News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Help with voting decision

Now you can take a quiz to figure out who to vote for! Visit www.glassbooth.org and give it a try.  This quiz is more sophisticated than I expected since it has a multi-dimensional approach:  first you rank the issues by assigning points to the ones most important to you, then you answer a series of questions on those issues.  (Thanks to Mike01824 who provided this interesting site in his comment on a LeftinLowell post.)  I took the quiz and ended up with Mike Gravel (the guy from Alaska? Is he still in the race?), then Edwards, then Clinton.  My husband, who has been leaning toward McCain (oh, oh) ended up with Obama, Gravel and Clinton.  A family member who voted for Bush last time was shown to be a supporter of Kucinich! Even if you don’t take it seriously, it makes for a fun party-game.

posted in In the News | 1 Comment

Can’t deny gender/race in presidential campaign

Despite the fanfare about how base it is to vote for someone because of their sex or skin color, the fact is, we have never had a viable female or black candidate for president of the United States until this campaign. When I told my daughter, who was 10 at the time, that the race for Massachusetts governor would set a precedent—by electing the first black or the first woman to run the state—the look of incredulous horror on her face made me realize just how far our society has evolved. (Thank God.) I guess I’m one of those people who tries to vote the candidate and the issues because even though I wanted to support a woman as lieutenant governor, I felt Tim Murray was the best candidate, so he got my vote. That said, it infuriates me when the political pundits (and some bloggers) make reference to whether Hillary Clinton’s jacket makes her butt look big or which other candidates will kiss her hello, or if her assertiveness is b—-y and her emotion sincere—issues that don’t come up with male candidates. So over the next few days, we’ll take a look at these candidates for their merits, their message, and what we think they will do as leaders. That said, I admit to being pleased that the fifth district sent a woman and a good candidate to Washington—finally! 

posted in In the News, Local Politics | 0 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

CPC meeting with school committee

The Citywide Parent Council will meet tonight at 7:00 pm in the LET Channel 22 studio at Lowell High (third floor, above the library, enter by the cafeteria).  The entire School Committee has been invited to meet parents, describe their views on the upcoming challenges facing the schools and answer questions.  You can attend the meeting as part of the studio audience or watch from home and submit questions by telephone or email.  The CPC mission is to empower parents and enhance communciation between families and school administrators.  The idea of meeting with the school committee as they begin a new elected term of office takes this mission to a new level.  This is a great opportunity for parents and other citizens to see their elected officials in action.  Hopefully, the discussion will be about more than the superintendent search as life and our schools must go on regardless of the change in leadership. 

posted in Education | 0 Comments

Blog or be blogged

I seem to remember just a few years ago when sneers and laughter greeted the idea of being able to email the City Manager or anyone at City Hall. Now, not only can we email those on the City Council or the School Committee, but City Manager Bernie Lynch has started his own blog! (Click here for initial entry or see blogroll to the right).  This is not breaking news: Lynch started blogging on January 11, and I first heard about it on richardhowe.com. Since then I’ve been checking in and noticed that he’s posting pretty steadily, getting a good amount of comments and, more important, is replying to all of them.  Last Sunday, he received a mention in the Globe under the Community Briefing section of Globe Northwest (for some reason, I can’t find a link to it).  They give the blog address (www.lowellma.wordpress.com) and quote Lynch as saying:   

I see the blog as another means to get information out to the public in keeping with our ongoing commitment to provide our residents with timely and relevant information regarding the city and the operation of its government.

