By Mark E. Vogler
Here are a few tidbits that you might want to know about this week in Saugus.
Some citizen concerns
I can tell it’s definitely budget time, because I’m already hearing some of the static from citizens – a handful of texts, emails and phone calls of residents grumbling that both the town government and the School Department should be making fiscal information more accessible.
Sure. It’s boring. It’s complicated. And it’s time-consuming for a reporter to follow the municipal budget process. It’s also a thankless task where some of the people who have the information are not very cooperative and forthcoming in making it available to reporters who want to inform the public about such matters.
But, as the editor of The Saugus Advocate, I regard budget coverage as an important task which any conscientious newspaper needs to follow. So, we will strive to keep our readers posted on important fiscal/budget information that they may be interested in between now and the time that the budget for the 2019 fiscal year that begins July 1 gets approved by the Annual Town Meeting.
Fae Saulenas, a long-time homeowner in Precinct 10 and a loyal reader, raises some good points in several emails she sent us over the past week. “As you know, transparency is a favorite word of all politicians. Saugus’ present school committee is no exception,” Fae wrote in one of the emails.
“It was surprising to me that the Saugus School Department would invite the public to a proposed FY 2019 budget meeting on 01/23/2018 and limit the public’s availability to that budget to the hours of 8AM to 4PM in the Superintendent’s office commencing on 01/19/2018.
“When I asked why, I was told that was all they were required by law to do. I assume that these folks know that those hours are not ideal for the working taxpayers of any municipality. We are in the age of the internet, but, you would not know that based on the SPS’s dissemination of information practices…”
Fae shared her email exchange with Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr.
The announcement: “The Saugus Public Schools will hold a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2019 School Department budget on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the School Committee room in the School Administration Building, 23 Main St., Saugus.
“In accordance with M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 38N, a copy of the proposed budget will be available after Jan. 19, 2018 in the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, 23 Main St., Saugus, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.”
Fae’s comment to the superintendent, in an email headlined “Why is the proposed SPS FY 2019 Budget not posted on the school district’s website?”: “Dave, If this is the only availability that is being offered to the hardworking taxpayers of Saugus, in my opinion, it is inadequate.”
The superintendent’s response: “Hi Fae, By state law that is all school districts are required to do. There will be other meetings on the budget moving forward.”
Fae’s response: “Performing to the letter of the law is a minimal performance standard. I expect to see the proposed SPS FY 2019 budget posted online ASAP. Thanks, Fae.”
Right on, Fae. It might seem a little troublesome to the superintendent and his minions to provide you that information. But even before your email exchange, the budget was made available electronically to the School Committee members. And we’re talking public money here.
As far as I’m concerned, any time an electronic email has been generated containing a proposed budget, the public is indeed entitled to such information – because it is a public document! And it should be published on the School Department’s website so that any concerned citizens can have an opportunity to read and analyze the numbers.
And the same thing on the town side. Once the proposed town budget is submitted to the Board of Selectmen by the town manager with a budget message and the Finance Committee commences meetings on each department budget, why not have that information readily available on the website? And people who request copies should receive them.
Believe it or not, I have sat in on a number of School Committee budget meetings where members and school officials were treating the stuff like it was top secret. Dr. DeRuosi even complained one time about there being too much media coverage of the School Department budget.
On the town side, I’ve usually been able to at least borrow a copy of a proposed department budget from a Town Meeting member, Finance Committee member or town official.
Anyway, for those who are interested, stay tuned for the beginning of Finance Committee meetings in a few weeks.
A good candidate for state ed commissioner
Jeff Riley has my vote to replace the late state Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. Riley – who is currently the superintendent-receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools – is one of the three finalists being considered for the position.
I had an opportunity to observe Riley up close for several years as a reporter for The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover while covering the-then dysfunctional school system that was eventually declared a Level 4 school district and taken over by the state. Later, in between newspaper jobs, I got hired by Riley to do some freelance writing for the Lawrence Public Schools, so I got to know him on two levels.
