London attacks derail Peabody school trips


The recent terrorist attacks in London and Europe have caused some North Shore residents to reconsider overseas travel.

One of the groups affected are students studying abroad and visiting these targeted countries with their schools.

In light of attacks in Europe, Peabody High School cancelled annual overseas trips in concern for their students’ safety.

While the trips were dropped before a request by Interim Superintendent Herbert Levine, he won’t be allowing any field trips to Europe.

“We have to stand up,” he said. “But we don’t have to do that by sending 16-year-olds overseas.”

But Thomas Strangie, Lynn English High School’s principal, gave the green light to Latin Club which had a trip to Rome planned for the April vacation under the direction of Michael Haddad, the school’s Latin teacher.

“You can’t let them win,” said Strangie, who has chaperoned 17 trips to Europe in 25 years. “You have to go and live your life. You shouldn’t have to worry about being targeted.”

In order to ease parents’ hesitance on letting their children study abroad, he leads parent-student meetings to ease their concerns. He also staffed the trips accordingly.

This year, 19 students were supervised by three chaperones.

“We can’t allow our lives to be colored by the acts of a few,” said Haddad. He is already planning a trip to Greece in 2019 with his students. A handful have already signed up.

In Saugus, officials worked with EF tours to re-route their travel plans to Greece that included a stop in Turkey last year.

School committee members worried about sending their students to Turkey. In the end, Turkey was removed from the itinerary.

“We understand that trips to these places has a great impact on the students who go,” said Jeannie Meredith, chairman of the Saugus School Committee. “It’s a great enrichment trip, but our endgame is to keep the kids safe.”

For college students, acts of terrorism in Europe haven’t hindered their pursuits to travel.

Lynn Classical High School graduate Natalie Galdamez, who majors in acting at the University of Southern California (USC), was studying in London last semester at Queen Mary University of London at the time of the attacks.

Galdamez said she was on campus during the Westminster incident when police said 52-year-old Briton Khalid Masood drove a car into a crowd of pedestrians walking along Westminster Bridge leaving more than 50 people injured.

Saugus rallies around the Sachems

While Queen Mary University is nearly five miles from the area of the attack, Galdamez said her school didn’t go into lockdown. USC was the first to make sure Galdamez was safe and offered counseling if needed.

School officials then asked Galdamez to notify her parents. She called home and told her parents, who hadn’t learned of the news until then.

Galdamez said police presence grew in places with a lot of people, like on trains, but it didn’t last long.

Her experience wasn’t greatly changed because of the attacks, she said. While she felt sorry for Londoners, she said it was a bigger deal to those in the U.S.

The 21-year-old who loves to travel, hopes these events don’t deter others from choosing to go abroad.

“Stuff like this happens all the time,” she said. “Nobody is immune to it, but I wouldn’t let that stop anybody from going.”

Salem State University has no students in the United Kingdom, according to spokeswoman Nicole Giambusso. Several students are scheduled to travel to the UK in the fall, with no reports of students changing their mind in light of recent incidents.

Larry Davis, a department chair at North Shore Community College, will be doing a joint trip with Salem State to Germany, Czech Republic, and Hungary to study the Holocaust.

“I’m not scared, but I am concerned,” he said. “Before we leave I will sit them down and tell them what it means to travel during these particular times.”

No students have pulled out from the trip since the recent attacks, he said.

Patrick Finnigan, a Classical High School graduate, said he had positive experiences while away.

He spent last semester studying at Menendez Pelayo International University in Spain through a program at UMass-Amherst.

While Finnigan, 21, was in Europe during the series of attacks in London, he said there were no signs of attacks in Spain and he never feared he was in danger.

During his five-month stay, he visited Morocco, a country where many Muslims live.

His parents, Paula and John Finnigan, were understanding of his decision to travel. While his mother worried, like many parents are when their children go away unsupervised, she trusted him to be safe.

Finnigan plans to study abroad again next semester, this time in Costa Rica.

“I want to see the world and I am not going to let a small group affect my decisions to adventure throughout the world,” he said.

Lowell Gray dies at 57

Lowell Gray leaves behind a wife, brother, and four daughters. 

Funeral services will be held on Friday at 10 am in Temple Emanu-El 393 Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead, MA.  Burial will follow in Temple Emanu-El Cemetery, Danvers Memorial Contributions made in Lowell’s memory may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club 5 Joy St., Boston, MA 02108 or you may visit

The family will receive friends at the Swampscott Yacht Club 425 Humphrey St., Swampscott immediately following the funeral service and also on Saturday from  2-4 and 7-9 p.m. The family will receive friends on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore 4 Community Rd. Marblehead, MA Arrangements have been entrusted to Stanetsky Hymanson Memorial Chapel, Salem, MA.  For more information or to register in the online guestbook, please visit

Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., Gray graduated from Harvard University in 1982.

