McManus Field

Satterwhite enters race for school committee

COURTESY PHOTO
Michael Satterwhite is the latest candidate to enter the crowded race for School Committee.

By THOMAS GRILLO

Michael Satterwhite insists there’s something missing in the city’s public schools: Spanish-speaking teachers.

“About 68 percent of the school children consider themselves to be Hispanic, but there aren’t many Hispanic teachers,” he said. “We need to recruit faculty that more reflect the students.”

The 32-year-old Revere attorney, who has a 9-year-old daughter and another child on the way, is the latest candidate to launch a campaign for a seat on the School Committee.

“As a lawyer, I see families who have children with disabilities and others who are on IEPs (Individualized Education Plans),” he said. “Over the years it’s been such a difficult process for parents to get through it and get the proper ed plans for their kids. I have the tools to improve our schools.”

He enters a crowded field to join the seven-member panel where the mayor serves as chair. There will be at least two new members of the school committee because Patricia Capano, the vice chairwoman, and Maria Carrasco will not seek re-election.

Incumbents seeking another term include Donna Coppola, John Ford, Lorraine Gately, and Jared Nicholson. In addition, there are nine other contenders including Jordan Avery, Cherish Rashida Casey,  Brian Castellanos, Elizabeth Rosario Gervacio, Gayle Hearns-Rogers, Sandra Lopez, Natasha Megie-Maddrey, Jessica Murphy, and Stanley Wotring Jr.

While Satterwhite agrees Lynn desperately needs new schools, he voted against the controversial proposal in March to approve construction of a pair of middle schools.

In a special election, 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.

“I voted no because the process didn’t sit well for me,” he said. “We need new buildings, but do they need to be where they planned to put them? I didn’t agree with the school to be built at Parkland Avenue.”

Satterwhite wants to know why the city needed to tax homeowners an extra $200 a year for 25 years for the new schools.

“I’m paying property taxes now, so what are they doing to improve the schools,” he said. “Where is the $5,000 that I pay going?”

Satterwhite didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. He has talked about his mother being one of Lynn’s biggest drug dealers and a user as well. At one point, he went to live with his father to get away from a bad environment.

In 1997, he met former Mayor Thomas M. Menino at a Volunteers of America event. The faith-based nonprofit was founded in 1896 to provide assistance to low-income people. He said Menino became a mentor and helped guide him into adulthood.

“It was something having someone of his stature actually want to know more about me and help me,” he said. “We had a friendship of many years.”


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

Mercaldi, young Tigers focus on improvement

ITEM PHOTO BY HAROLD RIVERA
Tech softball coach Beth Mercaldi instruct her team. 

By HAROLD RIVERA

LYNN — It hasn’t been the start to the spring season that the Lynn Tech softball team had anticipated.

After dropping Thursday’s game to Mystic Valley at McManus Field, 18-2 in five innings, the Tigers are now 1-7. However, though they’ve only won one game, coach Beth Mercaldi believes her young team is simply in a rebuilding phase.

“It’s a rebuilding year,” Mercaldi said. “We started out with two teams (varsity and JV) but now we combined into one. We’re just working at it everyday and we’re working hard. We’re getting better as we go.”

Thursday’s game got away from the Tigers quickly. The Eagles raced out to a 5-run start in the top of the first inning and added five more in the second. Tech countered with two runs in the bottom of the second, led by an RBI-single off the bat of Alondra Sanchez who took advantage of a wild pitch to score the Tigers’ second run.

Mystic Valley broke the game open with a seven-run rally in the top of the third and added another in the fifth for the 18-2 win.

Sanchez, along with first baseman Coral Gonzalez, made a handful of key defensive plays to help limit Mystic Valley to one run in the final two innings.

Sanchez, a freshman, and Gonzalez, a senior, are two of the bright spots of Tech’s season. Their willingness to learn new positions and fill in wherever needed has impressed Mercaldi.

“Alondra’s got potential,” Mercaldi said. “She wanted to try first base but she’s so strong it works for her at third. Coral was at shortstop, catcher and came to first. They’re willing to go wherever they have to go and it’s good to have some players we can do that with.”

Despite the down start to the season, Tech has found ways to shake off rough losses by bringing positive energy to the diamond. That positive energy, along with a valiant effort, are all Mercaldi can ask for.

“It’s impressive,” Mercaldi said. “We try to keep them positive with each other. Our captains have stepped up and kept a positive attitude with their teammates. They’re passionate about this. The younger kids that aren’t captains have stepped up and kept everybody upbeat. It’s really good.”

