school

Malden school faces state ACLU complaint

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed a complaint against Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for allegedly disciplining and suspending African-American and biracial students because their hairstyles violate school policy.

The Associated Press reports that the ACLU filed the complaint Monday with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for what it says is a discriminatory policy at the Malden charter school.

Coincidentally, the DESE headquarters are located on Pleasant Street in Malden Square.   

Mother says daughters punished for hairstyles

Parents say students were punished for wearing braids with hair extensions. They contend white students have not been disciplined for coloring their hair, which also is banned under the dress code, according to the AP.

The school does ban hair extensions, which tend to be “very expensive,” a statement last week on behalf of Mystic Valley Interim Director Alex Dan said. But Jennifer Rosenberg of Howell Communications, an agency representing the school, said Monday that braids are not banned.

Last week’s statement said the ban on hair extensions is designed to “foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism.”

Unplugging snow days

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
The parking ban in Lynn keeps Washington Street clear during the snow storm.

There was a time — and it wasn’t long ago — when snow days elevated imagination to new heights and inspired, sometimes forced, kids to find fun ways to while away a day with siblings, parents and all that white stuff.

Television, video games, mobile devices — any form of electronics — were nonexistent or prohibited for use by parents who wanted kids on their day off to be more than dull-witted robots glued to a screen.

Snow days always seemed longer than school days and the best part of a snow day was the night before when a telephone call or television broadcast announced school closings.

A typical snow day of yesteryear meant tugging on snow suits, pulling rubber boots with metal buckles onto feet wrapped in plastic bags and donning wool hats and wool mittens. Lofty goals like shoveling the driveway or front walk quickly crumbled under an onslaught of imagination that turned snowy yards into mazes and gave birth to snowmen, snow forts and snow angels.

Porch stairs turned into sled slopes and icicles turned into toreador spears. Snow was the great equalizer allowing little kids to nail bigger ones with a well-aimed snowball and giving someone’s sister the chance to stuff snow down the back of a sibling’s coat.

The fun and excitement only ended when wool mitts were wringing wet and pull-on boots filled with snow that somehow always made its way into the plastic bags. No one stopped playing until their cheeks glowed rosy-red from cold or their teeth started chattering.

Snow updates: Parking, closings, cancellations

Snow days provided stay-at-home mothers with the perfect opportunity to make sure kids got plenty of exercise and had their share of fun before cold, dampness and exhaustion took their toll. Cocoa and brownies always seemed to be waiting on the tail end of several hours spent running around aimlessly in the snow.

But the fun didn’t get left on the doormat. Socks wadded into balls and living room furniture shoved against the wall turned a rug or the carpet into a “knee football” field. Two couches or chairs lined up like goals made “knee hockey” possible until the noise level reached the point where more cocoa and cookies were dispensed.

Satiated by cocoa and worn out by the weather, kids who enjoyed yesteryear’s snow days typically wrapped up afternoons with board games. Candy Land and Operation gave way to Monopoly and the youngest kids were nodding out or napping before hotels sprang up on Saint James Place or Vermont Avenue.

There rarely seemed to be time for television on a snow day and daytime television typically offered kid-unfriendly fare like game shows and soap operas. Social media may offer more diversion than the entertainment available on old-fashioned snow days. But mobile devices are on track to eliminating snow days in the same way they have eliminated days off from work.

Today’s parents can plug into the job day or night or on vacation and tomorrow’s kids will wake up on a snow day to find their iPhone or Samsung packed with electronically-dispensed homework assignments.

On that busy, time-on-task snow day of the future, snowmen, cocoa and knee hockey are going to have to take a backseat along with fun.

Stopping the brain drain in Saugus

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — A group of educators, coaches and youth group leaders are collaborating to strengthen Sachem pride and keep student-athletes in Saugus Public Schools.

Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi hopes improving pride in attending Saugus High School while children are younger will help keep them within the school system. Instilling the same message in students across all activities, including sports, the arts and other educational programs will help children share values and learn skills that will help them succeed, he said.

“Our focus is how do we keep our children in Saugus so they’re not leaving to play sports elsewhere,” said school committee member Elizabeth Marchese. “We’re being proactive. What can we do right now to build a better program here in town for our athletes?”

The school system lost about 100 middle and high school students this year to vocational, charter and private schools, about the same as the year before. DeRuosi said the reason the students chose to leave the district is unclear, but athletics played a role for many.

“Anytime a student opts out, for whatever reason, it impacts the district,” he said. “There is an impact, financially, of those students leaving. The goal is to build a program that keeps kids with you.”

The school district pays a fee to each charter or vocational school a student leaves the district to attend, negatively affecting the school budget.

A new face at Summer Street Elementary

A group of about 30 people has met three times to identify gaps and brainstorm solutions that will result in a stronger athletic program with better student-athletes and ensure all students are putting academics before any extracurricular activities.

The group, which includes high school coaches and coaches at younger levels, has discussed holding sports clinics. A high school coach and players would spend a weekend teaching their sport, strategies and language to the children, fostering a relationship and offering potential role models.

Familiarizing Pop Warner players with high school coaches could increase excitement about one day playing for Saugus High School, Marchese said.

“We’re all working together to send the same message to do the right thing, that academics are important,” said Marchese. “Hearing that in the minor leagues when you’re six or seven — that message is embedded in you. It’s all about getting better at what you do.”

But the focus is not limited to athletics. DeRuosi hopes to collaborate with the fine arts and drama programs, as well as any other afterschool activities.

“Our goal is to keep kids engaged with solid adults sending a positive message,” DeRuosi said. “We have the capacity to change Saugus through multiple vehicles. I think our motto will be ‘one town, one team — building a better community.’”


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

KIPP ACADEMY LYNN LOTTERY APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE

KIPP Academy Lynn Elementary, Middle, and High Schools are free, open enrollment, charter public schools serving students grades K-2 and 5-12 in the 2017-2018 school year. KIPP welcomes all families interested in enrolling their children at KIPP to fill out an application to enter into the random lottery, which will be held the week of Feb. 27, 2017. Lottery applications and additional information are available at www.kippma.org/enroll or can be picked up at 90 High Rock St., and 20 Wheeler St., Suite 404.

The deadline to submit lottery forms is Friday, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. Late applications cannot be accepted.

KIPP staff and leadership will be hosting Open Houses at 90 High Rock St. (middle and high schools) on Thursday, Jan. 26 and Thursday, Feb. 9 from 5-7 p.m.

KIPP’s program is based on a longer school day and year, academic and character development, a relentless focus on student outcomes and college graduation, and support for students to and through college and career.

If you have questions, please call:

KIPP Academy Lynn Elementary School (grades K-2)
Rebecca Hazlett 781-558-9263

KIPP Academy Lynn Middle School (grades 5-8)
Mariela Alvarez 781-598-1609 ext 1133

KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate High School (grades 9-12)
Monica Bruno 781-598-1609 ext 1134

Lofty goals in Marblehead

Town reports, written annually and often read only by the people who wrote them, can be dry documents summarizing the status quo in fancy language.

But Marblehead School Superintendent Maryann Perry veered away from this safe approach when she wrote her portion of the 2015 town report. Perry took a step forward and used space allotted for the School Department in the report to outline challenges and lofty goals.

Almost 11 months have passed since the town report became official and it will be interesting to see in the 2016 report how Perry summarizes the school department’s success in achieving its 2016 objectives.

The 2015 report identified textbook inventory as a department priority concern. Even in an age of digital technology, textbooks remain an education staple and Perry and her staff relied on what the report described as “family and community feedback” to identify the best plan for continuing to use texts based on the department’s commitment to updating learning curriculums.

