Superintendent Pamela Angelakis

New Swampscott principal ‘a perfect fit’

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — After a nearly two-month search, Hadley Elementary School has a new principal.

School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has announced Ilana Bebchick as the new principal of the elementary school, effective July 1.

“Ms. Bebchick’s experience and successes as an instructional leader, collaborative approach, and diverse background make her a perfect fit for the Hadley School community,” Angelakis said in a statement. “I look forward to having her as a member of my leadership team and wish to welcome her to the Swampscott Public Schools.”

Bebchick is the former principal of Liberty Elementary School in Braintree and assistant head of school at The Meridian School in Seattle. She also has 14 years of experience from her time as a bilingual elementary classroom teacher in grades 1 to 3, a fourth grade classroom teacher, a field supervisor, and instructional coach, Angelakis said.

Bebchick has a bachelor’s from Tufts University and a master’s in education from Boston University.

“I am so excited and honored to be joining the Swampscott Public Schools as the principal of Hadley Elementary School, “ Bebchick reportedly told the superintendent. “I thoroughly enjoyed meeting district administrators and Hadley students, staff and parents during the interview process and look forward to starting in my new role this summer.”

Swampscott looks to fill Hadley needs

Bebchick could not be reached for comment.

A search committee, comprised of the director of curriculum and instruction, Clarke and Stanley School principals, and Hadley School teachers and parents, presented Bebchick as one of two finalists to Angelakis.

The vacancy was created after Stacy Phelan, Hadley’s principal for the past three years, announced her resignation in April after accepting the same position at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown.

Phelan cited the poor condition of the Hadley School building as one of her main reasons for leaving. She previously said that the building has been difficult to manage because of the maintenance. She said she wanted to focus on teaching and learning, and “while that is very much what we want here in Swampscott,” the building itself has taken her away from a lot of that work.

Following the resignation, Angelakis released a statement that “losing a principal of Stacy’s caliber with her many skills and talents is truly unfortunate” and that “our community needs to understand that our school district will continue to lose talented and skilled leaders who are passionate about educating our children if we do not tackle the issue of our significantly deficient elementary schools.”

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statement for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

Angelakis said the school district is working on a transition schedule with Phelan and Bebchick before the end of the school year, along with some parent coffees and/or meet and greets.


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

 

2 incumbents out in Swampscott

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Michael McClung photographs the election results as Laura Spathanas looks on.

SWAMPSCOTT — The Town Election had a low voter turnout on Tuesday, but featured two upsets, with the chairs of the Board of Health and the Trustees of the Public Library losing their seats.

Emily Cilley, a registered nurse, defeated Martha Dansdill, 678 to 579 for a seat on the Board of Health. Dansdill is the current chairwoman on the board, which she has been on for three terms and nine years.

Herrick Wales, a schoolteacher in Marblehead and chairman of the Library Trustees, was defeated by Ellen Winkler, an attorney in Marblehead and president of Friends of the Swampscott Public Library. Winkler, who was elected for a three-year term, received 619 votes to 567 for Wales.

The third contested race on the ballot was for School Committee, which saw the two incumbents, Suzanne Wright and Gargi Cooper, retain their seats for a second, three-year term, holding off a challenge from Melissa Camire. Wright was the top vote getter, receiving 876 votes, Cooper received 774 votes, while Camire had 524 votes.

Voter turnout was 13 percent.

“It’s been my privilege to serve on the Board of Health for these nine years,” said Dansdill, the former executive director of HealthLink, a North Shore environmental nonprofit organization, who now serves on its Board of Directors. “I wish Emily Cilley much success on the board.”

Cilley, who works for Northeast Clinical Services and as a substitute nurse in town, said she felt “amazing” after winning a seat on the board, and that she didn’t know what to expect before the results. She said she felt nervous, as Dansdill has been on the board for a long time, but was delighted.

Cilley, who was elected to a three-year term, said two issues she would be focused on are the opioid crisis and the health of the children in town. As a substitute nurse, she said she sees children in the schools, and gets to see all of the concerns happening.

“I want to focus on the health of our children and making sure we are aware of what their stresses are,” Cilley said.

When running, both Library Trustee candidates said it was an exciting time for the library, which is in the midst of its yearlong centennial celebration. The building on Burrill Street turned 100 on Jan. 20. The Friends group finances library programs and is funding the celebrations. Winkler said she would have to step down as president for her new role, but could remain a member of the Friends group.

“That’s wonderful,” Winkler said upon hearing the results. “I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m really glad.

Transforming the city’s waterfront

“I hope people will continue to celebrate the library this year and pay attention to what a great resource it is,” Winkler continued. “I look forward to working with people and making great plans for the future.”

She said her focus would be on figuring out how to use the library space in the best way possible.

“I want to congratulate Mrs. Winkler on her election as Library Trustee,” said Wales, who was running for a second, three-year term. “She is an avid supporter of the library and she will devote her energies and talents to further enrich our great library.”

Wright said she was excited to be re-elected to School Committee. She said her focus would be on facilities, a technology plan for the schools, a new school building, and getting the budget under control.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, one for replacement of Hadley Elementary School and the other with the intent to renovate Swampscott Middle School.

Cooper said she was happy and excited, and grateful for the votes and support from the community. To move the school district forward, she said continuity on the board is the best way. For her next term, she said her focus would be on technology, facilities and stabilizing the budget.

In an uncontested race for Board of Selectmen, Naomi Dreeben and Laura Spathanas, chair and vice-chair respectively, were re-elected for a second, three-year term.

“I feel great,” Dreeben said. “I’m excited about what the next three years is going to hold for us and I’m pleased to be working with Sean (Fitzgerald), our new town administrator.”

For her next term, Dreeben said she will work hard to support the school’s vision and plans. She hopes to be able to do some economic development to be more proactive about bringing new businesses to town.

Spathanas said “it’s an honor” to be elected to the board. She said she hopes she can take the fact that she and Dreeben didn’t have any competition as people being happy that they are serving them and with the direction the town is going. She said her focus would be on a long-term capital plan, looking at the master plan, and prioritizing what the town needs and wants.

Another uncontested race was for Planning Board. Angela Ippolito, chairwoman, was re-elected for a second, five-year term. The Town Moderator race was also uncontested, with Michael McClung re-elected for a second, one-year term.


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

 

Swampscott principal blames building for exit

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT – Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan is citing the poor condition of the building as one of her main reasons for leaving for the same position at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown.

Phelan, 49, has been principal of Hadley School for three years. She will be leaving for her new job in July. During her tenure with Hadley, she said the maintenance of the building has taken up the majority of her management time.

“My leaving Swampscott is due to the fact that the building has been a very difficult building to manage due to the maintenance of the building,” Phelan said. “I always look forward to the next chapter, but it’s bittersweet because I feel like there could have been a little bit more work here before moving on, but I did feel overwhelmed by the building management.”

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Superintendent Pamela Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statemsent for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

Angelakis could not be reached for comment.

Phelan said she wants to focus on teaching and learning, and what she likes most about being a principal is being in the classroom. “Although that is very much what we want here in Swampscott, the building itself has taken me away from a lot of that work,” she said.

Phelan said she is out of her expertise in managing the infrastructure of the building. This year, she said she’s been managing a boiler replacement project and has been focused on the structure and quality of the building, rather than the education of the students.

She learned on March 31 that she would become principal of Lowell Elementary. Despite the building’s challenges, she said Swampscott has been a wonderful, rich community to work in.

“I was looking for a larger school that has more elementary grades offered in it and (was) looking for a change based on just curriculum initiatives,” Phelan said.

Lessons learned in Malden

John Brackett, interim superintendent of Watertown Public Schools, said Phelan will be replacing Phil Oates, the interim principal of Lowell Elementary School. He said the search process started in February, and yielded about 50 applicants. Two rounds of interviews were held, first with eight candidates and then with three finalists.

“We were just very impressed with her experience both in Swampscott and her experience with various schools she served in Lynn,” Brackett said. “She brought a lot of experience and knowledge about working in different kinds of schools. We were very impressed with her leadership abilities. We found her to be extremely knowledgeable around curriculum, instruction and assessment. What we’re really looking forward to is not only her high energy and her wonderful interpersonal skills, but we’re looking forward to her instructional leadership to help Lowell School continue to move forward.

“She just rose to the top,” he continued. “From day one, we just knew that this was going to be a great match for Lowell School.”

Brackett said the school has gone through some leadership transition, and there have been four principals in five years. He said the district was looking for her to come in and bring some stability to the position, as well as really focusing on the students and continuing a strong culture of working with the parents.

Phelan lives in Lynn with her husband, Tim. They have two children, a junior and senior in college. Before her time at Hadley, she spent three years as vice principal of Connery Elementary School in Lynn. She was at the school for five years in total. Before her time at Connery, she taught in various elementary schools in Lynn. Her teaching career started in 2001.

Phelan received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Salem State University.


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

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.

Swampscott wants new schools

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are seeking state support for a new school building, more than two years after the town rejected a district-wide elementary school.

