Working in a Brockton elementary school, Kathleen Smith tried to hold the attention of large classes — as many as 35 grade-schoolers in one big room. And conditions were deteriorating.
At Brockton High School, she remembered, "you truly had kids that would come in and sit on the radiators," she said. "You had books falling apart. You didn’t have materials. You didn’t have supplies."
That was 25 years ago.
Conditions like those led students in Brockton and 15 other cities and towns to sue Massachusetts. They argued that the state, by failing to provide thousands of students the opportunity to receive an "adequate education," was violating the Massachusetts Constitution.
Communities like Brockton had been arguing for years that they were underfunded, particularly when compared to wealthier communities; the litigation trail extends back into the 1970s.
But the funding disparity between Massachusetts' wealthiest districts and its poorest had grown incredibly wide. In 1993, Brookline spent $7,772 per student, while Brockton spent $4,090. By 1993, contemporary onlookers expected that — finally — Brockton and its co-plaintiffs might win their case.
At the same time, state business leaders were calling for a bigger investment in education. They had escalating concerns of their own: about whether the state was adequately preparing the workforce of the future.
"If the commonwealth is going to be competitive in the 21st century, we need to re-engineer education," Paul Reville recalled. In 1993, he was the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE).
Saïsa Nicolas vividly recalls the sights, sounds, and flavors of her early childhood in Haiti. The street vendors selling crafts and snacks, including the gooey, flavorful patties she devoured; the secret hideout she made behind the mango tree trunks she climbed for their sweet, sticky fruit.
Nicolas also remembers her family’s fear when she was just 4 and her aunt was kidnapped for ransom — then a frequent occurrence in the impoverished island nation.
“She was on her way to work. . . They grabbed her in a van,” the 18-year-old said in an interview last week near her home in Hyde Park. “Looking back, you realize, ‘Wow, what a scary moment.’ ”
Such dangers led her family to seek safety in the United States, moving to Boston when Nicolas was 9 and knew no English. She studied hard at a school for students learning the language and in English classes at the local library, where she also checked out books to practice her reading.
When Alma del Mar Charter School opened its doors in 2011, it had only 120 students in grades K-2. Families placed their faith in a new school that based its academics on learning approaches different from other New Bedford schools.
Fast forward seven years, and Alma del Mar has a student enrollment of 415. The school has grown by one grade each year and boasts that its students — referred to as “scholars” by the faculty and administration — advance nearly a grade and a half each year in reading and writing, officials said.
On Friday, 37 scholars — 100 percent of the eighth-grade class — graduated and said goodbye to Alma del Mar as they move on to high school. More than half of these graduates started as second-graders and have been with the school since it opened.
For the Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, every year for the past seven years has brought new changes and new growth, having first opened its doors in 2011 with only 120 students in grades K-2. That’s why Friday, June 15, 2018 was the cap of a very special year for the school, as many of its earliest students — referred to as “scholars” by the faculty and administration — graduated from the eighth grade.
What’s been dubbed a “solar revolution” in Massachusetts over the past several years didn’t happen by accident. Rather, it was the result of policies aimed squarely at growing the state’s renewable energy sector in order to stimulate local jobs and business innovation while reducing reliance on the fossil fuel-generated electricity that pollutes our communities and contributes to climate change.
Unfortunately, those policies – and the Massachusetts solar industry as a result – have suffered recently due to resistance from utility companies, as well as delays in expanding legislative initiatives essential to growth in the sector. Bold and swift action by Gov. Charlie Baker and our state legislators is needed to reverse this troubling new trend.
We have been heartened by action from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy in May and the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s approval last week of a bill that goes much further to ensure the Commonwealth gains ground on efforts to grow its solar sector. We hope both branches of the Legislature can reach consensus on the Senate bill’s key solar provisions and pass it in the remaining weeks of this legislative session.
The City Council has given initial approval to a series of regulations governing the siting of adult-use marijuana establishments.
The council voted Tuesday night to advertise the new rules. The item will be back before the council for a final vote on June 26, according to City Clerk Susan M. Ledoux.
Under state law, Worcester is required to provide for establishment of up to 15 retail marijuana stores. That figure is based on 20 percent of the number of off-premises alcohol licenses the city is authorized to issue.
Private clubs that allow on-site consumption but not sale of marijuana do not count toward Worcester’s quota of 15 retail stores.
Also, there is no limit on the number of other marijuana-related businesses that do not have points of sale with the public, such as marijuana cultivators, independent testing laboratories, product manufacturers, research facilities, transporters and micro-businesses.
After serving four years in the military, John Andrews, 42, adjusted to civilian life by working at his local Walmart in Arkansas. Encouraged by co-workers, he also went back to school, hoping to move up in management.