Although Tech’s record might not indicate it, the Tigers have made a handful of improvements since the team got together in the preseason. Mercaldi’s optimistic that those improvements can translate to a few more wins before the season concludes.

“Some of the younger kids have stepped up,” Mercaldi said. “Our pitchers are both sophomores and they’ve both stepped up. Theresa Mastopietro pitched well today. We’ve lost one of our senior pitchers to a concussion.”

Mercaldi added, “Angie Torres played the outfield today for us and she was all over the place out there. She’s been playing second base but she stepped up in the outfield today and she’s learned a lot. She’s a hustler and she’s got that drive.”

Assistant coach Steve Lopez added that Tech’s infield has made positive strides defensively.

“The infield play has gotten much better,” Lopez said. “The throws have gotten much stronger. They’re starting to reach from shortstop and third base.”

With a roster full of young, inexperienced players, Mercaldi is looking towards a bright future for the Tigers. The goal is to get the current freshman and sophomores caught up to speed on the ins and outs of softball, so that the experience can translate to into competitive seasons in the near future.

“They’re sticking with it,” Mercaldi said. “They’re at practice everyday and they’re just going to get better and better. They’re definitely going to be more adjusted and ready to start the season next year. That’s our goal, to keeps these kids together and have them back for the next two or three years.”

Mercaldi added, “They’re willing to learn, they’re willing to try new things and they’re just getting better and better.”

Election fight looms in Lynn’s Ward 1

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Wayne Lozzi, the seven-term city councilor from Ward 1, has a race on his hands.

Courtesy photo

Pictured is attorney William O’Shea.

Two opponents have pulled papers. William O’Shea, an attorney, and Jesse Warren Jr. have set their sights on the post.

“Now that my children are grown and coaching youth sports is in the past, I have a lot of time on my hands,” said O’Shea, 53. One the things that puzzles O’Shea is why KIPP Academy, the city’s charter school, can build a new high school to serve 450 students for $20 million, while the plan defeated by voters last month called for construction of two middle schools for $188.5 million.

In March, voters rejected a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second facility for 1,008 students on McManus Field.

“The city wanted to build one public school for nearly $90 million while a charter school can build it for one fourth the cost,” he said.

O’Shea also wonders why the city’s tax rate rises annually and yet there’s a budget shortfall.

In addition, O’Shea questioned why the city has a methadone clinic on the Lynnway and a homeless shelter downtown.

“We can’t attract new businesses or residents with those things in the middle of downtown,” he said.

Still, he is not sure how to solve that issue.

“I don’t have the particular answers, but as an attorney, I find solutions,” he said.  

Lozzi, 60, who has served on the council since 2004, said he is seeking re-election because he loves the job, and is proud of the work he’s done.

“I’ve accomplished quite a bit as the ward councilor,” he said.  Among his proudest projects, he said, is reconstruction of the city’s parks.

“When I first ran, Gowdy,  Flax Pond and Magnolia parks were in deplorable condition,” Lozzi said.  “Now, we have a new Flax Pond playground, Gowdy was mostly done with private funds at no cost to taxpayers, Magnolia has a fairly new tennis court and Lynn Woods Park playground has been remodeled.”

Lozzi noted that the council’s initiative to move the high tension wires off the waterfront and a zoning change for the Lynnway are key to modernizing the city and spurring development.

North Shore Community Promise: free tuition

While Lozzi acknowledges the city’s financial picture is grim today, he said it’s short term.

“Historically, the city has gone through these phases where we are up and down,” he said. “I don’t want to assign blame, we need to look forward and continue to provide good services to the residents despite these difficulties.”

While the city needs new sources of revenue, Lozzi said he opposed to the imposition of a local option meals tax that would raise about $600,000 annually.

“Raising taxes is a last resort and I’m not sure I would support it,” he said.

Still, Lozzi supported the plan to build two new middle schools by raising taxes.

“I voted yes because I felt strongly that we need a new Pickering Middle School,” he said.

On the question of whether the city will need to lay off city workers to balance the budget, Lozzi said the jury is still out.

“I hope we can avoid them,” he said. “If there is any question about layoffs, that falls onto the mayor’s desk and she has to answer those questions and inform the council and residents.”

Warren could not be reached for comment.


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

 

Protect-Preserve needs to produce

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Don Castle motions at the “no-vote” victory party in this March file photo.

The founder of the “no new schools” movement pledged following the March 21 referendum vote to reach out and work with school officials.

Almost three weeks have passed and that conversation between Donald Castle and the officials he wants to speak with has yet to take place.

