The Wanderer - Mobile Edition
Marion Holiday Stroll a Christmas Classic
By Jean Perry
It felt like forever to some who were staked out at Island Wharf, eyes glued to the horizon scanning the waters for the sign of a moving vessel - and hopefully a vessel that looked as though it might be arriving from the North Pole to deliver Santa Claus to the Marion Holiday Stroll on December 14 like it does every year.
It was approaching 3:15 pm and the crowd had grown into the hundreds. Ideal locations for spotting an approaching Santa grew scarce, but free cookies and popcorn kept the multitudes at bay.
"Where's Santa? Where is he?" Child after child asked the very same question, demanding an answer from their concerned parents eyeballing their watches that now read 3:18 pm.
"He's coming, honey. He's on his way."
Excitement was mounting, anticipating the moment that finally arrived when someone called out, "There he is!"
Eyes fixed on the harbor and cameras ready, the moment the little red and white boat came into view sparked a frenzy of holiday cheer. The faces of children lit up like Christmas trees.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!" exclaimed Santa above the sound of the chugging motor.
What a sight to see, Santa Claus in his red suit and white beard blowing in the sea breeze as a festively festooned ferry pulled up along the dock and delivered Santa to his adoring fans.
Old Saint Nick disembarked the little board with flair, ascended the ramp with finesse, and then poof--he disappeared into the crowd.
Beholding the unfolding Christmas scene, it looked like a page torn out of the Santa Claus version of a Where's Waldo book with all the Santa hats that peppered the mass of merry Marionites, concealing the exact location of the one and only Kris Kringle.
Santa eventually made it to his Clydesdale horse-drawn carriage that was there waiting for him and, like a true celebrity, trotted through the tiny streets of the center of Marion, waving to the kiddies and giving carriage rides to some of the lucky ones.
There were other celebrity sightings, including the Grinch and the Nutcracker, and revelers enjoyed performances by The Showstoppers and the Sippican School marching band before strolling to the Town House for the park lighting after dark.
The center of Marion during the holidays - quaint as a Christmas card.
White Gifts Pageant Pleases
By Marilou Newell
On the starlit evening of December 14, the Mattapoisett Congregational Church opened its doors and presented its annual White Gifts Pageant.
The cast consisted of church children dressed as shepherds, sheep, King Herod (Maggie Carroll), Mary (Maggie Berry), and Joseph (Ella Meninno). There was even a tiny baby (one-month old Isaac Lang) who had been carefully placed in the manger (by his real mother who bravely watched from stage left) announcing that Christ was born by uttering tiny mewing sounds.
"It's the first time in a while that we've actually had a live baby, so that's exciting" said Patricia Berry, director of Christian Education. "You never know when somebody's going to have a baby!"
The production was everything one would want from a community church extravaganza. Julian Crain, Elliott Talley, Delilah Burlinson and Teddy Carroll were all beaming as they performed a variety of Christmas songs during the prelude, in front of family and friends gathered to watch and encourage them. You got the sense that you were witnessing, nay, experiencing something wonderful.
For hundreds of years, long before Christmas became the commercial event it is today, people gathered to honor what they believed to be one of the holiest days of the year - the day Christ was born. And though the actual date, place, and circumstances continue to be debated, the ceremony of wanting to share hope and love, along with the giving of earthly possessions to others, remains for Christians an integral part of remembering the man they call Jesus.
For over 80 years, the Congregational Church has extended its outreach to those struggling to keep body and soul together through the "White Gifts" pageant.
Combining the story of the nativity with the collection of winter clothing wrapped in white paper, the church supports the spiritual and physical needs of others. The white gifts were symbolically laid at the feet of the Baby Jesus and later distributed to various charitable organizations for distribution.
White Gifts Pageants have been performed throughout the world in Christian churches as far back as the early 20th century. The adoration of the King is oftentimes a significant part of the choreography. On this night in Mattapoisett, it was the angels, the sheep, and the shepherds no more than three-feet tall that surrounded a kicking baby Jesus. To that, all one can say is, Amen!
