teachers

Hats off to St. Mary’s grads

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The St. Mary’s graduating class of 2017 celebrates.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Rain didn’t stop the 84 St. Mary’s High School graduates as officials, teachers, parents, and friends gathered at Lynn Memorial Auditorium for the Class of 2017 commencement.

“People say time flies when you’re having fun,” said Katie Cadigan, salutatorian. “Time flies during the good and the bad. It has the power to rob you, and the power to give.”

Grace Cotter Regan, head of school, advised students to look at time as it flies by and find grace moments.

Those moments provide spiritual and personal growth, she said.

“Ask yourself what lights you up as you move forward and go with what that is,” she said.

Valedictorian Michael Cerulli, who will attend Boston College in September, compared the graduation from St. Mary’s to an interview he watched with former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

The reporter asked Bryant if he missed playing in the National Basketball Association.

“No, the NBA is always a part of me,” he said.

Cerulli’s said graduation from St. Mary’s is a lot like Bryant’s exit from the NBA.

“Although we are leaving St. Mary’s, we should never think of St. Mary’s leaving us,” he said “Everything we know stems from what we learned here.”

He went on to list the accomplishments and milestones he and his classmates achieved, such as state championships, an award-winning drama production, and the outstanding college selections of his peers.

“I’d like to think all these remarkable achievements aren’t a coincidence,” Cerulli said.

Alumnus John J. Green, who graduated in 1967, spoke to the Spartans after being in their position 50 years ago.

“Today, you join a very special club of 12,000 members,” he said. “You are an alum.”

Green discussed the changes at the school since he graduated, including the cost of St. Mary’s tuition, which was just $50 dollars in the 1960s.

“What hasn’t changed is the amount of students moving on to higher education,” he said. “In my day, we had about 95 percent of our class moving on to higher education. The same goes for today, with over 95 percent of graduates moving on to colleges and universities, a percentage that is higher than the Massachusetts average of 75 percent and the 65 percent national average.”

Regan said the environment at St. Mary’s has impacted graduates and prepared them for their next adventure.  

“There’s a culture of care, compassion, and love that differentiates St. Mary’s from any other school,” she said.


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

First-graders salute Memorial Day heroes

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
First-grade students from the Aborn Elementary School perform at the Bethany Congregational Church.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN — First graders at Aborn Elementary School put on a patriotic show in honor of Memorial Day at the Bethany Congregational Church on Thursday.

Donna Amico and JoAnn Sweeney’s Grade 1 classes dressed in their red, white, and blue and performed the 20th annual show in front of parents and faculty.

Teachers and parents cried tears of joy as they watched the children sing “God Bless the USA.”

Amico enjoys producing the show annually with her classes and Sweeney. She hopes they will remember all they learn for the years to come.

“We want the children to understand why we celebrate the different holidays and traditions throughout the year,” said Amico, who has taught at Aborn for 20 years.

Between singing the classics like “Yankee Doodle” and “This Land is Your Land,” students learned about our country, the national landmark, the flag’s history and the national symbols.

Justin Stackpole, a first grader, said he learned a lot of about his country he didn’t know prior to the show.

“I never knew the first Thanksgiving was in Massachusetts until we started practicing the show,” he said.

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Ava Howard, another first grader, said she learned the meaning of the different symbols by practicing the show.

“I now know about things like the bald eagle and the Statue of Liberty which are both some of our country’s symbols for freedom,” Howard said.

Students said not only how fun the show was and how much they learned, but how helpful their teachers were in putting the patriotic show together.

Nicolas Morgan credited his teachers for their hard work.

“They’re really helpful,” he said. “On a scale of 1-10, they are a 5 million.”

Like many other students, Morgan said he enjoyed having the support from his family in the crowd and knowing they were having fun.

“My favorite part of the show was singing ‘God Bless the U.S.A.,’” he said. “It made all the parents happy and it put a smile on my face.”

For Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, the show was a breather from the stresses of the job.

“If things get tough, it’s always nice to come down here and watch something like this,” she said.   


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Labor of love in Revere

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Mayor Brian M. Arrigo hands out high-fives as he gets ready to cut the ribbon for the brand-new playground.

By MATT DEMIRS

REVERE  Children crowded the front gate, their eyes fixed on the green and purple play structure and merry-go-round.

Minutes later, the ribbon was cut at the new playground at the Lincoln School.

Hundreds of students, parents, elected officials, volunteers, and residents gathered behind the elementary school as Mayor Brian M. Arrigo welcomed everyone to the park.

“I look forward to seeing all the happy faces on the playground,” he said. “None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the teamwork from everyone in our city to make it possible.”

Elle Baker, an organizer for Revere on the Move, whose mission is to encourage exercise and healthy eating in the community, spearheaded the project.