Mr. Castle and his Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove campaign defeated the city’s request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a middle school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field.

Give Mr. Castle credit; he tapped into voter anger over taxes and tallied a 64 percent to 36 percent win.

He told The Item’s editorial board before the March 21 special election that he opposed construction of the Parkland Avenue school because the city’s forefathers wanted the 44-acre site to be reserved to expand the Pine Grove Cemetery.

He argued that the parcel is too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings were too expensive, and the process failed to be inclusive.

Insisting his group is not anti-education or anti-new schools, Mr. Castle said he would reach out to city officials after the school vote and say, “We want to work with you.”

He kept up that refrain the day after the election, saying, “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site.”

Schools out in Lynn

Mr. Castle and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a school construction supporter, each say they made post-election efforts to reach out and meet, but missed each other’s post-election calls. Castle got a chance to state his case last week during the Pickering Middle School Building Committee meeting. Kennedy made a motion to suspend the rules and allow Mr. Castle to speak.

He declined.

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

Sorry, Mr. Castle, you can’t have it both ways. Protect-Preserve won a stunning election victory. But the middle-school enrollment tidal wave threat still looms.

Maybe Mr. Castle wants to hold on to that no new-schools anger and see if it converts into a possible City Council bid.

Maybe he got tongue tied when the opportunity came to actually present city decision makers with his school construction suggestions.

Or maybe it’s time for Mr. Castle and Protect-Preserve to make good on his pre-election statement and offer specific and positive ideas for solving the city’s school space crunch.

Unless they never had any ideas to begin with.

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

Lynn says no; so what now?

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools out in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

Full results of Lynn school vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Schools out in Lynn

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full results of Lynn school vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Lynn school election snowed out

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn City Clerk Janet Rowe, left, and election coordinator Mary Jules help Tim and Deborah Potter cast absentee ballots.

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — As a late season blizzard threatens to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, today’s high stakes election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed.

Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat issued the ruling on Monday in response to a request from the city. Less than three hours later, in an emergency meeting, the City Council moved the election to next Tuesday, March 21.

Lauriat approved a request by Richard Vitali, the city’s assistant city solicitor, to delay the special election. While the city had hoped the judge would approve the March 21 date, Lauriat declined.

“The City Council set the date of the first vote, they should set the new one,” Lauriat said from the bench.

That set in motion a swift response from City Hall to call for an emergency council meeting

“I’m glad,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I wanted to make sure we got into court today because it’s becoming more and more evident that it would be a real public safety hazard to have people attempting to go out to vote in a storm like this.”

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million of the total $188.5 million project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall calculations. If those monies are not used, officials said it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million. City officials say the average homeowner would pay from $200-$275 a year extra on their real estate tax bill for the next 25 years.

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, said his group will spend the extra week before the election to convince residents to vote no.

“The fight continues,” he said. “We will keep organizing to oppose this.”

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

In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Two Schools for Lynn, the group organized to support the project, reported they raised $11,055 from Jan. 31 through Feb. 24. Much of the cash, $5,000, came from the Lynn Teachers Association. Public officials also made donations. City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill contributed $500, the mayor wrote a check for $200, City Councilor Brian LaPierre gave $450 and City Councilor Buzzy Barton donated $200.

The group opposing the ballot initiative, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, failed to file on time. Castle said the report was in the mail and estimated the group raised about $7,000.


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

School vote moved to Tuesday, March 21

LYNN — Under the looming possibility of more than a foot of snow Tuesday, the special election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed a week to Tuesday, March 21.

The decision was made during an emergency meeting by the City Council.

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

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

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.

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

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Donald Castle and Gary Welch argue against the construction of two new middle schools in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Leaders of the opposition to next Tuesday’s ballot question on construction of two middle schools insist they are not anti-education and or anti-new schools.

They argue one of the sites is unacceptable because it robs land intended for the expansion of Pine Grove Cemetery, it’s too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings are too expensive and the process has failed to include opposing voices.

“The Parkland Avenue site is one of the worst and this process has been rigged,” said Gary Welch, a member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the location of the Parkland Avenue school. “Our argument is based on this being the wrong site, although we know some people will vote no because of the cost.”

Donald Castle, a founding member of the group, said officials selected Parkland Avenue before there were any public hearings. He said there are cheaper alternatives.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Welch and Castle made the case against the $188.5 million project and urged residents to vote no.

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

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

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

While Castle and Welch agree with the city’s attorney that deeds clearly state the 44 vacant acres at Pine Grove is owned by the city, they say it was always intended for a future graveyard.  

