school department

Saugus Town Meeting is at play

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Town Meeting agreed to appropriate $1 million for the town’s parks and playgrounds Monday night.

Two articles passed pertaining to the parks: one for $500,000 to repair and maintain existing playgrounds and a second for $500,000 to add security, lighting and cameras to three parks – Bristow Street Park, Veteran’s Elementary School and Belmonte Middle School.

“It seems we’re spending a lot of money on things we don’t really need,” said William Cash, a Saugus police officer. “When the Town Manager gets up here and talks about priorities – I think police and fire deserve to be priorities. So far this year, we’ve given half a million to parks and playgrounds and it looks like it’s going to be another half a million. I read different things are being allocated in this article – $30,000 for seesaws and some sort of fire engine playground equipment. The priority should be more on the town employees than $100,000 on a lacrosse wall.

“Last night a police officer told me he’s collecting food stamps,” Cash said. “That is completely unacceptable and that needs to be a priority. We didn’t ask for much in our negotiations and we deserve to be treated a little bit better by our community.”

But Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the money will be used for much-needed repairs to parks, some of which haven’t seen updates in half a decade. Improvements to Stackpole field and removing apparatuses such as steel slides are on the list.

“We’re ready to start doing this work immediately so that people can enjoy (the parks) this spring rather than waiting for the Annual (Town Meeting) to close,” Crabtree said. “The Department of Public Works will produce a short list for each playground. There are still a lot of safety issues – kids are getting hurt.”

Rainbow shines this summer

The second allocation will allow the installation of security cameras on the parks and around the perimeters of the parks and schools. The cameras will have remote access so police officers can monitor the parks on their laptops, Crabtree said.

Gregory Nickolas, director of Youth and Recreation, voiced his support for the motions. Nickolas said the fields are in deplorable conditions and many of the parks are dangerous.

A few Town Meeting members questioned why all of the articles had to be taken up in a special meeting and whether it had to do with tying up funds right out of the gate.

School Committee Member Peter Manoogian and several residents spoke about the School Department’s need for more funding and questioned whether the town really needed to move $1.5 million into the Stabilization Fund to maintain its bond rating or if a lesser amount would have the same effect. Many suggested cutting the number to $1.2 million and using the excess elsewhere, such as in the schools or to go toward the pumping station repairs. Parents hoped the money could be used to avoid the School Department’s proposed solution to closing the budget gap by closing the Ballard Early Education Center and increasing class sizes.

“Why couldn’t it have waited until Article 8 at the annual – was it to tie the money up? Perhaps,” said Manoogian.

Ultimately Town Meeting voted 35-3 to transfer the full $1.5 million in free cash to the fund.

Town Meeting members voted unanimously to support an article to borrow $4.3 million to fund the first two phases of improvement projects to the town’s main pumping station on Lincoln Avenue.

The station, constructed in the 1980s, has a poor design and is in need of a permanent bypass, said Crabtree. Saugus Public Schools was also allocated $82,000 for the one-time purchase of Chromebooks.

The annual meeting was suspended until next Monday, May 6, when members will take up the remaining issues.


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

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Money matters in Swampscott

By LEAH DEARBORN

SWAMPSCOTT — A joint session between the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night moved the annual budget one step closer to completion.

The FY18 budget saw a $1.2 million increase from last year, amounting to a 4 percent overall spike.  

Marzie Galazka, vice chair of the finance committee, said the budget will be finalized at Town Meeting in May, but for now changes are still possible.

“We’re just beginning the process. We still haven’t had the opportunity to deliberate,” she said.

Committee ponders meaning of ‘sanctuary’

During the goal-setting session, finance committee member Jill Sullivan jotted down which departments have yet to present their budgets.

The town fire and police departments are requesting equipment increases this year, with $11,500 for new police firearms and $15,000 for fire engine repairs, according to the proposed budget.

The police department is seeking $27,000 in funding for two three-season motorcycles.

The Recreation Department budget includes a new line item for the July 4 fireworks.

It’s the School Department, however, that has the largest proposed budget of approximately $28 million.

Galazka said to accommodate the school budget, payment of some services will be shifted from the school to the cityside, including the partial salary of the facilities director.

The official town warrant will be sent to the printers on April 24 and distributed shortly after.


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

In Revere, no school Weds.; parking ban stays

REVERE — Due to treacherous, icy conditions, the Revere Public Schools will be closed Wednesday, according to a news release.

All city offices, including City Hall and all school department offices, will be open for regular business hours.

The snow emergency and parking ban remains in effect until further notice so the Department of Public Works can complete cleanup. Follow the city’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Residents should be aware of the list of emergency arteries (http://reverepolice.org/snow-emergency-parking/) and not park on these streets until the ban is lifted. Vehicles parked on emergency arteries will be towed for the duration of the ban.

Parking ban up at 12 a.m.; no school Wednesday

Fast-paced kids need to save time for summer

ITEM FILE PHOTO

School’s out.

