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'Super-Sweet' Cat Births Super-Size Litter

By Jean Perry

At the "It's All About the Animals" cat shelter on Saturday morning, it was all about the kittens. Two momma cats gave birth the morning of April 23, but one small skinny "super-sweet" calico cat in particular was the star of the day when she delivered a super-size litter of kittens.

The young, pregnant, petite-framed cat arrived at the cat shelter in Rochester three weeks ago and recently caused quite a stir when her extraordinary pregnancy x-ray showed a triple-size litter of kittens. Twelve to be exact - far exceeding the average four to six kittens any regular cat pregnancy would produce.

"She was huge!" said Pamela Robinson, owner of the cat shelter, who eventually named the cat "Waddles" because of how she walked side-to-side with what Robinson described as "two great big balls" on each side of her. "When I saw the x-ray, I couldn't even talk. It was like, where do you start counting?"

A litter of this size is pretty unusual, said Robinson. "Very unusual. It's a big litter, that's all I can tell you."

On April 23, Waddles delivered 12 kittens and 10 survived. Waddles has her work cut out for her with only six nipples with which to feed her young. Robinson said all 10 kittens will need to be supplemented by bottle-feeding, which means that Robinson also has her work cut out for her.

Dr. Kimberly Suh of the Marion Animal Hospital assisted in the delivery of Waddles' kittens, just in time before Suh moves away to Georgia, said Robinson.

"So this is going to be her going away present, and she is going to get to name all ten babies," Robinson said.

It's All About the Animals has limited its visiting hours to Sundays from 1:00 - 4:00 pm during its renovation. More information on the 501(c)(3) and the cats and kittens up for adoption can be found by visiting www.itsallabouttheanimals.org.

Community Support is Key to Inclusion

By Jean Perry

Grace and Ariel Costa-Medeiros are sisters who live in Marion. They both went to Old Rochester Regional High School and are both 19. That's right, they are twins and they both have a passion for what they do - Grace with her sewing and Ariel with her writing and graphic art.

As far as twins are concerned, they certainly aren't identical. Their mom, Susana, says Ariel takes after their dad, who is more quiet and down to earth, while Grace takes after Susana, who is the more spirited, enthusiastic and lively of the two parents.

Yes, the two young ladies share a set of parents, a home, and a birthday, but they also share something else: they both have a place on the autism spectrum and both, with the support of their family, school, and community resources, are using their strengths to carve out a pathway to fulfillment and inclusion in their community.

Grace doesn't talk much. She much prefers hugs from her mom and has her own unique ways of communicating her needs and wants. She loves to swim, watch DVDs, and likes watching ballet performances, but what Grace really likes to do is sew. She found she had the knack for sewing when she was rather young and her grandmother, a seamstress, introduced Grace to the needle and thread, buttons, and the sewing machine.

Susana said the school was very supportive of Grace's interest, helping to nurture that strength and making it part of her school curriculum. The autism specialist, Cathy Freeman, was a particular influence for Grace, Susana said.

"Cathy really started this," said Susana. "Cathy bought a few of these sewing kits ... that come with these felt shapes of animals. Gracie really liked them, so Cathy made about another hundred of those herself and Gracie loved them."

Freeman said that ever since she knew Grace during her first years with Project Grow, Grace always loved working with her hands.

"She's a wonderful seamstress and she does a fabulous job," said Freeman. "Not only is she able to get real satisfaction for herself, but also a potential career."

Outside of school, Grace takes part in the Building Futures Project with the Nemasket Group in Fairhaven. The program provides support for students with extra needs and helps prepare them for life in the community after high school.

Susana said Grace's involvement with the workers at the Building Futures Project has "broadened Gracie's world."

"Between [the Building Futures Program] and Cathy, Gracie went from being a child with autism ... not very verbal and focused ... to a person who can be out in the community, going to [craft]fairs, a few quilting groups ... Pat [Charyk] (from Nemasket) takes her here, Pat takes her there, I mean she really, really opens up the world. There would be no Grace as she is today without Cathy and Pat. They just understand her so well."

