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AHS graduates learn from past pain, sing for future

Updated, June 8: In the dusky sun of a June midafternoon, 321 Arlington High School seniors graduated amid a mix of words expressing sadness from the year gone by and hope for what is to come.

Catherine MalatestaMalatesta

"This year the AHS community was touched by many losses," Principal Matthew Janger told those gathered at Peirce Field on Saturday, June 4. "We mourned the deaths of two students, Catherine J. Malatesta, a senior, and Jeremy Kremer-McNeil, a sophomore. In addition, we mourned the untimely death of Katherine Wall, a coach, educator and recent graduate of AHS."

Then the Madrigal Singers lent their voices to help listeners feel beyond the pain of loss, rendering "Somewhere (There's a Place for Us)," from West Side Story. Maddy Kitchen, who leads the choral group, wrote that "when Catherine was in the group last year, they sang this piece all together. They sang this song in her memory."

There was the joy of achievement, the random humor and the inevitable advice delivered in speeches by students and a teacher.

Five graduation addresses >>

Watch on ACMi >>

There were these overarching words about Malatesta:

"Catherine, who recently lost a courageous battle to cancer, was a member of the senior class of 2016. Catherine was an exuberant and involved member of the AHS community. Not only was Catherine a committed honors student but also she passionately participated in many activities at AHS and, in particular, was Captain of the Field Hockey team, rowed on the Arlington-Belmont varsity crew team, sang in the Madrigals, acted in the winter musical production and was voted president of our Student Council.

"Her greatest passion was on stage with her Madrigal family and her winter musical cast.

"Catherine’s family has founded the Catherine J. Malatesta Scholarship fund to award to two seniors at senior awards night whose experience at AHS closely mirrors Catherine’s tenure here ....

"Catherine’s eternal optimism and hope amidst her brave and difficult struggle with cancer has touched our community deeply and many groups have joined in fund-raising to support the fight against cancer. Catherine’s spirit has also inspired many to work toward her vision of a truly inclusive high school community. Catherine’s legacy is bringing many groups together."

Commencement program

During the tradition processional, the class entered, followed by presentation of colors by the Arlington Police Department Honor Guard and the playing of the National Anthem by the Arlington High School Band, directed by John DiTomaso.

Master of Ceremonies Robert DiLoreto, dean of Fusco House, welcomed all, including Dr. Kathleen M. Bodie, superintendent of schools, and Dr. Matthew I. Janger, principal.

Antranig Kechejian, 2016 class secretary, introduced the appreciation awards. The program was as follows:

Community Recognition: Jennifer Susse, chair, Arlington School Committee;

Class Achievements: Dr. Bodie;

Faculty Speaker: Justin Bourassa, introduced by Alexander Franzosa, vice president of the class of 2016;

Remarks: Vignesh Chockalingam, president of the Student Council;

Honors speaker: Alice Tracey;

Honors speaker: George West, president of the class of 2016;

Catherine J. Malatesta Remembrance: Dr. Janger and the AHS Madrigal Choir;

Presentation of diplomas: Dr. Janger and Dr. Susse;

Presentation of class gift and conclusion: West.

Readers: Veronica Tivnan, dean, Downs House; William McCarthy, vice principal:

Diploma assistants: Susan Briggs and Danielle Rakowsky;

Graduation coordinators: Joanna Begin and Nicole Read;

Sound: Ryan Yorck;

Bag piper: Rob Eagan;

Elementary and middle school: Laura McGowan, Thompson School;

Faculty appreciation awards: Laura Morello, Hardy School; Jeanne Wall, Bishop School; Janelle Ricciuti, Stratton School; Jill Connor, Dallin School; Nicole Feroleto, Brackett School; Christina Perkowski, Peirce School; Brandon Bage, Ottoson Middle School.

Night of honors, scholarships at Arlington High

On Awards Night at Arlington High School, held Thursday, June 2, the following students were recognized with scholarships and honors:

AFL CIO Local 17: Julie Foran

Amy Walsh Memorial Scholarship: Daniel Slebodnick

Ann Rosalie Pierce Scholarship: Peter Ammondson Michaela Bassett, Anthony Burns II, Kate Carr, Grace Carter, Vignesh Chockalingam, Peter Clifford, Alec Coleman, Michaela Farmer, Austin Flajnik, Jackson Foster, Max Fox-Jurkowitz, Daniel Gallini, Benjamin Gould, Daniel Hallice, Sarkis Kavlakian, Steven Liakos, Alan Medina, Alanna Ogilvie, Kayla Pieroni, Elias Sachs, Laura Shea, Olivia Sorenson, Nicholas Streit, Kriti Tamang,Gina Tarantino, Marissa Tashjian, Andrew Thomas, India Tonkin, Cameron Tripp, Victoria Tse

Anthony G. Raduazzo Memorial Scholarship: Anne Higgins

Arlington Boys' Youth Lacrosse Scholarship: Sean Foran, Jeffrey Gorman

Arlington Chamber of Commerce Scholarship: Steven Liakos

Arlington Education Association Scholarship: Sara Murphy

Arlington Girls' Youth Lacrosse Scholarshiphip: Caitlin Conneely, Emma Curtis

Arlington Lions Club Health Care Scholarship: Manjot Kaurial

Arlington Soccer Club/Sam Oliver Memorial: James Bauer, Maura Doherty, Max Fox-Jurkowitz, Erin Jigarjian, Emma Maxtutis, Stefan Rookwood

Arlington Sons of Italy Scholarship: Michaela Bassett, Alexander Gera

Armstrong Family Scholarship: Kerry Liu

Art Coughlin Holovak-Logan Memorial Scholarship: Margaret Ammondson, Clark Ewen

Bertagna Memorial Scholarship: Ysabela Campbell-Breen, Sean Foran, Jeffrey Gorman, Laura Shea

Betty Fiorenza Memorial Scholarship: Grace Jenkins

Bob Havern AHS 1967 Scholarship: Marcus Messuri

Brackett PTO Scholarship: Caroline Flynn, Alexander Franzosa

Catherine Brescia Memorial Scholarship: Caroline Flynn

Catherine J. Malatesta PAPA Scholarship: Cora Flanagan

Catherine J. Malatesta Scholarship: Peter Clifford, Cora Flanagan

Class of 1930 Scholarship: Ronaldo Gjiknuri

Class of 1955: Julia Shenefield

Dr. Robert A. Provost Jr. Memorial Scholarship: Michael Dillon

E. Nelson Blake Book Award: Ian Bernardin, Vignesh Chockalingam, Maura Doherty, Kiran Gite, Benjamin Gould,
Galen Hall, Erin O’Brien, Samuel O’Keefe, Andrew Peterson, Ashley Wicks

East Cambridge Savings Bank Scholarship: Margaret Kelly, Paolo Wolfsdorf

Ed Burns Scholar Athlete Scholarship: Clark Ewen, Kendra Griesman

Edward A. Bailey Scholarship: Rachel Bowler, Ysabela Campbell-Breen, Maura Doherty, Caroline Flynn, Daniel Gallini, Ronaldo Gjiknuri, Lauren Hourican, Aditi Joglekar, Abhishek Khanal, Kerry Liu, Patrick McCune, Cormac Paterson, Daniel Slebodnick, Yuran Tsuchida, Andrew Ward

Ellen E. Sweeney Scholarship: Erin Davies

Felicia M. DeLorenzo Scholarship: Ian Bernardin, Kathryn Brennan, Maura Doherty, Elizabeth Donham, Katya Donovan, Alexander Franzosa, Addis Gunst, Daniel Hallice, Lauren Hourican, Marguerite Kaminski, Nicholas Kaminski, Kerry Liu, Tenzin Nanglo, Samuel O’Keefe, Paige Riley, Aaron Seibring, Read Stone, Victoria Tse, Nathan Werst, George West, Ashley Wicks, Rongfang Zou

