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The (Not So) Great Backyard Bird Count

This Imperfect Life

By Jean Perry

Isn't it weird when a seemingly insignificant activity such as bird watching can stir up an underlying streak of existential angst, sending it floating up from the Mariana Trench of the unconscious ocean of the self and into the tumultuous tides on the surface of the seas of conscious awareness?

First, I wouldn't call myself a bona fide 'birder.' I just really like birds. My lack of in-depth factual knowledge of ornithology doesn't merit the title. I can't even call myself a 'bird watcher,' since I am rarely ever doing just that. I am always multi-tasking - running, driving, hiking, or picking up dog poo while keeping an eye and an ear out for a bird, any bird.

But once a year in February I sit outside for a half-hour or so with the sole intent to just watch birds. I join thousands of people across the entire planet in doing so between February 17-20, as part of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count organized by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Audubon Society.

The deal is you spend at least 15 minutes watching for birds and keeping a count of the different species of birds you see in one given area, usually one's own backyard or neck of the woods, so to speak. You then report the results on The data helps keep track of bird populations and gather information for scientific research.

My job as news editor at The Wanderer is to provide information and stories relevant to the Tri-Town area, so I headed to the Nasketucket Bay State Reservation - my default go-to spot in Tri-Town for a quick and easy dose of relative seclusion in nature - to participate in the GBBC.

There I spotted six blue jays, two cardinals, a Peregrine falcon, a robin, and I heard one tufted titmouse. Not bad for 30 minutes sitting on the edge of a mid-winter meadow still frosted with a layer of rapidly melting snow.

Having said that, my actual backyard isn't in the Tri-Town. My backyard is in Fairhaven. So when I put the 'backyard' in 'Great Backyard Bird Count,' it is outside the borders of my coverage area. Nonetheless, it had me thinking - about Fairhaven, about Tri-Town, about everywhere else that is not where my backyard is - and ultimately wondering, why do I live here?

In my backyard for 20 minutes, I watched and counted seven common (boring) house sparrows (menaces of the bird community) take turns at my bird feeder - the same gang of house sparrows that have resided in my backyard all winter - the only birds to inhabit my quasi-urban thickly-settled neighborhood backyard year round.

There is an irony here, one that is akin to, say, a vegetarian marrying a butcher; it's the woman who loves climbing mountains, loves the country, and loves birds, living where there are no mountains, on a busy state highway in a sub-urban setting, where the only birds that inhabit her bird feeder are mundane menaces not even indigenous to the region.

In my own defense, when I did buy this house I had been leasing a tiny weekend cabin in the woods just outside Amherst. It was my escape. It had hills, brooks and wildlife and, yes, lots of birds. (I've even seen Northern flickers, woodcocks, scarlet tanagers, and blue buntings).

Having this weekend escape made living in my 1920s bungalow alongside Route 6 tolerable. After all, I love the house, it's a convenient location, and I'm grateful to the Universe for all the fortunate circumstances of my life. I was having my cliche piece of cake and eating it, too.

But now, having let go of the lease on the cabin, I suppose this year's not-so-great Great Backyard Bird Count brought to my attention that I am left feeling somewhat unfulfilled and rather unsatisfied with my house sparrows.

Maybe this year's Great Backyard Bird Count has become a metaphor for not only taking notice of the humdrum birds in my own backyard, but also for taking note of my own mundane birdless backyard.

I've thus far believed that staying put, letting the roots grow a bit deeper, allowing my son to remain in the same school system from start to finish was the best thing for us. But, perhaps an absence of birds and the very fact that even the birds don't find my backyard an attractive place to inhabit is a metaphor for our own existence here.

Despite the presence of some trees and a steady refill of birdseed, there's just not enough to attract and keep any birds other than those scrounging sparrows.

This isn't one of those stories when the author, through divine enlightenment or unearthed inherent wisdom, finds the answers to anything or any concrete meaning of life. Far from it, actually.

