News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Three quick updates on the schools

Tonight at 7 p.m., the LHS subcommittee meeting will be broadcast live on channel 22 from the Colleen Creegan TV Studio (rescheduled due to weather). The meeting will include high school updates on science labs, alternative programs, security, and the Latin Lyceum, as well as look at the impact of initiatives to improve student attendance. For the complete agenda, check here.  As always, the public is welcome to attend in person or simply turn on the television.

During February vacation last Wednesday, the school committee voted to change the start and stop times at the McAuliffe School, beginning in September, from 8:30 in the morning to 9:10. Letters were sent home informing parents, and a follow-up poll will be conducted this week to determine interest in childcare options, such as having CTI provide morning care on a sliding-fee basis. The time change was a result of many factors that primarily had to do with cost: saving $44K-$88K in buses, closing the Varnum School in June to save $1 million, and changing bus routes due to the condition of some bridges. With many of the Varnum students (a late-start school) being displaced to the McAuliffe, along with the need to maintain transportation efficiency (three runs for each bus) given a potential budget shortfall of $4 million next year, the time change is a necessary cost-saving measure.

Last night, the Lowell High School wrestling team topped off a great season by winning the Division I State Championship. Congratulations wrestlers!  A winning team reflects the commitment of students, coaches, and families, who all worked tirelessly to make this season successful. As the Winter Sports Award Ceremony on Monday demonstrated, LHS is filled with gifted athletes, caring coaches, and involved families. Congratulations to all those who participated—your commitment to your sport makes you a tribute to LHS.

posted in Education, Sports, Youth | 5 Comments

Mourning the Patriots’ loss on many levels

I don’t know about your household, but in my family we have something I call “Post-Football Syndrome” (PFS). No matter how last night had turned out, it would have been difficult for certain family members because the end of the football season is always a tragic loss, often accompanied by feelings of emptiness, nothing good on tv, and a restless malaise that may last for months. The fact that the Patriots went down in such an upsetting loss adds to the intensity of the PFS mourning because the dream remains unfulfilled, the history-making moment gone forever. All that’s left are empty Sunday afternoons stretching endlessly until life begins anew in August. 

posted in In the News, Sports | 3 Comments

Winning in the eyes of the beholder?

Media ink swirled around last Saturday’s quad wrestling match as area newspapers pitched different views regarding whether Lowell High School’s wrestling team actually won the meet or simply tied against Timberlane. Prior to Saturday’s meet, both teams were undefeated, Division I champions for their states: Red Raiders in Massachusetts and Timberlane Owls in New Hampshire. After both soundly won against the other two participants in the four-way competition (Connecticut teams from Ledyard and Berlin), the two champions faced each other in a grueling competition that ended with a 27-27 score—and that’s where the controversy begins. According to MIAA rules used in Massachusetts’ wrestling competitions (but not followed in other states apparently), a tie score remains that for both teams. By Federation standards, the final outcome of a tie score is determined by gaining points for the number of additional pins a team gets. Since the Red Raiders had pins by James Downing and Victor DeJesus, and the Owls only had one by Dylan Lockard, the Lowell team picked up another point, winning the meet 28-27. What the Lowell Sun termed a “gutsy victory” was portrayed in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune as “Owls settle for apparent tie; Lowell claims win.” The Boston Globe also mentioned the meet, calling it a win for the Red Raiders with “strong performances” by Lowell students. Obviously, it would have been better if the coaches discussed the specific rules prior to the meet, but according to the Tribune: “Steve Tassini, a MIAA wrestling commissioner, claims that it should only remain a tie if both schools are MIAA schools,” which, of course, wasn’t the case since Timberlane is in New Hampshire. I’m happy to claim it a Lowell win, the first against Timberlane since 2003. For more discussion on the meet and all things wrestling, check out this blog.

posted in In the News, Sports, Uncategorized, Youth | 1 Comment

How the ball bounces

While the Boston Celtics didn’t do well last night in an upsetting 88-83 loss to the Washington Wizards, Lowell High School’s basketball teams have been doing great! During Friday night’s game against Andover, the Lowell girls’ team ruled the court with a 51-42 victory, and Ashley Rivera scored her thousandth career point during the final seconds of the game. Now undefeated, the girls will participate in MVC play ranked as the number one high school girls’ basketball team in the state. During its newscast last Friday night, Fox 25 highlighted the LHS girls basketball team as part of its “High School Fridays” segment. The girls will play Cambridge Rindge and Latin in Lowell on Wednesday at 6 o’clock.

