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News

Northeast Metro Tech students attend Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness

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Northeast Metro Tech Superintendent-Director David DiBarri is pleased to announce that eight Northeast Metro Tech students attended the New Hampshire Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness last week. The event, which was put on by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, was designed to educate middle school and high school students about the dangers of opioid addiction while promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. On March 7, Northeast Metro Tech students Ian Haley, Pedro Carbonera, Yenissa Ortiz, Arthur Andrews, Quinn Lemist, Christian DeJesus, Carley Sutherland and Julia Agostini joined approximately 9,000 students from Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire at the Southern New Hampshire University arena for the summit.

“The students we sent are leaders in our school and will be able to carry the message they took away from the event to the rest of the student body and members of their respective communities,” DiBarri said. “Opioid addiction affects every city and town, and it’s imperative that we look at proactive ways to help combat this disease.”

At the summit, attendees spent from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. listening to a series of speakers directly affected by opioid addiction. Keynote speaker Jeff Allison, a New England native and former Miami Marlins pitcher, shared his personal story of addiction and recovery. Students also heard from parents directly affected by addiction, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, New England Patriots defensive back Patrick Chung, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Jon DeLena.

“The most powerful speakers were the parents who had lost their children to opioid addiction,” said Northeast Metro Tech Adjustment Counselor Dina Baratta. “They’re who impacted the students the most. I think they left with a new understanding of the issue and a commitment to help others.”

Additionally, students watched a short film, “If Only” – coproduced by James Wahlberg with support from Recovery Centers of America and Millennium Health – which highlights the negative effects of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction.

Following the event, students and Baratta met to discuss programs and initiatives they’d like to implement at Northeast Metro Tech.

Before the end of the year, the school will have its own showing of “If Only,” and the eight students who attended the summit will sit on a panel following the movie to discuss the message and answer questions.

DEA Agent DeLena visited Northeast Metro Tech on Friday, March 10, to speak to students about opioids and how to create a positive school climate. Students would also like to bring an athlete or additional relatable figure into the school to further speak about opioid addiction.

 

Saugus High School Students, Athletes, & Performers of the Month

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Athletes of the Month: Matthew Waggett (Basketball) and Alessia Salzillo (Basketball).

   

For public safety’s sake

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Former Town Moderator Robert J. Long calls a west side fire station a “top priority” that’s decades overdue

A single-family house next door to the Oaklandvale Elementary School once was considered for the site of a future firehouse that would protect homes and businesses on the town’s west side. Former Town Moderator Robert J. Long – who has lived about a half a century with his wife in the Oaklandvale section of town – said he thinks there are better locations available than the half-acre property at 270 Main St. which the town bought for $165,000 in 1999.

Long, who also served 34 years as a Town Meeting member and four years on the Board of Selectmen, said he would rather see a firehouse built in the Target/Ocean State Job Lot business area, not far from the entrance of Breakheart Reservation. But Long said that wherever the station is located, it needs to be done as soon as possible – without having to go through a long planning process.

“You really don’t have to come up with a reason – the reasons are already there,” Long told the Saugus Advocate this week.

“If the town wanted to see this 22 years ago, what’s made it less necessary today? It’s needed now. The traffic congestion is worse now than it was 10 years ago – or even five years ago,” he said.

“I don’t understand why an issue like the west side fire station can be a hot issue one moment and then fall to the back burner. I think it’s time to get it back on the front burner. We’ve already let enough time go back,” he said.

The subject of recent talk

Long was reacting to comments made last week by several Finance Committee members during a review of the public safety budgets for the 2018 fiscal year that begins July 1. With AvalonBay Communities, Inc.’s plans to build 280 apartments on the 14-acre site of the old Hilltop Steak House restaurant, committee members said they believe there is an obvious need for a third fire station in town instead of having fire trucks and ambulances dispatched from the central fire station on Hamilton Street, up Main Street and across Route 1 to the west side of town.