I'm not yet sure what to make of my backyard barren of birds and the presence of any symbolism if there is any. Until I do, I suppose I'll keep on doing what I usually do, and that is to fly on over to Tri-Town every February for the Great Backyard Bird Count, and any other day for that matter when my not-so-great backyard isn't appealing enough for any birds to settle in, especially this little bird who just isn't content with the rest of the Route 6 house sparrows.

Foodies Meet and Eat at Taber Library

By Deina Zartman

Last Thursday evening, the lights burned brightly inside the Elizabeth Taber Library, which seemed deserted save for some voices - and enticing aromas - drifting from an unseen room behind the stacks.

This is where the Potluck Recipe Exchange Group meets to discuss and sample recipes taken from the library's cookbook collection.

For Library Director Libby O'Neill, the idea for the group was a no-brainer.

"I love to cook and I love to eat," she said. "I just wanted to bring together like-minded people who also love to cook and eat."

This was only the group's second gathering; the first was held last July.

"We had a little bit of a smaller group, but it was very successful," O'Neill said.

The last time, attendees made recipes from the same cookbook, which O'Neill chose, but not everyone loved that particular book ("I don't like to cook with 35 ingredients," one woman said). This time, O'Neill allowed that they could make recipes from "any of the Elizabeth Taber Library cookbooks that we have on the shelf here."

On the practical side, the group reviews the recipes they try, detailing any changes they made or "hiccups" they encountered. And on the fun side, they get to taste-test the finished products.

O'Neill prepared two recipes - a goat cheese dip from Dips and Spreads by Dawn Yanagihara and a tortellini recipe from Happy Cooking by Giada De Laurentiis.

Dot Brown made Pollo in Potacchio, a braised chicken with rosemary, garlic, and tomato sauce, from Skinnytaste Fast and Slow by Gina Homolka. Library Assistant Nicole Davignon made a chicken chili recipe, also from Homolka's book.

Mary Alice made a beef stew from The Barefoot Contessa by Ina Garten, which she deemed "pretty good but a lot of work."

Diane made Sassy Salsa Pumpkin Soup from Lisa Lillien's Hungry Girl cookbook. She made a peanut butter fudge from the same book, which also called for pumpkin - and which she found "terrible."

Charlene, a self-declared "fresh fish eater," made fish cakes from Jennifer Trainer Thompson's book Fresh Fish.

Teresa, another library staffer, made chicken satay with peanut sauce from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express and apple cake squares from The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley ("lots of grating").

Nancy checked out The Old-Fashioned Cookbook by Jan McBride Carlton and decided on Ozark pudding, but then wondered whether it was a good choice. Then, in the back of this month's Woman's Day magazine, she saw an updated recipe for Ozark pudding and took it as a sign: Ozark pudding it was.

The next get-together is planned for July, with appetizers and desserts being the tentative theme.

Boy Scouts Evicted from Camp HoRoHi

By Jean Perry

It has been the home to Rochester Boy Scouts Troop 31 for about 45 years, but as of Saturday, February 18, Troop 31 has officially vacated the HoRoHi camp located on property the owners had allowed the scouts to use since 1971.

Scout Master Mike Blanchard told The Wanderer that the property owned by Carr Family Bogs, LLC is up for sale and business representative Deb Clark had informed Blanchard back in December that the troop would be asked to leave the premises once a prospective buyer was found.

What the troop was not expecting was the 30-day eviction notice that soon followed.

Blanchard explained that back in October, Clark had circulated an email to her siblings, members of the LLC, regarding the property going up for sale. Once Blanchard found out about it in December, he said Clark was very apologetic for having mistakenly left him out of the loop.

"She did say that she wanted me to know before anything was done," said Blanchard. "That way I could make plans to vacate."

Clark told Blanchard that Troop 31 was welcome to use Camp HoRoHi until it was sold, but the 30-day eviction notice came just about a month later.

Blanchard said he had been scraping together some funds to come up with a space to rent or purchase to store the troop's equipment and belongings and, once they received the notice to vacate, Blanchard was able to secure a shipping container that one scout parent said could be temporarily stored on his property.