“I will be submitting two Statement of Interests (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by the deadline of April 7,” Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said in an email. “Hadley School will be the primary submission, while I will also be submitting one for the middle school. The reason behind the two submissions is to demonstrate that Swampscott has a long-range vision for its schools. We’ve spent the last two and a half years reflecting on the last process and developing an Educational Vision K-12.”

In the statement of interest, the district is asked to identify perceived deficiencies in a school building, and also indicates what type of project it thinks is appropriate. The SOI is completed by districts seeking MSBA funding, according to the MSBA website.

Carin Marshall, school committee chairwoman, said the intent for Hadley Elementary School would be for replacement and a new building, while the interest for Swampscott Middle School would be for renovation. The new building to replace Hadley could potentially be the same size or larger, but those details haven’t been determined yet, she added.

The intent with a new school building, Marshall said, is to align with the educational vision. The K-12 educational vision, presented in November 2015, outlines the preferred educational model for Swampscott Public Schools, with that being grade level consolidation. Grade level groupings were determined by developmental, academic and social emotional needs. School officials determined that fifth grade belonged with the elementary level, rather than middle school, as the preferred model.

The existing public school configuration is preschool, three K-4 elementary schools — Hadley, Clarke and Stanley — a grade 5-8 middle school and a grade 9-12 high school. The preferred new configuration would be a pre-K to 2 early education center, grade 3-5 elementary school, grade 6-8 middle school and a grade 9-12 high school, according to the educational vision.

Conceivably, the new school could be part of that goal, possibly a K-2 school, Marshall said, but plans are uncertain at this stage. She said the most likely scenario is a new elementary school, as that is the highest need.

Marshall said the middle school needs some serious renovation, including all new windows and roofs, and would need to be brought up to today’s educational standards. Even though the building is relatively modern, as it was built in 1958, she said “it is still very different from what you would build today for educational needs in 2016.”

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Hadley School is the oldest school building in town and why it’s the primary statement of interest, Marshall said. She said an example of the building’s current condition would be the large amount school officials are paying to replace all of the boilers in that school just to keep it heated and safe for the children.

The cost of the project is more than $400,000. She said the money there is an example of how the building is negatively affecting the town. Conditions at Hadley have caused students to miss school in the past.

“We’re constantly having to put money into this building that’s far past its useful life,” Marshall said. “We’re spending money to keep these buildings limping along and it’s ultimately not fair to the students or all the taxpayers in town. We have to address these issues.”

Going forward, Marshall said all of the K-8 students need new or upgraded facilities.

The effort started after the failed Town Meeting vote in 2014 for a consolidated elementary school on the site of Swampscott Middle School on Forest Avenue. A task force was put together, made up of people for and against the new school, with the intent to put another statement of interest in.

In July 2014, the MSBA gave final approval for a district-wide elementary school in Swampscott. The plans included building a new school for grades 1-4 on land adjacent to the middle school. Clarke School would have been converted to house pre-kindergarten to kindergarten. Stanley School would have been demolished with the land converted to athletic fields and playgrounds. The proposed project cost $52.6 million, and the town would have been responsible for approximately $35 million.

The proposal had to pass two votes, a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting and a town-wide ballot vote requiring a simple majority. Town Meeting voted 140-98 in favor of the school in October 2014, falling short of the two-thirds majority. The school was rejected by more than 2,500 votes on the ballot initiative that year.

“In 2014, the community was presented with a plan without much conversation to address their concerns,” Angelakis said in an email. “Moving forward, once the SOIs are submitted and while we wait to hear if we are accepted back into the program, there will be outreach to the community. The plan for community outreach right now includes community forums, building tours, meetings with individual town boards and committees.

“It’s important to note that no site has been selected at this time and that site determination comes as part of the feasibility study when and if we are accepted by the MSBA,” Angelakis continued.

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the statements of interest on March 22. The Board of Selectmen would also have to approve the statements before the April 7 MSBA deadline, Marshall said.

If Swampscott is accepted by the MSBA, Town Meeting would have to approve funding for a feasibility study. Once the study is completed, architects would be hired to design the building and then Town Meeting would have to approve funding the school. A ballot vote would also be needed for the project.


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

Swampscott plugs school spending gap

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — After months of scrambling to bridge a significant spending gap, and with the help of an 11th hour increase in town allocation, the School Committee approved a balanced $30.41 million FY18 budget Wednesday night.

The FY18 budget represents a 2.2 percent change over last year’s amount. School officials struggled to achieve a balanced budget, and initially faced a $1.722 million spending gap.

Officials were able to reduce the gap to $275,000, a figure they had been working with for weeks, after $726,000 in salary reductions and $721,000 in expense reductions. Still faced with a substantial gap to fill, the option of eliminating free full-day kindergarten was floated, much to the ire of many parents in town. A tuition full-day model was proposed with a free half-day program.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis and other school officials spent part of their public budget discussions lobbying town officials for more than the projected $750,000 increase in town allocation, arguing that the figure wouldn’t even cover their anticipated salary increases.

The school committee is currently in contract negotiations with the Swampscott Education Association, the teachers’ union, which has rejected a proposed contract, and is potentially seeking higher raises.

Their lobbying was answered, as the Board of Selectmen approved a $67.63 million town budget last week, opting to allocate an additional $200,000 to the schools, or a $950,000 increase over last year. The selectmen approved allocating $28,197,500 to the schools.

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To bridge the remaining $75,000 gap, Evan Katz, school business administrator, said the town will take over the school’s snow removal costs, which allows that $40,000 be allocated elsewhere, and expenses have been further reduced by $35,000. He said that included custodial supplies and utilities.

Angelakis said last week the additional town allocation will be used to continue to fund the full-day kindergarten program for the next school year.

Katz said the increase in town funds is actually $1.2 million, rather than $950,000. Other town support includes taking on $100,000 of the school maintenance expenses, paying half, or $46,000 of the shared facilities director salary, and allowing the schools to hold onto the $64,000 that would have gone toward the 53rd week of payroll for FY18. There are only 52 weeks in that year, and the funds will be allocated elsewhere.  

Katz said the town support allows the schools to meet a $400,000 maintenance goal, which is sorely needed for aging buildings.

The budget reserves $200,000 for high growth programs such as high school science, English language-learners and special education, Katz said.

Some cuts have included eliminating about five teacher positions. The special education teacher position at Hadley School has been eliminated, elementary health content is being moved to the physical education program, the middle school red, white and you class is getting the ax, high school Mandarin is moving to online-only in the midst of being phased out, a METCO clerical position is being absorbed into an existing staff person and one-third of the middle school reading program is being curtailed, Katz said.

An unpopular decision among the school committee is the decision to raise athletic fees by $75 for students. But Angelakis said fees have not been increased for nine years, and the $80,000 it would generate was necessary to balance the budget.

The town budget is subject to further conversation with the Finance Committee before ultimately coming back to the selectmen for final approval. Town Meeting members will vote on the budget, which is still subject to change, in May.


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

All-day K safe for now in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT —School officials can rest easy after the town budget allocated enough to the schools to take free all-day kindergarten off the chopping block.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a $67.63 million budget last week, which is subject to further conversation with the Finance Committee before ultimately coming back to the board for final approval. Town Meeting members will vote on the budget, which is still subject to change in May. The FY18 town budget, as it stands now, is a 1.2 percent increase over last year.

Town officials opted to allocate an additional $950,000 to the schools, $200,000 more than the projected increase in recent months, which contributes significantly to closing their anticipated $275,000 budget gap. When faced with that gap, school officials were considering eliminating free all-day kindergarten, and instead switching to a tuition full-day model, with a free half-day program.

“At last night’s board of selectmen meeting, the board recommended a budget that included additional funding for the school department,” said Superintendent Pamela Angelakis in an email last Thursday. “This additional funding will be used to continue to fund our full-day kindergarten program for the next school year. This is wonderful news and I am grateful for the town’s continued support. Keep in mind that this is only the first formal step in the budget process and it will not be official until a vote on the budget at Town Meeting on May 15.”

The School Committee is scheduled to vote on their $30.49 million FY18 budget on Wednesday. After revolving grants and funds are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. With the increase, the town allocation is $28,197,500, leaving the schools with a $75,000 budget gap. Evan Katz, school business administrator, said school officials are evaluating how to fill the remainder of the gap.

Selectman Peter Spellios said the town has provided the school department with increases well in excess of what other areas of the town budget have received in the past several years.

“The problem with this is that it’s not sustainable,” Spellios said. “We are robbing Peter to pay Paul … The reality for us is that in order for us to have increased the funding, we have now just underfunded some town programs. We have deleted initiatives. We have taken things away.”

Spellios said the selectmen decided to allocate the additional funds in the face of losing all-day free kindergarten. But he said next year, the discussion may not only be kindergarten, but also about cutting AP English, two items that are on the superintendent’s list.

School officials are still in the midst of contract negotiations with the Swampscott Education Association, the teacher’s union, which recently rejected its proposed contract and is potentially seeking higher raises. In December, Katz projected there would be $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers, based on a then-anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.

Before ultimately settling on an additional $200,000 to the schools than was initially projected, town officials expressed an uneasiness with advocating additional funds, if it would potentially go toward payroll, rather than programs such as full-day kindergarten. As 80 percent of the school budget is already devoted to salaries, Spellios said last month that contractual increases were outpacing the revenue the town could give to the schools.

