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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Tyler Park – Tonight!

It looks like a beautiful night for an outdoor concert at Tyler Park, the jewel of the Highlands. Beginning at 6:00 pm with local Funk band, Jochemo, and continuing with the popular acoustic guitar duo, Take Two, from 7:00 – 8:00 pm, the Friends of Tyler Park also provide fun family activities, balloons, popcorn, hotdogs and more. The concerts are FREE and lots of fun for all. Bring a blanket or a chair and enjoy the evening.

posted in Local Groups, Uncategorized, music | 0 Comments

Soccer

I’m not a sports fan, but I have a mild interest in soccer, mostly why it’s such a hit in the rest of the world, but not in the U.S. I happened to have been in Europe four years ago and witnessed firsthand the way entire countries were riveted by the fate of their team, so it did get me wondering why? This year, with the U.S. fielding a team for the first time in decades, there were ripples of interest in the World Cup. On a local level, we have our own World Cup right here in Lowell, sponsored by OneLowell, which might be a good starting place for any newly-minted or would-be soccer fans. This is the fourth annual OneLowell World Cup, and it makes a fun, affordable family outing. The dates are August 1, 7 and 8, from 8 am to 8 pm at Cawley Stadium. .

If you want to get in the mood, or see what all the fuss is about, OneLowell and the Lowell Film Collaborative are sponsoring a great soccer film: “Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos” at the Pollard Memorial Library, TOMORROW, July 16, at 1 p.m. – FREE admission, air conditioned!

posted in Local Groups, Movies, Sports | 0 Comments

When you don’t let facts get in the way

A while ago, I wrote about how some of my most beloved and respected family members and friends have wrongheaded political views (those completely opposite from mine). It’s as if we absorb only the information and perspectives that enforce our own beliefs, even going so far as to get different messages from the same speech or news broadcast. (What is it my smart, successful brother-in-law sees in Sarah Palin that makes him admire her when I think she is a divisive, fear monger who speaks, albeit with a pretty smile, in meaningless clichés?) An article in Sunday’s Globe, entitled “How Facts Backfire” confirmed my observations about this perplexing disconnect, noting: “There is a substantial body of psychological research showing that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views. If we believe something about the world, we are more likely to passively accept as truth any information that confirms our beliefs, and actively dismiss information that doesn’t.”

Also disturbing, the article referenced last month’s Political Behavior journal which reported on studies attempting to change people’s false thinking by providing them with facts. The result: people held to their original beliefs despite evidence that those beliefs were flawed or incorrect. Rather than adjusting their thinking in light of contrary evidence, the study documents “several instances of a ‘backfire effect’ in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.”  Great! Facts will not alter our misguided beliefs; instead we cling to them more strongly. As someone committed to education as the solution to advance causes of social and economic justice, as well as a host of other woes, this is sad news indeed. It may be futile, but I doubt my politically wrongheaded loved ones and I will stop trying to correct each other’s misguided thinking.

Take today, for instance, when my brother sent me an email espousing the evils of gun control with a series of horrific statements about 56 million people being murdered in the 20th century (Russians, Armenians, Jews, Chinese, Mayan Indians, Cambodians…) because gun control left them defenseless. The email raved about Switzerland: “A nation that issues every male over 18 a gun. Switzerland’s government trains every adult they issue a rifle as a member of the militia. Hitler didn’t invade Switzerland because of this. He is supposed to have said, ‘Switzerland doesn’t have an army—Switzerland IS an army.’ Switzerland has the lowest gun-related crime rate of any civilized country in the world! It’s a no brainer! If you value freedom, please send this anti-gun control message to all your friends!” To which, I responded: “Yes, definitely, let’s take away any kind of restriction on who can own guns—mentally ill people, convicts, paroled rapists, drug addicts etc. Let’s also do away with any kind of waiting period, whether it’s three days or a few weeks. Why wait even one minute to own a gun? Better yet, let’s not require any identification. Let anyone of any age buy an uzi, a sawed off shotgun, AK 47, M-16, machine gun….whatever. All you need is money, no questions asked. That would be much better. NOT!” And so it goes…

posted in In the News | 1 Comment

Nutter’s attack on me simplistic, lacking facts

If it wasn’t such a serious and complex issue, it would be laughable: The idea that I am too pro-union to act in the best interests of our children’s education. That seems to be the general rant in Gerry Nutter’s blog against me, in particular, as well as other members of the Lowell School Committee. I speak for myself here and I’m going to do it carefully because we are under rules to keep details of union negotiations confidential—not my rules, mind you, but state law requires both parties agree to negotiation terms, and our terms are that negotiations are confidential.