Fulbright Teacher Prepares for Journey
By Jean Perry
Kate Raffile is about to embark on a journey that will combine two of her passions in life - traveling the world and teaching children how to read.
Raffile, a special education teacher who has been with Sippican School for six years, was awarded the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching in April of this year. Along with that comes the opportunity to live and study abroad for six months in the country of her choosing: Raffile was drawn to New Zealand, which is known for its highly regarded early literacy intervention practices.
"One of my true loves in teaching is teaching early primary students how to read," said Raffile. She wants to witness firsthand how New Zealand implements its successful early literacy programs, what its practices and interventions involve, its special education referral rates, and how it supports its teachers.
"They know what they're doing," said Raffile. Her preferred early literacy intervention program, Reading Recovery, was devised in New Zealand and widely implemented in the country, as well as in other countries. "I've made connections with some of the people (in New Zealand) I consider gurus." She continued, "I already have meetings set up for when I go."
Raffile's departure date is January 21, and she won't be back at Sippican until July 18. She has been preparing for the trip for months now, making contact with educators, as well as literacy scholars and authors, in New Zealand.
Beverley Randell, an internationally recognized author of books for children, is one whom Raffile has looked up to, often referring to her books for inspiration and ideas. When the two finally spoke, Randell asked Raffile if she had secured housing yet, to which Raffile replied that she had not. Randell offered an apartment in her home until March, when another rental belonging to Randell's daughter becomes available. This was thrilling for Raffile.
Randell just so happens to have a library in her home of 26,000 children's books, which means Raffile will find herself literally in a full-immersion experience.
When Raffile is not researching for her Fulbright capstone project focusing on early literacy intervention, Raffile will be based in the capital city of Wellington and will spend much of her instruction time with students living beneath the poverty level. She is also looking forward to spending some of her free time exploring the country.
"Although I've traveled a lot, I've never lived in a foreign country for six months," said Raffile, anticipating some personal growth to accompany her growth professionally. Things have recently started to set in for Raffile as her trip nears, she said, with a little bit of nervousness mounting. "I'm starting to think six months is a long time to be away," she laughed. And that 15-hour flight from California to New Zealand is weighing a bit on her mind.
Being separated from her students at Sippican will be challenging, too, but Raffile intends to stay connected from abroad, hoping to set up some video chat sessions between her classes in New Zealand and her classes back home.
In addition to returning to Sippican with new teaching techniques and early literacy interventions, Raffile is hoping to bring back a strong message for her students that look up to her.
"I got the bug to travel and I love to travel. If I could instill that into my students..." said Raffile. "There is so much you can learn from talking to and being around all different types of people."
Raffile will be writing a blog throughout her stay abroad, which can be found at http://kateraffilenewzealand.blogspot.com.
'Friendly Denial' for Comcast Contract
Tri-Town Selectmen's Meeting
By Marilou Newell
The Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester Boards of Selectmen, during a joint meeting of the Tri-Town selectmen on December 15, rejected the renewal of the three towns' contract with Comcast with a unanimous vote.
Marion was represented by Town Administrator Paul Dawson and Selectmen Jonathan Henry and Jody Dickerson. Town Administrator Michael McCue and Selectmen Richard Nunes and Brad Morse were present from Rochester, and in Mattapoisett's corner were Town Administrator Michael Gagne and Selectmen Tyler Macallister and Paul Silva.
Gagne right away made it clear to the viewing audience and those of the media who were in attendance that the vote they were about to cast was in no way an end to cable service in the area. On the contrary, the vote would allow the communities and Comcast more time to reach an amicable agreement.
Massachusetts General Laws that govern such contractual agreements between cable providers and communities, however, require that when the expiration of a contract is nearing and an agreement cannot be reached before its expiration, the communities must vote not to renew. Negotiations have been taking place for a number of weeks.
