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Lesley Ellis could move to Winter St., but Dearborn needs new home

Card saying Lesley Ellis will be at 34 Winter St. in 2017.Photo of card taken by parent.

E. Arlington parent-group survey backs public schools using Gibbs

UPDATED, Feb. 4: The Lesley Ellis School, one of four organizations paying for space in the former Gibbs Jr. High since 1989, is considering an option to move to the building now occupied by Dearborn Academy, but no move is yet certain while Dearborn seeks a new location.

Ted Wilson, president of Schools for Children, said in a statement in response to inquiries by YourArlington that "such a move depends on finding and securing a suitable alternative for Dearborn Academy. 

We have not secured such a space as of this moment, so no final decisions have been made, and the Board of Trustees continues its deliberations.

"All options remain on the table until we find and settle upon the best resolution for this school and for our organization."

As Schools for Children, which manages Lesley Ellis and Dearborn, decides how to move forward, a parent group has made public the results of a survey showing support from the 1,058 polled for returning the former Gibbs to classrooms.

The survey was conducted by the Arlington School Enrollment Community Group,an open Facebook group managed by Thompson and Hardy parents with an aim to provide information about enrollment challenges among the Arlington Public Schools.

August news shocked

The survey targets Ottoson Middle School issues, but its results show how some parents lean regarding using the former Gibbs space.

When word was first reported last August that the schools were considering an option of taking back the former Gibbs because of increased enrollment, that news came as a shock to those who manage the current occupants -- Arlington Center for the Arts, Lesley Ellis, a private school; Learn to Grow, a preschool; and the Kelliher Center, a program providing day habilitation and employment services to developmentally disabled.

That includes Wilson -- who expressed his views to the School Committee in September -- and added to that in his current statement. He wrote Jan. 23:

"Over the past several months, there has been much written and said pertaining to Arlington’s school enrollment challenges. When this issue surfaced in August, the longtime tenants of the Gibbs School were alerted that one option for addressing these challenges would be to displace those tenants and to retrofit the Gibbs to serve some segment of Arlington’s public school enrollment.

"This was shocking as Schools for Children has rented over 20,000 square feet in that building since 1989 and has, over time, developed most of that space to support our growing Lesley Ellis School.

"Since arriving in Arlington, the school has grown from a small preschool to a full PS-Grade 8 independent school. This continues a trajectory that began more than 65 years ago and which we are committed to maintain."

Kept low profile

Apart from his early statements to the School Committee, Wilson continued:

"Schools for Children has deliberately kept a very low profile during the public discussion over the enrollment challenges faced by Arlington. The community will ultimately find a solution to this problem.

Quote bar, redSFC "spent easily in excess of $1 million ... to improve leased space."
Ted Wilson 

"For us, there is a different imperative.

"First, we have invested thousands of dollars to improve these spaces and actually purchased and renovated a nearby house to help with Lesley Ellis’ growth needs."

Asked what Schools for Children has spent over the years -- a ballpark figure -- in improving the former Gibbs site as well as buying a neighboring property, Wilson said it "easily spent in excess of $1 million in the last several years to improve the leased space in the Gibbs building and to buy and renovate the neighborhood property in support of our growing Lesley Ellis School."

His statement continued: "Prior to this summer, every indication we had been given by town officials led us to believe these were secure investments. If Gibbs remains as a leased facility, we plan to maximize these investments by continuing to lease this space for our educational purposes.

"Whether we use the space for Lesley Ellis, consolidate parts of our other programs into that space or initiate new educational services consistent with our mission, we plan to continue our tenant relationship with the Town of Arlington.

"That being said, we have to plan for the possibility that the School Committee will decide to take back the Gibbs for its own educational purposes.

"Our most important imperative is that we have a secure and stable base for the Lesley Ellis School. Our management team and Board of Trustees have been exploring a variety of options.

"One option that has been discussed internally -- and which has made its way into the public arena -- is one that would require moving our Dearborn Academy to a new location. That move would allow Schools for Children to shift Lesley Ellis to the building we own on Winter Street.

"Obviously, such a move depends on finding and securing a suitable alternative for Dearborn Academy. We have not secured such a space as of this moment, so no final decisions have been made, and the Board of Trustees continues its deliberations.

"All options remain on the table until we find and settle upon the best resolution for this school and for our organization."

Comments Jan. 12

Some believe they have evidence that Lesley Ellis is planning to move to Winter Street by 2017. They base that on comments from a parent made at that Jan. 12 meeting of the School Enrollment Task Force as well as on the image of card posted at the parents' group Facebook site. That image illustrates this report.

Asked if Lesley Ellis moves to Dearborn, how would Schools for Children continue its tenant relationship with the town, he responded: "While the current ambiguity about the Gibbs primarily impacts our planning for Lesley Ellis and, potentially Dearborn Academy, you need to realize that Schools for Children operates a number of other educational programs that could be consolidated in the space we currently lease if Lesley Ellis moves out.

"We value our relationship with the Town of Arlington, have invested significant funds in improving our space over almost 30 years and would plan to continue using the space to further the mission of Schools for Children."

Wilson declined to comment about how that card reached the public.

Quote bar, red"... overwhelming majority of respondents were in favor of using the Gibbs School in some capacity to help alleviate enrollment challenges."
Parent group 

The Arlington Parent Enrollment Group was asked to comment about Lesley Ellis's plans in the light of the results of the survey, and it provided the following:

"We received 1,058 responses to our recent survey and an overwhelming majority of respondents were in favor of using the Gibbs School in some capacity to help alleviate enrollment challenges. Using the Gibbs School leverages a current Town asset that has been held in reserve since 1989 to help with the kind of enrollment challenges we face today.

"We urge the School Department and Town to move forward with drafting a warrant article, for the April Town Meeting, that will fund a feasibility study for using the Gibbs School to alleviate crowding at the Ottoson Middle School. Moving quickly will also help alleviate the uncertainty for all current tenants."

A spokesman for the group declined to be identified. The public can see the administrators of the parents' Facebook page here >>

School Committee Chair Paul Schlichtman has not responded to a request for comment.


Parent group survey

Jan. 6, 2016: With parents' help, search for enrollment solutions turns to East Arlington

Parents' group summary >>
ACMi's Arlington Public News: Overview of Thompson project 
Dec. 21, 2016: Addition backed for Thompson; PARCC testing gets go-ahead
Dec. 14, 2015: Variety of views offered as task force grapples with growth

This report was published Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, and updated Feb. 4, to add the line below.

The Advocate followed up with a report published Thursday, Feb. 4. Read it here >>

AC principal put on leave, school statement says

The principal at Arlington Catholic High School has been put on leave pending the outcome of an investigation, various media outlets are reporting, citing school officials.

In a note sent to parents Wednesday, Feb. 3, Vice Principal Linda Butt said the decision about Stephen Biagioni stems from allegations that took place after a Sunday detention at the school.

"We have no reason to believe at this time it involves allegations of sexual abuse," the letter said.

Biagioni has been a longtime administrator at the school. and students who spoke to FOX25 expressed shock.

The school said it would update the community once the investigation was finished.

Capt. Richard Flynn, who handles public information for Arlington police, told YourArlington: "As of this time, the Arlington Police Department has received no reports of abuse or allegations of any kind regarding Principal Biagioni.

"This appears to be an internal matter at ACHS, so I ask that you please refer your questions regarding this to ACHS."


This report was published Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.

