THE SALLY CRAGIN TRI-TOWN REPORT : IS IT FEBRUARY ? IS IT MARCH ?

Is it February? Is it March? Or is it still January, the month with a heavy tread. My editor requested a blog post a while ago, and then it snowed, and the kids were home and then I had a bug and then it snowed… And on it goes. Living in the north central portion of the state is a very different proposition than living further east. If you look at Massachusetts as a miniature version of the map of the US, yes, we’re in the midwest where people are cranky, vs. Bostonian pissed-offedness. And geographically, we’d be somewhere around North Dakota, among the frozen chosen.

So January, February…it’s all a blur. There’s Groundhog Day which means we get an extra 60 days of winter, vs. 6 weeks; and then Valentine’s Day — which as I keep reminding single-gal friends is a HOLIDAY FOR CHILDREN, and really only meaningful on February 15, when the chocolates go on half-price, and then there’s my wedding anniversary to Chuck, somewhere around February twenty….first? No — it’s 26th. That’s when it was.

See? a blur….

So what do we do to survive this mentally? I cross-country ski at Saima Park. Here’s the thing — skis are generally cheap; it’s the bindings and boots that cost. I have the skates in the car, but haven’t gotten to our local rink, the Carmelita Landry. She was a national champion in outdoor speed skating! look it up!) http://fmcicesports.com/2012/01/04/whats-in-a-name-fitchburg/
X-c at Saima Park (saimapark.org) is free on Saturdays in February from 10 am to 3 pm. They open the clubhouse, and there are lots of friendly Finns there to advise, or to help you borrow (not rent — this is FREE) skis to set you up. Some years, the snow is terrible, but this was a great year, and I’ve been several times a week. Yes, it helps to drive the momavan which can fit skis and a lot of the clothes my children discard in the car because they’re “too hot.”

Indoor activities are what most people like. This year, I started a venue at Fitchburg Library, “Author’s Night.” We have published authors come and read from work and talk about writing and publishing. Dunkin Donuts supplies refreshments and it’s fun. If you’re a published author, email me at sallycragin@verizon.net. We’re also planning a May event that will focus on Fitchburg History, as the city is 250 years old this year.

And, I’m working on a few things politically — getting signatures for Senator Jen Flanagan, evaluating Democratic candidates for governor. We had our caucus last week and several people came out to speak, including Mary Ellen Grossman, Steve’s sister. She’s a dynamo and I’ve sent information to her to give to the Treasurer about the woefully skewed standards applied to urban districts like Fitchburg in terms of standardized test scores. We’ll never get ahead, because we have lower BEGINNING scores and higher poverty. We are expected to close wider gaps, which less-challenged districts (also less culturally diverse) aren’t expected to do. Senator Pat Jehlen of Somerville is working on this issue, and I and other members of our school committee will help. This is an issue that Mayor Lisa Wong, who helped start the Gateway Initiative to organize the leadership of urban Massachusetts is very concerned with.
So, I guess we are doing a lot, besides living whole days in a cloud-inflected color free twilight. We really notice that extra minute of daylight out here. For more, visit fitchburgfun.blogspot.com. And thanks to my editor for reminding me. You’ll have to keep doing that you know…

Sincerely,

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Sally Cragin
mother of two
Fitchburg School Committee vice-chair
Editor of Button, New England’s tiniest magazine of poetry, fiction and gracious living
astrology columnist for the Portland and Providence Phoenix
winter survivor

SALLY CRAGIN : NEWS FROM TRI-TOWN … DECEMBER ( VOLUME 3 )

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We’ve had a dusting or too of ESSENNOOUCH, but the big guns (e.g., the storms that are advertised as 4 inches for you, that turn into 18 inches for us) are yet to be seen. Not a problem — I can’t remember whether the big-tread tires are on the front wheels as they should be. Should ask my husband. These decisions matter out here in the land of no-reliable-public-transportation but beautiful scenery and sincere folks.

A lot has gone on since my last entry, and if you’re interested in theatre, come see a charming production of Christmas Carol every weekend in December leading up to Xmas at Stratton Players (currently housed in the UU church at the top of the Common, Main Street, Fitchburg). Strattonplayers.com for more. Also, a group of artists is having a discussion on la vie boheme on Tuesday, December 10, 6:30 pm at The Kiln, 353 Main Street, Fitchburg. This is a glass shop this is also (shhh) a head shop! I was so delighted when owner Michael Flanagan talked about their wares. He brought an amazing box of glass-made items by local glass artists — the kind of work you’d see under the glass cases at Harvard’s MCZ (anatomically correct milkweed caterpillar, surrealist beads, etc). This is free, and more on Facebook if you go to my site.

The bigger story is that a group of people are trying to launch a charter school here in Fitchburg. This would be a K-4 and is utterly unnecessary and redundant, particularly since 3 of our 7 schools moved up a level in the state testing, and one K-4; Crocker Elementary was voted #5 of the top 15 elementary schools by Boston.com. We had a public hearing and a lot of people spoke on behalf of FPS — eloquent testimony by parents and students, teachers and administrators, that really brought the point home to the DOE Board who was in attendance that FPS are very much on the right track. Since then, I have been doing research on charter schools and truly impressed by how their lobbyists have effectively commod-ified a public service. The last motherlode of public money was protected — until Ed. Reform! And so, we get egregious examples like the so called “STEAM STUDIO” charter project trying to launch in Andover (a top-tier public school system — but the folks who want their charter school want to limit further the number of kids who can take advantage of public money), and various frequent-flyers in the application process.

Our Representative, Stephen DiNatale, our Senator, Jen Flanagan, our Mayor Lisa Wong, our School Committee, our City Council have all voted against this proposed charter school, and we have lively meetings every week of “Fitchburg Public Schools First” (FPS 1) to discuss our ongoing support of public schools.

DOE makes this decision in February, so we have some weeks to go and if I’m not out and about doing cool things, I’m hunkered down protecting the public schools and the education of 5100 kids that I swore to protect six years ago when elected School Committee. Happy Hanukkah/holidays to all.

more at fitchburgfun.blogspot.com

— Sally Cragin / News from Tri-town