News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Sunday book chat

Have you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett? It’s a book that seems to have gone viral since coming out earlier this year. Most of my book group friends have read it, and it does seem to be the type of book that lends itself particularly well to that format. Told in an engaging, if somewhat clunky, rotating-narrator style (at one point, the first-person approach is dropped without explanation for a 3rd person omniscient narrator), the book provides a window-in-time on Jackson, Mississippi, just prior to and during the Civil Rights movement. Follow the link to read my review or leave your own comments if you’ve read it. Despite my quibbles with some of the style and editing choices, the social observations of a place and a not-so-distant time in our history make this an important book as well as an enjoyable read.

posted in Books | 0 Comments

Friends selling wreaths in Tyler Park on Saturday

Talk about buying local (see this post from LiL), tomorrow morning from 10-1 p.m., the Friends of Tyler Park will be selling wreaths for $10 and $13 (with a bow) to benefit the many activities involved in keeping up this historic park in the heart of the Highlands (such as planting trees, pruning, fertilizing, and hosting wonderful summer concerts). At this time of year when so many people are asking for donations, this is one of those win-win situations: you can contribute to a worthy cause and get yourself a fresh wreath to adorn your door. The Friends, which is a neighborhood group of volunteers, raises funds to maintain the park in ways that support the environment, such as a totally organic weed and fertilization program. The wreaths will be sold from the Westford Street side of the park, so stop by and pick one up. You’ll get yourself a fresh wreath and support one of the city’s most beautiful and historic green spaces.

posted in Environment, Local Groups | 0 Comments

Traditions for being thankful

No matter what this day means to you in terms of food, family or friends, take a moment to incorporate giving thanks as part of it. In my family, we have tried different ways of formally expressing thanks with varying degrees of success. We have held hands at the table while each of us takes a turn sharing something to be thankful about. We have written anonymous notes of thanks on slips of paper, put the folded notes into a box, and then pulled them out to be read at random. We have had one person read a prayer, verse or poem of thanks while the rest listen. We have made jokes about silly things we are thankful for, repeated what people before us said for lack of something else to say, and sat through lectures about keeping priorities straight and being thankful for what’s important. Whatever approach you take, the act of being thankful makes a difference in your day. When we remind ourselves and each other about what we are thankful for, we enter a state of being grateful, which brings additional benefits to our attitude, outlook and health, as this post from the past explains. So consider being thankful today along with whatever else you do, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

posted in Just life | 2 Comments

MRT play humorous and heartwarming

Nancye Tuttle has a review in today’s newspaper about Heroes, the current play at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (through Dec. 13). My husband and I saw the play on Friday and loved it. In fact, we have enjoyed all three productions this year, finding this season’s offerings so far to be outstanding—perhaps the best consistent run we’ve experienced since becoming season ticket holders. We are fortunate to have the MRT as part of the city’s cultural offerings, and I encourage you to make time to attend a performance. There is nothing like live theatre to express the universality of being human in a way that resonates, and Heroes does not disappoint in its humorous and heartwarming take on aging and friendship. As Tuttle writes, “No matter how we fight it, deny it or ignore it, death awaits us all.” Like most things in life, swallowing that hard reality is much easier with a dose of laughter. The quirky characters and hopeful message of Heroes will stay with you long after the curtain closes, and are well worth the price of admission.

posted in In the News, Local People, Theater | 2 Comments

House break: Taking the time to get it right

Today’s Globe features a column, “Progress Adjourned,” in which Kevin Cullen sarcastically writes about not planning to write again, at least not formally, for the rest of the year, as a dig to state representatives taking a break until they reconvene in January. The Globe, a proponent in the charter-school movement, has pressed the issue, particularly the posturing between Governor Patrick and House Speaker DeLeo, as well as its own “get back to work” demand regarding the House delay in voting on the Education Reform Act the Senate passed last week. (Senate, No. 2216). Count me in the crowd who wants important decisions made in a timely fashion that impact the safety and welfare of residents, particularly those involving the budget and the education of our children. Those decisions must be based, however, on good information, adequate discussion, and an opportunity to hear from major stakeholders, which is why, as a school committee member, I am relieved we have time to learn more about the Senate version of the bill and discuss it with lawmakers.

The Senate Bill “An Act Relative to Education Reform” begins with this preamble: “Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to drive forthwith innovation into school districts and turnaround underperforming schools, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.” I spoke to several representatives on Friday who had not seen the final version of the bill, which is 75+ pages long and includes numerous reiterations of some 95 amendments, never mind begun to decipher what its impact could be on the public schools. If the next several weeks are devoted to looking closely at the many implications of the bill, researching ways to improve it, and listening to stakeholders with the ultimate goal of passing a bill to improve public education for all students in Massachusetts, a state known nationally for its exceptional school system, I am fully in favor of taking the time to get it right.

posted in Education, In the News, State Concerns | 0 Comments

A Republican birthday card

The following text accompanied the card sent to my husband by his brother on the West Coast. I hope you find it as funny as we did:

(Imagine a drawing of an empty cake platter.) The Democrats took your birthday cake!