Early in his career he held positions in the then-fledgling technology sector, at Cap Gemini, Bell Laboratories and Price Waterhouse before heeding the call to go out on his own.  

He was drawn to online services and founded an Internet service provider, located in Lynn called Shore.Net.  Working closely with city of Lynn officials, Gray built Shore.Net into a regional powerhouse employing over 100 people and helping to revitalize downtown Lynn.  He sold Shore.Net in March, 2000.  

He then turned his attention to real estate development, turning an old rooming house next to Shore.Net headquarters into residential condominiums. When the old run-down bar next door became available, he bought that as well and started another career as the owner of the award-winning Oxford Street Grill.

“Lowell believed in Lynn. He started Shore.Net there and it was headquartered on Oxford Street. He also started a restaurant on Oxford Street, The Oxford Street Grill, that he originally envisioned as a Kosher steakhouse. That restaurant is now the Blue Ox. We fought about the facade, which was very expensive for a start-up restaurant in an unproven location, but he let me win. In the end he was proud of it, if a little bit poorer,” his friend, architect Glenn Morris, recalled.

Lowell married Elizabeth Shaw in 1989 and they had four amazing daughters that they cherished and loved.  He was active and philanthropic in the North Shore Jewish Community and was a past President at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead.

After divorcing his first wife Elizabeth in 2010, he married his current wife, Lina Hristova. Together, they bought and renovated an old farm in Woodstock, Vermont.  Lowell was a member of the Woodstock, Vermont Volunteer Fire Department and a planning commissioner for the town of Woodstock.  

Deciding he had had enough of the IT world, he moved to the farm in 2015 and started working there full-time. In his class report for his 35th Harvard Reunion, he noted, “I have found that my priorities are not complicated: take care of myself and Lina, take care of my kids, love and help the people around me and take care of the land. We need to repair our divided world, trust one another and cooperate. I still believe that we can work together in peace and the world will restore itself.”

At various times in his life he was a member of Common Angels, a trustee of North Shore Community College, and a trustee of the Salem State Enterprise Center. He was the 1999 Business Person of the Year of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, the United States Small Business Administration’s 2000 Small Businessperson of the Year for Massachusetts, and received numerous other business awards.  

His Oxford Street Grill was named “Best of the New,” by the Boston Sunday Globe in 2005 and “Best of Boston- New Restaurant North of Boston” by Boston Magazine in 2006.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Salem State College in 2000.

Besides his wife, Lina, he leaves his daughters: Rebecca, Samantha, Josephine and Alexandra. He also leaves a brother, Adam Gray. He was predeceased by his father, Stephen; his mother, Jessica; and his ex-wife, Elizabeth.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Stanetsky Hymanson Memorial Chapel, Salem, MA.  For more information or to register in the online guestbook, please visit

Danvers Memorial Contributions made in Lowell’s memory may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy St., Boston, MA 02108 or visit



Lynn student is on a mission

North Shore Christian School eighth-grader Rebecca Ibanez talks about her experiences in El Salvador.


LYNN — Most middle-school girls go to the mall.

Rebecca Ibanez goes to El Salvador.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader at North Shore Christian School just returned from a missions trip to the Central American nation. It was her fifth missions trip and more are planned, including a return this summer to either El Salvador or Spain.

Rebecca is going places in every sense of the word. Lynn Rotary recently honored her for her charitable/church work. A pianist/singer, she enters the distinguished Boston Arts Academy in the fall. Her love for music comes naturally; her dad, El Salvador native Hector, plays guitar and mom Daniela Ibanez (nee Lopez, a Lynn Tech grad) is trained in audio engineering. Rebecca’s goal is to attend Berklee College of Music and its after-school City Music program.

“I started piano when I was five or six,” said Rebecca. “I didn’t want to do it. I’d say, ‘No. It’s boring.’ But when I got into the youth ministry, I was able to enjoy it. I’ve played our churches in Lynn and Somerville, for about 400 of 500 members on a Sunday. It’s a big deal.

“I’m excited about going to the Boston Arts Academy. It’s a happy option, for me to go into something I’m passionate about,” added Rebecca, who reads music and is into jazz, blues and classical.

“You earned this yourself. Mama only filled out the applications,” added Daniela, who works for a demolition company in downtown Lynn.