Instead, he ended up $40,000 in debt,* with a diploma so useless he refuses to display it. “I got this degree that I don’t even hang on my wall anymore,” Andrews said at a recent Brooklyn Film Festival screening of “Fail State,” a new documentary by Alex Shebanowhighlighting ways for-profit colleges have exploited veterans and vulnerable students.
At the film festival, Andrews spoke about his experiences at the University of Phoenix, the for-profit school where he received a degree in business management. He chose the school because his Walmart colleagues taught there, and university administrators encouraged him to use the GI Bill, which covered some of his costs.
According to stats from the VA in Georgia, a little less than one third of veterans take their own lives.
It's a serious problem. The VA has several resources in place to help prevent veteran suicide. And so do non-profits. Today, AMR Medical Transportation partnered with the Safe America Foundation to help veterans and other at risk groups get the help they need.
"To help prevent suicides and school shootings we have t start treating the mentally ill. And the people with addictions issues and the crime that it drives," said Paulette Rakestraw, District 19 Ga State Rep.
AMR donated an ambulance to Safe America, a foundation that helps veterans and other crisis victims. The ambulance will only service PTSD and homeless veterans, opioid addicts and human trafficking victims.
Building a massive barrier wall in Boston Harbor to protect the city from the increasing risk of flooding isn’t worth a price tag that could reach $11 billion, according to a new study for a City Hall-led commission.
A research team at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Sustainable Solutions Lab said the city should instead focus on smaller, shore-based projects, estimating it would take at least 30 years to build a wall while the need for solutions is far more immediate.
The study was the first to look at the feasibility of a harbor barrier wall, and it analyzed construction costs, as well as the impact on the environment, waterfront neighborhoods, and the region’s marine industry.
The concept of a wall, which under one design would stretch 3.8 miles from Winthrop to Hull and be the largest in the world, was considered a year ago to be a bold but possibly necessary solution to combat the effects of climate change.
But planners and environmental protection advocates said the UMass findings brought about a collective sigh of relief with its recommendation to instead dedicate $2 billion to neighborhood protection efforts. To some, the harbor wall would have been the aquatic version of the Big Dig — the massive, prolonged highway construction project that had billions in cost overruns.
“I think people know these big huge projects can become complicated and troublesome,” said Bud Ris, a former CEO of the New England Aquarium and a member of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, a group of government, business, and civic leaders who encourage strategies to combat climate change. The group, cochaired by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, sponsored the study with funding from the Barr Foundation.
American Medical Response held an event to commemorate the donation of an ambulance to the Safe America Foundation. The ambulance will support Safe America’s efforts to help rescue victims of human trafficking. It will also be utilized to support the organization’s work with opioid addicts and PTSD-suffering veterans. The donation is part of AMR’s observance of “National Emergency Medical Services Week” with events being held nationwide.
Dozens of fifth graders at Springfield's William DeBerry Elementary School spent part of Monday afternoon learning "compression-only CPR" from American Medical Response EMT's.
Being 11 and 12-years-old is not too young to recognize the value of these emergency skills that could save a life.
"To me it feels really exciting. to learn something new, at the same time. 'Cause you don't know what to expect," said 5th grader Shakira Montesdeoca.
By contacting and working with the schools, American Medical Response hopes to train more young people to make a difference during the precious minutes that could mean the difference between life or death for a stricken victim.
Clamoring for "long-term stable growth" in their sector, solar industry workers rallied Wednesday for changes that would make it easier and more economical for people to support renewable energy.
After some boom years, employment in the Massachusetts solar industry has dipped, losing about 3,000 jobs in the past two years. The industry now employs 11,500 people in Massachusetts.
"This is still in the early frames of our growth as an industry," said Zaid Ashai, chairman and CEO of Nexamp, a solar company. He told supporters outside the State House, "It needs to be long-term stable growth."
Bill Burke’s family has been delivering beer and spirits to thousands of businesses inside Route 128 since 1935. To date, the 320-employee company serves 750 off-premise licensees and 2,350 on-premise locations, distributing the wares of 34 different beer suppliers and 12 spirit suppliers.
In its relatively small footprint, Burke Distributing Corp. handles approximately 7 million cases of beer a year. Now coming up on its fourth generation, the business has changed substantially since it began at the end of prohibition. Burke, president and CEO of the company, spoke with Jessica Bartlett of the Boston Business Journal about the transformation, and how the craft beer industry changes have substantially altered his business.
With two-thirds of Boston Public School eighth-graders not proficient in math, a team of Boston schoolteachers are working to create new lessons and partnerships with the city’s corporate community to get students to see how their math problems in school apply to real world business.
The effort, led by EdVestors, a Boston nonprofit focused on improving city schools, is part of the “Zeroing in on Math” initiative with BPS focused on getting kids up to speed and training teachers — many of whom are experts in literacy and not math — to teach the subject better.
