Monthly Archives: January 2014

Catholic Schools Week at St. Margaret School

Attached is a listing of events taking place at St. Margaret School in Lowell during Catholic Schools Week. I urge you to go to at least one of these activities.

Tours: Call St. Margaret School at 486 Stevens Street (Telephone 978-453-8491) for information on the school. FAX at 978-453-1358. The Extended Day Program is at 978-458-7870.

On-line Address is www.stmargaretschoollowell.org

Sister Lori Fleming, SND is the Principal and would be happy to speak with you.

The School Motto is, “It is good for us to be here.”

The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2014 is…”Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.” According the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) President Karen Ristau says, “Faith, knowledge and service are three measures by which any Catholic school can and shoud be judged.”

The new logo features a swirl of colors interacting around a cross, which is at the center of all Catholic education.

St. Margaret School plans a BINGO for Books on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at John J. Nangle Hall at St. Margaret School. Doors open at 5:30PM for pizza. Bingo games run from 6PM to 7:30PM. Tickets for BINGO for Books may be reserved by calling Danielle Caron at 978-453-8491 ext. 13 during regular school hours. Tickets are 5.00 dollars per person.

Parent/Adult Night – A Night for Dance
Takes place on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at John J. Nangle Hall at St Margaret School. Enjoy the sounds of the Big Band as you learn the basic steps. Doors open at 6PM. Register by calling the Development Office at St. Margaret School at 978-453-8491. Registration Fee: Just $2.00 per person.

Thinking about Catholic Schools

There sometimes seems to me to be a connection between the student of a Catholic School, and the Marines. Both veterans of these institutions take an inordinate pride in their experiences, both have “Drill Sergeants” or at least the Catholic School alumnae believe that their experiences are the equivalent of that taking place on Paris Island. What no one seems to be able to do, is explain what it is about Catholic Schools that works.

How do we know it works? Those of us who went to Catholic Schools, and I was one of them, learned. We read. We did Mathematics. We did those interminable English grammar diagrams that kept going and going until our sanity was gone. We were given computer training but in my case, that was typing. We learned to be responsible and respectful. There was a bit of fear in my experience in a Catholic School. The nun’s work ethic and commitment to excellence, meant that, if you wanted them to like you, you had to have a work ethic too, you had to do your homework neatly and you had to respect them.

It was not easy to understand a woman who gave up having children to having God in their daily lives. Today, most teachers in the Catholic schools are our neighbors, not nuns. But, they have God in their daily lives and that makes for a more complete experience. God was not easy to understand, and as often as I tried, I never got to morning Mass on time. They do not have morning Mass anymore. There are not enough priests. Besides, I was too busy living my life to worry about another one. I spent the better part of the 5th. and all of the 6th. grade at a Catholic school. I did learn those things mentioned before, but I also learned respect. That has done me well throughout my life. I know that you do not do something to someone that you would not want to have done to yourself.

So, what is the co-relation between the Marines and a Catholic school child? There really isn’t one. Except that we children, taught in a Catholic school, were responsible for ourselves. What is the beauty of a Catholic school? Nowhere in my many years of attending school have I seen individual teachers work harder than in the Catholic schools that I attended or taught at, and I have extensive experience in both public and Catholic schools. I grew up as the Superintendent’s son. That was not true in a Catholic school. They did not care who my father was or what he did for a job.

I loved the freedom of Catholic schools, as a student and as a teacher. I loved my father, but having his employees as your teachers everyday really did you in sometimes. They told me I could not learn history, but I loved the subject ever since I was introduced to it as a 6th. grader. That was in my Catholic school. They told me that I was too compulsive and outspoken. But my nun in the Catholic school never even hinted at such a weakness. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Catholic school student. When I could, as a principal of a Catholic school, I transfered my son into the school and he blossomed, despite the fact that he would not know a nun as a teacher. I believed that there was goodness in all of my teachers, laiety and religious. By the 6th. grade my white and black Habited nun passed me with flying colors and I was prepared to study in junior high school. Catholic schools taught me to think.

Given the option, I would rather have continued teaching in Catholic schools. I got paid twice as much to teach in public schools and I had a young family. Why do I prefer the other? Largely because of the respect you are taught. And, I never thought that I would become a priest but I enjoyed being able to pray during school time.