Grace needs a lot of support, says Susana, mostly because she has a difficult time concentrating sometimes. The support she is given helps her overcome her anxiety, Susana said, allowing her to work on her sewing, sell some of her pieces at craft fairs, and work part-time at TJ Maxx. She also volunteers at Gifts to Give. She still attends school at ORR and will be entering the school's first soon-to-be established age 18-22 community-based instruction program.

Susana said Grace was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified), which is a form of autism. Grace seemed on track for her first year, but soon after she started drifting away and regressing into a world of her own.

"When she was diagnosed, I just wouldn't accept it," said Susana. "I wasn't ready for it." She said both her girls seemed to be doing fine, except they weren't meeting their verbal milestones on time. "They were both very active," she said. Ariel was diagnosed in second grade, she added, with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism in the "higher-functioning" range of the spectrum.

Ariel's passion is for writing and drawing. She graduated from ORR last year after receiving the Principal's Award. Ariel said she loved her creative writing class, mostly because her teacher was so supportive and encouraging. She was in the honors art class and took art lessons privately outside school. She is taking a year off before starting college, hopefully in graphic design, said mom with a wink.

One of her illustrations was one of the 13 chosen from 60 entries to be put on display at the State House as well as the Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich.

"I'm hoping to enter a contest that one of my support people has been talking about in hopes of getting my work out there because I'd like to earn enough money to get the heck out of here," said Ariel, sounding like any typical teenager. Her mom chuckled.

Susana pointed to a watercolor painting on the wall of their Marion home of a tree-lined river and sunset.

"She wanted me to throw that away!" said Susana.

"Oh, mom..." Ariel argued that the trees were supposed to be cherry trees but they turned brown instead of pink so she hated that painting.

"I like digital art better because it's easier to fix what you mess up," said Ariel. She's not that into realism, she said, preferring anime and cartoons instead. She joked that her social skills are "sub-par," with her subtle, pessimistic sense of humor of hers, and Susana laughed, reminding Ariel how lucky she is that her mom has a hearty sense of humor.

Freeman said she has also known Ariel since she was a youngster in Project Grow and developed a friendship with her throughout her years in school up to graduation and continuing to this day.

"She's another very talented young lady," said Freeman. "She's come a long way from when she first began to work with her art. All her time and energy and her focus ... it's very encouraging to me to see that she's been able to expand her horizon ... and expand her career choices. The two girls certainly have a lot to offer."

Chickens on Handlebars

Autism Awareness Month

By Jean Perry

This being the last week of Autism Awareness Month, I thought I'd conclude things on a relatively lighter note, a 'different' note.

My readers know by now that autism wasn't always sunshine and rainbows for my family, and even this far down in our autism journey, we still sometimes find ourselves deep in the autism trenches fighting off some new antagonist instead of frolicking in the hills like Julie Andrews singing "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Railroad Crossings." Sometimes we're 'stimming' on the disco dance floor and other times we are "going off the rails on the crazy train" a la Ozzy Ozbourne (our official anthem of the household).

Ask me now how to describe autism, and I'll maintain that autism is a journey. Sometimes it's more like a trip. Not exactly a conventional trip to Disney World or San Francisco or even to the store ... It's more like a trip to Cuba. It's a place you never thought you'd like to go, but once you get there, if you're a certain kind of person, you wind up glad you did. And I'm like that. I like Cuba, so naturally I've gone back about 20 times.

I remember my first trip to Havana, Cuba back in 2000. It was as if I had left Earth and landed on an entirely different planet. There were myriads of odd, poetic-like and almost ethereal things going on in the streets that even my own warped whimsical imagination could never conjure up. There are things there I can see, do, smell, taste, experience on that island that I can't find anywhere else.

I guess my life with an autistic child is sort of like Cuba in a way, if you will indulge me in this analogy.

