Pickering Middle School

Foley helps make games memorable for Agganis seniors

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Jim Foley has been the director of the Agganis girls soccer game for a number of years.

By STEVE KRAUSE

LYNN — The Agganis all-star games that will begin Sunday cannot go off without the help of a myriad of coaches and volunteers who make sure they’re available to give graduating seniors a last hurrah worth remembering.

One of those coaches is Jim Foley, the girls soccer coach at St. Mary’s, who has, for the better part of the past decade, served as director of the girls game for Agganis week.

“I don’t really know how long,” he said, when asked, “but I’m happy to help the foundation because of the good work they do in the community, the scholarships the fund for the kids. That’s kind of what drew me to it in the first place.”

But Foley, who is also a teacher at Pickering Middle School, has another reason for being an advocate for the Agganis games: it presents, perhaps, a different picture of Lynn than most people see.

“It’s a great way for kids to showcase their skills,” he said. “For a lot of these kids, it’s the last time they’ll ever be playing their sports in this type of environment. Some of them will go to college and play, but for many this is it.

“Also,” he said, “These games are well-attended by people from other cities and towns. It gives people a chance to see Fraser Field, and Manning, and to see what the city’s about.

“Sometimes,” he said, “the city gets a bad rap. So this is a good chance for people to see these facilities and to bring that whole piece together.”

In many sports, soccer being one, boys and girls make friends at an early age through various youth programs, and that’s especially true in Lynn. However, unlike other communities, these players will scatter to at least four different high schools. So, said Foley, he tries to keep the Lynn kids together (or at least Classical and English players) so they can be teammates again.

“A lot of these kids are friends,” Foley said, “and the Agganis game is nice for that reason, among others. The game gives kids a chance to play together again.”

As game chairman for girls soccer, Foley goes over the names the coaches have nominated and puts the teams together with games chairman Paul Halloran.

Next year will be Foley’s 19th at St. Mary’s, and his goals for the Spartan players mirror the ones the Agganis Foundation lives by, he said.

“I enjoy watching the players grow through the years, and see them mature into student-athletes,” he said. “I enjoy the camaraderie too. It can be stressful at times, but seeing the girls get become better people, that’s my goal.

“I want to see them go to college and become good citizens,” he said.

Although the Spartans have never won a state title in Foley’s tenure as coach, they did win the Division 4 North championship two years ago and that has been his biggest thrill on the field.

“But even then,” he said, “my highlights are the fact that we’re competitive in our league, and on the North Shore, and interacting in the community. Winning a state would be great, but I’m happy if my players improve year to year and learn that the most important factor in getting into a good college is academics.”

Pickering Middle School honor roll

The following Pickering Middle School students have made the Honor Roll for the third quarter:

GRADE 6 HIGH HONORS: Ava Allaire, Ava Anderson, Ava Barbuto, Nyla Crowder, Delaney Dana, Madison Donahue, Ryan Dunn, Khanyka Fialho, Emely Flores-Castaneda, Allie Fritz, Lauren Hennessey, Roberto Lopez Ramirez, Anuragh Mangar, Veronica Oung, Zachary Perry, Asif Rahman, Victoria Samuel, Ava Thurman, Justin Touch.GRADE 7 HIG

H HONORS: Tia Barker, Cody Beauchamp, Matthew Bushway, Aida Corado Hernandez, Julia Gonzalez, Catherine Herrera, Ashley Hughes, Christopher Kelley, Thomas Malone, Molly Mannion, Cameron Moloney, Gianna Nikolakakis, Shaylis Rodriguez Soto, Ava Ruma, Sofia Saren, Madison Spencer, Olivia Teague, Olivia Waterman, Ethan Wilson.

GRADE 8 HIGH HONORS: Aaliyah Alleyne, Andrea Brazell, Sailor Brinkler, Khoa Bui, Lucas Fritz, Nanima Guerrier, Jack Hogan, Shakib Idris, Alexis Irawandi, Emeline LeJeune, Devin Monaco, Alyx Nelson, Samantha Parker, Anna Phelan, Cole Story, Caeley-Ann Thomson, Brooke Warren.

GRADE 6 HONORS: Adam Abdel Salam, Aida Bellal, Alyssa Bennett, Trent Brown, Abeline Calixte, Krystian Callor, Lily Caplin, Nevaeha Chandler, Timothy Chez, Katelyn Comeau, Nicholas Costa, Angelina Costin, Katieri Cutone, Ashley Dewan, Timothy Donahue, Ryan Dugan, Josephny Eang, Taylee Emerson, Brendan Falasca, Dayana Garcia, Jamie Germano, Pablo Granados Mayen, Melenie Gutierrez Rivera, Sammy Ho, Akibul Islam, Kirsten Kouch, Jack Mancaniello, Yvana Masse, Madelyn Mateo, Emma Murray, Jatniel Negrin Castillo, Alex Nguyen, Chloe Nguyen-Som, Samuel Parker, Jayden Patrick, Iris Perez Escobar, Madelyn Rivera, Kevin Saing, Tyler Santiago, Tae Thaw, Fernando Vasquez, Jazlynn Ventura, Alondra Vilorio Castro, Brady Warren, Kevin Whalen, Turner White, Asia Wilkey, Alexander Wonoski.

Students explore careers at Shadow Day

GRADE 7 HONORS: Jack Anderson, Fatiha Ashraf, Madilyn Aubrey, Kaylee Bamaca Lopez, Lissett Barraza, Ricardo Beato Padilla, Romane Bellevue, Joselyn Bonilla, Aaliyah Bonilla –Sanchez, Kaleigh Breen, Reese Brinkler, Nicholas Chan, Jordan Chhay, Chloe Clement, Gianna Coito, Ava Correnti, Annabelle Dao, Isabella Faessler, Sydney Finnigan, Anna Flaherty, Nicole Fogarty, Ava Foglietta, Ryan Fraher, Sherlyn Gonzalez Mejia, Gabriela  Guzman Simez, Aleya Hill, Heather Holey, Charles Krol, Samira Krol, Richard Lebrun, Sean Leonard, Drew Logue, Steven Lopez, Ema Macorri, Patrick Mannion, Jose Mariano, Natalia Masse, Patrick McHale, Quinn McHale, Kenzie McLaren, Darrin Mel, Yarelin Merida De Leon, Katherine Miller, Maggie Nerich, Jariah Nolasco, Felix Pol, Jose Portillo, Melanie Rivera Collazo, Ashley Roepsch, Marcus Ryan, Olivia Shultz, Joseph Strangie, Ben Tartarini, Kenneth Tetrault, Darlenys Tolentino, Alexander Towles-Emmons, Amanda Tucker, Mikayla Vega, Bremely Velasquez Esteban, Thomas Walsh, Grace Young, Kaitlyn Zayac.

GRADE 8 HONORS: Maria Bustos Gonzalez, Michael Carey, Kyle Chear, Liliana Cruz, Melanie Cuevas, Daniel Finnigan, Tyler Furlong, Nicholas Galeazzi, Ammy Gonzalez Rivera, Trevor Henry, Catherine Hines, Richard Johnson, Kameron Ky, Michelle MacPhail, Kathleen Mannion, Riley Mannion, Adam Mariano, Astrid Marte, Cormac Miller, Gabriel Minaya, Antonio Morganelli, Giovanni Morganelli, Leakhana Ngeth, Lisa Nguyen, Diomedes Ortiz Cid, Melissa Ortiz Valenzuela, Jessica Page, Keiry Paniagua Cabrera, Harrison Parker, Mathhew Patrie, Isabella Pavei, Promise Peralta, Juan Perez, Kyle Phommachanh, Jadalise Richards, Kacey Rouse, Salwan Sabil, Safwan Samir, Daniel Sampaio, Ryan Sansone, Jessalyn Simms, Gay Soe, Damion Sok, Anthony Timmons, Hannah Tobin, Kevin Torres, Uchenna Uzoma, Zachary Vega, Precious Ven, Brandy Vuong, Ryan Walker, Olivia Wallace, William Whalen, Aryanna Wlodkowski.

