Dear Lowell Public Schools Families, Faculty, Staff, and Community Partners,
It has been a busy month in the Lowell Public Schools, as everyone came back to the classrooms from winter break re-energized and ready to learn.
We had the honor earlier this month of having Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll visit Lowell High School the day before they were sworn into office. They had a chance to learn about the great work of our partners at Catie's Closet, as well as tour (and shoot some hoops at) the new Raymond Riddick Athletic Center. We hope they will come back to visit many times in the years to come.
I am always impressed by the talent, dedication, and compassion of Lowell students - all of which are highlighted in this month's newsletter. The Winter Dance Concert at Lowell High School was a resounding success; the quality of the show is a testament to the hard work of both the student dancers and their teachers. On the basketball court, the middle school season is in full swing and the play has been fierce. The games are very competitive and a lot of fun to watch. At the Stoklosa Middle School, a group of students recently spent their Saturday morning giving back to the community by preparing hygiene bags for people in need in the neighborhood.
Our Community Schools strategy continues to flourish, with staff brainstorming creative ways to bring families into our schools and build partnerships with local organizations and businesses to meet their needs. You can see a great example of one of our community school's efforts in this newsletter - the Greenhalge School's "Braids and Fades" event - where students were able to receive free haircuts and styling services as well as culturally-appropriate hair and skin care products to take home. In even better news, the district was recently awarded a five-year $2.5 million federal grant to build up and continue the work in our Community Schools, which you can also read more about in this newsletter.
Finally, as you know, weather in New England can be unpredictable and sometimes cause us to make the difficult decision of canceling or delaying school openings. When that occurs, you will receive a phone call, text, and email. If you are not receiving communication from the district, please contact your child's school to make sure your contact information is correct. These notices will also be posted on the district's Facebook and Twitter pages, as well on the Boston TV stations, WCAP radio, the Lowell Sun, and Inside Lowell.
Hopefully we will only see sunny skies going forward.
Joel D. Boyd
Superintendent of Schools
Braids and Fades
Scissors are snipping. Clippers are buzzing. A blanket of hair covers the tiled floor. Through the doorway, fingers move quickly and rhythmically transforming straight hair into beautiful braids as women sort through hair extensions and skin care products, chatting in Spanish, Portuguese, and English.
Must be a scene from a high-end salon or a corner barbershop, right? Nope. It’s a classroom at the Greenhalge Elementary School.
After school on January 24, families came to the school to participate in the first “Braids and Fades” event. Barbers Alex Delgado and Willie Cabrera from Billy’s Barbershop on Andover St. set up a pop-up barbershop in a classroom, providing free haircuts to Greenhalge students and their siblings. Next door, teacher Shalisa Lamb and Family Liaison Abby Phillips are braiding the hair of both girls and boys looking for a new style in the new year – some opt for one or two large, heavy braids, others choose meticulously crafted small tight braids. Everyone is encouraged to shine with their own style at the Greenhalge.
Greenhalge Community Schools Manager Monica Melo Ernest and Social Worker Darcie Coleman said the idea was hatched when the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Subcommittee of their Family Engagement Committee was brainstorming ideas about what programs and services they could offer to families. They realized that many of the Greenhalge students, particularly those of color, could use some assistance in maintaining their hair styles or maybe could use a good trim and styling.
“We were really looking for ways to meet some of the unmet needs of our families,” said Coleman. “And this is really working out well.”
The Greenhalge is one of Lowell Public Schools’ eight schools that run under the Community Schools model. Community schools are places where the strengths and needs of students, families, and neighborhood are addressed through partnership. A network of local agencies bring resources, services, and programs directly to the school buildings— these services could include things like an onsite food pantry, clothing and toiletries, vision and dental, adult English classes, mental health care, family cooking classes, access to resume building and job opportunities, tutoring, mentoring programs, and much more.
What better illustration of a “community school” is there than a barbershop set up in a classroom?
“This is great and so easy,” said Cheryl Brazeau, whose son, Jayden, a 2nd grader, got a pretty cool buzz cut. “Money has been tight, my van broke down, so this has been a huge help for us.”
In addition to the braids and fades, families enjoyed pizza and were able to take home goody bags filled with culturally appropriate hair and skin care products.
When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you’ll do better in math class!
“We are hoping this is the first of many of these kinds of events,” said Melo, as she scrolled through her calendar and began planning to hold this event again in the Spring.
