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Monday, January 31, 2011

Let's Get In The Race

Of the state's 250 million dollars in Race To The Top money 13 of the participating school districts got NO money in this first round of disbursement. Lynn recieved about the fifth most at 4.5 million dollars. The objectives are quite clear if not overly specific. We must achieve excellence in our education.

This is our mandate but unlike ones in the past, this is a funded mandate. It is up to us to come up with the plans to achieve those goals. It is time to reveal those plans. As parents we deserve answers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Attention Lynn School Committee Members, Dr. Latham, and Other Educators!

See my numbers, hear me roar! As I am sure you have noticed I placed a counter on my blog. This is to show that people are interested in what goes on in education in this town. Parents have a voice and it's getting louder. Those who choose to ignore it do so at their own peril.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Art Of Learning

It is tentatively planned for the Ford School to be  where the intersection of education and inspiration takes place  on Feb.7th. A new after-school art program is set to start where approximately 30 students will have the opportunity to express themselves artistically in a safe and secure environment. This creative activity provides participants with the chance to explore education in the realms beyond the facts and figures.

Kimberly Smith of Students4students, Inc. presented the idea of this program to the Highlands Coalition, Inc. who then joined Ms. Smith in presenting the idea to Dr. Crane of Ford School. Students from Montserrat College in Beverly will be serving as teacher/mentors in the program providing direction as the Ford channel their artistic expressions.

S4S. Inc. has offered to provide all necessary materials while Len Thomas-Vickory of Montserrat College will send some of his students at the college to provide the direct mentoring to fulfill a community service component of their curriculum.

This exciting program is the epitome of a community partnership in education. In an environment of dwindling resources,an infusion of involvement can allow the exploration of the full continuum of learning that new digital driven education model either doesn't or can't provide.

Friday, January 28, 2011

McCulliffe Remembered As Ford Elementary School Talks With NASA

At Ford Elementary School the memory and legacy of teacher turned astronaut, Christa McCullife is kept alive by their affiliation with NASA, annual pilgrimages to the Christa McCullife Museum in Framingham, and their commitment to excellence and innovation.

That commitment was displayed yesterday in a kind of technological vigil was held yesterday in Room 200 where students had the opportunity to interact directly with NASA officials through a DLN broadcast. That treasured experience would not have been possible if Lynn Public Schools through Drs. Latham and Wary had succeeded in closing down Room 200 and changing it into a regular ed. classroom.

Thankfully Mayor Kennedy interceded against closure plans until a more thoughtful resolution could be found. That way Dr. Latham could go back to focus on plans to fix the 5 failing schools in Lynn and Ford can continue to thrive and pay homage to a brave teacher and astronaut.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Keeping Afloat

There is an article in today's Item that illustrates exactly why we should have a policy and procedure to "make-up" missed school committee hearings. No having one is fiscally irresponsible, even if it is politically expedient.

We need to take care of our business, but you have to be there. Where are you Lynn School Committee? Do you have complete faith and confidence in our superintendent to guide our fleet of educational ships? Five of them are sinking and I would hazard to guess others are taking on water. Our lifeguards, the LSC, are staying on the beach where it's warm and dry.    (copy and paste)

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

When is the  "Race To The Top" going to start? Lynn got 4.5 million dollars out of MA's 250 million dollar award. We need to have specific plans, deadlines and, dates so we don't squander this windfall.

Oh yeah, since MA only awarded half of their grant, there is the possibility of more money in the future. If we hope to get any of this future money we better get our act together and produce an aggressive, innovate plan. We have to produce results. It's all about the data baby!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are We Going To Skip School (Committee) Again?

Looking at the weather reports, we are in real danger of having our schools closed Thursday, Jan 27. Oh well, this is New England. Weather happens, safety first.

Still we need to examine a little more closely to discover all that truly means. If there is no school then according to long standing policies there will be no meeting of the Lynn School Committee that night. Unless I am mistaken, there is no "makeup" policy. If I am wrong, somebody please correct me.

