Dear Lowell Public Schools Families, Faculty, Staff, and Community Partners,
As we wrap up the first half of the school year, I would like to take a moment to thank all of you – students, teachers, staff, and parents/grandparents/guardians for all of your hard work. It has been a year full of accomplishments and successes thus far and I am sure that will continue as we head into 2023.
The saying “it takes a village,” may be cliché, but it certainly is true when it comes to educating and caring for our children and school community. Part of that village includes community partnerships.
We are fortunate in Lowell to have so many strong partnerships that make our community a great place to live, work, and play.
In this newsletter you will find several of those partnerships at work including: Project Learn connecting Lowell High students to professionals in the IT field; Lowell Police officers connecting with and introducing students at the Butler School to boxing; UMass Lowell’s School of Education offering dual enrollment classes for Lowell High students interested in education; and Care Solace helping students, staff, and families get connected with mental health services.
It has been wonderful this year to see so many events at our schools and to have our students out in the community, like when the talented kids from the Pyne Arts Magnet School visited Rogers Hall recently to entertain the residents and the students at the Robinson Middle School put on a musical showcase that impressed their family, friends, and teachers. You can find photos and videos from both of those events in this newsletter.
I hope you all enjoy your winter break and have very happy, healthy holidays with your families and friends.
Joel D. Boyd
Superintendent of Schools
WBZ-TV's Jacob Wycoff Visits the Shaughnessy!
It was a fun and exciting morning on December 8 at the Shaughnessy Elementary School as WBZ-TV Channel 4 Meteorologist Jacob Wycoff stopped by for a visit! He started the morning in Ms. Nolan's STEM classroom with a group of students who excel in STEM. They talked about weather and even went live on the air for all of New England to see!
The fun then moved into the gym for a larger presentation, where Jacob explained how his love for all things weather, which began when he was 3 or 4 years old, led to the career he has today. For his 10th birthday he was given a videotape about tornadoes that he watched so many times that it broke! Jacob explained to the students how he builds the forecast each day using computer models, radar, and satellite images, as well as how he presents it on camera - using a green screen and no teleprompter.
In addition to building and presenting weather forecasts, he also gets to go out in the field as an environmental reporter bringing all kinds of interesting Science-related stories to life - from how scientists use drones to collect whale snot, to what life is like at the International Space Station, to what we can do to help care for the Earth. Students asked great questions about weather phenomena like tornadoes, career questions including how much education it takes to become a meteorologist and why Jacob chose that path, and of of course - how much snow we will see this winter. Jacob said it appears temperatures will be warmer than usual this year, but we can still expect to get 30-40 inches of snow - good news for all - he says there WILL be a few snow days!
Jacob left the students with some important pieces of advice: always remember where you came from and be humble, make a difference in your community, know your classmates and co-workers, don't be afraid to admit when you are wrong and learn from those mistakes, love what you do, and family always comes first.
Lowell's Ms. (Mr.) Frizzle
The students at the Morey Elementary School never know who they may encounter in their classroom on any given day – Willy Wonka, a cowboy, one of Santa’s elves, or maybe even SpongeBob.
Under those silly capes, ties, hats, and character costumes is a truly dedicated educator on which the students know they can rely – PreK and 2nd grade Special Education teacher Mike Cooney.
“Mike is the Morey School’s Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus series), but better,” said Morey School Principal Kate McLaughlin. “He brings joy to his work and to the school community. He just makes everything better.”
McLaughlin added when the school staff is having a particularly rough day or busy week, Cooney sends out e-cards to everyone to lift their spirits. When the school’s custodian, Mike Cappotto, died unexpectedly earlier this year Cooney headed to his workshop and build a reading bench in his honor that now sits in the school’s lobby.
On Saturday December 17, Cooney was at Fenway Park – one of 30 teachers from around New England honored as members of the Fenway Bowl Honor Roll as part of the festivities surrounding the Wasabi Fenway Bowl. The game, which marked the first college football game ever played at Fenway Park, pitted the University of Cincinnati Bearcats against the University of Louisville Cardinals.
Honor Roll recipients were chosen from more than 200 nominations of educators who go above and beyond to support their students.
Cooney was nominated by Morey 2nd grade teacher Susan Uvanni, in whose classroom he works, assisting students with their lessons as part of an inclusive classroom.