Here are some facts I can address: I have voted on two new teacher contracts since joining the school committee in 2004. (We are currently without a new contract.) During my first term, I was the lone vote against the teachers’ contract. (Regina Faticanti, former school committee member, also voted no initially and then changed her vote.) I voted no because I didn’t think we could afford the wage adjustments, and sure enough, during our next budget year, then-City Manager John Cox recommended the council not fund the amount required over the three-year contract despite the fact that his representative and the mayor had voted for it. At that time, I argued successfully to the city council that we would not have had that contract if it had not been for the city’s support, which included votes from then-mayor Armand Mercier and T.J. McCarthy, former assistant city manager. The council ultimately provided the funds.

 During my second round with the teachers’ union, I supported the contract we negotiated after about 18 months of meetings and mediation, including one marathon, eight-hour session that lasted until 3 a.m. I supported the contract along with my colleagues, including then-Mayor Bill Martin, because the wage increases were moderate—the last one percent increase went into effect June 2009—and because we got adjustments in school start/stop times that enabled us to save a quarter of a million dollars on transportation and another parent-teacher meeting, which we desperately needed.

Mr. Nutter and other folks who comment on his blog can’t possibly know about the hours and hours of frustrating negotiation meetings because, as I mentioned earlier, they are not privy to those details. What they should know, however, is that generous benefits were put into the contracts decades ago. To simply demand the committee “stand tough against the union” is simplistic and completely lacks understanding of labor law in this state, the mindset of union leadership, and the impact poor labor relations has on student learning. The union will not give up these benefits easily, and we do not have the resources to take them back.

I do my best to “stand tough” with our unions while looking to find consensus around our shared goals and investment in student achievement. I support our good teachers because they are the backbone of what we do, but my allegiance always is to the students and their parents who elect me to do my best to make sure our children get a good education: That means I work with the unions not for them, and at the end of the day, every vote I take is measured against its impact on our students.

posted in Education, Local Politics, school committee | 0 Comments

Four days, three bike rides

You may have noticed me trucking around Lowell with two bikes strapped to the back of my car, parallel parking downtown, getting gas etc. (Yes, I am that nutcase.) Those bikes have travelled with me for days: to the grocery store, to the Y, and on various errands and family gatherings, including a trip to Haverhill Saturday night to see the fireworks. In the span of a very hot, four-day weekend, we managed to ride the Freeman Bike Trail on three separate occasions. I completely understand how Lt. Governor Murray ended up with heat exhaustion as we paused to watch Chelmsford’s parade Monday morning (Murray was there) before quickly walking our bikes across the street to continue on the trail. Those few minutes of watching the parade as they announced the dignitaries nearly did me in; the sun was so hot on Main Street. But the trail was cool and shaded with trees, and the breeze from biking made the path surprisingly enjoyable despite the steamy weather. As we headed back across Chelmsford Center at noon, two hours later, the parade was still going on and I noted an outdoor thermostat registered the temperature at 96 degrees! It certainly didn’t feel that hot on the path. As a lifelong biker who is afraid of cars, I am thrilled with plans to extend the Freeman Trail all the way to Framingham. In fact, I’d like to see it extend further into downtown Lowell and connect with paths along the river, so that urban biking gets a lift. An article in Today’s Globe notes that Boston will get $3 million in federal funds to expand its bike paths and create a bike-sharing program. (Wouldn’t that be great for Lowell too?) It’s been days since my last ride and even with the threat of rain, I’m loathe to take the bikes off my car in case we get another chance to go out on the trail…

posted in Just for Fun | 0 Comments

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