During her most recent mission to San Miguel, El Salvador, Rebecca helped the family of Santiago Canello-Bonilla, a little boy who has had three strokes and suffered through serious medical issues in his young life.

“He’s doing really well. He’s six months old now,” said Rebecca, who added the full-length casts on his tiny legs have been removed.

Rebecca and her fellow missionaries also visited the homes of people in need, buying big bags of groceries. “Oil and rice mostly,” she said. “Those will last a long time.”

Hopping to help Lynn

Missions trips are undertaken by church groups comprised of members of the congregation who travel to a location to volunteer their efforts in completing a helpful community project while spreading the gospel of Jesus.

During a prior mission in Spain, Rebecca was reunited with youth leaders who reinforced religious teachings and helped youths in a small church. The trip culminated with Rebecca and two other students — a singer and drummer — entertaining families in Reus, about 90 minutes south of Barcelona.

The Ibanez family are members of Vida Real Church in Lynn, the sister church to a larger congregation in Somerville. Living a life of purpose is the goal and the church’s “Hope Movement” project helps people in need, building houses, providing medicine, clothing, food and financial assistance.

Rebecca brought to El Salvador $440 donated by her family and members of the church. The entire amount is given to one family, who are encouraged to share it with neighbors in need. “They know who needs it most,” said Daniela.

“I am so proud of my daughter, she’s amazing” added Daniela. “I’m excited for what’s to come in her life. She has been taught that it’s better to give than receive, and she’s taken that to a new level. We, as parents, don’t tell her to what to do. She says to us, ‘I’m going.’ Rebecca makes the choice to help. We feel so blessed.”

Rebecca seems embarrassed. “I don’t brag about it. I’m just, OK, cool. There’s no reward from bragging.”

Priscilla Miro, director of administration at North Shore Christian School, said, on this trip, Rebecca and her team used their gifts and talents to train others in youth leadership through leading a youth retreat and participating in community outreaches.

“This is Rebecca’s fifth missions trip and she knows that she has grown through her participation in these adventures,” Miro said.

Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at

Bopping around Barcelona

People stroll through historic downtown Barcelona.


The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.

— G.K. Chesterton

When our daughters, Rachel and Emily, were young, we often took them to Cape Cod or Southern Maine to vacation. I adored watching them chase hermit crabs, build sand castles and ride in the bike trailer as Mitch pedaled along tree-lined trails. Their appetite for adventure grew and we swapped shore vacations on the East Coast to trips to California, cruising on the West Coast and resort-hopping in Mexico. In high school, one daughter visited Prague and Budapest. The other flew to Rome to study in college.

In the blink of an eye they became college graduates, full-time professionals and lovely young women. Lucky for us they still love spending vacation time with Mom and Dad.

When the stars aligned and we found a slice of time that worked for everyone’s schedule, we booked a trip to Barcelona, Spain. I announced that we would be going as travelers and that we would bop around Barcelona carefree sans restrictions and reservations.

Anyone who has traveled to Europe will agree, creating an itinerary is quite simple: Wake up late. Eat. Walk. Drink cappuccino. Enjoy cultural activity. Eat. Shop. Drink wine. Eat. Enjoy cultural activity. Eat. Go to sleep when you typically would be getting up. Repeat. (Full disclosure, I may have stopped to shop a few times and Mitch capped the day at wine as much as he could.)

Lynn marchers see hope, but feel doubt

While every family needs to design a trip to meet their personal preferences, here are a few suggestions if you plan to visit Barcelona with your grown children.

Find an apartment through an outfit like Airbnb. We discovered a spacious four- bedroom two-bath apartment in central Barcelona three blocks from Passeig de Gràcia, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. It was great to have a comfortable and convenient home base to circle back to and get to live in a neighborhood where you can walk to the market and discover a special spot to enjoy breakfast. We walked everywhere giving us an opportunity to discover as travelers rather than tourists.

Get to know the neighborhoods. We were in Barcelona for six days so did not get to visit all the beautiful neighborhoods, but fell in love with these spots:

Barceloneta: A charming and colorful neighborhood located on the beach, we visited this gem one evening and had fun strolling along the streets looking for a place to enjoy dinner. We lucked out and discovered a casual dining spot befriending a local named Tito who bought us a round of drinks and shared his insider scoop.

The Gothic Quarter: Barrio Gotico was one of my favorite places in Barcelona, steeped in history and resplendent with storybook winding streets filled with breathtaking architecture. I could have spent the six days roaming around and taking photos.