“We are excited to be bringing a brand new community living space,” she said. “Playgrounds promote sharing and physical activity. Now that is accessible to everyone.”

Ward 3 Councilor Arthur Guinasso told the children they should be happy.

“It was the parents who came out to the city government and said we need a place for our kids,” he said.

Revere businesses, officials, teachers, and parents built the playground, turning the dream into a reality.

Derek Paicentini, a parent of two Lincoln School students, volunteered to help build the play structure along with dozens of other parent-volunteers eager to create a place for their kids to enjoy.

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“It means the world to be able to have this playground. It was all worth volunteering,” he said. “I’m so excited.”

Florinda Cacicio, a playground supporter and mother of Lincoln School students, said she is happy the playground is finally here.

“This is something that will bring the community together,” she  said. “We plan on using it frequently.”

The number of parents at the opening ceremony nearly outnumbered the amount of students, said music teacher Lance MacDonald, adding that he was impressed with the turnout.

“There are more parents here today than there are at parent-teacher conferences,” he said.

Stacy Whittredge, a third-grade teacher at the Lincoln School, said she is happy that the new play area will give her students something to do at recess.

“Going from nothing to this means a lot to us,” Whittredge said.

Marcella Bonfardeci said her mother was thrilled for the opening of the playground.

“My mom is excited because my brother went here and she believed that we needed a safe place to play,” she said.

Before the playground’s construction, students played on the dirt field and basketball court, according to second-grader Caleigh Joyce.

Her friend, Chloe O’Neil, chimed in, “I’m really excited to be able to be able to have recess on the playground for the first time tomorrow.”


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Reasons why suicide series concerns supers

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
This image released by Netflix shows Katherine Langford in a scene from the series, “13 Reasons Why.”

By GAYLA CAWLEY

Local superintendents have alerted parents to their concerns about a new show, “13 Reasons Why,” which is centered around a teenage girl’s suicide.

According to a description of the Netflix show, based on a novel by the same name, after high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide, a classmate receives a series of tapes explaining the 13 reasons why Baker chose to carry out the act.

“While viewing the series, young children and teenagers could interpret the message that suicide is a viable or romanticized option,” Lynn Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham wrote in a letter home to parents. “The content of the show is extremely graphic, with disturbing scenes in each episode, which may be difficult for impressionable minds to watch and process in a healthy way. It also addresses the issues of cyberbullying, alcoholism and depression.”

Latham said the series has several shortcomings: There is no mention of mental and behavioral health treatment options; the notion of suicide is glamorized; there are no examples of help-seeking by the teens portrayed in the series; there are several scenes depicting serious trauma including rape, bullying, alcoholism, fights and suicide in which the teens do not seek help or resources; and the graphic portrayal of Hannah’s actual suicide was unnecessary and potentially harmful to young people facing challenges.

Latham urges parents to talk to their children about the show or book, if they have seen or read it, and reminds them that there are resources, support and assistance available to them at the schools through their student support services. Some support services include social workers, school psychologists, school adjustment counselors, guidance counselors, principals and teachers.

Swampscott School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis provided The Item with a letter about the series sent home to parents from the Swampscott Public Schools Mental Health Task Force.

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In the letter, the task force details some concerning themes: The series explicitly details a graphic death by suicide, and portrays it as the only viable option for the main character; there is no mention of mental illness, which is the leading cause of death by suicide; the adults in her life, namely her parents, school counselor and school administrators, fail the character and her peers over and over; there are no examples of appropriate or healthy coping strategies, nor is there any help-seeking that is successful; and school mental health providers act in unethical and incompetent ways throughout the series.

The task force also urges parents to find out if their child has watched the show or read the book, and recommends special caution if their child is vulnerable or has had suicidal ideation, because the “highly suggestive show could be risky for adolescents who struggle with isolation or self-harming behavior.”

“School counselors and mental health professionals in our district are highly trained professionals whose competencies include working with susceptible students,” the letter reads. “Be assured that the district counseling professionals are thoughtful, intentional, and ethical in their everyday work with your children.

“The district has created resources specifically designed to address our most vulnerable students, such as the recently created SWIFT and Harbor programs at Swampscott High School, which will be replicated at Swampscott Middle School next year.”

A letter sent home to parents from Lynnfield Superintendent Jane Tremblay touches on some of the same points, and warns about the possible dangers of allowing their children to watch the series.

She said youth could perceive the message that suicide is a viable and glamorous option to challenges and difficulties. She added that the graphic content and troubling scenes may be difficult for the teenage mind to watch and process in an appropriate way.