“He is an incredible person and an absolute pleasure to work with; the kindest, most humble human being I’ve ever known,” Uvanni said. “No one can carry his shoes.”
During the pandemic, Cooney kept a full schedule of remotely teaching some of the students who were struggling the most with the different way of learning and created daily read aloud videos (in full costume) for students to watch on YouTube; During his prep and lunch time, he rode his bicycle from his home in Chelmsford to the school every day to pass out lunches and check-in with families. He continues to read aloud to students in person every Friday.
It is important for Cooney to support these students and their families because he knows what it is like to struggle, financially and educationally.
When he was 10-years-old, Cooney and his brother were removed from their family home in Dorchester and entered the state system. He was placed with a distant relative in Brockton and attended six schools in seven years. In school he struggled with reading, a skill he says he still has not fully mastered today.
“I know from the kids I work with and from my own experience that for many of them, their listening comprehension is much higher than their reading ability,” he said. “I love to read aloud to them to keep them interested and engaged in reading and they really get into the stories, understand and remember them. I dress up when I read because I’m not a good reader, so I figure the costumes will distract the students from noticing."
Growing up, Cooney never expected he would become a teacher. He studied Economics at UMass Amherst. But, he also took American Sign Language classes because the family he was living with when he was 17-years-old had a deaf daughter and he wanted to be able to communicate with her.
That skill led him to a job teaching at the Helen Keller National Center, working with deaf and blind students, and earning his master’s degree in Education. He went on to work at the Boston Higashi School, a Japanese run school for students with autism and came to Lowell as a special education teacher in 1995, teaching at the Demonstration and City and Arts Magnet schools. He spent 23 years at the Reilly Elementary School before landing at the Morey in 2018.
Teaching for that long takes endurance, and Cooney certainly has that. He has run 35 marathons all in under 3 hours’ time, captured 2 individual national titles, and 4 USA relay age records. His knee does not allow him to run anymore, so he rides his bike to and from school every day and goes for longer rides on the weekends. Exercise, he says, helps him to clear his mind and decompress.
On a recent afternoon in Ms. Uvanni’s class, Mr. Cooney is dressed as a very professional looking elf.
He sits at a table at the rear of the room working with three students – today’s lesson is addition and subtraction of two-digit numbers. He writes on the desk with dry erase markers and the team works each problem out together.
The way arithmetic is taught today relies less on memorization and more on understanding where numbers stand in relation to each other. The goal is to break each equation down by making one of the numbers a “friendly” number (one that ends in “0”). For instance, if the problem is 48 + 24, one would see that 48 is closest to a “friendly” number, and it needs 2 to reach it. So, you take those 2 from the 24, making the new equation 50 + 22; the students quickly come to the answer of 72.
Cooney’s style is gentle, encouraging, and patient. If a student is having difficulty with a concept he pivots and explains it in a different way until they understand and begin completing the work themselves.
When they nail it, their reward is a fist bump and a smile; that encourages them to keep working as the long school day comes to an end.
The inclusive classroom makes it possible to give all of the kids the attention they need and allows for different ways of teaching to be utilized to meet the needs and learning styles of the students.
Even after nearly three decades of working with students, Cooney says he still thrives on seeing his students grow and make progress and they energize him every day.
“I love seeing the preschool kids in the morning, for them every day is a fresh new day,” he said. “One of them calls me Daddy, another calls me Bubba. They really put a smile on my face.”
As expected, the humble Cooney said he’s honored by the recognition, but “I don’t think I do anything more than what everyone else here does.”
“He will say he just does what everyone else does, but that’s not true,” said Uvanni. “Lowell is better for having him.”
LHS Students Network with IT Professionals
Lowell High School (LHS) Senior Adedayo Sanusi has her sights set on becoming a web developer and is already well on her way. This year, she re-sparked interest in an after school Girls Who Code club at LHS with support from local nonprofit, Project LEARN.
On November 17, Adedayo was among six LHS student leaders passionate about IT and computer science who were invited to network with local industry professionals, and serve as student panelists.
“Flip the Script: An IT Roundtable Discussion” held at Project LEARN’s Youth Innovation Space, was a collaboration between Project LEARN, Middlesex 3 Coalition, UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, and MassHire. As an intern for Project LEARN, Adedayo gained firsthand experience in the behind-the-scenes planning of the event.