"We purchased that with just about the last of our money," said Blanchard. "We still haven't found a place to call home."

Blanchard said there are no hard feelings towards Clark or Carr Family Bogs, LLC.

"I understand. It's a gorgeous piece of property for someone to build a huge house on," said Blanchard.

In 1971, Howard Robert Hiller gave Troop 31 permission to use the land and granted land use rights to build a camp. The camp was named using the first two letters of Hiller's name - HoRoHi.

Blanchard's son Corbin joined the Cub Scouts in 2003, and Blanchard was cub master for that time period before Corbin crossed over to the Boy Scouts in 2009. Blanchard said the father and son have many fond memories of Camp HoRoHi.

"We're deeply saddened that we had to lose our camp," Blanchard said. "We definitely understood this day was going to come sometime."

Blanchard said he is grateful for the use of the camp.

"Thousands of boys have come through there. Terrific memories have been made, lifetime friendships have been made," said Blanchard. "Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end."

When cleaning out the final load on Saturday, Blanchard, the other scout leaders, and the boys gathered in a circle to share their fondest memories of camp HoRoHi.

"They just expressed a sadness that they're never going to be able to play 'manhunt' (group hide and seek) ever again."

The troop would camp out there just about every other month, while holding regular weekly meetings at the Rochester Grange Hall.

"Right now, we're pretty much homeless," said Blanchard, although there is a possibility that Troop 31 could use land off Snows Pond Road owned by the YMCA, although nothing is final yet. However, there is no structure at the site, and the old fire pit at Camp HoRoHi will be sorely missed.

"We'll see what we can do," said Blanchard. "We're Boy Scouts. We're prepared. We'll try our best and keep positive."

Blanchard and the troop leaders had hoped to host one last camp out at HoRoHi, inviting all past and present Boy Scouts and troop leaders for one last hoorah before leaving the place for the last time.

"That would've been nice," said Blanchard. "It's a shame that we couldn't have that piece because they needed us out as quickly as they did."

Blanchard added, "I'm very grateful for them for allowing us to use the property. A more generous gift could not be given..."

Mattapoisett Installs 911 System Upgrade

By Jean Perry

Through grant funding provided by the State 911 Department, the Mattapoisett Police Department has upgraded its 911 service to the Next Generation 911 (NG911) system, the latest in 911 service technology.

The NG911 system is an improved emergency call technology created to better handle rising call traffic more efficiently.

The new system went online January 25 and has been successfully fully operational for almost a month now.

Although 911 callers will not notice any discernable difference, Mattapoisett Police Officer Kyle Pavao said the new system runs off the Internet connection through a voiceover IP address, rather than the telephone line as the old system used.

"Within a couple of years, the entire state will eventually have the new system," said Pavao. "It allows more adaptable features," he added - features such as 911 text messaging and in-car crash systems. "It'll be easier to integrate those features when you couldn't do that with the old system because of the old telephone line."

Although Mattapoisett does not yet accept 911 text messages, it could at some point in time. For now, said Pavao, the State 911 department has not yet made 911 text message acceptance mandatory for departments, although slowly some are adopting the feature.

The NG911 system allows for more accurate and detailed location pinpointing through the integration of the town's GIS system.

"It's a completely different software from the old system," said Pavao. "It's more reliable. We've become more technology-based."

The NG911 is faster, more flexible and resilient, and able to keep up with the newest technologies used by the public, such as e-mail, text, video messaging, and instant messaging.

NG911 will allow Mattapoisett in the future to integrate these features, allowing residents who are in an emergency situation to text photos, videos, and other information through various applications to the 911 dispatchers, in addition to the traditional voice call.

"It also allows the hearing impaired to have easier access to emergency response, provide emergency responders with possible life-saving information before arriving on-scene, and will eventually allow local 911 centers to receive data from in-vehicle crash notification systems," reads a press release from the police department.

