine whether it should be invited into the feasibility study phase.  

Built in 1906, the school has never seen a major upgrade.

Harris said the K-1 school would need major renovations to be considered functional.

“The building does not meet educational program needs,” he said. “The slate roof, brick exterior, floor, ceiling, electrical have all passed their lifespan.”

The classrooms are undersized at about 600 square feet each, he said. According to Master Plan documents on the town’s website, the state’s recommended size for a kindergarten classroom is 1,200 square-feet.

Because the school lacks a cafeteria, students eat in classrooms. Student bathrooms, the gym and a space that doubles as an art and music classroom are located in the basement. The building is not handicap accessible. Students with mobility issues are reassigned to the Malcolm L. Bell School, which is divided into an upper and lower building.

Heat is provided by a 1953 oil-fired boiler, which failed three times in 2015, causing emergency service calls, according to the document.

Town Meeting approved $750,000 for a feasibility study to be completed to determine whether the building should be renovated or a new school should be built.

During the feasibility study, the committee and the MSBA will look at all options.

Ken Lord, executive director of technology and operations, said a lot of things need to be accomplished before the feasibility study, which could take up to two years, can begin. The eligibility period could last for a few more weeks to months, he said.

He added that the Gerry School is the oldest of the town’s nine school buildings, trailed by L.H. Coffin Elementary School, where Gerry students attend grades two and three.

“It’s a beautiful old school,” Harris said. “It’s the classic brick and marble, sitting up on a hill. It certainly has structural appeal but it’s failing.”


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

Lynn middle-school plan under further review

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy will call a meeting to discuss legal questions that have arisen regarding a proposed middle school off Parkland Avenue.

The meeting will focus in part on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, a city building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering, located on Conomo Avenue. One school would house 652 students near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has to approve the potential Pickering sites.

“I am in receipt of a letter from the Law Department that warrants the re-examination of the selection of the site off of Parkland Avenue for a new middle school,” Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday. “While the city attorneys expressed an opinion that the city can legally construct a school on this property, they did so with the admonition that potential litigation could delay the project by at least two years. In response to the communication, I will be convening a meeting of the Pickering Building Committee as soon as possible to present this new information and engage the committee in a thoughtful discussion about how we should proceed.”

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week.

In a letter to the mayor, city Solicitor Michael Barry said the documents suggest that in 1893, the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the proposed Pickering Middle School would potentially be constructed on the Reservoir site. He said the documents have not been filed at the Essex County Registry of Deeds, but appear in an 1893 report of the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission to the mayor and City Council.

Kennedy, who was not available for an interview Tuesday, said in her statement that she was aware that the building committee selected the Parkland Avenue site after a “lengthy and thorough process that weighed the pros and cons of all realistic options.”

“As mayor, I have been consistently reluctant to sign onto policies and rulings that would likely be overturned in court. In this instance, the issue of time is of major consideration,” she said in the statement. “It is not my preference to have this project delayed by any significant period of time. We have more than 3,100 students in middle school this year and that number is projected to rise by as much as 25 percent in the next several years. The simple fact is that we need the amount and caliber of space suitable to meet their educational needs.

“It is no secret that the city is land-poor when it comes to the amount of area needed to construct new schools,” Kennedy continued. “I have an obligation to bring the information from the law department to the committee and allow it to reconsider the selection of the site. I would stress that this action should not be construed as my advocating the elimination of the Parkland Avenue site from consideration.

“I simply want to present the building committee with the pertinent information, consult with the experts who have already done extensive research and fact-finding, and work toward making a decision that will best serve the students and educators who deserve quality space in which to teach and learn,” she said.

Another site the committee has looked at is Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering site.

A drawback to the Magnolia site, Lamanna said, is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. He said the pipe would have to be relocated, as the school could not be built on top of it. Moving the pipe could cost the city $500,000 to $800,000, he added, and said that the city can’t take any action that would interfere with water provided to another community.