"...Proposals are being exchanged back and forth and we'll continue to negotiate," stated Gagne. "I don't want it to be construed we are done and finished - quite to the contrary ... TV will not end." He continued, "This is a formal process and cable will continue as it has been provided to you."
Dawson called it a "friendly denial," saying that relations between the cable giant and the Tri-Town "are not acrimonious." McCue echoed the sentiments of his fellow town administrators.
Also present during the brief public meeting was Mary O'Keeffe, Comcast senior manager of government and regulatory affairs of government relations. Although her area of expertise is governmental contracts, she was asked about the closing of local Comcast offices in Marion and Fairhaven. Town offices were hearing from residents that the closing of these customer service centers would cause a hardship when trying to do business with Comcast.
O'Keeffe said that although she understood that change was difficult, Comcast has found that customers are using more online services than vis-a-vis services. She said customers have become more proficient using self-help tools on the website and overall could do more for themselves. She also said that people can still go to a Comcast office in New Bedford, Middleboro, or Sandwich if they choose to do so.
Furthering the theme of self-help tools, O'Keeffe said that seasonal users of Comcast services could turn their service off and on from their desktops without having to move equipment back and forth between a Comcast office and their homes in what she termed a "sleeper service."
O'Keeffe said she had information for residents, which prompted Gagne to ask if she could send it to each town hall so self-help information could be posted on the towns' websites. She concurred that might be helpful and agreed to do so.
With business concluded, the meeting was closed. For more information on the current status of Comcast contract negotiations, you may contact your local town administrator.
Team CVS Determined to Move Forward
Marion Planning Board
By Jean Perry
With or without the support of the town, Mark Investments LLC will move forward with its plan to build a CVS in Marion. The question is: Will the town forego working with the developer while it still acquiesces to the town's aesthetic fancy, or will Team CVS revert to its original plan and rely on the bylaws to bring it home?
Team CVS concluded on the night of December 15 that no matter what they do, short of giving up, residents and some board members will not be happy with any of Mark Investment LLC's viable plans to build a CVS at the corner of Route 6 and Front Street.
Attorney Marc Deshaies introduced some changes to the plan that he said address the major issues of all concerned - particularly, the preservation of "The Gateway to Marion," as opponents of CVS have recently dubbed the corner.
The footprint of the building was reduced to 10,000 square feet, down from 12,900 square feet. The new plan was visually different, with the Captain Hadley House no longer tucked far back in the northeasterly corner of the lot, but instead remaining where it is today, surrounded by a new green area of grass and plantings.
"In terms of the gateway," said Engineer Josh Swirling, "this area right here was sort of neglected," pointing to the proposed landscaping that would enhance the Hadley House corner "and really make that corner pop as a gateway."
The reduction in the size of the retail space means fewer parking spaces are required for customers, and several additional parking spaces were added to the Hadley House lot.
Deshaies said the developer listened during the October 6 meeting when hundreds attended and voiced their opposition, and this latest conceptual design most effectively addressed their concerns.
"But," stated Deshaies, "in no way is this to be construed as a withdrawal of our prior pre-submission application."
Dean Holt of Mark Investments emphasized that, although from a business standpoint it would be more resourceful to demolish the Capt. Hadley House, he was sensitive to the town's concerns, and respectful of the building's historical significance. He called the latest plan a likely "homerun for the town."
"...And, at best, a base hit for us," said Holt.
Holt gave an ominous introduction of Team CVS's three options for working with the town.
First, Team CVS could proceed with the original footprint and move the Hadley House, while enduring the town's opposition. Second, it could demolish the Captain Hadley House in order to more easily comply with zoning bylaws - an option Holt called "a loser for everybody." The third option is to proceed with the plan presented that night, a move he called "a win-win."
But going away and never coming back, said Holt, was not an option.