Tremblay provided a list of talking points for parents and their children regarding the series. One of those points is that “it is important to know that there are many treatment options for life’s challenges, distress, and mental illness” and that the illness is treatable.


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

Students get a taste of the Real World

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Danielle Coughlin and Devin Lofton register to vote.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Students from the Peabody Community High School are getting a taste of the real world this week.

Nearly two dozen students from the school met with Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. in his corner officer at City Hall Thursday morning to hear about the challenges and successes of running the city.

“I’ve been mayor now for about five years; it’s a wonderful job but it can be very difficult,” said Bettencourt. “I know things haven’t always been easy for you, you’ve had some challenges. I’m very happy to talk to you about what we do in the city and my responsibilities and what I do on a daily basis.”

The Peabody Community High School educates students with social emotional disabilities in a public day school, and each year, the school holds a Real World Week, according to Craig Macarelli, the program administrator. There are currently 27 students in grades 9 through 12 in the program.

“We set up a week where we talk about life transitions into adulthood, from financial literacy to even car maintenance,” said Macarelli. This week, the students even went into Boston to learn about local history.

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At City Hall, the focus was on civic responsibility and what it takes to effectively run a municipality with a $170 million budget and 1,400 employees.

“My job as the mayor is to try to move the city forward to make it a better place for everyone, and there are a lot of different parts to that,” said Bettencourt. “My job as the mayor is to be the CEO. I oversee all the different departments, and of course, the biggest one is the schools.”

Bettencourt talked about several current projects in the city, including the revitalization of the downtown and the dredging of Crystal Lake. He also answered several questions from students and teachers about those projects, as well as why he wanted to run for mayor.

“With this job, you can really make things happen, and not all jobs can give you that good feeling that you are contributing,” Bettencourt said.

Community high school student Bryanna Burgess said she looks forward to the Real World Week every year, adding that this year was the first time they have visited the mayor. She said she especially appreciates the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the community.

 

Signs of the times in May Day march

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Marchers move down Andrew Street.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — In what was described as the city’s biggest May Day rally in years, more than 200 protesters lined City Hall Square on Monday to support immigrant and workers rights.

As Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” blared over speakers, activists held signs that read: “Everybody is an Immigrant,” “Nobody is Illegal,” “Housing is a Human Right,” and “No to Gentrification.”

“We have an administration in Washington who does not treat us with respect,” said Maria Carrasco, a Lynn School Committeewoman. “Silence is not an option. We must demand respect with dignity. We are human beings who are here and we are staying here.”

The annual May Day celebration had its roots in Chicago in the late 19th century, as unions lobbied for fair working conditions, better wages, and the eight-hour work day with strikes and demonstrations nationwide. People from all backgrounds celebrated Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect and a living wage for workers.

Carrasco said without immigrants, many service industry jobs would go unfilled.

“Nobody will do the jobs that we do,” she said. “Nobody will clean hotels or work in restaurants if we don’t do it. At the same time, we must demand that employers respect us with good pay.”

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council, told the crowd that today’s worker challenges are about fair wages and embracing immigrants.

“In Chicago in 1886 workers dreamed of justice and eight-hour day so they could have time for their families and church,” he said. “Today, workers dream of a $15 minimum wage and a city without hatred where everyone is welcome regardless of where they’re from. We dream of fair pay for our teachers who educate our kids. They should not have to compete with police and firefighters for crumbs.”

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Among the marchers were dozens of Lynn teachers who protested the lack of a contract.

The three-year deal, which expired last summer, called for a two percent raise annually for the last three school years.

“We are celebrating our students and protesting the lack of progress in the negotiations,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union.

He acknowledged that these are tough times for the city as Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has asked department heads to trim their budgets.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing different organizations in the city being pitted against each other,” Duncan said. “The city is obligated under law to meet the minimum spending requirements and we are very mindful that the city has reached agreement with other unions this year with raises of between 2 and 2½ percent.”

In February, the firefighters reached a $2.5 million deal that provides a retroactive 2 percent raise for each of fiscal years 2015 and 2016, a 2.5 percent hike for 2017, another 2 percent for 2018 and on June 30, 2018 they will collect another 1 percent.

Last year, the $2.2 million four-year police contract called for an 8 percent retroactive pay, a 1 percent boost for 2014, a 2 percent increase for 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a 1 percent raise for 2018.


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

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Saugus school magic number: $900,000

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The closure of the Ballard Early Education Center is among the proposed cuts to help bridge a potential $900,000 budget gap.

Should the building have to close its doors, the program would move to other public school facilities, said Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.

“My worst case scenario is on paper right now,” DeRuosi said.

The School Committee voted a $29.6 million budget but the Finance Committee is supporting Town Manager Scott Crabtree’s recommendation for $1.6 million less. After making adjustments to the department’s critical needs, DeRuosi said the district would still face a $900,000 shortfall. Town Meeting will vote on the budget May 1.

