News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Weak argument for appointed school board

Warren Shaw’s op-ed for an appointed school board in yesterday’s Sun claims a failure in our “system of governance” because of the “current crisis on the Lowell School Committee.” That argument is not only flawed and unfair, it’s undemocratic. The radio host, farmer, and former Dracut selectman argues against elected school committees because he claims Lowell’s board is ineffective:  According to Shaw, one member’s alleged criminal actions puts a whole board in crisis. Shaw also claims elected members can’t negotiate well because they may live near their employees, and centralized control is better because it is less adversarial. Perhaps Mr. Shaw would support appointed legislators next? Many state and federal legislators face judicial scrutiny, get elected by their neighbors, and are adversarial. Yes, our system of governance is at times messy, inefficient, contentious and flawed. (How else to explain eight years of Bush?) But to suggest the solution is cutting voters out of the process is wrongheaded and goes against the democratic foundation on which this nation was built. The remedy for good governance is what it has always been: informed, attentive and active citizenry who hold their elected leaders accountable. 

OK, I admit to being easily aggravated on the issue of appointed school boards. Search this blog for “appointed school committee” and you’ll see several posts on the topic. (This one is dated, but still relevant since the state has yet to enact election-day registration; and I like this one too.)  As for Mr. Shaw, he doesn’t even consider the district’s progress around instruction, professional development, curriculum, and safety when discussing board efficacy, and I doubt his children attended the Lowell Public Schools in the last 10 years (or ever). He also seems unaware that the City Manager is a voting member of the school’s negotiating team or that the state determines Lowell’s minimal share of the costs for educating its students. With all due respect, perhaps Mr. Shaw should stick to Dracut issues which one can assume he knows more about.

posted in Education, In the News, Local People, school committee | 5 Comments

Bring back Sunrise!

I guess I took Sunrise, the late, lamented UML morning show, for granted. I knew that if I didn’t tune in for the whole show, I could catch important bits on the ‘rewind’ portion from 9:00-10:00, or catch up with interesting guests and topics by listening to a podcast of the segment later in the week. Plus, there’s always NPR. But, the truth is, I really miss Sunrise. NPR is great, but it can be repetitive, and I miss the local slant on national or global news. I liked hearing firsthand from local pundits like UML Professor Bob Forrant how economic trends and politics were affecting the Merrimack Valley. I liked hearing our local politicians being interviewed in a fair and balanced way without the relentless political agenda of AM radio talk shows. I liked the mix of news, arts, essays and politics – it really worked. I really miss Perry’s soothing tones, Christine’s cheerful laughter and Bob’s zeal for a good story. I think the show was getting better all the time and becoming a cornerstone of Greater Lowell media. We lost a lot when we lost Sunrise.

posted in City Life, Local People | 4 Comments

Placemats that promote conversation

Lisa Brown, a Lowell native who now lives in Pelham, will be on WCAP Radio this afternoon at 1:15 talking about her invention, Matchats. Brown’s idea was to create placements that featured questions and conversation-starters on various topics as a way to help parents and children keep talk flowing around the dinner table. See this recent Sun article or listen to WCAP for more details.

posted in Local People | 1 Comment

Share the love: take your honey downtown for a meal

Traditionally, dining out is a favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and with many area restaurants offering specials these days, it’s affordable and fun. A friend told me about dining at La Boniche the other night and ordering from their Tuesdays-fixed-price menu—four delicious courses for $25; they not only enjoyed an exquisite dining experience, but had enough food for lunch the next day. Also, as noted in yesterday’s Sun, many Lowell restaurants will be offering Great Plates, three courses for a fixed price, beginning next week and continuing until Feb. 28.