First, though, let me say that in the past when I'd even mention to somebody that I liked traveling to Cuba, the response was usually, "Really? Holy crap! Why?" It's such a place of mystery, of limited access, forbidden entry, of poverty, oppression, and, yes, revolution - why on earth would one find that appealing? You can't even get Wi-Fi over there, so why would anyone want to go there?

Aside from the obvious - its natural beauty, tropical climate, musical and artistic culture, the preservation of its colonial history, the rum, tobacco, and the Hemingway factor - the place is simply different than what I am used to ... and I like 'different.'

It feels to me a lot like how having a child with autism does; it requires something else of me. It challenges my dominant paradigms, it tests my patience, and it makes me adapt to my surroundings in ways I never face in my own country. It makes me question whether or not I actually do, in fact, speak the language because, whatever that taxi driver is saying, it definitely isn't Spanish!

Cuba is abundant in beauty. Abstract beauty, not just the concrete and obvious perceptible beauty of the sky, the sea, the palm trees, the old mint condition '57 Chevy that is likely held together with rubber bands and paper clips, or the pretty women walking down the Prado. There is an intangible beauty to it all. There's magic in the scent of Cuban diesel exhaust mixed with the smoke of a Cuban cigar. There is a strange spirit in the breaking of communist bread. It is a beauty that must be sensed, felt, and taken in.

There is wonder in the early-morning spectacle of the avocado-seller shouting "Aguacate!" while pushing his wooden clunker of a cart down the street and stopping at a rope dangling from an apartment, lowered down from the fourth floor above with a plastic bag attached and pesos inside for the seller to take and replace with avocados for an unseen person to pull up again.

She appeared like a miracle to me, the little girl weaving in and out of the shadows cast by the tall colonial building covered in the dust of centuries past and urban decay, riding a bicycle in the street with a chicken calmly roosted on the handlebars.

Watching it all felt so otherworldly, bizarre, and beautiful.

Such is the beauty in autism. If not for my son, I never would have seen the splendor in the way the line of overhead lights in the Ted Williams Tunnel can flow like a rhythmic river of light past your squinted eyes.

Maybe it's in the more abstract beauty of autism - such as in the distance, the inaccessibility of Cuba - that the beauty is found. That fleeting meeting of the eyes, the time when a hug ensues instead of a pulling away, an almost elusive fairytale-like encounter like the sleeping princess beneath the glass coffin or the dance with the prince before it turns midnight. Maybe the beauty of autism is like the thorns of the rose that make its possession so much more beautiful and coveted.

Sometimes the beauty resides in my son's inherent ability to be present and pure in the moment, to be transparent and carefree in his joyful perception of rain. Like with Cuba, the beauty lies within his ability to be himself - unmasked, unprotected by the layers that we dress ourselves in to hide who we truly are.

But with autism as with Cuba, despite the beauty, those permanent residents are familiar with the obstacles. There is a common isolation of those with autism from the community and often from close personal relationships outside the family. Similarly, the inhabitants of Cuba wish they could leave, but they are trapped, and getting a visa out of there is difficult at best and usually impossible. There are misconceptions and stereotypes, and the rest of the world might already have formed an opinion without an introduction, without ever visiting.

Regardless, in Cuba, they have these cool three-wheeled trucks that "meep" by, and papier-mache-like motorcycles with a half shell in the back they call "cocotaxis" that Diego loves, and the ubiquitous "bicitaxi" that will ride you anywhere in the city you want while blaring your favorite reggaeton song for pesos. Diego and I both love going to Cuba. You want 'different', you go to Cuba, and that's where we feel at home.

Looking through the autism lens is like looking around in Cuba - I never really look at "normal" the same as the rest of the world. Autism has a way of tossing "normal" out the window. Autism puts "normal" into a plastic bag lowered down to the street below to happily exchange for some avocados. Autism is a chicken on the handlebars of a little girl's bike. Just like the famous autistic author, speaker, and animal scientist Temple Grandin always says, autism is just "different, not less."

