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News

Bringing Sachem basketball to a higher level

Norma Waggett has brought Sachem basketball to a higher level: from Sachemville to the Salem State University Vikings. The junior guard was named the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference Women’s basketball Player of the Week as she took the Vikings to a 3 and 0 record this week. She averaged 22.3 points per game with 10.3 rebounds, and shot 51 percent on the court. She was a former captain at SHS and a Northeastern Conference All-Star while at Saugus.

The Sachems also sent the Bertrand boys to Norwich University. Joe is a junior at 6 foot 4 and 215 pounds while his younger brother Dan, a freshman, is also 6 foot 4 and 160 pounds. They are sons of the SHS Assistant coach. Joe is the leader for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference at 3-pointers at 52.6 percent and averages 5.8 points per game. While at Saugus Joe scored 1,141 points and was a team captain and MVP for both basketball and baseball as a senior. Dan is working hard in practice to show off his skills and obtain some playing time for the Cadets.

Another Saugus athlete is again making waves in college hockey. Mike Vecchione played his high school hockey at Malden Catholic after growing up in Saugus Youth Hockey. He recently had a five-game scoring streak and leads college hockey with 18 goals and 37 points. Nine of his points were game-winners. Expect to see Mike in the NHL in a year or two.

The SHS girls’ basketball team started the week with a victory over Gloucester, 52-39, as power forward and co-captain Olivia Valente had a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds to sink the Fisherwomen’s boat. Point guard Alessia Salzillo tossed in 10 points along with 7 steals. Next on the docket was Marblehead Magicians and without magic the Sachems won 40-34. Krissy Italiano notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds to lead the victory. Kiley Ronan had 8 points, while Alessia Salzillo and Molly Granara each tossed in 7 for the Sachems. The team is now 3 and 0 for the season.

The SHS boys went down to defeat against Marblehead, 57-42, with Dimitri Filaretos leading the Sachems with 11 points. Chris McGrane added 9 points, Cam Williamson had 6 and 10 rebounds, and Mike Mabee had 6 points for Saugus.

The SHS track teams are struggling but confident this season. The boys dropped a match with Danvers, 72-14, with Nicholas Silva winning the high-jump at 6 feet. The girls were edged, losing 44-42. Gianna Filaretos was first in the high-jump at 4 foot 8 and the 55 hurdles at 10.2 seconds. Ailyn Minaya won the shot put at 30.4 feet and the 55-dash at 7.9 seconds. Haley Dennis topped the 300 in 48 seconds, and Olivia Tapia-Gately took the two-mile in 14 minutes and 35.9 seconds.

The Sachems hockey team got off to a good start, trouncing the Beverly Panthers, 6-3, after the Panthers swept to a 3-2 lead early in the contest. Brenden Ronan and John Torres each contributed 2 goals, Ryan Granara and Ryan Groark added 1 each. The annual Kasabuski Christmas Classic opened on Monday, and the Sachems didn’t let their fans down as they dropped the Portland Maine Seagulls squad 3-1. Ronan had another big game for Saugus as he banged home 2 goals in the third period for the win as Mike Sarnacchiaro and Ian Worthley picked up assists on the game-winner. The hockey team advanced to 4 and 0.

 

Police seek clues to ID suspect in North Shore Bank robbery

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Police Chief Domenic DiMella reported that the Saugus Police Department is investigating an alleged bank robbery on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 27. Police responded to North Shore Bank at the intersection of Broadway (Rte. 1) and the Lynn Fells Parkway at 5:30 p.m. Reportedly, a man had passed a note to a teller and fled on foot down Lynn Fells Parkway toward the Target store with an undisclosed quantity of cash.

The suspect, seen in surveillance footage, is a white man in his early to mid-20s who is approximately 5’7” or 5’8” and weighs 160-170 lbs.; he had facial hair and wore dark clothing. During the incident he did not show a weapon.

This incident is under investigating by the Saugus Police Department. If anyone saw a man matching the suspect’s description or noticed suspicious activity near the bank on Tuesday, they are asked to contact Saugus Police at 781-233-1740.

   

~ THE ADVOCATE ASKS ~

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Editor’s Note: For this week’s interview, we sat down with Saugus Public Schools Supt. Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. to talk about the “Entry Plan” he has been drafting, his observations after six months on the job, his assessment of what it’s going to take to improve the town’s education system and his top priorities for 2017. Dr. DeRuosi, 55, of Topsfield, took over as the town’s education chief on July 1. An East Boston native with strong Saugus roots, he married a Saugus native, Kim Arsenault, and moved to Saugus, where he lived for 20 years before moving away five years ago. His two daughters graduated from Saugus High School in 2005 and 2007. He’s worked as an educator for 32 years – 24 years as an administrator. Before coming to Saugus, he was superintendent of the Malden Public Schools for five years, administering a school system of 6,800 students – more than twice the size of Saugus’s enrollment. Dr. DeRuosi received his Doctorate of Education from the University of Massachusetts in Boston after completing the Leadership in Urban Schools Doctoral Program. He received his Master’s in School Administration from Salem State College and his Bachelor of Science Degree in Speech and Hearing from Northeastern University. Dr. DeRuosi was a special education teacher during the first eight years of his career. Some highlights of that interview follow:

Q: Have you finished your Entry Plan?

A: Yes. I drafted it, and it has been vetted out. I gave the School Committee a look at it. Last week I gave it to the principals and I met with them to discuss it. I have cleaned it up. Every time it gets reviewed, it gets edited and cleaned up, so we’re almost ready to go.

Q: When do you anticipate a release on that?

A: Honestly, I’d love to get it out in January, at the latest – the first meeting in February. We got some pretty full agendas coming up. I’d like to get it out early in the new year, so it can help us focus where we are going down the road.

