Thurgood Marshall Middle School

Nicholson seeks 2nd school committee term

Cindy Rodriguez and Jianna DeFranzo chat with Jared Nicholson after he announced his bid for a second term.


LYNN — Jared Nicholson, a member of the School Committee, is running for a second two-year term, and officially kicked off his campaign on Wednesday.

Nicholson, 31, an attorney, laid out his reasons for running for reelection to a crowd of supporters and other elected officials at Rincon Macorisano.

“I plan to raise a family here and I want to send my future kids to great public schools, and I want to be a part of the effort to make sure that our city has great public schools to offer,” he said.

Nicholson said he believes in the potential Lynn has, and in order “for us to reach that potential, we need to make sure that all of our kids reach their potential,” which has to take place in the public schools. He said that would be achieved by getting the kids in schools now the skills they need to thrive, and attracting and retaining families who have a lot to contribute and are looking at the schools and deciding where they want to live.

Barking up the right tree

Nicholson said the district needs to continue to find more opportunities for kids to find their passion after school, highlighting its achievements with the wrestling program at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the early college program with North Shore Community College, and important programs in IT and healthcare added at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Some challenges the district faces, he said, include the dropout rate (listed as 4.9 percent for all grades in the 2015-2016 Massachusetts Department of Education report), sorting out the budget, and finding the space needed for schools.

Including Nicholson, 13 people have taken out papers to run for school committee, including incumbents, Donna Coppola, John Ford, and Lorraine Gately, and challengers, Jordan Avery, Cherish Casey, Brian Castellanos, Gayle Hearns-Rogers, Sandra Lopez, Natasha Megie-Maddrey, Jessica Murphy, Michael Satterwhite, and Stanley Wotring Jr.

Long-time incumbents, Maria Carrasco and Patricia Capano, vice-chair, are not seeking re-election.

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


Marshalling a plan for former school building


LYNN — City officials presented a plan to sell the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street on Thursday night, for a potential reuse that could include senior market-rate housing and a commercial component. But school officials opted to take no action.

City Council President Darren Cyr and James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, presented the option to the School Committee, requesting that the 19 Porter St. property be transferred to the Public Property Committee of the City Council to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids for its sale to a developer.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, chairwoman of the School Committee, said she was looking for the committee to make a motion to approve the transfer of the site, with a minimum asking price and timeline for when that sale could be complete. If those conditions weren’t met, the property would revert back to the School Committee.

School Committee members opted to set that minimum sales price at $4 million, and require the sale be completed within a year. The other condition set was that a School Committee member, John Ford, would sit on the RFP committee, the board responsible for preparing the document.

Ultimately, the School Committee opted to table a vote on the transfer of the property until their next meeting, upon a motion made by member Donna Coppola. Coppola said she wanted to take time to allow the committee’s attorney time to research the matter. Voting against the motion to table were Kennedy and Patricia Capano, vice-chair.

Cyr said the initial plan was to demolish the former Marshall Middle School, but a contractor reached out to city officials and wanted to buy it. His vision for the building wasn’t the vision the city had, but it let officials know there was interest in the property, Cyr said.

Lamanna said the cost to demolish the building is estimated at $2.2 million, which was part of the money bonded by the voters for the construction of the new Marshall Middle School, which opened last year on Brookline Street. If that money is not used for demolition, he said legally it could only be used for capital projects that could be bonded for 25 years, which would likely be for the construction of new buildings or additions on the school side. If the property is sold, he said the proceeds would go toward bondable projects more than five years. The proceeds would basically go into a reserve fund that would allow the city to plan ahead if, for example, a boiler in a building went.

Ford said he knows the issue is to sell the building and get some cash for the city in a cash drop situation, but he was hesitant about selling any more school property. He said there was some uncertainty about whether there would be any potential buyers, and he couldn’t see anybody paying big money for some place that’s going to cost lots of money to remediate.

Peabody lays off on initial job-cut fears

“We’re in a city where we’re land strapped,” Ford said. “We’re land poor. I don’t want to eliminate jobs on the city side. I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I really find myself in a position where it’s going to be hard for me to vote to give up any land.”

Kennedy was in favor of the transfer. For 25 years being in public life, she said she also disagreed with selling public land and felt that in most cases, it was better to bank that land.

“The reason why I’m capitulating on this particular piece of land, is that first of all it’s not big enough to build a new modern middle school, so that idea is right out,” Kennedy said. “So, it would only be usable for an elementary school or something of that size. It’s not appropriate for a police or a fire station or anything because it’s basically, it’s on a residential street.”

She said she was more comfortable letting go of this piece of land, because it wouldn’t even be appropriate for a new Cobbet or Tracy Elementary School, because it would be out of that general area of the city.

“And in light of the difficulties that we’re having making the budget come together in this year, it seems like a piece of land that may not be as valuable to the city as someplace that was located deeper into West Lynn,” Kennedy said.

Cyr said an RFP would potentially be to solicit bids for a mixed use, which would include senior market-rate apartments, as well as some commercial use, such as doctors’ offices that would cater to seniors. A small portion of those units, because of federal funding, could be allocated as affordable, he added. He said there is a true need for senior housing at marketable rate in Lynn.

Lamanna said the building was last assessed at $8 million. He said the Massachusetts School Building Authority funded the new Marshall Middle School because the assessment was that the old school on Porter Street was beyond repair. Cyr said it would cost upwards of $50 million to bring the former school up to today’s standards, for it to be restructured for a school use.

Cyr said he was a lot more hopeful after Thursday’s meeting that the transfer would be approved by the School Committee.

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

We need more police on the streets, Ford says

Rick Ford is running for city councilor at large.


LYNN  — Rick Ford, the former city councilor who gave up his seat two years ago, wants back in.

“I miss being involved,” he said. “I got three calls from constituents during the last snow storm who don’t even know I’m out.”

Ford, who served as the Ward 7 councilor from 1998 to 2016, chose not to seek re-election following a foot injury. On Tuesday, he pulled papers from City Hall to run for councilor-at-large.

The 60-year-old is co-owner of the Little River Inn, the popular diner on Boston Street where the McNulty sandwich a fried egg with bacon, ham or sausage, topped with cheese on an English muffin is a customer favorite.

He joins a field that includes incumbents Buzzy Barton, Brian LaPierre and Hong Net. Daniel Cahill chose not to seek re-election, leaving one at-large seat open.

Additional candidates include Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood, Jaime Figueroa, a 28-year-old Suffolk University student, Brian Field, who works at Solimine Funeral Homes, and John Ladd, president of Precision Property Brokers.

Revere taking aim at opioids

The top issues facing the city, Ford said, are police protection, building new schools, and development of the city’s waterfront.

“I’d like to help police,” he said. “We don’t have enough officers on the street and anything I can do, like finding grant money would be good. The waterfront development is key to the city’s economic growth.”

On last month’s school election, Ford said he voted for the controversial $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools. But the measure failed by a lopsided margin.

“My son is a teacher at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School,” he said.

Ford’s proudest accomplishments as councilor, he said, included constituent work helping to get homes built on the former Lynn Convalescent Home site on Boston Street, supporting construction of a new Washington Street police station, keeping the Ward 7 fire stations open, and ensuring environmental cleanups at the former Empire Laundry and Carr Leather sites.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

Donna Coppola, left, and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy have a word during Kennedy’s re-election kickoff.


LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy kicked off her campaign for a third term Wednesday night at a crowded fundraiser in the Porthole Restaurant.

Kennedy, a Republican, will face state Sen. Thomas McGee in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.  Last month the Lynn Democrat, who has served in the state Senate since 2002, announced his intention to seek the corner office.  

In mentioning McGee in her remarks, Kennedy said the two of them have been in public life for more than two decades and each of them have records that should be scrutinized.

“I hope all of you will base your vote in this election, not on personalities, not on political parties, not on family connections, but on who has done the most to bring improvements to our great city,” she said.

Kennedy became mayor in 2009 when she beat Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by 27 votes of the more than 16,000 ballots cast. In 2013, she bested Timothy Phelan by a 59 to 41 percent margin.

The mayor reminded the crowd what Lynn was like in 2010, the year she took office. She said Sluice, Flax and Goldfish ponds were infested with invasive weeds, several parks lacked lights for night games, there were few options for seniors to save on their real estate taxes, the General Electric Factory of the Future site had been vacant for more than 10 years, the Thurgood Marshall Middle School was in need of replacing, the Lynn Auditorium had just three shows a year, the downtown was filled with litter, and if teens wanted a summer job, they needed help from an elected official.

“Today, the ponds are clean, Barry Park and Wyoma Baseball Field have lights, there’s a nightly street sweeping schedule in the downtown, we implemented a way for income-eligible seniors to work off $600 from their property tax bills, there’s a lottery for summer jobs, the Lynn Auditorium is air conditioned and booked, the Factory of the Future is the new home for Market Basket, and we built a new middle school,” she said. “I ask for your support as we continue this progress for the next four years.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

The event attracted many of the city’s elected officials and candidates for office, as well as supporters.

Elaine Letowski, an insurance writer who moved to Lynn in 2003, said she attended the event because she strongly backs Kennedy.

“She’s good for our city, she says no when you have to say no,” she said. “We don’t have enough money for everything. She’s working on the budget, makes good decisions, keeps our taxes down, and is making Lynn a better place to live.”

Eileen Spencer, a real estate broker at Annmarie Jonah Realtors, said Kennedy has helped revitalize the downtown.

“Judy has done a phenomenal job for the city,” she said. “What I like most of all is what’s she’s done to improve the Lynn Auditorium and that is bringing business to the downtown.”

The mayor’s fundraiser comes one day after a team of consultants told officials that without corrective action, the city’s budget is projected to have an $8.6 million deficit in 2017 and in each of the next five years.

The PFM Group, based out of Philadelphia, provided a grim prescription to City Hall: No raises for city employees, freeze hiring, contract EMS services to a private company, and eliminate 35 city jobs.

Kennedy did not ignore the city’s financial troubles in her speech.

“I want to be real, not everything is rosy and, of course, we have some difficulties, such as balancing the budget,” she said. “But I’ve been quietly looking to officials at the federal level … and I expect to return to Washington in the coming months to meet with the new Trump administration to see what I can do for my city.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


‘Welcome to Student Government Day’

Lynn District Fire Chief Stephen Archer leads a training session as students Gabby Graham, left and ElizabethWeeks listen.


LYNN — High school students were handed the keys to the city on Tuesday, when they were able to take over roles such as the fire chief and superintendent, or assume a place on city council.

“Welcome to Student Government Day,” said EDIC/Lynn Executive Director James Cowdell to the participating high school students. “This is one of our favorite days of the year. We hand over the keys to the city to the students, the future leaders of our great city.