“It is city land,” Castle said. “But we want to uphold what our forefathers did 127 years ago to keep it cemetery land for so many reasons: to bury people and to protect the environment and the wildlife.”

Castle and Welch dispute the reasoning behind the Pickering Middle School Building Committee’s rejection of at least 10 other potential sites for the Parkland school.

“The feasibility study had a number of different locations that we favor,” Welch said. “Come up with a better site and I’ll vote yes.”

He said the best solution is to renovate the existing Pickering Middle School. The other option is to build the middle school in West Lynn that would serve Pickering students and others, Welch said.

Castle disputed the $44.2 million cost of the renovation, that school officials said will not be reimbursed by the state.

“Show me where that $44 million came from,” he said. “We don’t think that’s legit … I don’t know how much it will cost, but I don’t think it will cost $44 million.”

They also object to any development so close to the reservoir.

“We are concerned about building so close to the reservoir,” Welch said. “We are being sold a pig in a poke and we’re being asked for something that no one knows much about.”   


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

 

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

4.6% tax increase would pay for schools

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  If the controversial ballot question passes on March 14 to build a pair of middle schools, tax bills will increase.

In its simplest form, every property owner will see their real estate taxes rise by 4.6 percent, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

“We can provide all these numbers for what an average single- or multi-family homeowner would pay,” he said. “But the easiest way to figure out what your new tax bill will be is to multiply it by 4.6 percent.”

In the special election scheduled for next week, voters will be asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. 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 single-family home is assessed at $273,600 and generates a real estate tax bill of $4,268. A yes vote would boost the amount due to just under $200 more per year for 25 years.

The average two-family homeowner pays $5,604. The school project would add $257 to the bill. For owners of three-family homes the average tax bill is $5,862, the additional tax would be about $269.

Commercial taxpayers will also be hit with the increase. For example, Boston Gas Co. has property valued at $65 million and pays about $2 million in taxes. It would see an increase of $92,000.

Taxpayers will still receive just one bill, four times a year, Caron said.

To offset the increase among seniors, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has proposed to boost the real estate tax exemption to income-eligible seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

Caron said if the ballot initiative gets a yes vote, homeowners will not see the increase in their statements until July of 2018.

Construction of the school off Parkland Avenue has generated opposition from neighbors who argue the land should be preserved to expand the cemetery. In addition, opponents insist it will exacerbate traffic problems while others say they can’t afford to pay more taxes.

Proponents say the dilapidated Pickering Middle School must be replaced and a second middle school is needed to house a growing school population.


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

Calnan: New middle schools make sense

Edward T. Calnan:

I write as a member of the building committee for the new Pickering Middle School to be located off Parkland Avenue and another middle school proposed at McManus Field in West Lynn.

I want to correct some misinformation that has been circulating by the opponents of the school at the Parkland Avenue site. The suggestion has been made that the school would have a negative environmental impact on the nearby reservoir which is part of Lynn’s great water supply system.

I have walked this site myself. The new school will be built on 12 acres of the 44 acres available. The building will be located more than 250 feet from the reservoir, much farther away than the minimum requirements.

It should be noted that some homes in an adjoining neighborhood have been built in the past, much closer to the reservoir. The topography is such that the area to be built upon slopes away from the reservoir and surface water will drain naturally to wetlands on the site, as it does now.

The new building will be tied into the city’s sewer and drainage system. This project is subject to numerous environmental reviews and will be constructed in full conformance with all local and state agencies responsible for the protection of wetlands and public water supplies. In sum, Lynners can be assured that there will be no negative impact on the reservoir as a result of this project.

The other issue is the question of ownership of the parcel. The city’s Law Department has researched the real estate records extensively and determined that the parcel is, indeed, owned by the city. This is a big bonus as it minimizes the acquisition costs, keeping the overall project costs lower.

As a former Director of Community Development for the city for many years, I have dealt with many development consultants in neighborhood, downtown and waterfront developments.  

The consultant team we had when I served on the new Thurgood Marshall School Building Committee was as talented and impressive as any I’ve seen. And the results are manifested in a beautiful building that was completed ahead of schedule and under budget, providing a modern learning environment for the children in that district. We are fortunate to have members of that team working with us on the two new schools being proposed.

In viewing plans for new middle schools, our committee looked at 13 different sites in the city and, after much deliberation, chose the Parkland Avenue site and the McManus Field site as the best for the city. There are no sites that are even close in comparison after studying all the factors that come into play for site selection.