Q: Now, in preparing the Entry Plan, how many people did you talk to?

A: I probably met with well over 50, 55 individuals. I did some focus groups. So, I really reached out and dealt with a lot of people. I did parents, I did PTOs [Parent Teacher Organizations], the Town-side. I kind of touched base with everybody that was willing to come in and talk to me or people I bumped into.

Q: So, like several hundred people? Or even a thousand?

A: No. I would say well over 100 to 200 people from different aspects of stakeholders. I did focus groups with PTOs. I did focus groups with administrators. I met with School Committee members, town officials and other community members – Rotary Club members and other organizations and different people. So, it really covers the entire town. I call it “the Community of Stakeholders.” We met with representatives. I brought them all in. I spent the months of July, August and September really talking – with the same set of questions – asking and getting the feedback, collecting the data and then trying to pull out the pieces that really matter. I’d go to events like Founders Day and people would stop and talk to me about what they hoped the town would do. So, when you talk about the events I have attended and the meetings I have put on, I am meeting with people constantly. My job is to process what they’re telling me.

Q: So, based on what you heard from the people, what is your biggest impression?

A: I think right now, the biggest thing I can walk away with, talking with principals who have read this recently and some of the other stakeholders – the sense of stability and consistency, right now. I think that’s the driving factor. I think the community of stakeholders that I have talked to, they are really looking for a level of consistency and stability: to slow this down and point in the right direction – to be able to channel the energy in this district – channel it and bringing it together and say, “Here are the areas where we need to go work.” Let’s go and work on some of those areas” ... while blocking out the distractors that tend to pull the work away. And I think the other piece that I heard was the idea that there’s a level of transparency and communication. So, they’re saying, “Bring us stability and consistency … do that in a manner that’s transparent and based to communication.” And I think that’s pretty accurate of the picture that I’ve heard coming from people as they’ve talked, as they painted this picture of what they hoped the expectation for this office is.

Q: So, they want somebody with a plan and some continuity in the administration – something that the town has lacked for a while?

A: Yes. You’ve had turnover in the role of superintendent. In any business, organization or whatever, when your top is being turned over, then systems break down, roles and responsibilities break down. Things start to break down under the guise of who is the leader that we turn to and where’s the direction. And I feel the School Committee, in their goals for me, made it pretty clear they are looking for me to come in and work with Food Services, work with the budget, work with the curriculum. And they’re asking me to do the same thing. If we can get our house in order on these big things, then we can start to move toward the instruction and other important things that need to be done in education. I think they have been very good and patient in allowing me the opportunity to really absorb what’s going on while working with them. We’ve done some good work in six months. I think we will continue to do good work. I think we have made some significant inroads around athletics, around community building, around food services. We’re starting to begin our budget process now. I think we are on the right track.

Q: Now, the first six months, you’ve had an opportunity to evaluate and focus on issues – strengths and weaknesses. What are the strengths of this school district?

A: I think the strengths of the district really are the strengths of the community at large. Saugus is a town that really prides itself in its connections to the community. You have generational families here. People moved to Saugus two generations back and the families have stayed. And I think that has always been the strength of this community. For instance, my own story – my wife’s family moved here when she was three. She lived here, moved. We got married and came back and stayed for 20 years before moving five years ago. She still has family in the community. It’s this generational bond. There is a sense of pride to that in this town. My daughters went through the School District and graduated. There’s that sense of generational commitment to Saugus. People like it here. And I feel that if you can tap that energy – that commitment – you can move this town and you can move this school district. I think that’s the strength and you see it in the school district. You see multiple siblings going there in multiple grades across multiple classrooms. And you still have grandparents involved, you have parents involved. You have that extended family. Saugus is that extended family … you hear that in the Entry Plan – what people are telling me – how they came here when they were five and later bought a house here. That is the key to this town: that people enjoy putting down roots here.

Q: Based on your analysis, what are the chief weaknesses?

A: I think the challenges for us right now in the district is our changing demographics. As I said, I moved out roughly five years ago, and in the five years I’ve been gone, there’s been a significant change in our demographics. You’re seeing more ELL [English Language Learners] students. You’re seeing a higher rate of low socioeconomic students. You’re watching a population of homeless students begin to impact this district. So, while on one hand, you have this generational bond to the town of Saugus, you’re also starting to see Saugus as that district where people are moving into it – different nationalities. I think we have over 23 different home languages now spoken in Saugus. That’s a significant shift – 20 different foreign languages spoken in the home. Now, go back a few years, it was probably Italian, Polish and that was it. But now we’re seeing more around Arabic. We’re seeing more Portuguese. Spanish. You’re seeing a lot more different languages evolving. And I think that’s the big challenge facing Saugus right now – that changing demographic and a school district that has to make some adjustments to that.

Q: Any other deficiencies or challenges?

A: Saugus is much like other districts. I think one of the biggest impacts on education, in the last 10 years, has been around social and emotional needs of students. And I think you’re watching younger and younger children with greater needs in that area. The middle class is struggling, and it’s struggling not only in bigger cities, but it’s struggling in districts like Saugus, where it’s harder to make both ends meet. Parents are working two jobs, still financially struggling. These are the challenges that face all of your school districts today. I don’t think there is one district that can say they’re not seeing an increase in the social and emotional needs of students and young adults – that they’re not feeling the disappearance of that middle class. It’s harder to make a living today, and I think that plays out in the households of everybody. Parents are working hard and it’s becoming more and more difficult. Those are the challenges that face just about all districts. Saugus is not immune to those challenges.

Q: What about the specific challenges as they relate to MCAS?