‘No one deserves to be sexually assaulted’

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Now in its 15th year,  it is held to educate the public about sexual violence and how to prevent it.

At City Hall on Friday, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy called attention to sexual violence as a critical public health issue.

“I am a mother of an 18-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son,” she said. “It’s important for them to understand what a healthy relationship is.”

Lt. Marie Hanlon, a 31-year veteran of the Lynn Police Department, encourages victims to report the crime and seek medical attention immediately.

“No one deserves to be sexually assaulted,” she said. “With the variety of services offered in our community, we should promote safety and encourage everyone to speak out against sexual violence.”

High school students sample life at NSCC

Brittny Maravelias, a 23-year-old teen health adviser at Girls Inc. of Lynn, knows more about this issue than most. As an eighth-grader at Pickering Middle School, she dated someone who became her abuser.

“It took me nearly two years to leave and another two years to figure out what happened to me was actually abuse,” she said. “It was the beginning of a long and and difficult journey to healing.” While she is encouraged that youngsters are more aware of sexual violence, it is often not a conversion between youth and adults.

“These conversations need to be started at an early age,” she said. “As much as we’d like to think these cases are rare, unfortunately they are not.”


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

SMART girls bring STEM to the forefront

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Akya Hill works on a squid during a workshop with Allison Matzelle of the Northeastern University Marine Science Center.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Girls Inc. of Lynn hosted its 15th annual SMART (Science, Math and Relevant Technology) Girls Summit on Wednesday, which aimed to increase female youths’ interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The career awareness event drew more than 130 middle school girls from Greater Lynn, who participated in workshops covering topics such as coding, forensic crime and aeronautics. This year’s summit offered 14 workshops with representatives from 12 organizations, businesses and universities.

“It’s our 15th year,” said Ann Ayala-Macey, STEM coordinator. “It’s a special milestone celebration for us … This is really cool because girls are exposed to careers they didn’t even know existed.”

Ayala-Macey said girls in Lynn didn’t always have access to these opportunities in STEM. She said the original idea was to create an event to invite a significant number of girls from the Lynn area and introduce them to careers underrepresented by women.

She said the workshops were meant to be hands-on, experiential, fun, exciting and a way for girls to connect with women who are in the STEM field.

“I find it interesting,” said Massiel Tolentino, 14, of Thurgood Marshall Middle School. “You’re working with people who are in the workforce — the STEM. It’s nice to see how they do their job and how they work.”

In the workshops, Tolentino said she was exposed to an experiment of making ice cream and learned about how changing PH levels can make certain fabrics dye better.

Nicholson seeks second school committee term

Lydia Splaine, 13, also from Marshall Middle School, said she thought the summit was useful because it showed her how many career options there are in science. She learned how to make slime and examined a dead squid and learned how its skin changes colors.

“Science is more towards guys, so my dad really said it was important to go to this,” Splaine said.

The Museum of Science, Boston; Cell Signaling Technology; Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center; the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory; Keurig Green Mountain; General Electric; the Cambridge Fire Department; New England Biolabs; the Chandra X-Ray Observatory; and Warner Babcock Institute/Beyond Benign were some of the businesses and organizations represented.

The four SMART Girl Award recipients were Violet Howard, from Breed Middle School; Georgina Camil Toribio Reyes, from Marshall Middle School; Hannah Tobin, from Pickering Middle School; and Alina Akhmedkarimova, from KIPP Academy.

“They’re girls that are not afraid to participate in these events,” said Ayala-Macey. “They actually seek them out. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty.”

The SMART Girls Summit also serves as a kickoff for the Eureka! Summer program, a free, six-week, full-day STEM and sports summer program for rising seventh, eighth and ninth grade girls. The girls also go on weekly expeditions related to their classes to places such as the Northeastern Marine Science Lab in Nahant, the Museum of Science, Boston Society of Architects-Learning by Design and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum and Media Lab.

Girls who successfully complete the Eureka program are eligible for a paid internship the summer before the 10th grade.  


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

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

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

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

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

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

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

Off and running in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stability is principal concern in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn budget under the knife

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Morrison: Elementary School Tournament is top-notch

FILE PHOTO
Denzel Guillen gets ready to shoot a free throw. 

By KATIE MORRISON

One of my favorite events of the year is the Lynn Elementary School Basketball Tournament. It may be because I’m a sucker for cute kids playing sports, especially when that comes in the form of a peanut-sized fourth-grader using all the strength she can muster to hit the backboard. But that’s not all of it.

I have to give due recognition to tournament organizer Sean Morris and the rest of the staff and coaches that make the tournament run. The first time I covered the event last year, I was shocked at how smoothly everything ran. Any tournament that size (with 32 teams) is bound to have its hiccups. But if it says on the schedule a game will start at 5:15, you better believe tip-off is going to be at 5:15. There are uniforms with names and numbers, and even — this is my favorite part, as a photographer — full rosters for every team. I cannot stress how rare that is. Even high school teams struggle to assemble an up-to-date roster for a game at times.

And then there are the games themselves. Some are blowouts; some teams struggle to even score a basket. But there are plenty of tight contests. I watched one of those Wednesday evening, as the Washington boys beat Shoemaker, 25-23. I love how into the game the fans, players and coaches were. You would have thought you were watching a high school tournament game, just in a smaller gym with less people and pocket-sized players.

Washington held the advantage for most of the game, but Shoemaker clawed back into it, taking the lead as time was winding down in the second half. But free throws from Donel Kabongo and Denzell Guillen iced the victory for Washington.

The tournament is special because it brings people from all over the city together to watch games that are competitive, yet fun for both teams, winners and losers. It’s not always the best basketball; I’ve seen more jump balls and kids wrestling on the ground for possession in the first few days of the tournament than I saw all of the high school season, but it’s a really fun brand of basketball that’s entertaining for everyone. If you’re around Pickering Middle School over the next few days, it’s worth it to stop in and watch a game or two. They go pretty quick, even with the 20-minute halves, and admission is only a dollar. And chances are, especially as the field narrows and the stronger teams start clashing, you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.

Congratulations to Paris Wilkey for earning Northeastern Conference co-Player of the Year honors, along with Revere’s Valentina Pepic. I was thrilled not only that Wilkey was recognized for her efforts, but also that her teammates, Soneta Srey and Jeylly Medrano, as well as English’s Dorathy Ezemba, were also named to the all-star team. All four of these girls are such fun players to watch. When Wilkey is on (and not double or triple-teamed), she can take over a game. The same goes for Ezemba, who is just an all-around tough player. She was a force for the Bulldogs this year. Medrano is a strong point guard for Classical with a lot of talent.

But I really want to talk about the only senior in that group, Srey. She’s been so much fun to watch over the past couple of years. She’s one of the scrappiest players I’ve seen, always diving for loose balls and playing lockdown defense. Srey isn’t one of the most naturally talented shooters, but she’s so athletic, it doesn’t matter. She drives through the paint and gets to the hoop. And if you’ve ever seen her play volleyball, you know that even though she’s not tall, she can compete with anyone for rebounds thanks to her jumping abilities. Srey is always all smiles; she looks like she’s having a great time on the court. And that makes her so much fun to watch.

The beginning of the spring season has to be a challenging time for coaches. The games are coming up quick; many baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and track teams play the first week of April. And the majority of those teams will only have maybe a week of outdoor practices under their belts by then. Coaches can work on fundamentals and conditioning while cooped up inside, but for baseball and softball especially, you just can’t replicate being outside.