At a meeting Tuesday, he proposed cuts that included closing the center and not replacing seven retiring employees, six teachers and a nurse, and cutting one elementary school teacher. Six paraprofessional positions would also be eliminated to save the district between $98,000 and $114,000.

The Ballard Early Education Center has several curriculum-based preschool classes, about five of which are integrated classes of both regular and special education. DeRuosi proposed relocating the more self-contained classes to Saugus High School and the more inclusive classes to Veterans Memorial Elementary School. This year the school has 118 children, though some are half-day and part-time students. Moving the program would save the district between $140,000 and $145,000, he said.

“When you’re spending over $1 million on 45 students, you have to look at how you can do that more efficiently,” said Chairwoman Jeannie Meredith.

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DeRuosi also questioned whether two retiring custodians needed to be replaced and whether a currently open position needed to be filled.

DeRuosi added that as a long-term goal, the master plan includes having fewer school buildings. He and School Committee members shared a vision that high school juniors and seniors could take child development courses and volunteer in classrooms to help prepare them to pursue degrees in fields such as social work and education.

By not replacing teachers, some schools would be faced with larger class sizes of up to 26 students, DeRuosi said. He added that parents would have the option to move their children to another school with smaller class sizes.

School Committee member Peter Manoogian argued that keeping smaller class sizes should be a priority when looking at the budget. Member Arthur Grabowski said he would rather see higher paying positions eliminated than teachers and nurses.

The panel also discussed whether the Belmonte Middle School needed its current two vice principals, three councilors and an adjustment counselor in addition to Principal Kerry Robbins.


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

LEHS students attend annual Youth Congress

COURTESY PHOTO
Lynn English students attended the Anti-Defamation League A World of Difference Institute.

LYNN — More than 35 English High School students attended Thursday’s Anti-Defamation League A World of Difference Institute in Boston along with school peer mediator Ginny Keenan.

This one-day conference brought together more than 1,400 middle school and high school students, teachers and community leaders from over 65 schools across New England, including Lynn, Marblehead, Swampscott and Melrose with middle school as well as high school students attending.

The event’s keynote speaker was Gold Star parent Khizr Khan.

World of Difference gives students and teachers the opportunity to explore what it is like for people of different national origins, ethnicities, races and religions to live in the United States. Participants will develop action steps to foster inclusive schools and communities in which everyone is welcomed, respected and valued.   

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“At this time of rising hate incidents, schools remain a top concern,” said ADL New England Regional Director Robert Trestan. “ADL New England has responded to an unprecedented number of calls this year from schools asking for assistance with a bias related incident.”

Trestan said this year’s theme, “There Is No Them, Only Us,” serves as a critical reminder that “we all have a role to play in creating a world where differences are celebrated.”

Youth Congress will provide students and their teachers with the opportunity to affect positive change, and learn what they can do to counteract bias and discrimination in their schools and communities.”  

 

Feeling the earth move at Malden Catholic

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — Across the world, at least once a week, an earthquake can be detected and measured by a device called a seismograph.

Even with the smallest earthquake activity, Malden Catholic High School now has a way to measure those minute — or major — vibrations.

Boston College, Weston Observatory and Malden Catholic alumni helped the school acquire a seismograph. It can detect seismic activity anywhere in the Eastern hemisphere.

Bringing seismography to Malden was the brainchild of Malden Catholic Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Director Dr. Diane Perito,  who called the introduction of the earthquake study  “a natural extension to provide students with opportunities to make connections between science, technology, engineering, and math through the content being taught.”

School administrators dedicated the seismograph by inviting scientists to the school, including Alan Kafka, director of the Weston Observatory; Marilyn Bibeau, Weston administrator, Anastasia Macherides Moulis, educational seismologist and Malden Catholic Class of 1946 who joined alumnus Vincent Murphy, a renowned geophysicist; Malden Catholic Headmaster Thomas J. Doherty and Principal Brother Thomas Puccio, CFX.

Puccio said a team of STEM teachers are “already using data collected from a seismograph to monitor and interpret real-time seismic activity. The curriculum is being supported by a trained educational seismologist who works alongside our teachers.”

Murphy is helping to nurture the new program and he is thrilled with the initial results.

“I am happy to be able to help connect the past and the future and see how it first into this new program at Malden Catholic,” he said.

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.”

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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.

Marblehead schools budget for the future

By LEAH DEARBORN

MARBLEHEAD The 2018 fiscal year budget for the Marblehead Public Schools saw a 5.1 percent increase from last year.