That sentiment was echoed by Carin Marshall, chairwoman of the school committee, last month after teachers representing the union gave prepared statements defending their decision for turning down their contract. Teachers said the rejection was based on several factors, the least of which was monetary, and that they didn’t feel respected as professionals. They also questioned how an initial $1.6 million school budget gap at the start of mediation when salary bargaining was underway became $275,000 after a tentative agreement was reached.

To reduce an initial $1.6 million budget gap to $275,000 before last week’s increase in town allocation, there have been revenue increases of $240,000, personnel transition savings of $200,000, program reductions of $314,000, and the $300,000 budgeted for the unknown amount of students who may join the district and require special education services has been eliminated.


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

Asking ‘If Only’ in Swampscott

ITEM FILE PHOTO
An audience reacts to a January 2017 showing of “If Only” at the Marblehead Veterans Middle School Performing Arts Center.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan said the town is not immune to the opioid epidemic and addiction.

Building on the work of the Swampscott Overdose Response Team, the police department and town will be bringing more awareness to the issue on March 9, with the screening of the short film, “If Only,” which highlights the dangers of prescription drug and opioid misuse and abuse. The film will be shown at Swampscott High School at 7 p.m.

The film is presented by the Mark Wahlberg Foundation and was produced by Executive Director James Wahlberg. The screening will be followed by an interactive discussion about drug use and addiction, featuring a panel of local experts, a licensed physician, people in recovery from addiction, and family members who have lost a loved one to the disease. Discussion will include where to find a detox or inpatient facility, and where people can turn to for help afterwards. Questions will also be taken from the audience.

“We would like to start a conversation to help break the stigma associated with drug use and addiction,” Madigan said in a statement. “This is a Swampscott problem and it is happening here and we are not immune to it.”

In Swampscott, there were 17 overdoses in 2015 and 25 overdoses in 2016. There were eight fatal overdoses during that time frame. In 2017, there have been three overdoses, according to police.

The Overdose Response Team was formed by the police department in 2016. Members include Madigan, Detective Rose Cheever, Officer Brendan Reen, School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis, Health Director Jeff Vaughan, Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, Interim Town Administrator and Department of Public Works Director Gino Cresta, Fire Chief Kevin Breen, Deputy Fire Chief James Potts, and Mary Wheeler, of Healthy Streets Outreach Program, along with other officials and emergency personnel.

Following overdoses, Reen, Cheever and Wheeler go to residences to conduct “door knocks,” or follow-ups with the families afterward.

“It is not an easy phone call to make when a loved one needs help,” Madigan said in a statement. “We are trying to make that easier for people.”

Cheever said with the door knocks, sometimes people are more comfortable talking with Wheeler, rather than police officers. She said it’s hard for people to trust police because they may feel like officers are only there to charge them. She said the visits are about providing them with follow-up services.

“Once we go there, it does break the ice,” Cheever said. “We have been able to get people into treatment and stay off the drugs. Yes, there’s been some relapses and we’re back there again, but I think that’s part of the addiction.”

Cheever said the work of the response team and the point of showing the film, followed by a panel discussion, is to break to the stigma. She said people should know that they can reach out. She said people shouldn’t be embarrassed about addiction and it shouldn’t be a problem behind closed doors.

“We’re hoping that we’re able to get people to come out,” Cheever said of the event. “I know it’s a tough subject for some people and that’s why we’re trying to open the door for communication.”

Marblehead talks about hope and recovery


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

Swampscott grapples with education spending

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT With school officials still scrambling with how to bridge a $275,000 budget deficit, the Swampscott Education Association, the teachers’ union, fought back after taking some heat from town officials last week for rejecting their proposed contract, and potentially seeking higher raises.

Parents are not happy that the school department is considering transitioning full-day kindergarten to a half-day program at no charge. Parents would have to pay tuition for the full-day program. School officials have asked the town to increase their allocation to bridge the gap instead.

Teachers representing the union voiced their concerns in prepared statements to the school committee Wednesday night.

“In recent weeks, teachers have been described as budget busters and likened to video game characters gobbling up resources, when in reality, you can easily check the facts and see that Swampscott does not spend an extraordinary amount of its budget on public schools when you compare us to districts around the state most like us,” said Allison Norton, a teacher at Stanley School, who spoke on behalf of the union.

Norton was referring to a comparison made by Peter Spellios, a selectman, at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, who said he would not advocate for allocating more town funds to the school department, if it would potentially go toward payroll, rather than keeping programs, such as full-day kindergarten. As 80 percent of the school budget is already devoted to salaries, he said contractual increases are outpacing the revenue the town can give to the schools. He compared it to feeding a Pac Man that keeps eating the programming.

“Town officials have the audacity to suggest that any renegotiating of a contract with teachers will jeopardize free, full-day kindergarten,” Norton said. “In fact, the school committee and administrators were considering charging for free full-day kindergarten well before the contract ratification failed. And for the record, the Swampscott Education Association wholeheartedly supports free access to full-day kindergarten.”

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said it was not true that school officials were considering charging for free full-day kindergarten beforehand. She said that was something decided in the 11th hour when cuts were being looked at to bridge the deficit.

The committee was initially scheduled to vote on their proposed $30.49 million FY18 budget Wednesday. Instead, the committee postponed that vote until Feb. 16, until after the town budget is presented at the Board of Selectmen meeting Feb. 15.

After revolving funds and grants are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. But the town is only allocating an additional $750,000 from last year’s amount, or $27,997,500. Therein, lies the $275,000 deficit.

School officials are faced with a scenario where the $750,000 increase in town allocation is not enough to cover their teacher- and staff-anticipated salary increases. In December, Evan Katz, school business administrator, projected there would be $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers, based on a then-anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.

Catie Porter, a Swampscott teacher speaking on behalf of the union, disputed that figure. She said the proposed raise would not increase salary by $960,000, but by approximately $200,000. The remainder is salary advances due to teachers staying in the district or advancing their degree.

After overwhelmingly rejecting their contract, the teachers’ union issued a statement that the members questioned the dramatic change in statement about the budget deficit, which was reported at $1.6 million at the start of contract mediation when salary bargaining was underway and was more recently pegged at $275,000 after a tentative agreement was reached.

Nancy Hanlon, SEA president, issued a further statement that the rejection was based on several factors, the least of which was monetary, and that the union believes that teachers are not being treated with respect as professionals. Those statements were echoed Wednesday night by teachers speaking on behalf of the union.

Carin Marshall, chairwoman of the school committee, said salaries, which total 80 percent of the school budget, have grown to dollar amounts that exceed what the town can afford to allocate to the school district each year.

For the past two years, she said, the town has given the schools unprecedented increases in allocation, which it has informed them is not sustainable and cannot continue. To address the issue, she said the committee decided that salary increases would be held to a 1.5 percent limit.

Marshall said successful negotiations within that 1.5 percent salary increase limit occurred with other staff, including administrators and the superintendent. She said the teachers were offered a package with 1.5 percent raises, and budget constraints were shared.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that Swampscott does not value our teachers or the work that they do,” Marshall said. “I have seen and heard statements that money was not the only or most important factor in why the agreement failed. I cannot speak to that. What I can say is that I was present for that year’s worth of negotiation sessions and I can categorically say that in every instance, it was all about the money. There were many other issues and items discussed on both sides, but in the end, they were always tied back to the money.”

Also discussed was how potential half-day kindergarten would work. Martha Raymond, director of student services, said after noon, kindergarten teachers already cannot introduce new curriculum during a full-day program. From 8:15 a.m. to noon, the schedule wouldn’t change at all. She said parents have expressed concern that a full-day tuition program would mean daycare after 12 p.m., but she said that wasn’t true. Between 12 and 2:15 p.m., Raymond said teachers are working on the social emotional development of kids.

“It does not mean I support it,” said Angelakis of half-day kindergarten. “This is just a discussion. It is not a vote of support.”

To reduce the initial $1.5 million budget gap to $275,000, there have been revenue increases of $240,000, personnel transition savings of $200,000, program reductions of $314,000, and the $300,000 budgeted for the unknown amount of students who may join the district and require special education services has been eliminated.

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

Swampscott teachers turn down contract

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials already grappling with a $275,000 budget deficit are seeing an additional obstacle after the Swampscott Education Association, the teacher’s union, rejected their proposed contract and could potentially seek higher raises.  

School officials held a public forum on their proposed $30.49 million FY18 budget last week. After revolving funds and grants are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. But the town is only allocating an additional $750,000 from last year’s amount, or $27,997,500. Therein, lies the $275,000 deficit.

School officials are faced with a scenario where the $750,000 increase in town allocation is not even enough to cover their teacher- and staff-anticipated salary increases. In December, Evan Katz, school business administrator, projected there would be $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers, based on a then-anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.

Parents are not happy that to bridge the $275,000 gap the school department is considering transitioning full-day kindergarten to a half-day program at no charge. Parents would have to pay tuition for the full-day program.