The Mattapoisett Police Department received the NG911 upgrade at no cost to the town.

The Wanderer to Soon Go 'Behind the Bulldog'

By Jean Perry

In collaboration with Old Rochester Regional High School Principal Michael Devoll, The Wanderer will soon feature a new monthly column entitled "Behind the Bulldog," which is Devoll's idea for sharing stories that go on inside Old Rochester Regional High School.

"Within this space I hope to provide [readers] with monthly elevator conversations - quick narratives from behind the big, wooden bulldog you see at our entrance as you pass ORRHS on Route 6," Devoll said.

Through the column, Devoll hopes to highlight the many reasons why parents and community members should be excited about the school.

"We can all remember what our high school experience was like. That experience is crucial to our development and future success," said Devoll. "It is my belief that what makes ORR special and what sets us apart is the opportunities we provide for ALL students. It is time to showcase all of these great opportunities happening in and around our school community. It is time to give you a monthly glimpse 'Behind the Bulldog.'"

Recreation Department Going Strong

Mattapoisett Finance Committee

By Marilou Newell

Despite icy patches and hard packed snow mounds surrounding Mattapoisett's town hall, inside was warm and the conversation inspiring as Recreation Department Director Greta Fox met with the members of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee on February 17.

Fox said it had been an exciting year that included an expanded basketball program. She described a program that brought together school age children from the Tri-Towns, partnering not only with adults to referee games but also sharing facilities at Rochester Memorial and Sippican Elementary schools. Fox said that Rochester does not have a recreation department, which makes Mattapoisett's program all the more important to the children in the surrounding area.

Fox spoke to the organization her department has brought to the town beach in ensuring lifeguards are fully engaged while on-duty. Also, a study of parking lot usage at town beach on Water Street found that demand for parking passes - a revenue source - was highest Friday through Sunday. With this is mind, Fox believes that staffing could be trimmed at the beach during the weekday for economic efficiency.

Fox complimented Program Administrator Jane Finnerty who manages the beach staff, improving services and operating the summer camp program with excellent results.

Regarding the summer camp program, Fox said that approximately 100 to 120 children are served and, with a newly secured grant from the Mattapoisett Cultural Council planned, field trips would not be funded from the department budget but would be supported by the grant of $600.

The camp program generates approximately $22,000 in revenue.

The list of programs now offered by the recreation department spans such activities as basketball, drama, flag football, gymnastics, Legos-2, nature camp, volleyball, and fencing to name a few.

The FY18 budget estimate Fox presented showed level funding at $32,757.

Also meeting with the Finance Committee was Police Chief Mary Lyons.

Both the police and ambulance departments were presented as level funded for FY18 in the spreadsheet Lyons prepared.

Of the ambulance department, Lyons said that the SouthCoast Health Care facility now fully operational in Fairhaven has increased billable ambulance runs by about 60 trips. Total ambulance runs were 625 in FY17 versus 540 in FY16. Mutual aid transports are a revenue source to the town, Lyons said.

Lyons also discussed capital planning needs, saying that two new cruises are on the list along with the possibility of having to purchase medication pumps for three ambulances.

She said the State may pass a new requirement mandating that all ambulances have medication pumps, but that hearings on the matter are ongoing at present. If, however, the State does require the new equipment, each pump will cost $7,000 and will have to be added to capital plans.

The ambulance budget for FY 18 stands at $372,797 versus FY17's $368,619.

The Police Department budget for FY18 is pegged at $2,171,337 versus FY17 at $2,067,026.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee is scheduled for March 1 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.

Sub-division Complicated By Starts and Stops

Rochester Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

The plan has been in the works since 2009, but after starts and stops over the past eight years, the sub-division planned for Old Mill Way and Hartley Road was back on track.

Gary Mills and DBA Southeastern Realty Development's engineer Don Bracken met with the Rochester Conservation Commission on February 21 with five separate applications.