Participating schools included Lynn Classical High School, Lynn English High School, Lynn Vocational and Technical Institute, St. Mary’s High School, KIPP Academy and Fecteau Leary Junior/Senior High School.

“Whatever school you’re from, we’re all from Lynn and sometimes outside of Lynn, people look at us in a negative light,” Cowdell said. “Wherever you go, be proud of your roots. You’re from Lynn, Mass. Say that with pride.”

Gabby Graham, 18, a senior at Fecteau-Leary, was district fire chief for a day, pairing up with District Fire Chief Stephen Archer. She was shown a rapid access mass decontamination drill at the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street, which simulated a situation where there is a large number of people exposed to some contaminant, Archer said.

Archer said in that situation, firefighters would get exposed people quickly hosed down and thoroughly decontaminated before they could be taken to the hospital. Water volumes and pressures are played with until the effective washdown is achieved. The drill showed how people are instructed to walk through a massive stream of water.

“It only takes one contaminated person to shut down a hospital and that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Archer said.

Graham said her eyes were opened to see how much firefighters do, rather than just go into burning buildings.

Veering SUV hits pair on motorcycle, police say

Fire Chief James McDonald was paired with his niece, Elizabeth Weeks, 18, a senior at St. Mary’s High School. He said he took her to his office, fire stations, and then to the 911 call center, where she learned what calls needed to be dispatched.

Weeks said it was interesting to see how government affects everyday life.

“You can (only) learn so much in a classroom, but having that firsthand experience gets you so much more immersed,” she said.

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

Afterschool program a social space for girls

Colleen McGuinness talks to Elvisa Husidic and Dayanara Cabrera during the Empowering Girls Club.


LYNN — A weekly afterschool program at Thurgood Marshall Middle School is focused on empowering girls by developing friendships.

The program, started by Thurgood Marshall guidance counselor Colleen McGuinness and teacher Meghann Price, has gathered nearly a dozen regular attendees who meet every Tuesday since the club was first advertised at the school.

McGuinness said that in her work as a counselor, a common theme she witnessed among students were girls who found themselves in conflict with each other in some way. The Empowering Girls Club became a safe space for students to expand their personal world outlook and leave behind competition and hostility. Instead, the driving force behind the club is to lift one another up.

She said the young women who attend are excited about making big changes within the schools, and are open to seeing things from a new angle.

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“I think it’s a slow-moving process,” said McGuinness about the students, who are learning to consistently consider the perspectives of others. “We’ve done a lot of little activities to promote compassion and kindness.”

SMART girls bring STEM to the forefront

Akya Hill works on a squid during a workshop with Allison Matzelle of the Northeastern University Marine Science Center.


LYNN — Girls Inc. of Lynn hosted its 15th annual SMART (Science, Math and Relevant Technology) Girls Summit on Wednesday, which aimed to increase female youths’ interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The career awareness event drew more than 130 middle school girls from Greater Lynn, who participated in workshops covering topics such as coding, forensic crime and aeronautics. This year’s summit offered 14 workshops with representatives from 12 organizations, businesses and universities.

“It’s our 15th year,” said Ann Ayala-Macey, STEM coordinator. “It’s a special milestone celebration for us … This is really cool because girls are exposed to careers they didn’t even know existed.”

Ayala-Macey said girls in Lynn didn’t always have access to these opportunities in STEM. She said the original idea was to create an event to invite a significant number of girls from the Lynn area and introduce them to careers underrepresented by women.

She said the workshops were meant to be hands-on, experiential, fun, exciting and a way for girls to connect with women who are in the STEM field.

“I find it interesting,” said Massiel Tolentino, 14, of Thurgood Marshall Middle School. “You’re working with people who are in the workforce — the STEM. It’s nice to see how they do their job and how they work.”

In the workshops, Tolentino said she was exposed to an experiment of making ice cream and learned about how changing PH levels can make certain fabrics dye better.

Nicholson seeks second school committee term

Lydia Splaine, 13, also from Marshall Middle School, said she thought the summit was useful because it showed her how many career options there are in science. She learned how to make slime and examined a dead squid and learned how its skin changes colors.

“Science is more towards guys, so my dad really said it was important to go to this,” Splaine said.

The Museum of Science, Boston; Cell Signaling Technology; Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center; the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory; Keurig Green Mountain; General Electric; the Cambridge Fire Department; New England Biolabs; the Chandra X-Ray Observatory; and Warner Babcock Institute/Beyond Benign were some of the businesses and organizations represented.

The four SMART Girl Award recipients were Violet Howard, from Breed Middle School; Georgina Camil Toribio Reyes, from Marshall Middle School; Hannah Tobin, from Pickering Middle School; and Alina Akhmedkarimova, from KIPP Academy.

“They’re girls that are not afraid to participate in these events,” said Ayala-Macey. “They actually seek them out. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty.”

The SMART Girls Summit also serves as a kickoff for the Eureka! Summer program, a free, six-week, full-day STEM and sports summer program for rising seventh, eighth and ninth grade girls. The girls also go on weekly expeditions related to their classes to places such as the Northeastern Marine Science Lab in Nahant, the Museum of Science, Boston Society of Architects-Learning by Design and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum and Media Lab.

Girls who successfully complete the Eureka program are eligible for a paid internship the summer before the 10th grade.  

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

Nicholson seeks second school committee term

Jared Nicholson is pictured in a file photo.


LYNN Jared Nicholson has announced his run for a second term on the Lynn School Committee.

“I ran for school Committee two years ago because of how important having great schools will be to Lynn’s growth and because I want to send my future kids to great Lynn public schools,” Nicholson said in a statement. “That passion still drives me.”

The district is facing pressing challenges that require effective leadership, including rising enrollment and financial instability, he added. Nicholson said he plans to continue focusing on the issues, drawing on his legal training and business experience.

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

Nicholson prides himself on the successes of his first term, including the opening of Thurgood Marshall Middle School and launch of a varsity wrestling team, an effort he headed for many years. The committee is building pathways for students to college and jobs, he said, noting that a Lynn student can take advantage of the Early College program and earn college credit taking free courses at North Shore Community College. Lynn Vocational Technical Institute will soon add internet technology, HVAC and health care programs.

The district has made progress with addressing the opioid crisis, on social-emotional learning, improving school nutrition, and increasing parent involvement, he said.

“Getting involved in local politics is a great way to act on concerns about where our country is headed,” said Nicholson. “Lynn, and specifically the Lynn Public Schools, are headed toward exciting yet challenging times. I am excited to continue to work on meeting those challenges to help out kids reach their potential so that we as a community can reach ours.”

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is pictured at a discussion on schools.


LYNN — No new schools will be built in the city anytime soon.

That was the decision of a city panel Tuesday that orchestrated a plan for construction of two middle schools to ease overcrowding and replace a dilapidated facility.

Following last Tuesday’s special election where voters resoundingly rejected a request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field, the Pickering School Building Committee withdrew its application for state funding.

In addition to taking itself out of consideration for funds, Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager for the school proposal, said Lynn had a number of options. They included a plan to split the project into two and build one school first and then a second; build one school and renovate the Pickering Middle School; or build one school and use Pickering as an elementary school.

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

Before the vote to end the city’s bid for school dollars, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy invited Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, the grassroots organization that campaigned against the schools, to speak to the committee. The mayor said he had an alternative plan. But he declined.

School Committeewoman Donna Coppola voiced concern about where new students would be placed.

“We have kids coming in that will not have seats,” she said.

Edward Calnan said the committee did their job and despite the vote against the schools, the members should be proud of the work they did.

“We were told we needed to provide space for 1,600 students and that’s what we did,” he said. “We did an exhaustive search for sites in the city and came up with the best ones that were the least expensive to make the project viable.”

Off and running in Lynn

Kennedy said it’s clear the voters have no appetite for more taxes and she will honor their wishes.

“The people spoke loud and clear,” she said. “The problem was the price tag and I’m just ready to drop the whole thing. They say insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That’s what we would be doing if we did anything but drop it.”

With that, the 16-member group voted unanimously to tell the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the  quasi-independent government authority created to help pay for the construction of public schools, that Lynn won’t be seeking funds.

At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham choked back tears as she expressed her disappointment in the failure of the vote for the new schools.

“Our new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a model for the entire state and I was hoping that just viewing that could carry an equalized opportunity for all our students,” she said. “But it was not to be.” 

In an interview following the meeting, Castle defended his position not to speak to the committee.

“It was a bag job,” he said. “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Cahill will not seek re-election to City Council

Lynn City Councilor Daniel Cahill.


LYNN — After serving on the City Council for nearly a decade, Daniel Cahill will call it quits at year’s end.

The 38-year-old councilor who was elected to the Legislature last fall and works as an attorney, said it’s time for someone new to join the 11-member panel.

“I loved being on the council,” he said. “But having three jobs became a little bit much. It’s right for me to step down and focus on the Legislature. It’s hard to do both.”

But not everyone understands his need to relieve the pressure of being a citywide councilor, enduring a demanding courtroom schedule, being a member of the Democratic majority on Beacon Hill and raising two young children.

“My wife wants me to stay on the council,” said Cahill. Angela Cahill is a sixth grade teacher at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School.  “She’s a resident too and likes what I bring to the table.”

Cahill said he is proudest of being part of the city’s rezoning.  

“It became apparent in order to create an environment where people want to invest in Lynn, we had to do the zoning,” he said. “There was coalition building with the Chamber of Commerce, developers, businesses and the neighborhood. It was lots of fun.”

Construction of the $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School is also a highlight of his tenure, as is a $4 million bond to refurbish parks and playgrounds, renovate City Hall and the addition of air conditioning to the Lynn Auditorium.  

“In some jobs, you don’t get to see the product of your work, but on the council you do,” he said. “If a constituent has a problem with a sidewalk, a tree, or their utility company, we solve it.”

In 2003, while a 24-year-old graduate student in a master of political science program at Suffolk University, Cahill launched his first bid for office. He sought the School Committee post vacated by Loretta Cuffe O’Donnell.

“I always enjoyed politics since I was young and decided it was time to run for office. I just got the bug,” he said. “I was single and living with my parents. I gathered my friends, family and put a campaign together.”

But he wasn’t exactly sure how to do that. Cahill sent an email to the mayor’s chief of staff that read: “Hi, I’m Dan Cahill and I am thinking of running for office, how do I do it?”

“One of my first mailings featured a picture of me in my parents’ dining room with jeans and a suit top,” he said. “Instead of getting a shot of me from the waist up, you can clearly see a little of the jeans, it was funny.”

Despite the slow learning curve, the bid paid off. Cahill placed sixth and won by about 80 votes. He sought re-election two years later and scored a second term.