Frank Roberts Memorial Scholarship: Madeline Goldstein

Griff Strong Scholarship: Maura Doherty, Kerry Liu

Harry Haroutunian Scholarship: Alexander Schramm von Blucher

Harry Jean Scholarship: Faolan Coogan Pluck, Kendra Griesman

Henry Ottoson Memorial Scholarship: Rebecca Choi

James A. Leverone Scholarship: Bridget Kiejna, James Marifiote

Joan Flanagan/Hardy PTO Scholarship: Kayla Pieroni, Connor Wells

Joan Gallagher Scholarship: Julia Shenefield

John C. Arnold Memorial Scholarship: Minerva Veeser-Bobea

John Cinkala Community Arts Leadership: Julie Foran

John L. Asinari Memorial Scholarship: Emma Curtis, Sara Gutierrez, Erin 
Jigarjian, Marguerite Kaminski, Isabella Pajevic

Joseph J. Keating Jr. Scholarship: Kate Carr, Benjamin Gould

Karl Kaprelan Memorial Scholarship: Grace Hoglund

Katherine Wall Memorial Scholarship: Margaret Kelly, Ashley Malone

Kathleen Crawley Memorial Scholarship: Jacob Chaves

Kenvin J. Fitzgerald Scholarship – Cambridge Savings Charitable Foundation: Cora Flanagan, Kerry Liu

Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration Committee Scholarship: Noelani Ramos

Mary Lou Serra Sheehan Scholarship: Anya Casieri

Mass Elks Scholarship: Erin Ay, Nathan Werst

Mount Auburn Hosptial Nursing Scholarship: Maura Doherty

Muthiah Sisters Scholarship: Vignesh Chockalingam, Ashley Wicks

National Merit Scholarship: Kiran Gite, Galen Hall

National Merit Scholarship Tufts School: Ashley Wicks

Nicholas Iacuzio Memorial Scholarship: Liam Durant, Kiran Gite, Tenzin Nanglo, Cormac Paterson

PAPA Scholarship: Rebecca Choi, Lukuan Peng, Laura Schoonmaker

Pasquale Tassone Scholarship: Michael Morrissette

Pearl Wilmarth Beals Scholarship: Bridget Kiejna

Peirce PTO/Alanna DeMella Scholarship: Andrea Garcia

Principal's Scholarship: Alice Tracey, George West

Professor & Mrs. Takaji Matsushima Award: Jacikelis Pereira

Randall O Pass Book Award: Grace Hoglund

Robert "BOBBY" McGurl and the McGurl Family Veterans Scholarship: Trevor Stinson

Rotary Club of Arlington: Addis Gunst

Sam Nigro Charitable Scholarship Trust: Rachel Bowler, James Hassler Jr., Ashley Malone, Paula McMenimen, Cameron Tripp

Sharon Boyle Memorial Scholarship: Susannah Benn

Shoot for the Cure: Erin Davies, Yana Galina, Abhishek Khanal, Emma 
Maxtutis, Karla Meehan, Isabella Pajevic, Rongfang Zou

Symmes Arlington Hospital Nurses Alumni Scholarship: Cora Flanagan

The Dottie Maher Memorial Tennis Scholarship: Leah Lavin, Nicholas Streit

The Mary Nolan Scholarship: Michaela Farmer

The Pizzi Folundation Scholarship: Nathan Werst

Thelma Sonnichsen Family & Consumer Life Scholarship: Ashley Malone, Sara Murphy

Theresa Dooley Scholarship: Adam Cahill, Erin Flajnik

Thompson Bronze: Ashley Ales, Margaret Ammondson, Peter Ammondson, Erin Ay, Atul Banskota, Michaela Bassett, Nicki Bauman, Susannah Benn, Benjamin Berke-Halperin, Sonia Boonstra, Rachel Bowler, Anthony Burns II, Adam Cahill, Ysabela Campbell-Breen, Grace Carter, Anya Casieri, Jackson Cedrone, Rebecca Choi, Peter Clifford, Alec Coleman, Caitlin Conneely, Faolan Coogan Pluck, Nicolas Cuervo-Torello, Emma Curtis, Samuel Cutler, Alfred Dao, William Davey, Erin Davies, Melanie Davis-Kay, Samantha Dearing, Michael Dillon, Elizabeth Donham, Zachary Dumay, Liam Durant, Safia Elyounssi,
Alison Everett, Austin Flajnik, Erin Flajnik, Cora Flanagan, Caroline Flynn, Ella Folsom-Fraster, Jackson Foster, Alexander Franzosa, Yana Galina, Daniel Gallini, Andrea Garcia, Ronaldo Gjiknuri, Myles Goldstein, Addis Gunst, Grace Gutierrez, Sara Gutierrez, Daniel Hallice, James Hassler Jr., Anne Higgins, Grace Hoglund, Lauren Hourican, Grace Jenkins, Aditi Joglekar, Megan Jones, Lisette Kalil, Marguerite Kaminski, Nicholas Kaminski, Manjot Kaur, Sarkis Kavlakian, Ann Keller, Courtney Kelly, Margaret Kelly, Abhishek Khanal, Bridget Kiejna, Katerina Koch, Louisa Kuper, Tess Lavalley, Leah Lavin, Steven Liakos, Elisha Lion, Kerry Liu, Jenna Lowe, Jason Maier, Ashley Malone, Alexander Mangelli, James Marifiote, Emma Maxtutis, Patrick McCune, Jennifer McDonnell, Paula McMenimen, Alan Medina, Karla Meehan,Marcus Messuri, Brendan Mooney, Fiona Moseley, Sara Murphy,Tenzin Nanglo, Alanna Ogilvie, Erin Packard, Isabella Pajevic, Joanna Pantazopoulos, Arpi Parseghian, Cormac Paterson, Lukuan Peng, Kayla Pieroni, Hans Quiogue, Noelani Ramos, Melissa Rawson, Paige Riley, Olivia Rogers, Theodore Ronayne, Elias Sachs, Rami Saleh, Yuri Santos, Alexander Schramm von Blucher, Aaron Seibring, Laura Shea, Julia Shenefield, Anna Shin, Daniel Slebodnick, Caleb Snyder Di Cesare, Callie Sofis-Scheft, Mila Stanojevic, Randall Stansbury, Trevor Stinson, Paul Stokes, Nicholas Streit, Jayameena Sundar Rajan, Kriti Tamang, Gina Tarantino, Marissa Tashjian, Andrew Thomas, India Tonkin, Cameron Tripp, Victoria Tse, Samantha Wallace, Ziwei Wang, Andrew Ward, Connor Wells, Nathan Werst, Paolo Wolfsdorf, Nathaniel Wright, Tomomi Yoshida, Luke Ypsilantis, Julius Zuckerman

Thompson Gold: Ian Bernardin, Vignesh Chockalingam, Maura Doherty, Kiran Gite, Benjamin Gould, Galen Hall, Erin O’Brien, Samuel O’Keefe, Yuran Tsuchida, Ashley Wicks

Thompson Silver: James Bauer, Allison 
Candell, Kate Carr, Katya Donovan, Clark Ewen, Michaela Farmer, Max Fox-Jurkowitz, Tali 
Gorokhovsky, Kendra Griesman, Garth Hull, Lenna Iskenderian, Erin Jigarjian, Alison Jordahl, Erin 
Kirchner, Griffin Lessell, Alice Liu,
Molly Mahoney, Shivam Rastogi, Michael Reynolds, Stefan Rookwood, Laura Schoonmaker, Olivia 
Sorenson, Alice Tracey, George West, Rongfang Zou

Touchdown Club/Arthur J. McAvoy Scholarship: Molly Mahoney

Tower Mother's Club Scholarship: Jeffrey Gorman, Lauren Hourican, Alison Jordahl

Virginia Leonard Memorial Scholarship: Griffin Lessell

Vito Sammarco Memorial Scholarship: Cameron Tripp

Zonta Club Scholarship: Aditi Joglekar

This information was published Thursday, June 2, 2016, following the awards night, and updated June 8, to add ACMi link.