Catholic schools seem to be built in bedrock, not sand. It is the Bible, not Abraham Lincoln, who first stated that a house split in two could not stand. I recently found one of my public school mothers who had been my student and she told me that her Kindergartner was going to a Catholic school because he needed the discipline. That goes along with the respect that is expected and taught. This is Catholic Schools Week, your week to be different and introduce your child to both God and self-respect. I urge you since I was a Catholic school student, a Catholic school teacher, and a Catholic school principal, to think long and hard about whether or not your child might be better off with a curriculum that has a guiding light. We have difficulty dealing with God and our children’s relationship with him. Catholic schools just painlessly introduce God to classes everyday. In the next section of this article, I will tell you more specifically how to enroll your student in their class at St. Margaret’s School. And, you do not have to be Catholic to use a Catholic school education. I know many Protestants and Orthodox families who sent their child or children to their local Catholic school. Nothing bad happened and the children did not lose their faith.

Meanderings on the Snow

I live for snow. My wife likes it so much that she puts out a lawn flag that says, “Snow Days Welcome!” I use the snowdays to do my route. I have a bunch of people who are dependent on my snowblower to free themselves and get to their doctor’s office, or the grocery store, or wherever they are going. Generally, if it is less than three inches, they do it themselves, but over three inches and I generally go out. It is good exercise and fills the winter months with an aspect of landscaping.

Speaking of landscaping, you should be pruning your apple trees right now. Any branches reaching straight up should be cut off. This will increase the number of apples your tree can support and make apple picking easier. And, right now or when the ground clears in your garden, you can pick any dead flowers and throw them out. Some will have ready seeds, like marigolds, but some just need to be cleared for the next round in the spring. I like to plant annuals that I have started in the house, and perennials which I generally pick up at the florist’s greenhouse.

The ground is hard now, but it will not be in March or April. Planting season in the Northeast generally takes place in early May but keep in mind that your flowers can be confused by New England weather. Remember the hot spell during the Marathon a couple of years ago. I had to re-root some flowers that grew too early.

I uncovered some items of historical interest on Lowell’s schools, which will become fodder for my thinking process in the near future. The McAvinnue (whose given name at construction was the Pawtucket Memorial), was full of major hurdles. At one time, an Army unit even stayed in the basement while awaiting orders to ship out. Then there were the natural disasters the faculty had to work with and overcome. So, if I can do it, I will include some pictures of the grand old schools. Lowell High School is definitely on the list, as is the old Butler. I have pictures of many of the classrooms, lounges, and libraries of old. Whether or not I can cut and paste is a major question. Time will tell. In the meantime, try to make it in the cold, be careful and safe, and enjoy the snow.\

Meanderings

Well, in the interest of fairly stating what is now the obvious, the old City Manager is now on the road to being History. For seven years he sat with basically a five/four City Council and performed well. I was pleased to see that even one Councilor who did not necessarily like him, supported steps to maintain him in his role until the budget was on target, if not fully settled. According to the Lowell “Sun,” that Councilor was Ed Kennedy, who finished a strong third in the race this fall. I must admit that I voted for only two Councilors who finished in the top nine, Ed Kennedy and Jim Milinazzo. I voted for Stacie Hargis, Veasna Nuon, Marty Lorrey, and, I forgot to mention Rita Mercier as someone who also finished in the top nine. There were a couple of others who did not make it.

Life in Lowell is interesting. Politics in Lowell is very interesting. There is such a sharp divide between this year’s City Council and the last City Council that it defies any sort of explanation. The only constant was the heavy vote this year in Belvidere for Belvidere Councilors. The Mayor is from Pawtucketville, which is gaining a pre-eminence of its own, but basically the Council is host to Councilors who have lived part of their lives in Belvidere. My Ward #4 did not vote heavily in the election this time. It would have helped Veasna Nuon if it had, but it did not. As Democratic Ward Four Chair, I want to find out why that was the case, but that is a study that has to take place sooner rather than later, since the Caucuses are coming up on February 15, 2014.

My personal pick for our new City Manager, if he wants the job, is Kevin Murphy. When I mentioned that to a friend, he said that I should try my hand in politics. I have seen enough of politics to kill a horse, and then some, so I think I will support someone else who wants it. Right now, I have heard a couple of names and I am interested in one of them but if Kevin Murphy does not want the position, then I will continue, as I have for years, to support Kevin Murphy as my State Representative.