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said she was aware of the impending Pickering Building Committee meeting.

“I feel confident that the building committee will continue to work very hard to analyze all the data it has available in order to come to the best solution possible,” Latham said in an email.

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

 

Lynn committee approves garden plan

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

BY LEAH DEARBORN

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.

Building committee prefers two-school option

Lynn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks at the new Pickering Middle School Meeting at Lynn City Hall on Tuesday. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Adam Swift

LYNN — The public can get a close-up look on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at the city’s two-school approach to replacing the aging Pickering Middle School.

The 7 p.m. meeting at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School follows up on a unanimous vote by the Pickering Middle School Building Committee Tuesday to support an option to build two new middle schools to replace Pickering. One school would house 652 students near Breed’s Pond Reservoir, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

This preferred school building option will be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by Sept. 29. But it’s still a long road before the shovels hit the ground at either site.

The submission will go through a review process with the MSBA voting in November on possible approval for project funding.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she is grateful for the role the MSBA played in helping finance the Marshall Middle School.

At this time, it is unclear how much of the cost of two new buildings the MSBA could pick up for the city.

While estimated costs for the schools are still in the early stages, at Tuesday’s meeting Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Costs put forward an initial price tag of $83 million for the project.

Also on the table were options for two schools with reduced square footage as well as some programming reductions, as well as a plan where two schools would share some central services, such as a gym and cafeteria, on a single site.

With the extent of a possible MSBA contribution unclear at this time, Latham said the city should move forward with the full programming at two new schools.

“We should lay it all out there and see where the chips fall,” said Latham.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said that none of the plans set forward to address the middle school needs were overly ostentatious.

“We are a land poor city and we are trying to accommodate almost 1,700 middle school students,” she said.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

Changes big and small as kids get ready to head back to school

Anthony Constas, front, and Jeremiah Daly work on the punch list at the new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Adam Swift

Peabody middle school students will soon step into the future on their first day of school.

About 1,400 sixth, seventh and eighth graders will file through the doors of the new Higgins Middle School next Wednesday.

While the size of the $92.6 million school, at 224,000-square-feet, is slightly smaller than the old building being demolished next door, Principal Todd Bucey said the new Higgins feels bigger, brighter and more user-friendly.

There are big windows with lots of glass everywhere, letting in tons of natural light, something that was in short supply at the old Higgins, Bucey said. The new building also features a state-of-the-art cafeteria and food court, a culinary arts department and is fully wireless.

Many of the teachers have already been in the school, preparing their classrooms for the new year.

“The feedback has been all positive,” said Bucey. “It’s a great experience to be able to move to a state-of-the art building. For the teachers that have been in here, for the first time they realize that this is going to be their building in a week and a half.”

At first glance, the 500-seat auditorium with choreographed lighting and three riggings for shows or the newly buffed and polished main gym may be more impressive centerpieces to the school. But Bucey said the technology advancements at the school may be even more important when it comes to learning.

“Technology is a big improvement,” said Bucey. “We made due at the old building.”

— Focusing in on technology —

At the new school, staff and students will be doing much better than that.

Each classroom has an interactive projector, and later this week, each student will be handed a Chromebook that they can take with them everywhere.

This year, the one-to-one Chromebook program is being implemented in the district in grades six through nine. Within three years, the program will be expanded to every student in grades six through 12.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. said the upgrades at the Higgins are only part of the focus on technology in the district.

The new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody will open this fall. (Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

The new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody will open this fall. (Photo by Owen O’Rourke)

“We are increasing broadband capacity at the high school and elementary schools,” he said. “I feel this is a great step forward for technology and for assisting our students in the 21st century.”

There has been some general maintenance work and improvements at other schools in the district, the mayor said, including new windows at the McCarthy Elementary School. Next summer’s plans include a new roof for the high school.

But with opening day little more than a week away, much of the excitement remains focused on the Higgins, which has traditionally been one of the largest middle schools in the state.