If Riley can turn around the Lawrence Public Schools since his arrival in January 2012, he would be a great candidate to be the next state education commissioner.
Soon after getting appointed superintendent/receiver, Riley was being talked about as a future superintendent of Boston Public Schools. But it was too early for him to walk away from his mission in Lawrence.
From all I’ve read, he’s accomplished that mission and he deserves a shot at being the next education czar of Massachusetts.
News from the New Friends
This just in from Pauline Gautreau of the New Friends of Saugus Public Library. The New Friends are now set up to accept donations of stock transfers as well as cash, according to a press release we received from the group this week. “Also, New Friends has been and continues to be accepted by the GE Match Program. Your gift of $25.00 or more may be matched. Stock donations are also eligible for the match program,” says the press release she emailed us.
“This program is for current GE employees, retirees of GE and spouses of deceased GE retirees. We encourage GE people to help us out. Your donation is tax deductible,” the press release states.
“Checks should be payable to: New Friends of Saugus Public Library and noted ‘eligible for GE Match’. Drop off or mail to Saugus Public Library, 295 Central Street, Saugus, MA 01906. Please mark the envelope, ‘Attention: New Friends’.
“Report your donation of check or stock to: The GE Foundation Matching Gift Center at 1/800-305-0669. When you call, please have the following information available: your social security number, zip code of the Saugus Public Library, amount and date of your gift.
“Over the past year, New Friends Has provided reduced rate museum/zoo passes as well as many free programs for all ages. Also, when the library lost a beautiful tree near the Taylor Street entrance, New Friends replaced it with a new young tree and watered it throughout the summer and fall. Hopefully, we will all be able to enjoy the beautiful pink blossoms for many years to come.
“Our current plans for 2018 include providing new bookcases for the Community Room, supporting many programs for adults, young adults and children as well as bringing in two exciting authors: Ted Reinstein from Channel 5’s ‘Chronicle’ and author and well-known television reporter, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Watch for more information regarding these two free programs.
“Please consider helping New Friends In working to keep our library a busy and vital part of the community.”
Trash/Recycling running on one-day holiday delay
Here’s a reminder from the Town of Saugus that the trash and recycling collection is running on a one-day delay through tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 20) due to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Residents whose collection day falls on Monday had their trash collected on Tuesday and collection continues to run on a one-day delay for the remainder of the week.
The compost site will be open tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 20) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Town of Saugus would like to thank everyone for their cooperation.
Please contact Solid Waste/Recycling Coordinator Lorna Cerbone at 781-231-4036 with any questions.
Getting creative at the library
Hey, kids! Want to get creative this year?
The Saugus Public Library will be hosting another “Just Build” program on Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. Come and recycle your leftover holiday tissue paper and boxes and see what you can build! The library will provide a few boxes and other building materials. Creative people of all ages are invited, especially kids. That box might become a cave, a castle, a dungeon, a spaceship, a battleship, a race car, an airplane, a fortress, a mansion or whatever you want to make of it.
So come to the library and discover the limits of your creativity.
Countdown to kindergarten
Preschool Playgroup: every Saturday, at 11 a.m., the Saugus Public Library will host “Let’s Get Ready for Kindergarten!” This playgroup is geared to help families navigate and understand Preschool Development. Children will explore different Literacy, Art, Science, Building, Writing, Math, Fine Motor, Gross Motor and Pretend Play materials and activities.
This drop-in playgroup, however, is limited to 15 students. Parents are required to stay. Please email Trish at Tricia928@yahoo.com with any questions. The Playgroup is sponsored by The Saugus Coordinated Family & Community Engagement (CFCE) Program.
Happy Birthday, Winnie!
The library will be hosting a Winnie the Pooh Birthday Party, today (Friday, Jan. 19) from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Kids can join the celebration by enjoying a story and crafts. This is an ideal program for ages three and up, according to the library.
Important voter news!
