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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Not worth worrying about

The last time I truly worried about money, I mean the kind of worry that gnaws at your gut, was when my husband and I were in graduate school and unemployed. At the height of my worry about bills, lost revenue, and debt, my mother went into the hospital for tests and died three weeks later. Like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, I experienced my own version of a fist clenched to the heavens when I vowed never to let money worries invade my life again. After all, what was a little debt compared to losing my precious mother?

 

Fast forward nearly two decades and a different kind of worry grips me—that is, my son’s health. As a family, we faced his diagnosis of Hodgkins lymphoma and the terrible treatments that followed with determination and prayer. The support of family, friends, and community got us through, but even after we knew we had killed the cancer, I carried heart-clenching fear with me always. It occurs to me now that my worry about his health, like my worry about money years ago, hinders my ability to fully enjoy each moment and appreciate every gift—from the simplest pleasure of biking in the sun yesterday to the incredible joy of seeing him strong and healthy again. Worry is its own kind of cancer. It eats away at our enjoyment of life and does absolutely nothing to change the situation. So today, I resolve to face each challenge with courage, try my best at all my endeavors, and NOT worry about the outcome. I recommend you do the same. If we truly put aside the worry, and work on what we can do to improve things (look for work, get to the gym, become involved in our community), we free ourselves from the destructive cycle of worthless worrying and may actually get something done.

posted in Just life | 0 Comments

Another misleading newspaper article…

The older I get, the more cynical I am about newspaper coverage. (After being misquoted and seeing what passes as “balanced reporting,” I consider it a learned response.) Today’s Boston Globe ran a story about surveillance of public places that erroneously claims: “Police in Lowell are installing sophisticated video surveillance systems to watch students inside and outside the public schools as part of a citywide security system to monitor and deter criminal activity.”

I don’t pretend to speak for the Lowell police here, and in fact, I know little about the city’s plans for cameras except what I’ve heard about prioritizing “hot spots” of criminal activity and having live feeds to the police station. But I do know about security cameras in the schools, and I can tell you we have had them at the high school for years, and there is no plan to expand the system or go to a live feed with the police. At LHS, more than 100 cameras transmit internally to a video control center at the school, which is monitored by a security officer. The cameras view hallways, stairwells, doors, and outside areas, and have been extremely effective in deterring crime and catching perpetrators. For instance, although they are not in the bathrooms or locker rooms, they are installed directly outside those areas, which enabled high school security to identify the student who set fire to a trashcan in the boys’ bathroom a few years ago. The cameras enhance security (consider 3,800 students with only a handful of security and police officers), and they serve as a major crime deterrent. Today’s paper attempts to make this about civil liberties and some may see it that way; but the internal video surveillance system at Lowell High School serves a critical role in student safety, and I’ve got no problem with that. The fact that the paper got the story so blatantly wrong about the city’s plans baffles even the most cynical reader.

posted in City Life, Education, Lowell High | 0 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

Parent meeting about sex tonight

The Citywide Parent Council meets tonight at the Wang Middle School, 365 W. Meadow Road, to learn strategies and tips for talking to your kids about sex. The meeting, which begins at 7 pm, will also include a discussion of the role of sex education in our schools. As part of that discussion, parents will have the opportunity to express their concerns and suggestions to school leaders who will be at the meeting. The district is currently in the process of revamping its middle-to-high school sex education program, aligning it with state standards, and developing an age-appropriate comprehensive model for Lowell schools.  Parent input is critical and timely because the new curriculum will most likely be implemented in the schools next fall.

posted in Education | 0 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

Kudos to Campy

Congratulations to Jim Campanini, editor of The Sun, on his award for “best editorial on a local subject” from the New England Newspaper Association as printed in today’s paper (couldn’t find the paragraph noting the award on The Sun’s website for linking, sorry). Luckily for Campy, the judges didn’t check the facts because this editorial has the same errors and half-truths it did when it was first published in June 2008. The newspaper reprinted the editorial today, explaining it was “the first time The Sun has received this award” as the reason for the replay. For me, the editorial has always stood out, not only for its inaccuracies and blatant attack on me personally, but because it was the start of about eight weeks of coverage on the same topic.