That will mean two meetings in the past three months. With five failing schools, we can't afford to be idle.Students have to make up snow days to insure that they go to school the federally mandated 180 school days a year. How does he Lynn School Committee get away with such truancy?

Does anybody remember that we have five failing schools in Lynn? There is the "Race To The Top" money to spend and the year is almost over and then there is the 4 million dollar grant from the state. We need plans if we are to achieve the objectives for these grants. Who is willing to take it on faith that the same people who administered over these failing schools while they were sinking.

They need to meet so we can we know who to hold accountable.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lynn school monitors get training in restraint, CPR

Lynn school monitors get training in restraint, CPR

This story screams out about the need for at least a minimal level of training for all our educational personnel. How can our students be safe if our teachers are not safe?

Once Again A Ford Student Wins Honors

News Flash - This is a fast breaking story so forgive me if I am sketchy on the details. Late Thursday night it was learned that a Ford School student was a winner in the annual Martin Luther King essay contest. He will be honored with a cash award and a banquet at Salem State College (or is it university now?). We should all be proud of his achievement and wish him a good time at the banquet. (I'm sure he will have an excellent time. My daughter was thrilled when she was a winner last year. I think I have pictures somewhere.)

I had the honor of listening to him practice his speech. Very nice. Also I overheard him making plans on just how to spend the award.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Check This Out!

I strongly recommend everyone check out the latest posting in The Highlands Watch, http://thehighlandswatch,, a new sister publication. It talks about the role a community school can play in the enhancement of the quality of life for the whole community.

The school referenced? Ford, of course. So what if I am prejudiced, it's my publication.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lynn School Committee, Where Are You? Come out, Come Out Wherever You Are

No one doubts the Lynn Public School system has problems.  I mean, we have 5 schools in various stages of failure. I am not sure if many people actually know how many lawsuits are pending. There are a few related to special ed. and then there is the asbestos fiasco.

The strategy appears to be "lay low and maybe everybody will forget about it". How can we find solutions o our problems if nobody is available to answer questions. Nobody ever has all the right answers but we have to be able to keep asking questions until we find them. Trial an error, that's how learning works.

Without meetings, public meetings then we as parents are forced to believe that the Lynn Public School system has to depend solely on the mystical powers possessed by "Woman of the Year", Dr. Catherine Latham. Last I checked, she didn't have a bag of magic dust. Or at least if she does, she needs some new dust because with 5 failing schools what she has ain't working (Yeah I said ain't).

I've heard the cries about the lack of positive press and the negative perception linked to Lynn schools. Honestly I have to repeat the Item's coverage of LPSs has been more like the reprinting of tightly worded press releases than objective, investigative journalism. Don't get me started on the Lynn Journal's reporting.

Then we have the thoughts and opinions of the "parent on the street". When no one is available to provide us with answers then we often must resort to making them up ourselves or be content with the status quo. I for one, am not content.

"Meet", the LSC must meet and have regular meetings if we are to stop accepting failure. Maybe the answers won't come right away, but at least we can get some ideas.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Something Has To Be Done, Snow Doubt About It

Once again school is canceled due to bad weather. It's a mess out there. Snow, ice and slush are the rule. One rule they don't have to teach in class. "Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink!", that is unless you'd like a slushy.

It's not like it's a surprise this is New England, land of the "Nor'easter". Weather is not the only problem facing us. Blowing in our face like a cold arctic blast from the north are the waves of MCAS scores, our schools' thermometer for educational achievement. Our students need to be in school, learning.  What can we do? They say you can't fight Mother Nature.

I don't think it is in the school budget to move the entire Lynn Public School system to a warmer climate so must we learn to accept a sub-standard educational system?  The weather is certainly a variable in our ability to provide a quality education to our children.

The question then is what kind of  is it: fixed or variable? The answer is both really. It is fixed in that we know we are going to have bad weather sometime during these months, we just don't know exactly when. The way it is now we worship at the feet of meteorological idols and offer snow days as sacrifices to appease the weather gods.