The developer never moves into a town with everyone universally accepting of it, said Holt, "And we didn't expect that in Marion, either." He said the latest changes reflect the developer's desire to work with the town, without rendering the project financially unreasonable.
Holt recalled a voice at the October 6 meeting that warned the town about the devil you don't know, versus the devil you do know.
"We're the devil you know," said Holt, emphasizing that without the Team CVS proposal, the next interested developer could simply come in and knock down the Hadley House. This project, he said, at least provides certainty that the Hadley House will stay put.
"We're trying to do our best to give you what ... you want," said Holt. But we will not walk away, he said. If neither the first nor the second plan is suitable to the town, he added, then Team CVS might as well go with the one they already have engineered - the bigger building and the Hadley House relocation.
"Personally," said Planning Board Chairman Stephen Kokkins, "I don't have an automatic dismissal of any corporate entity such as CVS." And he gets Holt's alluding to the "rockier road" the town will travel with the project if no consensus is reached. But the project does not reflect the character of an "1800s sea-faring town," as Kokkins put it, and the new plan, with its size and excessive traffic, is still "way out of range."
Planning Board member Eileen Marum said the CVS would be better located at the corner of Route 6 and Point Road. She waded deep into the minutia of the bylaws as well as the FEMA flood plain regulations and went further, painting a vivid picture of absolute destruction should the pharmacy be built in the VE Zone.
"The flood waters could possibly transport CVS debris, shelving, goods and merchandise, far and wide," said Marum. "The resulting flotsam and jetsam and flying debris ... could endanger nearby properties and jeopardize the health and safety of residents."
Marum's lengthy discourse was interrupted to allow others to speak.
Planning Board member Steve Gonsalves offered the evening's first voice of support for Team CVS.
"I think this is a much better project," said Gonsalves. His only issue was the Front Street access point, which he considered dangerous. "Apart from that, I think we've got something here we can work with."
Planning Board member Norman Hills said this plan was better, "but..." Hills, also the chairman of the Conservation Commission, said constructing anything other than seawalls or piers within the flood plain is prohibited.
Board member Robert Lane again raised the issue of requiring a lease clause that would help prevent abandonment and more potential vacancies of businesses in town. Holt said this was the first time he had ever heard of a planning board attempting to partake in the leasing of a building.
Well, you encounter something new every day, Lane shot back, calling Holt's response "disingenuous."
Planning Board member Michael Popitz said both sides made valid points, but his interactions with the public have yielded more opposition than support.
Judith Rosbe of the Sippican Historical Society said the plan only serves to "preserve the Captain Hadley House as a useless building." She said it was once an antique store, a residence, and could possibly be used as a senior center in the future.
"But right now, with no parking there, it's a useless building," said Rosbe. She called Team CVS's plan "a meaningless preservation."
Resident Bill Saltonstall handed the board his petition with 1,163 signatures and those in attendance applauded.
"Use every tool ... to withhold the special permit to the store," he told the Planning Board. He said they have the right to do so, "and this is the time to use it."
Resident Charlie Larkin said he did not appreciate Team CVS's "sabre rattling" saying Team CVS threatened, "If you don't approve it, then we'll go for the bigger store."
"As polite as CVS has been," said Larkin, "[the changes] are still unacceptable." He said usually he is on the side of business, "but not in this case." Larkin wants to preserve the charm of Marion where his family recently purchased a home, saying the town does not need anymore toothpaste.
"There's really zero benefit," said Larkin. And Rite-Aid will suffer, as will Jack Cheney, owner of the Marion General Store.
"Who in their right mind wants to hurt Jack Cheney?" said Larkin, provoking more clapping.
Resident Lee Vulgaris, speaking from the minority that night, argued that the so-called Gateway to Marion has not been nice for many years, and there is nothing presently attractive about the corner - but opponents with the "herd mentality" fail to see it.
"Before you get to Tabor, there really isn't much 'quaintness,'" said Vulgaris. He said Marion has not supported any small businesses over the years, with restaurants and stores coming and failing, leading to vacant buildings.