posted in In the News | 1 Comment

Late-night streets no place for young people

 I’m not a lawyer and I’m certainly not an expert on Constitutional law, but it seems to me we’ve been limiting children’s civil rights (if you want to look at it that way) for years, and for their own good. Most kids I know would argue against anything that limits their freedom to do what they want. (Some youngsters—especially the two teens I live with—might also accuse us of being mean and unfair for doing so.) Be that as it may, it is appropriate to restrict children’s activities for safety reasons, and as a society we have been doing it for a long time. If the Supreme Judicial Court should rule against Lowell’s 11 p.m. curfew for youngsters under 17 years old, what next? Will it be unconstitutional to require children to wear helmets on bicycles and seat belts in cars? How about laws forbidding the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to minors? What about restrictions on attending R-rated movies? The fact that the SJC has chosen to review this law has made front-page news, both in today’s Sun and in yesterday’s Globe, but the concept that we might start down this slippery slope is frightening. Our young people should be safe at home in the late evening, whether they have a responsible adult demanding it or not. If they have good reasons why they are wandering the streets after 11, then the curfew gives police the authority to stop them and help sort it out. See LiL for additional thoughts and comments.

posted in City Life, Youth | 0 Comments

On a mission to improve the schools

There has been quite a hullabaloo about my motion last Wednesday to review the policy regarding committee interaction with school staff. (For context, check LiL and a video of the meeting, yesterday’s Column, and an earlier article by Jenn Myers.) Whether I am “on a mission” as one colleague muses, I admit it freely: Yes! I am on a mission to improve our schools. I do that by getting information from all levels of the system, from pre-k to the high school, from administrators, parents, students, teachers, custodians, security officers, community partners—you name it; if they’re involved with our students, I want to learn their perspective and use it to improve our schools. I am always respectful, professional, and mindful of the boundaries. What’s not clear is the protocol, especially when my understanding turns out to be different from an administrator’s, and my colleagues have varying approaches. Access to good information is critical. It becomes even more serious when it is curtailed, as indicated by one administrator insisting all questions to his staff be made in his presence—regardless of chain-of-command approval in his absence or the nature of the questions. (In this case, the question was what the recycling club needed from the city, and the visit included, at the invitation of a teacher, watching a science experiment for five minutes.)

 

One colleague suggested that staff may feel “threatened” and not “want to speak” with us, and that may happen to certain members. In my experience, people welcome the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns when it is for informational purposes and is asked in a non-threatening way. Far more alarming, however, is the idea that staff may be discouraged, even forbidden, from sharing insights with us. That is not a model for good management, nor does it help move the schools forward. Fortunately, we’re not talking about a private business, we’re talking about our public schools, funded by taxpayers to educate our children under the leadership (and scrutiny) of an elected school committee. As the motion requests, we will clarify the policy so we may continue to be effective at improving our schools. For some questions that have helped me in the past, see: more »

posted in Education, Lowell High, school committee | 0 Comments

Thoughts for a Sunday

Today’s Boston Globe has an interesting article by Philip Jenkins. In “Dark Passages,” Jenkins explores the concept of religious texts that promote violence, noting particular passages from the Koran that may inspire modern Islamic terrorists. He also states: “If Christians or Jews want to point to violent parts of the Koran and suggest that those elements taint the whole religion, they open themselves to the obvious question: what about their own faiths?” Jenkins goes on to claim that the Bible has far more vicious examples of violence (particularly the Old Testament) than the Koran. “Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions…all are in the Bible, and occur with a far greater frequency than in the Koran,” claims Jenkins. The larger issue, of course, is the perspective and context given to these texts that determines their emphasis or if they are taught at all. In the end, social attitude influences the interpretation of religious texts, according to Jenkins, and this forms the foundation of a modern-day faith that depends entirely on the beholder.

posted in In the News, Religion | 0 Comments

Lowell National Park almost makes it onto currency

I know: Almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes. Maybe it’s true, but I got a kick out of this article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, reporting that the Fisherman’s Memorial statue in Gloucester has been nominated to appear on the 2010 Bay State quarter. According to the article, the weathered-green copper statue received votes that accounted for “more than four times its closest competitor, Lowell National Historic Park.” The governor’s office submitted the fisherman statue as well as three alternatives to the Feds (not sure if Lowell was included as an alternative).  Ultimately, it may not matter because the U.S. Mint is the final decider. Still, you have to admit, second place is close. Imagine, Lowell National Park depicted on quarters…As my teenager noted, “That would have been sick!” (BTW, the first Massachusetts quarter of the new century, minted in 2000, depicted a Minuteman soldier from a statue in Concord and was designed by middle-school children.)

posted in In the News | 0 Comments

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