Our schools need a new religion to get a better forecast. The answer lies where our problem begins: in the calender. Well, not exactly. That is because here are two separate calenders, the meteorological one and the school one. These two don't mesh.

Since we can't change the seasons, not accounting for global warming, we must look at changes in the school calender to provide solutions for our wintry dilemma. There must be changes that can be made to it to maximize the amount of instruction time while reducing the inconsistency in instruction due to the unpredictability of the weather.

I would love to trot out my own version of a new school calender so I could take credit for solving all of Lynn's curriculum problems. However I am not smart enough to produce some computer generated model, complete with all kinds of statistical analysis. I'm just a volunteer librarian who checks out kids' book.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Angels In The Library

Siting in the library, this morning I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I had stacks of books to check in that had been returned. That meant not only did I have to manually pull their library card from the file of books that had been checked out but I also had to return them to the shelf.

That was a task this old arthritic boy was not looking forward to. With the impending snowstorm, I looking forward to being housebound tomorrow, Kind of a depressing prognosis. Needless to say my mood was not cheery.

Then when I was about ready to leave this morning, four or five little girls from Room 310 crowded up in front of my desk bubbling with excitement. They had finished lunch and wanted to spend the rest of their lunch period shelving books. They scurried about the library full of enthusiasm returning recently read books back to the shelves where they can be checked out by some other curious student.

To tell you the truth, I can't guarantee they put all the books in the right places. They were old enough they knew the difference between fiction and nonfiction and they seemed to have a rudimentary grasp of the Dewey Decimal system. Everything being in its proper place is not the most important thing here.

What is important here is the enthusiasm these young girls had for learning and knowledge represented by those library books and the childhood reverence with which those girls treated these books. It was heartwarming, a welcome juxtaposition to the piles of snow outside.

Thinking of this experience just further raises my ire over the fact that the administration didn't think that the libraries weren't a priority in our school budget. We have five failing schools in Lynn. Reading is where education begins and no place promotes it like libraries. Those young students who helped me out this morning understood that and they don't have advanced degrees.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

My daughter is so smart. (Sure, I am prejudiced but that's my job) Her latest work with the Student Leadership Ambassador Program at North Shore College is to call for a greater voice in school matters. She feels that no one hears what the students have to say.

Oh we hear alright. Our ears are filled with echoes of disrespect, profanity, and that incessant rap music. We hear but we don't listen. More often than not, oppositional disruptive behavior is a cry for attention or an expression of a desire for proof of existence, Letting our kids have a voice in their educational futures channels the energy that comes with being young into more positive and substantial outlets.

When we place value on what students have to say we infuse with dignity and instill a zest in them for looking at their future. It encourages them to take responsibility for not only their education but also their way in the world. If we are to be successful in providing a quality education we must provide instruction, not absolute control.

Voices are not just background noise. We need to listen to allow the students to have ownership in their education. Only then will we move forward and get though the revolving door of failing schools. If we listen, we might hear some answers. (Did I say that my daughter is smart?)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Calling Out" Of Our Schools

Our educational system is in dire straits. We have 5 schools in various stages of failure and there does not seem as if enough urgency exists in the administration and others to address the many problems we have.

We put into place School Improvement Plans at Connery and Harrington, shuffled some positions, and three more schools very possibly will achieve the dreaded Level IV status. What are we doing about it? Well we had one LSC meeting each of the past 3 months. Our educational ship is sinking, time to plug some holes. That's kind of hard when nobody is in the boat.

Everybody seems to have legitimate excuses. I mean first it was the holidays and who wants to talk smack about Santa Claus. Don't forget Massachusetts is the land of the Pilgrims so Thanksgiving needed to be given its due reverence.

Then there was this last scheduled LSC meeting, I mean there was a blizzard. Sorry, this is New England and bad weather should not be a surprise. We should have had some contingency plan to have an alternate date as opposed to just waiting two more weeks until the next regularly scheduled meeting.