Like in Cuba and in this autism mom's life, we make do with what we have. You get things done using what you have and the way you know how. You see beauty in the unlikely and in both the astonishing and the "mundane." Maybe you have a pet chicken and you take it for a spin on your bicycle and there's nothing wrong with that, either.

As this year's Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, I leave you with one last thought of defiant affection: We're into avocados, chickens on handlebars, and 'different'. They can keep their normal. We're going to Cuba.

Yard Boss Sues Town for Defamation

By Jean Perry

Mattapoisett landscaping company Yard Boss has listed Mattapoisett Conservation Commission Chairman Bob Rogers and Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold as defendants in a civil lawsuit seeking $250,000 in damages the company says it suffered due to defamatory claims against the company during three separate public meetings of the Conservation Commission.

In the April 14 complaint, Yard Boss acknowledged its use of water withdrawn from various public sources in Mattapoisett, including the Mattapoisett River, but stated it had done nothing illegal and had, in fact, been given the green light to do so ten years ago by an unnamed Conservation Commission member.

Additionally, in 2011, Yard Boss claims the Department of Environmental Protection said, "[T]here is nothing illegal within their jurisdiction regarding siphoning of water from the river."

The complaint also states that in March 2015, Mattapoisett police reviewed Yard Boss' withdrawal of water from the riverway and contacted the Massachusetts Environmental Police who told them that they were "not aware of any Mass law prohibiting the removal of water from a river, stream, etc." Furthermore, the complaint states, the DEP told police that Yard Boss could remove a maximum of 100,000 gallons per 90 consecutive days without a permit, yet the company only withdraws up to 1,000 gallons at a time for hydro-seeding.

Trouble began on September 14, 2015, when Leidhold raised the issue of Yard Boss' withdrawal of water from the river and the matter was discussed without the prior knowledge of the company.

During the meeting, Leidhold alleged that the Yard Boss truck might not have the proper safeguards installed to prevent backwash into the water, possibly polluting it. Yet, in its complaint, Yard Boss asserts their equipment has been inspected by the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources and deemed in full compliance.

In addition to inaccurate statements about Yard Boss' activities made by Leidhold, the lawsuit serves to address a number of inflammatory comments Rogers made about Yard Boss, which the company claims has resulted in a loss of business and damage to its reputation.

During a September 28 meeting of the Conservation Commission, Rogers made statements about Yard Boss, such as, "They know they're not supposed to be doing it," and "They are shameless," and later asking, "Can we do stop sticks for their tires?"

Also during that meeting, Rogers acknowledged that the Town could do nothing without a local bylaw in place and stated, "Other than shaming them in the press, we don't have ... any teeth. We don't have a bylaw."

All along, asserts Yard Boss, the claims that Yard Boss was doing anything illegal were erroneous, stating in the complaint, "Rogers and Leidhold made false and defamatory statements without doing any due diligence and without consulting easily accessible sources, including DEP, Town Counsel, and/or the Town's own police department."

Yard Boss owner Todd Rodrigues attended the November 23 ConCom meeting and defended his actions, arguing against Rogers' assertion that Yard Boss needed a permit to withdraw the water from the Mattapoisett River. Again, Rogers called Rodrigues' actions "shameless," to which Rodrigues responded, "I'll show you shameless..."

The complaint filed by Yard Boss brings to light email correspondence between Town Administrator Michael Gagne and Rogers in which Gagne informed Rogers "...I feel as an observer is that comments of the Commission members are what I would characterize as inflammatory and character defaming of Yard Boss." Gagne further stated, "What is troubling is that these [comments] are made before [Rodrigues] has a chance to tell his side of the story and be present to respond."

Gagne then asked for the commission to draft an apology letter to Yard Boss.

As stated in the complaint, in his email response to Gagne, Rogers replied, "...If circumstances warrant it moving forward I will be more than willing to issue [Rodrigues] a personal apology."

