Crowd Backs Chief in Defense of EMS

Around 30 people, including local and regional emergency services personnel, attended the Rochester Board of Selectmen meeting on April 25 to defend the town’s public EMS service against Selectman Richard Nunes’ criticism last week of the program’s cost to the town.

Fire Chief Scott Weigel broke down the fiscal year numbers for Nunes, explaining to him why the expense to operate the EMS Department has risen in increments since it first began in fiscal year 2013.

First, said Weigel, a grant for $100,000 was available to the town that first year to help cover the cost of new equipment, leaving the town with an expense of just $58,800. Fiscal year 2014 jumped up to $95,500, and FY15 then doubled to $200,000.

As the department got busier and new full-time shifts were added to cover the demand, Weigel said a cost of $200,000 to the town is still far below the cost of employing a private ambulance service, which Nunes had earlier stated he would like the town to investigate.

Chairman Naida Parker and Selectman Brad Morse were not as enthusiastic about the notion during the last meeting, but entertained Nunes’ request nonetheless.

Weigel wanted to clarify some issues Nunes brought up, in particular Nunes’ use of the word “deficit” when it came to the EMS budget, which Nunes asserted should be self-sustaining.

“I go to Town Meeting … and my numbers are in black and white,” said Weigel. “The people of Rochester agree … to fund that amount to provide them with a service.” All the money that is returned through collections goes to offset that budget, he explained, so if a budget of $450,000 is approved, Weigel said the $250,000 in collections that comes back means the town pays $200,000 for the service. “They know exactly what it’s going to cost to run this department and they vote for it.”

“I think that’s a pretty fair amount, a pretty fair coverage,” said Weigel. “I understand the figures. If I overspend is a deficit.” Weigel said the $200,000 it costs the town to run the ambulance service is less that what it costs for trash collection one day a week.

Weigel provided Nunes with a spreadsheet for the month of February to demonstrate the number of ambulance transports and subsequent reimbursement. He said Medicare/Medicaid reimburses the town $435 per run, while the town collects anywhere from $2,100 to $2,500 from other insurances and private payers.

“But it’s not about the money; it’s about providing patient care,” said Weigel. “It’s about providing the best patient care that we can.”

Weigel put to rest Nunes’ assumption that on-call workers who respond to incidents are paid a minimum of four hours, saying they are paid only by the singular hour. The average call lasts about one hour, he said, adding that Nunes’ criticism of the department “hurt me personally.”

“And I know that you have worked very hard … to keep this on an under-20 hour-a-week basis so that we are not incurring the benefits,” said Parker, adding that he further saves the town money.

Weigel said, “This is a part-time job … and we have a great group of people. I think a couple hundred-thousand to run that service is not a lot of money.”

Weigel assured Nunes that the town would not get a private ambulance service in Rochester for less than $500,000.

“We don’t know that,” said Nunes.

“I’m telling you…” said Weigel. A quote that Marion Town Administrator Paul Dawson once sought for the same services backed Weigel’s claim.

Dr. Nataniel Vasquez, the medical director for Tobey Hospital, supported Weigel’s assertion and called Rochester EMS “top-notch quality care,” and voiced concerns that a private ambulance service would slow response time down.

The idea of an outside ambulance coming in to service Rochester, Weigel told selectmen, was a conversation that needed to end there and then.

Morse made a motion to indefinitely table the discussion, to which Nunes replied, “I’m not seconding that.” Parker seconded and the motion passed.

“Thank you for putting this system together, it’s awesome,” said Morse, eliciting loud clapping and cheers.

Also during the meeting, residents of Hiller Road took their complaints about Wellspring Farms to the selectmen after receiving no response from Building Commissioner Jim Buckles after he was asked to investigate whether the business within a residential zone had outgrown its original permit.

The therapeutic riding facility, owned by James and Holly Vogul, would require a special permit if deemed a commercial business serving above the original 30 patients per week the couple were allowed by the town.

Abutter Cathy Mendoza said the business likely exceeds $800,000 in revenue, judging by the number of patients she and other neighbors witness coming and going at the property, with neighbors alleging that buses full of patients and anywhere from 60-80 clients arrive for services every week.