For example, at English, baseball coach Joe Caponigro was itching to get on the field to work on fly balls, since it’s impossible to track them in the gym. At Tech, the softball team has to split the gym with track, meaning that it can’t set up a batting cage or find a good spot for pitchers to practice.

But then again, most schools in the area are dealing with the same issues. It might take a while for these teams to find their rhythm once the season starts.

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.

The 6 ‘alternative facts’ of school no-voters

COMMENTARY BY CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT DARREN CYR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

It starts at the Lynn elementary tournament

ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
Lincoln-Thomson’s Miguel Soto, left, has the height advantage on Aborn’s Hector Patient as they both go up for a rebound.

By HAROLD RIVERA

LYNN — There’s no debate that the level of basketball talent in Lynn’s high schools is a high one. Throughout the years, a long list of hoop stars have left their mark in Lynn’s high school gyms and the tradition remains strong. Many of those stars got their starts playing in the Lynn Elementary Basketball Tournament.

In its 40th year, the tournament is now as strong and exciting as it has ever been. Sean Morris, the tournament’s organizer, said the opportunity to bring kids together from all parts of the city makes the event special.

“This is about bringing the whole city together,” Morris said. “There aren’t that many things that can bring together kids from every corner of the city. We have the East Lynn kids, the West Lynn kids, Highlands, kids from all over. They all come together in the spirit of competition and they have a great time.”

Morris has been involved with the tournament for 18 years and has spent the past six as the event’s organizer. One of the perks that comes with his involvement over the years is the opportunity to see future basketball stars at a young age.

“One of the big things that we see is kids play here and we kind of remember their names,” Morris said. “Then five or six years later, you see their names in the paper at English, Classical, Tech, St. Mary’s. A couple kids on the St. Mary’s team that’s playing in the (Division 4 state) final played here.”

Morris recalled a handful of former tournament participants who grew into successful basketball players. He added that the opportunity to follow their careers provides him with a sense of pride.

“The big one is always Antonio Anderson,” Morris said. “You could tell right away that he was going to be a special player. Ryan Woumn, who went to East Tennessee, Jasper Grassa, guys like that. Even before them, there have been a lot of different boys and girls and you could see from then how special they were.”

Morris added, “Things like that, you take a sense of pride in the city when you see kids represent.”

Although the main focus of the tournament is on the kids playing in it, the volunteers who devote their time also play a pivotal role. Chris Miller, who’s in her 25th year as a tournament volunteer, has come away impressed with the dedication that the players have shown on the court.

“The kids are amazing,” Miller said. “It gives them something to do and a safe place to be. They’re dedicated to it and they’re amazing.”

Many of the kids that take part in the action also get the chance to build friendships with one another through after school programs. That allows the tournament to develop a sense of friendly competition.

“What’s really nice about it is that a lot of them go to after school programs together so it’s a friendly competition between most of them,” Miller said. “It’s really nice.”

Miller added, “It’s the best thing I do all year, it really is. I’ve been volunteering every year for 25 years. It’s been great, I love it.”

RESULTS

Day 2 of the 40th Annual Lynn Elementary Basketball Tournament tipped off Friday afternoon at Pickering Middle School.

First up was a Division 1 girls matchup between Cobbet and Callahan, and there was no shortage of excitement. After being down by two at the half, Cobbet engineered a late surge and tied the game at 14 with under a minute to go in regulation, sending the teams into the first overtime game of the year. Cobbet’s Diana Buenrostro came alive at just the right time, scoring six of her team-high 12 points in OT and leading Cobbet to the 21-17 victory. Arizona Hashani also had six for Cobbet. Callahan’s high scorers were Linda Jallow (14) and Ashley Alukonis. Cobbet takes on Hood today at 2:30 p.m.

Game 2 saw a switch over to boys Division 2 action where perennial rivals Aborn and Lincoln-Thomson clashed once again. It was a back-and-forth affair from the start but in the end, Lincoln-Thomson eked out the 17-14 win. Roman Valdez had five for L-T while Almani Medina and Miguel Soto had four apiece. Aborn’s high scorer was Hector Patient with eight. Lincoln next plays Fallon today at 3:45 p.m.

In Division 1 boys play, Sisson took on Hood. Sisson led this one wire to wire and took the game, 37-18. Sisson was led by Joel Maggs (10), Jason Wheeler (9 points) and Andrew Korona (eight). Hood’s high scorers were Ranciel Castillo with six and Jayden Cepeda with five. Sisson plays again today at 5:00 p.m. against Tracy,

In the final game of the night, reigning champs Lynn Woods took on the boys of Drewicz. Lynn Woods could not make it a repeat this year as they fell to Drewicz, 17-6. Dahrien Bernabel came off the bench for Drewicz and scored a game-high 13 points in the win. Andrew Raney, Josean Castillo and Tyler Cormier each scored a basket for Lynn Woods. Drewicz takes on the winner of next week’s Brickett/Sewell-Anderson matchup in the semifinal.

Play resumes on Saturday with seven games scheduled starting at 9:30 a.m.All games are played at Pickering Middle School and admission is just $1.

Elementary school tournament tips off Wednesday

The Lynn Elementary Basketball Tournament tips off Wednesday, March 15 as the Cobbet and Callahan girls face off at Pickering Middle School at 3:15. Following the girls, the Aborn and Lincoln-Thomson boys play at 4:30, the Hood and Sisson boys face off at 5:45, and Lynn Woods and Drewicz boys wrap up day one at 7 p.m. On Thursday, the Cobbet and Ingalls boys kick off the action, followed by the Brickett and Sewall-Anderson girls (4:30), Ford and Sisson girls (5:45) and Washington and Lynn Woods girls (7).

Friday, the Connery and Tracy girls play first (3:15), followed by the Harrington and Ingalls girls (4:30), the Washington and Shoemaker boys (5:45) and Sewell-Anderson and Brickett boys (7).

Saturday, the games tip off early as the Connery and Ford boys play at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Callahan and Harrington boys (10:45), the Drewicz and Shoemaker girls (12) and Aborn at Lincoln-Thomson girls (1:15). The winner of the Cobbet and Callahan girls will take on Hood (2:30), the winner of Aborn and Lincoln-Thomson boys will play Fallon (3:45), and the winner of Hood and Sisson boys will play Tracy at 5.

Thursday, March 23 kicks off the semifinal round, with four games on Thursday and another four Friday. Saturday, March 25 will be the four division championships, and Sunday, March 26 will be the city championships.

Lynn speller bound for big stage

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Ashrita Gandhari, winner of the 32nd annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee, holds part of her prize, a massive Merriam-Webster dictionary.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — After 30 rounds of fierce competition, it all came down to one word on Friday night — ‘uvula.’

“Oh, so that’s what that is,” said first-place winner Ashrita Gandhari after hearing the word defined as a fleshy extension at the back of the soft palate that hangs above the throat.

A fourth-grader at Franklin Elementary School in North Andover, Gandhari was one of more than 50 participants from schools across the region who gathered at Lynn City Hall Auditorium for a chance to compete this May in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Gandhari, who wants to be an exobiologist when she grows up, placed second in last year’s bee and took only a short break before she launched into studying for tonight’s contest.

“I’m really excited,” she said as she clutched part of her prize, a massive Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

Caroline Clark of Sacred Hearts School in Haverhill placed third and Sofia Valencia of Higgins Middle School in Peabody came in a close second.

Before the competition began, contestants in grades three through eight were offered a light dinner and some advice from previous winner, Mitchell Robson.

“Think before you spell, don’t panic,” said Robson, a Marblehead student who placed seventh in last year’s national bee.