Lowell High School’s boys’ basketball team is also undefeated, following an exciting overtime victory against Andover and a decisive win against Lynn English. With its 9-0 record, the boys are gearing up for a showdown with Central Catholic, also on Wednesday night at 7:30, and the stakes are first place in the MVC and the number one ranking statewide. If you can, come on down and support our great basketball teams and feel the excitement of Lowell High School athletics at its best. (Note: Wednesday at 7 p.m. is also the next school committee meeting at City Hall.)   

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LHS on Fox News

This news just in from high school headmaster Bill Samaras: Tomorrow morning at 6:35 a.m., there will be a segment highlighting the Lowell High School Air Force Jr. ROTC program on Fox 25 News. Fox will also be at LHS tomorrow night to broadcast live from the gym during their 5-6 p.m. news hour as part of their Friday night school series. Fox will be interviewing students and coaches from the Lowell Girls Varsity Basketball team just before they face off against Andover at 7 p.m. This should be a great game: Except for an earlier loss against Andover, the Lowell team remains undefeated. Fans are encouraged to see players and coaches interviewed live on TV and come down to the gym for the 7 p.m. game to cheer them on!

posted in Education, Sports, Youth | 0 Comments

Tsongas names Martin …District Director

The rumors are true. Last night, I received a call from Athletic Director Brian Martin, who is also a former Lowell councilor, mayor and city manager, announcing that he will be the chief of staff  district director for our newly elected Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, working from her office here in downtown Lowell. As much as I am excited for Martin, it is a loss for Lowell High School’s athletics department. In his brief tenure on the job, he managed to increase student participation in athletics by 30% while also increasing minority participation by 31%–huge factors when you consider how being involved in school activities often helps keep students engaged in their education.  As athletic director, Martin was also key to developing more sports offerings at the middle schools, which served as feeder programs for the high school. During our conversation last night, he promised to “not leave us in the lurch,” but I know he is also anxious to get started in his new role of serving the Fifth District. For my part, I promised him that he’d be hearing from me regarding increased federal spending for education. (The federal government spends an astoundingly miniscule amount on education—less than one percent of the entire budget.) So, congratulations to Brian Martin, and we’ll be in touch!

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Regatta on the river

While unsuspectedly driving across the Rourke Bridge to take a walk along Pawtucket Boulevard this morning, I found myself in the middle of the Textile River Regatta on the Merrimack, which seems to draw competitors from colleges, high schools and rowing associations from New York to Maine.

  A Lowell team, but I’m not sure if it’s the high school or the university.

The parking was difficult and the walking was certainly tricky, weaving in and out of families, teams, dogs and long rowing craft being maneuvered by a crew, no less skillful at walking with a boat (skiff? scull? shell?) on their shoulders than when rowing it along the river.  Still, I was pleased to have my daily walk so enlivened. Meanwhile, out on the water, in a manner incomprehensible to the layperson, slender craft were skimming along or maneuvering into position, paddles flashing in perfect time, the coordinated boats and uniforms making colorful statements of intent.  Hard to tell which teams were which and who was racing whom and in what direction – still those concerned seemed to know what they were doing.  I can never see a crew match without being thankful that the Lowell High crew team was NOT cut in 2003, when so many programs, staff and services were lost from the school budget.  It’s great that an urban high school can offer its students the opportunity to participate in Crew, and sure enough, the hard-working Lowell High crew parents were on hand, selling concessions, and the team was ready to row.