Mendoza said she allegedly had financial data from the Medicare system showing that $622,000 was collected from the insurance.

The noise, traffic, and the disruptions, said Mendoza, are affecting quality of life and property values in the neighborhood.

Town Counsel Blair Bailey said Buckles was doing his best to conduct due diligence before taking action; however, he understood Mendoza’s and the neighbors’ frustration that Buckles has not responded in a timely manner to their complaint.

Aside from a cease and desist order, which Bailey clarified was highly unlikely from Buckles’ department just yet, the neighbors simply wanted someone to give Buckles a nudge to move forward with an investigation.

Bailey said he would contact Buckles and tell him that he himself would draft a response on behalf of Buckles, so long as Buckles instructs him on his decision.

“We cannot oversee zoning issues,” Morse reminded the neighbors, reigning in a debate that had gone beyond the jurisdiction of the selectmen and too in-depth for Morse’s comfort level given that the Voguls were not present.

“I just want to use my pool this summer,” said Mendoza. “I don’t think this is too much to ask … without people looking, kids screaming, weird people…”

In other matters, selectmen heard from resident Tobias Paulo who initiated a citizen’s petition to have a bylaw amendment put on the Town Meeting warrant to create a buffer zone of a quarter-mile to restrict the conversion of one-family homes into two-family homes in single-family home neighborhoods.

The procedure mandates that the zoning bylaw article be presented to the Planning Board to forward to the Board of Selectmen, which in turn refers the matter back to the Planning Board for a public hearing.

Selectmen approved the process moving forward.

The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for May 2 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

By Jean Perry

 

Seahorse Explorer Summer Camp Experience

Join us for a fun-filled summer! Each week, Explorers will enjoy fun-filled days of games, crafting, sports, tennis lessons, swimming lessons, visits to the library and free swim time. Each week has a different theme for games, crafts and activities. Sign up for a full week, three full days or three half days. Program runs Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. We also have early drop off and late pick up options. Summer 2016 themes are as follows:

Week 1: June 27-July 1, Mad Science. Explorers will have a chance to participate in fun and exciting experiments every day, including growing crystals, making melting dough, creating eruptions and more! Children will be mad scientists for the week!

Week 2: July 5-8, Seahorse Superheroes. Explorers will take part in an exciting week fighting crime and saving the day. Children will participate in superhero training, have the chance to dress like superheroes and take part in superhero challenges! They will also do fun crafts like creating their own disguises, making a superhero power bracelet and more!

Week 3: July 11-15, Mad about Movies. New this summer! This week will be all about your favorite movies and movie characters. Come dressed as your favorite character one day. Be a Seahorse Star in a mini movie. We are also planning a surprise field trip to go along with this week’s theme!

Week 4: July 18-22, Seahorse Gives Back. Back by popular demand … this week is dedicated to our Explorers learning about and helping in the community! Children will learn about firefighters, police officers, soldiers & more! They will also create cards and care packages for soldiers, make get well cards for children in hospitals, run a food drive and create treats for an animal shelter.

Week 5: July 25-29, Pirates and Princesses. We will spend this week doing fun activities including the Explorer favorite Seahorse beauty salon, a treasure hunt, tie dying, walking the plank and a themed photo booth. Earn pirate booty playing fun games and by winning challenges. Explorers will also create crowns, masks and more! A fun field trip is also planned for this week.

Week 6: August 1-5, Seahorse Olympics. Get ready for the Summer Olympics during a fun-filled week of the Seahorse Olympics! Games and competitions will be played all week and campers can earn “medals” for being outstanding participants. The week will end with an awards ceremony and celebration.

Week 7: August 8-12, Waterworks. This week is all about water. Learn about where our water comes from and what we can do to conserve it. Paint with water colors, slip n’ slide with fellow campers, participate in water balloon battles, and end the summer with a pizza party where Explorers can dunk their favorite counselors in the Seahorse Dunk Tank!