The state has told the city that it must plan for an additional 1,600 students in the next several years. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is willing to pay up to $100 million of the $188 million cost with the city’s share to be paid through a bond issue, subject to approval by the voters in the referendum on March 14th.

If the voters approve, there will be positive spin-offs as a result of the new schools. Real estate values will be improved. It is no secret that the first thing potential buyers ask realtors about is about is the quality of the school system. Impressive new teaching and learning facilities go a long way in putting a positive point on the fact that this is something Lynners care about.

Once a new Pickering Middle School is built with a 650-student capacity, it is very likely that Pine Hill would be put into the Pickering district, resulting in a shorter walk for students to a new and exciting facility. Also parts of the old Pickering School could be saved for a future expansion of the Sisson Elementary School and provide refurbished cafeteria, auditorium gymnasium and classroom space not available to them now.

The new West Lynn middle school housing 1,000 students would serve the surrounding neighborhoods so kids could walk to school and obviate the need for very expensive transportation to other schools in the city.

This new school would absorb more than 300 students from the presently overcrowded Breed Middle School, returning needed space for educational programming to that school.

The two new schools are tied together on the ballot on March 14th. An approval by the voters will avoid the need for double sessions at the middle school level in the near future. It will also take advantage of a $100 million investment by the state to give Lynn kids the same educational opportunities offered in more advantaged communities.

Make no mistake that if Lynn doesn’t take advantage of the state funding at this time it will be years, in my opinion, before we’ll have another opportunity like it. I urge Lynn voters to give a resounding approval on the two ballot questions on March 14th.

Do it for the kids and so we can look back after the projects are complete and know that we did the right thing for the city of Lynn.


Edward T. Calnan is a former Councillor-at-Large in Lynn.

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.

Lynn seeks middle ground on school project

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city said they have found a way to end the fighting over construction of a controversial middle school proposed near Pine Grove Cemetery, but opponents are standing firm.

Last week, the City Council asked the law department to prepare documents that would convey portions of the city-owned 40-acre site to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commision. Under the plan, the commission could use land not needed for the new school to expand the graveyard. The move was made to assuage school opponents who have insisted that the land was reserved for a graveyard. They have threatened court action if the school is approved.

“This should end all debate and any discussion of a taxpayer lawsuit,” said James Lamanna, city attorney.

But Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the school site, said it is not willing to compromise.  

At issue is a controversial proposal for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district. Proponents say the new schools are needed to accommodate a growing school population.

Swampscott school race draws contenders

In a special election on March 14, voters will be asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. Plans for the second school have no opposition.

If approved, homeowners would pay an estimated $75 million, or an average of $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills.

Lamanna said as many as 17 acres are needed for the new school. The rest, with the exception of four acres of wetlands, could be used to expand the cemetery, he said. The commission will consider the proposal on March 7.

One of the problems of enlarging the cemetery has been a $1 million project needed to build a new road and a bridge over wetlands to access the parcel, Lamanna said. While the commission lacks the funds to complete the project, the infrastructure would be built as part of the school project with most of the cost being reimbursed by the state.  

But the location of the proposed school, on what opponents insist has been designated by the city as cemetery land, has stirred debate. Opponents have argued that the Parkland Avenue property was intended for cemetery use, citing a city document from 1893.

On Saturday, they will plan to hold a fundraiser at Hibernian Hall on Federal Street to fight the proposal.

Donald Castle, one of the organizers of Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove, said they are not opposed to a new school, but to the site. He said the city’s latest plan to divide the parcel is wrong.

“It’s been cemetery land for 127 years and its wetlands with protected species,” he said. “It’s an inappropriate site.”


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

Lynn ponders tax hike for two new schools

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Supporters are lining up on each side of what could be an expensive fight to approve a tax hike for two new schools.

So the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is hosting a seminar this week on how the campaign finance law impacts ballot questions.

A special election will be held March 14 asking homeowners to pay 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.

“We’re holding a workshop in Lynn because we have a sense that residents are very interested based on the calls we’ve received asking about the rules,” said Jason Tait, OCPF spokesman.

The one-hour session will be Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Lynn Police Station. Residents on both sides of the issue are invited.

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. Likely to be in favor of the ballot question are the city’s elected officials and the Lynn Teachers Union. In addition, parents whose children attend the so-called feeder schools can be counted on for support, say political observers.

Pickering families who send their children to the Aborn, Shoemaker, Lynn Woods and Sisson elementary schools are likely to back the question while parents of children who attend Cobbet, Connery and Washington STEM elementary schools from West Lynn are expected to back a new school on their side of the city.                                              

Opposition has emerged from Pine Hill residents who are against building the new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir. They have organized Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove Community Group. They argue the land the city plans to use to build the school was intended for use as a cemetery. They say the city should find an alternative site and have threatened a lawsuit.