Bracken sought partial certificates of compliance covering the sub-division's roadway and clearing that had taken place on the proposed three lots. In total, Bracken needed closure with the issuance of four certificates of compliance and approval to move forward with one notice of intent.

Commission member Daniel Gagne questioned how the commission could issue a COC for the roadway and stormwater management systems when the plans submitted did not give clear details on exactly what had been completed and what was pending.

Bracken said, "We can have a disagreement, but I think you have all the information."

Chairman Michael Conway said, "If you want a partial, we need to know exactly what has been done and what is not complete."

There was back-and-forth discussion on whether or not a new order of conditions, which Bracken would be seeking in the notice of intent application the commission would also be hearing, was the way to handle incomplete work on the road.

But both Conway and Gagne wanted everything on the plan before moving forward with the issuance of a certificate. Bracken said, "If I knew this commission better and knew that was what you wanted, I would have added that."

Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon helped to shepherd a compromise to settle the stalemate.

Farinon suggested to the commissioners that they could accept a request for a continuance on the COC request for the roadway, but still move forward with the other three COC requests for the individual lots. After consideration, that was agreed upon unanimously.

Regarding the new notice of intent covering the completion of the roadway into the future sub-division, that too was continued pending small plan modifications to reflect engineering details. Both the roadway COC and NOI were continued until March 7.

Also coming before the commission was Charles Adams, 5 Bennett Road, with a request for determination of applicability for the eradication of invasive Japanese knotweed up to and including areas designed as no touch zones.

Adams said that a contractor will dig up affected areas and asked for guidance on locations within jurisdictional areas.

Commission member John Teal advised the process of hand digging to remove unwanted vegetation in the buffer zone and then application of weed killing chemicals through a process of individually painting the plant stems with weed killer.

Farinon said it would probably take more than one application to completely remove the weeds. Adams received a negative ruling that allows him to move forward.

The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for March 7 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.

Enforcement Order Upheld

Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals

By Marilou Newell

On February 16, the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals finally heard the appeals from Sheryl Martin, Brian Porter, and the Trustees of the Mattapoisett Landing regarding a cease and desist order issued on August 30, 2016 by Director of Inspectional Services Andy Bobola.

An enforcement order issued by Bobola that had been continued since August was filed after several residents of the age 55+ condominium sub-division located at 102 Fairhaven Road reported that Brian Porter, age 53, had moved into a unit with Sheryl Martin, age 58, to whom Porter is now married.

It was the opinion of the Town that Porter could not reside there since he did not meet the age requirement.

Bobola confirmed the information presented by aggrieved residents, then issued a cease and desist order to Porter, Martin, and the trustees. That was followed by individual lawsuits against the three parties, a suit currently winding its way through land court.

On the night of February 16, lawyers for all parties presented their cases in the hope of achieving an agreement.

That was not the outcome.

Representing husband and wife Brian Porter and Sheryl Martin was attorney Edmund Allcock. Representing the trustees was attorney John Markey, and representing the Town was attorney A. Alexander Weisheit and Town Administrator Michael Gagne.

Addressing the ZBA members first, Allcock said the Special Permit that granted the construction of the sub-division did not exclude some residents being under the age of 55 and that only 80% of the residents needed to meet that age requirement according to federal law that had been referenced in the permit.

He also said that HOPA - the Housing of Older Persons Act - applied to this situation.

"There is no violation here," Allcock stated.

Allcock then described how Porter and Martin met and fell in love, were married in 2015, with Porter moving into Martin's unit. He said that prior to Porter moving in, the couple received a waiver from the trustees allowing Porter to reside in the over 55 community.

Allcock said the Town had filed a lawsuit to have Porter removed before giving the couple a mandatory 30-day appeal period. A $100 a day fine has been ticking away since then for each of the named parties in the lawsuit.

Continuing his argument, Allcock said, "I don't understand what the big deal is." He said Porter and Martin were not a drain on public services and did not have children in the school system. He asked the ZBA to overturn the enforcement order.