Please contact Mattapoisett Recreation for more information at mattrec@mattapoisett.net or call us at 508-758-4548. To sign up online or download a registration form, go to www.mattrec.net.

May Day Pancake Breakfast at Knights

Join the Damien Council 4190 Ladies Auxiliary at May Day Pancake Breakfast at Knights located at 57 Fairhaven Road (Route 6), Mattapoisett on Sunday, May 1 from 8:00 to 11:00 am. Breakfast includes plain, blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes, bacon & sausage, coffee and orange juice. The cost for the breakfast is $6 per person at the door or $20 for a family of four or more. Proceeds will benefit Community Outreach programs of the Ladies Auxiliary. Hope to see you there!

Withdrawing my Name from Consideration

To the Voters of the Town of Mattapoisett:

When you go to the polls on May 17, you will in all likelihood see my name listed as a candidate for the Board of Selectmen. Regrettably, I informed Town Clerk Kathy Heuberger that, due to possible significant health concerns, I felt there was a strong probability I may not be able to effectively serve out a term if fortunate enough to be elected. Therefore, to be fair to the town and to possibly save it from the unnecessary expense of needing to hold another election in the near future, I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the position.

Given State guidelines, Clerk Heuberger said it was too late to remove my name from the actual ballot, so I write to you today in hopes that no confusion be made concerning my candidacy. I would take great pride in serving the Town someday, as I did back on the Personnel Board in the late 90s. Unfortunately for me, now is not the time to seek office in any capacity. I commend Jordan Collyer for his many years of service on the Board and have all confidence he will continue to work towards what is best for Mattapoisett.

Again, my sincere apologies to the voters of Mattapoisett for any confusion I may have caused.

Respectfully submitted,

Timothy O’Connor, Mattapoisett

 

The views expressed in the “Letters to the Editor” column are not necessarily those of The Wanderer, its staff or advertisers. The Wanderer will gladly accept any and all correspondence relating to timely and pertinent issues in the great Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester area, provided they include the author’s name, address and phone number for verification. We cannot publish anonymous, unsigned or unconfirmed submissions. The Wanderer reserves the right to edit, condense and otherwise alter submissions for purposes of clarity and/or spacing considerations. The Wanderer may choose to not run letters that thank businesses, and The Wanderer has the right to edit letters to omit business names. The Wanderer also reserves the right to deny publication of any submitted correspondence.

Residents Face New Solar Farm Neighbors

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.

By Jean Perry

 

Mattapoisett Cultural Council Grants

State Representative William M. Straus and Kathleen Damaskos, chair of the Mattapoisett Cultural Council, have announced the award of 11 grants totaling $5,009 for cultural programs in and around Mattapoisett.

Grant recipients include Mattapoisett Free Public Library, Friends of Old Rochester Drama, and Showstoppers Performing Arts, Inc. A complete list of recipients and grant amounts can be found below.

The Mattapoisett Cultural Council is part of a network of 329 Local Cultural Councils serving all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. The LCC Program is the largest grassroots cultural funding network in the nation, supporting thousands of community-based projects in the arts, sciences and humanities every year. The state legislature provides an annual appropriation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, which then allocates funds to each community.

Decisions about which activities to support are made at the community level by a board of municipally appointed volunteers. The members of the Mattapoisett Cultural Council are: Anne Bedser, Kathleen Damaskos, Carol Dildine, Annemarie Fredericks, Gary Hoyt, Gail Kaloplastos, Teresa Nelson, Kathleen Reed, and Elliott Thrasher.

“The arts, sciences and humanities play an important role in the everyday lives of the citizens of the commonwealth,” said Representative Straus. “I am pleased that these grants will assist cultural programs in Mattapoisett. Without the commitment of our local volunteers to make this system work, it might otherwise not be in existence. The continued dedication of these volunteers allows limited resources to be utilized to the maximum extent.”

Statewide, more than $2.34 million will be distributed by local cultural councils in 2016. Grants will support an enormous range of grass-roots activities: concerts, exhibitions, radio and video productions, field trips for schoolchildren, after-school youth programs, writing workshops, historical preservation efforts, lectures, First Night celebrations, nature and science education programs for families and town festivals. Nearly half of LCC funds support educational activities for young people.