Arlington High rebuild is a go, administration says

AHS imageHow Arlington High, built in 1914, looks today. Get ready for changes in the years to come.


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


UPDATED, Jan. 29: The project to rebuild Arlington High School has received approval to proceed.

While official word is awaited from Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, School Committee Chairman Paul Schlichtman told the Arlington email list at 12:46 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, that the project is a go.

He was responding to a list post citing Belmont's approval, as reflected in this link, and asking what was happening with the Arlington project. 

At 4:20 p.m., Bodie's office issued a release saying the Massachusetts School Building Authority Board voted unanimously this morning to move Arlington High School forward in the school building-grant program process.

This past year, there were 97 applicants to the MSBA grant program of which Arlington was among the 26 districts selected to partner with MSBA to address building deficiencies in one of their district schools. This vote is the first step with another formal vote to come at a subsequent MSBA Board meeting. "We look forward to working with MSBA to address the needs at Arlington High School," the release says.

Schlichtman told YourArlington that he learned about the decision from Bodie's note to committee members.

She told the committee: "AHS was officially voted an invitation to the Eligibility Period at the MSBA [Mass. School Building Authority] Board meeting this morning. There will be a second vote in May to commence the Eligibility Period (module 1)."

"I am waiting for a press release from MSBA about how to communicate the vote, which I will send to you as soon as I have it. This will help you with the correct language when talking about the vote.

"I will provide more details about the process tomorrow night.

"Meanwhile, we can all be very happy about this milestone."

Schlichtmanadded: "MSBA is quite precise in the language they want used to report their decisions.

Last Dec. 22, the executive director of the state School Building Authority said that Arlington High School would be recommended to receive funding in its effort to rebuild the 101-year-old facility.

First, according to an email from Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, the school is invited to participate in the grant program. The authority board, which convenes Jan. 27, must approve it.

"We will now definitely [know] on January 27 whether the high school project moves forward into the first stage of the process called the 'Eligibility Period,'" she wrote Tuesday. Dec. 22.

This is Arlington's second try to get state funding to rebuild the high school.

Below is information regarding what is involved in the "Eligibility Period." You can read about the entire process on the MSBA website.

"This is very good news for our high school and town!" she wrote. "I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this application. I also want to thank our Beacon Hill delegation for their advocacy."

Asked about expected project cost and what reimbursement it might receive, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine responded Wednesday, Dec. 23:

'Very early in process'

"It's very early in the process to make estimates of either project cost or MSBA reimbursement. That said, the MSBA reimbursement rate for the Thompson School was just over 50% after several incentive points were added on for the inclusion of various design aspects. So, at this stage, I would think it is fair to project a reimbursement rate that falls between 40% - 50%.

"The feasibility study we would perform, if accepted by the MSBA, would be the first true indicator of such an estimate. That said, given the project costs of other high school projects in the region, the figure of $150,000 ... is not an unreasonable one."

Susse outlines steps

Looking ahead to the Jan. 27 meeting, School Committee member Jennifer Susse noted Dec. 23, "A positive vote by the MSBA staff is usually honored by the board."

In a statement, she then describes what is to occur after Jan 27, the town has 270 days to:

* Form a School Building Committee and submit the names of the committee to the MSBA for approval;

* Secure funding from Town Meeting for a feasibility study;

* Execute a Feasibility Study Agreement, which establishes a process in which the town commits to work with the MSBA to secure an architect and other professionals to conduct a feasibility study.

"All this will takes time," she wrote. "The benefit is that it allows our school district to receive up to 55% reimbursement from the state. Throughout the process, there is ample opportunity for the public to comment on the various options identified by the feasibility study. All meetings are open to the public.

"The current thinking is that the high school will be completed by the fall of 2021."
Emblematic of the building issues at the high school has been the 1970s-era elevator to the sixth floor, inoperable since August, was restored to service Dec. 14 -- but with a caution.

Dr. Matthew Janger, principal at Arlington High, told parents: "Please note the rest of the elevator, besides the new piston is still very old. This elevator should only be used by those who truly require it. There is a likelihood that if we overuse it, we will have a similar issue of a major part failing and it will again take time and money to repair it. The funds for this repair were in the 10s of thousands."

For more, read here >> 

Some rebuild history

Arlington was turned down in its first attempt last December.

Bodie told the School Committee on Dec. 18, 2014, that the renewed effort would note the schools' sharp increase in enrollment as well as the fact that certain building issues must be addressed soon.

The Nor'easter in November that brought prolonged rain led to "significant leaks" that caused some ceilings to crumble in science classrooms, she said.

"We had a barrel on the sixth floor [catching leaks] near my office," she said.

The chief reason that AHS did not make the first-year cut, she said, was the number of applicants, many from cities. Those applications attract higher reimbursement rates than those for suburban districts, and that draws down the total pool of available building funds.

Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant McCarthy explains.Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant Principal William McCarthy explains during a December 2013 tour.

In an email to the high school community Dec. 16, 2014,  Janger reported news, which he called "disappointing."

The Dec. 12 letter informing Arlington from John McCarthy, the agency executive director, said the state had received 108 statements of interest about school-building projects from 72 districts.

"Given the needs we experience and the work we have done to document those needs," Janger wrote "this is hard news for many of us. It's important for us to remember the wonderful educational work and community that we have maintained, in spite of our aging facility."

Janger continued: "This is not altogether surprising news, as few schools appear to be accepted on their first request. We plan to update and resubmit our proposal this April. As for our timeline, this news moves the first possible start date for a construction project back to 2018."

In the meantime, he wrote, leaders will do the following at the high school:

"(1) Fix stuff now. We have made substantial and successful efforts in the past year to improve the cleanliness and maintenance of the high school building. In addition, we have been collecting information on the impact of the facilities on instruction. As we are going to be enjoying the high school's particular charms for a while longer, we will begin a new plan for ways we can improve our safety, comfort, and instructional environment over the coming 5 years.

"(2) Build our digital environment. Our new initiatives around creating technology centers and developing a 'bring your own device' model for the high school help us to provide a 21st-century education in spite of an early 20th century building. We will be adding new special use labs (digital media and science computing) in the next year. In addition, we will continue piloting the use of Chromebooks and IPads (adding 80-300 devices) with the goal of creating a technology rich "bring your own device" environment by 2016-17.

"(3) Create a maker culture. Our aging building gives us the opportunity to experiment and build both programs and stuff. Since reopening the woodshop as a maker space, many classes have built, experimented, and improved various corners of the building. Digital devices combined with real tools, allow students and teachers to become active creators of knowledge and real world impact. We will take advantage of the next few years to experiment and prototype for the future building.

"(4) Learn about future buildings. Now that we have an answer from MSBA for this year, our Future Building team will revisit our building vision, review our statement of interest application, and consider new schools for visits and information gathering. We need to continue to keep the interest and energy for a new high school alive for the next generation of Arlington students and the overall Arlington community. This is a long-term investment in the future of our town."

As the principal often is, he signed off in an upbeat way:

"That's it for now. We are ready for round two! Go Ponders!"

From a report March 2014

In advance of a special School Committee meeting to hear reports about state of Arlington High School, Bodie has pointed the public to a report calling for an update of all major systems at Arlington High School.

In an email to the community March 4, 2014, she wrote that the 100-year-old school has had no "major renovation since the late 1970s. Repairs have been made over the years as needed."