You would think Dr. Latham would be scrambling to get meetings scheduled so she doesn't have to take all the blame for our school systems failures. Surely being Lynn Journal's "Woman of the Year" hasn't gone to her head and she doesn't realize the crisis we are in.

Maybe some people didn't hear they repealed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Houston, we have a problem.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Here You Go Again!

Once again the Item is doing an injustice to the education of our students. Today's article on KIPP Academy of Lynn has the appearance of a press release generated by KIPP than a true piece of journalism. Tough questions were not asked of either KIPP or the Lynn Public School system for providing a "supposedly" inferior education.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tonight's Meeting Postponed

I hate tonight's meeting of the LSC was canceled. What's a little snow? I need some new stuff to blog about,

I wonder when they are going to have the next one?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Some Credit

Even though I don't know the particulars of the the plan, but I applaud the effort. The "plan" I am talking about is the "credit recovery" one put in place through a grant written by Sue Rowe and Dennis Thompson. I believe it was a three year grant with escalating amounts.

It supposedly has been successful and Dr. Latham has ordered the purchase of some additional units. I am guessing it is some sort of computer based learning system. Being just a parent, some of the terminology is like a foreign language to me.

LSC member Donna Coppola testified about a teen mom she knew of that would have not been able to graduate that benefited from this program. I am glad she got her education because there is no future in waiting for an MTV reality show.

When Will Lynn See The Light?

I saw  Mayor Driscoll's posting on Facebook about the new solar panels at Salem High School. Using solar energy to produce electricity ha to save money in the long term. I know the money comes with lots of strings but what about using some of that "Race to the Top" money for developing a solar program. It would not be directly for salaries and it certainly would have a long term impact. Maybe eventually with the money we save on energy costs, we wouldn't have to lay off needed teachers. I'm just saying....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Too Much Practice Doesn't Make Perfect

I believe Ford School started Sat. school this week. It's all about MCAS prep.. We have a test driven educational system. Too bad. People, our children are more than just an expression of numbers. The pressure to perform stifles creativity and innovation.

The really sad thing is that those are the components most needed and most missing in our educational system. Intellectual development takes patience. No one grows flowers using a stopwatch. Like I say to my daughter when she starts giving me a rapid fire litany of reasons supporting one of her arguments, "Breathe! All beautiful music has periods of silence, you know rests".

By trying to cram in too much information, you lose focus.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Homey Don't Play That Game

Saw a great program on Dr. Phil about "cheating". It is amazing that the extent that people go to and the percentage of people who do cheat. The pressure we put on our kids is unreal. We are a "test-driven" society and to our detriment. Like my mom used to say - "Cheaters never win".

Marshall To The Museum

My daughter is going on a field trip today with her class at Marshall. They are going to the Museum of Science. Visiting the museum is a great idea because it's a great place to spark an interest in learning science and science gives us the practical answers that provides solutions for better living. That little spark just might burst into a flame that will light our way to a brighter future.

Besides who wouldn't rather go on a road trip than look at boring textbooks?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beware Of "-tion" Words!

All through my life I hated school. I always excelled in my classes and could probably be accurately labeled a "teacher's pet". I adamantly resisted the idea of an academic life. I felt it was too sterile of an environment.  Life just wasn't lived that way. I couldn't really understand why I felt that way I just did.

I chose instead to learn from living and I have. Both learned and lived. To appreciate what you have it is good to have experienced the opposite extremes. I have worked at the most manual of jobs and been given up for dead. Still I am here and have benefited from my experiences.

Probably the most important axiom I have learned is to be suspicious of  "-tion" words. That is because they are just verbs who have sold their soul to become nouns. A journey to something they are not. If you can't see who you are how are you going to see anything else.

No where is my fears more appropriate than when it comes to education. I love learning, even being educated but despise the thought of an "education". Why is that? That's because as a noun the verb "to educate" seems to have evolved into a completed process. I am sure there are lost of people out there with fancy initials following their name who will put up an argument about the virtues of academia.