2 at Arlington students win National Merit Scholarships

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Two Arlington students are winners of National Merit Scholarships. They are Ashley E. Wicks of Arlington High School and Maxwell P. Hardcastle, who attends Boston University Academy.

Wicks, whose probable career field is chemical engineering, is receiving the National Merit Tufts University Scholarship.

Hardcastle, whose probable career field is computer programming, is receiving the National Merit Northeastern University Scholarship

Tufts offers the personal attention of a small college and the options of a complex university for 4,400 undergraduates in liberal arts and engineering.

Northeastern, a private research university, is a leader in interdisciplinary and use-inspired research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced these winners from among about 3,000 awards. Officials of each sponsor college selected winners from among the finalists in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution. These awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

This year, 184 higher education institutions are underwriting Merit Scholarship awards through the National Merit Scholarship Program. Sponsor colleges and universities include 106 private and 78 public institutions located in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

College-sponsored Merit Scholarship winners are a part of the distinguished group of about 7,500 high school seniors who will receive National Merit Scholarships for college undergraduate study worth approximately $33 million.

This announcement was published Wednesday, June 1, 2016.

State says Arlington High School rebuild can advance

How Arlington High School, parts of it built in 1914, looks today.How Arlington High School, part of it built in 1914, looks today. 

UPDATED, May 27: The board of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has voted unanimously to move Arlington High School into the eligibility period for consideration of its application to rebuild.

"It's very exciting," Superintendent Kathleen Bodie told the School Committee Thursday, May 26, a day after the state decision. "But just because you're in eligibility doesn’t mean you go to next stage."

To comply, the administration must provide an initial series of documents to the state agency within 180 days from June 8 to December, and then more of them 90 days after that The extensive documentation may be submitted before target deadlines but not after.

"They want to work with you," Bodie said of the state agency, adding that if there were a problem with state funding of school-construction projects, that could stop the local effort.

The state had given the high school project a preliminary approval last January, but because of the number of projects statewide, it had to stagger how it handles them, so the final OK for the town to move forward was delayed until May 25. Rep. Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington and West Medford, posted the first news of the approval on the Arlington School Enrollment Community Group Facebook site on Wednesday.

"This is great news and progress for rebuilding Arlington High School!," he wrote.

In January, YourArlington reported: The project to rebuild Arlington High School is in the state pipeline for funding, but it must clear a vote in May before moving ahead in earnest.

Reshaping the sprawling school, whose oldest sections date from 1914, is a complex challenge that could take five years.

In a news release, state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, chair of the authority, and MSBA Chief Executive Officer Maureen Valente announced the decision. During the 270-day eligibility period, the agency will work with district officials to determine Arlington's financial and community readiness to enter the state's capital pipeline.

The next step is for the District to complete preliminary requirements pertaining to local approval and formation of a local school building committee. Upon timely and successful completion of the eligibility-period requirements, the district becomes eligible for an invitation into the feasibility-study phase, subject to a vote of the Board of Directors.

"The eligibility period is a critical step in the MSBA’s process of evaluating potential work on Arlington High School," Valente said in the release. "We look forward to our continued partnership with the District as it enters the eligibility period."

The MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally-appropriate, flexible, sustainable and cost-effective public school facilities. Since its 2004 inception, the authority has made more than 1,700 site visits to more than 250 school districts as part of its due diligence process and has made over $12 billion in reimbursements for school construction projects.

Eligibility period: Schedule of deliverables (source: MSBA)

Eligibility period commences two weeks after board meeting date (May 25)

Initial compliance certification, 30 days;

School building committee, 60 days;
Educational profile questionnaire, 90 days;

Online enrollment projection, 90 days (Bodie said consultant Gordon McKibben may be asked to update projections);

Enrollment/certification executed, 180 days;

Maintenance and capital-planning information, 180 days;

Local vote authorization, 270 days;

Feasibility study agreement, 270 days;

Eligibility period concludes, 270 days after it begins.

Note: The MSBA requires districts that are unable to complete the preliminary requirements within the timeframes noted for each deliverable to withdraw its statement of interest and reapply when the district has the financial and community support required. 

Jan. 29, 2016: Arlington High School rebuild OK comes with a delay

Jan. 27, 2016: Arlington High rebuild is a go, administration says

Massachusetts School Building Authority process overview

Jan. 27, 2016: State agency moves Minuteman plan forward, too

This brief was published Wednesad, May 25, 2016, and updated May 27, to update all copy.

Stratton mods are here: Serious work underway

Stratton sign

UPDATED, May 15: The Stratton community is dealing with disruption sooner than expected as work by the company installing modular classrooms got underway April 8. Two modular classrooms, on wide-load rigs, lumbered up Washington Street on May 10, after blocking traffic, and weer on site the next day.

In an update, Principal Michael Hanna wrote that contractors for modular installation began working Friday, April 29.

"They will be starting with the water/sewer connections on Mountain Ave. and working their way in toward the proposed building locations in the parking lot and blacktop.

"We are expecting work to happen throughout the following week preparing for building deliveries, such as demo and utility trenching. I have asked the modular contractor to break out a detailed, day-by-day 'area-impacted' sketch so we can adjust programming appropriately.

"He has also assured me they are very well aware of safety protocols in relation to school traffic, and has assured me they will do everything necessary not to negatively affect any school-related activities.

"We had 2 of the 3 storage containers dropped off in the designated location this morning {April 26] and will get the 3rd container tomorrow a.m. [April 27] after students have entered school, and before students begin to come back out for morning recess around 10. We will then begin to build shelving in the storage containers so we can move the contents of our storage closets in there."

He noted that the project superintendent for the modular contractor is named Bob Hanna -- "seriously!" -- who plans to meet each morning to review work for the day. There is also a weekly construction meeting with all contractors that will continue through the duration of the project.

Reported earlier

"The move project is beginning to accelerate," Hanna wrote in an email to parents and faculty. "Some timing has moved up from what had been anticipated, so it is important that all faculty and families are aware of the following dates."

In an update April 11, Hanna wrote:

- Parking spots closed today will be closed tomorrow, along with the spots opposite those in the lot, so a construction trailer can be delivered to the grass area directly in front of K-3.
- After the trailer is delivered, we will be able to move some of the fencing back, and give us access to more of the blacktop for the rest of the week.
- Significant site preparation work will happen over spring break.

April 10, he wrote to the Stratton community that fencing for the modular classroom site preparation was put up over the weekend. Some faculty parking, and a large section of the blacktop closest to the building are affectded.

Regarding arrival Monday, April 11, there is an "off week" PRIDE meeting to begin Teacher Appreciation Week; students should go directly to the cafeteria.

But grades one through five should arrive through the kindergarten doors and then proceed to the cafeteria.

Kindergarten arrival will be unaffected. Pickup will be largely unaffected at this time, but grades one and two families and faculty should be aware that the space to wait on the blacktop for child pickup outside the gym doors has been reduced.

"It seems that the blacktop and field are, and will continue to be, accessible through the kindergarten doors, but I would like to work with faculty on procedures going in and out after we're all in the building tomorrow morning. Thank you for your flexibility!"

Here's the schedule:

-- April 8: The modular company begins to fence a section of the parking lot, and lose a few parking spots;

-- April 8 through May 22: The parking lot continues to be under construction, leading to a loss of additional parking;

-- May 2 through May 22: Modulars to be delivered in this period. They are to be staged on the blacktop, so the school will use that area for programming space at some time during this period.