Many of the same parents who voiced their opposition to that option last week to the school committee repeated those concerns to the board of selectmen on Wednesday night. School officials have asked the town to increase their allocation to bridge the gap instead.

Selectman Peter Spellios said the board, made up of parents of children in Swampscott Public Schools, is sympathetic to the talk around preserving full-day kindergarten.

But, he said, since the budget was presented at the public forum last week, the teachers’ union voted not to ratify their contract, which was negotiated with the school department. He said it was his understanding that part of the reason given was that the union found it “suspicious” that the school was miraculously able to take a $1.5 million deficit and make it a $275,000 gap.

Initially, school officials were faced with a $1.5 million projected budget deficit. Through some cuts and fee increases, the deficit was reduced to $275,000.

Spellios said he would not advocate for allocating more town funds to the school department, if it would potentially go toward payroll, rather than keeping programs such as full-day kindergarten. He called union leadership irresponsible that they would reject the contract because they thought that there was more money on the table for them. He said 80 percent of the school budget is already devoted to salaries, and added that contractual increases are outpacing the revenue the town can give to the schools. He compared it to feeding a Pacman that keeps eating the programming.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said without ratification of the contract, or the Memorandum of Agreement, budgeting an unknown increase for potential raises is difficult, if not impossible.

“If the union were to attempt to negotiate a higher increase, then yes, the current deficit would increase,” Angelakis said in an email. “I support the board of selectmen’s position. If more money were allocated to the schools, I could not allow it to be used for anything other than (kindergarten) programming because it’s the right thing to do.”

The Swampscott Education Association issued a statement on its Facebook page on why they “overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract.” The SEA said there was no language in the contract to protect the professional autonomy and educators’ judgment and no language giving educators sufficient voice in school-based decisions.

“The members of the SEA question the dramatic change in statement about the town’s deficit, which was reported by town officials as $1.6 million at the start of mediation when salary bargaining was underway and was more recently pegged at $275,000 after a tentative agreement was reached,” the statement said. “Please support your Swampscott educators as we head back to the bargaining table.”

Nancy Hanlon, SEA president, was asked if the union would be seeking higher raises. She said it feels that in the midst of mediating a fair contract, it would be unethical to issue a full statement.

“However, we want to be clear that the rejection was based on several factors, the least of which was monetary,” she said in an email. “The SEA believes that teachers are not being treated with respect as professionals.”

To reduce the initial $1.5 million budget gap to $275,000, there have been revenue increases of $240,000, personnel transition savings of $200,000, program reductions of $314,000, and the $300,000 budgeted for the unknown amount of students who may join the district and require special education services has been eliminated. School officials say eliminating free full-day kindergarten is a last resort.

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

Swampscott tries to bridge a gap

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Parents are not happy that the $275,000 school budget deficit could threaten free full-day kindergarten.

Under a scenario where the budget deficit is not eliminated, school officials are exploring an option to transition full-day kindergarten to a half-day program at no charge. Parents would have to pay tuition for the full-day program.

Katie Holt, who recently moved to Swampscott, and has a daughter who will start kindergarten in the fall, said the idea of going from full-day kindergarten to a half day bothers her in many ways. She wondered what kind of burden that would place on the first grade teachers if their students didn’t learn enough in the previous grade.

Claire Beckett said she moved to the seaside town about a year ago partly for the good school system. She got emotional at the thought of losing full day-kindergarten for her 2½-year-old child.

“As a working mother, it feels incredibly regressive to lose full-day service for me,” Beckett said. “We can do better than that.”

Parents such as Holt and Beckett spoke at a public hearing for the FY18 school budget, held during a school committee meeting on Wednesday.

But officials say cutting kindergarten is a last resort and that they’ve been scrambling for weeks to come up with ways to eliminate the initial projected $1.5 million deficit. Through some cuts and fee increases, the deficit has been reduced to $275,000.

“When we had the $1.5 million gap, we were faced with bad choices, all of them being bad choices,” said Superintendent Pamela Angelakis. “And it came down to, if we need several hundred thousands of dollars, what is the least of the bad choices? That’s where kindergarten tuition came in (to) this discussion. Do I want to go there? I absolutely do not. Do I believe it’s the right thing to do? I absolutely do not. And given that the gap is getting smaller and smaller, my hope is that we don’t have to go there. It would set our district back tremendously.”

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School Business Administrator Evan Katz presented a $30.49 million budget to a room of more than 100 residents. After revolving funds and grants are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. But the town is only allocating an additional $750,000 from last year’s amount, or $27,997,500. Therein lies the $275,000 budget deficit.

In mid-December, school officials were faced with a darker situation. Before Angelakis and her administrative team started cutting into the budget, the projected FY18 school budget exceeded available revenue by $1.5 million.

To get that gap down to a more reasonable amount, Katz said there have been revenue increases of $240,000, personnel transition savings of $200,000, program reductions of $314,000 and the $300,000 budgeted for the unknown amount of students who may join the district and require special education services has been eliminated.

One increase will be in athletic user fees and is projected to save the district $80,000. As a result, each student will be paying an additional $75 to play each sport. Currently, athletic user fees only cover about 30 percent of the cost to run the school district’s sports programs. With the increase, Katz said the fees would cover 40 percent of the cost. The district covers the rest of the cost.

“The idea that athletic user fees are only covering 30 percent of the actual cost, while we’re talking about cutting full-day kindergarten is something I cannot support,” said Amy O’Connor, school committee vice-chair.

Three teacher retirements are anticipated, which saved $100,000. An unfilled technical director position has been eliminated, saving another $100,000.

For program reductions, Katz said about four additional teacher positions are expected to be eliminated, along with the administrative assistant position in the METCO program. The Hadley Elementary School special education job is being cut, as the student population there doesn’t require one, he said.

Elementary health will merge into the physical education program. The middle school red, white and you class is getting the ax. Mandarin is switching to online only.

“I think that it’s important to notice this is going to have a ripple effect on the world language program,” said Jessica-Gahm-Diaz, head of the school world language department.

Gahm-Diaz predicted larger class sizes for French and Spanish, with Mandarin potentially getting phased out. With potential class sizes of 30 students, classes would be unable to go to the language lab, which only has 28 computers.

Another large piece of reducing the deficit, Katz said, was eliminating the $300,000 set aside for students who may come into the district and need out of district services for special education. He said officials are pretty comfortable with the money set aside for students the district is currently educating, and can’t afford to set aside any money for students who may move into the district in the next 18 months.

“We have weathermen who can’t predict the forecast and we’re expected to predict special education students 16 months ahead of time,” Angelakis said. “To add an additional $300,000 into our budget for unknown costs is ridiculous and it’s the way we’ve been doing it in the district for years. So, that is a huge change and one that I’m in support of.”

Katz said as a backup, school officials are recommending that the town fund a special education stabilization fund, which would be money set aside for students requiring those services who may come into the school district. The fund would require a Town Meeting vote.

Despite the work done to close the deficit, school officials are saying the $750,000 increase in town allocation is not even enough to cover their teacher- and staff-anticipated salary increases. In December, Katz projected there would be $960,000 in projected salary increases for school employees and teachers. He said officials are trying to raise people’s awareness that the school committee has done a good job of negotiating favorable contracts with staff.

“I think the message I’m putting out there tonight is we need a little bit more help than that $750,000,” Angelakis said. “If that doesn’t even meet the salary requirements that we’re contractually obligated to give, how are we supposed to balance the budget?”

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the budget on Feb. 8.


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

Swampscott is building a case

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT School officials are seeking state support for one or several new school buildings in Swampscott.

Suzanne Wright, a member of the school committee, said town officials plan on submitting a statement of intent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by the April deadline. Superintendent Pamela Angelakis is leading a task force devoted to planning new schools.

“The statement of interest would just have to say we need a new elementary or middle school,” Wright said.

Wright said there would likely be statements of interest for both. She said there are more than 20 options being floated around by members of the task force.

Some options could include building a new elementary school to replace Hadley School, building a consolidated elementary school to replace the three operating ones, or building a new middle school because the current one has issues, Wright said.

Wright said the superintendent and her leadership team have deemed that a consolidated K-5 model is the best option. Another option would be a consolidated elementary school, with one building for K-2 and another for grades 3-5. But she said more buildings mean more difficulty in receiving MSBA funding.

“We’re going to submit to the MSBA because we need a new school, but what we get approved for is sort of out of our hands,” Wright said. “Right now, it’s like throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.”

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New facilities are needed and aging infrastructure in existing buildings needs to be fixed, Wright said. Collectively, the elementary schools are older, but the middle school has space issues.

Wright said the effort started after the failed Town Meeting vote in 2014 for a consolidated elementary school on the site of Swampscott Middle School on Forest Avenue. A task force was put together, made up of people for and against the new school, and the intent was always to put another statement of interest in.

In July 2014, the MSBA gave final approval for a district-wide elementary school in Swampscott. The plans included building a new school for grades 1-4 on land adjacent to the middle school. Clarke School would have been converted to house pre-kindergarten to kindergarten. Stanley School would have been demolished with the land converted to athletic fields and playgrounds. The proposed project cost $52.6 million, and the town would have been responsible for approximately $35 million.