“School committee was a great place to learn things,” he said. “I learned about contracts, hiring, and budgets.”

In 2007, he saw an opportunity to run for councilor-at-large. He  won and later served as council president.

Last year, the Northeastern University and Suffolk Law School graduate sought the legislative seat vacated by state Rep. Robert Fennell in the 10th Essex District. He ran unopposed.

“The Legislature was the most logical step for me to use my expertise as a municipal elected office and bring it to the state level,” he said.  “Since college I wanted to be a state representative. It’s the best place to make change.”

More recently, he joined the Lynn law firm of Bradley Moore Primason Cuffe & Weber LLP.

Charles Gaeta, executive director of Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, said he counts Cahill as one of his best friends.

“His strong work ethic and community involvement were modeled after his parents,” he said. “He will be missed on the Council. I’ve learned a lot from him. My staff routinely praise him for the many initiatives he’s helped on.  It will be sad to see him go, but we are fortunate he will be at the State House.”

Frances Martinez, president and CEO of the North Shore Latino Business Association, said while Cahill will leave a void on the Council, he will be better able to perform his duties on Beacon Hill.

“It’s best for him to wear one hat and not two with that level of responsibility,” she said.

Several candidates have already pulled papers to run for the open seat including Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood and Jaime Figueroa, a college student, who hopes to be the city’s first Latino councilor.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Lynn says no; so what now?

Cathy Rowe posts early returns Tuesday night at Lynn City Hall.


LYNN — One day after a ballot question to build two middle schools lost in a landslide, proponents are reeling from the outcome.

“We knocked on doors and got great feedback from folks, so we were surprised and saddened by the outcome,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union. “I don’t know why there was such large opposition.”

In a special election on Tuesday, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the schools, managed to get the no vote out. They argued that the 44 acres near the proposed Parkland Avenue school site should be reserved exclusively for future burial grounds and open space.

At a meeting of the Pickering School Building Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, Lynn Stapleton, the school project manager, thanked the panel for their hard work and acknowledged the sadness in the room.

“It was an overwhelming no vote,” she said. “And the votes came from well beyond where the school was to be located. The outcome was really upsetting, but we will move on.”

Schools out in Lynn

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, said he plans to meet with the mayor in the coming weeks.  

“We want to give everyone time to consider the results,” he said.  “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site. And we ask the City Council to keep the 44 acres for the cemetery.”

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government authority that funds school construction projects, which agreed to fund a portion of the Lynn project, gives the city 10 days to explain why the vote failed and how the city wants to proceed. Under the agency’s rules, the city could withdraw or modify its plan and re-apply for funds by April 7 or meet next year’s April deadline.

One of the options is to build just one school, Stapleton said. Or the city could consider a phased option where construction begins on one school and then another. The other possibility is to simply add more classrooms at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. The city could also withdraw from the competitive funding process.

Given MSBA’s timelines, if the city decides to go forward with a new plan, nothing will happen until 2020.

Full results of Lynn school vote

But Stapleton suggested this was not the time to make any decisions.

“Emotions are a little raw right now,” she said. “Let’s think about it, schedule another meeting and see what we might come up with for alternatives. We don’t have lots of time. But if you think that you have any kind of plan that might conceivably work, I recommend that we submit it to the MSBA within 10 days and see if we can get them to work with us. Otherwise, your only other option is to withdraw from the program and submit next year and try to get back in.”

Following the meeting, Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was heartbroken for the school children and the city.

“I don’t think the vote was about the money, but I just don’t know,” she said. “I wish I knew.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she needs time to consider the vote.

“I need to figure out why they voted no,” she said.

Duncan, the union president, said the vote doesn’t resolve the need for more classroom space or the condition of school buildings.

“The Pickering’s roof was leaking significantly on election day from the melting snow,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to come up with a solution.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

The 6 ‘alternative facts’ of school no-voters


I write as president of the Lynn City Council and for the councilors-at-large. We cannot in good conscience sit by and allow the negative, defamatory statements, distortions and outright lies from the “vote no on two new schools” team go unanswered.  

The negativity and outright venom spewed by the opposition shocks the values that we hold true in our hearts. We are utterly disgusted to read social media posts stating that “those children” from foreign countries who speak with accents do not deserve a quality education.  

The anger and nastiness of this campaign by the “vote no” supporters makes the recent presidential election look like a hug fest.

We as Lynners have a unique opportunity to literally change the lives of more than 100,000 of our children for the next century. It is ironic that the residents of Ward 1 who pay some of the highest property taxes in the city are forced to send their children to a crumbling building that does not meet the educational needs of the 21st century.  

Not so long ago, a former Marblehead state representative told his constituents they should support strong state school funding for Lynn. Swampscott raises captains of industry, he said, who “need very well educated employees.”

As Lynners, we find that statement and such a sentiment to be a slap in the face.  We sincerely hope that no Lynner believes that we should be looked down upon by any other community.  

We are proud to be from Lynn and want nothing but the very best for our families and children.  

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

The irony is not lost on us collectively that Swampscott educational leaders have toured the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School and intend to model future construction in their town on this project that was finished on time and under budget. The proposed schools in large part will be modeled after Marshall and the West Lynn site will be almost identical.

“Alternative fact No. 1” put forth by the opposition claims that Lynn can simply go back to the drawing board and select a new site. This is just not true. Lynn has spent almost $1.1 million on architectural drawings, traffic studies, sewer studies and wetland/drinking supply protection studies. There is no more money to funnel into additional studies and plans.  

The plain fact of the matter is that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has insisted that one of the schools be located in the East Lynn District. There are no other sites in East Lynn that exist that are financially or environmentally feasible.  

The Magnolia Avenue site is not a viable option. That  land is located in a flood zone. There is an existing Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe that runs underneath the playground that supplies water to the citizens from Swampscott and Marblehead.  The site is not large enough to accommodate a 600-plus student facility without taking by eminent domain a portion of the neighboring elderly apartment complex. Such a taking would result in dozens of elderly persons being relocated to new homes.

If the citizens of Lynn reject the two modern state-of-the-art educational facilities, Lynn will go to the end of the line and be forced to submit a new application. Exploding enrollment projects show that by 2021, Lynn will have either double sessions or classrooms with 50 children.  In all likelihood, Lynn would not get back to the front of the line at the MSBA until 2019 or 2020.  

This ensures double sessions or students crammed into classrooms like sardines. But even this ignores the fact that there are no other viable sites in East Lynn. Therefore, it makes no sense to re-apply. Lynn will just dump good money after bad fixing up a Pickering Middle School that can never be adequately rebuilt for today’s middle school educational needs.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

“Alternative Fact No. 2” as put forth by the opposition states Lynn will be taking multiple homes at the reservoir site. This is just not true. Lynn heard the voices of the opposition and redrew the plans so that only one home will be taken by eminent domain.  

The wonderful woman who was the subject of news coverage several months ago will not lose her home. The younger woman who would be required to relocate has and will continue to be offered every reasonable accommodation. The Lynn City Council has gone on record supporting the idea of moving her home several hundred yards down the road so that she can remain in the home she built.

Opponents ignore the fact that two homes were taken by eminent domain in order to construct Thurgood Marshall. Those relocated for Marshall were residents of Ward 3 and we know for a fact that they were extremely satisfied with the efforts Lynn undertook to relocate them to a new home of their choosing.  

“Alternative fact No. 3” put forth by the opposition states that the cost of the school project will be $5,000 per taxpayer. This figure will be spread out over 25 years. In return, Lynners will see their property values soar. Think about it: Residents with children looking to buy property will not want to buy in Lynn if our schools are an embarrassment. We urge Lynners to take a tour of the existing Pickering.

Quite simply, the physical condition of Pickering is an embarrassment.

The more families are satisfied with the conditions of our schools, the greater the demand will be for our own homes. Our greatest assets are our homes. With the construction of two new schools, our homes will go up in value considerably.  By approving these two new schools, we have just increased our own net worth by tens of thousands of dollars almost immediately.  

“Alternative fact No. 4” put forth by the opposition states that the property is part of Lynn Woods. This outright fabrication can simply be rebutted by the fact that the Friends of Lynn Woods have publicly said that the land is not part of the Lynn Woods Reservation.

“Alternative fact No. 5” put forth by the opposition states that the land is cemetery land. The deeds for the subject land clearly state that the City of Lynn owns this land with no restrictions. An attorney for the “vote no” group has conceded at a public hearing before the Lynn City Council that the deeds on file at the Registry of Deeds contain no restrictions requiring this land to be used for cemetery purposes.

Conversely, the Lynn City Council is on record as supporting the sale of 32 acres to the Pine Grove Cemetery and said deed will state the land will be used solely for cemetery purposes.  Because there exists no deed restrictions or conditions on file at the Registry of Deeds, the Lynn City Council would be free to sell this land to a developer to construct hundreds of new homes.

The Lynn City Council did not seek such a solution. Rather, it unanimously voted to commence the process to transfer this land to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission at no cost.

“Alternative fact No. 6” put forth by the opposition states that the selection of these sites was done behind closed doors with no public input. All meetings of the Pickering Site Committee have been open to the public.  Three public forums were held where our community could speak up on the proposed sites.

Members of the Lynn City Council have personally met and spoke with the leader of the opposition on almost a dozen occasions. Our city council colleagues have attempted to address or mitigate each and every one of their stated concerns.  

Now is the time for us as a community to step up.  The negativity and anger is unacceptable. We are supporting the two new schools because our only interest is the children of Lynn.  

Our fellow Lynners: Let’s vote yes on two new schools so that our children will have the necessary tools to be captains of industry for generations to come.  

Editor’s note: City Council President Darren P. Cyr wrote this editorial and signed it with fellow councilors Buzzy Barton, Council Vice President, and Councilors-at-large Daniel F. Cahill, Brian P. LaPierre and Hong L. Net.


Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.


LYNN If voters reject the ballot initiative on Tuesday to build a pair of new middle schools, students face the possibility of split sessions, according to the superintendent.

“If we don’t build these schools, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be in double sessions in a very short period of time, possibly within two years,” said Dr. Catherine Latham.

Today, 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

“Our schools cannot sustain that many students,” she said. Under double sessions, one group of students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the next group would arrive at 1 p.m. and go until 5:30 p.m., she said.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Latham, Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, Edward Calnan, member of the Pickering Middle School Building Committee, and Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, made the case for the $188.5 million project.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The new schools will add an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

Calnan said they explored more than a dozen potential sites, but they were dropped due to a variety of issues. Some were in a flood zone or marsh land, others had hazardous waste that precluded school construction. A site at Magnolia Street would boost building costs by as much as $800,000 to move a water pipe that serves Swampscott and Marblehead, officials said.