In 2013, the engineering firm On-site Insight was hired to evaluate all of the mechanical, electrical and infrastructure needs of the building. The report indicates that all of the high school's major systems need updating, she wrote.

In their 20-year schedule for repairs, the vast majority of the repairs would need to be completed in the first year. The complete report can be found on the district website here >>

Every 10 years, the high school participates in an accreditation process with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In its letter dated Sept. 11, 2013, NEASC placed the high school on warning status for the state of its facilities.

In December, the architectural firm of HMFH, architects for the new Thompson Elementary School, was hired to analyze the programmatic needs of the high school, including the impact of the current building on teaching and learning.

Architect Lori Cowles presented her report to the School Committee on March 6, 2014, and to the Board of Selectmen on March 10 that year. 

In addition, she presented her report to parents and community members on March 12, in the auditorium of the high school.

The school's building history reflects a piecework approach, a lack of overall, long-term design. The graphic below shows how. Follow the letters on the image from Google Earth:

Google Earth view of Arlington High School with letters indicating its buildings.A. The original building, off Schouler Court, now called Fusco House, was built in 1914 and had some renovation in 1981.

 B. The current main office was built 1938 and underwent some renovation in 1981.

C. The section called Collomb House was built 1938 and had some renovation in 1981.

D. Lowe Auditorium, the school's performance space, was also built 1938 underwent some renovation in 1981.

E. Toward Peirce Field, Downs House was built 1964 and has had no significant renovation.

F. The Links Building, which connects Downs and Lowe, went up in 1981 has not been renovated.

G. Offices and the cafeteria were built 1960s.

H. The Red Gym went up in 1981.

I. The Blue Gym and its locker rooms were built in 1960 and were renovated in 1981.


Dec. 22, 2015: Arlington High School rebuild, in 2nd try, moves forward

Dec. 23, 2013: Unprecedented process underway to reshape Arlington High


This story was published Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, and updated Jan. 29, to add a link.

Arlington High School rebuild, in 2nd try, moves forward

Manager looks ahead to possible project cost, reimbursement

The school's building history reflects a piecework approach, a lack of overall, long-term design. The graphic below shows how. Follow the letters on the image from Google Earth:

Google Earth view of Arlington High School with letters indicating its buildings.A. The original building, off Schouler Court, now called Fusco House, was built in 1914 and had some renovation in 1981.

 B. The current main office was built 1938 and underwent some renovation in 1981.

C. The section called Collomb House was built 1938 and had some renovation in 1981.

D. Lowe Auditorium, the school's performance space, was also built 1938 underwent some renovation in 1981.

E. Toward Peirce Field, Downs House was built 1964 and has had no significant renovation.

F. The Links Building, which connects Downs and Lowe, went up in 1981 has not been renovated.

G. Offices and the cafeteria were built 1960s.

H. The Red Gym went up in 1981.

I. The Blue Gym and its locker rooms were built in 1960 and were renovated in 1981.

UPDATED, Dec. 28: The executive director of the state School Building Authority says that Arlington High School will be recommended to receive funding in its effort to rebuild the 101-year-old facility.

First, according to an email from Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, the school is invited to participate in the grant program. The authority board, which convenes Jan. 27, must approve it.

"We will now definitely [know] on January 27 whether the high school project moves forward into the first stage of the process called the 'Eligibility Period,'" she wrote Tuesday. Dec. 22.

This is Arlington's second try to get state funding to rebuild the high school.

Below is information regarding what is involved in the "Eligibility Period." You can read about the entire process on the MSBA website.

"This is very good news for our high school and town!" she wrote. "I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this application. I also want to thank our Beacon Hill delegation for their advocacy."

Asked about expected project cost and what reimbursement it might receive, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine responded Wednesday, Dec. 23:

'Very early in process'

"It's very early in the process to make estimates of either project cost or MSBA reimbursement. That said, the MSBA reimbursement rate for the Thompson School was just over 50% after several incentive points were added on for the inclusion of various design aspects. So, at this stage, I would think it is fair to project a reimbursement rate that falls between 40% - 50%.

"The feasibility study we would perform, if accepted by the MSBA, would be the first true indicator of such an estimate. That said, given the project costs of other high school projects in the region, the figure of $150,000 ... is not an unreasonable one."

Susse outlines steps

Looking ahead to the Jan. 27 meeting, School Committee member Jennifer Susse noted Dec. 23, "A positive vote by the MSBA staff is usually honored by the board."

In a statement, she then describes what is to occur after Jan 27, the town has 270 days to:

* Form a School Building Committee and submit the names of the committee to the MSBA for approval;

* Secure funding from Town Meeting for a feasibility study;

* Execute a Feasibility Study Agreement, which establishes a process in which the town commits to work with the MSBA to secure an architect and other professionals to conduct a feasibility study.

"All this will takes time," she wrote. "The benefit is that it allows our school district to receive up to 55% reimbursement from the state. Throughout the process, there is ample opportunity for the public to comment on the various options identified by the feasibility study. All meetings are open to the public.

"The current thinking is that the high school will be completed by the fall of 2021."
She wrote that she believes the School Enrollment Task Force will be discussing the process in more detail at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday, Jan. 5, in the Lyons Hearing Room, second floor, Town Hall.

She promises more details at the community forum set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, in Town Hall auditorium.

Emblematic of the building issues at the high school has been the 1970s-era elevator to the sixth floor, inoperable since August, was restored to service Dec. 14 -- but with a caution.

Dr. Matthew Janger, principal at Arlington High, told parents: "Please note the rest of the elevator, besides the new piston is still very old. This elevator should only be used by those who truly require it. There is a likelihood that if we overuse it, we will have a similar issue of a major part failing and it will again take time and money to repair it. The funds for this repair were in the 10s of thousands."

For more, read here >> 

Some rebuild history

Arlington was turned down in its first attempt last December.

Bodie told the School Committee on Dec. 18, 2014, that the renewed effort would note the schools' sharp increase in enrollment as well as the fact that certain building issues must be addressed soon.

The Nor'easter in November that brought prolonged rain led to "significant leaks" that caused some ceilings to crumble in science classrooms, she said.

"We had a barrel on the sixth floor [catching leaks] near my office," she said.

The chief reason that AHS did not make the first-year cut, she said, was the number of applicants, many from cities. Those applications attract higher reimbursement rates than those for suburban districts, and that draws down the total pool of available building funds.

Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant McCarthy explains.Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant Principal William McCarthy explains during a December 2013 tour.

In an email to the high school community Dec. 16, 2014,  Janger reported news, which he called "disappointing."

The Dec. 12 letter informing Arlington from John McCarthy, the agency executive director, said the state had received 108 statements of interest about school-building projects from 72 districts.

"Given the needs we experience and the work we have done to document those needs," Janger wrote "this is hard news for many of us. It's important for us to remember the wonderful educational work and community that we have maintained, in spite of our aging facility."

Janger continued: "This is not altogether surprising news, as few schools appear to be accepted on their first request. We plan to update and resubmit our proposal this April. As for our timeline, this news moves the first possible start date for a construction project back to 2018."

In the meantime, he wrote, leaders will do the following at the high school:

"(1) Fix stuff now. We have made substantial and successful efforts in the past year to improve the cleanliness and maintenance of the high school building. In addition, we have been collecting information on the impact of the facilities on instruction. As we are going to be enjoying the high school's particular charms for a while longer, we will begin a new plan for ways we can improve our safety, comfort, and instructional environment over the coming 5 years.