The proposal had to pass two votes, a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting, and a town-wide ballot vote requiring a simple majority. Town Meeting voted 140-98 in favor of the school in October 2014, falling short of the two-thirds majority. The school was rejected by more than 2,500 votes on the ballot initiative that year.

Wright said the previous effort for a consolidated school may have failed because of the change in superintendent leadership, as the statement of interest was submitted by Angelakis’ predecessor. Another contributing factor could have been that the school would have been on the Forest Avenue site along with the current middle school, which would have caused congested traffic and reduced outdoor play space.

With 20 options on the table, Wright said a consolidated elementary school is still a favorite. She said the superintendent has been educating the school district on some of the benefits, including the cost-effectiveness of consolidation.

If the statement of interest is approved by the MSBA, Wright said Town Meeting would have to approve funding for a feasibility study for officials to look at sites that would be viable for the new school or schools. Once the study is completed, architects would be hired to design the building, and then Town Meeting would have to approve funding the school. A ballot vote would also be needed for the project.

“If we get the statement of intent approved, we’re in a much better position to move forward than we were last time,” Wright said.

Angelakis was unavailable for comment.


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

Swampscott in search of $1.6m eraser for schools

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are scrambling to come up with ways to erase a $1.6 million budget deficit.

Swampscott School Business Administrator Evan Katz said the projected FY18 school budget exceeds available revenue by $1.6 million. He said school officials have been notified that the town’s allocation increase for the school budget is roughly $750,000. Last year, the town allocated an additional $1.1 million to the schools.

Katz said the $750,000 town increase won’t even cover the projected $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers. The school district is in the midst of teacher contract negotiations, and the figure is based on an anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.

“The school committee has done a really good job of negotiating favorable contracts with staff,” Katz said. “The town needs to understand that $750,000 doesn’t even cover our favorable contract settlements.”

Another $700,000 is needed to fully fund the FY17 budget, which was underfunded in areas such as facilities maintenance and special education tuition and transportation. He said those areas that were underfunded last year need to be planned for in the upcoming budget.

The third major area driving the deficit is the projected additional $700,000 needed for anticipated budget increases such as special education and facilities.

Katz, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis and the School Committee are faced with cuts in the budget or raising fees to reduce expenses, if they can’t count on more town funds. Katz said a staff vacancy might not be filled when an employee leaves, and staff and programming cuts are likely with the size of the budget gap.

“We want to maintain the educational quality we have,” he said. “We don’t want to cut positions. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to affect the quality of classroom instruction. At the same time, we want to settle the teachers’ contracts.”

Angelakis said cuts and other options to reduce expenses is not the direction she wants to see the district moving forward, but said the reality is in the numbers.

The school leadership team will present some options to reduce expenses to the school committee at their scheduled Jan. 11 meeting.

“We’re sort of in a crunch and feeling it hard and sort of wanting the town to know what we’re feeling,” said Amy O’Connor, school committee vice-chair.


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

A calming effect in Swampscott

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
A student takes a moment to meditate in between classes at Swampscott High School.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT Students at Swampscott High School are encouraged to take a breather before some of their classes.

Peter Franklin, an English teacher and mindfulness instructor at the school, said there’s been a mindfulness initiative at the school for about three years, which has been expanding annually. Mindfulness is a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, sensation and surrounding environment.

The expansion of the mindfulness program at Swampscott High School fits into Superintendent Pamela Angelakis’ initiative to focus on mental health. In October, two new programs were unveiled at the school, including one aimed at helping students transition back to high school after they have been hospitalized.

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Swampscott Integrated for Transition (SWIFT) is specifically designed to address the needs of students re-entering school after absences, due to serious mental problems or medical illness.

The Harbor Program is a special education plan for students with emotional disabilities that provides a supportive learning community with direct case management to facilitate student progress.

Franklin said mindfulness work has also been done with students in those programs, as a means of bringing them better social and emotional health.

The English teacher said the approach helps teens with time management, puts the brakes on negative runaway emotions, such as thinking a poor test score means an automatic poor class grade, and reminds them that everything will be OK. But it’s not a solution to every problem.

“There’s nothing magical about this,” Franklin said. “It’s not a cure-all. It’s something that’s very practical. It’s very accessible and can be as simple as just breathing, something we do all day, every day … It really just gives people, especially students, permission to just take a breath.”

This year, a schoolwide initiative has begun, championed by Franklin, school psychologist Craig Harris, and school adjustment counselor Sarah Kelley. Franklin said the effort has included working with the school’s TV production program to put together short clips of different mindfulness activities, such as meditation and breathing exercises, which will be distributed to faculty members.

The teachers can then either play the videos directly in their classrooms, or use them as training tools for instruction on how to bring the activities to their lessons. Ten clips will be prepared.

Franklin also runs workshops for faculty, giving them mindfulness tools to bring into the classroom, which included a personnel development program he ran in the summer for instructors from the district’s elementary schools to the high school.

Franklin, who is certified through the Mindfulness in Schools Project and Mindful Schools, begins each of his classes with mindfulness exercises. A typical exercise, he said, begins by him ringing a little chime, with his students getting into a nice, comfortable, position, closing their eyes and resting their hands, which brings the focus back to their breathing.

He said it’s a great way to start class and bring calm to the hectic five minutes between classes when students are racing around. It also allows teens a chance to relieve some of the stress they may feel from exams and college applications, bringing some calmness into their lives, he added.

“It’s a great way to allow them to decompress for a moment, just to stop and let go of everything that’s happened in the day so far, and move forward,” Franklin said. “I find it’s a great energy shift from one class to the next.”

He’ll frequently guide his classes through a brief meditation. All of his seniors have a gratitude journal, which they write in every day, mindfully expressing their appreciation for good things. His students also enjoy coloring breaks.

Another activity several times a week is called pocket goodness, where teens write one good thing that happened during the day on a piece of paper, fold it and put it in their pocket to refer to if they hit a rough patch later on.

Other faculty at the high school also practice mindfulness in their classrooms, including some in the English department, the health teacher and one of the language teachers, who is also a yoga instructor, and does exercises in Spanish with students.

Franklin said Robert Murphy, the school’s principal, has also embraced mindfulness, and allows time at faculty meetings for the activities.

Mindfulness in schools in not unique to Swampscott. Nearby Marblehead High School began its program two years ago, which also includes brief exercises before some classes, and has expanded to include a Zen room, where students can go during their study halls for guided meditation. Franklin is working on finding the space for the addition of a similar room in Swampscott.


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

Breaking news: Hillary wins*

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Kyle Marlin, left, and Sophie DiGrande work the check-out table during mock election at Swampscott Middle School.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — They may not be old enough to vote, but Swampscott Middle School students had their voices heard on Monday.

The middle school held a mock election, where 720 students and some staff members voted. In charge of the polls in the school’s library were Natalie Paine, the computer teacher, and Abby Rogers, the seventh grade social studies teacher.

Throughout the day, seventh-graders checked in students to vote and then tabulated the results into a spreadsheet that provided graphs that refreshed as ballots were counted.

“We get to see what goes on when adults vote,” said 12-year-old Marin Mercer when she was checking out students.

Sophie DiGrande, 13, a seventh-grader checking out students with Mercer, agreed. She said the process lets them know what they’ll be doing when they turn 18.

All students voted for president. Seventh- and eighth-graders voted on all four ballot questions, while sixth grade ballots included all questions except for Question 4, the legalization of recreational marijuana, and fifth-graders only picked between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump for president.

“I think it’s important that they have a voice and share their opinions,” said Rogers. “They get their information from their parents, the media and their school, so it’s nice that they’re able to share their opinion.”

To prepare during class, students have been reading magazine articles, watching some video clips and there’s been some time devoted to breaking down the questions.

The results at the middle school were lopsided. Clinton, the former secretary of state, won with 58.9 percent, while Trump, a businessman, garnered 25.5 percent of the popular vote.

“I voted for Hillary,” said 12-year-old Hanna Mouhsin. “I agree with most of her views on immigration and deportation.”

Lydia Cutillo, 13, said she voted for Trump because she likes how he thinks. Emma Bragan, 12, said she voted for Trump because she was swayed by her family and she thinks Clinton is going to raise taxes.

“I’m not voting for Trump,” Bragan said. “I’m just voting against Hillary.”

Students were not in favor of a second slots parlor, defeating the proposal 62.7 percent to 37.3 percent. They also voted against more charter schools and legalizing recreational marijuana, 72.8 percent to 27.2 percent and 63.6 percent to 36.4 percent respectively. But they were in favor of Question 3, with 79.7 percent voting to prohibit the sale of eggs, veal or pork of a farm animal confined in spaces that prevent the animal from lying down, standing up, extending its limbs or turning around.

Mouhsin voted against lifting the cap on charter schools.

“For charter, we’re paying for higher education we don’t have access to and I don’t think that’s right,” she said.
But Milena Mnatsakanyan, 12, said she is in favor of charter school expansion. She got accepted to Marblehead Community Charter School, but decided on staying with Swampscott Middle School because she has more friends there.

“I feel like we should have more charter schools,” she said.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said the hands-on process of the mock election teaches students what it is like as an adult.  