-- June 6: Begin to place modulars on the foundation (takes about two weeks);

-- Aug. 22: Modulars accessible to begin set up and placing furniture;

-- Aug. 29: Teachers can have access to their classrooms.

Funds to pay for work to revamp Stratton, the last of seven elementary schools to be rebuilt or improved in an effort that originally began in 1997, was approved at the January Special Town Meeting.

Last September, the School Committee has had its first look at the plan for temporary modular classrooms that will be situated mainly on what is currently blacktop at the Stratton School.

Scot Woodin, project manager for Stratton for DRA Architects of Waltham, called the plan solid but "in its infancy" following what he called a "paradigm shift" from the school administration.

At a meeting at the Ottoson Middle School Thursday, Sept. 10, Woodin was referring to the August change in plans to keep Stratton students, to be displaced by renovation in 2016-17, on school grounds and not move them elsewhere. Since spring, Stratton parents had been firm in their objections to such a move, particularly to permanent modular classrooms at Ottoson.

The plan explained at the time showed two wings of classrooms connected by enclosed, 8-foot-wide hallways extending from the area where the school's garden is nearly to the swing set at the end of the playground. To move between classes, students would not go outside.

See a .PDF of the plan here (may be slow loading) >>

Woodin clarified Sept. 23 that each of the two modular wings is made up of multiple modular units.

Aug. 15, 2015: Plan would put Stratton students in modulars next to under-construction school 

July 2, 2015: Architect chosen for Stratton renovation

May 27, 2015: Questions from Stratton parents reflect relocation stress

May 7: Steps taken to move toward modular classes, and much to learn quickly

April 13, 2015: OPINION: Not Ottoson, Stratton parents ask

March 30, 2015: Modular classroom sites ID'd for Stratton students during 2016-17 renovation

March 22, 2015: Stratton School renovation moves forward; students to be relocated in 2016-17

Sept. 21, 2014: At last, study spells out steps for Stratton revamp, if it can be funded

Links to Stratton plans 

This report was published Tuesday, April 5, 2016, and updated May 15.

Dearborn Academy to head to Newton, making way for Lesley Ellis move

Entrance to Lesley Ellis at former Gibbs; at right at the Center for the Arts. / Bob Sprague photoEntrance to Lesley Ellis at former Gibbs; at right, Center for the Arts. / Bob Sprague photo

Schools for Children Inc. announced Wednesday, May 11, that it will relocate two of the schools it manages -- Dearborn Academy, a special-education therapeutic day school, and Lesley Ellis School, an independent school serving children in preschool through grade eight.

Dearborn Academy will move from its Winter Street location in East Arlington to 575 Washington St., Newton, the former home of CATS Academy.

The Lesley Ellis School will move from a leased space in the former Gibbs School to 34 Winter St, a building owned by Schools for Children and used by Dearborn.

In January, YourArlington reported that Lesley Ellis Could move to Winter Street.

Both schools trace their lineage to Lesley University and have been serving children for over 65 years.

The announcement marks the first crucial step after nine months of concern for four Gibbs tenants as public-school officials looked for ways to addressed expanding enrollment. On Monday, the School Committee voted unanimously to endorse a recommendation of the School Enrollment Task Force to repurpose the former Gibbs.

Eyeing rellocations by 2017-18 

As to when these moves may occur, Alison Kenney, representing Schools for Children, said, "We anticipate having both schools in their new homes for the 2017-18 school year."

"Schools for Children has long been interested in providing facilities for all our programs that can support their missions, make room for growth, and serve their communities well," said Schools for Children Executive Director Ted Wilson in a news release. "We also believe that school buildings can inspire the richer learning and teaching of our students.

"When we learned last summer that the town of Arlington might not be renewing the lease on the building that had been the home of the Lesley Ellis School for the past 28 years, we accelerated our timeline for new facilities. Our board and our leadership carefully studied the options and considered dozens of locations before we made our decision. We negotiated and recently signed a lease for new space in Newton to serve as the new home of Dearborn Academy.

"We’re excited about the expanded programming and services we’ll be able to provide our special-education students in Newton. Dearborn’s move from Arlington is not easy after 30 years, but the opportunities this new location presents are exceptional. Look for Dearborn to set a new, higher standard in special education in the coming years."

50 percent more space

The new facility at Washington Street in Newton has almost 50 percent more program space than Dearborn’s current home, has well-lighted classrooms, large halls and common areas, a full-size modern gym, centralized heat and cooling systems, plenty of off-street parking and ample room to expand upon the range of specialized services required by Dearborn’s students.

The building’s proximity to major transportation routes and primary referral sources and the fact that it is almost a turnkey situation given the major improvements completed in the past three years, make this a huge opportunity for the future of Dearborn Academy.

Former Board chair Sally Currier toured the facility recently and was impressed, saying, "Securing it would be a significant step forward for the school."

Asked about the move to Newton, Dearborn Director Dr. Howard Rossman, who is retiring, said in the release: "I have seen incredible positive change over the many years I have been at Dearborn Academy. Our staff has always prioritized the needs of our students, their families and guardians, and our programming, staffing, and expertise have all been molded to meet these needs. The relocation of Dearborn Academy is another change for the school but is one that presents opportunities for the future. I'm confident that the sense of mission and passion among our dedicated staff and the management team at Schools for Children will guide this transition and secure the future of Dearborn Academy."

Wilson added: "Throughout the past three decades, Howard has dedicated himself to the Dearborn program and its students. He has built a widely-respected and stable leadership team at Dearborn that will welcome and support the school’s next director and will work together to see the Dearborn program thrive into the future."

Lesley Ellis to stay in town

The Lesley Ellis School has made its home in Arlington since 1989. Wilson said this move "will allow Lesley Ellis to move from the multi-tenant environment in the Gibbs to a beautiful, historic building right here in Arlington that we already own. It is a former Arlington elementary school [Crosby] that has been cared for by Dearborn Academy in partnership with Schools for Children. It will now become a home for the exclusive use of Lesley Ellis School."

Lesley Ellis Head of School Deanne Benson said in the release: "Lesley Ellis is growing. The demand for our intimate, project-based approach in a robust academic environment is greater than ever. Families know and love us for our sophisticated science program, innovative arts curriculum, and award-winning anti-bias program."

This year, the school will graduate its first eighth-grade class. "As interest in Lesley Ellis has steadily grown over the years so, too, has the need for more space and a location that Lesley Ellis can call home for decades to come," says Director of Admission Tricia Moran. "We’re very excited about this move and the fact that we will continue to be a locally accessible independent school."

Dearborn Academy is one of New England’s leading state-approved special education day schools, serving children with emotional, social and learning challenges in separate elementary/middle and high school programs. Learn more at

The Lesley Ellis School is an independent school – serving early childhood, elementary and middle school students through grade eight - in Arlington, Massachusetts. Learn more at

Schools for Children Inc.  is a Massachusetts nonprofit organization creating and managing great schools and educational services, currently operating several schools, a before- and after-school program and a Short Term Educational Placement service. Schools for Children also develops new education services and innovations and consults with other schools, districts and human service providers to enhance the quality and performance of their programs.

The other three tenants needing find new space are the Center for the Arts, Learn to Grow and the Kelliher Center.

This report was published Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

2 at AHS win $2,500 merit scholarships

School-awards logo

Two Arlington High School students have been awarded $2,500 National Merit Scholarships.

Kiran S. Gite, whose probable career field is industrial engineering, and Galen P. Hall, whose probable career field is in academia, were named by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

A news release says the corporation pays the scholarships for these winners. The scholar designees were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 finalists in the 2016 program.

Finalists in each state are judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.

Scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by the finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the Finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.

Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.

This year’s competition began in October 2014 when more than 1.5 million juniors in some 22,000 high schools took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named Semifinalists on a state-representational basis. Only these 16,000 semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition.