Long recalled that town voters passed a debt exclusion back in 1995 that included $500,000 set aside for the fire station as part of a $20 million capital projects package. Then, three years later, money from another $500,000 was used to buy the house at 270 Main St., according to Long.

The firehouse project stalled when funds weren’t approved to staff the building, according to some town officials. But Long said he believes that wasn’t the real reason for the project being shelved. There was no need to hire additional firefighters until the firehouse was built, he said.

Long blames the project’s demise on the departure of then-Town Manager Edward J. Collins, Jr. in 1996 to become chief financial officer and treasurer for the City of Boston. “If Ed Collins had stayed as town manager, that fire station would have been built by now,” Long said in an interview this week.

Long said a meeting he attended about a month ago on AvalonBay’s proposed development at the former Hilltop site motivated him to speak – first, behind the scenes, and later publicly – in this week’s interview. “When I saw the proposal for 280 apartments, that got me thinking – it’s just a stone’s throw from where we want to put the fire station,” Long said.

“The next thing, it kind of ballooned out from there,” he said. Long said he met with Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree and later talked with a few other people involved with town government.

Selectmen need
to get involved

The Hilltop site isn’t the only area on the town’s west side where potential development is increasing the needs for a new fire station, according to Long. “This is the time to lay a strong foundation for a need that couldn’t be any more self-evident,” Long said.

Long suggested that town officials – particularly the town manager and the Board of Selectmen – find out if adequate funds are still available to build a west side fire station and whether the house at 270 Main St. can be sold to help finance the project. Also, officials should look at possible available sites for the fire station, he said.

“Now is also the time to look at the equipment and manning that will be necessary for a third fire station in town … It wouldn’t be a huge effort to find out what’s necessary to get this back on the front burner again,” Long said.

“Under our Town Charter, we require a capital improvement budget. This work would involve the selectmen. They, along with the town manager, can identify what needs to be done,” he said.

Long called his conversation with Crabtree “encouraging.” “He seemed to be very receptive to identifying what needs to be done to get that station running,” Long said. “I received a very positive feeling from him – that he understood the necessity.

   

Longtime Substitute Teacher Diane Walsh talks about town educators who earn less than the state’s minimum wage

~The Advocate Asks~

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For this week’s interview, we sat down with longtime Substitute Teacher Diane Walsh and asked her about the challenges of working in a school district where substitute teachers are among the state’s lowest paid. She subs several days a week at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School, in Kindergarten through Grade Five. She is a 1978 Saugus High School graduate and received her associate’s degree from Salem State University. She aspired to become a schoolteacher, but never completed her education. Since 1999 she has been a substitute teacher with the Saugus Public Schools, working at all grade levels.

Walsh has been an advocate for improving wages and providing benefits to substitute teachers who work in the town’s education system. Last week, Walsh addressed the School Committee on increasing pay for substitute teachers. Her daughter, Leanna Walsh, teaches students in the post-graduate Life Skills Program at Saugus High School. Walsh has served on several town committees, including the Saugus Veterans Wall/Monument Committee and the Veterans School Monument Fundraiser. Highlights of the interview follow:

 

Q: What are you primary concerns as a longtime substitute teacher working in the town of Saugus?

A: Well, I see that role changing. You have to know more. It’s not a babysitting job. And many years ago, it could be at times. But today, you definitely have to be more proactive. You definitely have to know more about what’s going on in the schools. There are so many more kids’ issues that you have to be aware of in order to take care of them the right way. And, if they don’t pay people, they’re not going to get anyone that wants to do anything but babysit them.

Q: What do you get paid a day now?

A: $60.

Q: How long have you been getting paid $60 a day?

A: It hasn’t been that long. I don’t know how long ago they raised it – maybe four years, tops.

Q: How does that compute to the hourly wage?

A: As a substitute, you make $9.54 an hour. It’s a 6.3-hour day.

Q: $9.54 an hour, which is below the minimum wage in Massachusetts, where the state minimum wage is now $11 an hour.

A: Yes, it just went up to $11.

Q: What has been your response when you mention that to people?