“At a young age, it’s important for them to know the responsibilities they have as a United States citizen, and voting is a right and a privilege,” she said.

*In Swampscott Middle School


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

Swampscott has high grades for superintendent

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pamela Angelakis

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has received a raise, based on a positive evaluation from the Swampscott School Committee.

The school committee unanimously approved a 1.5 percent raise for Angelakis on Wednesday night. Before the raise, her salary was $158,488, according to School Business Administrator Evan Katz.

The $2,377 raise, for a new $160,865 salary, is effective immediately, and retroactive to last July. Last year, Angelakis received a 2.25 percent raise, increasing her $155,000 former salary, Katz said.

“We really want the people of Swampscott to know that she has a 1.5 percent (raise), but this isn’t indicative of anything less than a job very well done,” said Amy O’Connor, school committee vice-chair. “If we were in a different financial situation, she would have a larger raise, but we just can’t do that at this time.”

The 27-year veteran of Swampscott schools was hired as superintendent in January 2014. Before that, she served as assistant superintendent for more than a year. Angelakis was also principal of Stanley School for eight years and was a teacher before that.

Angelakis received a “proficient” on her evaluation from the school committee, which was unanimously approved at the end of September. O’Connor said the superintendent met expectations across the board, with some areas where she was strong, and others that she was growing towards.

“All in all, she did well,” O’Connor said.

One notable strength for Angelakis in the review is an exemplary response to crisis situations. O’Connor said that more specifically refers to incidents such as the disgraced former Swampscott High School Principal Edward Rozmiarek and a hazing incident involving football players from the school.

Rozmiarek resigned in 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 said that he was actually corresponding with a decoy from a nonprofit group called the Perverted Justice Foundation.

Another related strength listed for the superintendent is that she has shown leadership and flexibility in the realignment of the middle and high school leadership. Following Rozmiarek’s departure, Angelakis appointed Assistant Principal Frank Kowalski as interim principal through June 2016. Later, she appointed Robert Murphy, the former principal of Swampscott Middle School, as the high school principal for this school year. Jason Calichman, the former assistant principal of the middle school, was upgraded to the principal. She has said she hopes both will apply when their respective positions are posted.

Other notable strengths included her being transparent and open in all professional matters, creating and maintaining a positive and cooperative relationship with town government and diligent work to build a strong central office team.

Areas listed in the review that Angelakis needs to develop include technology vision and planning, a focus on site visits and the development of a communication strategy.

“Technology continues to be a major concern for all members of the school committee and will continue to insist that this be a major focus for the superintendent and the district,” the committee wrote in its review. “It is understood that successful completion of this goal was impeded by staffing issues in the technology department. The committee hopes that sufficient reorganization of that department will allow for forward progress to me in the upcoming year.”

Suzanne Wright, a school committee member, wrote in her review that Angelakis has improved her communication with the community, but she wanted to see more regular updates on the superintendent webpage and more internal communication with the school committee. But her overall review was positive.

“Overall, Ms. Angelakis continues to have a positive impact on the function and reputation of the SPS (Swampscott Public Schools),” she wrote. “This year saw the beneficial impact of central office reorganization, the hiring of a joint facilities director, human resource coordination, director of curriculum and instruction, and the smooth transition of a new director of student services. The central office seems to be running with many more efficiencies than ever.

“I appreciate Ms. Angelakis’ high expectations for all students, all staff, and especially for herself,” Wright continued. “I am hopeful that she will continue to challenge school practices that have been in place for a long time.”

Angelakis could not be reached for comment in time for the Daily Item deadline.


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

SWAMPSCOTT COACH QUITS AFTER ARREST

By Adam Swift

SWAMPSCOTT — The boys high school soccer coach has resigned after being arrested in Lynn on Wednesday.

Eric Robinson, 34, of 19 Overlook Ridge Drive in Revere pleaded not guilty in Lynn District Court Thursday to a charge of committing an unnatural act.

On Friday, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis’ office confirmed that Robinson had resigned as the boys soccer coach. The School Department had no further comment.

Robinson was arrested shortly before 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday after allegedly picking up a woman in an area known for prostitution activity on Union Street.

According to a police report filed in court, Robinson and the woman, Glenna Tress Maher, 29, homeless of Lynn, drove to the entrance of High Rock Park and engaged in a sex act in the car near the park.

According to the police report, Robinson and Maher parked at the end of the circular traffic island near the foot path to the park. The park was open and there were several families with small children in the area.

The pair made no effort to conceal their act and “chose to park their vehicle in a well-lit area that was highly frequented by pedestrian and vehicular activity,” according to police.

Two Lynn officers approached the car and arrested Robinson and Maher without incident. Maher was also charged with committing an unnatural act.

Robinson is due in court again on Dec. 12 for a pretrial hearing.

The Swampscott boys soccer team’s record sits at 9-3-1 and has already qualified for the state tournament. The team was scheduled to play at Saugus Friday night.

MRSA outbreak in Swampscott schools

Swampscott High School (Item file photo)

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Three cases of MRSA, a staph infection, have been diagnosed at Swampscott schools in recent weeks.

Two of the cases were diagnosed at Stanley Elementary School and one case was reported at Swampscott High School. All students are under treatment by a physician and the schools have consulted with the state’s public health department and the Center for Disease Control for guidelines on how to handle the situation, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said in a letter sent home to parents on Thursday.

Angelakis stated that she does not believe the infection was contracted at either school and that it’s unlikely the transmission of the bacteria was from student to student. But as a precaution, a company was hired to clean and sterilize all surfaces at Stanley School and the high school on Thursday under the supervision of Garrett Baker, operations and maintenance supervisor.

“As always, it is the discretion of parents/guardians whether or not to send students to school, but know that the safety of students is our first concern and we feel that there is no need to cancel or close the schools as all precautions have been adhered to,” Angelakis said.

“Staph” is commonly found on the skin or nose of healthy or ill people. Typically, 25 to 30 percent of the population is carrying a type of staph bacteria, but only 1 percent of people will have MRSA. Staph infections can appear as pimples, boils or abscesses and may be mistaken for “spider bites,” Angelakis said.

MRSA is most frequently spread by direct skin contact or with direct contact to wound drainage of someone carrying or infected with bacteria. It is not an “airborne virus.”

“If your child develops a sore or infection which seems to get worse rather than heal, contact your physician for evaluation and please inform the school nurse,” Angelakis said.


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

Swampscott High provides a place to heal

Swampscott High School. Item File Photo

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott High School is putting the focus on mental health.

On Oct. 5 at 6 p.m., there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at the high school for two new programs aimed at providing a supportive environment for students suffering from mental or emotional health concerns.

Last March, plans for a transition program for students were presented at a school committee meeting. A major component of the program is to transition students back to high school after they have been hospitalized. The hospitalizations could be for mental health issues or physical conditions that have caused them emotional stress.

At the time, Craig Harris, school psychologist, said 12 students had been hospitalized last school year, but updated numbers were not provided on Tuesday. Five of those students had been hospitalized multiple times.

Today, that transition program has a name, Swampscott Integrated for Transition (SWIFT), and is specifically designed to address the needs of students re-entering school after absences, due to serious mental problems or medical illness.

In the United States, one in five adolescents has a serious mental health disorder and 5 to 9 percent of teens have mental health concerns so severe that hospitalization and prolonged absences from school become necessary, according to information provided by Superintendent Pamela Angelakis. These at-risk youth disproportionately drop out of school, attempt suicide, abuse alcohol and drugs and function poorly at home, school and socially.

Swampscott is joining about 40 high school transition programs throughout Massachusetts. The school, which has an enrollment of about 700 students, is partnering with Brookline Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) for technical assistance. Swampscott has created the first transition program on the North Shore based on the BRYT model.

Transition programs work to support students returning to school, helping them to adhere to treatment plans, avoid relapse and stay in school. SWIFT offers students a small, comfortable environment, where they can access individualized academic and emotional supports. It is intended to be a short, 8-12 week program, which will include intensive communication with parents, educators and outside clinicians.

The Harbor Program will also be spotlighted next week during the ceremony. Harbor is a special education program for students with emotional disabilities that will provide a supportive learning community with direct case management to facilitate student progress. Students will work with staff to develop emotional regulation skills, while managing academic expectations and pressure. Counseling is an integral part of the program, along with close home-school communication. Harbor will also be a home base for students, providing assistance throughout the school day.

With Harbor and SWIFT, Stephen Walsh, special educator, will act as academic coordinator, Harris will provide clinical support and Andrea Jordan will offer general program assistance.


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

Sanborn lends assistance in Swampscott school

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Lori Sanborn, an eighth grade social studies teacher, is the next assistant Swampscott Middle School principal.

“She is a leader even among teachers,” said Superintendent Pamela Angelakis. “Her love for the students, her energy, enthusiasm and experience make her an asset to my leadership team.”

Sanborn, of Gloucester, has been an eighth grade social studies teacher for 13 years. She has worked at Swampscott Middle School since 2006. Prior to that, she taught in the same position at the Andrews Middle School in Medford.