Selectman Tyler Macallister also sent an email to Rogers in December, stating, "Because you disagree with the DEP does not constitute the right for the Board to supersede them and make regulations, apply conditions or even require that he come before the Board."

In town counsel's email to Gagne on December 15, 2015, he stated, "In my opinion, withdrawal of water in and of itself is not regulated under the [Wetlands Protection Act]," and further stated that the town would need to create a bylaw in order to regulate it.

Gagne's email on December 16 to the Board of Selectmen further confirmed that the Conservation was wrong to get involved in the matter and suggested the commission refrain from further involvement.

"...[I]t would seem to me that an apology is in order to [Rodrigues] for the comments that were made before it was known if the matter was something that should have been appropriately before the Conservation Commission to start with."

Gagne's email further stated, "My advice for what it's worth, the Commission should in the future watch what is said, editorialized, lobbied, and advocated for beyond the Wetlands Protection Act and regulations because of what problems can be created such as this situation." Gagne said ensuing problems could have been "checked" before expressing personal opinions, and subsequent litigation because of Rogers' and Leidhold's false claims against Yard Boss could be costly.

"To date, neither Rogers nor Leidhold have made an apology to Yard Boss or Rodrigues for their defamatory statements," reads the defamation complaint. "To date, neither Rogers nor Leidhold have made a retraction of their defamatory statements."

Mattapoisett to Get Three New Fresh Water Wells

Mattapoisett Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

Henri Renauld, Mattapoisett's water and sewer superintendent, came before the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission on April 25 for the town's Notice of Intent application to dig three new 45-foot deep wells off 121 Acushnet Road.

Renauld and his team described the site as entirely within the 100-foot buffer zone of the Mattapoisett River, thus requiring the project to meet regulations not only from Mattapoisett's Conservation Commission, but also from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.

The first phase of the project, which could start as early as May, will be the abandonment of 26 shallow wells. Another phase will be the removal of trees and other vegetation from several hundred square feet with associated remediation of approximately 760 square feet that will be planted with an herbaceous native seed mix.

Renauld said that a letter from Natural Heritage mandates protection for Eastern box turtles if the project takes place during the active breeding season between May and October.

Chairman Bob Rogers asked Environmental Agent Elizabeth Leidhold to write a detailed order of conditions for the commissioners to review incorporating comments from the DEP and Natural Heritage along with standard conditions from their office. The project received a unanimous Negative 3 determination.

Later in the evening, Leidhold reported that she had been in email contact with Ted Gowdy regarding concerns raised by her and the commission for construction taking place at The Preserve at The Bay Club.

Leidhold displayed updated photographic evidence that, although the site had been "cleaned up a bit," some concrete had spewed over a vast area when silk bags exploded off the end of long suction hoses. The area in question, she explained, was still far from ideal or in full compliance with the conditions set by the commission.

When discussing the need for a de-watering pit, Leidhold said Gowdy had not wanted to use them due to soil conditions. That prompted commissioner Mike King to express frustration saying, "But if you don't feel like doing the work because you don't feel like doing the work..."

Commission member Peter Newton said, "Silk bags have to be checked more often."

Rogers added, "It's a situation he needs to police himself," referring to what Leidhold believes was a lack of oversight on Gowdy's part.

"I guess we need to keep on eye on it from time to time," Rogers said while encouraging the commission to visit the site.

On a lighter note, earlier in the evening Paul Cavanagh of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation met with the commissioners for the state's Request for Determination of applicability for maintenance work needed at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation.

Cavanagh said that public use of the popular recreation area had resulted in unsanctioned trails being cut through various woodlands and marsh areas. He said that the MDCR wished to post signage that would clearly denote trails, install three granite benches, and construct three bog bridges. The project received a Negative 3 approval with standard conditions.

A Request for Determination of Applicability filed by Lori Cotter, 4 David Street, for a new septic system received a Negative 2 determination; and Matthew Gamache, DBA, Mattapoisett Diner, received a Negative 3 for repaving the business' parking lot.