Robson said his four years of competing in spelling bees not only improved his public speaking and language abilities, it also earned him a number of new friends from his time attending the national bee in Washington, D.C.

Although Robson was too old to compete in this year’s bee, his younger brother Will Robson carried on the tradition and placed fourth.

Some students were a little nervous before the event, like sixth-grader Robert Desmond of Pickering Middle School in Lynn.

“I do like to spell,” said Desmond, who was worried about getting tripped up on deceptively short words.

As the night went on, however, the rounds became shorter and the words longer, with sportsmanlike applause accompanying the exit of each eliminated speller.

In addition to her new dictionary, Gandhari will be flown down to Washington, D.C. later this year to take part in the national bee.

Joel Abramson of event sponsor Flagship Travel said over 11 million students participate in regional spelling bees every year.


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

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

 

Pickering principal states case for new school

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is the boys’ locker room at the Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If you’re undecided or planning to vote against construction of two middle schools in next week’s special election, Kevin Rittershaus wants to meet you.

The principal of the Pickering Middle School has hundreds of reasons why voters should vote yes. If approved on Tuesday, the city would spend $188.5 million to build a three-story middle school on Parkland Avenue and a four-story one on Commercial Street.

“This is an ancient building trying to do 21st century education,” he said. “Every inch of space is used for something, former closets have been turned into offices while counselors and music teachers are working in corridors. Come and see my school and compare it with what kids get at the new Marshall Middle School.”

Rittershaus, who has worked at Pickering since the late 1990s and is now in his fourth year as principal, brought The Item on a tour of the worn-out grade 6-8 school on Conomo Avenue Wednesday.

There’s peeling paint on the auditorium’s tin ceiling and water damage on the walls. The special education and health teachers share an office, making private sessions impossible. The computer lab has three dozen dated personal computers for 620 students.

Let the transformation begin in Malden

The school adjustment counselor has a table in a 250-square-foot corridor space to meet students. The school’s library was closed because it was needed for a classroom. It was the same story with home economics. Down the hall, the school’s original lockers have never been replaced and a music room in a hallway is shared with a vending machine. The boiler room resembles a scene out of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The art room lacks a sink, easels, drawing tables and storage space.

Angeliki Russell, the school’s art teacher, said while students create art good enough to be hung, the children would be better served with more space, sinks, higher tables, improved lighting, better chairs and places to store art materials.

Because of overcrowding, Pickering has four, one-half lunch periods that start at 11 a.m. just to fit all the kids in.

Joseph Smart, the city’s building and grounds director, said the roof leaks and water has damaged the historic tin ceilings.

“The building needs a new roof,” he said. “The auditorium was painted in 2014, it’s already peeling.”

In a section of the building that is below grade, moisture is coming through the brick and onto the plaster.

“We’ve done numerous repairs, but to do it right we’d have to dig it out, weatherproof it and do the inside work,” he said.

The city’s Inspectional Services Department estimates it will cost $44.2 million to renovate the 99,000-square-foot facility.

Proponents say it makes more sense to build a new school. The vote on Tuesday asks property owners to be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total 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 homeowner would boost the tax bill to just under $200 more per year for 25 years. For multi-family units, the city estimates the added cost per year would range from $257-$269.

Rittershaus said there are lots of misconceptions about the project. For example, he said parents have told him that the land for the Parkland Avenue school belongs to Lynn Woods Reservation or the Pine Grove Cemetery, but in fact the land is owned by the city, he said.

“People don’t realize the work that’s gone into studying site selection,” he said. “We’ve spent days analyzing the potential locations and not one of them is ideal for everyone.”

On Tuesday, the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission took no action on a plan to transfer 32 acres from the city to the cemetery for a possible expansion, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. In exchange, the commission was expected to provide about 12 acres to the city for the Parkland Avenue school to avoid any potential lawsuit.

“I am still hopeful it will happen, but it won’t happen before the election,” he said.

Construction of the school on 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 are being squeezed enough and can’t afford to pay more taxes.

State Rep. and City Councilor Daniel Cahill said it’s time to build the new schools.

“School buildings were not made to last 100 years,” he said.

New era begins for Lynn police


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.

Restaurant owner announces city council bid

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate for councilor-at-large.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring for an at-large seat on the City Council.

“I see a lot of disconnect between the council, the mayor’s office and the community,” said the 47-year-old owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood. “We need more of a collaborative effort and I really think I can change things.”

Married with two children, Nikolakopoulos said he will focus his campaign on a handful of issues that promise to advance the city.

“The key is economic growth,” he said.

First, the city must invest in a planning department, he said.  While other communities like Salem and Somerville have robust planning divisions that guide development, he said Lynn is lacking.

“When you call the city of Salem and tell them you plan to invest $2 million, you get someone who will guide you through the process,” she said. “Within a few steps, you know where you stand.”

On how the cash-strapped city would pay for a new department, he said, “I think we can find $300,000 in a $300 million budget.”

The other thing needed to spur growth, he said, is streamlined permitting.

“It still takes as much as four times longer to get permits in  Lynn than competing municipalities,” he said.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Nikolakopoulos would also update the city’s plans for the Lynnway and add manufacturing to the mix of allowed uses on the non-waterside section of the busy road.

“My idea is to create a unique overlay district for manufacturing to bring in revenue,” he said.

On schools, he favors the controversial ballot question scheduled for March 14 to support construction of two new middle schools at a cost of $188.5 million.

“I am voting yes,” he said.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near on Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on Commercial Street. While parents in the Pickering Middle School district support the project, there’s opposition from many Pine Hill residents who oppose the new school on Pine Grove Cemetery land near Breeds Pond Reservoir.

Nikolakopoulos said he also favors teaching trades at Lynn English and Classical high schools.

“Teaching trade skills at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute is not enough,” he said. “We need to offer it at the other high schools. Not every family can afford a four-year college.”

On how to pay for expanded services, he suggested returning  parking meters to the downtown as a way to generate revenue.

Nikolakopoulos emigrated to the U.S. from Kalamata, Greece in the 1970s with his parents at age 4 during a time of political unrest in the southeast European nation.

He was enrolled in a Greek bilingual program at Washington Elementary School, attended St. Mary’s High School and later graduated from the College of St. Joseph’s, a small Catholic school in Vermont, where he was soccer captain.

After graduation, he worked a few jobs at the State House, including as a research analyst for the Joint Committee on Transportation. All the while, he helped his family at the restaurant.

“I’ve been working more than 70 hours a week since I was 22,” he said. “I don’t have free weekends, unless I go away.”

Nikolakopoulos joins what is expected to be a crowded field that includes incumbents Brian LaPierre, Buzzy Barton, Hong Net and Daniel Cahill. It’s unclear whether Cahill, who was elected as a state representative last year, will seek reelection.

In addition, Jaime Figueroa, a 28-year-old Suffolk University student, hopes to be the city’s first Latino councilor and Brian Field, who works at Solimine Funeral Homes, said he is considering a run.


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

2 missing words could cost city $9,000

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Assistant City Solicitor James Lamanna stands with both versions of the ballot.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Two missing words could cost the city as much as $9,000 after a typo was discovered on one of the ballot questions for the March 14 special election.

The hotly contested poll will ask voters to approve $188.5 million for the construction of a pair of middle schools to serve the city’s burgeoning school population.    

In the initial printing, Question 1 failed to include the words “be approved” following a description of the school building project that includes a new Pickering Middle School on Parkland Avenue near Pine Grove Cemetery and a new West Lynn Middle School on Commercial Street. Without those two words in the English and Spanish versions, it would be unclear whether the voter was in favor or opposed to the measure.

“No one caught the error, but the blame belongs to me,” said James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor. “I take full responsibility.”