This year’s Mattapoisett Cultural Council grants include:

Friends of Old Rochester Drama – $400

Mattapoisett Free Public Library – $534

Mattapoisett Historical Society – $700

Mattapoisett Lions Club – $500

Mattapoisett PTA (2) – $775

New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks! – $500

New Bedford Festival Theatre – $500

New Bedford Symphony Orchestra – $500

Showstoppers Performing Arts, Inc. – $300

Tri-County Music Association – $300

The Mattapoisett Cultural Council will seek applications again in the fall. Information and forms are available online at www.masscultural council.org. Applications will be due in mid-October.

Nasketucket Bay State Reservation Clean-up

On April 30, the Commonwealth is sponsoring the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s 10th annual “Park Serve Day.” Nasketucket Bay State Reservation is not one of the 40 properties targeted, but the Friends of Nasketucket Bay State Reservation and the Mattapoisett Land Trust believe that our own “park” could benefit from a spring cleaning again this year. The public is invited to spend a couple of hours enjoying the early spring beauty of the park while collecting litter and debris from the paths and beaches.

Everyone interested in helping to beautify our local “park” should meet at the Nasketucket Bay Sate Reservation parking lot at 1:00 pm on April 30. The clean-up will end by 3:30 pm. Please bring your own gloves; rubber boots are highly recommended. Bags will be provided for trash and recyclables. For more information, call 774-377-9191 or email info@mattlandtrust.org. Share a couple of hours in service to celebrate a belated Earth Day.

Rochester Zoning Denies Multi-Use Solar Property

“I want you to know that I feel really bad about being in Florida for the last snowstorm,” Rochester Zoning Board Chairman Richard Cutler said as he came in from an unseasonably chilly evening. He spoke to a full house – every bench was full, and chairs were drawn up in the back.

The board quickly went through nominating positions before moving on to hearings. Richard Cutler, whose five-year term ends this year, was swiftly nominated to return as the chairman. “What, nobody else wants to do it?” he joked.

“I think I hear crickets,” board member Don Spirlet said from Cutler’s left.

The first hearing of two for the night caused the most controversy.

Meadowatt, LLC sought a special permit for property at 188-190 Marion Road that would enable the lot to be zoned as both residential and commercial.

Meadowatt representative Greg Bersin explained that he wanted to add a secondary commercial use to the residential lot, which already boasts a small house, in order to add a solar array to the property.

“This is by far the smallest of all proposed solar arrays in Rochester. We thought leaving the little house was the best idea for refurbishment,” said Bersin. “We could knock down the house and put in a bigger solar array, but we thought that that was in nobody’s best interest.”

It turned out that the reason for the surprisingly crowded benches was the attendance of several abutters of the Meadowatt property, all fiercely opposed to the proposed solar array.

George Buler of 152 Marion Road said, “When I first moved here, this was a rural town. Time goes by, but we’re losing the rural-ness. I don’t like it. If it was in the middle of the woods and I didn’t have to see it all the time … different story.”

“Oh, you don’t like the Fort Knox look they’re going for?” asked Cutler sarcastically.

Morgan Cecil of 169 Marion Road agreed with Buler, adding, “If you allow this, we’re going to start seeing businesses next to houses everywhere.”

Cutler sighed as he considered his reply. “The only reason they’re here before us is because they want a special permit to zone this property differently. We can disapprove having two entities on one property, but that means they can tear the house down, build an even bigger solar array, and they won’t need to consult the Zoning Board at all.”

Board member Kirby Gilmore expressed frustration with state law regarding solar arrays, which allows them to bypass many town bylaws and zoning restrictions. “I don’t know what the good people of Beacon Hill had in mind when they said we couldn’t have bylaws on solar arrays.”

“We’re trumped by the state, Kirby,” Cutler agreed.

“If we argue that there’s no detriment to the public good, and everyone here opposes that, we’re going against the town,” Spirlet reasoned.