A: A lot of us have to work other jobs. People ask what we make, and I say not as much as the [state] minimum wage. People ask, ‘Well, isn’t that illegal?’ So, I looked into it, and some of the other substitutes said, ‘Well, yeah. Shouldn’t we make the minimum wage?’ So, I’ve looked into it.

Q: Have you talked with federal wage and hour people?

A: Yes, I did. First I called the Massachusetts department, and they were not very helpful. As soon as I said I was a substitute teacher, the lady said, ‘Well, that doesn’t matter. You’re union,’ or something like that. I said we’re not affiliated with any union whatsoever, and she was very unhelpful. And then she said, ‘Call the feds.’ So, I went on the federal site and I called them, and they didn’t know what to tell me at first. But they can’t really do anything because the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. There are only about five states left that are at that point. Everybody else is above that.

Q: So, at the state level, where the minimum wage is higher than federal minimum wage, they don’t seem interested in doing anything about substitute teachers making less than the state minimum wage?

A: The person I spoke with acted like they couldn’t be bothered. I’m sure there are worse violations out there, so maybe that was it. The second she heard the word “teacher,” she didn’t want to deal with it.

Q: Have you done any research on what other communities pay their substitute teachers?

A: Yes. That’s the first thing I did. A number of years ago when they changed it, I did the same type of speech [before the Saugus School Committee] and I called all the communities around here, and there was only one town that paid the same. And everybody else was far above, or at least $10 above. So they [the Saugus School Committee] made the jump. It was still low, but we weren’t the lowest anymore. And now, it’s the same thing. We’re among the lowest in the state. Melrose is right around us, and they’re supposed to be such a fancy community. Some of the other ones in the area are well above us. I didn’t call Lynn, but Lynn has always been much higher. They have huge federal funding in their schools.

Q: You have been doing this since 1999, so the role and responsibilities of being a substitute have changed a lot since then.

A: Yes. It’s been incredible.

Q: Like, you have to worry about the fanny packs that follow students who have allergies and medical conditions that need to be monitored.

A: Yes. You have to be well aware of everyone’s IEPs – Individualized Education Plans – so you have to be aware of those. You have to be aware of behavior modifications. And allergies. We’re not allowed to bring food into the classroom. We don’t even have parties anymore, or the parties are downsized. The kids can give out pencils, but no food. If lollipops come in, they have to go home. You can’t have anything like that in school. And there are just so many more rules.

Q: Since you began, do you feel like substitute teachers in Saugus are respected more or respected less?

A: It depends upon who you ask. If you go into my school and ask the teachers about the people who substitute in our building, you’ll find that there’s a huge respect, but if you ask outsiders, they are like, ‘Uh, they’re just babysitters.’ Lots of times, teachers come to me. ... I don’t do four days anymore. I’ve cut down for financial reasons … and they ask, ‘Are you going to be in on this day? I want you in my classroom.’ Or for maternity leaves – I have done a number of maternity leaves … ‘I want you on my maternity leave.’ So, I’m requested. They know I know what I’m doing.

Q: You could make more money at a fast-food place than as a substitute teacher.

A: Yes. But I was in college to get my degree as a teacher, but I got divorced and had to help my daughter out. So, no degree for me. But this is work that I have enjoyed.

Q: What’s the morale like of the subs you run into at the Saugus Public Schools?

A: I only know a couple of them well. And I only sub in Veterans Memorial and don’t get to talk with many of them.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a substitute teacher in Saugus?

A: I like what I do. I like going into the different places. I like just the variety.

Q: But the public has the perception, ‘This is just a babysitter’s job.’

A: Right. So I don’t find a lot of it challenging. Some days, like the day before a vacation, the kids are crazed. The day after Halloween, the kids are all sugared-out. Sometimes dealing with behavior – that can be challenging. That can be very challenging. If someone’s having a bad day, sometimes it’s draining, or when you have a lot of sick kids and they’re dropping like flies in your classroom. But as far as anything else that other people might find challenging – I can walk into the building and I’m told, ‘You are going to do this today.’ I’ve got 15 minutes to formulate a teacher’s plan. I was an art major, so it’s something I can do in that class. Anyway, I like the challenge of preparing a plan for a particular day.