A vacant parcel on Rockdale Avenue and Verona Street was examined, but the committee found the tight residential neighborhood was difficult to access and is privately-owned. They also looked at General Electric Co. properties on Bennett Street and on Elmwood Avenue. But those were rejected because of environmental concerns, they said.

Latham said all of the city’s middle school students should have the same experience as those attending the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Last spring, the 181,847-square-foot school opened for more than 1,000 students. The three buildings are divided by clusters, each distinguished by a different color. In addition to an outdoor courtyard, lots of natural light, the soundproof classrooms block any hint of the commuter rail trains that run past the rear of the school and the sounds of musical instruments from several music classes.  

In addition, there are suites for special education and art. The school boasts computer rooms complete with Apple computers. It contains home economics rooms, a woodworking shop, a television production studio and a health center.

Iarrobino, who serves as the liaison between the schools and the School Committee, said any discussion of school must include a link to the local economy.

“If folks are contemplating opening a business in Lynn, the first thing they will ask about is where will their employees attend school and what are the schools like,” he said. “We have an obligation to them and they have a right to the best quality education that is available to them, not just in the suburbs, but right here in an urban district.”  

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Mayor, super make case for new schools

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks to a crowded room at Stadium Condominiums in Lynn.


LYNN Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is taking no chances when it comes to passing a controversial ballot question to fund a pair of new middle schools.

On Wednesday night, the mayor and her City Hall team made the case for the $188.5 million project to more than three dozen seniors who packed the recreation room at the Stadium Condominiums.

“Right now, the library at Pickering consists of two rolling carts with books and there are no science labs,” Kennedy said. “When you contrast that with what we see at the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the kids are simply not getting the same educational experience.”

In a passionate plea, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child.

“Our beautiful new Marshall has cooking, sewing, wood shop, a TV studio, three-dimensional art rooms, music rooms and they should be available to everyone in Lynn,” she said.

Latham said there is lots of misinformation about the project. The city looked at more than a dozen sites, she said.

“We’ve heard people suggest a site on Federal Street near the fire station,” she said. “But it’s contaminated land and that is not a possibility. Magnolia Avenue has flood plains and an MWRA water line. Some have told us to use the Union Hospital site; we don’t own it.”  

The building committee also considered renovating the existing Pickering and that would cost $44 million without any state reimbursement, Latham said.

If approved by voters on March 14, the Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir that would house 652 students, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Residents will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

But Donald Castle, a Stadium unit owner and founder of the Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, urged the crowd to vote no.

“Your taxes will go up above and beyond the legal limit for 25 years,” he said. “The land should be preserved for a cemetery. We ask the city to protect our cemetery and protect our reservoir.”

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the school will use about a dozen acres of the 44-acre site. The rest, he said, will be preserved for cemetery expansion. In addition, he said, the project will fund a $1 million road and bridge that the Cemetery Commission could not afford. Without the school, the land could not be accessed for new graveyards.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he favors construction of the two schools.

“No matter where kids live in Lynn, they should have the same opportunities as kids get in Swampscott, Marblehead and Lynnfield,” he said. “Every one of us has a chance to change kids’ lives and by voting yes on March 14, you will give those kids a chance that they will not get otherwise.”

School Committee member Lorraine Gately said a yes vote is essential for the city’s children.

“If we don’t support this, our future is larger class sizes and double sessions,” she said.

Moving on time in Lynn

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy explains how the school funding works. 


LYNN — More than three dozen educators and parents gathered at the Knights of Pythias Tuesday night to support construction of a pair of middle schools.

The group, which calls itself  “Two Schools for Lynn,” is advocating a yes vote on next month’s ballot question. If approved, homeowners will pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills. The two schools would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

“I spent 40 years in the Lynn schools and we owe it to Lynn teachers and school children to get this vote through,” said Bart Conlon, former director of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Proponents say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment and and modernize students’ educational experiences.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

“We are already squeezing students into every possible classroom space,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who also attended the session. “We need the space that the new schools would allow  and our students need modernity in their school experience.”

The new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School, which opened last year, features natural light, air conditioning, a state-of-the-art security system, and other amenities that cater to middle school student’s needs, the mayor said.

“An address shouldn’t prevent a child from an equitable learning experience,” Kennedy said. “We must have schools in urban core, where all the largest number of middle school children live.”

If construction of two new middle schools fails to win voter approval, the city will go to the end of the line for state funding, she said.

Lynn’s schools are the fifth largest in the state, with more than 16,000 students. Student population has swelled by 17 percent in the past five years.

Mary Ann Duncan, a Lynn guidance counselor,  said overcrowding is becoming a major issue.

“We want to make sure we have a yes vote on March 14,” she said.

Still, the proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir, citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

Home Depot nails down learning cafe

Thomas Grillo contributed to this report and can be reached at

Lynn council costs out middle school plan


LYNN — Voters will be asked to fund two new schools during a special election on March 14.

The City Council unanimously approved putting a question on the ballot asking voters to approve the $188 million project, which would be for the construction of two schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Voters will also see a question asking if the project should be allowed to be exempt from Proposition 2 1/2, which places limits on the amount a community can raise through property taxes.

Voters would be responsible for an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills. The Massachusetts School Building Authority would reimburse about 60 percent of the funds, or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

Real deal: $7.5M sale in Lynn

In a previous interview with The Item, City Attorney James Lamanna said under the city charter, the council was required to put the question on the ballot. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million.

If voters approve the funding, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second 1,008 student-school would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. If voters reject the measure, the city could lose the state money.

Officials in favor of the project, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, spoke about the need for new facilities to keep up with increasing enrollment.

Kennedy said there has been a 17 percent increase in the student population over the past five years. Latham added there are more than 16,000 students in Lynn Public Schools, making it the fifth largest district in the state.

Kennedy said she couldn’t emphasize enough the education inequity occurring at the middle school level, after the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School opened. She said it wasn’t right that students in the Pickering district have to go to a school of inferior quality, or that students in the Breed district are squeezed into a school that is overcrowded.

“The only way the city can bear the $200 million approximated price tag of these two schools is to do this as a debt exclusion,” Kennedy said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much we need to have these modern middle schools in the city of Lynn.”

Latham said if the schools aren’t approved, the district would be in dire need of more classroom space. There might need to be a return to half-day kindergarten, she added.

Donald Castle, president of Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove Cemetery, said the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery. The city’s law department became aware of documents from 1893 in the fall suggesting that the land belongs to the cemetery.

“We’re not against the schools,” he said. “We’re against the site.”

Lamanna said it’s the opinion of the law department that the city owns the land, and would prevail in court if challenged.

Following the unanimous vote, city councilors weighed in on the potential schools. City Council President Darren Cyr said building two new schools to replace 100-year-old buildings was about providing students with the same opportunities kids in neighboring communities have.

“If we don’t build these new schools, we could have as many as 40 to 50 kids in a classroom,” Cyr said.

City Councilor Dan Cahill said Lynn can’t be a community of folks who don’t invest in their youth. “If we don’t make this investment, I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen in the city of Lynn,” he said.

In other news, a public hearing was set down for Feb. 14, regarding moving 57 custodians from city employment to the jurisdiction of the school department.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department director, said the move was to meet the net school spending requirement. When they worked for the city, he said, their health insurance didn’t work toward net school spending. If the move is passed, their benefits would be going toward that.

Donovan said the custodians are working for inspectional services now, which cleans school buildings. They would just have a different employer in the school department.

“The school will be paying for them if this proposal passes,” Donovan said.

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


Learning a shore thing in Nahant

Karen Lospennato, the owner of Shoreline Learning Center, stands at her learning facility in Nahant.


NAHANT Karen Lospennato, a former educator who spent more than 30 years teaching students on the North Shore, will open a learning center for children in Nahant this month.

Registration for Shoreline Learning Center, which will offer enrichment, homework help, tutoring and educational programs, will begin on-site at 147 Nahant Road on Saturday.

Programs will be open to elementary school students after school from 2:30-6 p.m. and during school breaks.

Lospennato, a 40-year Nahant resident, has filled every role from a teacher to a reading coach to a curriculum director throughout her career. From 1984 to 1994, she was an elementary school classroom teacher in grades one through four, serving Nahant, Everett and Danvers. She went on to become the literacy coordinator for Marblehead Public Schools for eight years.

She has been a literacy coach for Boston Public Schools, the executive director of teaching and learning for Swampscott Public Schools, a literacy specialist for the Saltonstall School in Salem, and most recently, a reading coach at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Lynn.

“I retired at the age of 60, but I’m still very young physically and emotionally and I still love working with kids,” Lospennato said. “I want to continue to foster that passion that I have.  I want to continue working with students. I could have done that as a substitute teacher, but I wanted to form relationships. That’s the best part of a teaching job, the bond that you form with the kids.”

Concerns about boiler heat up in Swampscott

Friends and former educators who are certified teachers will join her team to accommodate the number of students who enroll, she said.

“A big component of it is kids having something to do after school, other than just plopping down in front of the TV, being sedentary or walking around the town,” she said. “It’s not a babysitting service or a place to just hang out. We’ll have activities where kids will have to use problem-solving skills either by themselves or with a group.”

Lessons will also be centered on science, technology and the arts, she said. The center will have a full library and space for students to do their homework.

“I remember, as a working mom, there wasn’t a lot of after-school activities for my daughter,” Lospennato said. “We’ll have someone who knows how to help kids get their homework done so when they go home, the parents can have that down time with them.”

During the February school break, STEAM activities, a CSI-Solve the Mystery activity and a pick-your-own activity session will be offered each day. Each two-hour session costs $15 with price breaks for students enrolled in more than one per day.

One-on-one tutoring sessions can be scheduled for $75 per hour. Children from Nahant and all surrounding districts are eligible to enroll.

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

Lynn poised to go upscale downtown

The historic flatiron building on Central Avenue will be home to an upscale pizzeria and cafe on the ground floor and 49 market-rate units on the upper six floors by 2017. (Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Plans for the historic flatiron building on Central Avenue were unveiled on Friday.

As part of the $11 million investment, James Cowdell, executive director of Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., said the ground floor will be transformed into two new businesses: an upscale pizzeria and a cafe.

The six upper floors will be used for residential space. Plans include 49 market-rate units.

Cowdell said Pie and Pint will offer about 25 craft beers and seating for 105 people. The coffee shop, called The Brew, will be comparable to a Starbucks with high-end coffee and free wifi.

“This is exactly what we want,” Cowdell said. “The first floor is going to be something that draws people into the downtown. And we’ll have people living in the downtown that have disposable income.”

The property was sold to Union One Thirty Eight, LLC, managed by John McGrail, for $2 million in 2014.

The project is expected to be completed by April of 2017, with residents moving in and the businesses opening their doors at that time, Cowdell said.

