Monthly Archives: febrièr 2021

Well Kept Photo Journals and Monarch Butterflies

Today I had a number of topics to write about. Mostly, I am writing about my children. Two are First Responders, two are parents, and most have or are completing their degrees. I want to give special notice to my daughter Chloe, who was cited by Rady Mom and the Massachusetts House of Representatives for completing her degree at UMass-Lowell. I am really proud of all of my children. The only one who doesn’t have a degree yet is in his last year. When he graduates all of my children will have a degree. You cannot be a parent and do better than that.

I am trying my best to get on top of this new computer, but, and don’t tell John McDonough but I am frequently stuck. My son
Rory, and my daughter Chloe get me out of trouble. Frequently is a nice term for interminable. Rory is the best, Chloe got me out of a jam during the Democratic Party caucus the other day. I was on mute and Chloe ran in, hit a couple of keys and saved me. Tell Judith Durant that I got the papers into Gus Bickford and Ward 4 has its players all lined up. I have been drawing and painting a number of Lowell scenes, and my next one is the steam power building on Market Street.

We have to save that building because many do not realize that it was what took over for the canals in the 1880’s. People like Jack London, before he became famous, shoveled tons of coal into that productive fire and creative steam came out. In my last campaign for School Committee, I used that smokestack as my background. There is a lot of history at that spot. Lowell has a tendency to deny that people are going to destroy smokestacks and mill buildings. Once I made a time to meet with Fred Faust at the « Omni » building and when we got there there was no building. Jim Cooney, the famous insurance magnate, had torn down the building and replaced it with condominiums. My thought was why didn’t you save the building and turn it into condo’s. I appreciate all that the Cooneys did but you have to save what makes Lowell – well, Lowell.

I have seen four mill buildings destroyed since I moved here. Those people who deserve credit are those people who took over the mill buildings and made them into modern shells. Like the Thorndike Buildings. That was an expensive alteration and it was done beautifully. So is the old mill building which was the gym for the boxing ring,

I remember a couple of years ago when a murderer hid in a car’s trunk. I am situated across the street from the St. Margaret’s Church and the parking lot was full of police vehicles. I have pictures, specifically of one policeman who stationed himself and his rifle right in front of our sidewalk. I have a picture of a policeman with a rifle patrolling in front of my house. It is a good picture and it brings back a lot of memories. The murderer apparently shot himself in the trunk with his hand sticking out of it. I was glad they caught him. He was literally a few feet from my neighborhood.

I once ran a pretty good-sized Landscaping Company. It was called, of course, Jim Peters’ Landscaping Inc. I had many clients and it kept me busy from 2006 to 2016. I learned a great deal about plants and the judicious placement of them on a person’s property. In the Fall, I did Fall Clean-ups, in the Winter I did snowblowing. In the Spring and Summer I cleaned and mowed. I had too much business to deal with it alone so I hired a person to help out. I needed a bigger mower, but I had the largest walking mower you could buy. I did many large yards. I learned to balance my own books, fix my own mowers, and hire my brother. It was difficult but taught me a great deal about budgets, which will come in handy when I get on the School Committee. That and Lefty’s taught me more than Wang or Jordan Marsh ever could. I did love Jordan Marsh though, and I ran the Basement Store so well that I practically doubled its first year’s profits. I ran eleven departments, but my favorite was Medical Uniforms. I ran into many women and men who needed uniforms for our three hospitals and twenty or so nursing homes. It was my most profitable department. And because of the wonderful customers, I was promoted as an Auditor to the Jordan Marsh Executive Center. Some of our older readers may remember that place on Route 3 in Boston, or Auburndale.

I love History, especially in Lowell. I especially love the Canal House by the Falls on the Merrimack River. I learned that the person who wants to occupy the house by the Canal House has to come up with tens of thousands of dollars to keep it in good shape. They can live there for a long time, but they are responsible for the upkeep. I learned that from the state offices. The Canal House is superintended by the National Park. The yellow house next to it is watched over by the lessees. An interesting choice of a home in the most well-traveled walk on the Merrimack River.

I love New England. Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Those are my favorite spots. I have pictures of my children fishing in Maine near the ocean. They never seem to catch anything but that does not seem to matter too much. I have a beautiful picture of a sunset in Maine that is so nice it is on display in the hallways and rooms of the LTC, the television channel in downtown Lowell. The picture is hanging on one of the display walls in the studio. Actually, not the studio wall but the main wall upstairs. It is the picture of the sun at eveningtide. A seagull is transgressing in the light of the sun. It is beautiful, so nice that I gave one print of an 11 by 14 to each of my children and to my mother. Hopefully they still enjoy it. I have other pictures hanging in the same place. Those include the downtown steam engine, one of which shows the crane lifting the engine at its installment. There are other pictures too.