“I have always known that I wanted to be an administrator at some point in my career,” Sanborn said in an e-mail. “The idea of being able to have an impact beyond my own classroom walls has always appealed to me. I have truly enjoyed every year that I have spent in the classroom as an eighth grade social studies teacher. However, the prospect of becoming the assistant principal at a school that I feel so connected to, and working with Jason Calichman, a person that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, is the opportunity that I have been waiting for.”

In March, Calichman, assistant principal of the middle school, was named interim principal for the next school year. The vacancy occurred because Robert Murphy, the former middle school principal, was appointed as the interim principal of Swampscott High School. Angelakis said she hopes they will apply for their respective positions after the school year. Each has said they intend to apply.

With Murphy’s appointment, Frank Kowalski, interim high school principal for the past school year, will return to his former role as assistant principal. Lytania Mackey will remain as high school assistant principal.

There was a vacancy at the high school because Edward Rozmiarek, former principal, resigned in 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 said he was actually corresponding with a decoy from a nonprofit group called the Perverted Justice Foundation.

Sanborn said she is unsure of whether she’ll apply for the position after the upcoming school year. She is looking forward to being a positive role model for all of the school’s students, rather than just the eighth-graders. But she sees the challenge in that as well.

“I think that my biggest challenge will be going from an environment where I could so easily get to know all 100 of my students on a personal level to trying to get to know about 750 students on that same level,” Sanborn wrote. “Another challenge will be balancing the needs of over 60 staff members, some of whom I’ve never really had the pleasure of working closely with.”


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

Swampscott looks inside for assistance

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Swampscott High School.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Superintendent Pamela Angelakis continues to hire internal candidates to fill administration vacancies at Swampscott Middle and High School.

Angelakis said at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting that High School Interim Principal Frank Kowalski would return to his former role as assistant principal while Assistant Principal Lytania Mackey would remain in her position.

“Mr. Kowalski and Ms. Mackey are important members of my team,” Angelakis said in an email. “They have been working with our high school students for a long time and they are invested in our students both emotionally and academically.”

Previously, Angelakis considered the possibility of having only one assistant principal at the high school. But the controversy involving Edward Rozmiarek, the former high school principal, and the teacher evaluation process at the school made her rethink her decision.

Rozmiarek resigned in 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 said that he was actually corresponding with a decoy from a nonprofit group called the Perverted Justice Foundation.

Angelakis appointed Kowalski as interim principal of the high school from January until June. He had served as the school’s assistant principal since 2010.

Mackey remained at her post as assistant principal over that same time period, where she has served since 2012. Previously, she had also spent a year as the high school’s Dean of Students and Curriculum. Before that, she was a science teacher.

Robert Murphy, principal of Swampscott Middle School, was appointed in March as the interim principal of the high school for the next school year.

Angelakis said the other factor that contributed to sticking with two assistant principals relates to the teacher evaluation process at the high school.

“Years ago, department chairs at the high school level had evaluative responsibilities,” Angelakis wrote in an email. “In this last contract, their teaching load was increased by one class and the evaluative duties were removed from their responsibilities. This makes it difficult to have only two administrators, who would be responsible for 85 or so evaluations of staff members without any assistance. We haven’t been able to reverse this change through the collective bargaining process thus far, this spring.”

Amy O’Connor, vice-chair of the school committee, said the decision to stick with Kowalski and Mackey is a good one.

“I am pleased that Lytania and Frank are staying through the changes and have agreed to stay at the school under Bob Murphy’s leadership,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s a testament to Bob’s leadership skills and their commitment to the community.”

Following the reshuffle, a vacancy remains to be filled at the middle school.

In March, Jason Calichman, assistant principal of the middle school, was upgraded to the school’s interim principal for the next school year.

Angelakis said she has gone internally to hire the middle school assistant principal. She said there are many teachers at the school who have administrative experience, but there was one person interested in the position. That female teacher will leave the classroom for a year, and that teaching position would be replaced for a year, she added.

The superintendent said she won’t name the hire until later this week, but was impressed by the teacher’s knowledge of the middle school and administrative experience. She is also excited by the candidate’s enthusiasm.

Angelakis plans to post the high school and middle school principal positions in December. But said she hopes Murphy and Calichman will apply. Filling the administrative positions following Rozmiarek’s departure is not something that came easy to her, she said.

“I’ve struggled with this plan for a really long time,” Angelakis said.

Kowalski and Mackey could not be reached for comment.


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

Swampscott graduation celebrates class (of ’16)

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Class President Zoe Petty gives  the President’s address while Valedictorian Anna Hunt listens.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The High School Class of 2016 has staying power, which was celebrated on Sunday when they received their diplomas.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis praised the 159 graduates for their resilience, which she defined as the ability to bounce back and recover quickly from difficulties. She said their senior year had been a challenging one, but compared their ability to keep going to learning how to ride a bicycle without training wheels.

“Why did you all succeed?” Angelakis said. “Because of resilience.”

English teacher Peter Franklin said his classes featured breathing exercises and meditation. He said the strategies helped reduce anxieties among his students, but acknowledged that they might have told their parents that he was often the source of their stress.

Franklin said the graduates may be taking different paths, attending different colleges, going straight into the workforce or into the military.

“We all have one thing in common, to be happy,” Franklin said. “That’s the one thing that drives us.”

There are two main contributing factors to happiness, he said. A person must be grateful and should take a moment each day to think of anything going well in their life. The other component to happiness is to be mindful. He said gratitude and mindfulness will lead to success, happiness and a blessed life.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” said Class President Zoe Petty, a Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program or Metco student from Boston. “For me, it took a small town and a big city.”

Valedictorian Anna Hunt said she and fellow graduates appreciate growing up in a town and culture that values education and freedom. She quoted William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” with “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players.”

The graduates will play the lead role in each of their lives, Hunt said. She told them that when they make mistakes, they can get back in the game, or not. But if they don’t get back in the game, they’ll merely be on the sidelines.

“The game doesn’t stop,” Hunt said. “It invites us to keep playing.”

Frank Kowalski, interim principal, told graduates that part of the game of life is learning how to lose, which develops and creates character.

“Losing has more lessons than winning,” he said.

Sara Cunningham, the student speaker, said Swampscott High School has shaped who all of the graduates are and who they will become. She couldn’t help but realize that graduation would likely be the last time she will be together with all of her classmates.

“We are each other’s histories,” Cunningham said. “And that history starts today.”


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

Drink+drive=disaster: Swampscott delivers a sobering message

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Members of Swampscott High School’s theatre club acting in the school’s mock DUI accident.

BY DILLON DURST

SWAMPSCOTT — High schoolers learned a painful lesson on Monday when they witnessed what can happen if you drink and drive.

Police cruisers, ambulances and fire engines converged at the scene of a mock accident at Swampscott High School’s parking lot to “find” a flipped-over car and a second severely damaged vehicle with two students trapped inside.

They were pulled from the upended vehicle and police performed a field sobriety test on the teens. Both were placed in handcuffs and escorted to the rear of a police cruiser.

The Jaws of Life was used to remove the roof of the second vehicle to get to its four injured passengers.They were pulled from the car and one was placed on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance.

The presentation ended with a victim being taken away by a hearse, followed by a video of a drunk driver’s booking at the police station.

Swampscott Police Detective Rose Cheever said she’s hopeful that students will think twice before drinking and driving or getting in a car with someone who is drunk.

“What they saw is truly what happens when we show up after a horrible incident like that,” she said. “I think it really hit home.”

Cheever, in collaboration with the Swampscott Fire Department, Cataldo and Atlantic Ambulance Service and Students Against Destructive Decisions Students Against Drunk Driving organized the event to demonstrate what can happen when they choose to drive drunk.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said she hopes Monday’s presentation will send a message to students of just how serious impaired driving is, especially with prom approaching.

“They need to see that small decisions can have enormous consequences,” she said.

Lynnfield High juniors Katie Nevils and Andrew Bunar, two of Monday’s actors and members of their school’s theatre club, said they hope the presentation shows students that the value of human life should come first instead of the fear of getting caught drunk driving.


Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

Swampscott gets a fix on schools

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Clarke Elementary School

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The School Committee recently toured the district’s schools and gave the teachers and programs an A, but ranked the buildings’ conditions below average.

The district has three elementary schools including Hadley, Stanley and Clarke, a middle school and the high school.

Ted Delano of the School Committee said he presented the idea of a walk-through to his fellow members and Superintendent Pamela Angelakis, as a way to see the district’s strength and weaknesses. A tour would also let committee members see each school’s day-to-day operations.

Delano said he was struck by how the students, teachers and administrators are adapting to issues presented daily at their respective buildings, such as size and technology.

“We do have some issues that are in front of us that are not going to be going away,” he said. “We have to see how we go forward as a district.”

School committee members wrote a report, penned by Suzanne Wright, that said teachers are making the best of unsatisfactory facilities as a constant throughout each building.

Some of those issues including sharing a classroom, vacuuming water after it has rained in order to teach kindergarten and delivering reading instruction in a converted guidance space.

Other things committee members saw were speech therapy lessons in a large closet and teaching art in a former locker room, complete with a kiln in the shower stall.