Lowell Public Schools Awarded $2.5 Million Community Schools Grant
Lowell Public Schools has been awarded a 5-year, $2.5 million Full-Service Community Schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the district's ongoing work to partner with local agencies who help our students thrive in and beyond school.
Community schools are places where the strengths and needs of students, families, and neighborhoods are addressed through partnership. A network of local agencies brings resources, services, and programs directly to the school buildings—including things like onsite food pantries, clothing and toiletries, vision and dental care, adult English classes, mental health care services, family cooking classes, access to resume building and job opportunities, tutoring, mentoring programs, and much more.
“The Community Schools strategy is essential, especially in a large urban district like Lowell where so many outside factors have a huge impact on student success,” said Superintendent of Schools Joel Boyd. “I am appreciative of this grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education and their acknowledgement of this integrative approach toward making schools the center of community activity, which ultimately strengthens conditions for student learning, development, and sense of belonging.”
The Community Schools program in Lowell began in 2015 at the Career Academy and was expanded in 2022 through ESSER funds to include the seven schools in the district with the highest-need populations (known as Renaissance schools) including: the Bartlett Community Partnership School, Butler Middle School, Greenhalge Elementary School, Lowell High School, Robinson Middle School, Sullivan Middle School, and Stoklosa Middle School.
“We started our partnership through the Community Schools model at the Career Academy seven years ago and have since grown to place our local teacher mentors on-site in 11 district schools,” said Rhea Gordon, CEO of Elevate New England. “Our goal is to reach an additional 200+ students through programming and leadership courses next year through the increased resources of the new grant. It will support our work to build lifelong relationships that get LPS students to and through graduation.”
Lowell Community Schools is a coalition of youth- and family-serving organizations convened by Lowell Public Schools to address the holistic strengths and needs of our city. Since 2015, the coalition has sought to address racial and socioeconomic opportunity gaps through the Full-Service Community Schools model of connecting students, families, and neighbors with a network to thrive. Partners in this coalition include: 2020 Onsite, Abisi Adult Education, African Women Immigrant Refugee Care, Bike Connector, Billy’s Barbershop, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Catie’s Closet, Commonwealth Oral Mobile Health Services, Community Teamwork, Inc., Green Dragons, Elevate New England, JobCorps, Lowell Community Health Center, MassHire Career Center of Lowell, Greater Lowell Workforce Development Board, Mill City Grows, Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Middlesex Community College, Open Table, Project LEARN, UMass Lowell, and others.
“Our partnership with Lowell Public Schools has made school gardens and food education available for thousands of kids across the city,” said Jessica Wilson, Executive Director of Mill City Grows. “Working with LPS and other partners, we can do what we do best in an environment where families are well supported with services from other organizations, in a place where they are already spending time."
In all, the Biden-Harris administration awarded $63 million in grant funds to 42 school districts, education agencies, and non-profit organizations. Lowell Public Schools is the lone entity in Massachusetts to receive this funding.
The district was awarded this competitive grant for its strong commitment to key elements of the Community Schools model including the schools’ systems of student support and the robust expanded learning time made possible by after-school and summer school programs available at all schools through the state's largest 21st Century Community Learning Center program. The Community Schools strategy centers around four pillars: Integrated supports, expanded and enriched learning time, active family and community, and collaborative leadership and practices to support high-quality teaching.
“Community Schools are an essential component of accelerating our students’ learning and supporting their social, emotional, and mental health, and deepening community partnerships,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who visited Lowell High School last year, said in a press release announcing the grants. “At the height of the pandemic, community schools connected students and families with vital nutrition assistance, mental, physical, and other health services, and expanded learning opportunities. This work continues today because we know that students learn best when there is a comprehensive and holistic approach to meeting their needs.”
Cardona’s visit to Lowell High School was coordinated and hosted by Congresswoman Lori Trahan, a LHS alumnus. The visit included a discussion with students around their needs to recover academically from the pandemic, including mental health support and workforce opportunities. As a former member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Trahan has consistently supported funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Full-Service Community Schools grants.
In Lowell, the grant funds will be used to add to and strengthen the resources and partnerships available through our community schools, to purchase supplies for citywide communication and family engagement, and to renovate spaces in schools to better accommodate place-based agency services for students and families.