“Students like Adedayo are so driven to get involved and give back to the community,” said Mira Bookman, Project LEARN’s Program Director. “For my team and I, ‘Flip the Script’ means uplifting the voices of student leaders, and creating a forum for open dialogue between students, industry professionals, and workforce resources.”
The roundtable was moderated by Lowell High School 2022 Distinguished Alumnus and Project LEARN Board Member Siddhi Shah Chheong, the Head of Strategy Development for MilliporeSigma.
Kenneth Chap, a LHS senior and co-founder of The Programming Initiative (TPI), asked how representation of Lowell students can be increased in hiring.
Michael Bogdan, President of Avail Project Management, said he hires employees based on experience.
“Internships are key to gaining experience early on,” Bogdan advised. “Companies should do more to strengthen the talent pipeline in a way that serves the needs of their company.”
Sanusi asked the group what challenges they face with diverse hiring.
Sam Francois, a Senior Advanced Research Engineer for CommScope in Lowell said he studied at Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he was among the 2 percent of the student body who was black. He said he is also “the only person at work who looks like me.”
“The pools that are being recruited from don’t always reflect the community they’re in,” he said.
Francois added that although an employer should do more to work through existing affinity groups or diverse professional societies in an effort to make people in those groups more aware of career opportunities.
The Director of Internal Communications at NetScout in Westford, Karen McCloskey, said it can be difficult to attract young diverse candidates to work in the suburbs when they would rather be in Boston or Cambridge. However, NetScout is actively working to get young people interested in their company by hosting hack-a-thons in different locations as a “fun way for us to get to know the students and for them to get to know us.”
When TPI co-founder and LHS junior, Ibraheem Amin, asked what steps high school students should take to break into the IT field, moderator Siddhi Shah Chhoeng was quick to respond.
“Having IT knowledge is great,” said Chhoeng, “but it is more about having a desire to continue learning, having creative problem-solving skills, and good time management skills.”
Looking to the future, Victoria Prak, a LHS senior who is a member of both TPI and Girls Who Code, asked about the challenges facing the IT sector in the next five years and how we can work together to address these issues.
Tom O’Donnell, Director of UMass Lowell’s iHub, said security, privacy, and closing the equity gap on issues like broadband access, will continue to be big challenges in IT. Today, more and more discoveries in life sciences are being made through the use of IT tools rather than time working in the research lab, which is why it’s critical to build community connections that strengthen IT education.
Lowell High senior Elyjah Delius, Vice President of the school’s chapter of the Business Professionals of America, asked the attendees about pitfalls they faced in their journeys, professionally or personally, from which they learned.
“All of these experiences you have are opportunities to practice the skills that will take you far,” said Stephen Oliver, a professor at Salem State University and Project LEARN Board Member. “Say one thing every day in class and develop the habit of showing up.”
One of Lowell’s strengths is that it is a tight-knit community. “All of the resources are there,” said LZ Nunn, Project LEARN’s Executive Director. “Our job is to connect students with them.”
Round One. Ding. Ding.
“One. Jab. One. Jab. Two. Cross. Two. Cross. One, two. Jab, cross.”
The gym full of seventh-graders at the Butler Middle school echoes with the sounds of young boxers in training. The athletes are light on their feet, bouncing forward from their fighter’s stance in rhythm with the commands being called out by Lowell Police Officer Emaly Bouasri (LHS ’08).
These kids are just about ready to take on Micky Ward! Ok, well not quite yet – it is only their first day of boxing after all.
Lowell Police Sgt. Mike Marshall (LHS ’96) and Officer Emaly Bouasri are special guests this in Butler Physical Education teachers Scott Boyle and Clarzell Pearl’s gym classes, offering Intro to Boxing lessons. The students are learning how to set in a proper fighter’s stance, as well as the four types of punches: jab, cross, uppercut, and hook.
“We are not here to teach you how to fight,” emphasizes Marshall. “We are here to teach you about the sport of boxing.”
Marshall added that 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.
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 in June. The Club offers free boxing lessons and mentorship to kids ages 10-18.