Attorney John Markey on behalf of the Mattapoisett Landing Trustees spoke next. Although he confirmed that several residents had been "upset" when Porter moved in, after a meeting, "They did the compassionate thing..." and gave the couple a "narrow waiver" that allowed Porter to stay.

Markey also insisted that the trustees should not be enjoined in the lawsuit, saying that the ZBA had, "...A chance to do the right thing - if you pass this, then litigation will go away. You have the right to do this."

Speaking on behalf of the Town, Weisheit said that Land Court Judge Long viewed the case as a "straight forward yes or no."

"Is he (Porter) over fifty-five or not?" asked Weisheit. "The bylaw is clear ... our interpretation is that there is no reference to federal law."

Gagne rose to speak. He said, "Why does the town pursue the fine?" He then explained that bylaws are voted on through the Town Meeting process and therefore had to be adhered to.

Regarding the sub-division's permit, Gagne said that in 2005 the site had been called Maple View Court and that analysis by the Planning Board granted the developers a "density bonus" that allowed 17 additional units, but only if all residents on the property were over the age of 55.

Gagne said, "They traded off to get the density bonus.... The age restriction minimizes the impact on the school system." He said that the trust documents state "55 and over."

"It's fairly clear," said Gagne.

Gagne said that by allowing Porter to stay in place a precedent could be set.

"It is not selective enforcement," said Gagne. "We have nothing against them."

But he said the case will go through Land Court. Gagne also said that Bobola had agreed with the town's position.

Martin then described going through a long and stressful process that she and Porter had thought to avoid by receiving the trustees' waiver.

"I don't understand why the Town is harassing us," she said.

Martin said mounting legal fees and fines are troubling and she has sought relief with the Massachusetts Board of Discrimination. She said if the Town acknowledged the trustees' waiver, it would not violate the bylaws that are in place.

Martin said the last meeting between all parties found Gagne telling her to pay $5,400 to get a special waiver. She asked the ZBA, "Are we buying a waiver?"

Gagne said that sum represented legal fees the Town has incurred.

"Why should the municipality fork out the money?" said Gagne. "We are going to move forward in Land Court."

With all parties heard from, the public hearing was closed as ZBA members Mary Ann Brogan, Norman Lyonnais, Kenneth Pacheco, Anthony Tranfaglia, and Chairman Susan Akin discussed the case.

Akin turned to the board members and said, "We are here to enforce or overturn." She said the parties had violated the Special Permit and that, if the ZBA granted their request, HOPA could be applied to future locations.

"We can't look at drama and compassion," Brogan said. "So many times we've felt sorry for people we've ruled against." She felt emotions could not be part of their decision making process. "It's not fair for others. I think it's irritating that the trustees think they can make their own rules."

The 90-minute hearing ended with the ZBA unanimously voting to uphold the enforcement order.

Bobola and Gagne could not be reached for further comment before press deadline.

Earlier in the evening, the board moved to approve a Special Permit to Weston Van Cantor for property located on the corner of Main and Depot Street for demolition of the existing structure and construction of a new single-family dwelling.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals will be scheduled for March 16 at 6:00 pm in the town hall if hearings are planned.

Sippican to Implement 'radKIDS' Defense Program

Marion School Committee

By Jean Perry

Students at Sippican School will soon learn the ABCs of self-defense through a training curriculum aimed at providing a holistic approach to self-safety and responding to violence defensively.

The radKIDS program trains children to "think about the unthinkable" in situations of relational violence, bullying, and resisting aggression in all environments.

The program was brought to Sippican School as an inter-district response to a youth risk survey given to students in grades 7 to 12. Data analyzed by the school districts and the new healthy Tri-Town Coalition prompted concerns about students' experiences with relational violence in and outside school, as well as with interpersonal relationships, substance abuse, and depression.

The radKIDS program, says Assistant Superintendent Elise Frangos, will help combat the first aspect: relational violence.