I see it as another example of the new transparancy in our local government, and I applaud the Manager for his efforts and innovation.  

posted in City Life, In the News | 0 Comments

Frustrated with supt search

Besides biting my nails and refraining from “I told you so” (okay maybe not that much refraining), this whole process of replacing Supt. Baehr has been a nightmare for me. Readers may recall I have been a strong supporter of our current superintendent and felt we had the best in the state—an opinion apparently shared by the Board of Education which named her as the only in-state finalist in their recent commissioner search. That, as they say, is the past. We now have to move forward and find a replacement equal to her professionalism, experience, and vision for our schools. First off, I agree with Dick Howe’s call for a compromise regarding the transparency of the search process and will look to develop one that will protect the confidentiality of candidates while satisfying the public’s right to be included. As I alluded to in an earlier post, we need to do whatever we can to attract, rather than dissuade, the best, most experienced candidates to apply and that means some confidentiality is necessary. I am also frustrated that the Citizens’ Screening Committee, as Margaret mentions below, will most likely not include fair representation of the families and children we serve. Despite my best efforts to have invested, diverse stakeholders at the table (the reason I supported the residency requirement for screening committee members and argued to expand the group), it doesn’t appear we will have more than a token minority presence. The good news is we’re not done yet. The next school committee meeting on Wed., Feb. 6, will include the introduction of the screening committee. At that time, it is my intention that we make some adjustments going forward, and I encourage you to attend that meeting at 7 pm in Council Chambers.

posted in Education, In the News, Local Politics | 0 Comments

Another view on supt search process

I want to be clear that while Jackie and I are co-bloggers and friends who often have similar interests and opinions, when I write or speak, it is from my own perspective.  As a former CPC chair, involved parent and citizen, the following are my impressions of Wednesday’s school committee meetings:

  • Why wasn’t this discussion held by the whole school committee, rather than in subcommittee?  The entire  committee was present (along with 30 members of the public), yet only those on the subcommittee were allowed to vote on who would be chosen to be on the Citizens’ Screening Committee (for the new Superintendent).  I know that many issues are referred to subcommittee to be hashed out; however, it seems the School Committee has had a very light agenda since the beginning of the year and this important topic could have been covered in a regular session with all members voting.  Clearly, this is the only topic on peoples’ minds these days.  Having served on other boards, I truly believe that using subcommittees as a vehicle to do the real work of the body can be a dangerous pitfall.  In some cases, an ad hoc subcommittee is necessary, but never to the detriment of the overall involvement of the board.
  • The above problem fed later complications.  For instance, as Jackie pointed out, two (TWO) members of the business community were easily voted onto the Search Committee (one from the Lowell Chamber of Commerce and one from the Lowell Plan); however, it was a major victory to add a third parent (someone to represent special ed parents who certainly need a voice in this proceeding) and the effort to get a second representative from the nonprofit community failed.  Why should local businesses take precedence over the local nonprofits who work directly with Lowell children and families?  There is a certain kow-towing to the business community that has not paid off in any direct benefit to our schools, not when you take into account the successful interventions and efforts on behalf of children made by such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, OneLowell and Lowell Community Health Center (plus many more)!  It also seems to have been forgotten that our nonprofits are the largest local employers. 
  •  A further problem arose when it became clear that the subcommittee was simply paying lip-service to the idea of minority involvement on the search committee.  The only requisite minority involvement is required from the Citywide Parent Council.  Why not require that a minority business owner be given a seat? Why not ask that UML or MCC supply a minority candidate? Why can’t one of the two Lowell teachers be a minority?  I think the last committee had one minority member, and I am afraid it will be the same this time. 
  • Finally, the open-closed meeting debate.  I agreed with the group who felt that every meeting should be conducted in the full view of the public. However, IF we had the assurance of a more diverse search committee, then I would feel less concerned about the group meeting in private.  The presence of diverse voices would give me some assurance that a fair process was underway.  Now we have neither.

posted in Education, In the News, Local Politics | 0 Comments

Marathon meeting broadcast on channel 22

Last night’s four-hour meeting to determine the process and makeup of the Citizens’ Screening Committee regarding the search for a new superintendent will be broadcast in its entirety on Lowell Educational TV, channel 22, during the following days/times: Friday, Jan. 25 at 7:00 pm; Saturday, Jan. 26 at 9:00 pm; Sunday, Jan. 27 at 7:00 am; Monday, Jan. 28 at 12:00 noon. It will also be accessible beginning tomorrow evening on LTC’s website under school committee meetings.