From the Semifinalist group, 15,000 students met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of the
2016 program, about 7,500 Finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of about $33 million in college scholarships.

NMSC, a not-for-profit corporation that operates without government assistance, was founded in 1955 specifically to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program. The majority of scholarships
offered each year are underwritten by approximately 440 independent corporate and college sponsors that share NMSC’s goals of honoring scholastically talented youth and encouraging academic excellence at all levels of education.

This announcement was published Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

Dearborn Academy director resigns, management company says

Howard RossmanRossman

Possible move played no role, leader says

UPDATED, April 12: Howard Rossman is stepping down as director of Dearborn Academy, a special-education therapeutic day school in Arlington that serves students in the greater Boston area, Schools for Children Inc. announced Monday, April 11.

Schools for Children has begun a search for Rossman’s replacement at Dearborn, and Rossman will continue to serve as director, as needed, through 2016.

"He was thinking about it for a long time, and he was ready to leave, Ted Wilson, president of Schools for Children, said Tuesday, April 12, in a brief interview. “He reached the point."

Asked whether the possible move of Dearborn had any bearing on the resignation, Wilson said, "No."

The Winchester-based nonprofit manages the Lesley Ellis School, among others. It has been reported seeking a new location for the private school after the Arlington School Committee last August began discussions about taking back the former Gibbs School, where Lesly Ellis has been since 1989. One possible location is Dearborn Academy, but as of the January report, as of the January report, Dearborn had no new home

That situation remains as it has been, Wilson said.

The School Committee meets Thursday to discuss the educational aspects of two main options for dealing with enrollment expansion – renovations at the Ottoson and the former Gibbs.

"Throughout the past three decades Howard has dedicated himself to the Dearborn program and its students," Ted Wilson, executive director, Schools for Children, said in a news release. "He has built a widely respected and stable leadership team at Dearborn that will welcome and support the school’s next director and will work together to see the Dearborn program thrive into the future."

Rossman first joined Dearborn Academy as the clinical director in 1987 and became the school’s director in 1989. During his tenure, the release says, Rossman has worked to make sure that the school provides the highest quality services to students -- a unique blend of academic and therapeutic programming-- and to develop close working relationships with many Massachusetts school districts served by Dearborn Academy.

Early in his career, Rossman worked in public schools and mental health centers, and was a teaching fellow at Boston College. Rossman also has a private psychotherapy practice in Lexington and consults to public school programs. He has been a well-regarded speaker at schools and human service organizations and has served for many years on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of Approved 766-Approved Private Schools (maaps). 

"It has been a great experience being the director of Dearborn Academy, and helping so many young people and families over the years," Rossman said in the release. "I have also enjoyed getting to know our neighbors and others in the Town of Arlington. I am certain that our program will persist and continue in its mission for many years to come."

Dearborn Academy is one of New England’s leading state-approved special education day schools, serving children with emotional, social and learning challenges in separate elementary/middle and high school programs. Learn more at  It is situated on Winter Street in the former Crsoby School.

Schools for Children Inc. is a Massachusetts nonprofit organization creating and managing great schools and educational services, currently operating several schools, a before- and after-school program and a Short Term Educational Placement service. Schools for Children also develops new education services and innovations and consults with other schools, districts and human service providers to enhance the quality and performance of their programs.

Jan. 25, 2016: Lesley Ellis could move to Winter St., but Dearborn needs new home

This report was published Monday, April 11, 2016, and updated April 12, to add comment.

Interim enrollment report spurs discussion, elimination of one option

Complete report, with cost numbers, expected April 28

An interim report that is "halfway" finished left members of the School Enrollment Task Force and the public continuing to struggle to see what shape the schools may take as they deal with expanded classrooms.

Arlington town seal

Facing a report from architect HMFH that dealt with options for expanding the Ottoson or renovating the former Gibbs School, the task force on Tuesday, March 29, took one clear move, voting to reject a second option for Ottoson.

School Committee logo

That left one middle-school proposal and one for Gibbs. They lacked specific cost estimates, and those are expected by the next task force meeting, set for Town Hall on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m.

Among the 43 people in the audience, many parents expressed their concern that educational needs of the students are not a part of the calculus in planning. More specifically, they asked whether the task force has been taking into consideration the educational issues as presented by the middle-school teachers and staff.

And just as important, they inquired, would the concerns of the teachers and staff be made available to the task force before the decision is made to choose one of the options?

Al Tosti, chairman of the Finance Committee, told the parents that educational issues have to go through the School Committee and then given to the task force. Plans were made to continue to consult with teachers and staff for the upcoming School Committee meeting, April 14.

Cowles presents HMFH report

Meeting for the sixth time since December, the task force met from 6:03 to 7:20 p.m. in the School Committee Room at Arlington High. They received a handout from Lori Cowles of HMFH.
She began by clarifying that her presentation was only a progress report and she was only halfway through this project.

She showed the provisional floor plans of two options for an addition to the Ottoson Middle School.

Option 1 would be built on the Appleton Place side of the existing building. Parking would be on the ground floor with two floors of classrooms and breakout spaces. Students would need to go to main building for core areas -- cafeteria, gym, library, etc. The lowest level would be connected on either side of blue gym.

Option 2 would be built on the existing upper parking lot and a small section of an adjoining baseball field. Like Option 1, the first floor will be for parking and two floors for classroom and breakout spaces. Also, like Option 1, students would have to go to the main building for all core areas -- gyms, cafeteria, library, etc.

Cowles then explained that if the value of the expanded building was to be 30 percent or more of existing building, the town would be required to bring the existing building up to new accessibility codes. Bathrooms, doorways and other features of the building would have to be upgraded. In addition, with the increase in number of students, the town would have to "reprogram" the cafeteria, library, gyms, art rooms and other core areas.

With the floor open to task force members, Selectman Joseph Curro Jr. commented that option 1 would increase parking in the area.

John Cole, head of the Permanent Town Building Committee, asked whether Option 1 was subject to zoning laws on setbacks. Cowles replied yes but possibly the current plan without setbacks could be "grandfathered in."

'Breakout' spaces?

Tosti asked about the need for breakout spaces, small public spaces where students can meet in a small group for educational purposes. Cowles replied that it is part of middle-school pedagogy to have breakout spaces for group work.

Cowles replied to questions about the possibility of rock ledges that would increase the cost of the construction. She responded that while they have not yet done a formal study, given the topography in the area, "it would be safe to say that there is rock."

A discussion followed about the legality of taking a part of the baseball field for Option 2 and that it could require approval from Town Meeting and the state.

After further discussion focusing on difficulties of access to main building and other considerations, the task force passed a motion to eliminate Option 2 from consideration.

Cowles than proceeded to give her presentation on the renovation of the former Gibbs Schools as either an all-town sixth grade or a second middle school. The Gibbs School building was constructed in 1927-28 with additions and renovations in 1973. It has not been used as a school since the 1980s.

The renovation would require a new cafeteria, which could be constructed underneath the Gibbs gym but still allow for windows. The gym stairs are not up to code and need to be reconstructed. The current bathrooms are of required size, but adult facilities would be needed for each floor. All of the upstairs rooms are up to code.

The entrance of the Gibbs would need to be changed to Tufts Street to allow for administrative offices to be near the entrance on the first floor.

Members of the task force asked whether there would be the same number of classrooms as Option 1 at the Ottoson. Cowles replied there would be.

Tosti asked about the recent problems with drainage causing flooding on the first floor. Cowles explained that her investigation revealed issues of grading, which have now been repaired.

Added flooding issues

Some visitors, tenants in the building, reported additional flooding problems in the entrance to the building. Cowles said she would investigate. School Committee member Jeff Thielman suggested that we need a "good understanding of flooding issues."