Perry also described how school employees took a nuts-and-bolts approach to long-term school building maintenance. Like textbooks, building maintenance is not the most exciting concern making its way across Perry’s desk every day. But Perry and top school aides realize tracking school building upkeep is an opportunity for savings benefiting local taxpayers.

Even with a state-of-the-art high school, Marblehead must stay ahead of the curve when it comes to maintaining nine local school buildings. The Elbridge Gerry School is the oldest town school and it has not seen a major renovation in 110 years. Town residents in their wisdom gave town officials permission to push ahead with an expensive and exhaustive review process that will conclude with important decisions about the Gerry’s future.

School building renovation or new construction projects are expensive and school officials have made the right decision by minding maintenance dollars and cents.

To her credit, Perry did not shy away from school spending problems in the school department summary for the 2015 town report. She warned of rising costs and “increasing pressure” in describing school financial challenges. But she also offered specific solutions to balancing the school budget.

“While we know we have budget pressures in our future, the traction, trust and collaboration we have gained this year sets a strong foundation for continued good work,” she wrote by way of summarizing school spending challenges.

It will be interesting to see how Perry sums up in the 2016 town report new challenges faced by town schools and efforts to overcome them.

Lynn Community Enrichment Program has a shiny new vision

Are you prepared to join in? Are your skills ready to give you the opportunity to share in this new vision?

Want to find out?

Come join with your neighbors and friends and enroll in a course or two with the Lynn Community Enrichment Program.

The people that are shaping Lynn’s future are helping to subsidize courses so that Lynn’s residents can grow with the city.

Find out more at our Facebook page.

Cost for most classes is $60 for six weeks and are held from 6-8 p.m.

Classes at LVTI:

Mondays
• Citizenship
• Computer applications
• Engineering design
• Foundations of childcare work
• Intro to blueprints
• Writing for all ages

Tuesdays
• Cake decorating
• Conversational Spanish
• Intro to the internet
• Intro to oil burner technician
• Curso interactivo para padres con hijos de 0 meses a 5 años

Wednesdays
• Carpentry
• Curso intermedio práctico y actualizado de Microsoft Office
• Intro to Welding
• Yoga

Registration
Lynn Vocational Technical Institute – Library
80 Neptune Boulevard

October 18, 2016
6-8:00 p.m.
Classes are scheduled to begin on October 24, 2016
This program is a partnership of Lynn Public Schools and the New Lynn Coalition

Mass. drafting rules to keep kids in school

BOSTON — The state is taking public input over the next few weeks as it crafts guidelines aimed at keeping students in school by reducing suspensions and expulsions.

The guidelines are part of a law passed in 2012 that requires public and charter school principals to keep students out of school only as a last resort. The proposed guidelines would require school officials to notify parents of suspensions, allow students to appeal and let those suspended complete assignments.

The public can comment until March 7, and the new rules will take effect July 1.

Advocates say limiting suspensions is important because suspended and expelled students are more likely to be held back, drop out or land in the juvenile justice system.

“If kids are not in school, they can’t learn,” said Thomas Mela, senior projects manager at the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a nonprofit group that pushed for the legislation. “That is our main concern.”

A 2011 study of 1 million Texas middle school students by the Council of State Governors found that 97 percent of suspensions were for offenses such as classroom disruption or insubordination. Only 3 percent were for more serious offenses such as weapon or drug possession.

“It is counterintuitive to punish students by excluding them from school when the one place they are safe and supported is school,” said Joan Meschino, executive director of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center, which studies juvenile justice and education issues. She said data shows that students who are male, black and Latino, or have special needs are more likely than others to be suspended.

Some opposed the new legislation, saying suspensions are necessary to keep order in the classroom, but it passed anyway. Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said at a meeting last month that regulations must strike a balance between preserving students’ rights and maintaining a safe and orderly environment for others to learn.