The board voted to deny the special permit request, leaving Meadowatt to either sell the property as a residential property, or develop it as a larger solar array in compliance with the restrictions the Rochester Planning Board will set.

“And they will have a lot of restrictions,” Cutler said.

In other matters, a petition came from DRS Development, LLC co-owner Kerri Sousa, for property at 7 Marion Road.

Sousa petitioned for a special permit modification to remove the 55+ age restriction that was a stipulation in the original special permit granted to the property.

“I’m having an incredibly difficult time renting to people who are 55 and over,” she stated. “They generally are unable to afford the rent.”

“If we add in a stipulation of owner occupancy,” said Cutler, “the owner would need to be a person, not just an entity … because the owner of the property right now is DRS Development, and that’s an entity.”

Vince Craig, who was in attendance in the meeting to represent Sousa, clarified. “Anyone with interest in the entity which owns the property can legally be deemed an owner.”

A discussion ensued.

“Well, we don’t want someone with just one-percent ownership occupying the property, and we need to be in harmony with the intent,” Cutler said.

“Yes, we don’t really want four apartments with five children each, either,” said Spirlet. “That’s not what the town intended!”

“Well, I’m leaning towards allowing a four-unit rental with owner occupancy, but you’ll need to help us,” Cutler said. “Why don’t we take some time to clarify owner occupancy?”

With that, the petition was continued until the next meeting when stipulations could be clarified.

When the hearings were over, there was new business to bring to the board. The three parties who remained on the benches had all come to file complaints against Wellspring Farm at 42 Hiller Road.

Cathy Mendoza complained that the address, while zoned as agricultural/residential, is actually being used as a commercial property. She and fellow neighbor Ed Amaral also complained that the center no longer catered to the “small handful of students” which it advertised, and now had cars entering and exiting the property at all times, including children with diagnosed anger management issues and violent tendencies who Mendoza and Amaral say frequently shouted obscenities.

“Wellspring Farm is a 501(c)(3), a nonprofit business. Like solar arrays, 501(c)(3)s are exempt from many town bylaws as allowed by the state,” Cutler said. “But this isn’t an appeal against a decision made by the ZBA. You can only appeal a decision made by us or the Zoning Enforcement Officer.”

Cutler said Mendoza and Amaral could request that Building Commissioner Jim Buckles come out to inspect the property and decide whether it is truly being used as a commercial property or not.

“If you don’t like what he says, you can appeal that decision,” said Cutler. “But you need to have something specific for us to consider.”

“I’ve repeatedly contacted Jim Buckles,” Mendoza replied, “and he’s never gotten back to me. Not once. I can’t even get him to respond to me, never mind actually come out and inspect the property.”

“Well then you can appeal his neglect,” Cutler said, “because that is something specific. There’s a process we need to follow. Have you gone to the town counsel, the selectmen?”

Frustration was evident in the room.

“I’ve been trying to follow the process for three and a half years. The selectmen told me this was a zoning board issue. It seems like there’s very little regard for us and what we’re going through,” Mendoza said as Ed Amaral nodded beside her.

The next Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals meeting will take place at the Rochester Town Hall on Thursday, April 28 at 7:00 pm.

By Andrea Ray

 

Bylaw Change Proposed to Help Meet Quorum

It doesn’t happen very often, but April 19 was one of those nights when the Rochester Conservation Commission had a hard time making a quorum for the public meetings.

With two members calling in sick and another running late, associate member David Gagne suggested making a bylaw change that would allow the associate member to step in when reaching a quorum was problematic.

Chairman Rosemary Smith agreed that was probably a good idea, as did commission member Kevin Cassidy. Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon was asked to confer with town counsel on making such a change.

The public meeting was able to begin at 7:15 pm when commission member Laurene Gerrior arrived and the quorum was established.

The first order of business was to briefly discuss the Request for Determination of Applicability application filed by TEC Associates for Massachusetts Coastal Railroad. The company asked and received a continuation until May 3, at which time Farinon, along with TEC’s representative, will update the commission on maintenance needed along the right-of-way bordering jurisdictional areas.