The city received the new ballots on Monday. The cost to reprint them has been estimated at between $3,000 and $9,000.

Lamanna said he was contacted by the Secretary of State’s Election Division last week telling him they had received a number of calls reporting confusion over the ballot question.

About 200 ballots had been mailed to absentee voters before the error was spotted. A letter explaining the problem has been sent to those voters with a corrected ballot.  

Donald Castle, founder of the Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, said he saw a copy of the ballot question last week, noticed it lacked a verb and contacted the city and the Secretary of State’s office.

The group is opposed to the site for the Pickering Middle School on Parkland Avenue. They argue the land is for the expansion of Pine Grove Cemetery and the new road would impact the nearby reservoir.

Pickering in middle of ballot debate


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.

Battle lines drawn in Lynn

The two sides supporting or opposing a March 14 debt exclusion vote tied to plans to build two middle schools have drawn up their forces and prepared to march.

Those opposed to the two-school proposal include angry residents facing eminent domain property takings near the proposed new Pickering Middle School site and other foes quick to jump on a soap box and vent their opposition.

Middle school construction supporters unveiled their efforts on Wednesday under the “Two Schools for Lynn” banner. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is obviously part of the school construction initiative and she boiled down the argument in favor of construction to a succinct sentence on Wednesday: “We are already squeezing students into every possible classroom space.”

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

Both sides have a two-front battle to wage and not much time to carry the fight to Lynn’s voters. The election is five weeks away and voters will be asked when they step into the polling place to  approve building a new Pickering and a “West Lynn Middle School.” They will also be asked to shoulder a payment plan for the new schools that will land squarely on the shoulders of property taxpayers.

Lynn, like most municipalities, uses a borrowing method combining short-term and long-term bond financing to pay for schools. City budget makers look for favorable interest rates and then calculate how expensive projects like new schools can be mixed into the city’s bonded indebtedness.

As debts are paid off on prior projects dating back years, even decades, new debt for newer projects is calculated and mixed into the financing stream. The city budget includes a line item every year to cover interest costs associated with bonded indebtedness.

This formula represents the traditional method for using tax dollars to pay for city projects. The formula gets a new twist this year with voters approving or voting down a debt exclusion allowing the city to raise the money needed to pay for the $188 million school project.

An estimated 60 percent of the construction price tag is supposed to be reimbursed by the state. But initial calculations indicate a debt exclusion will cost the average homeowner and taxpayer $5,000 over the next 25 years or $200 a year in property tax payments directly dedicated to building the two middle schools.

Is the expense worth it? Only the taxpayer staring at a ballot on March 14 will be able to answer that question.

Debt exclusion opponents and supporters agree the city needs new schools. But opponents offer arguments ranging from potential water quality risks to increased traffic in arguing against building a new Pickering off Parkland Avenue. Missing from their argument is any objection to turning part of McManus Field into a school site.

Supporters face a daunting challenge in their bid to convince local voters to approve spending more tax dollars on schools. Plenty of people will say, “Hey, I don’t have kids. It doesn’t affect me.” Others will agree with opponents and declare, “I don’t want it in my neighborhood.”

Chances are good the March 14 vote will attract people opposed to building a new Pickering and people who really believe it makes sense for every taxpayer to dig deep into a pocket or purse for the extra money to build new schools.

The winners and losers only have to wait a few weeks to weigh in with their verdict.

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.

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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

Mayor: Lynn won’t touch Prop 2 1/2

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Less than a week after Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she had no choice but to seek a tax hike to fill a budget gap, the city’s chief executive changed her mind.

The mayor now says she is confident City Hall can close a massive shortfall with cuts and without seeking a Proposition 2½ override.

“I had a knee-jerk reaction last week when Peter (Caron, Lynn’s chief financial officer) said we must do a Prop 2½ override,” she said.  “I jumped and I shouldn’t have. I should have considered my other options before I spoke publicly. I’m taking a step back, looking at my options and I think I will be able to do this.”

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The administration began considering how to solve its budget crisis last week when the state Department of Education threatened to withhold its $11 million November payment in school funds until City Hall came up with more school spending.

The budget deficit list includes a $7.5 million shortfall in school spending; how to pay for a wage hike for the Lynn Police Department over four years that will cost more than $3 million; and the city’s prospective share for the cost of building two new middle schools of $68.5 million.

In addition, the Lynn International Association of Firefighters Local 739 is in arbitration discussions on a wage hike.

Caron said he was working on a list of possible tax and fee increases and potential cuts.

The components include more aggressive collection of the boat excise tax, implementation of a local option meals tax that would  impose a .75 percent local tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent meals tax, raising fees for a building permit, a hiring freeze, job cuts and approval for every non-school department purchase.  

Caron said he did not know how much could be saved by trimming the budget and was not sure of the exact amount of the shortfall.

The list of possible new taxes and fees along with cuts followed a request by the city council earlier this week when some members wanted cuts to be identified before any new taxes are approved.  

“I have produced a laundry list of steps that must be considered to go forward,” Caron said.

The mayor said given the budget challenges, she has three options: raise taxes, cut personnel or cut services.

“By far, the least odious of those choices is to cut services which could mean some extreme cutting, but that’s my focus right now,” said Kennedy.

“It requires me to go through every bit of spending that’s anticipated between now and June 30 and try to come up with the money to close the gap. If something is not absolutely necessary, then that is one of those line items that will be cut. Everything is on the table.”

Still, taxpayers are not out of the woods on a possible major tax hike next year.

If the city is to build two new schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn, voters will be asked to support a so-called debt exclusion next spring.

The $183 million proposal includes a 652-student school to 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.

If approved, the measure would add $163 annually to the real estate tax bills for 25 years.  

City Council President Daniel Cahill said it’s important for the council and the public to know what course of action will be presented in the near future to address the budget issues raised by Caron at a council meeting this week.

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said he was pleased to hear that a Prop 2½ override is off the table.

“I’m glad to hear that things are progressing in different ways because the city has never had an override in the city’s history,” he said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@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.

Mayor stands ground on school sites

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The city’s School Building Committee overwhelmingly approved 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 Friday morning vote reaffirmed the decision made by the committee in August. It came in the wake of questions raised about the Parkland Avenue site earlier this week. City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting the land belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery.

Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, whose district includes the proposed site, was the sole vote against the project Friday. Prior to the roll call, she spoke against the plan while Pine Hill residents looked on.

Resident Brian Field said the land that the city plans to use for the school on Parkland Avenue was intended to be a cemetery.  

But Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief who is also a member of the building committee, told the panel the plan is the best option for the city.

“No matter where you put a public facility, no one wants it,” he said. “What is best for the city may not be the best for one section of the city.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy acknowledged that the committee is faced with a series of bad options. She said a proposal to build the school on Magnolia Avenue near Pickering  has its own set of problems.

While officials have said it would cost taxpayers $800,000 to move the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe on the property to make way for the school, the mayor said it would probably cost much more.

“I suspect that the pipe is not in good condition, it’s been down there a long time and soil conditions are not optimal for its preservation,” she said. “I’m afraid when we begin our obligation to reroute the water to Swampscott and Marblehead, we will find it to be far more expensive and time-consuming than we’re thinking of right now.”

In addition, she said a new school in that section of the city would exacerbate traffic problems in an already congested area. She also noted that the Gallagher Park option won’t work because it would be a tight fit in a heavily populated neighborhood.  

Next week, the building committee will make its case 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.  


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

Pine Hill stuck in the middle

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Adam Swift

 

LYNN — Residents in the Pine Hill neighborhood are firmly against building a new school near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, as well as a second potential site at Gallagher Park.

Nearly 100 members of the Pine Hill Civic Association and assorted concerned neighbors met at the Hibernian Hall Thursday night to discuss the evolving nature of plans to replace the deteriorating Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue.

