Is Lowell High Safe? Monday Meeting Set on the Topic
A Sun Staff Report
THE EYES of some of the city’s most influential political and business leaders will be on Marianne Busteed, Lowell High head of school, Monday evening at 6 when she meets with parents to allay fears the high school isn’t safe.
The meeting, in the Little Theater, comes less than two weeks after simmering tensions at the high school spilled into public view with teen fighting teen in the heart of the downtown business district just before rush hour.
State troopers, plus police from several neighboring communities, assisted Lowell police in quelling the disturbance. Pepper spray wafted through the air. Enterprise Bank went on lockdown. A dozen were arrested and more are expected.
An initial fight between two students over a girl happened at the high school earlier in the week.
“As a result of that, the next day, three or four friends of the loser of the fight go after the kid that won the fight, and it just escalates from there,” Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson said in Tuesday’s edition of The Sun.
The Column attempted to speak with Busteed on Friday. She declined comment, referring questions to Acting Superintendent Jeannine Durkin. Durkin did not return an email seeking comment on high school matters.
BUSTEED’S HIRING was not smooth, as with several personnel matters left to then-Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui.
In March, Busteed replaced Brian Martin, who retired at the end of the previous school year. Since Martin’s retirement, Busteed served as interim principal.
Last December, the School Committee voted 4-3 to instruct Khelfaoui to conduct a full search to find Martin’s replacement, knowing full well that Khelfaoui was always leaning toward Busteed.
At the time, Khelfaoui said: “My feelings are quite well known on this one. Usually, when you have somebody who really works out, it’s difficult to justify the waste of time and resources of a search. But at the end of the day, I’m fine. If they want to do a search, we’ll do a search.”
So the nationwide search ended just where Khelfaoui wanted it to: with Busteed, who previously oversaw Nashua North High School.
In selecting Busteed, Khelfaoui overlooked former Curriculum Director Amy McLeod, who enjoyed a wide swath off support across the city but not from one very important Khelfaoui booster: City Councilor Edward Kennedy, who was mayor at the time.
To no one’s surprise, McLeod left Lowell, and now serves as principal at Wakefield High School.
SCHOOL COMMITTEE member Robert Hoey learned the latest on Khelfaoui from The Sun -- and he wasn’t happy.
A story in Wednesday’s paper quoted Mayor William Samaras, who said Khelfaoui was expected to come before the School Committee sometime this week.
“I’m just curious how the Lowell Sun got that and we haven’t heard anything,” Hoey steamed during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “I can’t wait to hear (Khelfaoui) respond to a lot of this stuff.”
“Mayor, with all due respect,” said Hoey. “As a School Committee person if you or the city solicitor has hear anything from that side --”
“That’s the point I’m trying to make,” Samaras said. “When we get that information, you’ll get it right away.”
“So you haven’t heard anything from that side at all?” Hoey asked.
“No, they’ve been negotiating with that side, but a decision has not been made by that side as to whether he wants an executive session or an open session and the time of it,” Samaras said.
Hoey covered his face with his hands.
A divided committee narrowly approved starting the process of terminating Khelfaoui’s contract 4-3 in July.
Samaras and Gerry Nutter supported the motion proposed by School Committee members Jackie Doherty and Connie Martin.
Hoey joined committee members Andre Descoteaux and Dominik Lay in opposition.
LORI TRAHAN made the rounds in Boston a few days after clinching the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District.
On Thursday, she was part of a panel discussion on opioids. The event at the Back Bay Events Center on Berkeley Street was called “America is Watching” -- Response to the Opioid Crisis in New England.”
The panel discussion during the daylong public forum was hosted by William James College. Other attendees included U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Eric Gold, and state Senate candidate Jon Santiago.
Then Trahan spoke at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers meeting at the Omni Parker House Rooftop Ballroom. She was among several candidates and elected officials at the event.
Trahan narrowly defeated Dan Koh in the recount last week. Koh, the former chief of staff for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, would have felt quite comfortable at those Boston events.
IN NOVEMBER’S general election, Trahan will face Republican candidate Rick Green, who was quite active on social media in the days after Trahan finally got the Democratic nod.
After Trahan said during a press conference that she’s excited to turn her focus to “combating” Green’s campaign, the Republican responded on Twitter, saying he has great respect for Trahan so he’s “sad that she’s listening to the political class telling her to make this a race ‘against’ or ‘combating’ me.”