"It's gonna be what it's gonna be," said Vulgaris, recognizing Team CVS's willingness towards a thoughtful building facade. "Because, today, things aren't going to be built like they were in 1850."
Resident Jonathan Maclean said he resented Team CVS's "gun to our collective heads" when laying out the three options, suggesting a boycott of CVS.
Kokkins said progress with the important issues expressed by the board was not significant enough.
"There doesn't seem to be very much value in continuing these discussions," said Kokkins. "Although some efforts were made ... they're not significant enough, in my mind, to warrant approval for the project."
Hills said the board does not have to close the door, and Holt maintained that this latest plan addresses the majority of everyone's concerns.
In a follow-up interview, Holt stated that the project will advance to an official filing with the Planning Board, but was reluctant to specify with which option. When asked when he expects to file for the special permit, he simply replied, "Soon."
The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for January 5 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.
Control, Not Exclusion
Marion Planning Board Master Plan Subcommittee
By Jean Perry
Tasked with protecting the town from businesses that could change the character of Marion with their trademarked color schemes, drive-thru windows, and sheer size, the Marion Planning Board Master Plan Subcommittee is weighing its options on how best to regulate such businesses without appearing to blatantly exclude them.
Subcommittee Co-Chairman Rico Ferrari made a few things clear on December 10 before bylaw discussions began: Marion cannot have a bylaw that excludes a particular business, protects local businesses, restricts competition, or regulates the interior of a business structure.
What the town could do, though, is restrict the size of a building's footprint, ban drive-thru windows, and regulate the exterior aesthetics of a would-be corporate-stylized building.
"We want control," stated Planning Board and subcommittee member Robert Lane, "but not exclusion."
The subcommittee, doing the research for formula business bylaw options and the legwork of forming a new Master Plan, has options to explore before making a recommendation to the Planning Board as a whole.
Some members present for discussion agreed that a viable option would be to add drive-thru windows to the current principal use table of the bylaw, prohibiting them from all zoning districts. Other suggestions were limiting drive-thrus to banks, or allowing them by special permit only, if possible.
Subcommittee member Marilyn Walley brought up a point about the elderly in the area and their reliance on drive-thrus for convenience and safety.
"We should take into account the senior population," said Walley. "Aging populations really like drive-thrus," especially when it is cold, icy, or their mobility is limited, she specified.
Former Planning Board member and subcommittee member Ted North wondered if CVS would still build their store at the proposed location on the corner of Route 6 and Front Street without a drive-thru and commented, "It puts the monkey back on the Planning Board's back."
Ferrari said allowing drive-thrus through special permit could leave it up to the discernment of both parties: The Planning Board could grant the special permit for a drive-thru, or not - and CVS could choose to build without it, or to not build at all.
Lane said limiting the size of structures would be a good way to regulate business branding, but wondered what exactly the purpose of amending or creating a new bylaw is.
"We have to decide what the goal is," said Lane. "I think we should list what we want to accomplish and then construct the bylaw around it," said Lane. Size and architecture, but what else?
Subcommittee members briefly discussed the concept of the more attractive "Cape Cod" design that towns on the Cape have adopted when formula businesses come to town.
Look at what CVS has proposed, commented Ferrari. "It is pretty ... Cape Coddy," he said.
North said the main factor when you see a business structure is, "Are you going to think of it as a building, or as a particular business?"
After discussing the different bylaw options for regulating formula businesses, Walley pointed out what she called a few potential "unintended consequences."
"It could make a good, quality business look at this (bylaw) and say, 'I don't want to go through with this. I can't work with this, this is onerous,'" said Walley. Much of the bylaw discussion, she said, would appear as though they do not want branded businesses in town - what she called "the elephant."
"This is saying we don't want a branded business it town," said Walley. "I'm not sure I want that."