“This is our little slice of paradise living in Pine Hill,” said neighborhood resident Don Castle. “We don’t want anyone changing or disrupting our neighborhood with a big school.”

While the residents, as well as three city councilors who attended the meeting, are firmly against the building of a new middle school at either the Parkland Avenue or Gallagher sites, the whole issue could be a moot point by late this morning.

The Pickering Middle School Building Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. this morning, with discussion centered on the Parkland site.

The building committee was set to focus on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, the building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering. One school would house 652 students at the Parkland site, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which would fund a portion of the project, has to approve the potential middle school sites.

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting that the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the new school could be constructed.

Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano and Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre all reiterated on Thursday night that they are against seeing a new school built at either the Parkland or Gallagher locations.

Castle also brought forward the possibility of a taxpayer initiative legal action against the city to intercede against the taking of the Parkland Avenue land, if that option does move forward.

“I thought Parkland Avenue was off the table, and that’s a move in the right direction,” said LaPierre. “I want a new middle school, and it would be great to have two new middle schools.”

LaPierre said he wants to see a new school at McManus Field, and possibly a smaller school on Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering School.

A drawback to the Magnolia site is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. Relocating the pipe could cost as much as $800,000, according to city officials.


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

Success sparks smiles in Lynn schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn middle-school plan under further review

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Gayla Cawley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lynn says ‘no’ to potential Pickering sites

The old Pickering Middle School. Item File Photo

By Leah Dearborn

LYNN — Lynn residents are not happy with the proposed sites for potential new middle schools.

The second public forum on a replacement for Pickering Middle School took place before a packed room Wednesday night in the newly-opened Marshall Middle School’s cafeteria.

Project architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. said school overcrowding is a major reason for the need to build one, or possibly two, new schools. He said the district is projected to grow by 757 students by the year 2020.  

Potential sites at Magnolia Park, Parkland Avenue, McManus Field and Gallagher Park were discussed before a sizeable crowd that nearly filled the cafeteria.

The proposed choices drew almost unanimously negative responses from meeting attendees, especially the Parkland Avenue and Gallagher Park sites.

Residents lined up to list concerns that ranged from environmental destruction to lack of transparency in the development process to issues with traffic.

“Our area’s beautiful,” said Basse Road resident, Marie V. Muise about the Parkland Avenue site, which is near wetlands at the back of Barkland dog park. “I don’t know why they’re going to spoil the woods.”

It was a sentiment that was echoed over the course of the night, with City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre speaking against Parkland and Gallagher to loud cheers from the crowd.

Instead, LaPierre supported the development of Magnolia Park.

Funeral director Brian Field of Solimine Funeral Homes said he attended the meeting to watch over concerns about Pine Grove Cemetery.

Field, who has been a funeral director for over two decades, said the cemetery will run out of space in only 10 years.

“I can’t think of anything more disrespectful than to put a big school next to a cemetery,” said meeting attendee Gail Lowe Giannetto of the Parkland Avenue site.  

Superintendent Catherine Latham said the next step in the process is to present a list of pros and cons to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) with cost estimates. The city will then wait for feedback on the suggested site choices.

Latham emphasized that site choices can also be changed in response to strong community opposition. She said the date of the next public forum for the project has yet to be set, but there will be other opportunities for residents to speak and all comments at the forum will be submitted to the MSBA.

The original version of this article incorrectly identified Susan LaMonica instead of Gail Lowe Giannetto for a quote. We apologize for the error.

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.

School’s back (Boo Hoo)

First-grader Ayla Ryan, left, her mom, Elana Ryan, and her sister, Aadryan, at dismissal time at the West Elementary School in Peabody on Monday. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Bridget Turcotte

Many students are packing their backpacks for the annual return to the classroom this week. Students in Saugus, Swampscott, Marblehead, Lynnfield and the Johnson Elementary School in Nahant all return on Wednesday.

Many schools are carrying on traditions of their own.

On Thursday, the Johnson School will hold its annual start-of-the-year flag-raising ceremony.

“The first-graders will present the flag to the new sixth-grade class,” said Principal Kevin Andrews. “The whole school will gather and say the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time together.”

At the end of the year, the flag is brought down and the sixth-graders fold it and give it to the kindergarten class, which holds onto it over the summer until the new year starts, he said.

The Nahant Education Foundation also sponsors a back-to-school bonfire at the end of each summer to kick off the school year. On Thursday night, children will snack on s’mores on Short Beach.

The Waybright Elementary School in Saugus offers a Boo Hoo Breakfast to parents of new kindergartners who are sad about dropping off their children.

“Right after they drop off the kids for the first day of school and say goodbye for the first time, they can have breakfast and coffee together at the school,” said Principal Kelly Moss. “This will be our third one.”

Stacy Phelan, principal of Hadley Elementary School in Swampscott, said she offers something similar.

The parents of all incoming kindergartners and new students can visit the classroom on their child’s first day. Afterward, they gather for breakfast.

“It’s for all those parents who are having a little bit of anxiety about leaving their child in new care,” Phelan said. “We invite them to meet the PTO, meet me. They are new in our community and we want to make them feel more comfortable about that transition they are going through.”

In previous years, between 30 and 40 parents have attended.

To help the children feel more comfortable, they could attend a meet-and-greet popsicle day last week. The students could visit and find out who their teachers will be while snacking on frozen treats.

Glover Elementary School in Marblehead will have a Glover Gathering Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. Students can meet, visit their teachers and get to know the school before the first day.

Children at the Village Elementary School in Marblehead celebrated with an ice cream social Monday.

Revere Public Schools have been in session since Friday, Aug. 26. Kindergarten and Pre-K will return Wednesday.

Students in Peabody Public Schools went back to school Monday.

Lynn elementary schools will begin Wednesday, Sept. 7. Kindergarten and Pre-K on Monday, Sept. 12. Sixth-graders at Breed Middle School, Thurgood Marshall Middle School and Pickering Middle School will return Sept. 7, while grades 7, 8 and 9 will go back on Sept. 8.

Grade 9 at Lynn English High School, Lynn Classical High School and Lynn Vocational Technical High School start on Sept. 7 and grades 10, 11 and 12 return on Sept. 8.


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

Marveling at Marshall School

ITEM FILE PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Marshall Middle School students leaving their new school at the end of day one.

LYNN — Students are on vacation, but the city’s newest public school is open for tours on Thursday for a ribbon cutting ceremony saluting the people involved in financing, designing and building Marshall Middle School.

School Superintendent Catherine Latham said everyone is invited to the 11 a.m. event at the 100 Brookline St. school.

The highlight of the morning will be opening a time capsule sealed during the former Eastern Junior High School’s dedication on Porter Street. Opened in 1923, Eastern was renamed for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1993.

The new Marshall opened in April and Latham said Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony is a chance for residents who have not been in the school to tour it and an opportunity to praise architect Raymond Design Associates and builder Walsh Brothers.

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has also been invited to the ceremony. The treasurer oversees the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

“This wonderful new school is the fruit of hard work by city officials, Lynn public schools and many individuals, groups and committees,” Latham said in a statement.

City and school officials gave their sites on building new middle schools with initial plans for replacing Pickering Middle School scheduled to be submitted to the MSBA today.

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.

Making the right pick for a new Pickering

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pickering Middle School.

Instead of enjoying a quiet July with schools closed and students off for the summer, educators are ramping up for a July 20 submission to the state on a design for a new middle school, or middle schools, as well as construction cost estimates.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) recognizes the city has a tidal wave of elementary school students looming over local middle schools, including 100-year-old Pickering Middle School.