Also, in the wake of the announcement that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren would headline a rally at UMass Lowell in support of Trahan on Friday, Green wrote on Twitter that UMass President Marty Meehan (former UMass Lowell chancellor, and whom Trahan worked for as his chief of staff) must feel “threatened to bring in ‘The Big Scream’ (B.S. for short) @SenWarren to attack us on Day One!”
He followed up that message with another Tweet, saying the attendees of the Friday evening rally would affect rush-hour traffic. He also didn’t waste an opportunity to attack Warren’s Native American heritage claims.
“On behalf of long suffering citizens & commuters of Lowell, I call on @MartyMeehan & @SenWarren to delay the start of their Friday evening fundraising powwow until after 7pm so they don’t make rush hour traffic any worse than it already is,” Green posted on Twitter.
SETH MOULTON versus Ed Markey in 2020?
The New York Times floated that potential U.S. Senate primary in a recent story about the new Democratic party. The story was titled, “Democrats Embrace Liberal Insurgents, Demanding New Face for Party,” with a photo of the exuberant Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley who recently upset longtime U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano.
Moulton, 39, pulled an upset of his own in 2014 when he toppled incumbent John Tierney in the Congressional primary. Moulton represents a few Greater Lowell communities, including Billerica, Bedford, Burlington, Tewksbury and Wilmington.
He has been rumored as a possible presidential candidate, as have many others in Massachusetts, such as Warren and former Gov. Deval Patrick.
But this recent Times article stated that Moulton is “considering” a primary challenge against Markey, who has served in Washington, D.C. for decades.
TYNGSBORO TV will host a 36th Middlesex District debate next month between state Rep. Colleen Garry and her Republican challenger, Ray Leczynski.
Moderated by Media Director Steve Brogan, the event co-sponsored by Your Dracut Today will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 16. The filming will take place at Town Hall but there will be no live audience, according to Brogan. Only media and Brogan’s staff will be in the room plus four pre-registered members of the communities who will be invited to come in and ask their question on camera.
Leczynski last week said he has requested three debates, which is something Garry would not agree to.
“On her website she posted that the debate is settled and I do not subscribe to that opinion,” Leczynski said. “I am committed to having a Dracut and Tyngsboro debate. What I’m not committed to is to have one town getting it and the other town gets nothing.”
Garry has said there is no need for separate debates for the district.
“The reality is we are having a two-hour debate that will be live streamed in both Dracut and Tyngsboro. There’s no need for a separate one,” Garry said last Thursday. “My record is out there, has been for 24 years. I talk to constituents on a daily basis. He’s the one who has to get his message out. There will be plenty of opportunity for issues to be discussed.”
The incumbent state representative added that, from day one, she’s said she would participate in one debate for the primary, and one for the general. Garry said she thinks that’s more than enough.
THE OFFICIAL Facebook page for the town of Dracut went live last week.
“This page is informational only,” the page’s About section reads. “The views and opinions expressed in the comments are those of the authors and not those of the Town of Dracut.”
Officials voted in July to move forward with the page as a “one-way street” bulletin that provides information to residents and members of the public. Some had also expressed concern that this page would become a breeding ground for nasty comments.
“We didn’t want it to become another Dracut negative posting board which we have far too many (of) already,” Selectman Jesse Forcier told a Sun reporter last month.
Time will tell.
THE RECENTLY formed Route 40 Study Committee in Chelmsford will meet for the first time Thursday.
The committee was formed by the Chelmsford Planning Board following a series of contentious meetings about a proposal to rezone portions of Route 40 between Route 3 and the Westford line as commercial and multifamily residential.
The new committee consists of residents from within and abutting the affected area, as well as representatives from the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen.
The meeting will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in Room 204 at the town offices at 50 Billerica Road.
THE WILMINGTON School Committee has rearranged its subcommittee appointments, following the resignation of former member Peggy Kane and appointment of Jo Newhouse to serve out Kane’s term through April.
Vice Chair Jennifer Bryson is set to join the School Committee Handbook & Protocol Committee. Member David Ragsdale will be joining the Policy Subcommittee. Newhouse will join the Superintendent Evaluation Committee as well as the Sick Bank Subcommittee.
Contributing to The Column this week: Elizabeth Dobbins and Rick Sobey in Lowell, Amaris Castillo in Dracut and Tyngsboro, Alana Melanson in Chelmsford, Kori Tuitt in Wilmington, and Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott.