Cold War Escalates Between Tewksbury School Committee and Shawsheen Tech

Committee members bristle at remarks made by Shaw Tech superintendent.

The war of words between the Tewksbury School Committee and Shawsheen Tech Superintendent Charlie Lyons escalated Wednesday night as the town's school committee members lined up to take shots at Lyons at the conclusion of their meeting.

Lyons had been quoted in the Lowell Sun on Nov. 6 as being critical of Tewksbury's vote last month to continuing barring Shawsheen Tech from sending its guidance counselors to present information sessions to Tewksbury's eighth graders.

"If the (Tewksbury) School Committee, for some reason, doesn't want its students to learn more about another school funded by the taxpayers of Tewksbury, I can't defend that action," Lyons was quoted as saying to a Sun reporter. "That type of behavior has only been exhibited by one district and that's the town of Tewksbury -- but it's not the town, it's the school district," Lyons reportedly added.

All five members of the Tewksbury School committee took issue with Lyons' comments, with committee member Jayne Miller stating that "those kinds of comments I have seen from this administrator of a public school toward another school, in my opinion, is reprehensible.

"This board has never commented negatively, in any way about Shawsheen Tech, nor would we," Miller added. "They are an excellent school district. But those kind of comments coming from (Lyons) I think are beneath a public school administrator."

Committee member Joe Russell agreed.

"I was actually insulted, tremendously, reading the article, personally," Russell said. "It was directed at this board. It wasn't directed at the district, it was directed at us.

"I think Shawsheen Tech is a tremendous school," Russell added. "I've always said that. None of us want to keep our children from going to a vocational school ... if they should be in that vocational school. Absolutely none of us want that. (But) that's the picture they're painting, that we're being unfair. So I was very hurt by that article. It couldn't be more wrong."

The School Committee has opposed the practice of allowing students to be taken out of a classroom setting during regular school hours to be presented with information on other school districts. School Committee chairperson Krissy Polimeno, however, reported that she had participated in discussions about alternative ideas that would not disrupt the learning process at a recent Mass. Association of School Committee (MASC) conference. The ideas discussed at the MASC conference included using the afternoon hours on scheduled professional development days (during which students are dismissed late in the morning) as visitation days for schools like Shawsheen Tech.

Under MASC's proposal, schools like Shawsheen would provide bus transportation to interested students, at Shawsheen's expense.

"If they're going to pay for the bus, I think the kids should go," Russell said. "I want as many kids that can, to go, so we can get the right kids there."

School Committee members also bristled at the fact that while public school districts like Tewksbury have to go to great lengths to get taxpayer approval to expansion plans for vocational school districts like Shawsheen Tech are not subject to voter approval.

"I just want Shawsheen Tech and Tewksbury to be playing by the same rules," committee member Dennis Francis said. "I look at the $4.2 million addition they have on their school, which is a tremendous addition. But when we (approved) our new high school we went before the voters, so the residents of Tewksbury had a say in that building.

"That $4.2 million that went to Shawsheen Tech, I don't remember voting for that. I don't even know who voted for that. Who represented the town of Tewksbury?"

Ultimately, however, the committee gave superintendent of schools Dr. John O'Connor the green light to meet with Lyons and continue to explore ways in which the two school districts could cooperate in their efforts to make the vocational school education available to all Tewksbury students.

"I agree with some of the provisions presented at the (MASC) conference," Miller said. "I think it may be worth a second look."

Polimeno agreed.

"Some of the changes proposed (by MASC) ... are something that we as a school committee may want to revisit and talk about," Polimeno said.


Diane Nocco November 18, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Awesome to hear your daughter is doing so well. Having been moved in and out of school districts, I understand why she would want to stay where she is. Kids can be brutal on newcomers. I agree about the nonsense punishments. If Mike gets a detention, I have to have it changed to a day I am not working, otherwise, he would be walking the streets as it is getting dark out and that is never a good idea. Especially with what goes on in that parking lot after dark. I asked him what he did to get the detention and he tells me something ridiculous. I don't believe him and have to confirm that, in fact, he did get a detention for that reason. I don't blame you for not wanting him there. My biological son went to Hudson, NH to live with his dad so that he could go to Alvirne HS. There was no way I was allowing my bright son's mind to deteriorate in TMHS. My choice now is to buy a house up there so Michael can go there too. It's a great school with many tech components that you don't have to apply/qualify for. It IS their HS. Can't wait :)
Marc November 18, 2011 at 06:42 PM
Mel well put..I want my son going to the tech as well..Im afraid if he doesnt get his grades up the 2nd term they wont take him however, hes never in trouble, never out of school which are all points towards going to the tech..my thing is some not all kids struggle academically therefore I hope they take that into consideration and know that not every kid that wants to attend the tech isnt an a/b student like my daughter is. She is one that would excel anywhere she wanted to go but once we chose the tech she no longer wanted the shop anymore come jr year and we struggled with that cuz she did have a full two years left of it. so thats why i would have transferred her anywhere else but like Diane said kids are brutal on newbies even though my daughter has played sports with these kids all her life..I chose the tech also because tewksbury kids/families can be very clicky and i wanted/want more of a diverse cultural experience for my children..I dont want them stuck in tewksbury all their lives they have to know whats outside the compound
RunningGreen November 18, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Personally, I don't like why everyone is going after the teachers at TMHS. Yes, there are some who need to be replaced. But a majority of them actually care about how their students do. I do agree that the building and administration need to be replaced, but don't put down the entire school. On another note, I honestly believe that whether a kid does well in high school depends just as much on the student as it does to the teachers and school itself. And this is coming from a TMHS student.
Diane Nocco November 18, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Marc, I believe you said your son likes to draw. Just a heads up, tell him not to draw on a girl. Mike just got home as I was on the phone with the assistant principle. Kids think it's funny to draw on each other but now Mike is suspended for 3 days for it. So now he will be out of school all week next week....that's just great :(
Marc November 18, 2011 at 08:01 PM
A kids can excel anywhere he/she wants to go..but suspending kids left and right is not the answer..these schools take it a little over board whatever happened to kids will be kids..yea of course if it is serious misconduct but give me a break is a kid gonna get suspended for writing on themselves to. I hate to say this but i always say there are only two reasons teachers become teachers..1st and formost they should care about the kids and their education and second reason which is why a lot kids become teachers today is to have the summers off. i feel if you have no patience teaching kids whether they be special needs or not you have no business being in any school system. I am personally sick and tired of all the small stuff that goes on with these teachers. my son was 5 and i would get calls constantly for his shoes being untied..do any of you know what its like to get a call like that constantly wen you work 25 miles away from the school.. reallyy..us as tax payers pay teachers salaries to basically babysit and teach our kids not bust our chops for petty stuff but yet because of this no child left behind act a friend of mine son must be 20 and still a senior selling drugs in the school and they cant kick him out..


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