La Rambla: Spain’s famous promenade, this Barcelona street sprawls on for miles. I could live on this street forever with its endless shops, cafes, street vendors and stream of people. Make it to the end and reward yourself with the breathtaking views of the port area.

We also enjoyed strolling around the museum-filled hills of Montjuïc and the bohemian neighborhood La Gràcia.

Make a list of the top attractions you want to see. Make reservations (forget that notion that you don’t need to plan. I will tell you why soon). Here are a few spots to see:

We had the pleasure of seeing Casa Batllo sprinkled with snowflakes. The exterior is one of the many testaments of Gaudi’s unique style of architecture and the interior is an illumination of a one-of-a-kind creative mastermind. The tour of the home Gaudi built for Josep Batlló, a wealthy aristocrat, is a must.

Park Guell by Gaudi is a magical place to see a spectacular view of Barcelona and enjoy a magical park full of music, mosaics, beauty and lots and lots of people.

Climb Montjuic hill and visit the myriad parks, Olympic stadium, museums and the ancient fort at the very top. Selfie city for views of Barcelona.

The Picasso Museum is a treat for art aficionados and anyone who is curious to learn more about the multifaceted art legend. More than 4,000 works are part of the permanent collection that illuminates his special bond with Barcelona.

Take a tapa tour. One of the highlights of the trip was enjoying tons of tapas. Who knew eating so many little bites adds up to so much joy?

Barcelona is a city brimming with markets. Be sure to check out La Boqueria for some mouth-watering paella and local favorites. A cornucopia of colors, flavors and surprises awaits.

We opted to see a flamenco show in the intimate and medieval setting of Palau Dalmases.

And here’s where the idea that one should be a traveler and not a tourist falls apart. We saved our trip to La Sagrada Familia, the unfinished church designed by Antoni Gaudi and the numero uno tourist attraction, to the day before we left. Instead of arranging for tickets to avoid the line, we opted to be laid back and wait in line. Only problem was that the tickets were sold out and we never got to go inside the most impressive attraction in Barcelona. The moral of the story is that while it can be much less stressful to let your trip unfold organically, sometimes you need to plan and make reservations.

Of course, we have a great story, not to mention an even greater reason to return to Barcelona.

Marblehead sticks to its gun

This 1803 Spanish Cannon is now resting in the basement of Abbot Hall in Marblehead.


MARBLEHEAD — An 1803 Spanish Cannon that somehow made its way to Marblehead after the Spanish American War has found a new home in the basement of Abbot Hall.

“It will likely be the location for the foreseeable future,” said Town Administrator John McGinn in an email. “There has been some conversations about possibly building a small structure on the grounds of Abbot Hall that could be used to display the cannon and protect it from the weather elements. If the town decides to go that direction, we would need to design the structure, identify funding and actually build it. All of that will obviously take time. In the meantime, the new location of the cannon works fine and eliminates the problems that existed with the Gun House location.”

The cannon, which was made in Spain, had been stored at the Gun House on Elm Street since it was rolled down into Salem Harbor in the 1970s. It was vandalized when it was displayed at the Waterside Cemetery at the Spanish American War veterans’ cemetery. It was recovered and refurbished by the Marblehead Artillery Company for the town’s 1976 bicentennial celebration.

When the artillery company disbanded, ownership of the cannon was transferred to the Glover’s Marblehead Regiment, a Revolutionary War reenactment group.

The cannon was captured by members of the USS Marblehead in the Battle of Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War. Folklore has it being brought out of Cuba and transported by some members of Marblehead’s Naval Militia volunteers subsequent to their return from the war.

Members of the Regiment told the Board of Selectmen last July that the cannon had been temporarily placed outside of the Gun House for the July 4 holiday, but requested it be moved, because the street is not as visible to tourists as other sections of the town.

Last month, members of the regiment came to an agreement with McGinn that the cannon would be stored in the basement of Abbot Hall, with other historical artifacts, according to Seamus Daly, captain of the regiment.

“It’s a piece of Marblehead history, so the public should absolutely have an opportunity to view it,” Daly said.

McGinn said moving the cannon to its new location accomplishes three things. It solves the problem with the old location since the cannon was placed on a right of way and couldn’t remain there. It provides protection from the weather, especially with the winter weather coming soon. And, he said, the move places the cannon in a visible public space.

“Abbot Hall is visited year round by many, both town residents and tourists, who are interested in the town’s rich history,” McGinn said in an email. “We plan to have information about the cannon’s history placed near the cannon for the public to read.”

Glover’s members worked for about four hours to move the cannon into the building, McGinn said. Work included disassembling and reassembling the piece.

Robert Erbetta, sailmaster of Glover’s Regiment, described the cannon in a prior interview as either bronze or brass. Initially the cannon was not rifled, a feature added in the mid-19th century, and was most likely taken off a garrison or ship’s carriage when it was liberated during the war. It now sits on a field carriage, which is more typical of the Revolutionary War era.

Sean Conley, a member of Glover’s Regiment, said that moving the cannon was a strenuous task with little breaks in between. It wasn’t until he and his fellow comrades got to the Old Town Hall while walking the cannon, that he realized that history was again being made.

“I think we have achieved our task and Gen. Washington would not be disappointed,” Conley said in an email. “I hope we never have to move that cannon again and maybe someday I’ll be able to take my grandchildren by Abbot Hall and tell them the story of how I was part of the regiment that got it there.”

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Lynnfield’s Mezini commits to UMass

Sarah Mezini, who has manned the No. 1 singles position for the Lynnfield High tennis team for the past three years, has committed to UMass Amherst to continue her tennis career.

By Anne Marie Tobin

LYNNFIELDSarah Mezini signed a national letter of intent to play women’s tennis at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  

The signing took place Thursday at Lynnfield High School, where Mezini has manned the No. 1 singles position for the past three years.

“I made the decision a couple of weeks ago and I am so excited to be able to play at UMass next year,” Mezini said.  “The team is amazing and has players from all around the world, including Serbia, Spain and England. I already know a couple of girls on the team, so it’s not just local players by any means.

“I know I will be at the lower end to start, but hopefully I’ll be able to work my way up and make the adjustment to the college level. (The game) is definitely played at a quicker pace, and players are that much stronger, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Lynnfield coach Craig Stone believes Mezini has what it takes to make a transition to a Division 1 program.

“She plays with intensity and is so aggressive and really loves to hit the ball hard, so I do believe she is the type of player who will make the leap to that level.  This is really the first opportunity for her to be able to hit against players who are better than she is every day,” he said.  “She’s a hard worker and a very smart player as well, so this should be a great experience for her.  Originally she thought she would be heading south, but then the full scholarship came along and that swayed her to UMass.  She wants to study pre-med, and maybe take business as well, and UMass is strong in both those areas, so between athletics and academics, UMass was a great fit for her.”

Mezini said being a left-handed player factored positively in her favor during the recruiting process, which involved tennis showcases in Ft. Lauderdale and at Brandeis University.

“Being a lefty is a huge advantage in doubles, but it also is an advantage in singles,” she said. “It’s just a huge edge because you are hitting to backhands more than forehands and also the ball spins the opposite way, away from the court so it’s that much harder for opponents to get back in position. I know that UMass was definitely interested in having a lefty, so I guess it really helped make my game that much more attractive to them.”

Mezini burst on the scene as a freshman, taking over the No. 1 singles spot and establishing herself as a force not only in the Cape Ann League but state wide as well, helping to lead Lynnfield to the 2014  Division 3 championship.  In the final against previously undefeated Notre Dame (Worcester),  Mezini dropped the first two games in her match against Tori Oates, but stormed back, taking 12 of the next 13 games to stake Lynnfield to a 1-0 lead.  Fellow freshman Katie Nevils clinched the match with a win at third singles that polished off a perfect season for the Pioneers, who finished 21-0.

Mezini, a captain-elect, is a three-time Cape Ann League all-star and a two-time CAL Player of the Year, winning the award as a sophomore in 2015 and as a junior in 2016.  She has reached the quarterfinals of the MIAA North Sectional Tournament three times and has been the recipient of the Pioneers’ Outstanding Achievement Award for the past three seasons.

Known for her aggressive “take no prisoners” style of play, Mezini has compiled a record of 51-4 in team match play and an overall record (including tournament play) of 66-7.

Workers have their May Day

Protesters begin to congregate at the Corner of Greene Street and Union Street in Lynn for the International Workers May Day March.


LYNN — More than 100 protesters took to the streets of Lynn on Sunday to support worldwide International Workers May Day.

The peaceful group marched a mile from the intersection of Union and Green streets to Lynn Commons, ending with a short rally.

Jack Damas, 14, of Lynn, said while his family is from Haiti, he was born in the U.S. May Day is his first protest and he came with friends.

“I want everyone to be equal and for everyone to have fair rights,” he said.

David Gass, director of the Highlands Coalition, a group that endorsed the event, said the marchers included immigrants and-low income workers. He said the goal of the march is make people aware of the inequality and discrimination immigrants face.