(Open card.) They sliced it up and gave it to people who aren’t fortunate enough to have a birthday today.

posted in Just for Fun | 0 Comments

School board group votes on charters and more

As the Lowell representative and one of about 350 delegates from districts across the state, I’m headed to the annual meeting of the Mass. Association of School Committees (MASC) today to vote on 11 resolutions regarding education reform. With controversy around removing the cap on charter schools (see yesterday’s Sun), the association’s position has added importance as lawmakers look to enact reform that makes sense for kids and communities during tough fiscal times. In terms of charter schools, the MASC resolution asks the state to restructure charter-school funding and student enrollment before lifting the cap. The resolution also requires charter schools to enroll student populations that reflect the overall community of students at risk—economically disadvantaged, English language learners, varying special needs, etc. (Current legislation only recommends charter schools recruit diverse populations.) In addition, the resolution requires charter school enrollments be audited to make sure their projections, on which funding is based, are accurate. Much of the debate is about money, as this quote from yesterday’s article illustrates: “The bill already appeared headed for troubled waters before debate began when the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association said a proposal to create a separate budget line item to fund charter school expansion would expose charter schools to uneven funding cuts in tight budget years.” (Welcome to my world.) The latest word from Boston is the legislature will not vote on education reform until it reconvenes in January, giving MASC and others time to vote, organize, and plan their advocacy. Check here for the delegate manual, and stay tuned!

posted in Education, State Concerns, school committee | 0 Comments

Penalty for poor sportsmanship

Some may think it’s excessive, but today’s Boston Globe reports that Bud Adams, owner of the Tennessee Titans, was fined $250K for making obscene gestures to fans after his team won against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday. According to the article, after his team’s 41-17 victory, Adams made the gesture from his luxury suite and again from the field. As mentioned here in a recent post on media incivility, the nature of public discourse as a whole is steadily declining. Whether you attribute this hefty fine as arrogance on the part of the National Football League or Adams getting his just desserts for “conduct detrimental to the NFL,“ the notion that it is acceptable for an adult (Adams is 86 years old) to make an obscene gesture to fans of the losing team completely contradicts what we teach our student athletes about sportsmanship. At Lowell High School, where students are familiar with the thrill of victory (on Saturday, our boys cross-country team took first place in the Eastern Mass. Division Championship) as well as the agony of defeat, we expect respectful behavior whether you win or lose. It’s called being a good sport, and if a quarter-of-a-million-dollar fine helps Adams learn the lesson, albeit a little late in the game, I’m all for it. By the way, best wishes to our cross-country student athletes as they compete in the All-State Finals this weekend.

posted in In the News, Sports | 0 Comments

Naughty Readings tomorrow night

If you’re in the mood for some sexy laughs tomorrow night (Sat. 11/14), join the Image Theater, Lowell’s local performing arts group, for its fifth annual, not-for-kids laugh-fest. The naughty songs and skits will be performed upstairs at the Old Court, 29 Central Street, beginning at 8 p.m. I’ve attended all these events and, believe me, they’re fun; although the humor is not kid-friendly, it’s definitely not too naughty for me—a somewhat prudish, Catholic-raised girl. The most important thing is that you will laugh often, and who couldn’t use a few laughs these days! At the same time, you’ll be supporting the efforts of local theater in our community. In its five years of existence, the Image Theater has produced the new works of more than 60 playwrights, as well as highlighting local talent and offering enjoyable theater. Seating is limited, so reserve a $25 ticket by calling 978-441-0102, or take your chances and pay $28 at the door.

posted in Just for Fun, Local Groups, Theater | 2 Comments

Mean for meanness sake

Today’s Boston Globe has an op-ed about the need to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine amid the current lack of civility in today’s media. That point should resonate with anyone who pays attention to Lowell politics and our own media outlets, particularly our local newspaper. (Local radio, some blogs, and internet comments especially, also can be harsh, but that’s a post for another day.) According to the Globe op ed: “…consider the state of ‘mainstream media’ outlets. Increasingly they dine on the same fears and ginned-up wrath as talk radio. Rather than wondering, ‘Does this story serve the public good?’ they ask. ‘Will it get ratings?’”

It’s no surprise that mainstream media is a business out to make money, but what is problematic is when accuracy falls victim to sensationalizing the story, and personal attacks take on an obsessive, mean-spiritedness. (The editors then wonder why more people don’t run for office.) LiL has a recent, snub-nosed post about some nastiness from The Sun after the 2007 election, and here is my response to that long ago taunt. Yesterday, The Sun Column was at it again, and although I was not a direct target this time, I couldn’t help but twinge in discomfort over the cruel ridicule bestowed on others. These are people with families who are members of our community, who put their names on the ballot, and who risk very public failure to run for an elected position that pays little and demands much. Regardless of their shortcomings or the final tally of votes, don’t they at least deserve a modicum of decency in how it’s covered? (Don’t we all?) In my family, we learned early that it takes courage to risk failure and work for your goals, and that equally important to being a good loser is being a graceful winner. The hateful words are unnecessary and harmful, not only to the individuals named, but to our entire community.

posted in In the News, Local Politics | 3 Comments

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