At a public hearing Thursday in the L.H. Coffin Elementary School , Superintendent Maryann Perry said most of the additional cost came from contractual increases across all grades.

Textbook and curriculum renewal is a priority, said Perry, as well as continuing to update technology accessible to students and teachers.

She said additional interpretation services were contracted over the past year as the student base in town continues to diversify.

“We want to make sure every child and their family feels welcome here in Marblehead schools,” said Perry.

She said a separate $115,000 was granted by the town finance committee to supplement recent federal cuts to Title I program funding. Title I focuses on narrowing the education gap for at-risk learners.

The hearing was part of the regular School Committee meeting.

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Before the budget hearing, the future of the Elbridge Gerry School was discussed. Committee member David Harris said this week kicks off the hiring process for an owner’s project manager to direct the feasibility phase of consolidating the Gerry and Coffin schools.

He said the committee is analyzing an alternate possibility of combining the Gerry, Coffin and Malcom L. Bell schools that would support 450 students, a course Harris described as a means of preparing for the future growth.

The Gerry School Building Committee entered the 270-day eligibility period with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in March and was given the green light to move forward to the next phase of gathering information.

“They’re right there with you from start to finish,” said Harris about the project manager position.

He said whomever is hired will work hand-in-hand with the building committee and architect in a process the MSBA estimates will take an average of 18-24 months.

The feasibility study is estimated to cost up to $750,000, according to the Marblehead Public Schools website. The MSBA will reimburse the town approximately 32 percent of the study cost.

The first of the public project manager interviews is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tonight at Marblehead High School. The remaining two will take place on Monday, and a final recommendation will be brought before the committee on April 6.


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

Excellence on full display at Breed Middle

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Seventh-grade student Muna Adan acts as a guide at the Spanish exhibit.

By DAVID WILSON

LYNN — Standing with Magalie Rowe, we’re not exactly sure which country we’re in.

It looks as if we’re right on the border of Paraguay and Uruguay. Argentina and Chile are just inches away, and it’s only a short walk to Costa Rica.

Don’t worry; our geography isn’t that bad. We’re at the  “Night of Excellence,” an annual event put on by the students and staff at Breed Middle School.

Rowe, one of the school’s Spanish teachers, urges us to take a one day, 21-country trip. We’re to start in the United States, then head off to Mexico and Guatemala; countries to follow include Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, and Puerto Rico.

We don’t have to pay or take an airplane, Rowe says with a laugh; it’s a free trip. Well, count us in.

Surrounded by balloons, a handwritten sign says “Trip to Spanish-speaking countries.” Start here, and enjoy a line of student-made posters. The posters, decorated with glitter and streamers, detail customs and traditions of each country.

Flyers for the school’s Spanish Club “Society of Friendship” also line the exhibit. The society’s purpose is to “promote cross-cultural acceptance and understanding,” the flyer says.

Lynn says no; so what now?

Rowe, who is originally from Peru, interacts with students, faculty and parents Wednesday evening. Additional school subjects are represented by a wide range of exhibits set up across the building’s first floor.

Some students wave and welcome questions, while others clutch bowls of ice cream. Many stand next to their exhibits, eager to interact with those who pass by.

“This is one of our three open houses,” Principal Julie Louf said. The “Night of Excellence,” she said, is an opportunity for incoming fifth-grade students to see what Breed is all about.

It’s a big transition to middle school, Louf said; it’s important for fifth-graders to feel comfortable meeting with teachers and administrators.

Breed, which has more than 1,300 sixth- through eighth-grade students, produces some exemplary work, Louf said. The night is also a time for the students to show off to their parents.

“They’re very proud; and they should be,” she said. “… We have very high expectations of them, and that’s shown here tonight.”


David Wilson can be reached at dwilson@itemlive.com.

Students reinforce pride in Nahant

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Maura Cronin, Principal Kevin Andrews, Brian McKinon, and Jamie Godwin are pictured during the “You are Here” plaque exchange.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — A group of Nahant middle-schoolers returned to the Johnson Elementary School to present a class gift and some advice for the younger children.

The seventh-graders, who attend Swampscott Middle School, presented a plaque to an excited group of students on the front steps of their former elementary school. The plaque depicts a map of Nahant with a star that says “you are here.”

Maddie Hudson said the purpose of the gift is to remind the elementary school students to take what they learn at the Johnson School with them when they seek education outside of their hometown.

“The code of conduct showed us how to be good when we went to middle school,” Hudson said. “This will remind the younger kids to bring it with them.”

The school’s code of conduct is to be respectful, kind, honest, productive and always do your best.

Principal Kevin Andrews said the plaque also speaks to the school’s place-based approach to learning.

“We are working to identify and increase the lessons that take advantage of the many natural and civic resources that Nahant offers in order to create lessons that students can connect and engage with,” Andrews said.

While the school officially adopted the approach this year, teachers have been using the town’s resources for lessons for years, he said.

School committee members seek 2nd term

In September, the school’s sixth-graders completed the first service learning project, decorating the front of the building for the fall season. They planted and arranged mums, decorative cabbages, millet and pumpkins donated by the Johnson School Parent Teacher Organization.

Lessons have continued throughout the year involving the community garden. The school also works closely with the Northeastern University Marine Science Center to use the resources available for science and technology programs.

The gift was accepted by school council president Ronan Locke. School Committee member Lori Ballantine said the presentation is just one of Nahant’s longstanding rituals.

“It’s a longstanding tradition that Nahant students present a gift to the school every year,” she said.

The students work hard fundraising for their class throughout the year with car washes and sales, she said. Money goes toward class expenses, including their sixth grade play. At the end of the year, the remaining funds are used to purchase a class gift.

“The younger kids really love seeing them come back,” Ballantine said.

Each incoming kindergartner is also assigned a sixth grade buddy when they start school. When the older buddy is graduating from high school, they come back for the then-sixth-grader’s moving on ceremony.

“Our traditions go full circle,” she said.

Andrews said the plaque will be installed on the railing outside the entrance to the school so that when people leave, they can stand in front of it and also enjoy the distant views of the ocean.


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

Saugus battles over bucks

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The school department is preparing to pinch pennies after meeting with the Finance Committee about the budget.

“The budget is a moving target right now,” said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the School Committee. “I think it’s a little early in the game to say ‘the sky is falling.’ I feel confident that we’re working with a qualified superintendent. We’ll get through it like we do every year.

“Budget season in Saugus and in every district is always a contentious time,” she said. “There’s only one pot of money and it has to be divided. As School Committee chair, I always want to see more for the kids. As a realist, I realize we need to budget for all the departments. Working together I think we can try to come to a mutual agreement.”

Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi defended the School Committee’s vote for a $29.6 million budget in a presentation to the Finance Committee on Wednesday. The request is up from a $28.1 million spending plan last year. Earlier this month, the Board of Selectmen voted on a $28.4 million school department budget, $1.6 million less than the appropriation the School Committee requested.

“My goal was to present a budget that reflects how a school budget is actually built,” said DeRuosi.

His intent was to put meaning behind the numbers being requested at each line item of the budget.

“It doesn’t have to do with believing in the numbers or not believing in them,” said Kenneth DePatto, chairman of the Finance Committee. “It has to do with sustaining it. We can’t keep on growing at this level. I’m really concerned with the level of growth.”

The increase requested by DeRuosi and the School Committee will reinstate Spanish as a requirement, rather than an elective, a cut that was made for last year’s budget. An allocation of $82,000 will fund Chromebooks, which will be necessary next year when MCAS testing will require a computer.

The biggest hit to the wallet, DeRuosi said, is meeting the needs of the district’s changing demographics.

Lynn principal candidate for Peabody super

In 2012, the district had 88 ELL students. Last year, that swelled to 126. Children in Saugus Public Schools now speak 23 languages other than English, he said. About 40 percent of students are considered low-income and qualify for a free or reduced price lunch program. They are also eligible to ride to school at no cost, he said. The homeless population has increased steadily over the past five years and reached 40 students in 2016.

As of Wednesday, 165 students had elected to attend charter schools rather than staying in the district. “This is a red flag for me,” DeRuosi said “If we’re losing these numbers, we’re going to feel the financial impacts. I want this bar to go down. We want to keep these kids.”

Out-of-district special education costs pay for services for any Saugus child who the district cannot meet the needs of. The students sometimes attend residential or daytime residential programs that can cost the school department hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

“My fear is that this is not a sustainable number,” said DePatto. “I’m looking at your contractual needs and your critical needs. Eight to nine percent growth — that’s a level of growth I don’t think is sustainable, looking at the needs of the schools, according to the superintendent and School Committee.

“There’s only so much money that comes into this town,” said DePatto. “We need to find savings within the operating budgets or go to the people and tell them we want a general override.”

By April, DeRuosi will outline in detail the impacts of the $872,000 deficit created by only appropriating the district an increase of $300,000. He will create two additional budgets for a scenario where the department instead receives $400,000 and $500,000, with deficits of $772,000 and $672,000.

The full committee will begin meeting for budget workshops to talk numbers by the end of the month. They have not yet started discussions about what will be cut to make ends meet, said Meredith.

“The Finance Subcommittee was created to go over the financial reports and see if there are any questions throughout the year,” she said. “The first budget workshop will be when the five-member committee will be meeting for the first time to discuss any budget changes. My personal opinion — I don’t want to see teachers laid off. I’m not looking to cut any teachers this year.”