Businesses like Domino's Pizza or Not Your Average Joes, among others, would be welcome in town by Marion residents, some members thought.
"Now you're picking winners and losers," said North, "and you can't pick winners and losers."
Board Zips Through Short Agenda
Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals
By Marilou Newell
When you must appear before a local appeals board hoping for approval for a project, the hearing is a big deal. You hope that you have all your documentation correct and ready, have all the answers to the questions that might be asked of you, and even sometimes sit with your fingers crossed hoping for quick approval. As for the board members, they also hope you have everything pulled together in proper order. No committee member likes being faced with problems or long, drawn-out hearings.
And so on December 12, the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals was faced with a light agenda and very little to delay their returning to the warmth of their homes, and possibly even the smell of pine these mere 14 days before Christmas.
Coming before ZBA Chairman Richard Cutler and board members Randy Cabral, Davis Sullivan, Kirby Gilmore, David Arancio and Thomas Flynn were two applicants.
Richard Nash, 306 Walnut Plain Road, was seeking a variance to build a 30-foot by 40-foot three-car garage. His application was approved with the condition that the garage not be used for any living space or business activities.
Sean Crook, 201 Neck Road, sought a variance to build an oversized garage, swimming pool and hot tub. His application hearing was continued until January 8 as the board requested he return with a certified plot plan.
The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for January 8 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall meeting room.
Long Pauses at ConCom Meeting
Marion Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell
No one likes just hanging around with nothing to do, but during the December 10 meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission, it could not be helped. With four hearings continued and the publically published agenda in place, they were stuck keeping to the schedule.
Richard Costa of 37 River Road, filing for a Notice of Intent to eradicate phragmites, was up first.
Costa received an education from Chairman Norman Hills and ConCom member Jeffrey Doubrava on the proper methodology to use in efforts to control and eliminate these invasive plants. Costa plans on doing the work himself.
"We are sensitive to people eradicating phragmites," said Hills. "It must be done at mean low tide."
Costa was told that winter is not the best season to perform the work; rather, treat individual stems in the spring, followed by a more thorough removal in the fall before the plumes seed. Costa received permission that is good for a three-year cycle of eradication efforts.
Then there was a long pause as Robert Korff's (345-390 Wareham Street) Request for Determination of Applicability to confirm boundaries of wetland resource areas protected under Wetlands Protection Act was continued to January 14.
The hearing for Ashley Briggs of 73 Cove Circle, Notice of Intent for the construction of a single-family dwelling, garage, and driveway, had been continued pending a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection file number. With that now in place, a standard Order of Conditions with erosion controls was placed on the approved project.
Legare Cuyler of 15 Hiller Street was sent by the building inspector to have a discussion with the Conservation Commission regarding his application to build a small bump out - an addition that adds on only a few feet to an existing room - for a half bath and the construction of a new entranceway and associated landing. He was told to file a Notice of Intent with the commission, but that there was nothing barring his request as presented.
Then there was another long pause due to a request by Joseph Sheehan to indefinitely postpone his NOI to remove phragmites located at 17 Nokomis Road along a marsh.
Bay Watch Realty submitted a request to modify the drainage plans for the cluster sub-division located off Front Street. This received approval since it was a minor change. The commission, however, will send a letter to the developer requesting stamped plans.
Then there was yet another long pause as Bart Nourse's request to discuss invasive bamboo at 35 Spring Street, 39-41 Spring Street, and 20 Cottage Lane was postponed with no date for a return.
Nick Dufresne of Thompson Farland Engineering represented Bernard Bowers regarding 14 Bayview Road and his application for a RDA to construct additions to an existing dwelling with associated grading and to relocate an existing deck with the construction of a stone patio. The applicant received a Negative 2 determination with standard conditions plus erosion control.
Long pauses continued as the Town of Marion's NOI for the reconstruction of a 337-foot stone seawall was continued.