For Valentine’s Day, in addition to sharing a special meal with the love in your life, spread the warmth by celebrating early and taking your date to the Heartiest Lunch in Town, from 12-3 tomorrow. The fund raiser for Lowell’s homeless shelter is being offered by Cobblestones and Brew’d Awakenings. For a cash or check donation of $10 to the shelter and a mention of “heartiest lunch,” you can enjoy macaroni and cheese, soup and salad, or a special sandwich at Cobblestones, or a BLT, coffee, and a famous homemade cookie from Brew’d Awakenings—a real deal of a meal for a good cause. Bon appétit!


posted in City Life, Local People | 0 Comments

WinterFest offers some new and old favorites

Even though I’m not a cold-weather fan, I won’t miss visiting downtown Lowell this weekend to participate in the ninth annual WinterFest celebration—always a frosty good time for folks of all ages. The city has added new activities such as a Progressive Dinner & Jazz Night (tomorrow night from 6-10) that includes live music and special appetizers, entrees and desserts featured at downtown restaurants, as well as a Winter Cocktail Competition with choices such as Polar Berry Martini or Snow Blower (rum, cranberry, Schnapps, and orange juice). Diners “progress” through their meal by visiting the restaurants and sampling featured items. Also new is Merrimack Valley’s Got Talent, an entertainment competition that will showcase high school youth, as well as a Chinese Lantern Festival, and free horse-drawn sleigh rides. The best-loved old standbys, of course, will also be included, such as the Human Dogsled Races, the North Bowl Soup Competition, free skating and children’s activities at the Tsongas Arena, lots of music and art, and the grand finale on Saturday—fireworks over City Hall. So bundle up and join us for some winter fun.

posted in City Life, Local People, Youth | 0 Comments

Lowell teens armed with shovels to help their neighbors

With a forecast of 8-12 inches of snow predicted to start tonight, Lowell High School Jr. ROTC students are ready to launch Project Rosebud, a new community service program to help the elderly that partners the high school, city hall, and the business community. Project Rosebud provided 200 volunteer students with shovels, hats and mittens funded by local businesses so the students could shovel for seniors and disabled residents needing help with snow removal. A growing database of residents—at last count it was up to 50 names—will receive ongoing snow removal this winter by groups of students assigned to shovel in their own neighborhoods. The organized effort divides the city and students into sectors, with an adult responsible for each sector’s activities. Those who follow Lowell’s ROTC program, one of the largest and most respected in the country, know the group typically provides more than 15,000 hours of community service annually—from painting benches downtown to park cleanups and garden plantings. Given the heavy snowfall already, Project Rosebud will help make the city more pedestrian friendly during these difficult winter months, and special thanks to all those involved in this worthy effort. To get your name on the list, contact Lowell’s Neighborhood Services Hotline at 978-970-4035.

posted in Local People, Lowell High, Youth | 0 Comments

Community matters in a high-tech world

Before the onslaught of media technology, folks used to visit each other in person, gathering around a piano to sing or in a parlor to discuss the day’s events. Today, we have the internet, which gives each of us the power, with a few keystrokes, to communicate with others globally. We now have podcasts, streaming video, and a host of other technology-driven outlets that enable us to sit in our kitchens with the world at our fingertips, literally. But the need for human connection is still there—perhaps stronger than ever.  It’s depressing to hear about the end of UML’s Sunrise show because it is a loss for our community, especially as an outlet for voices not heard in the mainstream. It seems there might have been other options, as Lynne mentions in LiL, such as a push toward a more volunteer- or student-based production and perhaps we’ll see that happen. In the frenetic world we live in, however, it’s difficult to find time to volunteer, which is why kudos go to the staff of the new LTC cable show, City Life, produced by John McDonough with co-hosts George Anthes and Tom Byrne. The time and effort required to produce a show consistently is daunting, and these guys deserve credit for putting such energy into this project. And like Cliff Krieger—our latest local blogger—each new voice expands our perspectives and understanding of our community. These endeavors become especially important today because they use technology to connect us with our neighbors through idea sharing rather than isolate us in techno-cocoons of our own making, which is, of course, a downside to the text-messaging, ipod, laptop, blue-tooth-laden world we live in.

posted in City Life, Local Groups, Local People | 0 Comments

Adopt a Republican?