“You wouldn’t believe some of the kids we get in the boxing gym, you would never think they are boxers by looking at them,” said Marshall. “Some of them do not play sports at all, but the gym is a great place for them and they really learn a lot and like it.”
Butler Middle School Principal Jaime Moody said she and her staff are focused on providing opportunities for their students to not only thrive academically, but also socially, emotionally, and physically.
It is important to her to help mold well-rounded young people who care for themselves, their peers, and their community.
“This boxing and fitness program is a great way for the kids to be exposed to something new while also building relationships with police officers so they have more adults they know they can trust and go to if they need to,” Moody said.
'Tis the Season
The residents at Rogers Hall kicked off the holiday season in style on the afternoon of December 9 with a visit from some talented students and staff from the Pyne Arts Magnet School.
They enjoyed performances from the Pyne Arts Chorus, the Drama Enrichment Ensemble who performed a series of humorous monologues, received snowmen handmade by members of the Student Advisory Board, and were treated to the vocal stylings of Math Coach Audrey Crawford-Rivera and a violin performance by Music Teacher Tinson Lam.
The afternoon concluded with a sing-a-long that got everyone into the holiday spirit. Several of the seniors remarked on how impressed they were by the talent of the performers; and one warned that we should hide Mr. Lam from being scooped up by the Boston Pops!
Videos from the day will be posted on this FB page, but can also be found on the district's YouTube account: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuHemrZZfxOUpyzeA9Bq08Q
Growing Future Teachers
Lowell High School Junior Nila Rivera is not sure what career path she wants to pursue. As part of her exploration, she decided to take the first dual enrollment course offered to Lowell High students by the UMass Lowell School of Education – “Teaching in the Inclusive Classroom.”
“I knew the skills of being a teacher would be good to have in whatever I decide to do in life,” said Rivera, who added she has been like a peer-teacher for her classmates since middle school and was interested in learning more about education.
“I learned a lot about my own hidden biases and also realized I had put a lot of pressure on my own teachers,” she said. “I appreciate them a lot more now that I understand their jobs better.”
On Wednesday evening, a celebration was held at UMass Lowell’s Coburn Hall where the 14 students who took “Teaching in the Inclusive Classroom” were able to present posters they made about their experiences in the program and talk about it with UML and LHS faculty and staff, as well as family and friends.
Lowell High School English teacher Kendra Bauer, who spearheaded the program and taught the course along with UML Professor Cassandra McCallum, said it is just the first step in building the Education Pathway for Lowell High students interested in pursuing careers in education, affording them the opportunity to take Early College course at Middlesex Community College and Dual Enrollment courses at UMass Lowell.
One of the objectives of creating such as pathway is to encourage diverse Lowell students to become teachers and hopefully come back to teach in Lowell in an effort to diversify the district’s workforce so students have more teachers who look like them and share similar backgrounds and experiences.
“I am beyond excited to build a partnership between the high school and UML to bring teachers in from our own classrooms,” Bauer said. “I tell the students all the time – please come replace me – you are brilliant.”
An “inclusive classroom” is an environment where all are welcomed and valued regardless of diversity of learning style, disability, socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. It is a place where everyone is respected, heard, and part of the community.
In addition to classroom course work, the Lowell High students had the opportunity for hands-on learning in elementary school classrooms in the district.
“I learned teaching in an inclusive classroom in an inclusive classroom,” said LHS Junior Quinn Petzold, who spent time in Ms. Peirce’s 3rd grade class at the Bailey Elementary School.
“It was such a great experience,” said Petzold, who wants to join the U.S. Air Force after college and eventually become an international airline pilot. “I never thought I had an interest in working with young people, but now I know I do. I see myself maybe being in a classroom somewhere in the future.”
Senior Tiana Rom was nervous about being in an elementary school classroom at first, but the students immediately surprised her.
“They were all so engaged and asked great questions,” she said. “Teaching in an inclusive classroom made me become more open to different perspectives. The class teaches you so much from classroom management to classroom setup to classroom objectives; it is very interesting to learn.”
For Senior Fiona Haley, taking the class helped solidify her plans for the future.
“I learned that what works for one person may not work for another,” said Haley, who plans on studying English Education with a concentration in legal studies and would like to work to change education policy. “It is important to have different ways to learn in the same setting.”