A: Looking at the MCAS tests and doing the analysis that we did and my presentation to the School Committee, I think it’s really going to come down to going below the surface. Sometimes it’s easy to say, “It’s Level 3, and that’s what it is.” We need to look at what the students are actually doing vs. what the teachers are doing. And this is a shift, where you really want to get into the data being produced by the students. Like, I can teach all day, but are the students understanding it and demonstrate that knowledge? I think there is good work being done. But when you truly begin to focus on student data, the data tells the story. It will expose the strengths and the weaknesses within the subgroups of students, as well as the total body of students. And some of the work this year with my administrators revolves around evaluation and their professional development. We’ve become very good at evaluating what the teacher is doing in the classroom. Now the shift is “What are the students doing in the classroom?” And I think that shift – you just don’t flick that switch. That takes a little time. And this year, that’s one of the first things I brought into the district. … Now you are asking the ultimate question: “You taught all day, but did David understand it? How does he demonstrate that?” And that’s the switch. It takes a little bit of time, but I think that’s one of things we do to move this district from a Level 3 to a Level 2.

Q: What are the expectations this year as far as MCAS?

A: This year we want to see more around our open response writing. I think that’s one of the focuses that came out pretty clear in our analysis: that our students are struggling in that area. I’ve worked with my team here. We’re looking at a writing project that we’re trying to implement … that you’re looking at student writing and trying to create the national rubrics – that this is how they should be writing – and then moving them in that direction. I think writing will be the focus – not just this year – but moving forward. That is the key for us right now: looking at the way we’ve been teaching. And it’s more difficult today than it was two MCAS cycles ago. It’s a much more intensive level of questioning. It’s multi-processing. And I think we need to get our students ready for that.

Q: Is Level 2 attainable this year? Realistically?

A: Realistically, we’re putting a focus on the long “comp” and hopefully spark some adjustments with regards to our MCAS support. Level 2 – I would love to see that happen – but I think, realistically, I’m a three-to-five [year] guy. I plan everything in three to five years. This being my first year, I’d like to focus on the stability factor and slowing this down and begin to do some of the work, ramp it up a bit in January and February, really coming out of the box next year, saying, “Here are the adjustments and this is the area to focus on.” I’d love to see a Level 2 at the middle and high schools a year from now. I think we’ll see what we can do to make some adjustments this year and see what happens. This year, grades 3 through 8 will be doing MCAS online for the first time. That in itself is a challenge. We’ve been working hard. I’ve got to give props to my principals and tech director. There’s a whole different set of challenges around technology. That’s the future for our kids moving forward. It’s going to be an online world, so we’ve got to figure out a way to get the technology into the hands of those students. I figure this is the year. Let’s just get the tests for grades 3 through 8 online, let them see it, let the teachers see it. Paper and pencil will eventually be gone, so if we can get a little ahead of that curve, that would be good. I don’t want to wait until the last minute. MCAS online is a little different, and our kids are going to have to adjust. Our kids may experience a dip, maybe, because of the online format. But this is their world. They are the technology natives for me. They get it. So I’m hoping they get more exposure to it by the time of that 10th grade test in a few years. They’re going to have it online, and boom, you’re going to see them move fast.

Q: Following up on the tech part, is the high school moving to all of the students having iPads in their possession, like some school districts have gone?

A: You mean the one-on-one initiative. We aren’t there yet. Right now, we’re increasing the number of iPads that will be available to classes. If you have a computer that’s five years old, it’s already antiquated, so we’re going to be looking at ways to expand our hardware infrastructure. This is a big ticket item for all districts, and finding a way to fund that is always the challenge.

Q: So, you are a couple of years away from high school students having their own iPads assigned to them?

A: Yes, the one-to-one initiative is probably a couple of years out. I think what we’re trying to do now is build banks of these things – iPads and tablets and laptops in schools, so that we can, hopefully, put them on carts and move them around. But a one-to-one initiative is on the horizon. I think it’s a necessity. But, again, you just can’t flip a switch on these things and wake up tomorrow and everybody gets an iPad. I think it takes strategic thinking and planning – that it’s a goal. And then you take incremental steps to make that happen.

Q: When are students first introduced to the new technology?

A: How about this? I have a granddaughter who is 10 months old who can already navigate an iPad. The answer is “way before we get them.” These kids are digital natives. They’re growing up with smartphones. They’re growing up with iPads. Here’s a challenge for you. Go to a supermarket someday and look around and see how many kids in a carriage are on a mobile device. It’s way before they get to us. It’s their environment. Like I said, I have a 10-month-old who already knows how to swipe a tablet. She already knows how to hit it to open it up. They’re learning. Their parents are doing it.

Q: Some of those kids are more high-tech then me!

A: They would be. They run circles around me. My 27-year-old knows more about computers than I’ll ever want to know. And now you’ve got a 10-month-old who is already very familiar with an iPad. And the programs now for kids are geared for learning at that young age on the mobile technology. They are already natives. They’re going to walk through our school doors expecting to see this stuff in the classroom. Even your big textbook manufacturers are changing. You can now buy textbooks through Books Online. It’s changing right before us. And for some of the dinosaurs like myself, it’s hard to keep up with the technology. We’re in the middle of a big transition. And it will definitely change the face of education forever now.

Q: What’s going to be the biggest thing coming out of your Entry Plan?

A: My chief finding always come down to three basic things, and it all fits. In school districts, I look at three basic bubbles: You have instruction, you have culture and you have structure. We should have structures in place that define the roles, know who we are and support the instruction and culture. The culture has to support it all. But in the middle of this is relatively simple: As I look at this Entry Plan, in the middle between structure, culture and instruction is overlap. You have a very simple formula: Teachers that understand the content being taught. They’re comfortable and familiar with it, connecting that content to the student and then the student and teacher relationship is the key. Then in the middle of that triangle is the task. Raise the level of task in the structure and you move the district forward. Do you believe all kids can succeed? I believe that. Are we a safe culture? Are we a stable culture for these kids? Are we teaching them what they need to know? Are we assessing it? How does the teacher interface with the content, the content to the student, the delivery of that content and what is the relationship between the student and the teacher? And in the middle is the task, every day. You don’t go all the way from 0 to 100. You go from 0 to 10, increase the task and go from 10 to 20, incrementally. And you just keep moving it. My biggest piece is to bring those three bubbles together – structure, culture and instruction – and just root it right in-between the relationship between the teacher, the material and the student. And raise that bar. And if that’s the belief system, then you are going to move the district.