But empty classrooms don’t translate into eight upcoming weeks of carefree fun around the house or hanging out with friends for 21st-century children.

Some kids will take remedial classes this summer to keep them on track with English language learning goals or other subjects. Others will attend sports team practices or other activities. Still others will juggle jobs, and somewhere between study, work and sports a little room will be set aside for fun.

Summertime once meant endless days spent running around with friends, playing street games and huddling around a basement black-and-white television set to watch Vincent Price movies on rainy days. Summer turned every day into Saturday and Sunday and in June and July, Labor Day looked as distant as a mountain viewed across a vast plain.

Those idyllic times have shrunk under increased pressure from schools focused on comprehensive testing and high-technology gadgets that pull kids away from blue-sky days, tree climbing, frog catching and ghost stories.

Kids will always be kids. But how many proposals for increased study time and ramped-up school-to-work experience will it take to shrink summer into a time period resembling spring vacation or Christmas break?

Kids need time away from classrooms and structure. But the days of letting them run around the empty lot at the end of the block or bicycle down to Main Street have gone the way of Norman Rockwell.

The city of Lynn and the School Department devised a great way a few years ago to balance fun and learning for kids of all ages and family incomes. Project LEARN, based at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, is a summer program that spanned several weeks during the summer and gave kids the opportunity to spend their mornings learning and their afternoons playing.

The classroom activities covered subjects students were required to master for the new school year. But they also offered kids a chance to explore topics touched on briefly during the academic year. The afternoon recreation activities were scattered across city parks and playgrounds.

LEARN gave kids the opportunity to enjoy structured fun, while staying partially tuned in to school. The program gave parents a break mentally and financially while still allowing kids to spend a few weeks on vacation before September.

It takes money to make a project like LEARN work and education dollars get stretched thinner and thinner by the demands placed on them by modern curriculums. But a program like LEARN packed a lot of bang for the buck and instilled in kids a valuable lesson: There is no need to take a vacation from learning, the trick is to make it fun.

A final four completion for Saugus

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Finance committee member Kenneth L. DePatto discusses the Fiscal Year 2017 budget at Saugus Town Hall Monday.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Town Meeting unanimously approved a $77.1 million town budget recommended by the finance committee on Monday.

The budget includes a $28.1 million for the school department and $49 million for the municipal departments.

The school’s fiscal year 2017 operating budget is about $503,000 short of the school committee’s request, but $500,000 more than last year’s allocation.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Michael Hashem said the department has tried just about every cost containment possible since he stepped into the position, but it is still going to be short.

“I wanted to thank you for the additional funding,” Hashem said. “Do realize we’re going to have to make some efficiencies and cuts moving forward.”

The budget includes $6.4 million for the police, $4.7 million for the fire department and $4.3 million for the Department of Public Works. A $215,675 budget was approved for the Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said he is hopeful they will hire a new economic development planner and coordinator soon to replace Robert Luongo, who resigned to work in another community.

“Robert did a fabulous job,” Crabtree said. “I did everything I could with offering him anything I could to keep him here.”

Luongo left the position for another closer to his home that pays more money and allows him to work with a staff of eight people, Crabtree said. Crabtree is hopeful the town will hire “an individual like Robert” but is also considering splitting the job into two different positions, at a lower rate for each.

“It’s been a challenge to bring someone in at his caliber, even at the amount that we budgeted,” he said. “It’s needed for Saugus and for our community.”

Town Meeting also approved an increase in water rates for next year. All money will go directly into a Water Enterprise Fund to be used exclusively for water expenses, maintenance, debt and interest and improvement programs.

We’re talking about raising water rates 9.5 percent,” said William Brown, Town Meeting member. “Last year, we had a 3 percent sewer increase. I’m not going to support it. This is too high. I don’t see the need for it.”

Crabtree said the rate was determined through a five-year analysis conducted by an outside party.

“The goal was to identify what rate needed to be charged to be able to generate enough revenue to pay for the operations of that enterprise,” Crabtree said.

A tiered system is used to determine a resident’s rate, Crabtree said. About 70 percent of residents fall in the first category, and will see an $8 increase on their bill twice a year. Second tier residents will see a $12 increase and commercial users will pay the bulk, he said.

Reluctant to raise the rate, Eugene Decareau, Town Meeting member, proposed an amendment for a 7.5 percent increase. But Steve DiVirgilio, a Town Meeting member, said approving the lower rate would be a mistake.

“The debt on these funds are enormous and continue to grow,” DiVirgilio said. “We need to invest in the capital and infrastructure. One of the reasons I keep on Town Meeting is I got the sense that financial decisions are being made with their hearts instead of their minds.”

Crabtree agreed, and urged Town Meeting to follow the recommendation of the finance committee.

“I want to make it clear, these are financial decisions, not emotional decisions,” Crabtree said. “If we vote a less rate than is required, you’re kicking it down the can. You will have to have a larger increase next year.”


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