"It's a great social emotional program," said Frangos. "The key is really empowering kids with what can happen to children off campus or even on campus." This includes, she said, bullying, being met with unkindness, or any physical violence. The program provides children with the tools to know what to do when those situations happen, Frangos said.

Frangos herself is a trained radKIDS instructor, and several Sippican School teachers recently attended the five-day training to become certified radKIDS facilitators as well.

The radKIDS curriculum is a developmental evidence-based curriculum that facilitates self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills.

"[It] fosters resiliency," said Frangos. Instead of freezing with fright, students are conditioned to override their 'fight or flight' response - "a bouncing-back," as Frangos called it. "Sometimes when something tough happens to that kid ... it's really hard to get your adrenalin to work for you instead of against you."

Aspects of the curriculum help kids to discover personal empowerment, set boundaries, and critically think about which defensive tools to use in any given situation.

Through radKIDS and its multi-sensory approach, Frangos suggested, "The brain helps us think rationally as opposed to just being frozen ... and what moves to take instead of fight or flight."

Topics of the eight-hour curriculum that will be introduced to students during physical education class include school safety, home safety, bullying prevention, medicine safety, stranger safety, and even addresses topics such as how to approach dogs.

Some statistics on the nationwide outcome of implementing the radKIDS program show an 80% decrease in conflict and bullying in participating schools. Over 300,000 students have been trained so far, and 5,000 radKIDS facilitators are currently certified in the country.

According to statistic provided, radKIDS has helped over 125 trained students to escape attempted abduction, and thousands have escaped abusive situations.

School attendance in participating schools also increased as a result of the training.

Mattapoisett Police Chief Mary Lyons and Rochester Police Chief Paul Magee, both trained in the curriculum, have endorsed introducing the program to area schools.

The three principles of the program are: 1. No one has the right to hurt you; 2. One does not have the right to hurt someone else (unless it is in self-defense); and 3. It is not their fault if someone tries to hurt them.

The program will be unfolded in stages, with grade 6 parents first receiving an invitation from the school to attend an informational session about radKIDS.

The program will be implemented this year and information in the form of a safety manual will also be distributed to families.

Next year, grades 5 and 6 will experience the program.

"I think this is awesome," said Marion School Committee Chairman Christine Marcolini. "This is the stuff that keeps me up at night.... I think this is wonderful and it really shows the more advanced thinking that we're trying to do with our kids."

Marcolini said she found the statistics presented "disturbing."

"Our hope is that by the time children leave our school districts they're really empowered ... to combat any difficult situation," said Frangos.

The next meeting of the Marion School Committee is scheduled for March 15 at 6:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

Screenagers Creates Conversations at ORRHS

ORR Update

By Jo Caynon

The last day of school before February break for students in grades 6 through 12 in the Tri-Towns found them all converging at ORRHS to view Screenagers, a documentary that explores growing up in the new digital age.

Screenagers follows the journey of mom Delaney Ruston as she is faced with the decision of whether to give her 12-year-old daughter a smartphone and the possible risks that are associated with a large amount of exposure to video games, social media, and personal digital devices.

The documentary touches upon studies around screen time hurting cognitive performance and how too much time on the Internet can reduce one's capacity for empathy.

When Screenagers was shown at the high school earlier in the school year for members of the community to see, a common piece of feedback they received was that parents wished their children could also see the film, said Principal Mike Devoll to the gathered student audience.

The juniors and seniors viewed the movie first thing in the morning, followed by the entire junior high. The sixth graders from Old Hammondtown, Rochester Memorial, and Sippican School were all bused to the high school in the afternoon to watch the film in the auditorium, while the freshmen and sophomores saw it during their last class block.

The ORR Ambassadors were on hand for the entire day, specifically during the presence of the sixth grade classes. A group of the leaders led the OHS and Sippican students in a widely enjoyed game of "Simon Says" as they waited for RMS's arrival. The Ambassadors watched the documentary with the younger students, as well. Afterwards, they served the students pizza and water in the gymnasium.

Following each screening, the assembled students then broke into groups, each with two to three high school Ambassadors, to have discussions about the content of the movie.