And my Entry Plan basically says that we have the structural pieces and the cultural pieces.

It comes down to belief systems and your culture. It comes down to structures. Nobody is satisfied with Level 3, so let’s change that.

Q: How many pages is your Entry Plan going to be?

A: When it’s all written, probably less than 17 [pages] in text, because it’s that clear – “Here are the buckets. Here’s what I see.” Then move it forward.

Q: For 2017 what are your top five goals?

A: As you know, we have a big building project [the combined Middle School-High School project being considered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority]. That’s a huge project. That to me is the number one priority. That’s a whole town priority. That is going to define Saugus for the next 50 years.

My second priority is to pull my administrative staff together. They’ve gotten to know me. Now I’m going to sit with them and unpack the work. I’m making subtle changes. We do a monthly principals’ meeting. Looking at the scope in front of us, I’m going to add a meeting a month, just for middle and high school administration and my team. And then elementary [school]. Priority two is really to get that administrative core to recognize their importance in this turnaround effort.

Priority Three is a shift from teacher-centered to student-centered district. That’s going to be that piece where I believe teachers are teaching. I believe teachers are working hard. But when I look at the results, I have to ask the question, “How is it not coming down to the kids?” I think it’s a matter of redefining what we teach, how we teach and the expectations we’re teaching with.

Number Four for me is really to produce a budget that is understandable, clear and transparent.

And then the final priority for me is just continue to enhance communications opportunities from central office to the community at large. I think this is a community that wants to talk to me. It was evident in the Entry Plan. And the School Committee has been tremendous. The committee members have been that way, by far, in working with me with the idea that no matter what, you can come in and talk with the superintendent.

Q: Are you “Facebooking” with the parents?

A: I have tweeted out a bit. I’ve actually begun to send things out district-wide. I really gave it a chance. I really didn’t want to come out too much at first. But now you will begin to see more of that, from Twitter to a Facebook. I’m working on a document right now for the district. I’ll send it out and have them read it. Right now, I use the Twitter account. I might be at a meeting. I might be at a kids’ event. I’ll put a thought for the day out. Facebook will become more formal – where I’ll put heavier documents on there, so that people can read and follow. For me, January really kicks it off. I’ve spent my time on the ground, where I’ve listened. We’ve dealt with a lot as a School Committee and superintendent since I have started. But we’re making progress. I have a lot of confidence in the School Committee members and the members of my administration. We’ve got a lot work to do, but we’re not ducking it, and I’m pleased with the progress we’re making.

   

Year of the ash argument

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Wheelabrator’s expansion plans was the biggest story on the top 10 list for 2016

Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.’s proposal to expand the ash landfill near its trash-to-energy plant on Route 107 – and the controversy and fallout it generated – dominated the headlines during 2016. The company’s plans to increase the life of the landfill by up to five years, while accommodating an additional 520,000 tons of ash and cover soil, was the subject of two dozen stories in The Saugus Advocate – 11 of them winding up on the front page. No other topic came close to receiving that much coverage.

And the story is expected to continue well into the new year as the town’s Board of Health has threatened to file a lawsuit to assure its right of local review of the project. Meanwhile, Wheelabrator officials maintain that town review of the project is unnecessary and not required because the plant already has a valid site assignment. Furthermore, the company argues the project really constitutes “a modification” and not a vertical or horizontal expansion of the landfill.

Wheelabrator has not yet pulled permits with the state Department of Environmental Regulation to begin the project.

Meanwhile, opposition to the plan isn’t just coming from Saugus. In May, state Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) and other public officials from Saugus and Revere joined with several state and local environmental organizations to launch a new Alliance for Health and Environment – a group that opposes Wheelabrator’s expansion plans for its ash landfill.

In June leaders of the alliance promoted a special forum to put a public focus on the issue. A large crowd packed the second floor auditorium at Town Hall to hear Dr. Paul Connett – a retired college professor who visited here three decades ago – speak against the trash-to-energy plant. Dr. Connett also shared his latest research on waste management and his opposition to incinerators like Wheelabrator.

Other major stories for 2016

Rounding out the newspaper’s list of top 10 stories for 2016:

2) Significant strides by the community – backed by Town Meeting approval of several key initiatives – to improve its fiscal stability. Town Meeting approved a record-setting $1.5 million deposit that boosted the “rainy day fund” to an all-time high of $4.3 million. This coincides with an upgrade in the town’s bond-rating to an AA+/Stable rating with national rating agency S&P Global Ratings. Town Manager Scott Crabtree says the bond-rating upgrade could save up to $7 million in borrowing costs if the Town proceeds with plans to finance the construction of a combination middle school/high school.

3) Extensive work by a 19-member search committee which led to the hiring of Malden Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi Jr. as the new education leader of Saugus. Local leaders call it the most comprehensive administrative search in town history and one that landed an experienced superintendent who can lead massive reforms of the school system instead of bringing in another superintendent who was hoping to gain experience by working in Saugus.