Gass, 71, of Lynn, said many people in the city spend about half of their income on rent. One of the purposes of the rally was to lobby for a $15 an hour minimum wage, which, he said, would help people keep pace with the cost of living.

Angela Arce, vice-president of the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), said through an interpreter that she immigrated from Paraguay 17 years ago. The 42-year-old Salem resident said she came in search of opportunities and has two children, both U.S. citizens.

“I started a company,” she said through an interpreter. “We employ people. We’re fighting so immigrants can live and work in better conditions for just wages and so that undocumented immigrants can get drivers licenses so that everybody can drive in safety.”

Alexandra Pineros-Shields, ECCO’s executive director, said she’s from Spain, but has been in the U.S. for 47 years. The 52-year-old Salem resident said she came over when she was 4, after her parents decided to move.

Shields said ECCO, a network of congregations on the North Shore, is concerned about the rights of workers, particularly immigrants.

“All of the fights we fought for over the last century are slowly slipping away,” she said. “Our faith traditions tell us that everyone has dignity.”

Mother and daughter Mary Rosales, 50, and Tatiana Iraheta, 13, of Lynn, are facing foreclosure. Rosales is from El Salvador and came to the U.S. to escape the hardships faced during the country’s civil war. She said one of her brothers was killed. The two are working with Lynn United for Change to keep their home.

“It’s a human right to have a roof over your head,” Rosales said.

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council and executive director of New Lynn Coalition, said support for workers is needed.

“This is a time when they’re trying to tear down the last few good jobs in America,” Crosby said. “That’s why we stopped at the Verizon offices to support their strike. We need union rights for immigrant workers.”

The local march, an annual event for about a decade, was organized by the ECCO, Lynn United for Change, Neighbor to Neighbor, New Lynn Coalition and Worker’s Center of Lynn.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Brussels sprouts concern in Swampscott

From left, Alejandra Baralt, who will lead a group of exchange students in Spain, helps Jessica Gahm-Diaz find the location just south of Madrid where they will visit.


SWAMPSCOTT — In light of recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, officials are taking a second look at next year’s planned high school field trip to Spain.

The trip, scheduled for April vacation next year, was approved at a recent School Committee meeting. But the panel insisted that Prometour, a travel agency that provides educational tours, outline its safety plan for Spain. The travel company will appear before the committee on April 27.

“All of the districts are struggling with this decision, with whether to support international travel for our students,” said Superintendent Pamela Angelakis. “A lot of districts have stopped travel.”

Amy O’Connor, School Committee vice-chair, also wanted assurance from the travel firm that students could cancel the $2,500 trip and still get their money back if there’s another attack before next April. O’Connor said that will be part of the discussion with Prometour at the meeting.

“From my perspective, my concern would be in the practicalities of the money, and if we can get the money back should there be some sort of international incident,” she said.

Terrorist attacks are unpredictable and often impossible to prepare for, even when all safety precautions are taken.

“I do think, God forbid, if something happened like what happened in Brussels, there’s almost nothing that someone can do about it except for stay home,” she said. “And I would never advocate for staying home.”

Ted Delano, a School Committee member and a detective with the Swampscott Police Department, said he has concerns about possible terrorist attacks and health issues in Europe.

“Every time there’s a field trip, I bite my nails until the time those kids get home and they’re all safe,” he said.

Before 10 to 20 students and two chaperones make the trip to Spain, Delano said there must be a plan. He would like to see a “shelter in place” policy, should something go wrong on the trip.

Delano said he has been working with trip organizer Jessica Gahm-Diaz, chairperson of the high school world language department, and Angelakis on making sure the district has contacts with the State Department and U.S. Embassy in preparation for the trip.

Although he is in favor of hands-on learning for students through international travel, his support of the trip could change if another attack were to occur.

“To me, if there was an event that transpired, then I could not support it,” Delano said.

Gahm-Diaz said the high school goes on trips abroad every year. Within the month, she said a group of students will be traveling to Nicaragua.

The trip to Spain is different, however, as it is an exchange trip. In September, students from Spain will be visiting Swampscott before the town’s students make the trip to Aranjuez, outside of Madrid, next spring.

Gahm-Diaz said the main reason for the concern is the recent attacks in Brussels. She said the main mission is to keep students safe while introducing them to the outside world, adding that this is the first time the committee has brought up safety as an issue.

With the trip, she said students will have a chance to see how kids their own age live. Students will get to see things being studied in class and will get to use their Spanish language skills in real-life situations.

“The value of the trip is priceless,” Gahm-Diaz said. “It’s really an important thing for kids to do. I would hate to see the value of the trip be overshadowed by people’s fears of terrorism.”

Alejandra Baralt, a world language teacher who is a chaperone for the trip, said the students would be staying with a host family part of the time and going to school with the students in Aranjuez.

The group will also travel to Seville, where there will be a festival with music and food. Another stop would be the Alhambra, a castle that was built for the moors. The group would also travel to Malaga, Pablo Picasso’s birthplace.

“Hopefully it will happen,” Baralt said.

Frank Kowalski, the High School’s interim principal, said the school is monitoring what’s going on in Brussels, but has every intention of going ahead with the field trip. In his nine years with the school, he said Brussels is the closest case he’s heard of that could affect student travel.

“Right now, we’re just wait and see,” he said.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

School Committee talks terror in Saugus

Parent Susan Bossi spoke about not letting fear win and be a reason to cancel students’ international trips.


SAUGUS — After hearing from several parents, students, and teachers Thursday night, the School Committee decided to leave the decision of whether or not to cancel three separate international field trips in the hands of individual families.

Amid recent acts of violence, the committee was considering either canceling the trips or looking at options for them to be held at alternative locations.
Students, teachers and parents spoke in opposition at a special meeting held Thursday. The committee voted unanimously to take no action and allow the two trips planned for April and one trip for June as long as the Turkey portion of one of the trips remained off the table.

Students attending the April trip to Italy and Greece were originally supposed to briefly travel to Turkey but the decision was made to remove that portion of the trip prior to the meeting, said Richard Lavoie a history teacher at Saugus High School.

“I’m delighted to hear that Turkey has been taken off the table,” said School Committee member Peter Manoogian. “It’s slightly north of a country known as Syria.”

Lavoie and language teacher Angela Morando are running the April Italy and Greece trip, which is planned to explore both cultural and governmental aspects related to what the students have been learning in class, he said.

“I have been teaching for 40 years and I have taken 15 trips, mostly in Europe,” said Morando. “To see my past students come and support these trips … it was very touching.”

“These trips are one of the good things that we do (in Saugus Public Schools),” Lavoie said to the committee. “I don’t want you to take that away from us. I’m passionate about it.”

During the other international trip planned for April, students will travel to London and the surrounding area, he said. It will be theater-themed and students will visit the sights of London and attend several shows. It will be organized by Theatre teacher Steve Black.

The third trip will be held in July. Students will visit France, England and Spain. Spanish teacher Chelsey Weaver is organizing the trip, Lavoie said.
Parent Susan Bossi said she dropped her children off for their first day of preschool on the same day as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As a teacher, she also said she knew teachers who worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“We can’t let fear win,” Bossi said.

She described the experience two of her children had with international field trips to be moving and unlike anything else.

“The four walls of a classroom just can’t contain it,” she said.

“The world is a dangerous place but so is walking down the street,” said Aymen Rajeh, whose daughter Dalia is signed up for one of the April trips. “As a parent, I worry. All parents worry about their kids.

“Them having the opportunity to go on these trips is tremendous,” he said. “It opens their eyes to things we would not see.

“With all due respect, the decision should be ours to make,” Rajeh said.

“If you change (the trip) to Disney (World), who is to say it’s not going to happen in Disney,” said his wife, Reem Rajeh. “We didn’t get to enjoy (traveling) as kids. We want her to get to enjoy it.”

“Last year I went on the trip to London, Paris, and Amsterdam,” said Alexandria Lembo, a junior at Saugus High School. “Three months prior to the trip there was an attack on a Paris newspaper company.

“The EF tour guide knew exactly what he was doing and I felt completely safe,” she said. “We shouldn’t let the nerves of other people get in the way of our education.”

“If not now, when (will they get the opportunity to travel),” said parent Brian Dion. “Statistically they are safer there than they are here right now.”

Others wrote letters to the committee, which Acting Superintendent Matthew Malone read aloud for the group. They contained phrases including “do not let the terrorists win, this is what they want” and “Cancelling these trips tells the kids it’s ok to let terrorists win.”

Representatives from the travel agency through which the trips have been scheduled, EF Tours, also attended the meeting to address concerns.

Diana Ryan and Kerryann Driscoll explained that the insurance many students purchased covers pre-tour issues, medical, property damage, and on-tour emergencies. If the district were to decide to travel and individuals chose to cancel, they could be subject to cancellation fees.

“At this point, we have put in a tremendous amount of work with Saugus Public Schools,” Ryan said.

