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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

School budget hearings start today

Beginning at 1 p.m. in Council Chambers, the Lowell School Committee will begin hearings for the FY 2010 budget.  The public is invited to attend and comment on the budget in general or on specific line items. You may also watch the proceedings live from LTC’s municipal channel 10. Due to increased costs to provide the same services and programs, a level service budget would require an increase of about $14 million. Taking into account a federal stimulus contribution of $4.7 million, a level-funded contribution from the state, and the city manager’s indication that he will be recommending the City Council reduce its appropriation by $5 million, there is a budget shortfall of over $9 million. Last year, the city appropriated about $19 million for the schools while the state contribution was about $118 million. The manager’s recommendation represents about a 28% cut in the city’s contribution to its schools. Today, the committee will begin making decisions to reduce staff and programs to bridge that shortfall. Please pay attention and be involved.

posted in Education, Money Matters | 2 Comments

Upcoming media moments

Today, I will be a guest on City Life, a cable television show hosted by George Anthes and Tom Byrne that airs live on Channel 95, weekdays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. (I go on at 4:30 today.) Then on Saturday, May 30, I will join Warren Shaw at 9 a.m. for a chat on his weekly radio show on 980 WCAP. So if you’re hanging local at those times and want to tune in for some discussion regarding public education (natch), lunch ladies, appointed school committees, budget woes or whatever topics strike our fancy, check it out.

posted in Local People | 2 Comments

As we slash school resources, does anyone care?

It’s no secret: involved folks impact budget decisions. As you probably know, the school department is facing cuts of $9.5 million to its budget for next year, with over $2 million slated to be cut from Lowell High School. Informed participation from citizens in decisions that impact the quality of education our children receive is an important part of the process—especially during these difficult times. TONIGHT, Tuesday, May 26, 7 pm, on the second floor conference room at 155 Merrimack Street, the LHS Subcommittee will meet to discuss Accreditation, Class Size, Class Attendance Policy, Scheduling Options, P.E. Requirements, Science Recommendations, Quarterly Exams, and Molloy Program Design. These discussions will likely impact budget decisions regarding the high school, and your input at the subcommittee meeting is key. The school committee will hold Budget Hearings on Saturday, May 30, at 1 p.m., Monday, June 1 at 7 pm, and Thursday June 4 at 7 pm. At that time, budget decisions will be made line by line and public participation is vital. So if you care at all about what’s happening in our schools, you need to get involved and let us know your thoughts.

posted in Education, Money Matters | 8 Comments

A thought for Memorial Day

Each year at this time, I am reminded of family members whose lives were touched irrevocably by war: my uncle Joe who served as a medic in World War II and who through eight decades of life spoke often of  a war that shaped his view of the world; my cousin Neal who came back from Vietnam a changed man, and my nephew Danny whose experiences as a member of the Marine Special Forces during Desert Storm seem to impact him still. On Memorial Day, I can’t help but also think of the loved ones who have left us and whose lives, however brief, have touched our own. In those moments, I am comforted by these words from Helen Keller: “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we cannot lose; for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

posted in Just life | 0 Comments

Call the police

We may not be law enforcers, but we are the eyes and ears of our community. I was driving home this morning when I noticed a multiple-car fender bender on the Lord Overpass. Although it appeared no one was hurt, three women (one of whom was elderly) were involved in a shouting match. I heard a shrieking “You’re nothin’ but a B_tch!” and at that point, I decided not to stop and see if they needed help. Instead, I called the police on their non-emergency phone line: 978-937-3200. It reminded me of other times I’ve called the police to report an activity: one Sunday afternoon two men got into a fist fight at Tyler Park (over dog waste); another time, a group of teens were having a yelling standoff in the park. Years ago, I took a safety course and learned how much the police rely on observant citizens to stop crimes and capture criminals. Be aware of your surroundings. Notice if there’s an unknown car in your neighborhood, a lurking stranger, a door left open, or anything suspicious, and take a few minutes to notify the police if you think it’s warranted. They always welcome the information, and when they need to respond, they do it quickly.

posted in City Life, Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Teens, drinking and death

Tonight, Lowell High School’s senior prom will be held at the Memorial Auditorium beginning at 6:30. If it’s anything like past proms, it will include hundreds of beautiful, stylishly dressed young people out in droves to celebrate the culmination of their education in the Lowell Public Schools. If you’re near downtown at that time, swing by to catch a glimpse of our youngsters as they promenade into the auditorium dressed in their finest. You won’t be disappointed, as it is truly inspiring to see the diversity, creativity and sheer exuberance  of our youth.  School administrators, teachers and police officers will be on hand to wish the youngsters well and do what they can to insure the festivities are fun, safe, and free of alcohol or drugs. If you haven’t had the drugs and alcohol talk with your own teens recently, do it again. This week’s Boston Globe includes all-too-common heartbreaking accounts of young lives lost or ruined due to a lethal mix of teens and alcohol, such as the Lynn boy, who struck and killed a woman after his prom—despite extensive efforts to curtail drinking from school administrators, and this one about the woman who speaks at area schools about the tragedy of losing her teenage daughter after she wandered away during an underage drinking party.  Speaking of underage drinking, the May meeting of the Friends of LHS had an eye-opening presentation about the risks to parents when underage drinking occurs in their homes either deliberately or inadvertently—whether or not anyone gets hurt. Underage drinking is against the law, and parents will be prosecuted and held accountable if it happens in their homes. Also, as the Lynn example shows, even when adults do all they can, the ultimate decision rests on the teen, and that is why the most important change is one of attitude towards alcohol, and the adult’s role is to model appropriate behavior along with giving lectures about responsibility.