"(2) Build our digital environment. Our new initiatives around creating technology centers and developing a 'bring your own device' model for the high school help us to provide a 21st-century education in spite of an early 20th century building. We will be adding new special use labs (digital media and science computing) in the next year. In addition, we will continue piloting the use of Chromebooks and IPads (adding 80-300 devices) with the goal of creating a technology rich "bring your own device" environment by 2016-17.

"(3) Create a maker culture. Our aging building gives us the opportunity to experiment and build both programs and stuff. Since reopening the woodshop as a maker space, many classes have built, experimented, and improved various corners of the building. Digital devices combined with real tools, allow students and teachers to become active creators of knowledge and real world impact. We will take advantage of the next few years to experiment and prototype for the future building.

"(4) Learn about future buildings. Now that we have an answer from MSBA for this year, our Future Building team will revisit our building vision, review our statement of interest application, and consider new schools for visits and information gathering. We need to continue to keep the interest and energy for a new high school alive for the next generation of Arlington students and the overall Arlington community. This is a long-term investment in the future of our town."

As the principal often is, he signed off in an upbeat way:

"That's it for now. We are ready for round two! Go Ponders!"

From a report March 2014

In advance of a special School Committee meeting to hear reports about state of Arlington High School, Bodie has pointed the public to a report calling for an update of all major systems at Arlington High School.

In an email to the community March 4, 2014, she wrote that the 100-year-old school has had no "major renovation since the late 1970s. Repairs have been made over the years as needed."

Last year the engineering firm On-site Insight was hired to evaluate all of the mechanical, electrical and infrastructure needs of the building. The report indicates that all of the high school's major systems need updating, she wrote.

In their 20-year schedule for repairs, the vast majority of the repairs would need to be completed in the first year. The complete report can be found on the district website here >>

Every 10 years, the high school participates in an accreditation process with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In its letter dated Sept. 11, 2013, NEASC placed the high school on warning status for the state of its facilities.

In December, the architectural firm of HMFH, architects for the new Thompson Elementary School, was hired to analyze the programmatic needs of the high school, including the impact of the current building on teaching and learning.

Architect Lori Cowles presented her report to the School Committee on March 6, and to the Board of Selectmen on March 10. 

In addition, she presented her report to parents and community members on March 12, in the auditorium of the high school.


Dec. 23, 2013: Unprecedented process underway to reshape Arlington High


This story was published Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, and updated Dec. 28, to move art elements.

GOING UP: AHS elevator passes inspection, back in business

AHS image

UPDATED, Dec. 14: The 1970s-era elevator at Arlington High School, inoperable since August, has been restored.

"The AHS elevator passed the state inspection test and is up and running," Dr. Matthew Janger, principal at Arlington High, told parents Monday, Dec. 14.
"Please note the rest of the elevator, besides the new piston is still very old," he wrote. "This elevator should only be used by those who truly require it. There is a likelihood that if we overuse it, we will have a similar issue of a major part failing and it will again take time and money to repair it. The funds for this repair were in the 10s of thousands.

"Thank you all again for your patience and thank you Carlos Dominguez for managing this involved and complicated project."

Diane Fisk Johnson, the schools' chief financial officer, wrote in a Dec. 7 memo, that completion of repair was delayed because of "more extensive drilling needed to bring the unit up to current code standards. Additional funds were encumbered for both drilling and repair, with an estimated total cost of $151,734.

"Since the drilling phase is now complete, and took fewer days than originally estimated, it is hoped that the project will be less than the estimate."

The elevator was expected be on the rise again during the week of Nov. 16, but those hopes were dashed when the contractor started digging and hit rock.

The restored elevator means public meetings can again be held on the school's sixth floor. They have been held in a variety of locations this fall.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie told the School Committee Thursday, Dec. 10, that the elevator was scheduled to be inspected Tuesday, Dec. 15, but it took place sooner.

On Nov. 19, Bodie said another month of work was likely and the cost would rise.

"It likely will not be fixed until mid-December -- if all goes well," Bode wrote in an email Nov. 23. "The drilling should be completed this week and then it will take two weeks to install the new piston."

Janger provided this update Nov. 24: "The worst is hopefully behind us. The drilling is completed, and they are moving their equipment offsite today. The piston install will start on Wednesday the 25 and will continue for about two weeks at the most -- assuming no new surprises." He had been hoping for activation by Friday, Dec. 11.

Johnson reported Nov. 25 that two contractors involved in the elevator project are KONE and United Drilling. Her office has encumbered an estimated $101,334 for KONE and $50,400 for United Drilling. "However, three days of drilling were estimated, and only 1.5 days were needed," she wrote, "so hopefully we will not need to spend the entire estimated amount. Drilling is now finished, and we are cautiously hopeful that we will have a functional elevator by mid-December."

This news "further illustrates need for a new high school," School Committee Chairman Paul Schlichtman said at the Nov. 19 meeting at Town Hall.

School officials expect to learn Dec. 21 whether the state will add the high school to its list a facilities getting construction aid.

Schlichtman continued the quips right up to the Dec. 10 meeting, but he also thanked selectmen and town officials for use of Town Hall for School Committee meetings.

Once repaired, public school meetings, held in a variety of locations this fall because of access issues, including Town Hall, will resume in the School Committee Room, on the sixth floor.

In October, high school Principal Matthew Janger told parents that special parts have been shipped and the reconstruction work was to begin Oct. 26. The work "will probably take 3 weeks, if there are no surprises," he wrote. But there were.

At the Sept. 10 School Committee meeting, schools' CFO Diane Johnson reported that the estimate to repair the elevator at the high school "to run in the region of $80,000."

She said the elevator's lubrication system failed this summer, and replacement parts are no longer made.

Johnson told YourArlington in an email Sept. 11 that "parts are being machined specifically for us."

At the start of its Oct. 22 meeting, held in the selectmen's chambers in Town Hall, Chairman Paul Schlichtman offered a quip about possible action on liquor licenses. All 15 the town has approved are in use. Later, more seriously, he said he hoped the state "funding gods" were watching the meeting, so they can see the high school's disrepair.

Dr. Janger wrote Oct. 24: "Thanks to everyone for your patience during this difficult time. I have seen students helping their booted friends up and down stairs. The nurses and transition room have made plans to support students during the days they are unable to travel.

"The custodians, maintenance, tech and teachers have problem solved to move furniture and technology around the building."

He wrote that the work would cause noise, "probably starting on Thursday, October 29th, after PSATs. The area on the lower floor where the bottom of the elevator is located will have the most noise, and it could be extremely loud on a somewhat consistent basis. We will relocate classes as necessary."

What is expected to occur

He described the expected process:

"First, Kone elevator will hoist the elevator to the top floor. Then they will erect scaffolding from the bottom floor of the elevator within the elevator shaft to hold up the elevator at the top floor.

"Then they will cut out the piston from within the shaft. The piston cylinder is very large. After that, they will chip away at the concrete that holds in the cylinder which held the piston. If the concrete does not come out easily, they will have to jackhammer out the concrete.

"Once the cylinder is free, they will hoist it up about [5 to 10 feet] at a time and cut the cylinder in sections and remove it. They will use a sawzall to cut the cylinder. They will then make sure that the bottom of the opening that held the cylinder has not caved in -- dirt surrounds the cylinder at the bottom.

"Assuming the dirt has not caved in, they will then start bringing in the new cylinder in sections and the piston. They will install the cylinder in sections and then the piston.
This should take 3 weeks if there are no major surprises.