There is also a Peace of Mind option, which could allow the district to chose a different destination. Peabody chose to enact the option, she said.

In the state of Massachusetts there are a handful of districts that are having discussions with the agency about possibly making changes to their plans, said Driscoll.

Committee member Elizabeth Marchese stressed the importance of making a decision solely based on safety and not based on money that could potentially be lost. Other committee members, parents, and teachers agreed.

Ultimately, the committee decided to take no action. It was also decided that the policy subcommittee will review the policy currently in place for international trips.

“This leads me to the opinion that the School Committee should not be in the business of canceling trips,” said Committee member Arthur Grabowski. “It should be up to the parents. I don’t want to be responsible should something happen. If we disapprove, parents will be upset.”

Spain’s reign as defending World Cup champion ends

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — With its superstars aging and its loyal coach slow to blend in young talent, Spain’s glorious reign as the superpower of world football was bound to end.

The Spanish weren’t favored to repeat as World Cup champions. But few expected the utter collapse that ended Wednesday with a 2-0 loss Chile, knocking Spain from contention and ending the run of the greatest team of the century.

Chile’s pace and skill produced a dominating win similar to so many Spanish victories over the past six years. Spain was outplayed, out-run and out-fought.

The 5-1 beating by the Netherlands Friday was shocking and foretold where coach Vicente del Bosque’s team was heading: Home.

“If you think about everything accomplished, and you told me we would be eliminated in group stage, I wouldn’t believe you,” del Bosque said.

“We have no excuses. It’s a sad day for all of the players.”

Six of Spain’s squad has played at least 100 national team games while winning the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

“Success is not eternal,” said Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli, whose hyperactive energy around the dugout was shared by his team. “This generation could not continue with that success and you can understand it.”

“It’s very special the fact we were able to play today against the World Cup champions the way we did,” Sampaoli said, and “eliminate them with courage, intensity and attack.”

Del Bosque acknowledged that his players were “too slow, timid from the start.”

Chile twice came close to scoring in the first 90 seconds, and led in the 20th minute when Eduardo Vargas finished a slick move of incisive passing that was truly Spanish in its execution.

The second followed in the 43th when Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas punched a free kick to the feet of Charles Aranguiz, who fired a rising shot right back past the veteran captain, who took much of the blame for the loss to the Netherlands.

“I only ask fans for forgiveness, we did everything we could,” said Casillas. The 33-year-old came to the World Cup after a second straight season as second-choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid and a glaring error in its Champions League final win last month.

Spain came to Brazil with a very similar — but older — team to the 2010 squad. They added Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa, but he failed to score and was substituted in both matches.

Spain’s “tiki-taka” style of play — keeping the ball for long stretches with short passes, and only shooting when you had a clear opening — had not been working as well in recent years. Brazil defeated Spain 3-0 in last summer’s Confederations Cup final, a warm-up for the World Cup.

Spain became the third straight European defending World Cup champion to flop in the group stage. France in 2002 and Italy four years ago also failed to advance, or even win a match.

Spain can at least end that streak in a consolation game Monday against Australia. Chile and the Netherlands will play to decide the Group B winner. Both will advance to the final 16 knockout round, but the winner will be seeded higher.

Xabi Alonso, another Spanish veteran, will likely not start against Australia. He was replaced with 22-year-old Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke after an agonizing first half.

Alonso gave away the ball to Alexis Sanchez to start the move down Chile’s right wing by Arturo Vidal and Aranguiz, leading to Vargas’ score. Trailing behind the play, Alonso put his hands to his head.

He was booked before conceding another foul, forcing a free-kick that led to the second goal. And his usual accurate passing was off.

Other Spanish players were also guilty of wayward passing and woeful finishing.

Early in the second half, potential momentum shifts were lost when Diego Costa was slow on Andres Iniesta’s threaded pass and Sergio Busquets volleyed wide in front of goal.

“We didn’t do anything different to what we did in South Africa or the two Euros,” said forward Fernando Torres, ineffective as a second-half substitute. “We came with the same mentality, approaching the games the same way.”

Perhaps the Euro 2012 final was the high point of the era: A 4-0 dismantling of Italy on a similarly balmy evening in Kiev, Ukraine.

Then, the team was joined in locker-room celebrations by Crown Prince Felipe. He could not be in Rio de Janeiro. One hour after the match ended in the Maracana, at midnight in Madrid, he formally became king upon the abdication of his father, Juan Carlos.

On Thursday, Spain will wake up to a new king, but no longer rulers of world football.