Tag Archives: School committee

Right approach to school safety by Peabody superintendent

9 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

schoolsHis approach makes sense without playing into the hysteria. The recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, have caused Peabody Schools Superintendent Joe Mastrocola to do what commonsense, and not hysteria, dictates.

He’s received approval from the school committee for obtaining an expert to do a safety/security assessment of Peabody’s schools.

There’s no talk here of putting armed guards at all of the doors. No one is panicking people by insisting it could happen here. No knee-jerk reactions.

Just a well-conducted assessment, and action plan to ensure that we’re doing all of the right things to protect the safety of out kids, and school department staff.

“I want to let the community know, and the school committee know, we continue always to make safety our first priority in the school district,” said Mastrocola at Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting, as reported by the Peabody Patch.

Like all school systems,  Peabody currently has comprehensive procedures and protocols designed to protect its students and teachers.  But what this expert will help us learn is where gaps might exist,  and where we can do better.  It might mean replacing locks or altering some protocols, but it won’t be extreme,  and it won’t turn our schools into unwelcoming, intimidating, armed fortresses.

Mastrocola says safety within the city’s schools is a “primary goal” for the district,  along with teaching and learning, and I think that’s right.

It’s a commonsense approach amid national hysteria and suggestions that we should arm our teachers.

So far, so good on a number of fronts for Peabody’s new super.

Peabody kids to wear green and white to support Sandy Hook

16 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

greenJust a quick post to let people know of this very nice tribute tomorrow in Peabody’s Schools to the victims in Newtown, CT.

The Peabody Patch reports that the citywide parent-teacher organization, Peabody PTC, is asking all students, parents, faculty, staff and the community at-large to wear green and white for the day. Green and white are the school colors at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Very nice idea.  Can I also suggest that everyone else wears green to work tomorrow?

A positive foreign concept to consider for Peabody High

4 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

pvmhsIt’s a good idea. It’s an innovative idea, and Joe Mastracola, Peabody’s Superintendent of Schools,  should get props for coming up with something that could add a nice chunk of incremental revenue, while giving our school system some positive diversity.

Mastrocola wants to attract foreign students to attend Peabody High School with the assistance of an agency called Educatius International. The big benefit to taxpayers would be that each of these students would pay Peabody $12,000 per year to attend.

In the small school district of Groton-Dunstable, where Matsrocola previously served as super, the policy reaped up to $175,000, according to the Salem News. The program this year alone has meant almost $300k of found money for Arlington High.

All of the students, who would be here on F1 visas provided through Homeland Security, would be put up with host families, who would be compensated by the students’ families. The students undergo strict background checks.

Not only would this give the Peabody schools some much-needed extra revenue, but these international students typically come from strong academic backgrounds, and having more kids with scholarly track records is never a bad thing for Peabody High.

The question might be, how can Peabody be competitive when it comes to attracting these students? For example, both Arlington and Groton-Dunstable have better academic credentials right now than Peabody, and we’ll also be competing against Catholic high schools. Speaking from personal experience of having seen this program work well at Wakefield’s all-girl NazarethAcademy, many of the students come from upper class conservative families, and have parents who seek schools that offer religion and the type of disciplined atmosphere you typically find at a small or private high school.

But it’s a great idea for Peabody to apply, and I don’t see any negatives. It’s definitely innovative thinking by our new superintendent.

Message sent by Mayor Bettencourt on the passing of Representative Spilliotis

29 Nov

Eye on Peabody has obtained the following message Mayor Ted Bettencourt sent out to Peabody’s elected officials soon as he heard the news this morning of the passing of State Rep. Joyce Spilliotis.

From Mayor Ted Bettencourt via email message: 

“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the passing of Representative Joyce Spiliotis.   Like many of you, I have known Joyce as a friend, mentor and colleague for many years.   As a City Councilor and State Representative, Joyce was a tireless advocate for her constituents and a true champion for the City of Peabody.  Please join me in offering our deepest sympathies to Joyce’s family during this extremely difficult time. “

- Bob Croce

Report: Peabody High 5th in state when it comes to violent crimes that get reported

27 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

No matter how you look at it, this isn’t good for Peabody High. Recently, Channel 4’s I-Team reported that our high school was the fifth worst in the state when it came to violent crimes committed by and against students.

Now, it might come with a caveat: It could turn out that the administration at Peabody High is more diligent than other schools when it comes to filing police reports. But still, being fifth out of 138 schools is not a good place to be. The school committee, if it hasn’t already, needs to take this report seriously, and work with the Peabody Police Department to ensure that the environment at the high school is safe for all students. The I-Team report rated Peabody fifth based on physical attacks, sexual assaults, and drugs and alcohol.