Only in the high school, the district’s newest building, did they consistently see spaces designed for their intended use. But they were also met with staff and students adapting to less than optimal conditions, such as drainage back-ups in bathrooms, garbage cans collecting rain water dripping from ceilings and out-of-date technology.

“The majority of the district’s operating budget is dedicated to salaries, educational programming for our wide range of students and energy costs,” Wright wrote on behalf of the committee. “Over the years, the rising cost in these three areas has necessitated decreasing the funds allotted for building upkeep, repair and renovations.”

To get a handle on the facilities, Wright wrote that the committee and town have hired a facilities manager to establish a town-wide maintenance program.

Chairwoman Carin Marshall said the buildings lack enough space for all of the things the district wants to do. She said more space is required for special education, physical therapy and small group instruction, among others.

“It’s no shock to anyone that four out of the five buildings are very old and in need of a lot of work,” Marshall said. “We absolutely need a new building at this point.”

Committee members wanted to see all of the different programs first hand. While those programs are discussed at length during meetings, Marshall said it is different to see them in action.

One of the programs is the Balanced Literacy Program, guided and shared reading and writing, which is just a few years into its infancy, and takes place at the elementary and middle schools.

She said she was most impressed by the level of interaction between the students and teachers. Marshall said students were so involved in their lessons in some classrooms, that they didn’t notice the school committee members walking in.

Delano said it was eye opening to see the size of the English Language Learners program. The district has 80 of those students, representing 18 languages and the challenges of educating those students to succeed in a classroom while they are learning English, Wright wrote.

In a phone interview Wright said that her biggest takeaway was how teachers are adapting to situations they shouldn’t have to adapt to, adding that students are doing lessons in hallways because there are no classrooms for pull out spaces.

“They’re doing a great job, considering the hurdles they leap every day,” she said.


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

What time is it? School superintendents consider later starts

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Students arriving at Peabody High School.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

Switching to later school start times boosted student performance, say Revere educators, but not all North Shore superintendents are ready to endorse the idea.

In Revere, Superintendent Dianne Kelly said the district switched to later start times five years ago. She said the high school starts at 8:18 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday and at 7:50 a.m. the rest of the week. Before the change was made, school started at 7:50 a.m.

Kelly said the change was possible because the district went to four periods a day, which reduced the passing time between classes. The minutes saved allowed for the later start times twice a week.

In Swampscott, school starts later than neighboring school districts.

“We are not discussing later start times as our high school students begin their day at 8:10 a.m.,” said Superintendent Pamela Angelakis. “Most districts that are moving towards the change have students starting well before that and from what I’ve read, are moving to between 8 and 8:30 a.m. start time.”

In Revere, the change was made because administrators knew the students would benefit, she said. In the last five years, achievements at the high school have increased, which she attributes partly to the two days of later start times.

“Scores have gone up,” Kelly said. “We have been seeing a steady increase in our performance over the past five years,”

Kelly said there have been no further discussions on having the high school start later the remaining three days a week. For one district to start later on its own is difficult, she said, because athletics and competitions would have to match up with competing schools.

One group of superintendents in Massachusetts is pushing for later school times.

Last month, the Middlesex League of Superintendents, comprised of a dozen superintendents from Middlesex County, advocated for later high school start times, between 8 and 8:30 a.m. by the 2018-19 school year. Today, the first bell at those schools ring from 7:30 to 8 a.m. After-school competitions would be scheduled so as to not disrupt school time.

“The research is clear on this topic that later school start times best support the social and emotional needs of our high school students,” the superintendents wrote.

Recent research, including a 2014 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that insufficient sleep in adolescents significantly affects the health and safety of the nation’s middle and high school students, as well as their academic success. The report said earlier school start times, before 8:30 a.m., is a key contributor to insufficient sleep among students.

Researchers found that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students, regarding physical and mental health, safety and academic achievement.

At Peabody High School, classes start at 7:15 a.m. But Herbert Levine, Interim Superintendent, said he would like to see school start later. He said the discussion for later school start times is nothing new, as he was part of the same talks years ago as Salem superintendent.

“The research has been around for years,” Levine said of later start times. “It’s something that I think we should all be doing.”

Levine said later school times would have to be something discussed with other superintendents in Essex County, rather than by just one school district, citing extracurricular sports starting later as a concern. He supports later school start times in theory and concept.

“For the most part, kids have a better track record of getting in on time and are wider awake and better able to deal with the later times,” Levine said. “Their academic performance and I think their attitude improves. It’s just common sense.”

In Lynn, high school starts at 7:45 a.m. and Superintendent Catherine Latham said there are no plans to change it.

At Marblehead High School, the day starts at 7:55 a.m., which Superintendent Maryann Perry said is later than some districts. She said the issue is not under discussion.

Kevin Fahey, a visiting professor at Salem State University and former principal, said he has spent the last 12 years working with different schools across the country. He has seen different experiments in schools with later start times. He has also seen some districts flip their elementary and high school start times, adding that younger students are typically earlier risers than teenagers.

“The later start times for high school kids and earlier start times for elementary schools are best for performance,” Fahey said.


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

Brussels sprouts concern in Swampscott

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
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.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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 gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Swampscott approves budget for schools

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT —  The Swampscott School Committee unanimously approved a FY17 budget of $30,048,607 Thursday night at their regular meeting.

The budget will next appear before the the Finance Committee, which will make its recommendation, before it is voted on at Town Meeting in the spring, according to School Business Administrator Evan Katz.

The $30,048,607 budget is an increase of $1,954,885, or 6.96 percent over the FY16 budget of $28,093,722.

Town funding allocated for the budget is $27,522,500, which is an increase of $1,366,500, or 5.2 percent increase over those funds contributed to the FY16 budget.

“The town increase is unprecedented,” said Carin Marshall, chair of the School Committee.

Marshall said the increase in town funds allowed the programming to stay the same in the school district. According to budget information assembled by Katz, the budget maintains existing programs and class sizes in the district.

“Their support is invaluable,” Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said of the town. “It’s allowing us to maintain the programming we have.”

The remaining funding in the budget comes from the revolving account —  $317,225 —  and from grants —  $2,208,822. The remaining amount of the Gelfand Grant, or $180,392, will be depleted.

Although the budget was approved, Marshall said line item amounts can still move around within the budget in the coming months.

Additional resources added to the budget include a library/media teacher position shared by the three elementary schools —  Clarke, Hadley and Stanley —  at a salary of $60,000. An English Language Learners teacher position was added at $60,000, with the location of where that teacher will teach to be determined.

“Our English language learner population has grown tremendously over the years,” Angelakis said. “We continue to not meet the state requirements for time and service to these student populations. It’s not just a wish. [It’s] a definite need.”

The expiring state kindergarten grant will be replaced with $89,000 of town funds. The school share of the town facilities director salary and expenses will be $50,000. A .5 Technology position to support security, safety and assistive technology will also be a new resource in the budget. Nurse and health supplies, services and equipment will see a bump of $12,000.

Cuts include reducing high school administration to one assistant principal, which will save $100,000. The operating subsidy will be eliminated from food service with a savings of $45,000.

Turnover savings, or replacing retired staff with lower paid employees, is $200,000. Katz said there have been a significant number of retirements in the school district.


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

Swampscott principal resigns

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTTSwampscott High School Principal Edward Rozmiarek has resigned following conduct Superintendent Pamela Angelakis “deemed inappropriate through his school-issued computers.”

In a third letter sent home to parents on Wednesday, Angelakis said she has accepted Rozmiarek’s resignation, effective immediately.

“It had recently come to my attention that Mr. Rozmiarek had engaged in conduct that I deemed inappropriate through his school-issued computers,” Angelakis said in the letter.

Angelakis added that none of the allegations against Rozmiarek “to this point ever involved any Swampscott students or any other Swampscott School District employees or officials.

“At all times during this inquiry, the school district’s priority was the safety of all of our students,” Angelakis said in the letter.

Angelakis said she cannot provide any other information at this point for various legal reasons.

Rozmiarek had been placed on administrative leave on Monday, Dec. 7. A Beverly police officer confirmed on Wednesday, Dec. 9 that city officers and Massachusetts State Police were at Rozmiarek’s home that same Monday.

“We assisted and went to that address,” Beverly Police Officer Michael Boccuzzi said when asked about the visit.

Boccuzzi said that State Police are handling the case and declined to comment in detail about the visit to Rozmiarek’s home.

Dave Procopio, director of media communications for Massachusetts State Police, said last Wednesday, Dec. 9 that “we don’t confirm or deny the existence (of) investigations.”

“I can only tell you that no one by that name has been arrested by us,” Procopio said.

Boccuzzi and Procopio could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Swampscott Police Sgt. Tim Cassidy said the Swampscott Police Department is not involved in an investigation regarding Rozmiarek. He said the case is being handled by Beverly and State Police.

“I can’t confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokesperson for the Essex County District Attorney’s Office last week.

Monahan reiterated those comments when asked Wednesday following Rozmiarek’s resignation.

Rozmiarek could not be reached for comment.

Rozmiarek was hired as principal of Swampscott High School in May 2013 and started July 1. He had previously served as Lowell High School Headmaster and assistant principal at North Reading High School.


 

Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com.