By: DJ Deeb – March, 2018
Members of the Methuen School Committee has been very busy these last few months as we prepare for the upcoming budget discussions, contract negotiations, and course planning for next year. I will be devoting my column next month to discussing the city and the school budget as members of the school committee are scheduled to work on and approve a preliminary budget during the month of March. For now, I will briefly report on some of our non-budget highlights over the past month and offer my own thoughts on the horrific recent school shootings.
The Methuen School Committee voted unanimously to approve new course electives at Methuen High School for Fall 2018 that includes Theater Workshop, Piano Keyboarding, Introduction to Sports Medicine, and Robotics. These courses will replace outdated courses in website development and fashion technology, which are being eliminated. Thus, these new courses will not increase the budget line items for Methuen schools. Robotics especially is a growing field that offers many career opportunities for college graduates and giving interested students early exposure to this field is advantageous and beneficial.
Methuen High School will now have a History Honor Society for students who excel in history. According to Superintendent Judy Scannell, “The History Honor Society is putting on the final touches of accepting its first group of students. Short term goals include running a voter registration clinic this spring.” I am pleased to see that students who excel in history at Methuen High will be able to be part of this activity and be recognized as scholars in their field.
The School Committee recently recognized the Medugno family for their annual fund-raising event for Methuen Public Schools, which yielded over $6,000 for activities to promote drug-free students and schools. Kudos and thanks to the entire Medugno family for their dedication and efforts in supporting these important programs in our schools.
Recently, Methuen Public Schools secured $343,200.00 in HP computers from a federal government agency in Portsmouth, N.H. 550 computers will be used to upgrade our eight computer labs and four media centers in the grammar schools. Kudos to Director of Instructional Technology Ed Lussier and his team for monitoring the government donation website and ultimately securing these computers for Methuen public Schools without additional costs to the taxpayers.
On another note, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the horrific events that have taken place in recent weeks involving school shootings. My heart goes out to the families and friends who have lost loved ones in these tragic killings. Having said this, no amount of gun control is going to prevent these horrific acts from taking place. What we need to look at is whether what we are doing now nationwide is working.
Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon is proposing the installation of a shooter detection software system in every Methuen school building at an approximate cost of $600,000. I like the idea of shooter detection software, but we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that this is the answer to the problem. Even Chief Solomon admits that this shooter detection system will not prevent an attack. What it does is help law-enforcement to identify where a shooter is in the building. This is a good start. At a cost though of $600,000, and more importantly the fact that this system does not really make us safer, I am proposing a much less costly and more efficient alternative.
The states of Texas and Colorado allow properly trained teacher and administrator volunteers to carry weapons of school property and act as school marshals to ensure the safety of students and staff in school buildings. These school marshals are volunteers who receive a small stipend for acting in this role just as many club advisers and coaches do now. President Trump has called on states nationwide to adopt a similar model and I agree with the President. So, I propose that the Massachusetts Legislature eliminate the “Gun Free Zone” laws in the Commonwealth to allow for the creation of school marshals in Massachusetts.
Hospitals have armed security, banks have armed security, large corporations have armed security, amusement parks have armed security, why not our schools? Methuen Public Schools is truly fortunate to have armed police officers in every one of our school buildings, but many school districts statewide do not have this benefit. Massachusetts school marshals could at least be permitted to carry tasers, if not firearms, in order to paralyze and disarm a potential intruder. There’s only one problem with this: tasers are illegal to have in Massachusetts, except for the police. What a stupid law! The Massachusetts Legislature should repeal the ban on tasers by civilians and allow those who are properly licensed and trained to legally acquire them as other states, including New Hampshire, currently do. Only then will our school buildings be made safe and secure from those who would do harm to our children.
D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and is Secretary of the Methuen School Committee. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Deeb also serves as Social Studies Department Chair at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013) and The Collapse of Middle East Peace (IUniverse, 2003).