posted in Education | 0 Comments

Best candidates critical for supt search

Co-blogger Dick Howe writes a compelling post regarding his dispute with last night’s majority decision of the school committee to keep the names of the applicants for the superintendent position confidential until they become finalists. Although most of the nearly four-hour meeting was spent deliberating the makeup of the screening committee, this decision was the most divisive for the group, and for me, the most difficult. I had no doubts about adding a special education parent, a social worker, a veteran principal, and another teacher to the screening committee, which we ultimately did; I also felt strongly that we needed another representative from the non-profit sector, which I was unable to get. In the end, 13 citizens will be on the screening committee—four more than the original motions—in addition to adding former mayor Eileen Donoghue, who will serve as a non-voting chairperson. Like others, I want this process to be open and fair, which is one reason I fought for expanding the screening committee. That said, we absolutely must attract the best candidates. I sought advice from several credible sources who all told me it was imperative we ensure the confidentiality of the applicants if we were to attract experienced candidates. Just hours before last night’s meeting, I spoke to Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Mass. Assoc. of School Committees, about the process, the shortage of superintendents statewide (there are currently 38 openings), and the lack of candidates (we have only five applicants so far). Mr. Koocher was adamant about the confidentiality piece. I also discussed it with Supt. Baehr, who noted that we may get assistant superintendents to apply, but without confidentiality, we will limit the pool of sitting superintendents. Just like the city manager’s position over a year ago and the state’s recent search for an education commissioner, the names of applicants will be kept confidential until they become finalists; all finalists will be interviewed in public and televised live. At the end of the day, my job is to do what I believe is best for the education of our children. Right now, that means getting the most qualified, talented candidates to apply to be our next superintendent, having a fair process in place to assess those applicants, and choosing the best one.

For a listing of the makeup of the 13-member screening committee, see: more »

posted in Education, Local Politics | 6 Comments

Screening committee for supt search decided tonight

Tonight’s special meeting of the Lowell School Committee will result in an important decision going forward in the search for a new superintendent. At stake is the makeup of the Citizens’ Screening Committee. What groups should be represented on the screening committee and how should individuals be chosen? What role should the citizens’ group play in the superintendent search process and what is the timeline? The personnel subcommittee will meet to discuss these questions at 7 p.m. in the LHS cafeteria, immediately followed by a special meeting of the school committee to vote on the issue. Although the meeting will be videotaped, it will not be broadcast live, so interested folks should attend. The committee will begin by reviewing similar motions by Jim Leary and Dave Conway that call for a total of nine members: 2 parents including one minority, 2 people from the business community, 1 person from nonprofit, 1 MCC, 1 UML, 1 former or assistant superintendent, and 1 teacher. Tonight, I plan to suggest an additional 6 members for a total of 15 as follows: 

  • +2 parents (for a total of 4) representing elementary, middle, high school, and special education (also should include minorities) selected by CPC, Stand for Children, and other parent groups 
  • +1 nonprofit organization rep (for a total of 2) to be chosen by the Nonprofit Alliance, representing programs that serve our families/students. The selected members from NPA should also be parents and/or minorities if possible, and the NPA should consider these preferential factors when choosing their representatives.* 
  • Same number for MCC, Lowell Plan, and UML, as proposed by Leary/Conway motions except that each group gives preference to choosing representatives who work with our students and/or are parents of students in our schools (as above*) 
  • +1 principal with minimum of 10 years experience in LPS (group self-selects)
  • +1 full-time teacher (for a total of 2) with minimum of 10 years experience in LPS. Each teacher represents a different level of instruction (elementary, middle or high school) and one should be a minority. (group self-selects) 
  • +1 social worker with a minimum of 10 years experience working with LPS students ideally at various levels in the system. (Supt of Student Services selects among interested social workers)

posted in Education | 1 Comment

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