It fits with the revitalized city that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy described in her address to the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning. She said Lynn in a constant state of transformation.

From the recently completed work at Wyoma Square, which improved the northwestern gateway to the city, to the facelift for the Small Common, and the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, she listed numerous improvements to infrastructure that were completed in the past year, and several that are in the works.

High-end eateries like Rossetti’s Restaurant, D’Amici’s Bakery and the Blue Ox reside in the same neighborhood. Bent Water Brewing Company has been so successful, it recently underwent a $2 million expansion, Kennedy said.

North Shore Community College has plans to open a free-standing book store on Broad Street, which the city currently lacks, she said.

“We have every reason to feel good about what we’ve done,” the mayor said. “Even more so for what’s to come.”

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

Voters schooled on new polling places

Lynn City Clerk Mary Audley holds signs instructing voters of new voting locations in this week’s primary election. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke.

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Voters will cast ballots at two new locations for the first time on Thursday.

While residents may have been worried about who will fill the Essex County Sherriff’s seat or which Democrat will face State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) in the November election, City Clerk Mary Audley was determining where.

Ward 4 precincts 1 and 2 will vote at KIPP Academy at 90 High Rock St. Ward 4 precincts 3 and 4 will cast votes at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society.

The Ward 3 polling place is now at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Brookline Street, rather than Lynn English High School.

Audley, who also runs the Elections Department, said the change allows for more space for the 2,650 registered voters in Ward 4 precincts 1 and 2. More than 7,600 residents are registered to vote at Marshall.

“The people of Ward 3 have been waiting to go to the new Marshall,” she said. “English is in Ward 2 and voting was disruptive to students at English. Marshall has more parking and more space. The gym is further away from the rest of the school and it won’t disrupt the kids. That’s the case at KIPP, too.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said Lynn’s public schools will be open on Thursday.

“We are happy to act as a host during election days, but we ask that people be respectful of the education of our students,” she said. “If possible, voters should plan to avoid school opening and dismissal times. During those times sidewalks and streets will be crowded and parking may be difficult.”

Alternatively, students at KIPP will have the day off, said Jennifer Startek, director of school operations. Voters will access the school through the gym entrance, located on the left rear side of the building. Parking will be made available nearby.

Preparations for the election began months ago. Audley determined the best locations and made a recommendation to the city council, who approved the changes. Voting equipment was tested last week and prepared for delivery to each of the 28 polling places.

Letters were sent to the residents in all of Ward 3 and in Ward 4 precincts 1 and 2, reminding them of the changes. Still, large signs will be posted at Lynn English to alert voters that they are at the wrong place, she said.

Click here to find out where your polling location is

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

School’s back (Boo Hoo)

First-grader Ayla Ryan, left, her mom, Elana Ryan, and her sister, Aadryan, at dismissal time at the West Elementary School in Peabody on Monday. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Bridget Turcotte

Many students are packing their backpacks for the annual return to the classroom this week. Students in Saugus, Swampscott, Marblehead, Lynnfield and the Johnson Elementary School in Nahant all return on Wednesday.

Many schools are carrying on traditions of their own.

On Thursday, the Johnson School will hold its annual start-of-the-year flag-raising ceremony.

“The first-graders will present the flag to the new sixth-grade class,” said Principal Kevin Andrews. “The whole school will gather and say the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time together.”

At the end of the year, the flag is brought down and the sixth-graders fold it and give it to the kindergarten class, which holds onto it over the summer until the new year starts, he said.

The Nahant Education Foundation also sponsors a back-to-school bonfire at the end of each summer to kick off the school year. On Thursday night, children will snack on s’mores on Short Beach.

The Waybright Elementary School in Saugus offers a Boo Hoo Breakfast to parents of new kindergartners who are sad about dropping off their children.

“Right after they drop off the kids for the first day of school and say goodbye for the first time, they can have breakfast and coffee together at the school,” said Principal Kelly Moss. “This will be our third one.”

Stacy Phelan, principal of Hadley Elementary School in Swampscott, said she offers something similar.

The parents of all incoming kindergartners and new students can visit the classroom on their child’s first day. Afterward, they gather for breakfast.

“It’s for all those parents who are having a little bit of anxiety about leaving their child in new care,” Phelan said. “We invite them to meet the PTO, meet me. They are new in our community and we want to make them feel more comfortable about that transition they are going through.”

In previous years, between 30 and 40 parents have attended.

To help the children feel more comfortable, they could attend a meet-and-greet popsicle day last week. The students could visit and find out who their teachers will be while snacking on frozen treats.

Glover Elementary School in Marblehead will have a Glover Gathering Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. Students can meet, visit their teachers and get to know the school before the first day.

Children at the Village Elementary School in Marblehead celebrated with an ice cream social Monday.

Revere Public Schools have been in session since Friday, Aug. 26. Kindergarten and Pre-K will return Wednesday.

Students in Peabody Public Schools went back to school Monday.

Lynn elementary schools will begin Wednesday, Sept. 7. Kindergarten and Pre-K on Monday, Sept. 12. Sixth-graders at Breed Middle School, Thurgood Marshall Middle School and Pickering Middle School will return Sept. 7, while grades 7, 8 and 9 will go back on Sept. 8.

Grade 9 at Lynn English High School, Lynn Classical High School and Lynn Vocational Technical High School start on Sept. 7 and grades 10, 11 and 12 return on Sept. 8.

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

Changes big and small as kids get ready to head back to school

Anthony Constas, front, and Jeremiah Daly work on the punch list at the new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Adam Swift

Peabody middle school students will soon step into the future on their first day of school.

About 1,400 sixth, seventh and eighth graders will file through the doors of the new Higgins Middle School next Wednesday.

While the size of the $92.6 million school, at 224,000-square-feet, is slightly smaller than the old building being demolished next door, Principal Todd Bucey said the new Higgins feels bigger, brighter and more user-friendly.

There are big windows with lots of glass everywhere, letting in tons of natural light, something that was in short supply at the old Higgins, Bucey said. The new building also features a state-of-the-art cafeteria and food court, a culinary arts department and is fully wireless.

Many of the teachers have already been in the school, preparing their classrooms for the new year.

“The feedback has been all positive,” said Bucey. “It’s a great experience to be able to move to a state-of-the art building. For the teachers that have been in here, for the first time they realize that this is going to be their building in a week and a half.”

At first glance, the 500-seat auditorium with choreographed lighting and three riggings for shows or the newly buffed and polished main gym may be more impressive centerpieces to the school. But Bucey said the technology advancements at the school may be even more important when it comes to learning.

“Technology is a big improvement,” said Bucey. “We made due at the old building.”

— Focusing in on technology —

At the new school, staff and students will be doing much better than that.

Each classroom has an interactive projector, and later this week, each student will be handed a Chromebook that they can take with them everywhere.

This year, the one-to-one Chromebook program is being implemented in the district in grades six through nine. Within three years, the program will be expanded to every student in grades six through 12.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. said the upgrades at the Higgins are only part of the focus on technology in the district.

The new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody will open this fall. (Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

The new J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody will open this fall. (Photo by Owen O’Rourke)

“We are increasing broadband capacity at the high school and elementary schools,” he said. “I feel this is a great step forward for technology and for assisting our students in the 21st century.”

There has been some general maintenance work and improvements at other schools in the district, the mayor said, including new windows at the McCarthy Elementary School. Next summer’s plans include a new roof for the high school.

But with opening day little more than a week away, much of the excitement remains focused on the Higgins, which has traditionally been one of the largest middle schools in the state.

“We’re very happy and we feel that everything at the school is on target,” said Bettencourt. “It’s a reality now.”

Before Bettencourt took office in 2012, there were plans to renovate and build an addition onto the existing school.

Bettencourt later contacted the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), a quasi-independent authority created to fund capital improvement projects in public schools, and told them the city needed a new middle school, according to Jack McCarthy, the agency’s executive director.

Construction began on the new school, only feet away from the existing Higgins, in the summer of 2014. The MSBA is covering just under $44 million of the project cost.

While it has mostly been teachers and staff who have seen the fruits of the labor at the Higgins so far, several students got sneak of the new facility earlier this spring as contractors turned over the keys to the building to the city.

“Looking around, it looks so futuristic,” said Adam Abdulghani, a seventh grader. “It looks like someone took a page from ‘Back to the Future.’”

— On target in Lynn —

In Lynn, students moved into the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School at the end of the last school year.

But with 28 buildings to look after in the district, the city’s division of building and grounds stayed more than busy during the dry, hot summer.

Taking just the Lincoln-Thomson Elementary School on Gardiner Street into account, there was a major overhaul to the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms and masonry work to the exterior of the building.

There’s been a lot of work put into the school, which opened in 1913, over the past few years said Joe Smart, Lynn’s director of buildings and grounds.

“That should extend its life for at least another 100 years,” he said.

A small sample of some of the other work undertaken over the summer include bathroom upgrades at the Tracy Elementary School, security upgrades at nine district buildings, the second phase of a bleachers project at Lynn Tech, new windows at the Harrington Elementary School, an updated PA system at Lynn Classical High School and rehabilitation of the portable classroom at the Ford Elementary School.

Like Peabody, Smart said the multitude of Lynn schools projects are on target for completion by the beginning of the school year.

“There’s proper planning, great execution, and the contractors are in early to define the scope of the projects,” said Smart.

— A new leader in Marblehead —

In addition to new and spiffed up schools, North Shore students and parents can expect to see some new and familiar faces in new positions.

Former Beverly High School assistant principal Daniel Bauer takes the reins as the new principal at Marblehead High School.

Upon his selection, Marblehead Superintendent Maryann Perry praised Bauer for his  “knowledge in curriculum and assessment along with his ability to build relationships with students, staff and the community makes him a perfect fit for our school system.”

— Lynnfield is ready —

Lynnfield Superintendent Jane Tremblay said this is the most excited she has been for an opening day in her 30 years in the schools.

“We are on target to open and are ready for August 29,” she said. “We have 13 new faculty members and three new administrators.”

The new administrators are Kevin Cyr, who is moving from the high school to take over as the district’s Director of Teaching and Learning; Brian Bates as a new assistant principal at the high school; and Thomas Sallee, a new assistant principal at the middle school. Bates comes to Lynnfield from the Lawrence Public Schools and Sallee recently worked in Natick.

“They bring unique skill sets to their jobs,” said Tremblay. “I’m confident they will be valuable additions to the schools and the administration.”

Adam Swift can be reached at

Arresting evidence in Lynn

Jacquelyn Ramirez dusts a CD for fingerprints during a class at the Lynn Summer Police Academy at the Marshall Middle School.


LYNN — Lynn teens are investigating law enforcement careers.