"Please let us know, if you become aware of safety or educational issues and please know that we are doing the best we can in a difficult situation. I guess this is practice for problem solving around the reconstruction project in a few years."


The story was published Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 and updated Dec. 14, to add new copy.

Ottoson tech-ed teacher gets top state recognition

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

Gary Blanchette, a technology-engineering teacher at Ottoson Middle School, has been named the 2015 MassTEC Teacher of the Year.

This MassTEC (Massachusetts Technology Education/Engineering Collaborative) award recognizes those individuals who strive for excellence and provide their students with the best educational experiences. The award was presented Friday, Oct. 23, at Fitchburg State University.

This award is the third in a series for this Arlington Public Schools' program. Last year, the Ottoson technology-engineering program was voted the 2014 MassTEC Program of the Year.

In addition, last year Brandy Whitney, also a technology-engineering teacher at Ottoson, was nationally recognized with the 2015 Pasco STEM Educator Award.

Blanchette, in reflecting upon the award, said in a news release Friday, Oct. 23:

"I am honored and humbled that our professional organization that awarded OMS the MA program of the year, is recognizing me with the 2015 MA teacher of the year.

"I have always loved what I do and I do it for the kids. Seeing their faces light up and their eagerness to come to class everyday has always been rewarding enough for me. The impact that the upgraded instructional technology has had on our curriculum is profound. The opportunities these children have to help them learn are unprecedented in this state.”

Principal Timothy Ruggere said on the release, “Our students have the benefit of both up-to-date instructional technology and top quality teachers such as Gary Blanchette. It is exciting to have this program at the middle school.”

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, sharing his enthusiasm, said, "Gary Blanchette and Brandy Whitney have taken full advantage of the instructional technology investments that have been made with the support of the Town of Arlington and the Arlington Education Foundation’s Technology Initiative. Arlington’s students are benefiting from the transformation of the middle school’s Technology Engineering curriculum into a truly 21st-century program.”

To learn more about the Technology Engineering program at Ottoson, click here >>

In September 2014, the Ottoson technology-engineering program, led by Whitney and Blanchette, was voted the 2014 program of the year by MassTEC.

Two Ottoson teachers were recognized in October by their statewide professional organization.

Student work showcased

Many 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 Friday, Oc. 23, 2015.

AHS holds Spirit Week with a cause: 'White-Out Cancer'

Catherine MalatestaMalatesta

UPDATED, Oct. 9: Arlington High School is celebrating Spirit Week Oct. 5 through 9 with homecoming events that aim to "White-Out Cancer."

The teams encourage all to join them in their effort to support cancer research by wearing white or yellow gear. Team members will adorn their white uniforms with yellow accessories to honor Catherine Malatesta, field hockey captain and student council class president, who died of cancer in August.

A pep rally was held Tuesday, Oct. 6, and themed spirit days will fill each day.

At the conclusion of the week are four homecoming games followed by homecoming events in the school's courtyard. In addition to celebrating AHS, the school will honor Malatesta.

"As a pillar of school spirit, unity and pride, this commemoration will allow our community to come together to let Catherine's legacy of courage, strength and optimism positively impact others through fund-raising efforts while reinforcing her radiant spirit and vision for inclusiveness and celebrating all that makes AHS so great," wrote Melissa Dlugolecki, director of athletics.

The schedule for Friday, Oct. 9, includes:

3:30 -- boys' varsity soccer game on Peirce turf;

4 -- girls' varsity volleyball game in the gym;
5:15 -- girls' varsity field hockey game on the turf;

* halftime presentation honoring Malatesta and her family

7:30 -- boys' varsity football game on the turf;

* halftime raffle basket drawing and basket presentation

Postgames: Homecoming celebration in the courtyard.

Details for the afternoon/evening:

A raffle basket table, with baskets generously donated by our various fall teams.

"Malatesta 16" T-shirts, Cat-Mal socks and headbands for sale. All proceeds will go to the Catherine Malatesta Scholarship Fund.
Balloons for students, coaches and community members to sign with sentiments, quotes, thoughts or messages honoring Malatesta.


Aug. 10, 2015: Best way to remember Catherine


This announcement was published Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, and updated Oct. 9.

5 semifinalists from AHS vie for '16 merit scholarships

School-awards logo

Five students at Arlington High School are among about 16,000 semifinalists in the 61st annual National Merit Scholarship program.

They are Kiran S. Gite, Tali Gorokhovsky, Galen P. Hall, Griffin Lessell and Ashley E. Wicks.

These seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for an estimated 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring.

To be considered for such a scholarship, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition, a news release from the program says.

About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.

The scholarship program is a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955. Scholarships are underwritten by the nonprofit's funds and by about 440 business organizations and higher-education institutions.

About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To become a finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to finalist, and in February they will be notified. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered next spring. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 national $2,500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis.

About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by about 250 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 190 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 3,900 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.


This announcement was published Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015.

Public schools open, elementary early release, bus schedules

Back-to- logoschool

Arlington public schools opened for the 2015-16 year for grades one through 12 on Tuesday, Sept. 8, after teachers returned Sept. 2 and 3, following new-teacher orientation Monday, Aug. 31

The first day for kindergartners is Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Parents and guardians should know that, under the new teachers' contract, elementary schools will be letting out at 1 p.m. every Tuesday this school year. Lunch will be served. Ottoson and Arlington High have seven early release Tuesdays this school year.

There is no school Monday, Sept. 14.

See the district bus schedules for Ottoson and Bishop as well as other information >>

Information about food services >> 

The 2015-16 school calendar >>

Incoming grade six iPad Pilot letter, FAQ >>

As public schools open, some safety tips

Police Chief Frederick Ryan and Superintendent Kathleen Bodie of the Arlington public schools remind the community about several safety practices as the new school year approaches.

Students in grades one through 12 will return to the town's public schools Tuesday, Sept. 8. Kindergartners and preschoolers start Sept. 15.

"The new school year is an exciting time for teachers, students and families alike," Bodie said in a news release. "Together, we can all make sure that the start to the new year is safe and healthy for everyone."

The police and school departments remind all parents to adhere to the drop-off protocols established by each school principal. Those walking to school should know and understand to look both ways before crossing the street and to cross the road only at a designated crosswalk.

Pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death among 5- to 18-year-olds. Most injuries to children in kindergarten through third grade occur when they run into the street midblock, while older students are most often hurt at intersections. To prevent potential tragedies, children should:

• Be aware of pedestrian hazards and how to avoid them;

• Know traffic signs and signals, and safe walking zones; an

• Wait for the "walk" signal at a crosswalk, or for a crossing guard to signal the OK to proceed into the street.

Children should not cross the street in the middle of a block, and they should never dart out from between two parked cars. These same safety tips apply to adults as well, who should be an example for their children.

"Parents should talk with their children before the first day of school to ensure they know the best safety practices for getting to school and home again safely," Ryan said. "At the same time, we remind drivers to follow the rules of the road, especially when in the vicinity of a school or school bus."

For those students who take school buses, the majority of related injuries occur when boarding or exiting a bus because of passing traffic or walking in one of the bus driver's blind spots. Those aged 4 to 7 are at the highest risk of injury.

Police recommend that parents follow safety procedures outlined by Department of Public Health to prevent accidents this school season.