Due to the upcoming annual town meeting, the next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for May 23 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.

Residents Face New Solar Farm Neighbors

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry

Some residents on Marion Road got acquainted with their new neighbors on the night of April 26 at the Rochester Planning Board meeting with Meadowatt, LLC, developers of a proposed solar farm. Although the tone was civil, the sentiment wasn't exactly welcoming.

Engineer Bob Bersin addressed a number of the board's concerns carried over from the prior Planning Board meeting, including a number of grammatical corrections in the documents, some comments made by the town's contracted engineer, and the specification of fencing color, among other things.

Bersin said the grass and the grading would remain untouched for the most part, saying, "We tried not to disturb as much as possible."

Planning Board member Gary Florindo reminded him that many of the green fields in Rochester are hay fields, and they don't necessarily stop growing at 4 feet.

"The whole idea is to leave it a grass field," said Bersin, although neighbors will no longer be able to see it behind the 8-foot high highway barrier wall the developer proposes, which one neighbor Morgan Cecil later called "gaudy plastic." Cecil asked the board for its opinion on the project.

"I just want to know where it stands," said Cecil. "Does the board feel that this is an appropriate place for a solar field on a scenic highway as you enter Rochester in the watershed protection [district] for something that is solely beneficial to the owner?" asked Cecil.

This, replied Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson, was outside the purview of the board.

"As far as the board is concerned ... it does not review per se whether we feel or not ... that it is an appropriate use in the town," said Johnson. "It's not really a popularity contest and a vote up or down on whether or not we like it."

But, added Johnson, the board is proposing some changes to the solar bylaw; however, they likely will not affect the current proposed project. These changes will affect any future projects that seek to develop solar within the limited commercial and historic district in the center of town. Furthermore, the solar bylaw would mandate all solar projects to undergo site plan review regardless of size and scope.

Some residents were concerned about their property values and held many of the same concerns other new solar farm neighbors expressed, such as safety and screening.

Florindo told them that the Planning Board does not take these applications lightly, saying, "We go out and get our feet wet to make sure that when it's done, it gets done right."

The board assigned Bersin a list of other requirements, including an updated landscape and maintenance plan, as well as separating the plan into two planes - one for during construction and one for after.

The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for May 10 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Energy Board Clarifies Solar Power in Marion

Marion Energy Management Committee

By Andrea Ray

The Marion Energy Management Committee settled around the table in the front room of the Marion Music Hall on the night of April 25 to discuss a new solar energy farm proposal in Marion.

Present was Mark Croke, a representative from Clean Energy Collective, who is proposing a solar energy partnership with the Town of Marion. He had come to answer the board's questions about a proposed solar energy farm in Marion.

"Does this require any major investors?" EMC member Bill Saltonstall asked.

"Well, it requires an anchor tenant or two," Croke explained. "Schools, universities, hospitals - institutions which aren't going anywhere. Half of the community solar farm is fractured for the anchor tenants; the other half is split into smaller slices for residential and municipal use."

Croke then went on to explain the way a community solar farm would work. "We build farms, they produce energy which is released into the grid, and the energy produces dollars. What happens is that at the end of the month, anchors pay only $.85 on every dollar that their energy produces, and residents pay $.90 of every dollar produced. In addition, for every new resident who joins, the town receives a one-time check for $300. It's a money saver for everyone," Croke said. "I know my bill would be cheaper if my town had solar energy. My electric bill is about $320 a month ... I've got to get my kids out of the shower," he joked.

"Flush the toilet," Chairman David Pierce suggested cheerfully.

"Does the person who signs up for their home pay any money?" asked committee member Jennifer Francis. When told that no, they don't, she questioned, "So what might stop a person from signing up?"

"Well, you sign a 23-page contract, and the contract is good for 20 years. Really, the contract and the 20-year term are what stall people," Croke said. "But you can leave the contract without penalty; you just need to give six months notice. I mean, if you can't give six months notice," he said, "you will have to forfeit the penalty, but you can get out."