Tait said the seminar will be taught in two sections. One will focus on ballot question committees, the organizations that raise and spend money to support or oppose the question. The second part will review the ground rules for public employees, the use of public buildings and taxpayer funds.  

“We stress that public employees are prohibited from raising money for ballot questions,” Tait said. “Firefighters and  teachers, for example, are prohibited and no tax money can be used to pay for the campaign.”

Elected officials are free to solicit funds for the cause and they often promote fundraising for ballot questions, he said.  

The vote represents the first time Lynn residents have been asked to approve a tax hike in the city’s history.


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

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.

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

 

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.

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

Middle school matriculating through state planning process

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pickering Middle School.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

BOSTON — The Massachusetts School Building Authority board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to advance Lynn’s proposal to build two new middle schools to the schematic design stage, allowing the city to move forward with plans to build a school in West Lynn and one off of Parkland Avenue.

The next steps for the city are to finalize plans for the design of the new buildings, as well as the development of the two sites, and return to the MSBA with confirmed costs and a funding mechanism in place.

The total cost for the project is estimated at $183 million, of which the MSBA would cover approximately $115 million, according to Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager. Lynn Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron told the MSBA board the city would be asking voters to authorize the city to raise the revenue needed to fund its share of the project.

“This is a major step forward,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who led the Lynn delegation that attended the meeting. “We want to provide state-of-the-art schools for students in the current Pickering district as well as those who live closer to the urban center. We are grateful that the MSBA has given us the approval to move forward.”

Lynn’s proposal calls for a 652-student school to be built off of Parkland Avenue, commonly referred to as the reservoir site, and a 1,080-student school on McManus Field, behind Lynn Tech. The current Pickering’s 78,600 square feet would be replaced by more than 313,000 square feet of space — 131,325 at Pickering and 181,847 at the West Lynn school.

While Pickering’s enrollment this year is approximately 620 students, district-wide enrollment has increased every year since 2008, including almost 400 more students this fall than last spring. Projections indicate the trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

Space is especially tight at the elementary level, particularly in the downtown and West Lynn, thus the proposal for the McManus Field site.

MSBA Chair Deb Goldberg, the state treasurer, spoke to the critical need for a new Pickering, having visited the school during her campaign in 2014. Referring to it as “my school,” Goldberg said she spoke of the conditions at Pickering as she traveled the state, calling it “an example of what we aren’t doing for kids.”

MSBA board member Terry Kwan said she had visited a Lynn elementary school (Tracy) and saw that they are using “every nook and cranny.” She said because Lynn is a gateway city with available housing, families with children are moving in, leading to increased enrollment in Lynn schools.

In response to a question from MSBA board member Sean Cronin, it was determined that this would be the first time the MSBA approves a community replacing one school with two new ones on two different sites. “That is an indication they recognize the great need that exists in Lynn,” Stapleton said.

State Rep. Donald Wong, who represents two precincts in Lynn’s Ward 1, attended and spoke in favor of the project. “We are grateful for Rep. Wong’s support.” Kennedy said.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said she is pleased the MSBA advanced the proposal, citing the extensive research and due diligence that went into it. “We brought forth the best proposal for students, teachers, staff and families,” she said. “It is important that we focus our efforts on ensuring the project stays on track and results in the construction of two schools that will maximize opportunities for teaching and learning.”


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

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.

Middle school offers a lesson in NIMBY

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Residents of 103 Parkland Ave. in Lynn are against building a new middle school in their back yard.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Residents will get a chance to sound off on the potential new middle school that would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A public forum will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Pickering Middle School Auditorium..

The third public forum on the construction of two new middle schools will be hosted by the city, Lynn Public Schools and the Pickering Middle School Building Committee.

The forum will focus on the Breeds Pond Reservoir site, which Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said has provoked the most opposition from residents in prior sessions.

In October, the city’s School Building Committee approved the construction of two schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Under the $183 million 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 built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The fourth public forum, which will focus on the McManus Field site, will be held before Thanksgiving, Stapleton said.

Plans have been submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government that funds public schools. If approved, the agency would contribute $114.5 million towards the two schools, or 62.5 percent of the cost.

If approved by the MSBA and taxpayers, it would add $163 annually to the real estate tax bill for 25 years.

Stapleton said Wednesday’s forum will be about informing residents that the city is proceeding with the Reservoir and McManus sites.