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Politicians lose to reporters

It was a bruising loss and certainly not what was expected, but the Scribes beat the Senators 9-0 in today’s game under bright blue skies at Martin Field. The Senators started with a rough first inning as the Scribes got five runs right out of the gate, and despite a valiant effort, they never completely gained their stride. They did, however, hold the Scribes to the initial five runs for many of the seven innings. And although the team of councilors, representatives, school committee members, and candidates had several outstanding double plays and more than a few exceptional hits, they could not pull out of their slump. Unfortunately, many of the best Senator hits were fly balls that were caught by the Scribes’ excellent fielders. In addition, as several people noted, the Scribes seemed to have a fair share of young, twenty-something aged athletes, while the Senators were a motley crew of middle-age-plus players. My personal performance was somewhat lacking, which is a disappointment only time will heal if ever. Even though I got a decent hit at bat, my moment of truth in the outfield ended when I did not catch a high-flying ball headed right to me. As my son said, “I should have had that one.” (Such is the pressure of sports—and losing—which, of course, are great lessons for life.) After the game, we joined forces for a cookout with the promise (or should I say threat) that we would all “do it again” next year. In all, it was a fun time with rousing spectators from both teams as well as good-natured ribbing all around. The game also raised a great deal of money—thousands—for Sun Santa, Big Brother Big Sister, and the Paul Sullivan Memorial Fund. Speaking for myself,  I’d do again, but I want to practice more than once before the big game, and there’s got to be some way to recruit folks to run for office at a younger age. Anyway, thanks to State Senator Steve Panagiotakos for organizing this event: he pulled elected officials and challengers together in a common goal that didn’t need a winning score to be a win for our community. As for the reporters, they will continue to gleefully attack us with their ink; at least for the time being, they have a whole new topic to write about.

posted in Local Politics, Sports | 2 Comments

Senators take on the Scribes tomorrow

If you’re around tomorrow, check out the 3 p.m. softball game pitting Lowell politicians against Sun writers at Cawley Stadium’s Martin Field. It’s supposed to be great weather, and the game should offer viewers a show of intense competitive effort as well as a laugh or two—all in fun of course. As a member of the Senators, a motley team of politicos and wannabe electeds under the leadership of Senator Panagiotakos, I am very excited to take on the Sun’s Scribes. Of course, I personally want to do well for my team—no strike outs, no bad throws, no missed catches. And I’m especially looking forward to hitting a blazing line drive right at my favorite editor to disagree with: Jim Campanini. (By the way, congrats on the editorial award.) Obviously, this is all part of my own sports fantasy, but with only one practice under our belts, I am cautiously optimistic the Senators will offer formidable competition at tomorrow’s game. At last week’s practice, we had some very impressive hitters: No specific names mentioned because I don’t want to tip off the opponents. I was also grateful to discover that my own ability to “keep my eye on the ball” had not completely faded from decades of not playing. Despite what you may hear to the contrary, more than a few of us were sore after that practice, but we are competitive folks and we play to win. So in that great American tradition of baseball, let the games begin!

posted in Local Politics, Sports | 0 Comments

Great day for a ride along the river

Knowing chilly weather is coming soon, I figured I should appreciate the warm temperatures while we still have them. So, when my husband announced he was taking a few hours off from work and did I want to join him on a bike ride, I immediately dropped the project I was in the middle of and grabbed my shorts. We rode from the Highlands over the Rourke Bridge and headed on the pathway toward Sampas Pavilion. This stretch is always busy on a nice day and today was no exception. We saw people of all ages enjoying the river: from babies being pushed in carriages, to tikes on training wheels, seniors with canes, folks walking dogs, and even a few young women on roller blades. Once we passed the beach and the public bathrooms, the crowds thinned out significantly until we reached University Avenue and saw college students heading over the bridge. As we continued down Pawtucket to Aiken Street, I noticed a lot of weeds overhanging the sidewalk, blocking the path, and making it difficult to pass (great project for a community cleanup). At Aiken, we left the road and went down to the dirt path along the river where the trees have been cut recently. It was great to open up the view especially if the overgrowth was impacting the river’s health. (A delicate balance of vegetation is needed to support aquatic life and water quality.) I sure hope they’re not done down there. From our vantage point, the tree stumps looked horrible—like ugly amputated limbs—and the path was covered with branches and leaves so that it was difficult to ride. The area, though, has incredible potential as an outdoor, scenic space for biking or walking along the river. Speaking of scenic rides, the Jericho Road Project is holding its annual bike-riding fundraiser this Sunday, so check it out. Meanwhile, if you haven’t been out much today, savor these last gasps of heat—maybe a late-night stroll with your honey by the light of the moon…

posted in Environment, Sports | 0 Comments

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