• Educate children on safe bus riding and walking behaviors when getting on and off the bus;

• Before crossing the street, teach young children to take five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus and to wait for the driver's signal before walking;

• Develop appropriate bus pick-up/drop-off policies; an

• Closely supervise children under age 10 who must cross the street after exiting the bus.

The fine for illegally passing a school bus is a maximum of $200, and repeat offenders may have their licenses suspended.

Additionally, before sending your child off to school in the morning, Chief Ryan suggests checking backpacks to make sure they are a tolerable weight. The American Chiropractic Association advises that backpacks should weigh no more than 10 percent of a student's body weight, as heavy pressure can negatively affect the skeletal and muscular development in children.


This extended announcement was published Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, and updated Aug. 26, to add links.

Who's new among public school teachers, staff?

Back to school logo

Who are the new faces in the Arlington public schools this year?

Here is a list of 42 staff members, current as of Friday, Aug. 28, provided by Robert Spiegel, human-resources administrator for the public schools:

 

Teacher Position School/ Department School/Degree
Aftuck, Lynne Grade 1 Teacher Bishop B.S. Biology and Classics, Tufts University; Master of Education, Lesley University
Barker, Sarah School Nurse Nursing/Ottoson and AHS B.S., Nursing, University of Connecticut
Bassham, Claire ELL Teacher Thompson/ELL B.A., Art History, Kent State University; M.A. Interior Design, Suffolk University; Master of Education, Lesley University
Berry, Eleonor Speech & Language Pathologist Special Ed./Peirce and Brackett B.A. Psychology, McGill University; Master of Arts in Education, McGill University; M.S. Communication Sciences and Disorders, MGH Institute of Health Professions
Bistran, Amanda Johnson Guidance Counselor (.5 FTE) Ottoson B.A. Psychology, Assumption College; MA School Counseling, Assumption College
Breneisen, Jennifer Social Worker Special Education/Stratton B.A. History, Drake University; Master of Social Work, Boston College
Brown, Wendy Reading Teacher (.6 FTE) Ottoson B.A. English/Education, CUNY Brooklyn College; CAS in Reading, MGH Institute of Health Professions
Bus, Amber Grade 5 Teacher Stratton B.A. Elementary Education, Boston College; Master of Education, Lesley University
Catizone, Eileen Reading Teacher Stratton/Literacy B.S. Elementary Ed., Northeastern; Master of Education/Reading Specialist, Gordon College
Coveno, Gayle Grade 1 Teacher Thompson B.S. Early Childhood Education, Westfield State College; Master of Education, American International College
Deasy, Kimberly Teacher of the Visually Impaired/Orientation & Mobility District/Special Ed. B.A., Sociology, San Francisco State; Master of Arts in Special Ed., San Francisco State; Certification in Orientation & Mobility
Dimmock, Graham Chemistry Teacher AHS/Science B.S., Biochemistry, Binghamton University; M.Ed, UMASS Boston
Disanza, William Social Studies Teacher (.2 FTE) AHS B.A. History, William Paterson University of New Jersey; B.A. Audio/Radio, Emerson College
Drumma, Allison Grade 5 Teacher (job share .5 FTE) Stratton B.A., Communications, UMASS Amherst; Master of Elementary Education, UMASS Boston; Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Education, Lesley University
Ehrlich-Walsh, Serena Special Ed. Teacher Ottoson/Special Ed. Bachelor of Education, Bridgewater State University
Fassel, Courtnei Grade 3 Teacher Thomson B.S. Elementary Education, SUNY Oswego
French, Jennie Grade 1 Teacher Hardy B.A. Sociology, Gettysburg College; Master of Education, Lesley University
Givens, Theodora Grade 1 Teacher Thompson B.A., Political Science and Spanish, UMASS Boston; Master of Ed in Elementary Education, Lesley University
Hill, Victoria Elementary P.E. Teacher (.6 FTE) Peirce/Stratton/Thompson B.S. Physical Education, Westfield State University
Jones, Clayton Mathematics Teacher AHS/Mathematics B.A., Music, UMASS Boston; Master of Education, Lesley University
Kalantari, Taline Early Childhood Teacher Menotomy Preschool B.S. Early Childhood Education and Psychology, Salem State College; M.Ed. Early Childhood Ed., Salem State College
Kasle, Samantha Elementary Art Teacher (.6 FTE) Art - Bishop and Peirce B.A. Illustration, Mass College of Art; Master of Art Education, Mass College of Art
Kitchen, Madalyn Music Teacher (Chorus) Arlington High School Bachelor of Music, Brigham Young University
Lamm, Linda Special Ed. Teacher Ottoson/Special Ed. Bachelor of Education, SUNY Plattsburgh; Master of Education, Northeastern University
Larrabee, Matthew Digital Media Literacy Teacher (.6 FTE) Ottoson/Math/Tech B.S. Psychology, UMASS Boston
Mangie, Racquel Grade 4 Teacher Brackett B.S. Psychology, Western New England College; Master of Education, Framingham State University
Marten, Tim English Teacher AHS/English B.A. English, Suffolk University; M.A. in Teaching, Brandeis University
Masison, Twila Long Term Substitute Learning Specialist Bishop/Special Ed. B.A. Psychology, Vanderbilt University; Master of Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa; J.D., William Richardson School of Law, Honolulu; Master of Law (LLM), University of Miami; Master of Education, Lesley University
McBride, Tammy Literacy Coach District/Literacy B.A., Ed., Stonehill College; M.Ed., Cambridge College
McKenna, Kayla Art Teacher Ottoson/Visual Art BFA, Art Education, Massachusetts College of Art & Design
Merkle, James Technology Engineering Teacher Ottoson/Science B.S., Technology Education, Northern Arizona University; Master of Education, Simmons College
Mitrano, Alexa Grade 3 Teacher Hardy B.S., Communication Science and Disorders, University of New Hampshire; Master of Education, Lesley University, Specialist Teacher in Reading, Lesley University
Moore, Lisa Family and Consumer Science Teacher (.4 FTE) AHS B.S. Human Nutrition, UMASS Amherst; M.S. Nutrition and Health, Simmons College; Master of Education, Fitchburg State College
Peterson, Carolyn Special Education Teacher Ottoson/Special Ed. B.A. English, Wittenberg University; Master of Arts in Teaching, Simmons College; Master of Science, Child Life, University of La Verne, La Verne California; M.S. Education, Moderate Disabilities
Pratt, Allison Social Worker Hardy/Special Ed. B.A. Psychology, St. Michael's College; Master of Social Work, Boston University
Reynolds, Nicole Family and Consumer Science Teacher (.8 FTE) Ottoson/FACS B.S. Health Education, UMASS Lowell
Thomas, Melody Wolfe Art Teacher (.3 FTE) Art - Stratton & Thompson B.S., Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise, Virginia Tech University; Master of Science, Art, Radford University
True, Emma Long Term Substitute Grade 2 Teacher Hardy Bachelors in Early Childhood Education, Lesley University
Weiss, Matthew Physics Teacher AHS/Science B.S., Physics, Worcester Polytech; M.S., Applied Math, Worcester Polytech
Administrator Name Position School/ Department Schools/Degrees
Schlenger, Joyce Early Childhood Coordinator Menotomy Preschool/Special Ed. B.A., Psychology, Cal. State Northridge; M.A. Education, UMASS Boston; Certificate of Advance Graduate Study, UMASS Boston
Conklin, Denton (Denny) Interim Social Studies Director Social Studies B.A., Secondary Education, History, Boston College; Master of Education, Boston College
Bennett, Lynne Secondary Special Education Coordinator Special Ed./AHS B.S. Psychology, Bridgewater State; Master of Social Work, Simmons College; Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership, Cambridge College  

This list was published at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, 2015.