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

School committee pushes for all-day K

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Kindergarten student Grant Leonard and his teacher Andrea Proctor work on math at the Oaklandvale Elementary School. 

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The school committee is requesting Town Meeting take action to further efforts to provide free, all-day kindergarten throughout the district.

The panel will go before the board of selectmen tonight to ask that an article be added to the Annual Town Meeting warrant that would request the formation of a committee of five people, including at least two Town Meeting members, to “evaluate the benefits and costs” associated with all-day kindergarten.

The group will review the findings of the All-Day Kindergarten Task Force, hold at least two public outreach sessions, identify public funding sources and make a recommendation at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting.

The task force formed in November at the request of school committee member Peter Manoogian. The group includes an elementary school principal, two kindergarten teachers, a Town Meeting member, a few parents, Manoogian and Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.

Tuition for all-day kindergarten is $2,700. There is no tuition for half-day kindergarten. Each year, 10 full-day scholarships are awarded based on financial need. The task force’s mission is to provide a richer educational experience to all kindergarten students, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

“What was apparent to me — the compelling reason (half-day students) weren’t enrolled (in full day kindergarten) is the $2,700 cost,” Manoogian said.

Children in the full-day program spend 60 minutes on math, 60 on social studies and 60 on English language arts each day, he said. Alternatively, students in the half-day program spend about half an hour on each.

School committee chairwoman Jeannie Meredith supported the article with a positive vote but said she misunderstood the motion.

“I would recommend we ask the current task force to continue their work and open it up to other community members, rather than a separate committee of Town Meeting members,” said Meredith.

“Although I’d love to see free, all-day K in our district, I firmly believe we have to have our financial health in order and have our priorities outlined,” she said. “For the last several years, we have made band-aid budget cuts but we’re not really addressing the issues. As chairwoman of both committees — the school committee and the school building committee — my primary focus is the new middle school, high school project and working on a capital plan with the Town Manager and current selectmen that addresses all the current schools, pre-K through 12.”

As part of a complete overhaul of Saugus Public Schools, by 2020, the number of school buildings could be condensed to just three. A lower elementary school would serve pre-K through grade 2 students; an upper elementary would serve grades 3-5; and, through the project closest to fruition, the middle and high school would share a single building.

The new school structure would replace the existing pre-K, four elementary schools, middle and high school. Fewer schools would mean less operating costs and more money in the school budget, Meredith said.

“As important as kindergarten is, I’d like to see that come with time,” she said. “We need programs that are going to bring our district to a level 1; like robotics and STEAM. In my opinion, we cannot afford to cut any programming from our students. We need to start looking at ways to bring these things now, not wait until we have a new building.”

Meredith said she was opposed to cutting teachers’ jobs and existing programming but declined to comment on how the programs could be funded.

Saugus debates pros + cons of all-day K


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

School budget sees increase in Lynnfield

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNNFIELD — There were few surprises in the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 school budget presented last week by Superintendent Jane Tremblay.

The $23,780,038 appropriation request is a 4 percent increase over the current year’s budget. Tremblay said the majority of that increase is due to a 2.5 percent increase in contractual increases coupled with special education costs.

There are no new positions in the budget, but Tremblay is looking to make two part-time positions into full-time positions. One would transform a .6 school psychologist position to full-time, and the second would see a part-time foreign language position at the middle school become full time.

“The budget always comes back to the basics of our mission and vision,” said Tremblay. “All you are hearing tonight is in support of this.”

Tremblay said the goal of the school system is to produce well-rounded students. She noted that Lynnfield’s elementary schools continue to be among the top in the state and that the high school was recently recognized as a College Board AP Honor Roll school.

While there are proposals to increase the two positions, Tremblay said that one classroom will be eliminated at the Summer Street Elementary School.

“The school will remain well within the appropriate class size of the low 20s, and I am confident that we will maintain the integrity of everything that we have in place.”

School committee member Dorothy Presser asked if, in an ideal world, Tremblay would like to see more materials and supplies in the proposed budget.

“Absolutely, but we have to walk a fine line with the budget,” Tremblay said. “The whole process of building a budget has to be reflective of all the resources we have.”

Lynnfield High has goals steeped in Ivy

In other school committee business last week, the board heard from Gregory Hurray, the interim principal at the Summer Street School. Hurray was hired as the interim principal at the school for the remainder of the year following an incident on a METCO school bus in November that led to Jennifer DiBiase’s resignation.

Hurray has had a long career in education, including administrative positions in Newton.

“I’ve had a wonderful career, and working in Lynnfield has been a great way to keep learning,” he said. “I love the school, I love the kids, I love the parents’ support, and the administration has been fantastic.”