Alumni Return to Career Academy
“Anyone can come here and talk to them, but when it is someone who has been in their shoes it just hits harder,” said Anthony Mitchell, 25, a successful entrepreneur and 2016 graduate of Lowell Public Schools’ Career Academy.
On Thursday morning, Mitchell and 2017 Career Academy graduate Wilmer Santos, 24, a journeyman electrician, returned to their alma mater to speak with a group of students as part of the school’s Career Speaker Series.
“I want to show that even though I went to school here just like them, I still made it through and am successful today,” said Santos. “Nothing can stop you besides yourself.”
The Career Academy, located on Smith Street in the city’s Highlands neighborhood is an 88-student high school program aimed at re-engaging students who have gotten off-track in their education journey due to a number of factors and require additional supports, a smaller learning environment, flexible scheduling, and competency-based teaching and learning. Career Academy graduates receive a Lowell High School diploma.
Santos said he always had a hard time engaging in school and “just didn’t want to do anything.” He came to the Career Academy as a Freshman and admittedly did not put in too much effort his first two years. However, as junior year hit, he began to mature.
“I got to know the teachers here and realized they are really good people,” he said. “I started building relationships and thinking about the future.”
The Career Academy helped him get involved with Community Teamwork’s (CTI) YouthBuild program, where he learned carpentry skills, earned OSHA-certification to work with power tools and learned how to work productively as part of a team.
With YouthBuild, Santos and Mitchell both helped to build two new rooms on the stage in the basement of the school.
Santos recalled helping to build a deck and stairs on a house under construction in the city’s Pawtucketville neighborhood and the feeling of accomplishment he felt as the project took shape.
“I found that to be really cool,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to continue with carpentry, but it definitely made me want to jump into one of the trades.”
Santos’ uncle is an electrician and he started working with him after high school, as well as attending night classes two nights a week at Greater Lowell Technical High School, where he earned his electrician’s license.
Today, he works all across the state on a variety of projects from home renovations in the suburbs, to newly constructed giant office and apartment buildings in Boston. He likes being able to work in different communities and explore the different restaurants and cultural offerings in those areas. Every job is a new adventure.
“I get up early and I work hard,” Santos said. “If your mindset is straight-forward and you are dedicated, nothing can stop you.”
Mitchell said as a young teenager he dealt with a lot of anger issues and had no interest in school.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said. “I started partying and hanging out with the wrong crowd. I always had my head down, sleeping in class.”
After being unsuccessful at Chelmsford High School and Lowell High School, he enrolled in the Career Academy, a school he credits with much of his success today because “they always tried their best to give us all of the opportunities.”
As a senior in high school, he used his videography skills to start his first small business – shooting music videos, football games, and other events for clients.
“If you become valuable and offer value the money will follow,” he said.
After high school, he sold cars, a job he said taught him how to sell, build relationships, and talk to people.
He found himself jumping from one job to another, never really finding that perfect fit. That was when he decided he needed to change his approach.
“I knew in my heart I was so much bigger than what I was doing,” Mitchell said. “I invested in myself; I went all-in on myself.”
Mitchell said he began networking, meeting as many people as he could and learning about what they do. He also learned about how money and investing works and how to best grow the revenue one is earning.
Today, he runs five online businesses and travels speaking to groups of people about how to make and grow their money.
“Too many people chase money,” he said. “You need to chase knowledge and problems; once you find the solutions to the problems the money will follow.”
Mitchell owns several properties in Texas, Florida, and Tennessee he rents out through Airbnb, runs an online shopping club with 300 monthly clients, is a wholesale real estate seller, and is involved in NFTs and cryptocurrency. He has a diverse business portfolio, works for himself, and doesn’t have to punch a time clock.
He told the students that even though they may not like doing school work, the basics of math and English are important to future success.
“Just bust this out,” he said. “Learning this stuff will help you in the real world.”
He also advised them to be nice to everyone because “you never know who or what you might need in five years.”
The students in the class were asked to share what they are interested in doing in the future. They have big goals including: dental school, studying machine tech at GLTHS, cosmetology school, Law school, Information Technology and coding, and investing in real estate and gambling.We are looking forward to seeing all they accomplish and having them back as presenters as part of the Career Speaker Series in the future!
Gov. Maura Healey Visits Lowell High School
The day before they were sworn-in to their new roles, Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll visited Lowell High.