The state has authorized the city to plan middle school projects providing classroom seats for up to 1,660 students. But how many schools the city will build and where they will be built them are questions to be answered.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is not alone in opposing construction of a single, gigantic middle school. She favors construction of two schools on two sites. The short list for sites includes land off Parkland Avenue and Robert McManus Field adjacent to Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

The submission to MSBA will spell out the city’s construction preferences and details on sites and cost. It will reveal the city’s and the state’s financial contribution.

Coincidentally, the submission deadline comes a day before the school community gathers for a midsummer celebration at the new Marshall Middle School. The 1,100 student Brookline Street school opened in April without fanfare. The July 21 ribbon cutting will acknowledge the city’s success in building its first new public school in nearly 20 years.

The next public school project will exceed Marshall in size and cost.  Public comment and involvement in project planning are crucial. In an old city like Lynn, there are no “perfect” school sites. Finding land that conforms with state school construction standards and is compatible with the neighborhood, is a challenge.

The Marshall site worked because Brookline Street residents were given plenty of opportunities to offer their opinion on the school project. With its back to the commuter rail tracks, the new Marshall has fewer neighbors than schools located in the middle of residential neighborhoods.

McManus Field also abuts the commuter rail tracks and its neighbors include Neptune Towers, Tech and Commercial Street. Building a school on the field will displace athletes who should have increased opportunities to use the Common.

By contrast, building two new middle schools, including one off Parkland Avenue, provides West Lynn and the neighborhoods ,where Pickering students live, with new schools. Many middle schoolers live in West Lynn neighborhoods, underscoring McManus Field’s value as a site. Pickering was initially ruled out as a viable site for a new school, but its residents deserve to continue to be served by a local middle school.

July 20 is just around the corner and proposals for future local public school construction will help define Lynn education for the next century.

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.

Sites and sounds of Lynn middle school search

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pickering Middle School.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Proposed middle school sites are the focus of Wednesday’s 7 p.m. hearing in the Pickering Middle School auditorium.

School officials and design consultants will discuss the initial search for a future location for middles schools and design options.

Superintendent Catherine Latham said the discussion will also focus on the types of educational programs local educators want to include in new schools.

The evening will also include depict interior and exterior views of Marshall Middle School, opened a month ago on Brookline Street.

“This is the first public forum for Pickering and it will allow residents and interested persons the opportunity to have their questions answered and their opinions heard and acknowledged,” Latham said.

Lynn’s three public middle schools had a combined 3,000-student enrollment when the school year began last fall.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy during winter planning meetings said the city needs to plan and build to educate another 1,500 middle school-age students.

The city is working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to meet Lynn’s school needs. The MSBA has authorized the city to undertake construction to provide school space for up to 1,660 students.

Initial discussions have focused on building two new schools with General Electric field on Summer Street and land off Parkland Avenue as potential sites for two new middle schools.

School officials are also considering plans to complete an addition to Breed Middle School and reorganize the school’s educational programs to match the cluster concept used at Marshall. Groups of about 120 students are grouped around classrooms each offering a different academic theme.

Other potential school building sites will be outlined at Wednesday’s meeting. But tentative plans calls for Pickering, located on Conomo Avenue, to provide space to ease overcrowding in elementary schools. The old Marshall School on Porter Street is scheduled to be torn down.  

Another hearing is scheduled for June.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com

Tracy math calls for addition

Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan said city officials will review bids from companies interested in providing the modular unit for Tracy Elementary School this month and select school yard space to locate it.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — A modular building with two classrooms will be built next to Tracy Elementary School to help ease overcrowding in the 440-student school.

School Department enrollment data posted this week named Tracy as one of two schools with classes containing 30 or more students. Lynn Woods has 30 youngsters in first grade and Tracy’s two fifth grades each have 32.

The $500,000 modular, pre-constructed building is expected to be completed by the start of school in September.

Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, said city officials will review bids from companies interested in providing the modular unit this month and select school yard space to locate it.

Tracy already uses a modular building. The Edward A. Sisson, Hood and Ingalls elementary schools also have modular classrooms.

Tracy’s deteriorating brick exterior and other building problems prompted the city council this month to seek state approval to replace the school. Built in 1898 on Walnut Street, Tracy had a 366-student enrollment 20 years ago.

School officials are taking steps to fit a growing student population. Five years ago, 14,000 students attended Lynn’s schools. That number reached 15,800 earlier this month.

Fewer than 7,000 elementary school students were enrolled in 2011 compared to 7,850 listed in current enrollment figures.

The School Department marked a historic moment in local history when the last students filed out of Marshall Middle School on Porter Street. When they return from school vacation on April 25, they will walk into a new Marshall on Brookline Street.

The new school, with its brick, masonry and glass foyer, will be designed around a “cluster” education concept.

Sixth- through eighth-graders will be grouped in three clusters per grade with academic classes — science, mathematics, English and social studies — grouped in each cluster of 120 students.

Centered around the foyer will be two wings rising four stories high on one side of the school and two stories on the other side with the shorter wing devoted to the gymnasium and cafeteria.

Superintendent Catherine Latham previously said the school will offer “specialty” programs essential to helping keep students in school at a time in their academic lives when the pressures of learning combined with “social and emotional baggage” can drive them to drop out.

“It will have a beautiful woodworking shop,” said Donovan.

The new Marshall’s completion sets the stage for design and planning to build a new Pickering Middle School and to find ways to ease elementary school overcrowding.

Donovan said plans to date call for demolishing the old Marshall. Built in 1917 and six years older than Marshall, Pickering is in better structural condition and could serve, Donovan said, as potential space for elementary school classrooms after another middle school — or schools — are built.

“Pickering is in relatively good shape. Marshall is in poor condition with bricks falling out of it. It’s a school that is showing its age,” Donovan said.


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

Parkland, Summer in middle of school search

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates talks about building a new Pickering Middle School during a site-planning meeting at City Hall.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — General Electric field on Summer Street and land off Parkland Avenue are potential sites for two new middle schools designed to replace the Pickering Middle School and handle future enrollment increases.

City officials named the locations as the local choices for building new schools during a Monday meeting with design consultants. The meeting kicked off a four-month-long site selection process that will include public hearings.

With a new Marshall Middle School opening this month, school officials have set their sights on replacing the 99-year-old Pickering.

The school is likely to handle expanding elementary school enrollment. But meeting participants said severe traffic congestion around the school and Magnolia Avenue flooding problems rule out Pickering as a future middle school site.

City schools started the year with 3,000 students. But Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city “needs to have room for about 4,500 middle school students.”

While design consultants have examined middle school locations citywide, GE Field and Parkland Avenue emerged as preferences for several reasons.

The Parkland Avenue land located behind the “Barkland” dog park is city-owned, said city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan, and has not been built on.

The city faces challenges building off of Parkland Avenue if the site survives the selection review. Its proximity to Breeds Pond raises potential flooding concerns and the prospect of an extensive environmental review.

Kennedy acknowledged Pine Grove Cemetery commissioners are eying the land for more burial space.

“They have come to me and said, ‘We have no room to expand,’” she said.

Superintendent Catherine Latham said it makes sense to build a West Lynn middle school, stating, “It’s where the kids are.”

GE field is located in a floodplain. But Gene Raymond, lead architect for Lynn’s next round of school projects, said the field’s location off Summer Street poses fewer traffic problems compared to other middle school sites, including Pickering.

Kennedy said building a second school off Parkland Avenue also makes sense for what she termed political reasons. Building new schools requires bond financing approval by voters and Kennedy said Ward 1 residents who now look to Pickering as their middle school will “think they are going to get a new middle school.”

Plans to build two new schools could include changes at Breed Middle School designed to reconfigure the school’s layout to a more modern cluster concept. It would be similar to the one adopted for the new Marshall.