I did my own marketing for my landscaping business. I am a firm believer in door-to-door marketing. Someone asked me once why I did that and I simply told them it was simple politics, Politics 101. It saves me fifty cents per letter mailed and it has a good return. I have not too many brochures left from that marketing. I also used Political Science 101 to excuse my bent to place cards on cars. I have to say, that works too.

One of the many benefits of being close to the Tsongas clan, is the opportunity to vacation on occasion by the ocean. I have many paintings inspired by visiting members of the Tsongae clan done at the ocean. I love the ocean and the opportunity Paul and Niki gave me to vacation in Chatham shall never be forgotten. I have sunsets, sunrises, and just good times at many bays on the Atlantic Ocean. It has been wonderful and I cannot thank Paul and Niki enough. I also have to thank Mary and Gil Hollenbach for allowing us to swim in their part of the ocean in Gloucester. It has been very good for my paintings and very comfortable for my wife and children.

Monarch butterflies are dying off faster than we can raise them. Their beautiful color as adults adds to their being collected. Do not kill off Monarch butterflies because I am afraid that our current science shows them to be close to extinction. That is a true fact, shared by the bees. When we spray for mosquitoes we kill monarchs and bees that have important work to do in nature. Enjoy them, use a good camera to shoot their picture, but do not kill them.

Speaking of nature, I have, like everyone, have run past many animals killed by cars on superhighways. My most memorable one was a female moose hit by a truck on 93 in the mountains of Franconia Notch in New Hampshire. It was so big that it was stretched out on the highway and was longer than my van, a Volkswagen van. It was the longest creature I have ever seen and it was firmly dead. Seeing it made me feel ill.

I have Parkinson’s disease. I was once told by a Ph.D that Parkinson’s would keep me from writing, That has not been totally true but enough to make me wonder why I have more trouble with grammar than I used to. I apologize for my grammar difficulties. Hopefully, this too will pass, as Shakespeare said. Parkinson’s is very difficult to live with and I have done better than many. Supposedly, my grammar will get worse. I hope not. I have had many doctors tell me that the Parkinson’s shows up in a variety of ways. Trouble walking up the steps, trouble walking down the steps. The time that I fell in a horrific manner. That type of thing.

In 1992 I had the chance to be involved in a Presidential campaign. It was for Paul Tsongas and I did the farming piece, speeches, and I found the first President to have cancer. That was listed by Peter Jennings as Ronald Reagan but it was actually Grover Cleveland. I found it in a book called « The Diseases of Presidents » which went back to George Washington. Paul Tsongas, knowing my prediliction for History (I was a History teacher), asked me if any Presidents had cancer. I said yes, and he said « I know about Reagan. » I said it was Grover Cleveland and he smiled broadly. « Can you prove it, » he asked. I went to the car and gave him the book. In it was Grover Cleveland.

That night, I was watching television and heard and saw Peter Jennings say that the only President to have cancer was Ronald Reagan. I called Paul, he called ABC News, and they stated that it was Grover Cleveland. I felt like a million bucks. I had overturned a major player.

I went to Maryland with a large group of Lowellians, including Attorney Michael Gallagher, and others. Mike was fantastic. On Election Night, we carried Maryland. Paul called me and said, « You took Maryland and (another state) and I lost Illinois and Florida. How did that happen. I told him I had no idea. He chuckled and hung up.

I have served on the « Mayor’s Committee on Tourism, » where Marty Meehan and I spent much time talking about politics. Marty was officially Mayor Rourke’s Secretary. I had tutored him on Paul Tsongas’ rise to power in 1977, I believe. I know that I tutored him and I think it was on Paul’s rise to power. I served on the Zoning Board, thinking that I could rewrite history and keep historical sites from being torn down, which was not the role of the Zoning Board, so I went to another City Manager appointment, but I was holding down a WCAP show and I could not make the meetings. I left WCAP after two years. I was on the Parish Council at St. Margaret’s of Scotland Church. I was with the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts. And, I was on television. City Life and Peters’ Principles. Peters’ Principles was also the name of my radio show. I was on the Teacher’s Committee at the Tsongas Center, as was my wife. A full calendar.