4) Discussions to build a new combination middle school/high school. By year’s end, the High School Project Building Committee had agreed on new high school/middle school building with an estimated price tag of about $153 million – with reimbursement of about 50 percent of the costs if a 500-page-plus report is approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. But it would be up to the town residents to make the school a reality. The Annual Town Meeting would have to approve some related warrant articles in May, and the Town would have to schedule a vote on a debt exclusion to help finance the Town’s share of the school construction project. The Veterans Memorial Elementary School would undergo some remodeling as part of the school district’s future plans. Meanwhile, the Waybright, Oaklandvale, Belmonte and Lynnhurst and Ballard Schools would be phased out, according to the tentative plans that have been discussed in recent months.

5) Town officials moving forward with several plans with a vision of an improved Saugus. A newly-created Economic Development Department staffed by a new director (Stephen Cole) and a new town planner (Krista Leahy). Cole and Leahy get active in the drafting of several important plans by outside consultants and state officials working with the Town of Saugus. They include a plan to improve and rebrand the commercial climate of Cliftondale Square, the adoption of the Saugus Housing Production Plan to address housing availability and affordability in town and plans with a vision for the proposed Saugus RiverWalk along Ballard Street.

6) The continuing development on Route 1 in the wake of mixed-used zoning approved by Town Meeting in 2015.

7) A $2 million investment by the Town to improve playgrounds and parks.

8) Lifesaving efforts by a Town of Saugus employee and two civilians. Saugus Fire Department Captain Christopher Rizza receives the Medal of Valor at 27th Annual “Firefighter of the Year” awards ceremony for saving the lives of two town firefighters during a three-alarm fire that ravaged an Essex Street home in January. On the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 23), neighbors Larry Applegate and David Horvath collaborate to pull 85-year-old Arthur Anderson from a burning house on Midland Avenue in what officials called a heroic, lifesaving act.

9) Innis Street homeowner Jack Perry finally prevails after 51 years of lobbying the town to get relief from flooding problems. Members of the Annual Town Meeting vote unanimously in support of a proposal to borrow $1.2 million to address drainage problems near the Elm Street Bridge.

10) The reelection of state Rep. Donald Wong to a fourth two-year term.

Honorable Mention: The sorry saga of Sully C’s Bar and Grill. Selectmen spent so much time with so little accomplished before voting to finally revoke the liquor license of the Route 1 establishment. Sully C’s closed after a May 2015 fire damaged the building, which is owned by Suleyman Celemi. Town officials had expected that Sully’s and Boston Market – which also rented space in the building – would reopen within weeks of the fire. But a year-long legal dispute between Celemi and Sully C’s owner, Elaine Byrne, over who should be responsible for making the necessary repairs to satisfy town inspectors, prompted selectmen to schedule a show cause hearing on the liquor license in July. That’s when they voted to revoke the license, but delayed its enforcement to give Byrne an opportunity to sell or transfer her liquor license. The board gave her several extensions until they finally revoked the license this month after voting against Frank Perry’s request for a license transfer to a pizzeria on Route 1. Selectmen said they didn’t think Perry had the right kind of experience to hold a liquor license.

Town officials cite bond rating as most significant story

Several town officials consider the upgrade in the Town of Saugus’s bond rating to be the most significant story for the town during 2016.

“I’d have to say the best thing that happened to Saugus this year was the boost to our bond rating,” Town Moderator Steve Doherty said.

“There’s a lot of exciting development going on in town that will help our tax base. But the higher bond rating will save homeowners and businesses a good chunk of change when we begin construction on a new high school … Overall I’d say it was a great year for the Town and I have high hopes that 2017 will be even better,” Doherty said.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Debra Panetta called the bond rating increase by three grades, from an A1 rating with Moody’s Investors Service to the second-highest tier, an AA+/Stable rating with national rating agency S&P Global Ratings “the most significant accomplishment this year” for the town. “This ranking, which is the highest in Saugus’ history, signifies the Town’s credit worthiness and that the Town has a very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments. The new rating helps our town achieve better borrowing rates, which saves money for Saugus,” Panetta said.

“One of the reasons for this accomplishment is due to the additional funding that was put into the Stabilization Fund (rainy day fund) that the Town Manager, Finance Committee, Board of Selectmen, and the Town Meeting supported,” she said.

Panetta cites stories

Panetta also cited another story on The Saugus Advocate’s Top 10 list and several that weren’t.

“There was tremendous work done in 2016 to the parks and playgrounds in town. Many residents were concerned about the condition, including the safety of the equipment, in our Saugus parks. Hearing these concerns, the Town took significant steps to make these parks and playgrounds state-of-the-art for our children and … Saugus residents,” Panetta said.

She cited the “Green Community” designation the town received back in February. “This program demonstrates how Saugus can work with the state to save energy while saving money. While investing in energy efficiencies and reducing costs, we are making Saugus a healthier place to live,” Panetta said.

“I also appreciated bringing back Student Government Day in 2016. The Town Manager, Board of Selectmen, School Committee and Town Meeting members all participated. It was an enjoyable day where the students learned quite a bit about Saugus government while having a memorable day. I look forward to this in 2017 … As we move forward into 2017, the focus will be on a new Saugus middle/high school for our Saugus students,” she said.

   

Year in review

alt

A monthly breakdown of the top stories in The Saugus Advocate during 2016

January

Firefighters are saved with seconds to spare during a three-alarm fire on Essex Street. Selectmen approve permit for a height variance at the proposed Collins Place hotel complex on Route 1. Republican incumbent state Rep. Donald Wong seeks a fourth two-year term in his Ninth Essex District House seat. Selectmen consider the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary on Osprey Road. Democratic candidate Jen Migliore announces she will challenge incumbent Republican state Rep. Donald Wong for his Ninth Essex District House seat in the November general election. The Planning Board votes unanimously to endorse the Master Plan of the proposed WoodSpring Extended Stay Hotel on Route 1 with the stipulation that the Town will conduct a peer review. The School Committee is concerned about charter schools and the possibility of more homeless children on Route 1. Selectmen target discussion of medical marijuana facility for early March.