Ayomide Olumuyiwa, a high school junior in Boston who has been involved in designing the new regulations as a member of the Boston Student Advisory Council, said keeping students out of school for minor offenses is detrimental. Boston Public Schools got a head start on the law by implementing a new code of conduct this fall.

“What are students going to be doing for that one week?” Olumuyiwa said. “They will be watching TV, playing video games or going out on the streets and getting themselves into trouble.”

Charter schools in particular have high rates of suspensions, said Hareen Chernow, a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Many have zero-tolerance policies in which students are suspended for specific infractions regardless of their individual circumstances.

President Barack Obama’s administration last month issued sweeping but nonbinding recommendations that suggest, among other things, removing students from classrooms only as a last resort for the worst behavior and getting them back to class as soon as possible. Maryland and cities such as Los Angeles and Denver have recently passed disciplinary guidelines.

Advocates want to make sure suspended students still have an opportunity to learn. Among options already being tried are an online learning laboratory and tutoring programs.

New management for longtime Lynn nursery school

LYNN — It’s probably only fitting that the new owners of Busy Bee Nursery School in Lynn decided to keep the name when they took over the business last month.

Ashley Pierce and Sarah Treiber have been going non-stop since June 26, cleaning, painting, planning, marketing and sorting through the mountains of toys, books, games and other learning materials that came with the building. Although still a work in progress, the new owners say the school will be ready for its debut on July 31, the day of the first open house.

Busy Bee Nursery School, tucked away at the top of Severance Street off Lynnfield Street, has been a launching pad for youngsters for more than three decades. For the last 30-plus years, Patricia Melanson and Marcia Boudrow were the face of Busy Bee, first as teachers and for the past 26 years as owners and teachers.

“It was time for us to retire and pass it on to someone new,” Melanson said.

Pierce grew up in Lynn and still lives in the city. The 27-year-old English High graduate received her bachelor’s degree in childhood development with a minor in special education from Southern New Hampshire University and her master’s degree in early childhood education from American International College.

Treiber grew up in Connecticut and attended Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Va. She found her way north when she was working for Abercrombie and Fitch and was transferred to Boston. After her daughter, now 8 years old, was born, Treiber decided to make a career change and eventually began working at the Marblehead Children’s Center. This is where she and Pierce, who now lives in Somerville, made the connection.

When Busy Bee went on the market last fall, Pierce and Treiber set out to buy it. At this point, the building is actually owned by Pierce’s uncle, and Pierce and Treiber own the business.

“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. We always wanted a school. We just want to come here and teach,” Pierce said.

One of the first decisions they had to make was whether to keep the name or go with something new.

“We thought about changing it, but everyone knows what Busy Bee is,” Pierce said. “Just growing up in Lynn and being part of the Lynn community, it was important to keep the spirit of Busy Bee alive ”¦ Pat and Marcia have set a good standard for us to follow.”

Pierce said they’ve learned a lot about the market in a very short time. She said originally they planned to stay open until 5 p.m., but when some parents inquiring about the school thought that meant it was a daycare, they made adjustments to 

the hours to make it clear it was a preschool program.

Pierce and Treiber said parents want their children ready for kindergarten, both academically and socially. The school will be licensed for 34 students, 20 upstairs and 14 downstairs. Both women acknowledge that going into business with another person is a huge commitment.

“There’s not a whole lot of people I would hop into business with,” Pierce said in talking about how the two of them share the same vision for the school.

“We’re both perfectionists,” Treiber said. “We’re just trying to digest it (putting everything together) in small parts. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

There’s still plenty of work to do to meet licensing requirements, but the two have been fortunate in that they’ve had plenty of help from family members and their boyfriends when it comes to things involving carpentry, electrical and plumbing matters.

The first open house is scheduled for Wednesday, July 31 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A second one will take place at some time in August. The two have been busy marketing the school since they bought it, mostly through Facebook.

“The response from Facebook has been huge,” Treiber said.