Susan Wright's (25 River Road) NOI to remove a cesspool and install a new septic system was reviewed and then continued until January 14 in order for the applicant to file for a DEP number.
William Curley, 9 Edgewater Lane, represented by David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates, Inc. sought an amended Order of Conditions on an application that was originally filed in April of 2010. Curley had been unable to complete the plan as designed due to economic constraints, and was back before the commission with a smaller dwelling footprint needing the commission's review and approval.
"...Essentially, we are just shrinking the house down.... Everything else remains the same," said Davignon before the commission approved the amended Order of Conditions.
The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for January 14 at 7:00 pm in the Town House meeting room.
ORR to Offer 'Gateway to College'
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry
Students who dropped out of high school or are struggling in the high school setting and considering dropping out have a new avenue to success in earning their high school diploma - while simultaneously earning credits toward college.
The Old Rochester Regional School Committee on December 10 gave approval for ORR to offer the "Gateway to College" program upon the request of ORRHS Principal Michael Devoll, who said he already has students showing interest in the program.
Devoll said one student of the 2014 graduating class dropped out of ORR before graduating and contacted Devoll that very day, looking for a way to return to ORR to graduate. When he told her about the tentative approval by the School Committee that evening, she was excited.
The Gateway to College program would allow her and other students to attend classes at Bristol Community College to earn high school credits toward their diploma as a dual enrollment program, and earn college credits at the same time. The students would be enrolled at ORR, but take their courses at BCC.
"This is a student that is ready to go," said Devoll, saying that returning to ORR after a year removed, mid-year, would prove more difficult for her.
"And without the peer group, it would make it even more difficult for this student," said Devoll.
There is no cost for the student to attend the program, which would be funded by the school district at $3,500 per semester, the same rate as a School Choice placement.
There is a rigorous admissions process, though, and prospective students who apply would attend one-on-one interviews, as well as submit essays and undergo placement testing.
Also during the meeting, Devoll introduced some changes to the ORR course selection of the high school program of studies.
In light of the committee's approval last year of the four-year Physical Education graduation requirement, the school will now offer racquet sports, "Fitness for Life," and give credit for out-of-school recreational activities such as dance, horseback riding, or YMCA membership.
Some music courses like Music Technology II and Intermediate Guitar will be eliminated due to lack of interest. Instead, students would re-enroll in the beginning level course and the instructor would adjust the curriculum individually according to level.
Also offered will be grade nine and ten ELA and Mathematics skills classes aimed at improving performance on standardized tests and building a stronger foundation for higher levels of math, such as Algebra II. The skills classes would be full-year classes, but only meet twice instead of four times during the school's eight-day academic cycle.
New Science teacher Virginia Mattos will start offering a new Intro to Epidemiology class after students polled showed a significant interest.
ORR will also offer American Sign Language as a foreign language option for students who would otherwise not take a language. Devoll's concern was students who graduate without the two-year foreign language requirement for college admissions.
Devoll said he researched other schools that offer sign language and found schools' responses to be "all positive."
If you build it, said Devoll, they will come.
"If you build it and they don't come, we won't run it," said Devoll.
Also during the meeting, some teachers who offered to pilot the integration of the district's new Chromebooks directly into their classroom curriculum told the committee how successful the move has been, saying they use the devices daily and the students love them. One of the teachers said his class has reduced its paper consumption to zero, while another said the students are more engaged and excited to learn.
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for January 14 at 6:00 pm in the ORR media room.
Music Program Highlighted at Holiday Concert
By Patrick Briand
On Thursday, December 11, the holiday season kicked off in the Old Rochester Regional auditorium with the annual Holiday Concert. Featuring the ORR Jazz Band, ORR Concert Band, and ORR Chorus, the program was very well attended and well-received.