EdVestors funded program prepares to offer LGBTQ-Inclusive lessons this fall. Massachusetts schools will be able to try out groundbreaking new lessons on health, history and English from LGBTQ viewpoints, the Boston Herald reported Monday.
The new curriculum will be released this summer, and Boston high schools will be among the first to use it.
A report to be released Friday by the University of Massachusetts points to the challenges the city and the region face in funding solutions to combat climate change, with local neighborhood projects expected to amount to $2.4 billion.
The report warns of the dangers of projected sea level increases in future years and decades, as recent winter storms produced nearly three feet of ocean storm surge and flooded neighborhoods from East Boston to Dorchester.
“The broad conclusion here is that we’re going to need to make some very substantial investments in resilience,” said David Levy, a management professor at UMass Boston and lead author of Financing Climate Resilience: Mobilizing Resources and Incentives to Protect Boston from Climate Risks. The report is slated to be released Friday morning at a climate adaptation forum hosted by the UMass Club.
The Mattapan Early Elementary School — with a first-in-the-nation Haitian Creole dual-language program for early education — has been recognized with a $30,000 prize that will help it grow and become a model.
The Phil H. Gordon Legacy Award from EdVestors, a nonprofit focused on improving urban education, recognizes schools that are leveling the playing field for all students to learn.
The school has been transformed, teachers say, from the once struggling Mattahunt Elementary School that has now closed, to a school where students are learning in two languages.
The Health Care Climate Council of the nonprofit Health Care Without Harm has laid out comprehensive strategies for transforming hospitals so they not only heal patients, but also reduce their unintended environmental health impacts while enhancing climate resilience.
Drawing lessons from increasingly severe weather events and wildfires nationwide, we released a report in December, in collaboration with Pricewaterhouse Coopers Advisory Services LLC, entitled Safe haven in the storm: Protecting lives and margins with climate smart health care. It demonstrates how and why health care leaders are moving to safeguard lives and their organization’s financial viability.
Massachusetts students and anti-gun violence advocates will hold a series of town hall-style events across the state Saturday, allowing the public to engage with local, state and congressional officials on issues related to firearms laws and school safety.
The events, organized by students who have partnered with March for Our Lives Boston and non-profit group Stop Handgun Violence, will take place as part of the national "Town Hall for Our Lives" project -- the latest effort to bring attention to gun violence in wake of the deadly February mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school.
First released in late 2016, the city’s “Climate Ready Boston” Report, is an ongoing, predictive study of the city’s structural vulnerabilities and – many hope, a plan for crafting new, long-term solutions
The concept of taking teenagers far from the familiar so they can discover their resilience and their leadership skills is a crucial aspect of Summer Search, a national nonprofit organization that makes college more achievable for low-income students — almost all of them the first in their families to go — through travel and extensive mentorship.
The organization has served roughly 6,600 students since its founding in 1990. Summer Search partners with high schools, community-based organizations and families, recruiting rising sophomores from the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Boston, Morales Soto’s hometown.
Lowery is senior vice president of Thermo Fisher Scientific. A BRCPS mentor who has played a key role in Thermo Fisher Scientific’s STEM education partnership with the Hyde Park school, Lowery was recently named to Savoy Magazine’s 2018 list of “Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America.”
Charters in Massachusetts are well-regulated, nonprofit public schools that have promoted educational equity in our urban districts and offered innovative programs in suburban and rural schools.
The loss of the 2016 ballot initiative to lift enrollment caps on charters was certainly a political setback for charters, but it had no impact on the quality of the educational programs in their classrooms or the role charters play in furthering educational excellence in the Commonwealth.
These schools still enjoy bipartisan support among state leaders, and parents are still lining up to enroll their children.
In my view, strong principals and teachers lead to strong classrooms, strong classrooms lead to strong schools, and strong schools lead to strong communities, regardless of whether it is a traditional district or charter school. Public charter schools in Massachusetts have proved their value over the past 25 years; they should be embraced, not treated as adversaries.
Imagine the bipartisan duo of Baker and DeLeo highlighting this state’s success nationally, perhaps with a presentation at a prominent think tank and some TV appearances. Baker, a moderate Republican, could help dispel the NRA’s fearmongering that gun safety efforts are actually part of a sinister socialist plot to obliterate individual liberties.
“Having a guy like him would be really helpful,” DeLeo said of Baker, adding that the best plan would probably be “to take a trip to Washington and let them hear what has gone on here in Massachusetts.”
After what many solar advocates are calling recent “assaults” on the industry, a coalition of solar organizations is joining forces to call on Gov. Charlie Baker to recommit to the state’s clean energy economy.
What many feel has been a lack of action by lawmakers have led some to wonder what it will take to spark tighter gun control. “I thought it might take 500 people. 500 people were shot in Las Vegas. Is it going to take thousands at one time? Maybe it will,” said John Rosenthal, the founder of Stop Handgun violence.