News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Knocking on doors

Jackie and I took advantage of the beautiful weather this weekend to knock on some doors and distribute our campaign handout.  As always, this activity, though daunting at first, is the most energizing and rewarding part of campaigning.  Walking in neighborhoods, meeting people on their doorsteps or out in their yards doing fall clean-up, hearing compliments and complaints – is really what’s important in a campaign, and the benefit of running for election every two years is that Lowell politicians can’t get too out of touch with their constituents.  After nearly three hours of walking on Saturday, our feet hurt, we were chastised for interrupting the Notre Dame Football game and our own yard work was left untouched; however, we felt that we were doing what needed to be done – talking to voters about Jackie’s work on the Lowell School Committee and the progress being made by our schools.  It’s not easy to ring a stranger’s doorbell, but most people are friendly and receptive, and like a lot of difficult things, it feels good to have done it.

posted in Campaign | 0 Comments

Regarding Teacher Attendance

We had comments on an earlier post, “What’s AYP anyway?” where parents expressed frustration with teacher absenteeism in our schools. Obviously, children learn better with consistent, high-quality instruction. Since the schools began tracking it, there is heightened awareness of teacher attendance, particularly around long weekends, and it is an issue we continue to monitor. That said, an August 2005 report concluded that 49% of teachers used up to six sick days and 10% had either perfect attendance or used only one sick day. Most teachers attend school, but there will always be some who exploit the system, and that’s why tracking the data is important. If you are concerned about the number of substitute teachers in your child’s classes, contact your principal. Also, below is Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Sue Mulligan’s response:

“School staff absenteeism is of great concern to us all. Teachers must be present for students to receive consistency of instruction. We monitor trends in staff absenteeism closely. Since we began looking into teacher absenteeism, we have noticed yearly incremental improvement in teacher attendance:

  • 2002-2003=96% attendance rate
  • 2003-2004=96.6%
  • 2004-2005=96.9%
  • 2005-2006=97%
  • 2006-2007=96.9%

posted in Education | 0 Comments

Meet the candidates on LTC

Tonight at 5 p.m. on channel 10 begins the Meet the Candidates show produced by Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) and broadcast at different times from now until the election on Nov. 6. The show gives every local candidate for city council and school committee three minutes of air time to tell voters their platform and views on the issues. A streaming program that moves through the city council candidates first and then on to school committee, the show is a little over an hour long. It is also my daughter’s debut as a television personality stumping for her favorite school committee candidate. (Prior to the LTC spot, her media exposure had been limited to radio and print advertising, so this is a big step for the eleven-year-old, future movie star.) Anyway, check out Meet the Candidates for another way to get information about who to vote for on election day. The schedule, which repeats itself through Nov. 6, follows:

  • Friday          5 p.m.
  • Saturday      6 p.m.
  • Sunday        6 p.m.
  • Monday        8 a.m.
  • Tuesday       1 p.m.
  • Wednesday   6 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Thursday     10 a.m.

posted in Local Politics | 0 Comments

MCAS media morning

Even before I had my coffee today, I experienced two media moments I have to share: First, an article in today’s Sun (not online yet) detailed progress the district has achieved with MCAS. I had written here about astounding jumps in sixth grade math scores; last night at the school committee meeting, we compared 2005 math scores with 2007 and learned that 29% more students moved up to proficient/advanced while 18% more moved out of failing—raising the ceiling and the floor on student performance.  Other significant factors in the improved math scores is that in 2007, 67% more Lowell students took the test and 64% more had limited English skills, as well as 75.5% being at the federal poverty level—showing we’re raising all boats in student performance. Second, today’s Globe discussed the results of the MCAS science test, in which more than 25% of our students failed. In Lowell, we have teachers working on science curriculum in collaboration with UML to better meet state standards and align middle school and high school expectations. As the district continues to move forward with these initiatives, MCAS data will be used to inform curriculum decisions as another way to improve student performance in science, which will become a graduation requirement in 2010. One challenge that remains is the limited number of science labs at the high school, about half what is needed considering the size of the student population.

posted in Education, In the News | 0 Comments

20/20 hindsight and learning from mistakes

At the time, piling all the “scary campaign stuff” into one day seemed to make sense:  Get it over with and move on.  In hindsight, it was a huge mistake—certainly not in the same league as running over the family pet—but one which I hope to never repeat again. Monday, Oct. 15, was my day to be interviewed by the editorial board of the Lowell Sun regarding their candidate endorsements, do my three-minute video to be aired on LTC cable television, and participate in a live televised debate with the Citywide Parent Council. (Note: I had control of the scheduling of the Sun and LTC events.) The result of all this pressure in one day was that I was an emotional wreck who found it difficult to stay focused on which priority needed my attention most. In the end, I think the three-minute video turned out well, primarily because my daughter did a great 45-second pitch for her mother, and my friend Martha Jussaume Patz (a LHS and Emerson College alumna) got me through my performance anxiety. At the televised debate that night, however, I was disappointed in myself. I had focused so much on organizing my facts that when it came time to speak them, I couldn’t seem to make the important points within the allotted time. In fact, some of those questions and the answers I should have given continue to haunt me, two days later, so expect a future post on some of those issues. In the end, I comfort myself with the advice I’ve given countless past students and my own children: even a mistake can be a good thing when we learn from it.

posted in Education, Local Politics, Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Can’t vote

I am often shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t vote.  I’ve helped on voter registration drives, I volunteered at the polls one year, I stand outside with signs on Election Day, and I am continually dismayed by the low voter turnout in our local elections.  Yet, here it is October 16, an important election is taking place for the 5th district congressional seat, and I am not going to be able to vote. 