February

The School Committee votes unanimously to send its fiscal year budget to the Town after scores of residents argue against closing Waybright Elementary School and the Ballard Early Childhood Center. Mixed-use developers have been lining up on Route 1 since Town Meeting approved the mixed-use zoning bylaw last spring. David Greenbaum is appointed as the new director of Public Health. The Board of Health cites Border Cafe for violations related to cleanliness and foodborne illness. The state Department of Energy Resources recognizes Saugus as a “Green Community” and awards the town a grant of $208,335. The School Committee approves the appointment of Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem to serve as acting schools superintendent. The Massachusetts School Building Authority approves the selection of HMFH Architects as the company to design a building which could be either a new high school or a new middle/high school combination. The Board of Health sets March public hearing to consider a ban on flavored tobacco products. Jen Migliore, Democratic candidate, launches a listening tour in her bid for the Ninth Essex District House seat held by three-term incumbent Republican state Rep. Donald Wong. Saugus is second “hottest town” in Massachusetts home sales during 2015, according the Warren Group & MLS Property Information Network, Inc.

March

Saugus voters favor Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in the state Presidential Primary, which draws a 45 percent turnout. Selectmen say they are not ready to allow a medical marijuana dispensary to locate in Saugus. The School Committee’s Athletic Subcommittee votes unanimously to raise student athlete academic standards higher than guidelines set by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Innis Street homeowner Jack Perry tells selectmen he has been haunted by flooding woes for 51 years. He blames a drainage pipe at Elm Street Bridge as the source of his troubles. Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. wants to prolong the life of its ash landfill until next year, saying the landfill has up to two more years of life left. The Board of Health votes to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products to minors, restricting sales to smoking bars and retail tobacco stores that sell only to adults. A $100,000 deficit in the food services account prompts school officials to institute a freeze in all school spending “unless the spending is related to health, safety and seasonably specific events.” Saugus High School holds its first annual open house for future student athletes. The Saugus Education Business Collaborative honors nine students from the town’s six public schools at the 12th Annual Unsung Hero Awards Ceremony.For the first time in 10 years, residents and officials from all five communities representing the group Bike to the Sea, Inc. meet in Saugus to discuss improvements to the Northern Strand Community Trail.

April

The School Committee announces four candidates who will be interviewed – pared down from a field of 21 applicants – for the vacant school superintendent’s job. The Military Order of the Purple Heart presents town officials with a certificate designating Saugus as a “Purple Heart Community.” School Committee members spend six hours interviewing the four finalists for the school superintendent’s position. The candidates – three have Saugus connections – also visit some of the schools. A state Department of Public Health report requested by Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. doesn’t show any unusual pattern of cancer in Saugus that would raise health concerns about the company’s waste-to-energy facility. A Wheelabrator official says the report should reassure residents that the incinerator and adjoining ash landfill don’t endanger public health. At a crowded Board of Health hearing, all but one of 24 speakers calls for the closure of the ash landfill. A majority of the School Committee votes to offer Malden School Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. the position to lead Saugus Public Schools. Selectmen vote to deny Police Officer Kevin Nichols’ request to build a small private horse stable on his Walnut Street property after hearing testimony from a former animal inspector who alleged that Nichols abandoned 50 animals two years earlier after being evicted from land she leased him. Nichols vows to go to court to disprove the allegations he abandoned or mistreated any animals. Town Manager Scott Crabtree calls it “historic” when he unveils plans to add $1.5 million to the town’s so-called “rainy day fund.” The transfer of that cash would also boost the balance in the stabilization fund to an all-time-high of $4.3 million, Crabtree tells the Finance Committee before getting members’ endorsement of a warrant article that will be considered by the Annual Town Meeting. Innis Street homeowner Jack Perry seeks Town Meeting’s help to solve flooding problems that he claims have cost him more than $100,000. Perry testifies in support of two warrant articles he believes will provide relief, including one measure he introduced himself with the backing of 37 residents from his neighborhood.

May

On their opening night, Town Meeting members take a symbolic stand by adopting a nonbinding resolution to close the ash landfill at the trash-to-energy plant on Route 107. Town Meeting approves record-setting deposit that boosts “rainy day fund” to an all-time high of $4.3 million. Saugus police officer Kevin Nichols files lawsuit against selectmen, alleging that they “acted with gross negligence” and “malice” in denying his application for a special permit to build a horse stable. Selectmen learn of a possible, but unnamed buyer interested in developing the former Hilltop Steakhouse property on Route 1. The Town of Saugus dedicates an affordable housing complex on Denver Street as the “Janet M. Leuci Residence” in memory of Leuci, a deceased former Saugus Town Meeting member. Malden Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. accepts contract to become Saugus’s new education leader. Town Meeting passes an article to help end homeowner Jack Perry’s flooding woes. The $1.2 million for the planning and construction of a drainage and catch basin project that helps Perry is part of $13 million in capital improvements and equipment approved by Town Meeting. Police investigate allegations that School Committee Member Arthur Grabowski hit an elderly man at the Saugus Senior Center with a bag of frozen fish. Representative RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) and public officials from Saugus and Revere join with state and local environmental organizations to launch a new Alliance for Health and Environment – a group that opposes Wheelabrator’s expansion plans for its ash landfill. Town Manager Scott Crabtree unveils a 20-year lease agreement with Ameresco, Inc. of Framingham to build a solar farm at the old landfill at 515 Main St. – a deal that Crabtree says will generate at least $40,000 a year in revenue for the Town of Saugus and make cheaper electricity available at several municipal buildings. Selectmen learn identity of future buyer of Hilltop property – AvalonBay Communities, Inc., the largest producer of multifamily communities in the state.