Cole inquired about mobility access in the Gibbs and was told that the Gibbs has an elevator and the auditorium can be accessible from the parking lot side. The stage itself, however, will need to be made accessible. 

The discussion returned to Option 1 for the Ottoson, as Tosti asked for further information about the common areas. Bodie replied that we can expand the cafeteria, but the biggest issue will be "tight gym space."

She further added that there will be need of more parking in the light of the increase in numbers of students leading to an increase in teachers and staff.

Because of other commitments, Thielman and Chapdelaine had to leave at this point, necessitating a break in the discussion for setting the next meeting time. After much debate, the task force decided to meet at Town Hall on April 28.

The architect said her team could have solid numbers by the time of the meeting on the relative costs of both projects under consideration.

Tosti proposed asking a number of other town committees and other interested parties. Thus, members decided on Town Hall auditorium to accommodate everyone. 

A second meeting was set for Monday, May 2, at 7 p.m. for the final deliberations at Town Hall. No particular was room was mentioned.

Timeline discussed

The discussion resumed with questions about the timeline for construction or renovation.

Members of the task force were reassured that the modular units at Ottoson could stay in place while the other side of the building was under construction.

Cowles's estimate about the relative timelines was 14 months for the renovation of the Gibbs, completed by September 2018, and 18 months for construction at the Ottoson, completed by January 2019.

Cole reminded the task force that design planning and project manager "have to be online by this June" to achieve these timelines.

Cowles also reassured the task force that the renovation of the Gibbs would be good for the next 40 to 50 years.

The meeting was now open to the visitors for discussion. A Hardy parent questioned whether costs for expanding the Ottoson core areas will be added to the total cost of Option 1. Cowles said yes.

Tosti asked whether relative operating cost of each project could be calculated, since Ottoson will need fewer additional staff.

Several parents inquired about how much time students would need in the addition to Ottoson to reach their classes. Bodie responded that students in clusters will still need only the three minutes to change classes, but these students would need more time to leave the new building and travel to special areas, such as the gym.

Bodie was also asked whether the design of the Gibbs would differ if it served only sixth graders, compared with its serving sixth-through-eighth graders. She said it would not.

More questions about relative costs came up but were unable to be answered because the study is incomplete. Those present learned that on average new construction costs $400 a square foot while renovation costs $275. However, other variables would change these numbers considerably.

Related links

March 9, 2016: Task force hopes interim cost data for school options ready in a month

Feb. 24, 2016: Enrollment task force decides consultants are needed to weigh costs
Dec. 14, 2015: Variety of views offered as task force grapples with growth
Dec. 2, 2015: Enrollment task force holds first meeting
Oct. 11, 2015: CROWDING CRUNCH: Arts, educators, nonprofit make pitches
Sept. 28, 2015: As public-school enrollment rises, officials, public grapple with future
Space Planning Report for Arlington Public Schools," HMFH Architects, September 2015 
"Arlington Public Schools Population and Enrollment Forecasts," Dr. Jerome McKibben, McKibben Demographic Research, June 2015

This news summary was published Wednesday, March 30, 2016. 

Ottoson principal, assistant seek jobs in Reading

Tim RuggereRuggere

Ruggere interviews in Cambridge

As Ottoson's enrollment expands, two members of the middle school's leadership team are seeking jobs elsewhere.

Timothy R. Ruggere, principal at the school since 2009, and one of his assistants, John Flood are pursuing opportunities at schools in nearby communities.

In a twist, both Ruggere and Flood are vying for the same job, to be principal at the Parker Middle School in Reading. Ruggere taught in nearby North Reading schools for nine years.

In addition, Ruggere faces an interview, scheduled for Thursday, March 17, for the head of school at the Rindge Avenue Upper School, a middle school in Cambridge, where he is among four finalists.

Both administrators have served at Ottoson during a period of remarkable growth, as the school's student population pushes to make it among the largest middle schools in the state.

Jean Cummings, who covers school issues for Cambridge Day, a YourArlington partner, confirmed the finalists for the Cambridge job. Besides Ruggere, they are Julie Craven, current interim head of the Rindge Avenue Upper School; Kristen St. George, principal of Chenery Middle School in Belmont; and Cyndi Weekes, assistant principal of the Randolph Community Middle School in Randolph.

Barbara Allen, of Cambridge Public Schools' human resources, has been asked to comment.

A Feb. 23 posting to the official blog of the Reading Public Schools, notes these finalists for Parker Middle School principal: Besides Ruggere and Flood, Richele Shankland, assistant principal at Lynnfield Middle School; and Jennifer Turner, assistant principal at Jonas Clarke Middle School in Lexington.

The Reading finalists were interviewed by Parker Middle School staff and Reading community members Feb. 29, the blog post says.

Robert Spiegel, head of human resources for the Arlington Public Schools, reported Ruggere's current salary is $124,600. Flood's salary is $91,039. He has been an assistant principal at Ottoson since Oct. 19, 2009. He is the seventh-grade assistant.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie declined to comment March 14, as did Ruggere and Flood.

Ruggere began at Ottoson on July 1, 2009, after announcement of the appointment the previous March.

At the time, 43, he was described as bringing the energy of youth and the experience of four Massachusetts districts, including a deanship in Salem High that led an academy that was "like Ottoson."

In 2009, he was Ottoson's first permanent principal since mid-2007.  He had been principal of the Dedham Middle School for three years, having moved up from assistant principal.

The Dorchester native knows middle-school classrooms from his years as a teacher at the William H. Taft Middle School. Among his students in North Reading schools was the daughter of Bob Penta, then Peirce principal.

After North Reading and before Dedham, he served three years at Salem High School, where he was an assistant principal, known there as a dean of students. He led a freshman academy whose aim was to aid the transition from middle school to high school and curtail dropouts.

In the Arlington interview process, Ruggere said he got to know Arlington when, as a child, he went to St. Paul's School in Cambridge.

March 2, 2009: Dedham Middle School principal to take over at Ottoson in July

March 3, 2009: Vigor, middle-school savvy guide new Ottoson principal

This news story was published Wednesday, March 16, 2016.

Task force hopes interim cost data for school options ready in a month

Tenants, parents have their own views of timelines; debt-exclusion vote in June?

UPDATED, March 11: After extensive discussion Tuesday, March 8, the School Enrollment Task Force adopted a motion to seek two studies detailing the relative costs of the two middle-school options -- reconstruction of the former Gibbs and new addition to the Ottoson -- as well as the cost of the Thompson expansion.

Arlington town seal

HMFH Architects of Cambridge plans to submit an interim report on the sites of all three proposed projects to the task force within four weeks. 

School Committee logo

The final report, including construction, costs needs to be completed and sent to the task force and School Committee before Town Meeting, which starts April 25.

Before the vote, the task force heard from some of the 46 audience members, including pleas from two of tenants of the former Gibbs School, representatives of the Kelliher School and Arlington Center for the Arts. Both focused on the impact on their long-established nonprofits, citing the need for a reasonable time to locate alternative space.

Pushing in another direction were parents who expressed concern about importance of a "tight" timeline to serve the students’ classroom needs and reminded the task force that "delay costs money." Looming behind these countervailing forces was discussion of a ballot question to seek a debt exclusion, or a tax increase to pay for school costs. Instead of holding it next November, a June date was raised.

Public comment first

These were key points of the meeting, the task force's fifth since December. In general, here are further details behind those points.

The meeting began at 7, when Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, invited the audience members to comment.

Two tenants of the former Gibbs and their supporters spoke of the impact a forced move would have on their ability to service their clients and the Arlington community.

A representative of the Kelleher Center, which serves adults with developmental disabilities and brain injuries, said Kelliher had been a tenant for more than 21 years and that it had paid for repairs, including $100,000 to contain flooding in the building.

If the center had to move, it would be difficult to continue because of the scarcity of appropriate available space. In addition, the long-term employment programs in the community, such as with Stop & Shop, would be severed.