Plan would put Stratton students in modulars next to under-construction school

Former Gibbs School eyed to ease overcrowding; ACA director responds

UPDATED, Aug. 21: Stratton School students displaced by renovation in 2016-17 will remain in modular classrooms situated near the Turkey Hill elementary school under a plan facing a Sept. 10 vote.

The School Committee facilities subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday, Aug. 12, to support the recommendation from Superintendent Kathleen Bodie. Stratton parents have strongly opposed previous plans to situate the students at Ottoson Middle School.

Stratton sign

In a second surprise, first reported here Aug. 15, the subcommittee is also considering using the building housing the former Gibbs School in East Arlington to handle increasing enrollment among town schools. Those in charge at Lesley Ellis and the Center for the Arts have commented.


YourArlington published first

"No decision has been made on that and cannot be made on that until we involve all stakeholders and figure out costs and solving both short-term and long-term enrollment concerns," subcommittee chair Cindy Starks wrote in an email Friday, Aug. 14.

"The current Gibbs tenants have been told that there are plans that involve the schools taking back the Gibbs, but some [options under consideration] do not.

"We have to carefully weigh the use of the Gibbs and other solutions for costs and for the long term and short term needs of the town."

As to Stratton, Bodie told school's parents and guardians about her proposal Aug. 13. The architectural firm HMFH of Cambridge is completing an enrollment and space study to address growing school enrollment.

"What has become clear this summer is that are various options to consider and, additionally, that a decision to place modular classrooms at a particular elementary school or the middle school next year to address enrollment growth could preclude other options that may be preferable.

Long-term needs

"Given that we need more time to make the best decisions for Arlington that meet our long-term needs that are also cost effective, I recommended last night to the Facilities Subcommittee of the School Committee that during construction all Stratton students remain at Stratton housed in modular classrooms on the adjacent blacktop and field. The recommendation was unanimously supported.

She reported DRA, the Waltham architectural firm selected to design the Stratton project, has said that we could use the cafeteria and gym during the school year, which was key to being able to make this recommendation.

"They have redesigned the sequence of the project so that the cafeteria and gym will be updated during the summer prior to reopening," she wrote. "The construction site will be separated by fencing from the blacktop and field."

She noted that other school districts, such as Needham, have handled relocation during construction in this way.

"This solution has the advantage of keeping the entire Stratton community together during construction," she wrote. "There are, of course, many details that still need to be worked out over the course of the next few months.

Assuming that the plan is approved, Bodie said she will work with Stratton Principal Michael Hanna to schedule a meeting for parents with DRA to review the modular plan.

Starks wrote that the Stratton architect is drawing up plans that to accommodate this change in plans for students.

Meeting on enrollment in September

"We had to decouple the Stratton from plans to deal with enrollment to enable us to make decisions for Stratton to keep in on time and on budget,” Starks wrote. "Keeping Stratton students on-site allows us to work within the confines of the already approved budget for the renovation."

She wrote that enrollment projections discussed among subcommittee members Aug. 12 "are also leading us to try to figure out what to do about overcrowding in some of our schools.

According to the numbers the subcommittee has, Arlington has three elementary schools -- Brackett, Thompson and Hardy -- that will need more space in the 2016-17 school year, "and then the Ottoson will explode after that," she wrote.

"So, we have many possible solutions to our growing student population, and some of them involve the use of the Gibbs."

The Gibbs was once called Junior High East and has for many years accommodated Lesley Ellis, a private school for preschool through grade eight.

Deanne Benson, head of school, wrote in an email Aug. 14 the school was notified about the population growth analysis just before the recent facilities subcommittee meeting, which she attended.

ACA makes its plea

Linda Shoemaker, executive director of Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA), responded Tuesday, Aug. 18:

"ACA has called the Gibbs Building home for 27 years. It would be extremely challenging without significant financial and logistical support from the Town to maintain seamless service and find a new home for the Arts Center on this short timeline.

"As the School Committee members consider their options, I hope they will remember the thousands of community members who need and treasure the Arlington Center for the Arts.

"Over 27 years ACA has enriched the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Arlington residents. Hundreds of Arlington families depend on ACA’s camps as the cornerstone of their summer and school vacations.

"Our youth and teen programs give creative kids and teens an important outlet and a place to call home. Our adult classes and art galleries serve hundreds a year, including seniors; our Theater hosts dozens of performances a year by small and emerging performing artists; our artist studios provide a home for a variety of studio artists and other organizations, including the Arlington Children’s Theatre. ACA’s free community events, such as Arlington Open Studios and Shakespeare in the Park add to the cultural vibrancy of our town

"The Arlington Center for the Arts is an integral part of the fabric of Arlington, and an important part of what makes Arlington an attractive place to live, work and visit. We hope the town will work with us to ensure a permanent home for the Arlington Center for the Arts."

Others affected

Fellow tenants were likewise notified, she wrote.

Lesley Ellis, like the other tenants, has two years remaining on its lease. Its parent organization, Schools for Children, owns other real estate.

"We are making plans now to secure our permanent home and will have an announcement in the fall. Lesley Ellis is a 65-year-old independent elementary/middle school specializing in our nationally recognized anti-bias curriculum," she wrote. "We are also currently piloting a visiting scientist project modeled after our well known arts program. With our newly expanded middle school Lesley Ellis has 170 students."

It was been in Arlington since 1989, at the Gibbs Building the entire time.

Two other tenants, the Kelliher Center and Learn to Grow, had not responded to requests for comment at the time of original publication.

The School Committee is planning a townwide discussion about the enrollment growth and how to handle this in September. One date under discussion is Sept. 24.

One parent's response

"As a parent and a taxpayer, I am happy that the school department and the town have decided to decouple the Stratton renovation and relocation from the town wide enrollment situation. This relocation plan allows the school department significant flexibility as it tackles the very real challenges ahead due to increased enrollment and gives it a little bit more time to come up with a cohesive town-wide strategy. Stratton is a fabulous community and will come together to make the renovation year great for the students - being together is a huge benefit of this new plan."


July 2, 1025: 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 Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, and updated Aug. 21, to add fact that this story was first reported here.

D'Agostino to retire, superintendent reports

Education administration

UPDATED, July 9: LeiLanie D'Agostino, scheduled to teach third grade at Hardy School this fall, instead will retire, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wrote in an email to Hardy parents and guardians Wednesday, July 8.

A number of Hardy parents raised issues about the appointment in June, citing the administrator's long-ago legal troubles, resolved in her favor. Other parents defended D'Agostino.

"This is the update which I promised you regarding the personnel assignment at the Hardy School, which has been the subject of public discussion," she wrote.

"I am pleased to inform you that, following the change in Ms. D'Agostino's administrative duties due to the reorganization of our data functions, which effectively amounted to abolition of the position she held, the School District and Ms. D’Agostino cooperatively explored the possible options under the 2006 agreement and have reached an amicable and fair resolution that will result in Ms. D’Agostino retiring from employment with the district.

"We look forward to letting you know the teaching staff for the third grade at Hardy as soon as it is finalized.

"Thank you for your understanding during this time."

Bodie was asked to cite the option under the 2006 agreement that permits the outcome and the date of the retirement.