“I simply think what it does is mis-characterize what the school is,” Peabody High Principal Ed Sapienza told the I-Team. “When you look at the incidents, because we do report them, and we’re conscientious about maintaining discipline in school and things do get recorded, I think that just simply adds to the list.”

But it also doesn’t excuse the fact that there is a problem here. Hats off to Principal Sapienza and his staff, but more definitely needs to be done here. Nothing should be more important than the safety of Peabody’s students.

Let me know what you think after looking at the I-Team report.

Also, thanks to a loyal reader for tipping off EOP on this story. If you have a story you feel should be reported here, you can use the Send Us A Hot Tip link.

Peabody High grad rate better than before, but still lags behind state average

27 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

A pair of related topics collides today as we receive word that Peabody’s high school graduation rate remains below the state average, and the school committee tonight announces the process of hiring a new high school principal.

The two are definitely connected, since the CEO of PVMHS will be integral when it comes to improving grad rates, and overall academic standards. I won’t bore you with the details of the principal search process here, but you can read about it in this Salem news article.

What I do want to point out, though, is that Peabody  continues to lag when it comes to gradation rates, and while some school committee members might tell you how it’s better than it used to be, we should still view it as unacceptable that we’re below state average.

The state average of 83% puts Massachusetts at just 11th nationwide, and Peabody’s adjusted rate is 82.2. That not only puts Peabody well behind other area communities such as Beverly and Danvers, but we’re pretty much tied with Salem. To be fair, it does represent improvement over a graduation rate that, in recent years, had hovered around 79%.

But can’t we do better than this?

Let me know what you think.

You can read more details about how Peabody compares in this article from the Patch.

Poll: If you were mayor, what would you focus on first?

19 Nov

By Eye on Peabody

So let’s play pretend today, and give you a chance to play Mayor For A Day. Please participate in our poll below, so we can see which issues interest our EOP audience the most.

This post brought to you by “You Make the Call,” Peabody’s longest-running cable show on the issues of the day.

Hats off and thanks to this wonderful educator

17 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Forget about the teachers unions and politicians thinking they know what’s best when it comes to educating our kids. Forget all of them, and think about wonderful educators such as Maryellen McGrath. 

All she ever wanted to be was a teacher. And all she ever wanted to do was teach in her hometown of Peabody. Now, 41 years later, after being a memorable and positive influence on generations of kids, this terrific educator is retiring at the end of January.

Most recently, Maryellen served as principal at the South School, but before that she spent her entire teaching career on the elementary school level in Peabody.

I’m just one citizen, one taxpayer, but from the bottom of my heart, I thank her for her service.

Here’s a nice take on her story from the Peabody Patch

Peabody High’s version of the sweathogs costing taxpayers $70k per student

16 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It was disbelief, followed by cantankerous anger when I told one “seasoned” citizen I know about the cost of Peabody’s so-called Community High School.

“What!? It’s costing us $70k per student!?, he bellowed, while swinging his fist in the air. “In my day, we didn’t need a special school like this. In my day, you got a smack in the head from your father, and were told to wise your ass up.”

OK, so that was just one reaction to this specific special education program run amok in Peabody. But it’s also hard not to agree with this cranky oldster. I mean, as a taxpayer, this definitely makes you want to smack someone. After all, I’m positive that it didn’t cost Buchanan High this much for their classroom of Sweathogs back in the Mr. Kotter days.

Were your aware that we are paying $700,000 for just nine students to attend a special version of high school, which is housed at the Higgins Middle School? That’s right, this is the cost to segregate these little urchins from PVMHS general population. You see, these “students” have “social and behavioral issues.”

Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe in special education, and we need to ensure that we do provide the right services for kids who need them. But warehousing a handful of juvenile delinquents, and wasting money that could be better spent in the school system, is not exactly my definition of effective special education.

The issue was uncovered recently in a report by consultant Michael Palladino, who, with colleague Michael Neiman, was brought in by the superintendent to evaluate Peabody’s special ed programs. I know there are members of the school committee who are questioning this, including Dave McGeney.  So … we’ll see what happens.

Read the full report in this Salem News article, and then let me know what you think in the comments section. Should we pull the plug on this thing? Or, do you think it’s still worthy of our tax dollars?

This post brought to you by “You Make the Call,” Peabody’s longest-running cable show on the issues of the day.

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