The end of the school year is always an exciting time for students, parents, teachers, and support staff. May and June are always busily filled months with awards nights, orientations, and planning for the next year. Many exciting changes are being planned for the 2015-2016 school year.
First off, I am pleased to report that after much discussion and soliciting input from parents, teachers, union officials, and support staff, it has been decided that Methuen Public Schools will begin before Labor Day in 2015-2016. Labor Day is late this year and falls on Monday, September 7th. It has thus been decided that Methuen Public Schools will reopen for faculty and staff on Monday, August 31st and for students on Tuesday, September 1st. Staff and students will have an extra long weekend in order to wrap-up Summer by having Friday, September 4th off. Those three days prior will allow teachers to distribute books and materials, review protocols, and send home papers to be signed. Staff and students can then hit the ground running when they return from the long Labor Day weekend break on Tuesday, September 8th.
With this calendar, the 180th instructional day will be Wednesday, June 15th and the 185th instructional day (if all snow days are used) will be Wednesday, June 20th. This affords plenty of extra time in planning for snow days if next winter proves to be similar to the one we just had. Let’s certainly hope that is not the case and everyone gets out on June 15th. Finally, the new calendar eliminates 2-3 early release days to afford students more instructional time. A special thanks to the nearly 1800 parents and 460 teachers who responded to an Administrative survey in giving input on the new calendar as well as union officials for working collaboratively with the administration to address mutual concerns.
Congratulations to Rich Barden, Methuen High School Assistant Principal, who was recently appointed Principal of Methuen High School. Rich grew up in Wilmington, graduated from Methuen High School, and currently resides with his family in Reading. Mr. Barden greatly impressed the members of the Principal Selection Committee with his extensive knowledge of the district, skills, and ideas for innovation.
On another note, I want to express my extreme disappointment with members of the Methuen Board of Health who recently voted unanimously to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21. This includes electronic cigs. At first glance this may seem like a good idea, but this will only serve to hurt local businesses that are already seeing many customers cross the border to purchase items in tax-free New Hampshire. One store owner, Hem Vora, of Route 110 Convenience estimates a loss of revenue of $1,500-$2,000 weekly with customers ages 18-20 going to New Hampshire to purchase these items. We need to be doing more to attract local businesses and help existing ones given the number of socialist regulations that already exist in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts. The fact remains that at 18 you are considered an adult. You can vote, enter the military, buy a house, take a loan, sign legal paperwork, etc.
I am not going to be a hypocrite like some people on this issue. I enjoy smoking my cigars and do so regularly. If you choose to buy tobacco or nicotine products on your own time off public grounds that is and should be your choice at 18 years old. It already is and should be illegal for adults over 18 to purchase tobacco or nicotine products for anyone under the age of 18. How is it that an unelected board (Methuen Board of Health) can pass a rule like this without going to the City Council or the voters? The city needs to investigate this further and look at revamping the entire Board of Health structure and membership in Methuen.
D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and member 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. He teaches Social Studies full-time at Reading Memorial High School. 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).