The Lynn Summer Police Academy divides its time between the classroom and hands-on activities. It offers a real-life policing experience for children interested in becoming a cop.

“My dad is a police officer,” said Jonathan Kim, 16. “Ever since I was little I wanted to be part of the criminal justice field. I learned a lot more this summer.”

More than 90 applicants applied this year and 60 children were chosen to participate. Half way through the six-week program, 13 dropped out while 47 students remain. The program is paid for by the city and organized by Student Resource Officers Bob Hogan, Mark Lee and Ryan McDermott.

“It’s a tough academy and it’s not for everyone,” said McDermott, student resource officer at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. “We want to teach them about commitment. Everything we do is focused on community, leadership and integrity.”

This week, the students are getting their feet wet with forensics. Detectives Howard McCollin and Shawn Hogan of Lynn Police Department’s Identification Unit gave a lecture and lesson on fingerprinting.

The students were taught everything from identifying the features of a print to the various reasons someone might need to be fingerprinted. They then placed their own hands on pieces of paper and used magnetic powder and brushes to process the prints.

In another classroom, Hogan taught students how to lift fingerprints from objects.

Howard’s been a program volunteer for a decade, enjoys the program and likes that the children do too.

“There have been many times I’ve been walking down the street and some will say ‘I remember you’,” Howard said. “A couple of times I found out they’ve gone into law enforcement.”

The students agree that while they’re learning, they’re also having fun.

“I like doing all the activities,” said Liliana Cruz, 13. “We went to Middleton Jail and that was interesting, but it was kind of scary.”

The group has also taken field trips to the State House, Lynn Police Station, Gillette Stadium and both Lynn courthouses. In the next few weeks they will ride on a State Police boat and go to Project Adventure in Beverly, which offers challenging activities to build character and promote teamwork.

“I like learning about law and what they do to protect us,” said Tomi Oladunjoye, 16. “I want to be in the military. You get to travel around to different places and protect people, stopping things from the source.”

Oladunjoye, a “platoon leader” for his group, said physical training on Monday mornings is his favorite activity.

Thursday, a crime scene was staged with a dummy and artificial blood splatter. The junior detectives examined entry wounds and other clues to determine what happened, McDermott said.

“The kids get to know us on a personal level and see beyond the uniform,” he said. “They’re exposed to a lot of different people and all the places we go. It’s about more than police work. This is about government, law, correction. They’re exposed to it all and at the end they can form their own opinions.”

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

Drop-In and play a while

Joseph Tolentino, left, and Stanley Hernandez play basketball at Marshall Middle School on Friday night.


LYNN — The new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a safe place for kids to beat the heat on Fridays.

The Youth Drop-In Center at 100 Brookline St. is open Friday evenings from 6-10 p.m. and runs through Aug. 26.

“We’re trying to keep kids active and busy in a safe environment,” said Lisa Nerich, associate commissioner, Department of Public Works. “Kids come in, socialize, meet new friends, play some basketball.”

Nerich said the free program, which serves at-risk youths ages 13-19 for a dozen years, improves the neighborhood and keeps Lynn youths occupied. All kids who attend are registered with the program and there are four police officers on the premises to check the bags before entering. Youths must sign in, stay within a designated area and cannot re-enter the school after they leave.

“It’s a safe place,” said Sgt. John Geary, who was on duty at the center. “We check to make sure no one brings any weapons or contraband. They’re usually well-behaved. The majority of kids come to play and socialize.”

The positive interactions at the facility foster better relationships between the youths and police, he said.

“He’s my homie,” said Jaru Allah, an 18-year-old North Shore Academy graduate and center regular, as he put an arm around Geary.

Nerich said that the number of participants has increased over the years, with an average of 80-125 youths per night. It was a smaller than average crowd on Friday, with only 19 youths gathered by 8 p.m.

Skip Coleman, a Lynn Police lieutenant, said he thought the group was small because the center just moved from its location at KIPP Academy and many regulars coming from West Lynn haven’t realized that it moved yet.  

“It’s also just a really hot one out there,” he said.

Basketball was clearly a favorite activity at the center, with the majority of attendees joining in a game or pausing to eat some of the free pizza provided.

“There is one girl always here who really plays basketball with the boys,” said Geary when asked about whether the center typically attracts more of one gender than the other. “She’s here and playing all hours.”

The Drop-In Center will continue through the fall at the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute field house.  

“It’s just to play ball,” said Joseph Marquez, 17, of KIPP Academy, when asked why he attends the program. “It’s better than staying home and doing nothing.”

Fellow attendee Yvenson St. Hilaire said that the program helps them stay out of trouble.

Nerich said that a number of guest speakers have taken part in the program over the years, including former New England Patriot Jermaine Wiggins, police officers and reformed former gang members.

“I think it’s a great program,” said James Irving, who along with Kathy Gallant donated the night’s pizza from the Lido Cafe. “It’s a great place for the kids to hang out.”

History unearthed in Lynn

Superintendent of Lynn Schools, Dr. Catherine Latham, reaches for an item from the 1923 time capsule that was found in the old Marshall school as school principal Molly Cohen looks on.


LYNN — The public got a glimpse into the 1920s at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

The $92 million school opened earlier this year, but the project’s completion was celebrated on Thursday with the opening of a time capsule that was buried at the old school building 93 years ago.

Officials called the new facility the future of Lynn and were reminded of the school’s past by a 1923 school manual and other recovered items.

There was a city auditor’s sheet dated Nov. 30, 1923 reflecting $1.5 million in assets and $1.5 million in liability; a 1920 aerial photograph of the city; and newspaper clippings from The Evening Item and the Boston Herald.

Superintendent Catherine Latham said she had heard the photograph was included in the small copper box, but was skeptical that it would remain intact.

“I had no hope of it surviving, but it survived,” she said.

Marshall students agreed.

“The coolest part was the picture of the city from the airplane,” said Robby Pojoy, 13. “I thought it would have been erased and would just be a piece of paper. It was all there.”

Makayla Abels-McGuiness, 12, said it was interesting to see newspaper clips and the photograph.

“That was really cool,” Abels-McGuiness said. “It would be cool to put stuff in a time capsule.”

A ceremonial ribbon cutting followed the time capsule reveal.

At more than 181,000 square feet, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the structure is one of the largest municipal buildings ever built in the city of Lynn.
Latham noted that the project was completed ahead of schedule and on budget. The school has features intended to keep students interested in their classes and reduce the dropout rate, she said.

“We need to provide students with a reason to want to go to school with subjects that address individual talents,” Latham said. “In this school, we will do just that.”

In addition to classroom basics, the school is equipped with a cooking room with six kitchens, a sewing room, woodshop, drafting room, instrumental music room, a life skills suite and a TV production room with state-of-the-art equipment, she said.

Principal Molly Cohen described the feeling of being in the new building on a typical school day. Children play in the gym during morning recess and gather in the lunchroom, which is filled with sunlight, she said.

“The staff and I feel privileged to help students learn and grow in this new building,” she said.

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said providing children with a new school is transformative for a community.

“It shows the students that we really care about them and that their future is our future,” he said.

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

Smart Girls Summit showcases STEM career options


LYNN — More than 120 Lynn girls will learn about science and math careers Saturday.

Girls Inc. of Lynn, a non-profit organization that aims to inspire young ladies to be strong, smart and bold, will host its annual Smart Girls Summit event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The summit is designed to increase girls’ interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and math. It’s also to make them aware of the many career options available to them.

The participants are recommended by their teachers and guidance counselors for having a special interest in science and math, and come from each of Lynn’s middle schools and KIPP Academy, a charter school.

“There’s a couple of things going on with girls at this age,” said Lena Crowley, director of middle school programs. “They tend to start to turn away from STEM. We’re exposing them to these women, who have really interesting careers, and they can see that they are very fulfilling careers.”

The event will begin with a series of 40-minute workshops. Thirteen different sessions will be available, and each girl will participate in three. Each will show the girls that math, science and technology can be fun, by having them participate in hands-on experiments.

Each workshop will be taught by a local woman working in a STEM-related career. The women will talk to the girls about how they became interested in, and prepared for their careers, and what challenges they overcame.

This year, representatives from Cell Signaling Technology, Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, the New England Veterinary Oncology Group, Salem State University, Keurig, General Electric, Deloitte and Warner Babcock Institute will all be present.

Hae Won Park, an expert in robotics who is a postdoctoral associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, will be the keynote speaker, and will talk to the girls after lunch.

Four middle school students will be recognized for participating in science and math in and out of school, Crowley said.

“In school, they’re excelling in science and math, and some of them have engineering classes,” she said. “Or they are pursuing some type of STEM activity outside of school.”

The recipients include Maisha Bellah, a student at Pickering Middle School; Virginia Christian, a student at Breed Middle School; Amia Reynoso from Thurgood Marshall Middle School; and Jazzmine Sanderson of KIPP Academy.

The summit kicks off the Eureka! summer program, which is six weeks long and available to rising seventh, eighth, and ninth grade girls. Participants take two STEM classes each morning, a personal development session called Mi Vida, Mi Viaje and two hours of sports and swimming in the afternoon.

Once a week the ladies go on an expedition, or field trip, to visit museums, labs and science centers in the area, Crowley said.

“We try to expose them to a lot of STEM places in the real world,” Crowley said. “They can see that these professions can make a big difference and are innovative and challenging.”

Ninety students are accepted to participate in Eureka! The children who complete the program are eligible for a paid internship the summer before 10th grade.

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

Marshall celebrates saying YES

Marshall Middle School student Julio Lugo, talks about his experience with Project YES at Thursday’s graduation ceremony.


LYNN — Two years ago, Miguel Soto’s grades were falling and he spent time in detention.

But that all changed when he joined Project YES, an after school program at Thurgood Marshall Middle School that deters kids from dangerous behavior and teaches community involvement and leadership.

Since Soto joined YES (Youth Empowerment Success), the eighth-grader has seen his grades improve, he’s avoided detention and hasn’t been kicked out of class.

He graduated from the program on Thursday and his perspective has changed.

“I care about being a role model now,” Soto said.

At a graduation ceremony on Thursday, YES honored 20 eighth-graders for becoming positive role models, instead of turning to drugs, gangs and violence.

Since 2009, more than 100 students and five classes have completed the program. Its graduates often return as mentors when they reach high school. They help younger students with homework and prepare them for high school.

“The purpose of the program is to try to get them to become productive and active members in society,” said

Timothy Ferrari, program director.

He said YES helps students who have academic or behavioral issues. Through the program, they develop leadership skills, he added.

Amari Gaston, 16, a freshman at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, is a mentor who has been with YES since sixth grade. He said the after-school activity helps kids stay off the streets and helps them so they don’t fail in school.