“We’re very happy and we feel that everything at the school is on target,” said Bettencourt. “It’s a reality now.”

Before Bettencourt took office in 2012, there were plans to renovate and build an addition onto the existing school.

Bettencourt later contacted the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), a quasi-independent authority created to fund capital improvement projects in public schools, and told them the city needed a new middle school, according to Jack McCarthy, the agency’s executive director.

Construction began on the new school, only feet away from the existing Higgins, in the summer of 2014. The MSBA is covering just under $44 million of the project cost.

While it has mostly been teachers and staff who have seen the fruits of the labor at the Higgins so far, several students got sneak of the new facility earlier this spring as contractors turned over the keys to the building to the city.

“Looking around, it looks so futuristic,” said Adam Abdulghani, a seventh grader. “It looks like someone took a page from ‘Back to the Future.’”

— On target in Lynn —

In Lynn, students moved into the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School at the end of the last school year.

But with 28 buildings to look after in the district, the city’s division of building and grounds stayed more than busy during the dry, hot summer.

Taking just the Lincoln-Thomson Elementary School on Gardiner Street into account, there was a major overhaul to the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms and masonry work to the exterior of the building.

There’s been a lot of work put into the school, which opened in 1913, over the past few years said Joe Smart, Lynn’s director of buildings and grounds.

“That should extend its life for at least another 100 years,” he said.

A small sample of some of the other work undertaken over the summer include bathroom upgrades at the Tracy Elementary School, security upgrades at nine district buildings, the second phase of a bleachers project at Lynn Tech, new windows at the Harrington Elementary School, an updated PA system at Lynn Classical High School and rehabilitation of the portable classroom at the Ford Elementary School.

Like Peabody, Smart said the multitude of Lynn schools projects are on target for completion by the beginning of the school year.

“There’s proper planning, great execution, and the contractors are in early to define the scope of the projects,” said Smart.

— A new leader in Marblehead —

In addition to new and spiffed up schools, North Shore students and parents can expect to see some new and familiar faces in new positions.

Former Beverly High School assistant principal Daniel Bauer takes the reins as the new principal at Marblehead High School.

Upon his selection, Marblehead Superintendent Maryann Perry praised Bauer for his  “knowledge in curriculum and assessment along with his ability to build relationships with students, staff and the community makes him a perfect fit for our school system.”

— Lynnfield is ready —

Lynnfield Superintendent Jane Tremblay said this is the most excited she has been for an opening day in her 30 years in the schools.

“We are on target to open and are ready for August 29,” she said. “We have 13 new faculty members and three new administrators.”

The new administrators are Kevin Cyr, who is moving from the high school to take over as the district’s Director of Teaching and Learning; Brian Bates as a new assistant principal at the high school; and Thomas Sallee, a new assistant principal at the middle school. Bates comes to Lynnfield from the Lawrence Public Schools and Sallee recently worked in Natick.

“They bring unique skill sets to their jobs,” said Tremblay. “I’m confident they will be valuable additions to the schools and the administration.”


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

Saugus submits middle school-high school proposal

Saugus Town Hall. File Photo

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — Saugus is envisioning a combination middle and high school.

The initial plan for the yet-to-be-built school includes a coffee shop, students lounges, 3D printing and better security.

Earlier this week, the School Building Committee sent the plan for a grade 6 through 12 facility to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for approval. The quasi-independent agency funds capital improvement projects in the state’s public schools.

The School Committee passed the plan, drafted by Superintendent David DeRuosi, last week.

“We are going forward with a 6 to 12,” said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of both panels. “We can change some of the language but we can’t change the premise.”

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the decision to go with a combination school rather than a stand-alone high school is driven by the curriculum outlined in the education plan.

Lori Cowles, principal of Cambridge-based HMFH Architects Inc. said it would cost $62 million to renovate the existing 193,200 square-foot high school and bring it up to code. The cost would not include educational improvements. To renovate each of the district’s school buildings, besides Veterans Memorial Elementary School, which is in better condition, would cost about $110 million, she said.