“There is a great need for two schools because of the population and at this point, the city is willing to pay a significant share of the cost of two schools,” she said. “If we pass on this opportunity, the city is never going to be able to afford to pay for these two schools on their own. We’re really looking to find a compromise so we can take the benefit of the state paying the majority share of this, while attempting to minimize the impact on the city.”

Stapleton said studies are underway to look at the traffic on Parkland Avenue and Wyoma Square. Part of the studies will look at how to choose the correct school entrances and exits that will have the least effect on traffic.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief, who is also a member of the school building committee, acknowledged that there will be more traffic at the new school site.

“No matter where the school goes, there will be traffic impacts in the morning and the afternoon because we will be bringing 650 students in and out daily,” he said.

But he said the Parkland Avenue location near Breeds Pond Reservoir will have less impact than another proposed site on Magnolia Avenue because it’s near the Sisson Elementary School and the existing Pickering Middle School, which will likely be reused as an elementary school.

“Parkland Avenue is better suited to handle traffic than Magnolia Avenue,” Donovan said. “This small school won’t even be seen from Parkland Avenue or Lynnfield Street.”

A drawback to the Magnolia site is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. The pipe would have to be relocated, which city officials estimated would cost up to $800,000.

Another potential issue with the Parkland Avenue site comes from documents from 1893 the city’s law department recently became aware of suggesting the land belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery.

Brian Field, Lynn resident and funeral director at Solimine Funeral Homes, said he thought the proposed land for the Reservoir site would become an extension of Pine Grove Cemetery in the future. In the next 10 to 15 years, he said, Pine Grove is going to become full, leaving people to travel up to 15 miles away to bury their loved ones at a greater expense.

Field said in the city, there is still a large religious community that prefers a traditional burial.  

“The city obviously needs schools,” he said. “The issue I have with Parkland Avenue is the intended use was to be for a cemetery. It’s almost like they want the courts to decide.”


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

Thomas Grillo contributed to this report.

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 plan makes grade with neighbors

Rudolpho DeLeon, an employee at Corte Estilo on Commercial Street, stands at McManus Field, the possible location of a new middle school in Lynn. (Photo by Paula Muller)

By Thor Jourgensen

LYNN — They raised some concerns about increased traffic, but people living and working in the neighborhood bordering McManus Field where the city wants to build a middle school say they are generally happy with the plan.

“I like the idea. Kids learn more in a modern school. It’s partly about the technology,” said resident Celeste Cordero.

Cordero has lived for 19 years in one of the Neptune Towers high-rise apartment buildings overlooking the field. Wedged between the commuter rail tracks, Commercial Street and Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, the field is the proposed home for a 1,008-student middle school.

Cordero has seven grandchildren, including two middle schoolers. She said many middle school-age children live in Neptune Towers.

Commercial Street barber Rudolpho DeLeon only sees positives with the city plan to build on McManus Field.

“It’s good for local education and it will bring customers,” he said.

McManus Field is one of two sites approved by the city’s School Building Committee to be future middle school locations. The committee last Friday picked McManus Field and a site for a proposed 652-student school near Breeds Pond off Parkland Avenue.

City Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan said city officials will meet on Thursday with Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) officials to review the site choices.

Tentative plans call for building a middle school on the field’s Commercial Street side with an entrance way off Commercial. Donovan said the front of the building would face the commuter rail tracks.

“This is very preliminary,” he said.

The site plan shares similarities with the location of the new Marshall Middle School. Opened in April, Marshall was built on a vacant industrial site on Brookline Street bordering the tracks.

Donovan said McManus Field’s size is not the only reason it is a good school site. He said information gathered by the school department indicates many of the city’s middle school-age children live in West Lynn neighborhoods, including ones south of Lynn Common, near the field.

“It’s a good site. It’s where the kids are,” he said.

Ernesto Perez agrees with that assessment but wonders where young athletes will play and practice if McManus Field becomes a school site. His automotive repair business has been on Commercial Street for almost 10 years and he is also worried about a school adding traffic to Commercial.

Donovan said preliminary school construction plans will preserve field space located on the field’s Tech side.

Marvin Pojoy lives off South Common Street and likes the idea of a middle school coming to his neighborhood.

“It’s good. My children would be close to the school,” he said.

A new school will also boost Commercial Market’s business, said Silvia Urrea. She works in the little store down Commercial Street from the field.

“The street will be busier and we will have more customers,” she said.

Talliah Brown grew up in the Marian Gardens housing complex and offered another reason why building a middle school on McManus Field makes sense.