They had the opportunity to tour the new gym, but also to participate alongside other elected officials, community members, students, and staff in putting together 1,000 Confidence Bags for Catie's Closet. Confidence Bags for teenage girls include feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush.
Gov. Healey had the opportunity to meet Ann-Marie Sousa, who founded Catie's Closet in honor of her daughter, Catie Bisson (LHS 2008). Catie died in March 2010 of Loeys-Dietz Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects connective tissue. In her 20 years of life, Catie underwent 40 surgeries, but despite facing incredible challenges she was always thinking about other people. She told her mom about the incredible need she saw among her peers at Lowell High, which made the creation of Catie's Closet an obvious decision when they were looking for ways to honor her memory. Ann-Marie's sisters Mickey Cockrell and Denise Trombly jumped on board to help make the vision a reality.
Lowell High is home to the first Catie's Closet, opened in 2010. The organization, which provides a dignified (free) "shopping" experience for students in need of clothing, accessories, and toiletries, now has locations in 120 schools and also provides goods to agencies such as Community Teamwork, Inc. Catie's Closets care for more than 80,000 kids every day. Each closet location costs about $10,000 a year to maintain. The needs of the students go far beyond T-shirts and jeans. The closets include items like career clothes for job interviews, as well as feminine hygiene products, underwear, socks, flip flops, and deodorant. For more information about Catie's Closet, including how to donate: https://www.catiescloset.org/
At the Bartlett the Dragons R.O.A.R
At the Bartlett Community Partnership School, their core values (Respect, Ownership, Achievement, Responsibility) are not just used to create posters and website slogans; they are lived every day.
"We are constantly reinvesting in our core values," said Principal Peter Holtz at January's Dragon Distinction breakfast where 43 students, nominated by their teachers, were celebrated for embodying and modeling the core value of the month - Responsibility.
Holtz said the teachers and staff at the school weave the core values into everything they do in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in the halls, and out on the playground. They provide grade-appropriate explanations. and examples of what each means so they are not just vague concepts to the students. When students display one of the values they are incentivized and recognized; when they do something contrary to the core values they receive a refresher lesson on the importance of the values.
At the Bartlett, were community partnership is in the name, they are producing not only great students by great citizens.
Middle School Basketball Season Opens
The gym was rocking at the Sullivan Middle School on January 10 as the lady Huskies, undefeated last season, held their first home game, taking on the Stoklosa Falcons. Both teams were fierce and the game was neck and neck for the full hour. However, in the end, the Stoklosa Falcons pulled off the upset, claiming victory 40-36 in a hard-fought battle. Great work by all of the ladies on the court!
Lowell High School Winter Dance Concert
On January 11, the students in the Lowell High dance program put on an incredible show. Congratulations to all of the dancer who put in so much effort and brought their all to the stage and to their talented teachers - Rose Sheehan, Carolyn Breton-Pantos, and Heather McHugh. We cannot wait to see what the Spring concert brings!
Stoklosa Students Give Back
Early on a recent Saturday morning, while you were still in bed (no shame, it’s okay to sleep in), two dozen Stoklosa Middle School students were busy at school participating in the monthly Project Giveback activities.
The morning began with two team-building exercises in the gym. In the first, the students were asked to put together teams of seven people each. They stood in a circle holding hands and had to keep the chain of people together as they wriggled and contorted their bodies to pass a hula hoop around the circle. The girls from the basketball team were masterful at this task.
In the second exercise, Community Schools Manager Matt Gillis broken the group into four teams, each taking a corner of the gym as their home base. The goal? Defend your bowling pin against the assault of dodgeballs raining in from every other team, while simultaneously working to knock down their bowling pins. The competition was fast and fierce; full of laughs, screeches and some disappointment. Assistant Principals Patrick Swett and Tara Fletcher – two of the most competitive people around, really got into the action!
Once the exercises were complete, Gillis explained why he let the student choose their teams in the first exercise, but assigned them to teams in the second – in life you don’t always get to choose who you are around in school, work, or the neighborhood.
“We all have to learn to get along,” he said. “If we do learn to work together and get along we can do some really great things together.”
The students then headed to the cafeteria for doughnuts and juice, followed by sorting and stuffing bags full of essential hygiene items – soap, deodorant, lip balm, maxi pads and tampons, moisturizer, body wash, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer.
The boxes and boxes of items sprawled across the cafeteria were provided by Hope and Comfort, a Needham-based non-profit working to end hygiene insecurity.