While Hurray leads the Summer Street School for the rest of the school year, Tremblay said the search for a permanent principal for the next school is well underway. A committee of administrators, teachers and parents will be interviewing some of the 30 applicants for the position, followed by further interviews and site visits for a select group of semi-finalists.

“We hope that by mid-March, we will be able to name someone to the position,” Tremblay said.

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.

Loose ends in Swampscott

Swampscott’s School Committee is scheduled to approve the public school budget on Wednesday even as answers to a number of spending questions remain out of reach to committee members.

Before continuing on its predetermined path to Town Meeting, the budget needs to get untangled from state funding questions and teachers’ union challenges. If the teachers’ union and town officials can agree on a contract, what will the agreement’s price tag total and how much money will teachers get for raises?

Public employee contract talks are prone to heating up when money becomes a focal point of the conversation. The teachers want an explanation for how a school budget gap topping $1.6 million dropped to a fifth of that amount.

Their question deserves an answer and it is not the only pressing concern committee members need to address as they resolve budget challenges. Covering the budget’s $275,000 gap could mean ending all-day kindergarten in town and reverting to half-day kindergarten. The full-day option would be retained — but only for parents interested in paying tuition to cover part of the day.

It is a shame to see a community like Swampscott, where parents and educators value local schools and education, consider cutting a fundamental program like all-day kindergarten.

Saugus debates pros + cons of all-day K

Education in the 21st century is a process that begins before children can walk and includes familiarizing them with reading fundamentals while making them technically adept to function in the virtual world of online education.

All-day kindergarten is an opportunity to immerse children in education and acquaint them with the socialization skills required for modern learning.

Swampscott is home to Massachusetts’ governor and Charlie Baker’s past service as a town official makes him familiar with the challenges involved in funding local budgets and making sure schools receive enough money.

State tax dollar support for city and town schools is an enduring source of debate and contention for local officials and legislators. There are renewed cries this year to revamp the state Chapter 70 education funding formula to better benefit communities. This is a complicated process and an important one in an era when charter schools and traditional public schools compete for tax dollars.

It makes sense to consider juggling the state finance formula with money to ensure communities like Swampscott receive “must have” money to make sure services like all-day kindergarten are preserved.

Swampscott, like all communities, must get its own house in order when it comes to providing enough money for local schools. But the town could use help from the state in the form of additional money or more freedom to spend state allocations the way local educators see fit.

Marshall School gets taste for democracy

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Seventh grader Niriely Pena, left, helps fellow Marshall Middle School student Meralis Ventura cast her ballot during the seventh-grade election today.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN —They wooed voters with cupcakes and promised tastier lunches but at 1:15 p.m. on Monday, school council candidates Jasmine Phok and Jeremiah Perjuste could only watch their fellow seventh graders vote and wonder if hard-fought campaigns would yield them a seat on Marshall Middle School’s new student council.

“I talked to them about making this the best seventh grade we can have,” Phok said.

Along with 17 other candidates for eight council seats, the 12 year old campaigned for the last two weeks, handing out 90 cupcakes in a bid to win votes and participating in last Friday’s round of speeches.

Perjuste built his campaign on promises, including improved lunch fare and introducing new technology into the aging Marshall building. Classmates from four homerooms with 120 seventh graders assigned to them voted in an election bearing close similarities to the ones in which their parents participate.

Students checked off classmates’ names on a voting list and filled out ballots in cardboard voting booths before slipping them into a ballot box. Handmade posters proclaiming candidates’ promises plastered the hallway wall above the three voting booths.

Marshall teachers Kathy Coman, Jillian Cayton, Laurie Eagan and Joe Ford helped the seventh-graders organize the election with encouragement from Principal Molly Cohen and Vice Principal John Pavia.

“This gives kids a voice and they are practicing participating in a democracy,” Pavia said.

Coman, a social studies teacher and 17-year teacher, said the election grew out of student discussions about fundamental government questions like “Who makes decisions?”

She said the students organized the election with the goal of creating an eight-member student council charged with meeting with Cohen to discuss student concerns.

“I’m extremely impressed with them,” Coman said.

Students Kaylee Baltodano and Gloribel Cepeda found it difficult to pick their choices for councilor.

“It’s hard because they are all my friends,” Cepeda said.

Once the ballots were tallied and the winners announced, Phok and Perjuste found themselves newly elected councilors along with classmates Ava Benzan, Jerimies Brito, Angelina Alvarado, Kassandra Paca, Jonasia Smith and Trinity Jackson Johnson.

Councilors will elect a president and vice president before meeting with Marshall’s principal.

“Molly Cohen is really open to meeting with these kids,” Coman said.