"I cannot comment further," she responded July 8.

D'Agostino has also been asked to comment.

In 2005, a judge ruled in favor of D'Agostino and the school administration in a lawsuit alleging sexual, physical and emotional abuse by D'Agostino, in 2000, when she was a teacher at the Brackett School.

Following the court decision, a 2006 agreement between the administration and the Arlington Education Association, the teachers' union, permitted D'Agostino to move to administrative role. She has been the director of data integration for curriculum, instruction and assessment and continues in that position.

Some of the discussion to which Bodie refers in her statement is to extensive commentary on an email list set up by Hardy parents to focus on this issue. Some of the comments there, as recently as July 7, involved details of the lawsuit.


June 23, 2015: Controversy erupts
Opinion, June 26, 2015: D'Agostino tells her side


This report was published Wednesday, July 8, 2015, and updated July 9 with some details.

Thielman leads international institute

Jeff Thielman

Jeffrey Thielman, a member of the Arlington School Committee since 2003, is the new president and chief executive officer of the International Institute of New England.

He had been president of Cristo Rey Boston, a high school in Dorchester serving low-income residents, since January 2009. His connections to Cristo Rey Jesuit education go back to the mid-1980s, when he taught in Peru.

A news release says Thielman "brings exceptional leadership, a strategic and active approach to development, extensive experience with immigrant families and an unwavering commitment to our mission to his new role with IINE."

William Gillett, chairman of the institute's board said in the release: "The Board and senior leadership of IINE are particularly impressed with Jeff's mission-driven commitment throughout his career and believe Jeff is ideally suited to lead IINE as we build upon the solid foundation that Carolyn Benedict-Drew, the recently retired President of IINE, has established to strengthen and extend IINE's role of championing the American Dream for so many new Americans."

The International Institute of New England is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization based in Boston, with offices in Boston and Lowell as well as Manchester, N.H. Its mission is to invest in the future of cities and towns by helping refugees and immigrants become active participants in the social, political, and economic richness of American life.

While Thielman headed Cristo Rey Boston High School, which serves 390 students who must work to earn tuition and gain professional experience at more than 140 companies in greater Boston, 100 percent of its graduates since 2010 have been accepted to one or more four-year colleges. Each year about 90 percent of graduates directly enrolled in college.

An attorney, Thielman was vice president of Cristo Rey Network from January 2003 to June 2009, overseeing the start-up of 24 schools. From January to June 2009, he served as interim president of North Cambridge Catholic High School, which became Cristo Rey Boston High School.

From 2001 to 2007, he was executive director of Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation in Boston, a $22 million effort that helped launch 24 Cristo Rey high schools.

From 1998 to 2000, he was director of development at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago.


This announcement was published Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

GRAND PRIZE: Minuteman STEM students honored at national skills test

Minuteman High School in Lexington accepted a grand prize for its Girls in STEM program and a Minuteman student earned a silver medal during the 51st annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference last month in Louisville, Ky.

Minuteman’s Girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) team was honored with the top award from SkillsUSA’s Student2Student Mentoring program.

Students Sarah Joseph (class of 2015, Arlington), Kaleena Gulledge (class of 2015, Watertown), Julia Ruderman (class of 2016, Arlington) and Alison Beucler (class of 2017, Medford) represented Girls in STEM at Minuteman, along with teacher advisers Becky Quay and Sarah Ard.

SkillsUSA allows students in career and technical education to participate in a host of challenging technical and leadership competitions.

The school’s Girls in STEM Club mentored seventh- and eighth-grade girls, informed them about STEM opportunities, education and careers, and provided them with outstanding female role models. Girls in STEM and Minuteman were each awarded $500 to continue their work.

Sarah, Kaleena, Julia and Alison gave a presentation on Minuteman’s Girls in STEM program at one of the SkillsUSA University sessions. The event was attended by teachers, advisers, and industry representatives interested in how Girls in STEM was established and how it operates.

Collin Kelly of Sudbury (class of 2017) was awarded the silver medal in the Action Skills competition in which students demonstrate a technical skill to a panel of judges. Collin demonstrated the proper technique for the monitoring and maintenance of ammonia concentrations in a fish tank.

The Community Action Project team of Caitlin Monagle (class of 2016, Wellesley) and McKenzie Hartman (class of 2016, Sudbury) finished fourth, just out of the medals, for their project stenciling storm drains in Wellesley. Danny Lessard (Medford) competed in the postgraduate plumbing category and finished in the middle of a talented group of contestants.

Michaela Ganimian (class of 2016, Stow) attended the Conference as a SkillsUSA State Officer-elect and served as a voting delegate, as did Joseph and Gulledge.

Accompanying the Minuteman student delegation as advisers were Michelle Roche, director of career and technical education; Alice Ofria, environmental technology teaching aide; Kyle Romano, plumbing instructor; Terry Regan, environmental technology instructor and SkillsUSA co-advisor; as well as Quay and Ard.

Students Alison, Julia, Caitlin, McKenzie and Collin, along with Regan, Ard and Ofria, joined in the community-service project by painting, cleaning up, weeding and maintaining the community gardens at the Youth Build campus in Louisville.

Team Massachusetts also fared well at the conference, winning 41 medals -- 20 gold, four silver and 17 bronze -- for the sixth-highest medal total in of any state in the country.

According to information from SkillsUSA, there were more than 6,000 contestants, each of whom was a gold medalist at the state level. Nearly 1,100 medals were awarded, along with 480 recognition awards. One hundred contests took place, judged by 1,100 professionals from business and labor.


This report was published Saturday, July 4, 2015.

Architect chosen to design Stratton renovation, modular classrooms

DRA, the Waltham-based firm that fashioned the feasibility study to renovate the Stratton School, will design the project as well as the modular buildings that will house Stratton students during the 2016-2017 school year.

Stratton sign

In an email to Stratton parents and guardians Thursday, July 2, Bodie wrote that the Permanent Town Building Committee voted this week to confirm an agreement with DRA, long involved in Arlington elementary-school projects.
HMFH Architects Inc. of Cambridge is working on a space study to help Arlington public schools plan for the best use of its facilities as enrollment grows. The report will include detailed enrollment projections by a demographer who is studying housing turnover and population shifts in Arlington.

This study will inform final decisions about the site locations and the number of modular classrooms needed for the Stratton renovation year and for additional enrollment pressures. Bodie wrote.

School officials plan to make a final decision about modular buildings in late summer or early fall.

A meeting about these issues is expected later this summer, she wrote.

The Permanent Town Building Committee plans to meet this summer. The meetings are open to the public, and meeting notices are posted here >> 

In May, about 30 came to the Stratton's cafeteriaabout 30 came to the Stratton's cafeteria to learn, suggest ideas and express comments about plans to relocate their students for a year to modular classrooms in other schools.

As the meeting of the School Committee's feasibility subcommittee stretched 40 minutes longer than scheduled, parent Leigh Panettiere got to one underlying issue: "Keep our kids out of Ottoson .... Nobody thinks this a good idea."

Subcommittee Chair Cindy Starks spoke as a teacher who has conducted classes in modular classrooms in Lexington: "I wish we had more money" to do whatever we wanted in the face of expanding enrollment, but "we have to live within the constraints the town has given us. We're all trying as hard as we can."

These positions generally reflect two of the chief sides in the debate about relocating students in 2016-17 while Stratton undergoes its long-awaited, $12 million 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 Thursday, July 2, 2015.

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