That change could potentially reduce Breed’s 1,300-student enrollment slightly, underscoring the need for additional middle schools.


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

Springing anew with Marshall move

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Fernando Medrano was in the last class to graduate from Eastern Junior High School in 1992 before becoming Marshall Middle School the next year. Here he is looking at a yearbook from 1992.

How incredible is it that hundreds of Lynn students along with their teachers and other school workers are going to move to a brand-new school in less than a month?

To put it in perspective, the new Marshall Middle School’s opening is an accomplishment the city of Lynn has not seen in 20 years when Classical High School moved to O’Callaghan Way. To be fair, the Knowledge Is Power Program has sat atop the Highlands in a new building for several years, but a new public school open to all students who sign up and enroll is a reason to celebrate.

And celebrate they did on Wednesday at the existing Marshall on Porter Street, where a cake was cut, laughter rang through the aging building and older school employees swapped stories about the old Eastern Junior High School.

Marshall was built in 1923. Pickering Middle School was built in 1917. Anyone interested in seeing what a school looked like in 1897 is welcome to drive over to Aborn on Eastern Avenue. Brickett School was built in 1911 — around the time the Titanic was constructed.

Five other local schools are nudging the century mark and one — Tracy in West Lynn — has educated local students for a duration straddling three centuries.

There are those who say it is the people — not the classrooms, schoolyards, gymnasiums or chalk boards — that make or a break a good education. They are right and Marshall, Pickering, Brickett and Tracy prove on a daily basis that good educations can take place in aging — in Marshall and Pickering’s case — deteriorating buildings.

But more than just a good education is going to take place on Brookline Street starting later this month when the new Marshall opens. Students and teachers alike are going to thrill to the sight of clean hallways, state-of-the-art equipment and sunlight pouring through new windows.

Spring is going to truly spring in Marshall because minds, young and old, reinvigorated by a short vacation and a move to new surroundings, will reset their grasp on knowledge and recommit to the task of turning students into travelers on the lifetime road of knowledge and curiosity.

New schools have the power to inspire, motivate and, even more important, hold a mirror up to a city’s education system and allow those in charge to say, “here is the reason why we have to keep doing better.”

Thankfully, in Lynn’s case, the opportunity to repeat a farewell celebration in Pickering similar to the one hosted this week in Marshall is only a few short years away.

Making prom special at Classical

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Danielle Hart and Gregory Moise, and Jimmy DeLeon Matos and Lindsey Tobin, from left, will be going to the Lynn Classical prom.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE 

LYNN — Gregory Moise has picked out his white tuxedo and Jimmy Deleon Matos has mastered his dance moves.

The two are ready for their special night because Lynn Classical High School seniors Lindsey Tobin and Danielle Hart asked these Creating Opportunities for Autistic Children (COACH) program students to attend the school’s June 6 Senior Prom at Danversport Yacht Club.

Tobin, who felt inspired by seeing a volunteer ask a COACH student to prom a few years prior, created a poster with “will you go to prom with me?” written in large letters. The poster had several photos of Tobin and Matos, taken with Tobin’s phone.

“He likes the Snapchat filters,” said Tobin, who has volunteered as an aid for the program’s classroom during her study hall for two years.

Tobin carried the poster into the cafeteria during lunchtime to pop the big question. Matos said he was surprised but very excited to attend the prom with his friend.

“Jimmy has been talking about prom since the fourth grade,” said Jessica Ayer, a COACH classroom teacher.

Matos expressed excitement for dancing, getting dressed up and having fun with Moise, who he said is his best friend.

“Prom is a beautiful place for dancing,” Matos said.

When Hart saw how excited Moise was for Matos, she knew she wanted to ask him to be her prom date.

“I’m excited to dance and eat food,” Moise said.

Moise’s white tuxedo should compliment Hart’s mint green dress nicely. Matos and Moise said they are looking forward to being gentlemen, and plan to pick out flowers for their dates.

While Tobin has been a volunteer for the program for two years, Hart got to know Moise through a physical education class.

The COACH program provides students with a separate classroom, or an environment outside of school for children with learning needs. It provides them with smaller sized classes, a smaller student-to-teacher ratio and a modified curriculum.

Depending on the student’s ability, they are sometimes able to attend inclusion classes with special and regular education students. Ayer said Moise has been involved in the school’s drama club for two to three years and is doing very well.

The high school and Pickering Middle School have two COACH classrooms, and there a dozen among the city’s elementary schools. The program has been at Classical for the past nine years, Ayer said. Students remain in the program until age 22.

If the girls had not asked, the students would not be going to prom, Ayer said.

“I just can’t wait to go to prom with (Matos),” Tobin said.


 

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

Picking a plan for Pickering

BY PAUL HALLORAN

LYNN — Prospects for a new Pickering Middle School took a big step forward this week when the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved the selection of an architect as part of the feasibility study.

Raymond Design Associates, the firm that served in the same role in the construction of the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, was chosen over three other companies by the MSBA’s Designer Selection Panel, which included Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine C. Latham, Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan, Jamie Cerulli, chief of staff to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, and chair of the Pickering Building Committee.

The selection of Raymond Associates and its principal, Gene Raymond, was met with widespread approval by the Lynn contingent.

“We’re thrilled,” Latham said. “Working with Walsh Brothers (contractors) and Lynn Stapleton (project manager), Raymond has brought the Marshall project in on budget, ahead of schedule and without a single change order. We couldn’t want for anything else (with Pickering). The Marshall design is beautiful and speaks to the program that we feel will inspire and motivate our students. That design will influence the Pickering design with the intention that all middle school students in Lynn will have access to the same programs and the same opportunities.”

Donovan said Raymond is charged with exploring six options for Pickering: build a new school with capacity for 1,660 students; build two new schools with total capacity of 1,660; build a new Pickering and renovate Breed Middle School; renovate the existing Pickering building; renovate and build an addition; renovate and build a new middle school.

Donovan said the three options that include renovating Pickering will likely prove not to be feasible due to the poor condition of the building, a situation similar to what was encountered at Marshall.

“They have to look at all the options, but once you get a close look at the school, renovation would seem unlikely,” said Donovan, who added that there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for a 1,600-student building, either.

The City Council approved a $750,000 expenditure for the feasibility study, which is expected to take 12-18 months, according to Donovan. The total estimated budget for the building project is $132 million, which will include building capacity for more than twice the number of students than those currently attending Pickering, and will address future space issues. If the option with the Breed renovation is chosen, the cost of those repairs would be included in the total budget.

“The goal is to determine what is in the best interest of the city,” Donovan said, “and fit that into the estimated budget.”

In addition to exploring the various options, the feasibility study will include public meetings and site selection, as was done during the Marshall project. Ultimately, the School Committee will have to approve the preferred option, followed by the MSBA. Voters will likely be asked to authorize a bond to cover the city’s share of the cost of the project.

“This is a very positive step in a process that is thorough by design,” Kennedy said. “We have the benefit of having gone through the process for Marshall in the very recent past, and we are very pleased to be working with the same companies and individuals that have helped make that project an overwhelming success.”

The $750,000 for the feasibility study includes $450,000 for the architect, $225,000 for the project manager, $50,000 for environmental and site testing and $25,000 for other expenses.

“The feasibility really delves into the options and costs them out,” Latham said. “It gives us a very clear look at all the options.”

The Designer Selection Panel included a dozen members appointed by the MSBA as well as Donovan, Latham and Cerulli. Among the reasons cited for the selection of Raymond Associates were: excellent middle school experience and past performance with Marshall Middle School; only firm that included a HAZMAT consultant acceptable to the city; good conceptual ideas and middle school cluster development; same project management team as Marshall; credibility with the city and school district; and familiarity with the city and district.