Q: As a sub, do you have the issues like social media or the cellphones? Or is that more in the upper grades?

A: We don’t allow children to have cellphones. Some of the fifth graders have them in their backpacks to call parents at the end of the day, but they must stay in the backpack. Or it gets taken away and the parent has to get it back from the principal if it’s out. Some parents request you to be friends. But I learned a long time ago that it’s not a good thing to do, so I don’t have to bother with that. But when I was at the High School visiting my daughter, the kids were like this, walking around the school, talking on the cellphone. I was shocked.

Q: What are your hopes and expectations – coming from your recent comments to the School Committee?

A: It would be nice if they gave us a raise and they gave the building substitutes a little more because we do a lot of other stuff. When the colleges get out, they hire a lot of the college kids who are thinking about going into teaching. So, they come along in May and they work for a couple of weeks and they get the same pay as I do, when I have to do CPI [Crisis Prevention Institute] training – for physical restraint and students who are out of control – and I have to do that and all of these other things and I have to get fingerprinted. To get paid the same, you know, that’s really not right.

Q: So, as a substitute teacher, you don’t get any benefits?

A: Nothing. You don’t get anything – no sick days, no holidays, no vacation.

Q: What’s been your most challenging day as a sub in Saugus?

A: Wow, it’s been a long time … I’ve been bit. I’ve been kicked. I’ve been shoved. I’ve had days where three kids in the classroom threw up and I got thrown up on. Those are not fun days. I’ve been called all sorts of names, too.

Q: And you’ve had to call the principal into the classroom for those days?

A: Yes.

Q: There’s been some tough days. But nothing really sticks out that caused me to say, ‘I’m quitting this job.’ There’s definitely days when you go home exhausted and say to yourself, ‘Why do I do this?’ Especially when we’re making 50 bucks a day. Yeah, you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this for 50 bucks?’

Q: But you’ve been doing this since 1999. Aren’t there a lot more laws that come into play that make it a much more difficult job?

A: There have been a lot of changes like MCAS, and this and that. And actually, the CPI training has changed a lot, too. You’re really not even supposed to restrain a child. Even if a kid picks up a chair and throws it at you, you’re just supposed to stand there. You’re not supposed to stop them, which I don’t agree with, because what if he’s throwing it at another kid? If that was my kid he was throwing it at, I’d be upset. And adults are not supposed to do anything? That’s not protecting the other children. And the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.

Q: So you really got a lot of responsibility, like with the EpiPen.

A: Yes. You just pray that nobody eats the peanuts or whatever they’re allergic to. Yes, there’s a lot about food allergies, and a few times, you have to worry about bee stings. So, you take them out to recess. I’ve never had to use one, thank goodness. A girl broke her arm once, but that was not a challenging day for me.

Q: So, what do you think that substitutes should be making an hour in Saugus if the school system really values them?

A: The same as a para [paraprofessional]. I mean, if you are going to be the building sub or the permanent sub that fills in all of those things, you should get paid for that work. I’ve had to do lesson plans. I’ve had to do parent conferences and a lot of other stuff, so why shouldn’t I get paid to do lesson plans? Why shouldn’t I get paid to go talk to the parents or have the parents come talk to me? I’ve had to do everything that a teacher would do during maternity leave, illnesses and what not, so why should I make less than $10 an hour when I am doing all of that work? A substitute should get paid what a para [paraprofessional] gets paid. I even talked to a union representative at one point and asked whether we should join some kind of union. I don’t know if it’s feasible or can be done. I’m think about the earned sick time act. Why can’t we have that? Because a lot of the sicknesses I get, I get from them [the students]. And bereavement? Why shouldn’t I get a day of pay?

Q: What’s the most rewarding part about being a substitute teacher in Saugus?