June

Town officials and a housing specialist from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council hold the first of two forums to help the town develop a Saugus Housing Production Plan. More than 70 percent of this year’s graduates from Saugus High School will be going on to four-year colleges and universities. Another 21 percent will be attending two-year colleges and universities, according to high school officials. Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. submits a plan to the state, which if approved will allow the company to continue using the ash landfill late into 2022. Threats of rain pass, allowing 163 Saugus High School graduates to walk off into the sunset at the school’s 145th commencement exercises. A Special Town Meeting agrees on a Trust Fund to cover the Town’s $104 million liability in retiree benefits. Two dozen people testify on their concerns about Wheelabrator’s plans to expand its ash landfill at a hearing hosted by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) under a large tent in the visitor’s center parking lot at Wheelabrator’s plant. A larger crowd packs the second floor auditorium at Town Hall to hear Dr. Paul Connett – a retired college professor who visited here three decades ago to speak against the trash-to-energy plant – share his latest research on waste management and his opposition to incinerators like Wheelabrator. Selectmen schedule a show cause hearing to consider revoking Sully C’s liquor license, as the bar failed to reopen a year after a fire. Aggregate Industries officials say they plan to proceed sometime this summer with a 15-year plan to fill and reclaim the quarry so it may contribute substantially to the town’s tax and economic base.

July

The future of Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary could depend on Wheelabrator’s expansion plans for its ash landfill. The company says it will continue to manage the sanctuary “as long as” the landfill is being used. The Board of Health considers legal action to force local review of Wheelabrator’s proposed expansion of ash landfill. New Hampshire’s FM rock station WHEB plans Blacksmith Ride for Life to honor late Saugus native Stephen B. Celata – the popular radio personality known as Andy Blacksmith, who died while waiting for a heart transplant. The Saugus Historical Commission announces progress on Round Hill project. Wheelabrator declines requests for local review of plans to expand its ash landfill. Selectmen vote to cancel the full liquor license for Sully C’s, but delays the revocation taking effect until Sept. 22, giving owner Elaine Byrne a chance to sell or transfer her license. Environmental groups and Wheelabrator disagree over the Board of Health’s role. A Saugus man and woman face up to several years in prison after being convicted of the 2014 sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl that was videotaped and posted on the social media app Snapchat. The town celebrates $2 million in major playground and park improvements during the first of three groundbreaking tours of new playground and park facilities. Wheelabrator claims more than 850 support its ash landfill operation while environmentalists argue that most of those supporters earn money from the plant. Environmentalists deliver letters to state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, opposing Wheelabrator’s expansion plans. The Board of Health’s attorney and consultant call for an environmental impact report on Wheelabrator’s proposal. A Lynn District Court judge orders School Committee Member Arthur Grabowski to stay away from the Saugus Senior Center and Martin F. Graney – the 73-year-old Saugus man he is accused of hitting with a bag of frozen fish patties.

August

Saugus Housing Authority tenants show up at an Authority meeting to protest the firing of maintenance worker Michael Ring. The Authority’s executive director, Laura J. Glynn, says Ring was a good worker when he showed up, but adds, “He lost his job because of poor attendance and excessive absences.” The School Committee embraces a report that explains why the food service program lost $100,000 during the last fiscal year, along with recommendations on how to fix it. Night-time vandals taunt neighborhoods with car-eggings. Police investigate 14 complaints of cars and homes being egged since the beginning of June. The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs rules that Wheelabrator doesn’t need an Environmental Impact Report to proceed with expansion plans for its ash landfill. The state grants Wheelabrator permission to seek permits for the project, which would add five years of life and about 520,000 tons of ash and cover soil to the ash landfill. Student athletes at Saugus High School won’t be allowed to compete in interscholastic sports if they flunk more than one course on their most recent report card – or if they fail to meet their user fee and other financial obligations to Saugus Public Schools. Those are two provisions of a new and tougher athletic policy approved by the School Committee which replaces one that allowed student athletes to flunk three courses or compete even if they didn’t pay their user fees and owed money to the school food service program. The town could reap huge benefits because of a recent upgrade in its bond-rating to an AA+/Stable rating with national rating agency S&P Global Ratings. Town Manager Scott Crabtree says the bond-rating upgrade could save up to $7 million in borrowing costs if the Town proceeds with plans to finance construction of a combination middle school/high school. The Saugus High School Project Building Committee tentatively approves the combination school, but is still weeks away from submitting its proposal to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The School Committee adopts a “get tough” policy for improving collection of students’ unpaid cafeteria bills. Krista Leahy moves into a basement office at Saugus Town Hall to begin her new job as the town planner.

September

The Massachusetts School Building Authority wants the Saugus High School Project Building Committee to consider other options in addition to the combination middle school/high school before filing its final application. Roller World Owner Jerry Breen might finally get his Route 1 sign back after resolving two-decades-old right-of-way issues and convincing the Zoning Board of Appeals to reverse a previous vote that denied him a variance. Democratic opponents Jen Migliore of Saugus and Saritin E. Rizzuto of Wakefield top $100,000 in campaign contributions combined in their 9th Essex District House seat race. Selectmen would rather appoint a town resident to fill the constable’s position than make it available to a private detective from Western Massachusetts. Saugus’s Jennifer Migliore defeats Saritin Rizzuto of Wakefield in the Democratic primary by a margin of more than 70 percent – taking 13 out of 14 precincts – to advance to the November general election to face Republican incumbent Donald Wong, who is running for a fourth two-year term. Donna Manoogian and Ed Carlson receive “Person of the Year Awards” at the 36th Annual Founders’ Day. Heather Salines, a 40-year-old Saugus mother, receives a sentence of four years in state prison after pleading guilty to raping two teenage boys – on of them her daughter’s boyfriend – and sharing nude photographs with them in 2014. Rashad Deihim, 21, and Kailyn Bonia, 20, the two Saugus residents who were convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl while their friend shared the attack on Snapchat, each receive sentences of four to five years in state prison. Sully C’s owner gets another reprieve after coming within hours of losing her liquor license. Precinct 4 Town Meeting members reflect on the passing of their friend and colleague Robert J. Cox, who dies at age 63. School officials say they are optimistic about the new direction of the food services program after sampling some of the menu items at a reception for new Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. The Saugus Chamber of Commerce’s former Executive Director, Terri Peznola, goes to work as the Town’s new purchasing assistant.