"Will the solar farm need to be in Marion if we say yes?" Pierce asked.

"Well there's one planned in Tucker Hill, but it's not necessary," Croke explained. "Arrays could be located in other nearby towns."

"So we'd be your first town in the area," Francis mused. "If we were to become your first town, would you increase payments to the town per account? It's risky, and we have a generous program, so why should we move? I think we should be rewarded for taking the risk."

"Would you give up earning $100 per account - moving from $300 per account to the town to $200 per account - to make a 15 percent savings per resident instead of a 10 percent savings?" Croke asked.

Francis agreed that this was a much better alternative.

"Well, I can't promise it," Croke admitted, "but it's definitely something I will talk with Clean Energy about."

The conversation then shifted to the Future Generation Wind Project located in Plymouth. Marion was the first town to buy shares in the wind power farm.

Saltonstall had good news on the potential savings from the wind power. "The project will start operation in May," he said, "and they'd like to have full power by June. The savings are expected to be 24.5 percent in the first few months, and rising to 30 percent if prices go up. That's a full year savings of around $130,000. Of course, we won't have that this year," he acknowledged, "because we won't have a full year, but think about the next few years and how much money that will be."

Francis then gave an update on Marion's new electric car, now operated by the Marion Recreation Department. "I'm happy to say that the Leaf cost Marion exactly $0," she said proudly. "The town will be applying for two more Leafs when everything is all set."

She added, amused, "I read that story about the Crown Vic's (the former car of the Recreation Department) gas tank falling out the moment that the Leaf arrived. I thought that was hilarious."

Pierce looked at committee member Eileen Marum with a raised eyebrow. "Eileen, did you have anything to do with that?" he joked. She laughed and waved it off, saying, "Nope, not me, sorry."

As the meeting wound down, Pierce addressed the board as term expirations neared. "I hope everyone will want to continue. We have a brilliant team," he said as he looked around the table.

"And the funnest team!" Francis chirped behind him.

"And we don't get mad at each other, that's rare," Pierce added, as Norm Hills nodded on the other side of the table.

The next meeting of the Marion Energy Management Committee will take place on May 23 at 7:00 pm in the Marion Music Hall.

Destination Imagination Heads to Globals

ORR Update

By Sienna Wurl

At this year's Destination Imagination Global Finals, Old Rochester Regional High School will be represented yet again. The tournament is to be held at the University of Tennessee from May 25-28, during which the ORR team will compete against teams from 38 different countries.

Destination Imagination (DI) is a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage creativity from kindergarten all the way up to university through collaborative problem solving in the subjects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the fine arts, and community service.

This year's team is made up of six seniors: Rikard Bodin, Sara Lafrance, William Lynch, Madeline Meyer, Drew Robert and Kyle Rood, with Mrs. Tina Rood as their team manager.

Upon entering, teams select one of six challenges and then compete against other teams in tournaments - first regionals, then states, then globals.

The challenge taken on by Old Rochester's team of seniors was the Fine Arts challenge. In this challenge, participating teams had to pick a time period before 1990 and enact a scene of their creation with three possible suspects in a whodunit scenario. The entire script had to be performed with traverse staging with the audience seated completely around the stage. This added to the difficulty, as all props and acting had to be visible from every side.

The senior team selected the time period of a 1930s county fair to perform their eight-minute script with a $150 budget.

The team was also instructed to include a "TechniClue," which needed to use a scientific, technical, engineering, or mathematical method to help solve the mystery. They chose to incorporate an intricate system of motors: a piece of wood with nails in it was placed into the corner of their platform, which pressed buttons that set off a series of motors that ultimately wound up a string and revealed a trap door.

On top of the TechniClue, the team included two "Team Choice Elements," which are basically something special the team wants to highlight about their performance. The team chose to highlight the handmade costumes created by Sara Lafrance, and a sign they created to hang 10 feet in the air.

The team received the Da Vinci Award, which is awarded to the team that "most clearly demonstrate[s] the spirit of adventurous risk in their solutions - those who most creatively traveled to reach truly new and unique destinations."