The cost of a new building project is not known, said Crabtree. In comparison, Lynn Public Schools recently built a $92 million middle school through a partnership with the MSBA. Eighty percent of the cost or $70.2 million, will be reimbursed to the city.

Crabtree said the focus is to create a total facilities capital plan that addresses the district. Looking ahead, the Belmonte Middle School could be considered for an upper elementary school for grades 3 through 5.

Meredith said a location has not been chosen. But the site of the high school on Pearce Memorial Drive is the most viable option, she added. The Cedar Glen Golf Course and a 63-acre property owned by the school department known as the Curley Property were also considered, she said.

The panel will have the opportunity to change the language of the education and space plans as the project progresses, Meredith said. The documents will not be finalized with the MSBA until they reach the design phase. Included in the documents is the need for a security upgrade.

“The site now has 45 entrances with only one monitored by a camera and entry system, the document said. “There are no cameras in the hallways or common areas. In fact the only working camera is positioned to monitor the main entrance without recording capabilities.”

The committee would like to see a security system at the main entry point and cameras at all entry points, hallways and common areas. The design of the building would include “crime prevention through  design so as to provide a more protective environment.”

Each student would be issued a Chromebook laptop with wireless throughout. The most prominent of which would be the Learning Commons, which would be a shared space for information technology, online education, tutoring, collaborating for group projects, reading or studying.

A Maker Space would be a similar facility with a focus on creativity. Students could gather to create and invent using a 3D printer, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools.

The Coding and Web/Graphic Design Lab and 3D Design and Computer Aided Design Lab would also both be equipped with 3D printers. The program is intended to leave students prepared to enter an associates program, followed by employment as a CAD professional.

A Starbucks style student lounge would be adjacent to the cafeteria. It would offer Wi-Fi access, tables and light refreshments for a small cost.

A large gymnasium with an indoor track, batting cage nets and bleachers is included as a common space. Other fitness facilities would be a weight, strength and conditioning fitness facility to be used by classes and after school. It would be equipped with a variety of machines, free weights, and a stretching area. It would be open to staff and town employees during additional hours.

“We now have a direction,” Crabtree said. “This is the jump off point. Now we can get things going.”


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

Lynn school math: 1+1=1

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Shown is a site plan for the proposed Breed’s Pond Reservoir location of a new Pickering Middle School.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Two schools sharing a gymnasium and cafeteria and built off Parkland Avenue may be the best way for the city to corral a rising middle school enrollment tide.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the two-schools-in-one concept could be included in a submission to the Massachusetts School Building Authority next week. The proposal will outline plans and cost estimates for new middle schools capable of handling an anticipated 1,660-student increase in middle school-age students.

The city opened a new Marshall Middle School in April but aging Pickering Middle School needs to be replaced with a modern building or buildings large enough to handle increasing middle school enrollment.

Earlier this year, the mayor said she favored two new schools over one large school.

“We don’t want middle school students in such a large environment when they need individual instruction at that age,” Kennedy said this week.

The mayor and Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services director, said cost analysis say building two new middle schools on separate sites is too expensive.

“It puts us at a spot uncomfortably close to what we can’t afford,” he said.

Building costs can be reduced, Kennedy said, by building one building on a single site with separate schools located in wings flanking a core building with shared facilities, including a cafeteria and gymnasium.

“I don’t honestly see how we pay for two separate schools on two separate campuses,” she said.

Donovan said a middle school campus including two schools flanking a common core would total size-wise about 250,000 square feet. By contrast, English High School is about 235,000 square feet in size and the new Marshall is 181,000 square feet.

City planners are examining the existing Pickering site and nearby Magnolia Playground and McManus Field on Commercial Street as possible sites. But Kennedy considers a proposed site off Parkland Avenue near Breeds Pond as the “only viable site” for a shared school.

Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said traffic concerns raised by residents living near the Parkland site must be balanced against the need for new middle schools. He said Averill Street and Shoemaker Road residents don’t want their quiet streets filled with school traffic.

Parkland Road resident and Lynn native Christina Fonseca said it doesn’t make sense to build a school in the wetlands near her home.

“I’ll go to City Hall and try to fight it,” she said. “I think it’s going to cause a lot of problems.”

Her mother, Luise Fonseca, and neighbor Angelo Codispoti said fast-moving traffic on Parkland and afternoon congestion on the busy street will worsen if a new school is built off Parkland.

Lozzi said he is taking a “wait and see” attitude toward the Pickering planning process and said he will attend all public hearings on new middle schools.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Peabody high school to get summer spruce-up

BY ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Peabody Veterans Memorial High School may look a little tired compared to the new Higgins Middle School that will open in September.

But improvements planned for the 43-year-old high school next year are guaranteed to spruce up the three-level complex and grounds.

Funded as part of a $3.7 million capital bond for city and school projects approved by the City Council, there will be renovations to the auditorium, a new softball field and improvements to the baseball field at Emerson Park.

“I think the high school is what it is, but we can do some improvements at the auditorium, gym and playing fields to put some shine on it,” said Councilor-at-Large Thomas Gould.

Included in the bond is $550,000 for new seating, carpeting and lighting at the high school auditorium.

Councilor-at-Large David Gravel said the upgrades at the auditorium are needed.

“We got our useful life when we bought refurbished seats, but it’s time,” he said.

The $325,000 designated for high school fields includes a new softball field on campus and improvements to the nearby Emerson Park field used by the freshmen and junior varsity baseball teams.

“The girls varsity softball team plays off campus at the Kiley School,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. “I’d love to have them play on campus.”

Plans are also in the works for a new roof for more than half the high school.

Bettencourt said he will likely be coming forward with a capital bond request late this year or early next year to fund the new roof.

Work on the design and final budget figures are underway. Bettencourt estimated that the project will come in at around $3 million, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursing the city for 55 percent, or $1.65 million of the cost.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift @ItemLive.com.

Something Special in Marblehead

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — Residents will decide Tuesday whether they are willing to pay more taxes for a study to renovate the Elbridge Gerry School and a fire pumper truck.

Voters will be asked to exclude the items from Proposition 2½. If approved, the fire truck would cost the average homeowner an additional $74.40 over 10 years, the length of the bond. For the study, taxpayers would be responsible for another $55.80 over five years.

Last month, Town Meeting approved funding for the $750,000 study and a $620,000 fire truck. A majority vote is required by taxpayers.

Proposition 2½ places limits on the amount a community can raise through property taxes. A municipality cannot levy more than two and a half percent of the total value of all taxable real and personal property.

“If the ballot questions pass, the town will begin the process of borrowing the funds authorized over the summer,” Town Administrator John McGinn wrote in an email. “This would allow the procurement process to begin with fire pumper.  The Gerry School building committee would continue to follow the process prescribed by MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) in terms of the feasibility study.”

The state will pay about 32 percent for the cost of the study, or $243,525. Taxpayers would be responsible for $506,475.

The feasibility study would be conducted for a K-1 school that has never been improved since it was built in 1906. The survey is the first step to qualify for state money from the MSBA.

The project would have to approved at Town Meeting in 2018. Construction options would be considered after the study is completed. The process could take up to two years.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The three polling locations are The Town House, 1 Market Square, The Masonic Temple, 62 Pleasant St. and The Marblehead Community Center, 10 Humphrey St.


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

Marblehead Town Meeting pumped about fire truck

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Marblehead Town Hall.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — A special town election will be held next month to decide whether a study to renovate the Elbridge Gerry School and a fire pumper truck should be excluded from Proposition 2½.

Earlier this month, Town Meeting approved funding for the $750,000 study and a new $620,000 fire truck. But a majority vote is required by taxpayers.