Finally, I was the partner, with my wife, of Vicki’s Fabrics for Windows, which I still run. I spread those brochures while passing out my brochures for Jim Peters for School Committee. I thought I would do better in the original run but I was too nervous to do it well. This year is better, I intend to run on my Chairmanship of the Citywide Parent Council which I oversaw with Superintendent Henry Mroz and Patrick Mogan. I intend to work closely with those people involved with Project Learn. I intend to stress my experiences and my teaching as a young professor pro-temp at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. I intend to stay close to my friends Phil Shea, John McDonough, Cliff Krieger, and Daniel Barrett and others who have helped me out and oversaw my race for School Committee last time. I want to continue to work with Greenpeace and the ACLU. I want to continue building my 3+thousand book library in my home. I want to enjoy my infrequent visits by the owl who lives outside and sometimes inside. His name is Abe after the silently sitting Abe Lincoln in the Lincoln Monument.

I have a lot of things to say.

Schools and Testing

Testing is a strong way we have as parents and educators of seeing whether or not our students have successfully measured up to our expectations. That is all that it is. I remember, \reading, as a teenager, about a student who was in a rural one room schoolhouse, and was slated for her first test, that she was too nervous to take the test. Instead she wanted to opt out of it and skip being educated forever. Her teacher, understanding her trepidation, explained to her that a test was nothing more than a challenge, and that she had dealt with many challenges being raised as then oldest child on a farm. She had to milk the cows, feed the poultry, and keep the farm looking well. In addition, her mother had passed, and she had to take up the rearing of the younger children.

Thinking a test a challenge was a major step. She could handle challenges and testing was a challenge worth handling. After weighing all of her options, she decided to take the test. It was an exclusive test, designed to weed out all of the students who could not do daily schoolijng

and homework. She aced it; She scored a perfect one hundred. She went on to become a country doctor. She felt wonderful, but she knew she could not have done it without her teacher’s backing. She worked hard at academics for the rest of her life. She handled it.

Every child should look at a test as a challenge. When I was a Junior in High School, I was scheduled for a test in AP History. I thought to myself that testing for college was something that I just could not do. I took the test because Mrs. Kealy told me to. I scored high in the six hundreds, close to seven hundred, which was the perfect score. No one was more surprised than I. It got me into Political Science at college. My first report was on the winning ways of Paul Sheehy and Connie Kiernan as State Representatives. I aced that class. Connie Kiernan was happy, I was happy. I went into college thinking that I was going to fail and shovel hamburgers for my entire life. In truth, I got straight « A »s. I owed it all to Mrs. Kealy for having the good sense to see me as a good History student.

So what’s the point. Get straight « A’s. »s. Teachers expect you to get straight A’s for the rest of your school days. I would not have gotten my marriage if I was a « D » student. Testing is a challenge. It is not a statement that you cannot do it. If I can do it, anybody can do it.

And thanks to Connie Kiernan, who asked me why Political
Science. I told him that I would go to Law School. I took the test but at that time I was going to the University of Lowell, not UMass-Lowell, as an education student, and I had three young boys of our own. Law school was not in my cards. I have never regretted it.

Getting back to testing, There are many types of tests. The two most prominent are the Achievement tests, which I am was taking for Mrs. Kealy. And there are the Intelligence tests. According to Dr. Donald Ary, the Acheivement tests are the tests which set values on the « effectiveness of instructional methods (the) dependent variable is achievement. » Achievement tests are the most widely used tests in educational research. They test the mastery and proficiency of individuals in different areas of knowledge. In short, in my experience they are the History tests. They tested my knowledge of History. They are teacher or researcher-made.

In addition, there are the intelligence tests. These measure performance in specific areas. They « attempt to measure the subject’s ability to perceive relationships, solve problems, and apply knowledge in a variety of contexts. » (ibid.) They should not be considered as measures of innate or « Pure » intelligence. « Intelligence » has been replaced by « scholastic aptitude » tests. This means they are designed to predict school performance. MCAS tests would be an example.

One of the drawbacks of this test is the fact that they are subjective. Some educators have are useful and generally valid for predicting school success. but you have to keep in mind that these test are subjective. When the educational system in Massachusetts first introduced these tests, they jumped to the conclusion that these tests were superior to any other type of testing. Later interpretations showed that these tests had a problem. College students were correcting them and they were applying their prejudices to each paper, So, if student A was better than Student B. Student B would suffer.

Wechsler tests are divided into subtests and were designed in 1939. They test IQ and nonverbal IQ. They are still used, which might be a drawback, as two scores for each subject. It might not be fair to continue to use them. Their answers are dated. Various superintendents should be questioned on whether or not these are still valid. After all, they may be used but they may have a problem with the examinees performance on specific tasks.

When I was Chairman of the Citywide Parent Council, we had a subcommittee on testing. We found that there were wide varieties of differences on student testing. It is our duty as parents to extract the wheat from the chafe. We have to assume that our School Committee members do not know everything that they should know about testing. They are, after all, just parents. We owe our passing of knowledge to our kids.