The sixth graders spoke of their and their parents' electronics usage at home, as well as different aspects of the documentary that stood out to them.

One group of Mattapoisett and Marion elementary students discussed specifically about the topics of video game addiction, social media, and screen use and time. Many actively participated without the urging of their high school discussion leaders.

Conversation continued outside of the breakout groups. Whispers could be heard during the film as students immediately reacted to the information presented to them, and this lasted as they were released back to classes.

Whether they agreed or disagreed with the film's stance, the fact that there was discussion about the topic as a whole means that it was a successful endeavor.

Parents Visit Campus for Family Weekend

Tabor Academy Update

By Jack Gordon

Parents and families of Tabor students converged upon the Tabor Academy campus this past weekend for the annual Winter Family Weekend. This event, which takes place over three days, allows parents to reunite with their students and get a better sense for the lives their sons or daughters live every day.

Classes became considerably more crowded on Friday as parents joined their children for a full academic day. Parents were fully immersed in the general conduct of classes, answering questions from the teacher, analyzing literature, and participating in class-wide discussions and debates.

While parents and families are given the opportunity to visit classes during the Fall Family Weekend, those classes are created as an introduction to the course rather than a realistic example of day-to-day proceedings.

The Winter Family Weekend is especially important for the parents of juniors, who are invited to several events to familiarize them with the College Counseling process at Tabor.

The first was a dinner hosted by new Director of College Counseling Tim Cheney and open to all parents of juniors, welcoming them to the college journey that awaits them.

The main event was a program featuring Lee Coffin, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission & Financial Aid at Dartmouth College, as the keynote speaker. Coffin's talk gave parents an insider look at the college admissions process that is often hidden to students and families.

During this Winter Family Weekend, the musical Grease drew significant crowds to the Fireman Performing Arts Center in Hoyt Hall. Though all three nights of performances left the audience scrambling to find a seat in the 650-seat auditorium, the show on Friday night very well may have exceeded that. Though no tickets were sold to the event, unofficial estimates argue that the audience may have been the largest ever for a Tabor musical, topping that of Tabor's previous performance of Grease in 2000.

"I can only recall one other performance in over twenty years when Fireman Auditorium was sold out. Last night may have topped that," said Director John Heavey in an email to the Grease cast on Saturday.

In addition, parents and families had the opportunity to attend a number of presentations and discussions hosted by Tabor faculty members on a variety of subjects pertaining to their students' lives at school.

Topics for these events included: "Tabor's Athletics Today & Tomorrow" hosted by Athletic Director Conan Leary; "Not Your Average Library: Beyond Books and Ssshhh!" by Director of Library Services Ann Richard discussing the many unique offerings of Tabor's Hayden Library; and an informative talk regarding an upcoming overhaul of the academic schedule by Dean of Studies Eileen Marceau.

Throughout the school year, many parents can often become disconnected from Tabor's faculty and the details of academic, athletic, and social life; these types of discussions work to close that gap and inform and engage parents to the greatest extent possible.

While many of the sports teams traveled away from Tabor for athletic contests this weekend, two exciting matchups took place on campus this weekend.

The first was a Boys' Varsity Basketball matchup between Tabor and Milton Academy, a game Tabor won handily 82-63 with the help of a strong, enthusiastic crowd of students and families.

The second was a duel between Tabor and rival Holderness School for Boys' Varsity Hockey on Saturday, which Tabor also won by a margin of 4-1.

The hockey team may have gotten some motivation from the game that was played before them, a Men's Alumni Hockey Game featuring Tabor Hockey alumni of all ages reliving the glory days. The week before, the Women's Alumnae Hockey Game was held; this was also followed by a convincing 4-1 win over Pomfret School.

Though parents and families are always welcome on Tabor's campus and visit frequently for numerous events and activities, the Winter Family Weekend provides an opportunity for the entire community to open it to the people that make it possible for the students to come to Tabor in the first place.

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