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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Why community service matters–a study in hair styles

It’s been a few months now of not having to attend school committee meetings since my term ended in January 2012. I’ve had a chance to reflect on the last eight years, specifically the reasons I ran, our accomplishments during my terms in office, and the work still to come. I first ran in 2003 because I felt needed and that I could make a difference. I remember thinking, my whole life up to that point seemed to have been in preparation for running. In some ways, it was true:  my education as a writer, my work experience in teaching and corporate communications, and most significantly, my activist role and leadership on the Citywide Parent Council—all helped shape me to become a successful candidate and then a member of the Lowell School Committee.

Serving on the school committee was draining, exhilarating, exhausting, and meaningful.  It aged  and inspired me.  I was honored to do the work. If I knew then what I know now, would I still have done it? Absolutely. There’s something to be said for 20/20 hindsight; certainly there were things I would have done differently—most of all,  I would not have taken myself so seriously.

Clearly, the biggest takeaway is what I learned and what I was able to contribute to my community by being involved.  Campaigning successfully for four terms tested my stamina, communication skills, and courage. Serving for eight years taught me how to build consensus, take public criticism, and persist in reaching my goals. Through it all, I modeled for my children what it means to be an active, contributing member of a community.

I’m not saying everyone must run for political office, but each one of us must find a way to contribute to a world outside ourselves and our families–not only because we’re needed, or because it will challenge us to  personal growth, or even because it will make a difference although it will–and all those reasons are valid. We step outside our safe circle and get involved because that is how we connect to others and a purpose beyond ourselves, and that is how we make meaning of our short time here.

Below is a snapshot of a video created by Jack Pinard, at LHS Channel 22, to commemorate that service. If you can get past the crazy and varied hair styles of the last eight years, you can see me—one woman trying to make a difference. I urge you to find your way to do the same.

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Campaigning uses all your skills

Running for a local seat often requires a candidate with communication skills that go beyond simply being able to stand in front of an audience and deliver pithy sound bites. In addition to being a good public speaker, a local candidate must have the skills to write and design their own print, online and broadcast campaign materials, the funds to pay others to create their copy, or a campaign staffer who can do it.

Fortunately for me, my entire career has been focused on writing using creative communication as a tool for personal branding, information and marketing, so this aspect of being a local candidate was a natural fit. It also helped that Margaret, my campaign manager, was a gifted writer, editor and graphics designer. Together, we put together some quality campaign materials.

Over the years, my favorite ones to write and produce were the radio ads. Several times, we did mini skits with children around various themes connected to education and my candidacy. When my daughter was in the fourth grade, she performed an entire radio ad, which I wrote, that went something like this: “Many of my friends will tell you the schools would be better if we got out early, had less homework, and spent more time playing instead of learning. Thank goodness, my friends aren’t old enough to vote! They don’t understand that Jackie Doherty is working hard to make our schools better at teaching us what we need to learn…. Vote for Jackie Doherty and you’ll be making a great choice.  I should know; she’s my mom!” Jovanna was fantastic.

My latest radio venture was to change the words of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to fit my candidacy and focus. (Writing the lyrics was a new challenge.) I called it “Somewhere Over Mill City” and my dear, college friend Martha sang it for me. I taped the below video on my porch, so the sound quality does not come close to when she sang it at the WCAP studio and it aired on the radio.

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Thank you to the voters

It was a long day today, standing on achy feet outside the polls for hours with incumbents, challengers and supporters, watching and hoping for voters. At times, I admit, I was concerned about the turnout, concerned about how I would feel about my community if we didn’t see positive change, if people didn’t bother to come out and vote. Although the numbers still seem disappointingly low, the results for change were significant. The Choice Vote initiative may not have gotten the support it needed to pass, particularly in terms of a substantial increase in voters, but the message from the 5,174 who voted yes on the ballot question demonstrated that many people in this city want a government that is more representative, inclusive and accessible. Perhaps Choice Voting is not the answer, or perhaps now is not the time, but the conversation this initiative began will continue; some change is inevitable, and I predict it will happen soon.

In terms of the candidates, my congratulations to everyone who had the courage to put their names on the ballot and run. We saw several upsets on the council, the school committee, and the vocational board as incumbents Armand Mercier, Alan Kazanjian, Regina Faticanti and Michael Hayden lost seats to challengers Franky Descoteaux, Joe Mendonca, Patrick Murphy, Alison Laraba, and Fred Bahou—good hardworking, thoughtful challengers who earned the voters’ trust. As candidates, all we can do is work toward our goal, knowing we have given our best effort, but at the end of the day, the voters get to decide. Today, the voters decided I will continue to serve on the Lowell School Committee. For that honor and privilege, thank you.

posted in Campaign, Local Politics, school committee | 1 Comment

Be a last-minute donor

It’s less than a week until Election Day, and fortunately it’s not too late to support my campaign. Check out my new online donation page, which enables you to donate in minutes with a few simple keystrokes. You know I’m working hard and my leadership on the school committee is making a difference, but I can’t do it alone. I need your help. In troubled times, smart leadership is more important than ever, making now the perfect time to support my cause. We’ll both feel better when you do.