October

Waybright Elementary School becomes the first Level 1 School in three years – showing the most improvements of any school in the district and meeting its gap-narrowing goals in the MCAS tests for the spring of 2016. Meanwhile, Saugus Public Schools is classified for the third straight year as “Level 3” – a designation for the lowest performing 20 percent of school districts in Massachusetts. Saugus begins the public conversation on how to make itself one of the state’s first “dementia friendly” communities. Selectmen give Sully C’s another break after owner Elaine Byrne convinces them to allow more time for transfer of her liquor license to Frank Perry, who has plans to open a new pizza place – Sebastiano’s – at the location where Victor’s Italian Cuisine is housed. The Board of Health denies the Market at the Square One Mall a tobacco sales permit after the manager gave the wrong answer when quizzed about the minimum age for buying tobacco products in Saugus. Town Manager Scott Crabtree announces the appointment of Stephen Cole as new planning and development director. The Saugus Police Department receives three-year accreditation. McGarvey Towing captures “Best-Looking Tow Truck” award in National Competition. Ten days of “Early Voting” begins at Saugus Town Hall. Officials introduce Sgt. Stephen Rappa as the Saugus Police Department’s new commanding officer. Leigh Gerow calls on School Committee Member Peter Manoogian – owner of the dog that reportedly bit her baby in Town Hall earlier in the year – to show up at next week’s Special Town Meeting to support an article that would ban all non-service dogs from the building. Theoni Dezerene – the town’s oldest registered voter at 104 – says presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump need to act like adults. A ban on animals in public buildings gets unanimous approval at Special Town Meeting.

November

Ballard Street warehouse owners learn at a public hearing that the state Department of Transportation needs their property for the replacement of Belden Bly Bridge. Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joins state legislators and other state officials and town officials on a walking tour of the future Saugus RiverWalk. The Hearthstone Institute director leads a workshop on understanding dementia and the best way to deal with it. Democratic challenger Jen Migliore is raising and spending more campaign money than incumbent Republican State Rep. Donald Wong in the Ninth Essex House District race. The Saugus Public Library Foundation honors five town residents at its second annual Gala and Silent Auction. Republican state Rep. Donald Wong takes all eight Saugus precincts to win a fourth two-year-term in a lopsided reelection victory over Democratic challenger Jen Migliore in the Ninth Essex House District race. The Board of Health suspends a tobacco sales permit for Super Petroleum after catching the company selling cigarettes to minors for a third time. A survey shows public support for proposed Saugus High School-Middle School. Kowloon Restaurant and the Wong family make history as the Massachusetts Restaurant Association inducts a second generation of the family in the association’s Hall of Fame. Building Commissioner Fred Varone estimates property damage at $100,000 in a three-alarm house fire on Harrison Avenue, but says the century-old home can still be repaired. The Saugus Veterans Council honors World War II Navy veteran Louis A. DeSouza Sr. with a moment of silence at Veterans Day ceremonies – just a day after he passed away.

December

Neighbors Larry Applegate and David Horvath collaborate to pull 85-year-old Arthur Anderson from a burning house on Midland Avenue in what officials called a heroic, lifesaving act. Saugus Fire Department Captain Christopher Rizza receives the Medal of Valor at the 27th Annual “Firefighter of the Year” awards ceremony for saving the lives of two town firefighters. The owner of an average single-family home in Saugus – valued at $372,900 – will pay $249 more in taxes. The tax bill for an average commercial property – valued at $1,351,500 – will decrease by $700.These scenarios will take place on July 1 as a result of the new tax rates for the 2017 fiscal year approved by selectmen. Selectmen deny the transfer of Sully C’s liquor license to a new pizzeria planned for Route 1 because they don’t think Frank Perry has the right kind of experience to hold a liquor license. Denying the transfer of the license to Sebastian’s Brick Oven Pizza finally leads to the revocation of the liquor license held by Sully C’s owner Elaine Byrne. Former Saugus Town Manager Andrew R. Bisignani pleads guilty in U.S. District Court for failing to report $375,000 of his income on federal tax returns. Selectmen cite a nursery school as the reason for denying a beer and wine package store license for Great Convenience. Selectmen give unanimous approval to a request by Red Dog Pet Resort & Spa to modify plans for a future building that would accommodate pet care and overnight boarding on Walnut Street. Saugus High School senior Ronnie Lusso is cited as the 6th Massachusetts District winner in the 2016 Congressional App Challenge for an app that he says will help make learning math more interesting and fun. Board of Health Chair William Heffernan says legal talks with Wheelabrator don’t resolve differences over the expansion of the ash landfill, and he hints the Board will probably file a lawsuit to protect its right of local review if the company files for a permit to modify the ash landfill. Town officials embark on another plan to improve and rebrand the commercial climate of Cliftondale Square. The Town is poised to adopt the final version of the Saugus Housing Production Plan to help meet the needs and demands of the residents, particularly the elderly and low income who are struggling to find houses or apartments they can afford. Residents, business owners and town officials gather at the Fox Hill Yacht Club to discuss the proposed Saugus RiverWalk project.

 

   

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