A: I was going to get my teaching degree. I like the kids. They make me laugh. They make you think differently sometimes. You do something that you’ve done for a long time, and you think you know what you’re doing, and they show you that you didn’t know all the ways to do something – and they give you a fresh perspective. I love kids’ art. It’s pure. There’s nothing to read into it.

Q: Anything else that you would like to share?

A: It’s a good job. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t love my job. But financially, it’s not good. I had to cut back my days, which makes me sad.

Q: And your expectations and hopes are that they [school officials] would at least pay the minimum wage of Massachusetts?

A: Yes, and think about the earned sick time. If people in Burger King can get earned sick time, why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t the substitutes get treated the way other people like to be treated?

   

“We are lucky because …”

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Children and a few adults get to count their St. Patrick’s Day blessings in a creative way at Saugus Public Library

Mia DeAngelo said she has a lot to feel lucky about as she looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day. “I love my family, my friends, my home and my birthday – it’s the day before St. Patrick’s Day,” said Mia, who turned 8 yesterday.

Mia, a second grader at the Our Lady of Assumption School, said she loved her grandmother and “Miss Amy,” too, referring to Amy Melton, the children’s librarian at the Saugus Public Library. Melton made it possible for Mia and other children visiting the library this month to be creative while counting their St. Patrick’s Day blessings on shamrocks cut out of green construction paper. Children were encouraged to finish the sentence “We are lucky because …” and write it on their shamrock, which was displayed on a wall board in the children’s section of the library or given to the child to take home.

Mia needed two paper shamrocks to explain why she is lucky. She used one of them exclusively for her grandmother. “I’m lucky because I have a grandmother who showed me this library,” Mia wrote. “If it wasn’t for her, I’d never experience this library.”

Sheri Habib, 5, who is in the kindergarten at the Waybright Elementary School, couldn’t name everybody she wanted to on her shamrock. “People made me lucky,” Sheri said. “I am lucky because of everyone.”

Honoring their Irish heritage

Melton cut out her own shamrock and inscribed a blessing on it that expressed gratitude for the job she began at the library about a year ago. “I am lucky because I get to work in a beautiful library with so many wonderful children and families,” she wrote on a paper shamrock displayed in a plastic stand on the table where the children worked on their own shamrocks.

It was a drop-in craft activity, designed to get the children to think about good things in their lives. “I think it’s nice to focus on our blessings,” Melton said.

“Some of the children wanted to pin them up on the wall and some wanted to take them home,” Melton said.

As part of the library’s St. Patrick’s Day observance, the children’s section featured a table that displayed a selection of books to encourage young readers to learn more about Irish heritage. Green shamrocks suspended on strings hung from the ceiling made it easy to spot the table.

“A lot of us have Irish heritage … Some of us have to go back a few generations to find it. My mom was Irish. Her maiden name was Smith. But Maroney was the name of her grandfather who came over from Ireland and through Ellis Island,” Melton noted.

Cody Abraham, a four-year-old from Lynn, shares the heritage that Melton celebrates this month in the children’s section of the library. Besides honoring his family, friends and cats, Cody’s shamrock was dedicated to his Irish-born grandmother, Margaret O’Flaherty.

Puppy love and healthy children

The children and adults who displayed handmade paper shamrocks on the “We are lucky because …” board counted a wide range of blessings.

“I am lucky to have a puppy that loves me,” wrote one child.

“I am lucky because I am strong, smart, nice and funny … I am also lucky to have a wonderful family,” another wrote.

Julianna considered herself lucky “because I get pizza from Charlie’s Pizzeria.”

“I am lucky because I get diamonds for Christmas,” Tina wrote.

Dylan cited “many ‘Curious George’ movies to watch with my brother.”

Several of the shamrock artists wrote about the good fortune of having “healthy” and “wonderful” families.

“I am lucky because I have two healthy children,” CH wrote.

There’s still plenty of construction paper left to make shamrocks and lots of room on the “lucky” board for people – young and old – who want to count their own St. Patrick’s Day blessings when they visit the library today.

   

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