Sorry I won't be convinced. There is something artificial about an education. To instill excitement in our schooling we must ground our endeavors in reality and provide practical answers to today's problems. Our methods need to be retooled to better approximate the life we live.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Forget The Snow, Let's Talk About The Summer

Dr. Wary spoke at  the last LSC meeting about an exciting proposed program for summer school. Well they are going to try and package it as more of a summer camp. This middle school summer program will take place at Lynn Vocational Technical School.

More details will be forthcoming but it looks like it will be a normal half day summer school mixing core academics with access to all of the different shops (5?) at Lynn Tech. The program should be able to take 360 students and transportation will be provided.

Although normally since participation is not mandatory, summer school attendance is spotty at best. However there will be an aggressive advertising campaign complete with a video. In the past, Dr. Wary said that in the past they have had trouble getting all the slots filled but that may not be the case this year. Especially since not only is there a pool but it is AIR CONDITIONED. Sign me up, I'm ready to learn.

Once my slot is secure, I will offer you a little marketing advice: Preparation + Presentation = Persuasion.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Year Was It?

I feel compelled to respond to the Lynn Journal's selection of Dr. Catherine Latham as Woman  of the Year for 2010. This brings to mind questions of the paper's credibility and perhaps even integrity as a news source.

Since I started my blog, Lynn School Watch, in July I have occasionally been critical of Dr. Latham's performance as school superintendent this year but I have also given her praise in my most recent critique of her performance on a particular issue.

There is no doubt that she has a difficult task. Lynn is the fifth largest school system in the state and in a time of dwindling resources, the degree of difficulty only increases. To tout her level of sincerity as a justification for her selection is ludicrous and irresponsible. Using what many would call a misjudgement or misperception, only raises doubts about your paper's professionalism and quality of journalism.

One reason given for her winning of this award was that she was the first woman to be a superintendent of Lynn schools. What about the fact that Mayor Kennedy was the first woman elected mayor of Lynn? Mayor Kennedy's is a much harder and larger job. And oh yeah, she is Dr. Latham's boss.

I know it's asking a lot but let's stick to the facts. Two of  Lynn's elementary school achieved Level IV status this past year. Maybe she was not responsible for these school's reaching that status but she has been responsible for their Turnaround plans I have attended all of the LSC meetings since spring of 2010 with the exception of the Sept. 28th meeting that I missed due to cataract surgery and there were many questions raised about the quality of these plans, especially about the level of parent involvement.

During a time when our student's MCAS scores are falling,  the libraries of most of our elementary schools are closed. We should be adding libraries not closing them. We need a thorough accounting of the four million dollars or so of federal and state money that has been infused into our school system.. This has been promised and I look forward to analysing the list of expenditures.

Then I have heard from multiple sources that three more schools will achieve Level IV designation this fall. Two of the three middle schools in the city are supposed to be given a failing label. If my sources are correct then Dr. Latham's responsibility can not be denied. I do not have access to all of the confidential reports that would verify my concerns or would vindicate Dr. Latham's performance. When you have no answers, you are only left with questions.

I have been on the opposite end of Dr. Latham's bullying tactics during my recent struggles to get my special needs son the educational services he is entitled to by federal law. I was repeatedly warned about her temper and alternating periods of crying as an attempt to intimidate and effect the outcome of meetings with her. I have been dinner guests along side a senator and a member of the House of Representatives on two different occasions so her superior education and extra initials after her name was not enough to scare me away.

My son has been the beneficiary of my successful encounter with Dr. Latham and has made the honor roll at Pickering due in no small part to the level of services that I fought to have included in his IEP.

At a recent LSC meeting Dr. Latham expressed her outage through tears at the characterization of Lynn's Public Schools  in a Lynn Journal article about KIPP breaking ground. The severity of her reaction makes the paper's designation of her as "Woman of the Year" both surprising and suspect. How did Dr. Latham suddenly become worthy of the paper's adoration.

The inequalities in Lynn's Public School system has inspired me to found my blog, Lynn School Watch, to focus attention on the problems of our children's education. Their future and ours depends onit.