The bags packed by the Stoklosa students were donated to Coalition for a Better Acre to help the organization take care of people in need in the Acre neighborhood.
Spuds in Space
Potatoes in space? Look out NASA, the young engineers at Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School are preparing for launch!
On the evening of January 26, the cafeteria was packed with families enjoying STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) Night, the first the school has held since 2019. The evening's activities included creating an "spudnaut" - an astronaut hero from a potato and some crafting supplies, followed by building a space capsule to shoot him into space. Families had to plan out the design of their space capsule ahead of time, working with a virtual budget of $10 to "spend" on available supplies. The activity brought out the creative and competitive sides of the kids and parents alike. Great job!
Box at the Stok
It is time to Box at the Stok!
Lowell Police Department Sgt. Mike Marshall (LHS '96) and Officer Emaly Bouasri (LHS '08) were on hand at the Stoklosa Middle School to teach the fundamentals of the sport - from the proper stance, to how to protect your core and the mechanics of the four types of punches: jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. They previously held a similar clinic at the Butler Middle School and are planning to expand to other schools in the district.
Marshall and Bouasri are two of the officers who volunteer their time at the Lowell Police Youth Services Program’s Boxing Club, which began in early 2022 and moved to a space on the second floor of the Portuguese American Lowell Youth Center last June. The Club offers free boxing lessons and mentorship to kids ages 10-18.
While boxing is a standalone sport, it is also a great workout used in the training regiments of many athletes who compete in other sports, and can be a fun way to stay fit and make friends, as well as build confidence even for kids who are not interested in competing in team or individual sports.
For more information about the Boxing Club, email LPDYouthServices@lowellma.gov
PreK Registration for Fall 2023 is Now Open!
Lowell High Open House for 8th Graders!
Middle School Wrestling Clinic
Looking for something fun to do during February vacation? Ever think about exploring the sport of wrestling? Our friends a the Lowell Police Department are looking for middle school students of all genders to participate in this fun clinic. Register here: http://bit.ly/3zoLPuS
How Much Can You Read?
After School at the Club
Free Tax Preparation
Tax time can be stressful. Let CTI do the work for you! They are offering FREE tax preparation services. See details below.
Mental Health Help Available
Mill City Grows Winter Markets
Don’t let winter stop you from eating fresh local fruits and vegetables! Fresh, locally grown produce is now available for purchase through April 2023 at Mill City Grows’ (MCG) Indoor Winter Mobile Markets at UMass Lowell University Crossing and MCG’s ROOT Kitchen.
Shoppers can enjoy a variety of seasonal vegetables grown on farm sites in the City of Lowell as well as fresh produce sourced from area farmers and growers. Mill City Grows Mobile Markets accept SNAP/EBT, cash, credit, debit, and Mill City Grows E-Gift Cards (a great stocking stuffer: https://squareup.com/gift/A6CVNHCK5PKAE/order) for payment. All markets also accept HIP (Healthy Incentives Program), a SNAP benefit that provides $1 back for every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables purchased directly from a HIP authorized farm or vendor. SNAP customers are encouraged to ask about HIP discounts while shopping.
The full Indoor Winter Mobile Market schedule can be viewed and downloaded at https://www.millcitygrows.org/mobile-markets/, including multilingual schedules in Khmer, Spanish, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian Creole, and Pashto. Please follow Mill City Grows on Facebook and Instagram for all scheduling updates or call 978-455-2620. The full schedule is listed below:
2022-2023 MILL CITY GROWS INDOOR WINTER MOBILE MARKET SCHEDULE
University Crossing Atrium at UMass Lowell *
220 Pawtucket Street, Lowell
Monthly on Wednesdays from 2pm – 4pm
December 14, 2022
January 18, 2023
February 15, 2023
March 15, 2023
April 19, 2023
* Parking is available at the Pawtucket Metered Lot across from University Crossing at 219 Pawtucket Street.
Mill City Grows ROOT Kitchen
19 Hall Street, Lowell
Bi-weekly on Thursdays from 2pm – 5pm
December 15, 2022
January 5 & 19, 2023
February 2 & 16, 2023
March 2 & 16, 2023
Lunch is My Favorite Subject
There were a lot of great things happening in our cafeterias this month. Who wouldn't want to dig into this yummy black bean chili frito bowl?!