Linda Shoemaker, the executive director of the Arlington Center for the Arts, emphasized two issues:

1.) The timeline of eviction was very important to the economic survival of the program. Why? Because the possible need to vacate by June 2017 would mean that the center could not run the summer camp, which she said furnishes 50 percent of the operating budget; and

2.) Public perceptions that a solution is near for alternative space are not correct. The center is in very preliminary discussions with the town and far from locating any suitable space.

Bodie presentation of 2 options

Following comments, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie gave a presentation about the studies for the two options to address Ottoson overcrowding.
Bodie also presented a third option, to create an elementary school at the former Gibbs and expand all elementary schools to include the sixth grade -- allowing the Ottoson to hold only the seventh and eighth grades.

John Cole, head of the Permanent Town Building Committee, discussed the most probable and "best case" scenarios for the timeline of all school-building projects: Thompson expansion, renovation of the former Gibbs for a school, addition to the Ottoson, new construction of high school and the rebuilding of the Minuteman Vocational high school.

After extensive discussion, the task force passed a motion to approve two studies of relative costs of the two middle-school options (reconstruction of the former Gibbs and new addition to the Ottoson) and the cost of the Thompson expansion by HMFH Architects of Cambridge.

The task force decided that the cost of these studies would be shared equally between the School Department and the Finance Committee.

Ballot question discussion

School Committee member Jeff Thielman initiated a discussion about what is involved in pursuing a ballot question for a debt exclusion, needed to pay for the school projects, as well as the timing of bringing the issue to the voters. Only the Board of Selectmen can vote to pursue such a ballot question, and Chapdelaine put the matter on the board’s radar Monday, March 7.

Because of the involvement of other parties -- in the case of the Arlington High rebuild, a state agency -- and the other participating towns -- now 10 in the case of rebuilding Minuteman Vocational and Technical High School -- only the Thompson expansion, the middle-school construction and the feasibility study for AHS would be included in the next debt exclusion, the task force decided.

As for when the debt exclusion would be brought to the voters, members expressed the tension between allowing time to fully educate the voters and the need to begin construction as early as possible to avoid additional costs.

Wanting not to incur avoidable extra expenses, members suggested a debt-exclusion vote in June, an issue to be discussed at the next task force meeting, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, in the School Committee room.

Third item -- add grade 6 to all

Bodie moved to the third item on the agenda -- a new proposal to use the Gibbs for an additional elementary school and add a sixth grade to all the existing elementary schools. This proposal, from Finance Committee member Dean Carman, is spelled out in detail here >> 

The issues that emanated from creating eight K-6 elementary schools proved to be undesirable and mostly unworkable, according to subsequent task-force discussion.

They include a redistricting of the entire town, moving at least 300 students, programs now available to middle school students would have to be abolished, only one foreign language could be offered at each school and current sixth-grade teachers would have to seek relicensing, because they would be teaching an elementary school.

Al Tosti, head of the Finance Committee, decided that Arlington had years ago moved to a middle-school model, and it was beyond the scope of this task force to reshape the structure of Arlington schooling, and members of the task force agreed.

Cole, of the town building committee, opened up the discussion of timelines using a spreadsheet he had creating using all available data.

His main concern was the "overlay" of school projects and that financial decisions would "stack up on top of one another." Citing the "best-case scenario," he projected that the new middle school would open either September 2018 to 2019 and that the Thompson additions would open September 2017 or January 2018.

The study of the former Gibbs is expected to cost $21,620 and the Ottoson study $27,490, according to a handout from the meeting.
Tosti vowed to split the cost using town reserve funds if the school district was able to fund the rest. Each side is responsible for paying $24,555, Tosti said.

Related links

Feb. 24, 2016: Enrollment task force decides consultants are needed to weigh costs

Dec. 14, 2015: Variety of views offered as task force grapples with growth
Dec. 2, 2015: Enrollment task force holds first meeting
Oct. 11, 2015: CROWDING CRUNCH: Arts, educators, nonprofit make pitches
Sept. 28, 2015: As public-school enrollment rises, officials, public grapple with future
Space Planning Report for Arlington Public Schools," HMFH Architects, September 2015 
"Arlington Public Schools Population and Enrollment Forecasts," Dr. Jerome McKibben, McKibben Demographic Research, June 2015

This news summary was published Wednesday, March 9, 2016, and updated March 11, to add the word '"interim," to the headline.

Déjà vu: Another national award for Ottoson tech-ed teacher

Brandy Whitney, Gary Blanchette, Ottoson tech engineering teachersBrandy Whitney with Gary Blanchette, Ottoson tech- engineering teachers.

Fourth honor for public schools

Gary Blanchette, a technology-engineering teacher at Ottoson Middle School, has been awarded a 2016 National Teacher Excellence Award from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association

This award is the fourth in a series for this Arlington Public Schools' program.

Blanchette received the 2015 MassTEC Teacher of the Year. Brandy Whitney, also a technology-engineering teacher at Ottoson Middle School, was nationally recognized with the 2015 Pasco STEM Educator Award. In addition, the Ottoson Technology Engineering program was voted the 2014 MassTEC Program of the Year.

Blanchette will be recognized at the annual ITEEA conference in Washington D.C., where he will take part in key discussions on the theme of "Collaborating to Build a Diverse STEM-Literate Society."

"It is such an honor to be recognized for this award by fellow technology and engineering educators," Blanchette said in a news release. "I love working with the kids, and I love the opportunity they have to learn and grow with upgraded instructional technology. Seeing their faces light up in class is reward enough, and it is so exciting to bring them exceptional learning opportunities."

Principal Timothy Ruggere said: "The recognition of top quality teachers like Gary Blanchette is so affirming. Our students are benefiting from outstanding teaching and up-to-date technology."
Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, reflecting on the series of awards that the middle school’s tech program has received, said: "Arlington has a technology-engineering treasure at the middle school.

"It has been built with the support of instructional technology investments made by the Town of Arlington and the Arlington Education Foundation’s Technology Initiative.
Arlington’s students are receiving a 21st century Technology Engineering education."

She informed the School Committee abpout the award Thursday, Feb. 25.

To learn more about the program at Ottoson, visit

any in the crowd attending the Technology Showcase in May 2014 would not be surprised. Some of the projects on display were put together by students of Blanchette and Whitney. Blanchette said that evening that students were involved in "full-blown engineering."

Sept. 14, 2014: Statewide honor for Ottoson tech engineering, its 2 teachers

This announcement was published Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

Enrollment task force decides consultants are needed to weigh costs

Debt exclusion again discussed; former Gibbs renovation called swiftest

The School Enrollment Task Force, facing an array of options at its fourth meeting to address burgeoning student numbers, decided Tuesday, Feb. 23 to hire consultants to do a thorough study of the costs of renovating the former Gibbs, building an addition to the Ottoson and constructing six classrooms at the Thompson School.

School Committee logo

Arlington town seal

Key issues raised included, again, the possibility of putting a debt exclusion on the ballot to help pay for the changes. In addition, a report suggested that renovating the former Gibbs would be the quickest solution, saving a considerable amount of money for the rent of modular classrooms at the Ottoson. Of course, that option has a clear impact on four longtime tenants.

Watch on ACMi

After lengthy discussion, all task force members agreed that two options would be eliminated -- the eighth grade at the high school and construction of a new middle school.

Meeting in the School Committee Room, sixth floor, Arlington High, the task force took up elementary and middle-school space needs, as an estimated 70 visitors attended.

Audience members speak first

In a turnabout from previous practice, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine opened the meeting by inviting those present to give their input before the committee took up its agenda.

Parents of current Arlington students all thanked the task force for its hard work on the enrollment issues. Several stressed these points -- to "make educational outcomes an explicit criteria in choosing one solution over another" and to make "educational quality key to decision-making."