This announcement from Town Clerk Ellen Schena: The last day to register to vote and the Late Night Voter Registration for the Special State Election scheduled for March 6, will be on Wednesday, Feb. 14, from 8:15 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Also, Ellen says the Clerk’s Office needs election workers for both the February and March elections, especially for the Warden and Clerks roles. If interested, please go to the Clerk’s Office at Town Hall to fill out paperwork. All positions are paid.
These elections are necessary to fill the seat vacated by former state Sen. Thomas McGee, who was elected as the new mayor of Lynn. The Lynn Democrat has already vacated his Third Essex District seat.
State Rep. Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn, who worked for a decade at the State House as an aide for McGee before running for his state representative seat in 2014, will be the only one running – unless somebody mounts a write-in campaign.
Don’t miss out on a great calendar!
It is indeed a great calendar and well worth the donation, especially if you are a proud Saugonian who is interested in your town’s history. Frankly, it’s worth much more than the $2 donation the society is suggesting. That’s my personal endorsement of the Saugus Historical Society’s 2018 Calendar, which was the focus of a cover story in The Saugus Advocate two weeks ago.
These calendars – which feature the reproduction of an old postcard or photo for each month – are available while they last at Saugus Town Hall, Saugus Public Library and the Senior Center.
Get them while they’re hot!
Town Hall seeks candidates for cable board
The Saugus Board of Selectmen is searching for a few good civic-minded men and women to serve their local government as a member of the Board of Directors for Saugus Cable Television Station, SCTV Inc. This is a volunteer/nonpaid position for Saugus residents.
Those interested may submit letter of interest/resume no later than Feb. 15 to:
Saugus Board of Selectmen
Saugus Town Hall, Suite #4
298 Central St.
Annual Food for Fines
The Saugus Public Library wants to strike a deal with those readers who are procrastinating in paying their overdue fines. You can reduce the fines in return for donations of food that will be given to local food pantries. The standing offer from the Saugus Public Library Board of Trustees and staff is that your fine will be reduced by a dollar for each item donated.
Food items that are needed include cereal, pasta, rice, tuna, dry milk, pancake mix, baked beans, baking mix, peanut butter and jelly, canned fruit or juice, canned vegetables, canned or dry soups, macaroni and cheese dinners, instant potatoes, canned tomatoes or sauce, and canned meat.
Time to vote for SHS Hall of Fame
Do you know of a former Saugus High School athlete who deserves to be inducted into the Saugus High School Hall of Fame?
Well, the nomination process has begun. Anyone looking to nominate a former Saugus High athlete into the Athletic Hall of Fame can mail their nominations to:
Saugus High School
1 Pearce Memorial Dr.
Saugus, MA 01906
Attention: Athletic Hall of Fame-Mike Hashem
Or you could also mail your nomination to:
5 Appleton Pl.
Saugus, MA 01906
Nominations can also be emailed to SaugusHSAthelticHOF@gmail.com.
Stay tuned for more details.
Students helping students
Here’s an example of great collaboration between the Saugus Public Library and a Belmonte Middle School teacher – and, of course, Junior National Honor Society students from the Belmonte Middle School. Each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m., the library provides tutoring and homework help for the town’s elementary school students. The elementary school students get help, the Belmonte students get credits for community service.
The library again will be partnering with the Belmonte Middle School to offer free drop-in homework help in the Community Room to Saugus elementary school students to help foster strong academic and study skills outside of school hours.
No registration is required, but students must be signed in/out by a parent or guardian. The parent or guardian must remain on library grounds while student is receiving homework assistance pursuant to an unaccompanied minors policy.
This program is open to students in grades K-5. The subjects students can get help with are math, science, grammar, reading, social studies, geography and more. Hey, parents, here’s some help if you child needs it.
Let’s hear it!
Got an idea, passing thought or gripe you would like to share with The Saugus Advocate? I’m always interested in your feedback and in hearing readers’ suggestions for possible stories or good candidates for “The Advocate Asks” interview of the week. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Do you have some interesting views on an issue that you want express to the community? Submit your idea. If I like it, we can meet for a 15- to 20-minute interview at a local shop. And I’ll buy the coffee.