posted in Education, Lowell High | 4 Comments

Home alone with Netflix

I am embarrassed to admit that, until tonight, I had never seen the movie The Killing Fields and I hearby apologize to my Cambodian friends for this lapse. (I did read Spaulding Gray’s book about making the movie, “Swimming to Cambodia”, and I saw the great, locally-produced documentary film, “Monkey Dance” by Julie Mallozi which delves into the lives of Cambodian-American teens and their relationships with their parents, the generation that survived the genocide, escaping as one Mother poignantly say, “to a place where we don’t understand anything.” In any case, if you haven’t seen The Killing Fields, do so, and have your older teens watch it as well. This intense film about the American bombing and subsequent Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in the late seventies will break your heart and sear your conscience. As the privileged ones are evacuated and the Cambodians left to their fate, little children waving cheerfully to the departing limos and helicopters, I was reminded of similar footage from Hotel Rwanda (is there a more chilling sight than young, lawless men with guns?). When will we change; why do these depredations continue? Throughout it all is the dreamy, pastoral beauty of the countryside, like a watercolor painting, even amid the wreckage.

posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Outrage continues at school committee meeting tonight

Concern and community outrage continues to build as the Lowell School Committee meets tonight in council chambers at 7 pm to receive the proposed budget for FY 10. (Hearings on the budget will begin next Wednesday at City Hall, at 7 pm.) There are no motions from committee members but a number of important reports from the Finance, Transportation, and Facilities Subcommittees that begin to lay out the administration’s plans for slashing staff and programs to meet the expected $8 million budget shortfall. At the last school committee meeting, supporters for the school lunch program spoke passionately about keeping their program, which costs the district about $775,000 out of the local budget. Expect to see members from the Rogers School community tonight, expressing their despair at the possibility of closing their school to save $3.2 million. With $8 million in cuts required, there will be lots more programs, staff, and distressed people before this budget is completed. How to manage these difficult decisions? It requires keeping a laser-beam focus on what’s best for the students district wide, and trying as much as possible to mitigate the negative impact of cuts this deep with decisions that make the most sense overall. (If you can’t make it downtown tonight, the meeting will be televised live on cable channel 10. You can also get information on replays or on-demand streaming video at LTC’s website.)

posted in Education, Money Matters | 6 Comments

New plan proposes closing Rogers School

With more bad news on the fiscal front and the Lowell Public Schools likely facing $8 million in cuts next year, the Facilities Subcommittee and other members met last night to discuss closing schools to save money. The administration proposed a new plan (Plan B) to close the Rogers Middle School, moving the strand of Portuguese-speaking students and their teachers to the Butler School, and dispersing the remaining students to middle schools throughout the district where space is available. The plan will save the district $3.2 million up front with additional savings in reduced rental fees possible by moving the Family Literacy Center, Adult Education, and portions of Central Office to the vacated Rogers School site. Since some middle schools are currently under enrolled, closing the Rogers School will not have a major impact on class sizes, which typically run about 25 students at the middle-school level. (Previously, the administration had proposed a plan to close the Moody School, sending those elementary students to the Bartlett Community Partnership School while moving the Bartlett middle-school students to the Stoklosa School, and using the old Moody building for administrative offices. That plan would have saved the district about $1.2 million.) According to the administration, Plan B not only saves more money, but it also displaces less students, and provides the district with a better site for offices, family literacy, and adult education as well as a centralized location in the city. The full committee will consider this cost-saving recommendation, among others, during Budget Hearings, which begin May 27 in Council Chambers at 7 pm. Closing the Rogers School—a thriving community of caring educators, students and families—is but one painful step in a long road of recommended cuts required to educate our students with $8 million less in revenue next year.  

posted in Education, Money Matters, school committee | 17 Comments

CPC meets tonight!

Budget cuts, swine flu, city elections – these are trying times and it’s more important than ever that parents stay involved and speak out in support of public education. Please add your voice to that of other concerned parents by joining the Citywide Parent Council . The CPC mission is to empower parents to make a difference in the education of all Lowell’s school children. The last meeting of the year is tonight, 7:00 pm, at the East End Club. The agenda will include a year-end wrap-up, elections and planning for next year.

posted in Education, Local Groups | 0 Comments

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