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Equal time? Depends who asks

Not one to shirk media criticism when it’s warranted, I take space here to express my disappointment with WCAP Radio. Last week was a pretty exciting news week for me. House Bill 481—a bill I helped initiate a year ago—was heard before the Joint Committee on Education on Tuesday, Oct. 20. When I contacted our two media outlets, The Sun and WCAP, to cover this issue, which currently impacts our school budget by $1.3 million as well as the lives of 23 children forced out of district, I was told by our local radio station that it was too close to the election for me to come on-air. Mind you, this was only days after station co-owner Sam Poulten, a member of the Nashoba Vocational School board familiar with the bill, suggested I contact WCAP to discuss the issue, as well as only days after Councilor Kazanjian went on the Warren Shaw show to discuss his news—regarding a subpoena—for an hour!

Okay, they’re different issues—one is a hearing about changing a law to protect kids and save money while the other is a legal mandate to appear in court and give testimony to determine if any laws were broken. Most would agree, however, that House Bill 481 is as newsworthy as a subpoena, which leads me to conclude that getting on WCAP these days isn’t about equal time or even newsworthiness, but rather, it is about who is asking. Perhaps I should feel better that when I mentioned the unfair treatment to co-host Teddy Panos, he admitted to having to “tip toe” around the newsy-enough issue regarding time for the councilor. But the fact is, the more I think about it, the more annoyed I am.

By the way, The Sun did cover the issue before and after the hearing. Besides being news with far-reaching impact on costs and kids, House Bill 481 is not done yet; we now need speedy passage, which is where the bulk of my energy will be invested next.

posted in Campaign, In the News, Local Politics, Money Matters, State Concerns, school committee | 7 Comments

School committee forum Monday night!

The Lowell Citywide Parent Council will hold its School Committee Candidates Forum Monday night at the LHS Little Theatre from 7-9 pm. You can attend the forum in person or watch from home on cable channel 22. If you miss the event live, the program will be replayed during these times. With two hours and only seven candidates for six seats, the forum will offer viewers an opportunity to determine where the candidates stand on the issues and what they see as their role in improving the Lowell Public Schools. As in past years, the forum will include two-minute opening and closing statements, one general question that all will answer, specific questions from panelists and audience members, and opportunities for candidates to “rebut” or comment on each other’s remarks. I know I’m not objective, but the CPC forums are always interesting and informative. Please join us for this important evening of democracy in action. If you’d like to submit questions for the forum, email cpc@yahoo.com lowellcpc@yahoo.com.

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Campaign party recap

As Jackie’s  rather invisible Campaign Manager lately (I have a ‘real’ job these days), I want to thank everyone who came out last night to the Mambo Grill in support of Jackie’s candidacy. I also want to give a big thanks to our hostess Julie and her helpers who provided great food and a warm atmosphere for our supporters. It was so nice to see old friends show up who have supported Jackie since the first campaign in 2003, and to see some new faces on the political scene such as Alison Laraba, an articulate parent who is the sole challenger for a seat on the school committee this election year (sitting school committee members Jim Leary and Dave Conway were present as well). We also welcomed State Rep Kevin Murphy and our old friend and former school commitee member, Joe Mendonca, who is set on regaining his seat on the city council, along with Lowell Vocational Technical School challenger Fred Bahou; Patrick Murphy, onetime congressional candidate now running for city council; and city council challenger Paul Belley. We were also pleased to welcome our old Citywide Parent Council friends. This reunion of activists who are still focused on making Lowell schools the best they can possibly be was energizing for those of us, such as myself, who have become somewhat disengaged from the local scene. There was also a lot of debate about and support for Fair Vote Lowell (more about this hot topic coming soon). With only three weeks until the election and at least four other events going on last night, we were heartened by the support and enthusiasm. I know, and you know, how hard Jackie has been working and what a difference she has made in our schools. Now, tell your friends! We need a mandate for continued progress in Lowell!

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Candidates forums begin

Informed voters make the best decisions, so take the time to watch last night’s forum and upcoming ones to learn firsthand where council and school committee candidates stand on the issues. This schedule provides replay times for last night’s forum on channel 22, as well as the schedule for replays of an upcoming forum hosted by the Citywide Parent Council on Monday, 10/19 at 7 p.m., for school committee candidates only. Also, here is information on UTEC’s forum for council candidates only, which will be held on 10/22. For a look at coverage on last night’s forum that included questions for both city council and school committee candidates, check this article from Sun reporter Jen Myers.

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Campaign rally for me TONIGHT!

Of all the things I must do to run for elected office, by far, the one I dislike the most is asking people for money. It is difficult, especially during tough financial times, but funding is absolutely necessary to run a good campaign—to pay for palm cards, lawn signs, ads, direct mail, and postage. Without funding, it is very difficult to get your name or message out to voters. My committee will host a fund-raising event at the Mambo Grill on Thursday, Oct. 15, from 5-7:30 (suggested donation $25) to benefit my campaign for re-election to the Lowell School Committee. Please join us. Even if you can’t make the event, you can still help.

One way I feel better about asking folks for money is to remind myself how hard I’m working to improve our schools. Whether it’s in the form of recent motions (so far 28 this term), or working with our state association (Mass. Assoc. of School Committees) to improve laws and regulations governing public education, or seeking to resolve concerns as I learn about them from parents, students, teachers, administrators, and neighbors, I am working hard and my efforts are making a difference. (More on that later.)

posted in Campaign, Local Politics, Money Matters | 2 Comments

Minutes of morning radio fame

Early risers tune into 980 WCAP Radio tomorrow morning as I am scheduled for a brief interview at 6:50 to discuss my work on the board as well as my candidacy for re-election to the Lowell School Committee.

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