“This program has helped me from getting in trouble at my house,” Gaston said.

Ariana Cardenas, 14, an eighth-grader, was the first girl to be a student speaker at a YES graduation.

“Thank you for keeping me on track and showing me the good and bad that is out there,” she said.

Superintendent Catherine Latham said she was impressed with the graduates and excited for them to move on to high school.

“I congratulate you,” Latham said. “I’m very proud of you and I’m very proud of what you’ve become.”

Molly Cohen, principal of Marshall Middle School, said the night was about what the students have accomplished.

“The change that occurs in you is when you push through when it’s not easy,” Cohen said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) encouraged the graduates to stay involved with the community.

“You inspire leaders of today because we see the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

City Councilor Hong Net wished them the best of luck.

“You are the leaders of the future for our city,” Net said.

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

Varsity wrestling to return to Lynn

From left, assistant coach Samantha Nelson, Jared Nicholson, coach Frank Vieira, standing, and athletes Sidney Cocchia Jose Lagares, Dayris Cleto-Galo and Rohni Silveria during warm ups.



LYNN — It didn’t take long for freshman School Committee member Jared Nicholson to enhance the lives of student athletes in the city.

Nicholson, who was a champion wrestler at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School and lettered in varsity wrestling at Princeton University, has introduced the first wrestling program to the city’s public schools since the 70’s.

”This is wonderful,” he said. “I am truly grateful to so many people who have stepped up and helped me bring this program to the students of Lynn.”

The program has started with 20 boys and girls from the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Most of the team members are eighth graders. The hope is that next season the program moves up to the high school level. The plan is for Classical, English, and Tech to combine as one team, with Lynn Tech as the host school.

Joe Skeadas, Tech’s athletic director, said he is excited about wrestling becoming part of the high school team sports offerings. He is anxious for the season to begin and relieved,too.

“I have been trying to get this going for six years,” he said. “My brother, Jackie, was a member of the English Wrestling Team in the early 70’s and then it just disappeared. It’s another  option for kids, and I believe the more options we give them, the better off we all are.”

The middle school team is preparing for its first exhibition match next Thursday against the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston.

“Some of these kids are naturals,” Nicholson said. “It’s great that they are getting involved in this sport at such a young age. The big goal is to also offer a high school program in Lynn. Wrestling is a unique sport because it offers athletes a chance to be part of a team, yet challenge themselves individually while competing on a mat against another wrestler.”

Coach Frank Vieira, an eighth grade history teacher, is looking forward to the upcoming season of wrestling in Lynn.

“This is a dream come true,” he said. “The kids love it and often ask if practice can go longer. I am hoping for a squad twice this size next year.”

Assistant coach Samantha Nelson said she too is excited about the upcoming season.

“The kids are really enjoying the program,” she said. “There is a great bonding experience happening across the grade levels and that carries over into the classrooms and the hallways of the school.”

Nicholson raised $15,150 for the program from sponsors Matthew Picarsic, principal of RCG LLC, Biondolillo Associates, the Gilberg family, Edison Realty LLC, Seabay Realty LLC, and Eastern Bank.

“There is no better feeling than going the full six minutes and then the referee raises your arm in victory, and you know that you’ve just defeated someone who is working just as hard as you,” Vieira said. “I am so happy that wrestling has come to Lynn.”

First day. First-class: Marshall Middle School makes its debut

Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke
Marshall Middle School students leaving school at the end of the first day of classes in the new building.


LYNN — Thurgood Marshall Middle School students returned from April vacation to a new, 181,847-square-foot school.

The 1,108 middle school students saw the $67 million school for the first time during an early-release day Monday. After an assembly, they participated in an orientation, were assigned lockers, and got acquainted with the new building, said Principal Molly Cohen.

“This school has exceeded every expectation I had,” said Mayor Judith Flanigan Kennedy. “It’s beautiful.”

Superintendent Catherine Latham said it was like a dream to see everything that was envisioned in place and being used by the students.

The building is divided by clusters, each distinguished by a color scheme. Every classroom follows a different theme based on the class subject. The classrooms have chairs that match the wall color.

“The school is so big and pretty,” said Yailyn Mauricio, an eighth grader. “It’s so colorful. It’s way better than the old school.”

Like many of the other students, Mauricio said she was most impressed by the school’s gym and cafeteria.

“It was exciting and overwhelming,” said Shayla Morales, a sixth grader. “I didn’t want to sit down. I wanted to look at everything. I thought ‘oh my gosh, this is huge.’ “

Morales said she is most excited about the new band room because it is such an upgrade from the one at the old building.

“The kids were awestruck,” Cohen said. “Even the lighting fixtures are so modern. When I walk into the art room, I feel like I’m in a college art studio.”

The students took a particular interest in the ceiling murals in the cafeteria and the color coordination throughout the school, she said.

Overall, the first day went smoothly. There were a few bumps with crowding during dismissal. But teachers are figuring out the best procedures for entering and exiting the building upon dismissal, Cohen said.

Later, teachers will have the opportunity to provide feedback, she said.

“It feels surreal,” Cohen said. “There has been such a buildup to this move. A lot of collaboration. A middle of the year move is not easy to do. This school exceeds my expectations.”

Eighth graders will celebrate their graduation in the school’s new gymnasium on June 23 at 11 a.m., which will be the school’s first big event, she said.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Marshalling in a new school

Assistant construction manager Tim Baker demonstrates how the mirror on the teacher’s table in the science lab at the new Marshall Middle School works.


LYNN — When Thurgood Marshall Middle School students return from spring break on Monday, they will be in for a treat.

The 1,100 students, from sixth to eighth grade, will enter the new $67 million building on Brookline Street for the first time. Each grade will enter through different doors on the first day, as the school is separated by Building A, B and C, all connected, and will be given a short orientation.

Molly Cohen, the school’s principal, declined to comment.

In a letter to parents she wrote, “This is an exciting time for our school community and for the city of Lynn. “After years of planning and building, we are moving into the first new school building in Lynn in close to 20 years.”

Tim Baker, assistant project manager for NV5, the Watertown project management firm contracted for the middle school, conducted a media tour in the 181,847-square-foot facility on Wednesday.

Students will be met with a colorful design as the building has been color coded. Classrooms have different color themes by subject, with the wall color matching the chairs at each desk. The building is also separated by clusters for students, each of which has its own color. Each cluster of classrooms is in its own wing.

Baker said each teacher has their own computer and desk. Each classroom also features an interactive projector. He said the device has a trace feature, which allows someone to write on the whiteboard as he would an iPad.

Science rooms are set up lecture style, with long table desks. The rooms feature extra counter space for the experiment the teacher has planned for that day. Baker said there is also a demonstration table with a mirror, where students can see the reflection of whatever experiment the teacher is demonstrating.

A skylight on the top floor brings a burst of natural light to the four floors below. The cafeteria is designed with a cloud ceiling which is supposed to resemble the sky. The white tiles are standard ceiling tiles, but the blue, green and grey ones are made of glass. Baker said the cafeteria could seat 350 students comfortably. In between the gym and cafeteria is a stage, where performances can take place.

Other features are a fenced in courtyard, an elevator, space for life skills classes, which include stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, and a washer and dryer.

On Monday, students will follow a modified schedule and be dismissed at 11:45 a.m. Lunch will not be served the first day, but school will resume to its normal routines the rest of the week.

Boston-based Walsh Brothers is the construction manager for the project, while Raymond Design Associates of Hingham, served as the architect.

If minor problems should arise in the first week, help will be on site.

“I will be here next week,” Baker said.

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

Marshall School’s out forever

Marshall Middle School Principal Molly Cohen cuts the first piece of cake at the farewell ceremony for the Marshall Middle School in Lynn.


LYNN — School’s out forever for the Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

As students and faculty prepare to enter a new middle school after the April vacation, the school community shared their memories of the old building at an event in the auditorium Wednesday.  

The $67 million project will replace the current school with a new 181,847-square-foot facility serving 1,100 students in grades 6 through 8. The original school, built in 1923, suffers from deficiencies in major building systems including mechanical, electrical, plumbing and roof.

After directing the band at the middle school for 18 years, William Sokolow will finally have a band room in the new facility.

“The reason I’m the happiest teacher at this school to go to the new Marshall Middle, is because I have been teaching in Lynn for about 30 years and I have never had a band room,” Sokolow said.

Previously, students practiced on the stage in the auditorium, which lacked proper acoustics for band practice.

“This is a game changer at the end of my career,” Sokolow said.

The project will replace the current Marshall Middle School with a new 181,847-square-foot facility serving 1,100 students in grades 6 through 8. The original school, built in 1923, suffers from deficiencies in major building systems including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and roof.

The building will open April 25, after students return from vacation. To get familiar with the layout of the building, students have been taking tours, while teachers are packing and making the transition as easy as possible.

Molly Cohen, Marshall’s principal, said the idea of the sendoff event came from a many people who wanted to share favorite memories.

Cohen, who has been at the school since last year, said her favorite memory is the politeness of the students.

“Within the first couple of weeks of being here, I noticed that all of the students hold the door open for you,” she said. “They’re very polite in the hallways. I thought it’s such a difficult building to navigate, and yet they take the time to be helpful.”

Students are excited to have new lockers, mirrors in the bathrooms and a new gymnasium.

Catherine Latham, superintendent, who attended the Marshall school, said she is excited to bring back programs that were once taught at the school.

“I learned to cook and sew here,” she said. “We brought cooking back, we brought sewing back and we have a beautiful woodshop and carpentry area. So I’m excited for the kids to see all the extras.”

Gabe Martinez can be reached at follow him on Twitter @gemartinez92.

Buzz building for 31st Item spelling bee

Mitchell Robson competes in the Daily Item Spelling Bee at Lynn City Hall. Robson will be a participant in this year’s event.


LYNN — The contestants are set for The Daily Item’s 31st Annual Regional Spelling Bee, which will be held at Lynn City Hall Auditorium Friday at 6:15 p.m.

Students at 44 local schools competed in a round of spelling contests to determine which students would qualify to represent their school in the regional event. The Item’s regional winner will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in May.

The bee is sponsored by Mary and Joel Abramson of Flagship Travel in Marblehead. The Abramsons will send the winner to the national spelling bee, all expenses paid.

Candidates for The Item’s bee consist of champions from local schools, ranging from third- to eighth-graders.