The next hearing was a Notice of Intent filed by Brennan Bolduc for property located on Walnut Plain Road. Bolduc proposes to build a single-family dwelling and barn structure bordering resource areas.

Represented by Joshua Bows of Merrill Engineering, the project was fully described by Bows.

Farinon said that she was pleased with the amount of work Bows and his team had done in delineating wetlands and working with her office to place the structures as far away as possible from resources. She also lauded the fine work done by wetlands engineer Brad Holmes in evaluating other areas of the site to establish what was and was not wetlands.

There was discussion about stormwater management for paved driveways and runoff from the large barn roof. Bows said that an earthen berm would divert water to a grassy patch where it would be recharged into the ground. Bolduc said that he planned to collect rainwater from the barn’s roof to irrigate raised garden beds. Those considerations pleased the commissioners.

Farinon made her recommendation that the project receive a positive determination with conditions for the berm, rain barrels or dry well, and that a permanent demarcation be placed behind the barn to denote the 25-foot no touch zone. The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project.

In other business, the commissioners extended a three-year permit granted to Covanta Company of SEMASS for various projects on that site. Farinon will update the commission on work that has been completed to date.

The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for May 3 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall meeting room.

By Marilou Newell

 

Where Shakespeare Meets The Future

It may look like a high school auditorium with students dashing from one end of the stage to the other reciting lines, laughing at each other’s mistakes, practicing a dance move … well, you get the scene. But what it really is, the true purpose of the activity, (please don’t tell the students), is to learn about a master: Shakespeare.

Standing in the middle of all the kinetic energy is Kathleen Brunelle, published author, educator, and on this day, director and producer for ORRHS’s theatre class. This year’s offering is titled Shakespeare II and combines pieces of Shakespeare’s well-known works with something more recent. In this case Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of The Shrew, Merchant Of Venice, and Twelfth Night, meet Back To The Future.

Brunelle has reimagined these disparate stories into an adventure acted out by the students in her class. Phew!! No small task.

“I’ve taken various scenes and made it a story of time travel where Doc (from Back To The Future) meets Shakespeare’s characters,” Brunelle explained in between giving directions to the action taking place on the stage before us. “I’ve made adjustments for a modern audience, a modern voice with input from the students,” she continued.

Clearly it appeared to be a collaborative effort as one student walked back and forth across the rear of the stage singing a Donna Summer tune to enhance the scene being rehearsed. It was hilarious.

In keeping with the rhythm, the iambic pentameter Shakespeare is so famous for, Brunelle has written the lines that tie past with present, or should I say time travel.

Taking cultural cues from the 1940s through 2000s, she is teaching the students how relevant and approachable a more than 400-year old author can be, forsooth or no forsooth!

During the development of the production, learning about Shakespeare becomes far less daunting. Brunelle said, “They discuss the meaning of the lines in a manner they can understand…. They learn that Shakespeare can be fun and they bring their own ideas,” she enthusiastically summarized.

And this class is for all students, not just a select few who have elected Brunelle’s theatre arts class, but also special education students whose participation in mainstream classes is part of their education plan.

As Heather Kidney, ORRHS learning support center specialist shared via email, Ms. Brunelle writes the play herself, including music and dance. She does a great job of making the class 100-percent inclusion and working on each student’s strength.”

Kidney also said that the students in her program present a variety of mobility and cognitive challenges. Yet, in Brunelle’s class, the educational opportunities are equalized as each student, regardless of their abilities, participates at their level, making the production a richer experience for the audience as well as the students themselves.

Brunelle said, “It gives a lot of people a chance to shine.”

Students are encouraged to participate in every aspect of the play, from being on stage to painting props, to backstage duties with lights and electrical equipment. “There’s something for everyone,” Brunelle said.

Brunelle has worked on this stage play for nearly a year with the students getting into full swing last February. She has labored alongside her students, giving them the opportunity to appreciate classical English literature in sound bites that are easy to comprehend, thus giving new meaning to “All the world’s a stage…”

The free production debuts for one night only on May 29 at 7:00 pm in the ORRHS auditorium.

By Marilou Newell

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