The 21-member Jazz Band ensemble performed five songs, including "Hot Chocolate" from the animated film The Polar Express. Junior Holly Frink accompanied the group on this piece as she performed the parts that actor Tom Hanks voiced in the film. Though all of their songs drew positive reactions, "La Llama Azul" was perhaps the best received. The audience really seemed to enjoy this track and its foreign flair. Sophomore Jacob Spevack and Senior Matthew Twaddle provided notable solos during the performance.
After the show, jazz band members Shane Fitzgerald and Zenobia Nelles, both juniors, expressed interest in continuing their music careers after high school. They thought the jazz band's display that evening went well.
"I'd love to go to school and play the oboe, and maybe join some big band later on," Nelles said.
Fitzgerald cited "La Llama Azul" and "Hot Chocolate" as what he considered the highlights of the show and "really good performances."
"Hot Chocolate" was not the only song from the popular Christmas movie The Polar Express that was performed during the concert. Members of the concert band joined the jazz band to perform the song "Believe," also from the film. This was perhaps the centerpiece of the performance and earned positive reactions from the audience.
The concert band and chorus then set up their entire ensemble for the show's second half. They performed five more songs, titled "Wassail," "Midnight Sleighride," "Greensleeves," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "White Christmas," respectively. The last two songs of the set are definitely holiday classics, and the concert band and chorus did an excellent job in their renditions, earning standing ovations on both performances.
The balance of well-known songs and more obscure pieces was evident throughout the show, one of the many strong points of the evening.
It seemed, even as the holiday concert wrapped up, the audience was eager for more. Though there was no encore, the entire Music Department earned a robust standing ovation. Much of the credit deservedly went to Music Director Michael Barnicle, who definitely put on a successful show that appealed to people of all ages.
Tabor Academy News
By Julia O'Rourke
The four core values of Tabor's mission statement give context to the most recent change in the school exam schedule, especially the first value: To inspire a life-long love of learning.
This school year marks the first in which Tabor will take on a new mid-year assessment format. Rather than have three-hour exams for each major course, teachers will design projects for the students to complete, which will count for a large percentage of their semester grade, but will not be worth as much as the previous mid-term exams.
Eileen Marceau, Tabor's new dean of studies, has helped implement this new system, which has been in the works over the past few months. The faculty often evaluates the way in which they educate and the systems that are used. The conversation about eliminating exams began when the simple question was raised: How and why do we assess?
Many department chairs saw the elimination of mid-term exams as an opportunity for more class time. In the past, two weeks were dedicated to exam review and exams. With an already short independent school calendar, this extra class time would be very valuable.
Marceau says that the new projects are intended to be "more real-world focused." She points out that other independent schools do not have mid-term exams and that Tabor is in many ways "modernizing" their system by making learning more "authentic."
The goal of these projects is to allow students to apply what they learn rather than cram and memorize facts that they would be able to access in the real world given modern technology.
Marceau hopes that this process will help make students excited about what they are learning. She points out Tabor's core value: To inspire a life-long love of learning.
"Who loves to sit down and take a three-hour test?" said Marceau. "[Students should] be excited to use their knowledge in a context that feels real."
She referred to Tabor's new computer science class as an example.
A student has designed his own video game and is creating something from the knowledge that is acquired in the classroom. Most importantly, the computer science students are enjoying doing so. This format of projects will allow the passions of students and teachers alike to "shine through more in the classroom," as Marceau put it.
At the end of the year, students will still take final exams. As a preparatory school, Tabor Academy aims to prepare students for college. A combination of final exams and mid-year projects is perhaps the best way to prepare students for higher education in which both formats of assessment will be required of them.
The system is still "a work in progress," according to Marceau. Projects are more difficult for math and science teachers in comparison to humanities courses and Advanced Placement (AP) teachers gave "mock AP" tests as mid-year exams in the past. The change will force the teachers to think creatively about how to approach the new system.
As far as the community's reaction, Marceau recognizes that "any kind of change is hard." She sees it as a "mixed bag of opinions," but it may be too soon to tell.
Marceau is confident that as the system develops and evolves, "public opinion will evolve as well."
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