There are 19 spelling bee champions from Lynn schools: Jasmin Jimenez Carrion, fourth-grader at Drewicz Elementary School; Jonathan Baker, sixth-grader at Breed Middle School;  Israel Ovalles, fifth-grader at Brickett Elementary School; Victoria Samuel, fifth-grader at Capt. William Shoemaker Elementary School; Yareliz Coriano, fifth-grader at Cobbet Elementary School; Juridia DeLeon, fifth-grader at E.J. Harrington Elementary School; Rebekah Soetan, third-grader at Edward Sisson Elementary School; Sasha Soy, fifth-grader at Ingalls Elementary School; Victoria Kadiri, eighth-grader at KIPP Academy; Dylan DeSisto, fifth-grader at Julia F. Callahan School; Daileny Torres, fifth-grader at Lincoln-Thomson Elementary School; Brady Bullock, fifth-grader at Lynn Woods Elementary School; Susie Stutz, sixth-grader at North Shore Christian School; Joseph Severe, eighth-grader at Pickering Middle School; Natalie-Mai, fifth-grader at Robert L. Ford Elementary School; Joysmer Minaya, fifth-grader at Sewell-Anderson Elementary School; Celine Huynh, fifth-grader at St. Pius V School; Chiara Tazoa, seventh-grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School; and Paw Htoo, fourth-grader at William P. Connery Elementary School.

Three school spelling bee champions hail from Swampscott: Daniel Miretsky, third-grader at Clarke Elementary School; Andrew Tierney, fourth-grader at Hadley Elementary School; and Luca Croft, fourth-grader at Stanley School.

Marblehead’s winners are: Maia Newburg, seventh-grader at Marblehead Community Charter Public School; Ryan Grohe, eighth-grader at Marblehead Veterans Middle School; and Ella Kramer, sixth-grader at the Village School.

There are six top spellers in Revere: Teo Hood, fifth-grader at Paul Revere Innovation School; Samy Kardady, fifth-grader at Garfield Elementary School; John Barry, third-grader at Beachmont Elementary School, Aamna Umar, fifth-grader at Lincoln Elementary School; Sami El Asri, fifth-grader at Hill Elementary School; and Walid Ichcho, fifth-grader at Whelan Elementary School.

Other qualifying spelling bee champions include: Torin Anderson, fifth-grader at Johnson School in Nahant; Connor Gagne, fifth-grader at Douglas Waybright School in Saugus; Elinor Davenport, fourth-grader at Covenant Christian School in Peabody; and Sofia Valencia, sixth-grader at Higgins Middle School in Peabody.

Nine other spellers from North Shore communities will also compete: Luis Placido, eighth-grader at Bellesini Academy (Lawrence); Celeste Bucci, eighth-grader at Holten-Richmond Middle School (Danvers); Clara Diniz, seventh-grader at Rockport Middle School (Rockport); Caroline Clarke, sixth-grader at Sacred Heart School (Haverhill); Mitchell Robson, eighth-grader at St. John’s Prep (Danvers); Ali Hounain, eighth-grader at Salemwood School (Malden); William Yue, sixth-grader at The Pike School (Andover); Beckett Catron, seventh-grader at Dr. Paul Nettle School (Haverhill); and Ashrita Gandhari, third-grader at St. Michael School (North Andover).

The last three spellers standing will each receive an award. The first-place winner will receive  round-trip plane fare to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Bee Week accommodations at the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center and spending money for a family chaperone.

The first-place winner will also be awarded with a Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, a one-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium, a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card and the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award — a 2016 United States Mint Proof Set.

The second-place winner will be awarded with a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card and the third-place winner will receive a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. The remaining participants will each receive a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card. The gift certificates are provided by Flagship Travel.

Judges for the event will include: Karen Hynick, vice president of academic affairs at North Shore Community College; Meghann Price, reading teacher at Thurgood Marshall Middle School; and Kathleen Shaughnessy of KIPP Academy in Lynn.

Lynn English High School Social Studies Advanced Placement teacher William McGuiness will be the pronouncer for the event.

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

Students celebrate service

Julianna Perry, an eighth grader at Marshall Middle School, is Lynn’s ambassador to Project 351.


Local students were part of Project 351’s Launch Day, a day of celebration and service, which took place on Saturday, and recognized youth that have an exemplary service ethic and leadership values.

The nearly 400 students who joined Gov. Charlie Baker for Launch Day included nearly 400 eighth-graders from Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns. Monet LoPilato, 13, a student at Lynnfield Middle School, said she was selected by her principal to be a part of Project 351.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to give back,” LoPilato said.

Margaret Mancusi-Ungaro, 14, a student from Marblehead Veterans Middle School, said her group made meals for food banks. She said the group also made toiletry kits and scarves. She said they were able to make 20,000 servings of macaroni and cheese and put together 147 kits consisting of toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand warmers, lip balm, deodorant and other materials.

Project 351, an independent statewide nonprofit, is dedicated to building unity and leadership through the yearlong engagement and enrichment of its eighth-grade ambassadors. Students are selected by an educator from their respective schools for an “exemplary ethic of service and the values of kindness, compassion, humility and generosity of spirit,” according to a release.

Saturday was Launch Day for the Class of 2016, with events held in Boston, including a morning kick-off at Faneuil Hall celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a youth town meeting and service celebration at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library, according to a release.

Students participating in Launch Day were able to perform service activities to benefit five nonprofit organizations including Pine Street Inn, Cradles to Crayons, Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA) and the Greater Boston Food Bank, according to a release.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Class of 2016–a group of unsung heroes and quiet leaders committed to strengthening their communities and our Commonwealth–to Project 351, Carolyn Casey, executive director and founder of Project 351, said in a statement. “As we celebrate our sixth class, we proudly reflect on Project 351’s first five years as evidence of the power and potential of young people.”

LoPilato said she had already done community service activities as a part of her student council and Girl Scouts. In particular, she said she loves doing food pantries.

For the Project 351 Launch Day, LoPilato said her group went to Cradles to Crayons and worked in the toy department. She said her group selected toys that they thought people would like, cleaning the toys with toothbrushes, and sorting them into different categories for two separate age groups. From there, she said toys were put into care packages for children.

When she was at Cradles to Crayons, LoPilato said she talked to two young boys who only had one winter coat between them. Each day, their mother would decide which of her boys would wear the coat and get to go to school. She said that story hit home with her, as she’s never found herself in that situation before. She was also impressed with helping to serve over 1000 people in one day in just over three hours.

“We united together to make a big difference,” LoPilato said.

Mancusi-Ungaro said she was chosen for Project 351 by her guidance counselor. She said she was excited to make a difference in the Boston area and her community.

Other service work done by Mancusi-Ungaro prior to Project 351 included raising money last year for the water crisis, which she said happens in regions of the world where there isn’t clean water for people living there. She said about a billion people around the world are affected by the crisis.

Mancusi-Ungaro said what she is going to remember about Launch Day is the “feeling that came from knowing that people would be helped.”

“[I’ll remember] helping people get the food they needed, stay warm and try to bring themselves out of poverty,” Mancusi-Ungaro said. “I take a lot of things for granted. There’s a lot in my life that so many people don’t have. I didn’t realize it until last year. I want to help people to be able to have a better life and have more of what I have.”

Before students dispersed to their respective nonprofits, LoPilato said Gov. Baker was interviewed about Martin Luther King Jr. and why his “I Have a Dream” speech is so important. She said younger children also recited passages from the speech.

Julianna Perry, 13, a student at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Lynn, said she was selected by her history teacher.

“I was really happy,” Perry said of being selected. “It’s such an honor. I got to rub elbows with the governor himself.”

Perry said her group went to IBA, an after school program, where they made over 100 scarves and cards for the program. The group also made mural paintings and painted one of the classrooms. In addition, the group made 20,000 packages of clothing and food for the homeless.

In the past, Perry said her service work has included dancing and helping out at nursing homes and serving food on Thanksgiving at Brother’s Deli.

Perry said she does service work because she believes “our community can be better than what it is now.” She said the homeless and others living in poverty are just “human beings struggling through life who can get back on their feet with help.”

What Perry will remember from Launch Day is how many things the student ambassadors accomplished in just three hours.

“It just shows you can do whatever you put your mind to,” Perry said. “Hard work pays off.”

Gayla Cawley can be reached at


New Lynn City Council voices are heard


LYNNCity Council members said long-term plans are coming to fruition in the upcoming year and cited collaboration among each other as a component for their success, among them a new restaurant on Lewis Street.

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr said the next five years are going to be “unbelievable” and said projects that have been in the works are starting to “come to fruition.” Cyr cited the opening of the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School in April as one of them.

“It will make families want to move into the city of Lynn when they see that school,” Cyr said.

Cyr also spoke of funding being approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the new Pickering Middle School. Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the latter school is in its feasibility phase.

LaPierre and Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant Jr. said Market Basket is another opening the city is looking forward to, which they said is set to be ready before the end of the year.

Going forward, Trahant said he would like to see some of the land on the Lynnway get developed.

“(That’s) going to be a priority for me going forward,” Trahant said.

Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton said his goals going forward revolved around public safety, police and fire. Cyr added that a grant was recently passed to get the Community Liaison Team (CLT) out on the streets in the city.

LaPierre said another priority of the City Council is to keep Union Hospital open, and said “unanimously, we do not want to lose our full service hospital.” Trahant also cited the hospital’s importance, adding that a third of the city’s population is over the age of 65.

Trahant and Cyr spoke about Lynn Auditorium as something that continues to be an attraction in Lynn. Cyr said the entertainment at Lynn Auditorium is 10 times better than what someone would see in Boston for 10 times less expensive.

On Saturday, Cyr said Get the Led Out, a Led Zeppelin tribute band, will be performing. He said that band is one of the best tribute bands in the world.
“You’re going to see every age group there dancing in the aisles of City Hall,” Cyr said.

Cyr cited collaboration between city councilors as key to getting work done in the city. He said councilors are constantly on the phone with each other when certain problems arise.

Trahant said the city seems to be happy with council members, as each city councilor who ran for re-election retained their seat in November.

Keeping with economic development, a new restaurant was approved Tuesday night. The restaurant, which would serve alcoholic beverages, would be under the ownership of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and would be located at 45 Lewis St.

Attorney Samuel Vitali, who represented the Neighborhood Restaurant Group at the meeting, said the 45 Lewis St. building has housed many businesses, including other restaurants over the years, but said the new restaurant would use the entire building instead of sharing the space.

Vitali said the group has other successful restaurants in their franchise, including the Biltmore Bar and Grille in Newton, Biltmore and Main in Reading, and Local 149 in South Boston.

“The communities surrounding our restaurants are our lifeblood,” a Neighborhood Restaurant Group document provided by Vitali reads. “Our neighbors are our guests, our friends and our extended families.”

Cyr said he’s visited some of the Neighborhood restaurants. He said the council has been working to bring new business to the city and he is 100 percent in favor of the new restaurant.

“They’re going to bring an unbelievable restaurant to the area,” Cyr said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at