On top of the team award, Lafrance received the Barbara Mann Award. Barbara Mann was the woman who brought Destination Imagination to Massachusetts, and her award is given to an individual who carries the same philosophies and embodies the ideals of DI. The award was open to seniors who applied, and Lafrance won it at the state level. Lafrance, who has been doing DI for 11 years, is very involved in the program and even managed a team of third graders this year.

Lafrance explained why Destination Imagination is so important to her.

"I really think that I would be a completely different person if I hadn't done DI," said Lafrance. "As a kid, in classrooms I would get yelled at because I couldn't sit still and I couldn't focus, but I was always very creative. But then when I went to DI, I was free to do whatever I wanted, and I learned things I couldn't learn in school."

Rikard Bodin explained why Destination Imagination is a unique experience.

"Everyone in school is always talking about thinking on your own, but it never really works like that," said Bodin. "You have notes and you have guide reading and they tell you how to think, no matter what teacher, no matter what class, people are telling you how to think and interpret stuff." He continued, "DI is the only thing I've ever done that they throw you into it without telling you anything. It's all about how you interpret the challenge, how you want to solve the challenge, and how to do it exactly the way you want to."

There is also a team of freshmen and sophomores heading to DI, comprised of Maggie Farrell, Kelsea Kidney, Ben Lafrance, Pat O'Neil, and Brett Rood. They've got at least two years ahead of them for the High School Division, and the community looks forward to more great things from the rising team.

Getting to Globals isn't easy, and it has taken months upon months of work for the Old Rochester team to get where they are. Nor is it cheap. Now, both teams are requesting the support of the community to help them on their way to Tennessee. The teams have set up an account with YouCaring in order to help with the funding of their big trip to Global Finals.

If you wish to donate, please visit YouCaring.com and search "ORR."

Head of School Elections

Tabor Academy News

By Madeleine Gregory

Student co-heads of school - the two seniors who represent Tabor, make legislation, and serve as a bridge between students and faculty - are the leaders of the school. Ollie Sughrue and MK McIntire, the current co-heads of school, are currently preparing to pass on this power and responsibility to next year's senior class.

Leading up to the speeches, posters popped up all over school for the campaigns. Sixteen junior-year candidates lined up on Hoyt stage last week to tell the student body why they think they should be Tabor's next leaders. They each had two minutes to prove that they were the best candidate. Though all the speeches and candidates were impressive, only four students - two girls and two boys - moved on to the final round.

These four students then gave longer speeches, making their final push for head of school. After the final voting, Eddie Hannon and Joslyn Jenkins were chosen to be co-heads of school next year. They both touched on their love of Tabor in their speeches, and that this was their driving force to improve Tabor and why they wanted to be its leaders.

Jenkins focused on improving school spirit, expanding weekend activities, and celebrating all students and their talents. Hannon also spread this message, proposing expanding where student art is shown on campus, increasing the number of performances at all-school meeting, and other ways to highlight everyone's talents. They also proposed some changes they'd make to scheduling or events, citing conversations with administration, teachers, or other students.

"I am more than honored to represent Tabor's diverse, talented, and hard-working community," said Hannon. "I'm determined to make sure that everyone is acknowledged for all the great things they're doing."

Jenkins agreed, talking in her speech about "all the amazing students we have" and creating a community that highlights these strengths.

"I believe being head of school means being the best example of the culture we are building here," said Hannon. "I want to be the person that students can look up to and be honest with. I want to prove to everyone that being true to your passions is what makes Tabor so amazing."

Jenkins and Hannon have already begun talking to the administration and co-heads Sughrue and McIntire in preparation for taking over leadership next year. They've started gathering ideas from their classmates and building relationships with underclassmen to make sure their needs are heard, too.

Being co-heads of school is a huge responsibility and honor, but Jenkins and Hannon both promise to do everything in their power to improve Tabor every day next year.

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