I remember Paul Tsongas, when he was on the eve of his swearing-in ceremony for the Senate, telling me that the Senate was made up of a bunch of people who started out in their own City Council races. Of course, a few months later he told me of a meeting he had with Red Auerbach of the Boston Celitics. I was more impressed with the meeting with Auerbach then I was with being Senator, I think. I once picked up a call at the Cape house and the voice on the opposite end said, “Is the Senator there, this is Bobby Orr.” That just floored me. I ran out and said to Paul, “It’s Bobby Orr!” He thought I was amusing. I thought he was amazing.

As far as the City Manager post is concerned, we do not want a politician who is not a leader. We want someone who can continue to lead in the style of a Brian Martin, who yearly held his “State of the City” addresses. We want someone with vision who recognizes the importance of being surrounded by history. Finally, we want someone who can make the current Council look good. That is the apex.

Meanderings

T—- said that I was too transparent in my last blog, so I am trying to be less so in this one. The last one was based on my belief that there was more in Deval Patrick’s background to make him a good presidential candidate that in anyone else’s. In Lowell, I am considered a sinner for not backing other people. Lowell, as you know, is a fairly conservative city, but its taste in presidential propects is fairly liberal.

Changing topics totally, I was on target for a memory from my days as a sixteen year old male student at Lowell High School. My memories of me at Lowell High School are of a student who enjoyed seeing what he could get away with, as opposed to what he could accomplish. I took English History with Wyman Trull, a man who was a legend in his own time. I did very well in his class, but only after a less than memorable beginning. My first quiz grade in his class was a “C” and I was satisfied with that. It was a passing grade and all I wanted to do was pass his class, which was rumored to be very difficult. Written on the quiz were the words we all dread, “See me.” I did. He took me aside and said that there was an “A” in that class with my name on it. All I had to do was read twelve books by the famous English historian, Thomas B. Costain. I laughed and said basically that it just would not happen. But he told me that he had faith in me, and no one had ever said that about me before.

I started at the beginning, the Norman Conquest, and found the books fascinating. So I read all twelve by the end of the year and got my “A.” But I knew I had gotten something better than that, I had earned the respect of Wyman Trull, the toughest teacher in the History Department. I learned all about the Plantagenets, starting with William the Conqueror, and going on to the Tudors, the Stuarts, etc. A teacher took the time to challenge me and I took the time to respond. Not only did I get an “A” but I got knowledge of an obscure piece of history. I felt like Winston Churchill.

There is no point to this story. I just wanted to sanctify the late Wyman Trull as he was to his least able student. When I first moved out here from Chicago, my father asked me if I wanted to be an electrician trained at the Trade School, as it was then called. I said no. But I did not do well until I got out of my father’s schools and into a school that did not care if I passed or not, Lowell State College. I passed in a paper a day late, and got an “F” on it because it was late. Thus, I learned a quick lesson, that colleges run by their own set of rules and they did not care who your father was, or what his job was. They wanted results and I studied like crazy to get an “A” average during my first semester.

I had a following. A guy named Joe noted my high grades in Biology and he sat next to me and freely took my answers off of my paper. The guy next to him did the same thing to him, not realizing that Joe was getting a few wrong on purpose. So I got my well-deserved “A” while Joe got his stolen “Bplus.” His friend, who I did not know was copying off of my paper, got a B. The next guy got a C, while the last guy in line ended up with a D. They were all happy to be cheating off of my paper.

Changing course a bit, my wife is amazing as a fashion forecaster. She knits professionally and gets caught up in all sorts of changes that just amaze me because they are so ahead of their time. Twenty years ago, she took out string lights for the Christmas tree in June and strung them on her Benjamin Trees. When my father had a political party at our house, everyone noticed the odd light arrangement. Two years later, white lights in June were in the windows of the downtown Jordan Marsh Store. And it does not stop there, she knitted a pocket in her stockings to carry her telephone. Two years later, she saw the exact same design in the pattern of a knitted pair of socks. She tells me what is going to be the rage and I have to believe her. She is right almost every time.

Jim Neary, the man who should be Superintendent because of his flexibility and dedication to detail, once told me that my legacy was my children. I am proud of them. The oldest saves lives as a paramedic, the second son works managing a segment of Homeland Security, the third is a computer whiz and very commited to getting a Bachelor’s degree, and my daughter is applying to law schools. My granddaughter is very sharp, with a brilliant mind. So that is my legacy. Pretty good for a guy who thought a “C” was a good grade until he was pointed in the right direction.