“It will mean a lot of jobs for the community,” she said.

The $183 million two-school proposal, if approved, would see the MSBA contribute $114.5 million towards the two schools or 62.5 percent of the cost with the city paying for the remainder.


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

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.

Dreaming big in Lynn

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. File Photo

Don’t ever say city officials can’t get anything done during the summer. In separate meetings on Tuesday, school officials and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy advanced plans for new middle schools and the City Council and Planning Board set the stage for lower Washington Street’s renaissance.

The proposed Gateway housing development reviewed by the council and board members will make Washington Street near the Lynnway home to people who will frequent downtown. Some of them will be workers who board commuter trains for a ride to their jobs in Boston. Others may be students attending the expanding North Shore Community College campus.

Lower Washington Street, to put it mildly, has been a low-intensity zone near the city’s center for too long. The great swath of grass next to the college was once part of Lynn’s industrial heart until fire swept down Broad Street. The Pelican Pub is about to hold dubious claim to being lower Washington Street’s last remaining bar.

New residents living on Washington Street can give the Sagamore Hill neighborhood a new lease on life and extend the downtown revival already energizing Central Square. To their credit, councilors and board members are committed to looking ahead to make that revival possible.

Kennedy and top school officials share the same progressive attitude with their decision to send a two-school plan to replace Pickering Middle School to state officials for review. Getting an initial state signoff on the schools is just the first step to convincing local residents that two new schools are needed and that the proposed locations make sense.

Both proposed sites are located on two of the city’s busiest streets. Crosstown traffic turns off the Lynnway and travels up Commercial to Lynn Common. Drivers transiting from West Lynn to East Lynn use Parkland Avenue.

The reality in land-poor Lynn is any and all prospective school locations are hard sells. The Brookline Street land where Marshall Middle School now sits was one of the last industrial sites in the city.

Building in the woods off Parkland Avenue allows Ward 1 residents to continue to lay claim to a middle school even after the existing Pickering becomes a spillover school for expanding elementary enrollment.

Building a school on McManus Field turns Commercial Street and Neptune Boulevard into an education zone with Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, the Commercial Street annex and two nearby elementary schools located in a cluster. Why not think big and imagine a science, mathematics and technology training path that takes elementary school students through Washington School to a new STEM-oriented middle school and over to a 21st-century Tech?

Dreaming big dreams on Washington Street and for future school sites translates into a brighter future for Lynn.

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.

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.

City ill served by McManus Field damage

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn DPW Commissioner Andrew Hall will “strongly oppose” the future use of McManus Field for carnivals.

The muddy ruts and torn-up grass on McManus Field’s Commercial Street side were hard to miss.

Andrew Hall, the Department of Public Works commissioner, moved quickly to ensure an insurance bond posted by carnival operators using the field last week will pay to repair it.

Hall also said he will “strongly oppose” the park’s future use by carnivals. End of story, right? Not quite. The decision by city officials to allow the field to be exposed in the first place to potential damage questions the need for a fail-safe review process of public spaces.

Located on the edge of West Lynn neighborhoods and recently refurbished at substantial cost to the city, McManus Field attracts residents who use the space for pick-up soccer games to joyful games of tag. Like Barry Park and Lynn Common, the field is a place where Lynn residents, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins, have fun together.

There is nothing wrong with the city hosting a carnival to benefit local fundraising causes and offering some evening fun. But the damage done to McManus Field last week suggests the site was the wrong location for a well-attended public event.

The city’s success in raising its profile and appeal, thanks to Veterans Memorial Auditorium’s popularity, means more public venues are likely to come to Lynn. Carnivals are semi-regular events. But how prepared will city officials be when someone proposes hosting a mountain bike race or large-scale run in Lynn Woods? How well will they work with state and town officials in the event a triathlon featuring a swim from Lynn Beach to Egg Rock is proposed?

A multi-ethnic mid-summer Common fair or festival has a great ring to it. But could the city successfully host that type of event while preserving the Common’s physical integrity and keeping trash and trouble out of adjoining neighborhoods?

The McManus field lesson is important because it demands that officials review policies for approving and setting conditions on events, like carnivals, proposed within city limits. An important policy component is a streamlined approval process and a review ensuring someone, such as the DPW commissioner, police chief, maybe the mayor, have final approval on a proposed event hosted on city property.

Lynn will have bigger and better opportunities to showcase its natural beauty and its welcoming residents. But hosting events aimed at underscoring those attributes must be preceded by a sound, thorough and accountable review.

Lynn residents don’t mind being welcoming hosts but they don’t like guests who leave messes.