Prop 2½ places limits on the amount a community can raise through property taxes. A municipality cannot levy more than two and a half percent of the total value of all taxable real and personal property.

If approved, the fire truck, would cost a median single-family homeowner an additional $74.40 over 10 years, the length of the bond.  For the study, that same median single-family taxpayer would be responsible for another $55.80 over the next five years.

Marblehead Town Administrator John McGinn said the state would pay about 32 percent for the cost of the study, or $243,525. Taxpayers would then be responsible for $506,475.

The feasibility study would be conducted for a K-1 school that has never been improved since it was built in 1906. The survey is the first step to qualify for state money from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The next step would be project approval at Town Meeting in 2018. Construction options would be considered after the feasibility study is completed. The process could take up to two years.

The Special Town Election is June 14.


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

Lynn states case for new middle schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Gene Raymond of Raymond Designs explains the pros and cons of each potential site.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city is considering building two new schools to replace Pickering Middle School.

Architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Lynn Stapleton, the project manager, and city officials discussed options for the new facilities with residents Wednesday night.

Construction is expected to start next spring and take more than two years to complete.

Raymond and Stapleton worked on the $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School project.

This is the first in a series of public forums on building options and potential school locations.

The city is working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which has authorized construction of a facility equipped to hold up to 1,660 students.

Stapleton said the team is considering a two-school solution, with a total capacity of 1,600 students. The plan would alleviate overcrowding at Breed Middle School and prepare the city to educate an influx of students in coming years, she said.

Breed has 1,300 students and is designed to hold about 900, Stapleton said.

The larger capacity would accommodate about 1,000 more people in the district, and take students from Breed, Raymond said.

“One thousand, six hundred students would probably make it the largest middle school in the commonwealth,” he said. “Putting that all in one neighborhood in the city is really going to stress whatever neighborhood that is.”

Raymond also said that renovating the existing Pickering building would be “impossible and a tremendous waste of the city’s efforts and money.”

The designers are considering a dozen locations citywide, each with different permitting timelines and feasibility, he said.

Sites such as Gallagher Park and Magnolia Park were among contenders. But any open space taken for the project must be replaced elsewhere in the city, he said.

Union Hospital was considered. But the site was quickly rejected because of opposition to it’s closure, and Raymond described Barry Park as a “bathtub” during a storm.

Wetlands and traffic implications were also factors for many of the sites.

The team concluded that two “least impactful” sites are McManus Park and what they call a “reservoir site” on Parkland Avenue.

Flooding in the McManus Field neighborhood is ocean flooding, rather than rainfall, Raymond said.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said regardless of where the flooding comes from, it’s a problem in the neighborhood when it rains. He suggested developers coordinate with Lynn Water & Sewer Commission to resolve the problem before construction begins.

Resident Brian Field expressed concerns that the Parkland Avenue parcel is controlled by the Cemetery Commission and will need to be used for a cemetery expansion of the Pine Grove Cemetery within the next decade.

Michael Donovan, building commissioner, said city attorneys completed research to  determine the property is city-owned.

“These two are probably the most viable options,” Raymond said. “They’re both not jammed up against neighborhoods.”

He also had a plan for getting to each of the schools to avoid nearby Wyoma Square, which is often a bottleneck. Cars traveling from the north would follow Lynnfield Street to Averill Road. From the south, they would travel on Richardson Road, he said.

Those who hadn’t had the opportunity to see the new Marshall Middle School, got a first look through a slideshow presented by Superintendent Catherine Latham. The presentation highlighted aspects of Marshall that will be seen in the new school or schools.

Latham expects the new school will feature a cluster system, much like the one at Marshall. The children are separated into separate clusters of about 120 students. The clusters are color-coded and have all of the primary classes in one area of the building.

“We will be doing the same for Pickering,” she said.

The new school will also have the same electives offered at Marshall, including sewing, directing, and art classes, Latham said.

“These subjects make students want to go to school,” she said.

The next forum is scheduled for June 22.


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