Back in October, Jackie wrote about feeling baffled that people she respects and admires hold such radically opposite views from hers on important political issues (since I have Libertarians in my family, this really resonated for me). After the vicious political polarization of the last eight years, it seems important to try to open up some lines of communication with friends and family members or even strangers from across the aisle, thus my idea that each of us Dems should adopt someone with different political viewpoints and keep up a civil dialogue. Such exchanges can only improve the political climate and keep all of us on our toes regarding our biases, opinions or gut reactions. The danger of living in an intellectual echo chamber – you with your Fox news, me with my Daily Show – was pointed out in a recent Globe article (Ideas, Sunday, November 23, 2008) which quoted Harvard Law profesor Cass Sunstein’s opinion that “the Internet can have detrimental influcences on democracy, as people retreat to their virtual bubbles.” To that end, I promise to read the clippings from The Weekly Standard sent along by my Dad and I will challenge him to read the occasional article from The New Yorker. I also try to read The Economist for its more worldly, often right-wing perspective. And, right here in Lowell (no pun intended), I hear there’s a new conservative blog in town, so I will add my welcome to that of fellow bloggers at LeftiniLowell and Richard Howe to right-side-of-lowellwritten by local Republican activist, Cliff Krieger.

posted in Local People, Local Politics | 0 Comments

Educating youth way to honor our veterans

I attended Veteran’s Day celebrations at Lowell High School, as well as the Butler and Daley middle schools yesterday. Each event featured patriotic music and speeches, special guests of honor who included veterans, along with salutes to our flag.  As they were meant to do, these celebrations cause us to pause and remember the great gift we have in being members of a free, democratic society and to be grateful for those men and women who have sacrificed to protect those freedoms.  I couldn’t help but be moved by our children singing “home of the free and the brave” and “America, America, God shed his grace on thee,” or to remember the sacrifices of my own loved ones and the many I don’t know, who have fought and died for us, or returned from battle changed forever. The celebrations, moments of silence, and prayers for our soldiers are important, but the real way we honor our veterans is to teach our children about their sacrifice. What I saw in our schools yesterday were the diverse young people who make up our city and who are the faces of our nation’s future respectfully listening to the stories of our veterans and enthusiastically participating in the programs. We teach our children about our soldiers and the awful sacrifices of war, and by doing so, we honor our veterans in a way that is lasting and holds promise for a brighter, hopefully more peaceful, future.

posted in Education, Local People, Lowell High | 0 Comments

Mayor’s Ball a blast

Last night was a great evening to be downtown, dancing and celebrating with other members of the community at the Mayor’s Ball to raise funds for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank. My husband and I planned to attend briefly to support the cause, and then have a quiet dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants nearby. Instead, we stayed and enjoyed delicious appetizers while visiting with people from all walks of the community. Many familiar faces were there: Mayor Bud Caulfield obviously, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Police Chief Lavallee, Schools Supt. Chris Scott, City Manager Bernie Lynch, city councillors, and school committee members, as well as cops, teachers, parents, administrators, and leaders from the nonprofit and business sectors. I loved the connection of folks hanging together in support of an organization so vital to our community. The atmosphere was festive, friendly, and infused with warm energy. Susan Lavallee, the chief’s wife, got a warm hello from a stranger, who it turns out, thought she was new Lowell Supt. Chris Scott. Lavallee told the embarrassed elderly gentleman that she hoped the superintendent was attractive, to which the man replied “absolutely!” To prove his point, I introduced the two women, who were not in the least concerned by the mistaken identity. As we headed home finally, I couldn’t help but think of a twist to an old adage: a community that parties together, stays healthy together.

posted in City Life, Local Groups, Local People | 0 Comments

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