The problem is that I am in Maine, helping out with a family crisis.  I got the call yesterday morning, spent a couple of hours winding up some projects, throwing stuff in my car, and basically preparing for a trip away from home of unknown duration.  Before I set out on the three-hour drive, I made a detour to City Hall to cast my vote.  I showed up in the Elections Office at 12:30 pm, but I was too late.  Absentee ballots had to be in by noon.  So, I was turned away and it got me thinking:  Why does it have to be this hard?  Why can’t I vote at 12:30 pm on the day before the election?  Why can’t we vote by email? (Well, there are probably some big problems with this one).  Why can’t we vote on weekends, or over a period of days, instead of one day?  We complain about low voter turnout, but until we remove some of the barriers to voting, including the one I faced today, then it doesn’t make sense to complain. 

posted in Local Politics | 0 Comments

Updated info on forums

I gave out some incorrect information on the upcoming forum sponsored by UTEC in a previous post. As it turns out, UTEC is sponsoring not one, but two candidate forums and this Thursday is actually a School Committee roundtable event sponsored by the Lowell Sun.  Please accept my apologies along with this corrected schedule for the upcoming events:

1)  This Thursday, October 18, 7 pm: the Sun will host a roundtable discussion with school committee candidates as part of their online, call-in talk show with editor Jim Campanini.  

2)  Monday, October 22, 7 pm:  the United Teachers of Lowell and the Merrimack Valley Labor Council will sponsor a joint School Committee and City Council candidates’ forum in the Little Theater at Lowell High School (broadcast live by LET Channel 22).

3)  Tuesday, October 30, 7-8 pm:  the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) will sponsor a School Committee Candidates’ Forum in the studio of Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) at 246 Market St (this will be a live broadcast).

4)  Thursday, November 1, 6-8 pm:  UTEC will sponsor a City Council Candidates’ Forum at their 34 Hurd Street location. 

posted in Local Politics | 0 Comments

Upcoming candidate forums

With the Congressional race hitting the finish line this Tuesday (don’t forget to vote!), it is time to sharpen the focus on local politics. There are several forums in the next few weeks to help you make up your mind what boxes to check off on Election Day (November 6th). NOTE: THIS INFO HAS BEEN UPDATED and was orginally posted incorrectly.

1)  For School Committee only:  The Citywide Parent Council (make sure to check out their updated website, it looks great!) will host its traditional School Committee Canidates’ Forum tomorrow night – Monday, October 15, 7:00 pm, in the Little Theater at Lowell High School.  This event will be televised live by Channel 22, Lowell Educational Television.  Audience members can submit questions and those watching from home will be able to email questions to lowellcpc@comcast.net

2)  For School Committee:  the Lowell Sun will host a school committee roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 18, beginning at 7 p.m. as part of their web talk show with editor Jim Campanini.

3)  For City Council and School Committee:  The United Teachers of Lowell and the Merrimack Valley Labor Council will hold a forum for both races on Monday, October 22, 7 pm, in the Little Theater at Lowell High, broadcast live by LET Channel 22.

4)  For City Council and School Committee:  The United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) will host a candidates’ forum for both races on Thursday, November 1, 6-8 pm.

With election day just about 3 weeks away, it is time to pay attention to what the candidates have to say. Our local cable TV stations make it easy for us to learn about the candidates from our own living rooms, so tune in and make an informed choice on November 6th.

posted in Local Politics | 0 Comments

MRT play makes for happy evening

Last night we saw the Merrimack Repertory Theater’s season opener, The Pursuit of Happiness, which is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through adolescent angst, mid-life crisis, and family binds. Anyone who has ever been a teenager or a parent can relate to this quirky play, with its edgy dialogue, laughs, and insights about accepting disappointment from loved ones and surviving the lives we create for ourselves. Playwright and Massachusetts native Richard Dresser has done an exceptional job. Decades beyond my own teen years while currently parenting one at home, I found the well-written play laugh-out-loud funny and painfully bittersweet. After years of sporadically attending plays (when we could), we finally committed to season tickets, hoping we’d be able to make time to see them all. Well, last night was our first performance as season ticket holders and it was a great way to kick off the year.  Now playing at the MRT until Oct. 28, The Pursuit of Happiness is a definite recommend.

posted in Art, City Life | 0 Comments

Kerouc exhibit enthralls

Whatever you think of Kerouac’s writing or his exploits later in life, he was of Lowell, steeped in the city and its rhythms.  Lowell was his muse, and the current exhibit at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum never loses sight of the importance to the author of his hometown.  The centerpiece of the exhibit, entitled “Lowell: Where the Road Begins,” is of course the famous Scroll (the original 120 foot long manuscript of On the Road), which dominates the room in a long, diagonal, glass-topped case.  It is something to see (even the ragged end which was literally ‘eaten by the dog’) but it doesn’t stand alone.  There are fascinating photos of Kerouac, his family and friends, and of Lowell, along with excerpts from his books and letters, articles about him and reviews of his books.  All this provides a rich context for contemplating this young man from Lowell, who at one time took the literary world by storm, who was compared to Whitman and Wolfe, who suffered a long decline but whose reputation has risen again.  One of the most intriguing displays is an old Royal typewriter on which visitors can type a message and pin it to a bulletin board (I liked the one that said:  Jack, you were the first rapper).  NPS Interpreter, Jeff Wyman, pointed out that the typewriter is a favorite with the student groups who visit (one wrote, I’m glad we now have computers.)  Jeff also said that in this last week they have had a surge of visitors from Lowell High and that the students are very engaged with the exhibit, particularly the scenes of Lowell from Jack’s day.  It’s great that the high school and the colleges are getting their students over there; it’s truly an exceptionally well put together exhibit and well worth a visit.  BUT, the exhibit ends SUNDAY, so get down there if you can (the Museum is open daily, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm).  

posted in Books, City Life | 1 Comment

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