She added that taking the course and being in a classroom on the other side of the desk strengthened her desire to be part of crafting and changing education policy in the future.
“This class has been amazing,” she said. “I love what we learn and it provoked my thinking about why our classrooms are the way they are. It solidified my want to be in the classroom and make change.”
Celebrating Top Stoklosa Students
Is there a better way to kick off a cold Friday morning than my acknowledging great accomplishments and eating doughnuts?
Nope. On December 2, 162 Stoklosa Middle School students were recognized for earning a spot on the Honor Roll for the 1st quarter. Each student was presented with a certificate by Community Schools Manager Matt Gillis and Special Education Teacher Bill Borrelli and then was able to go to the cafeteria for doughnuts and juice.
Prior to the certificate ceremony, Principal James Cardaci thanked the parents in attendance, acknowledging their role in student success.
"It takes a community to get to this point," he said. "A lot of this is attributed to what you have done over the years."
Young Scientists Visit Excelitas Technologies
A class of sixth-graders from the Sullivan Middle School had an unforgettable experience on Dec. 15.
They had the opportunity to visit Excelitas Technologies in Billerica, a photonics company that manufactures lasers, thermal infrared sensors and other products.
The field trip was made possible by STEMatch, a non-profit organization that matches 6th graders with high tech companies. The goal is to bridge opportunity gaps through innovative business education partnerships and encourage students to continue to engage in science, Math, and technology. This one experience allowed students to see some of the incredible professional opportunities that await them.
Students learned about the ins and outs of laser manufacturing and simulated manufacturing, and were able to ask questions of scientists, engineers, and even the CEO and co-founder of the company.
For more information about STEMatch, visit: https://www.stematchma.org/
Robinson's Got Talent!
Students at the Robinson Middle School put on an incredible musical showcase in late November directed by Levi Dennis. Their singing and dancing were terrific and we could tell they had a lot of fun! We cannot wait to watch them grow their talents even more as they continue in middle school and head up to Lowell High.
An Affinity for Education
On Wednesday Dec. 7, the district held a mixer at Cobblestones for staff who participate in LPS’ Affinity Groups.
Affinity groups are staff-led and made up of employees with similar interests, backgrounds, or goals. The goal of these networking groups is to give people from similar backgrounds a safe space in which to share their perspectives, leading to more honest and effective communication among different groups as the district continues its commitment to anti-bias work. Additionally, these groups serve as professional learning communities that review problems of practice, offer support, and create solutions.
At LPS, the current affinity groups that meet on a regular basis are:
· Asian/Pacific Islander
· White (Caucasian)/Ally
PreK and Kindergarten Surveys
If you have a child currently enrolled in Kindergarten OR a child under the age of 5, we need your help. Please take a few minutes to take a short survey and you will be entered to win a $50 Market Basket gift card! Data gathered from the surveys will be used to craft the early childhood education program moving forward. Survey links here:
A Global Culinary Adventure
Looking to shake up your recipe repertoire in 2023? Good news. Tasting History 2022-2023, the fifth in the series of cookbooks produced by immigrant and refugee students in Jessica Lander's U.S. History 2 seminar at Lowell High hits the bookshelves on Thursday Dec. 22.
This edition includes authentic family recipes and stories from 21 countries. From Ecuadorian empanadas, to Cambodian lok lak, Indian kharman, Spanish magra, Congolese chapatis and so much more!
Order yours today, from the LHS School Store . Proceeds will be used to provide books to the student authors to bring home and share with their families.
Winter Playgroups for our Littlest Friends
The Lowell Public School's Early Childhood Department offers a series of Winter playgroups for kids under the age of 5 and their families. Register here: https://docs.google.com/.../1FAIpQLScox9aCS.../viewform
FREE Career Training Available
FREE 15-Week Adult Career Programs in January
Register now for FREE adult career programs that begin in January at Minuteman Technical Institute in Lexington (only 20 minutes from Lowell!):
· CNC Machine Operator
· Facilities Management
· Plumbing (Tier 1)
These programs are FREE for anyone who earns less than $63,900 gross annually in Middlesex County due to support from the Mass. Workforce Skills Cabinet. MTI is an excellent opportunity for anyone over 18 interested in pursuing a career trade, including recent high school graduates.
Details at minutemanti.org or call 781-861-7151.
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