Another spoke of the core space problems already at the Ottoson Middle School, with 400 students at a time using the cafeteria. Several expressed their support for renovating the former Gibbs School as a solution to future overcrowding at the Ottoson. Yet one spoke of the importance of the current tenants who serve the needs of her family members.

Middle-school options

Dr. Kathleen Bodie, the school superintendent, presented proposed solutions to the middle-school space issues.

Bodie first warned the assembled group that "no solution to the Ottoson is going to be prefect." Her recommendation calls for renovating the former Gibbs for use as a school -- either as an all-town sixth grade or a second middle school.

She found renovating the former Gibbs would be the quickest solution, saving a considerable amount of money for the rent of modular classrooms at the Ottoson over additional years. She called it a 14-month project. If the construction drawings could be completed by June 17, the renovated space could open in September 2017.

Other arguments for renovating the former Gibbs: 1.) the building needs structural repair, which would have to be done if still leased to tenants; and 2.) it remains important to keep the Gibbs and surrounding land "as an asset," because future enrollment is uncertain with the development of the Mugar site.

As to the four tenants, Bodie said she has been meeting with the Arlington Center for the Arts and discussion their possibility of continuing to use the building. A consultant has reported to Bodie that the cafeteria and kitchen could be constructed under the gym, leaving the auditorium to be used for plays and other events. In addition, the ACA might use school rooms for classes after school and on weekends.

Option 2 'complexities

Turning to option 2, providing an addition to the Ottoson, Bodie said that route has a number of "complexities."

First, the architectural consultant found the small field next to the Ottoson "not an easy site to build on," because of the terrain.

Second, there will be other costs because of possible code requirements that remain unknown right now. Other issues include how to create a passageway between the two schools and how the students can traverse the construction site and handle the noise for several years.

As for advantages to building an addition to the Ottoson, Bodie saw as the need for fewer transitions, more opportunities for teachers to collaborate and coherence of after-school and music programs.

The two other options under consideration are building a new middle school and moving the eighth grade to the high school by construction an addition. Bodie deemed building a new middle school too costly. In addition to considerable construction costs, the land for the building would have to be purchased. If the town wanted state support, it would have to wait a decade because of current need of state support for construction of the new high school.

Bodie reported that the greatest concern about moving the eighth grade to the high school and including new eighth-grade space as part of the design was "time." The high school will take a minimum of five years to build, and the need for space for the middle school is in the next few years. Continued use of modular classrooms would be very expensive and not solve core space problems, she said.

Concern expressed for former Gibbs tenants

Opened to discussion, members of the task force expressed considerable concern for the situation of the current tenants.

Bodie responded that this impact is a major drawback, but the building needed major repairs because of water leaks and a broken AC system, among other issues, and all the tenants would have to relocate while repairs were made.

School Committee member Bill Hayner recommended that the town work hard to find options. His colleague, Cindy Starks, observed that those involved would have at least another year to help the tenants find alternative space.

Questions about debt exclusion

The members then turned their attention to the need of a debt exclusion: Who would write it? When would it be placed before the voters? What construction costs would be included?

Of concern to School Committee member Jeff Thielman and others was the need to have firm numbers on construction costs. John Cole, head of building committee, argued that the costs on the report handed out were "worthless" until "engineers go through the buildings."

Bodie reported on the proposed construction of six classrooms for the Thompson School as costing about $2.5 million. This cost did not include any expansion of core spaces.

She warned the task force that the "timeline for the Thompson was tighter."

Sept. 17 construction start

Her recommendation was for construction to start on Sept. 17; otherwise, the town will be paying for an additional year for two modulars followed by two more modulars in the second year.

Some member of the task force reminded Bodie that the Thompson will also need to expand core areas, which is not included in the current budget. Allan Tosti, head of the Finance Committee, informed the task force that the construction will have to be paid for from a debt exclusion.

Finally, the task forced passed a motion that the town manager and superintendent would hire consultants to do a thorough study of the costs of renovating the Gibbs, the construction of the addition to the Ottoson and the construction of six new classrooms to the Thompson School. Funding the consultants would be shared by the Finance Committee and the School Department.

The next meeting is the task force is set for Tuesday, March 8, at 7 p.m., in the School Committee Room in the high school.

Jan. 14, 2016: Parents' group summary of Jan. 12 meeting

Jan. 13, 2016: Enrollment task force struggles to balance short-, long-term issues

Jan. 6, 2016: With parents' help, search for enrollment solutions turns to East Arlington
Dec. 21, 2016: Addition backed for Thompson; PARCC testing gets go-ahead
Arlington School Enrollment Community Group |   Group's Facebook page
Dec. 14, 2015: Variety of views offered as task force grapples with growth

This news summary was published Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Notes were collected by Jo Anne Preston; she and Bob Sprague wrote it.

Forum on PARCC testing, Common Core held

PARCC stress imageThe School Department is sponsoring a forum for elementary parents focused on the PARCC assessment and the Common Core state standards in mathematics and literacy, set for Wednesday, Feb. 24, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Thompson School gym.

Parents will also learn about the district's plan for implementation of the paper-based PARCC assessment this spring.

Speakers include Matthew Coleman, director of mathematics K-12 and Linda Hanson and Tammy McBride, elementary literacy specialists.

Parents are invited to send questions regarding PARCC and the Mass. Common Core state standards to Dr. Laura Chesson at lchesson[@] before the forum so that the administration is able to address questions, though there will also be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.

Last fall, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted to adopt a new state assessment (MCAS 2.0) that will be administered statewide beginning in the 2016-2017 school year in grades 3 through 8, replacing MCAS. This assessment will be based on the PARCC (Partnership for Assessing Readiness for College and Career) assessment, which many districts in Massachusetts have piloted over the last two years.

The Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (invited districts that have not been administering PARCC to choose to pilot PARCC this year in preparation for the implementation of MCAS 2.0 next year. In December, the Arlington School Committee voted to have the Arlington Public Schools administer the PARCC assessment in grades 3 through 8 this spring to provide our students with the opportunity to experience an assessment similar to the next generation state testing planned for spring 2017.

The testing window for PARCC differs from MCAS, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said in an email to parents and guardians Feb. 2. There will not be any state tests administered in March this year. Instead, the testing window for mathematics and literacy/reading is from April 25 to May 27 for schools doing paper-based testing, which includes all elementary schools except Bishop.

The window for computer-based testing is April 25 to June 6. A meeting for Bishop parents sponsored by the PTO is set for Wednesday, Feb. 10, to learn more about the computer administered test.

The administration does not plan to do "test-prep" for the PARCC test, as it has invested much work in the past few years to align our curriculum with the Common Core state standards. Students and teachers with opportunities will be able to experience the new format of the test.

Of you are interested in seeing sample PARCC test questions, click here >>

This announcement was published Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.

5 merit-scholar finalists named at AHS in 2016

School-awards logo

Matthew Janger, principal at Arlington High School, has offered congratulations to the AHS National Merit finalists.

This year, five AHS seniors have met the requirements to be finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. They are:

Kiran S. Gite,

Tali Gorokhovsky,

Ashley E. Wickscni,

Galen P. Hall,

Griffin Lessell and

Ashley E. Wicks.

This announcement was published Thursday. Feb. 11, 2016.

AHS students grab 3rd in USFIRST Robotics competition

The Arlington High School robotics club participated in a regional USFIRST meet in January.

Among the 17 teams that competed, AHS ranked No. 3.

This was a significant accomplishment and attests to the continual growth of the team and the hard work and guidance by Ted Fiust and Jayce G, the team mentors.

Photos and videos from the Jan. 2016 Robotics Competition held at AHS.

Photos and videos from the January 2016 Robotics Competition held at Arlington High by Jeffrey Snyder.

This announcement was pubished Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.

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