Exploring Lexington’s ‘Outdoor Museums’ with Tom Sileo

BY LAURIE ATWATER

Tom Sileo

During the coronavirus lockdown, many of us turned to the outdoors to escape cabin fever and help us deal with the anxiety and despair happening around us. Nature has a well-researched restorative effect.  Humans are wired to have an affinity for the natural world, according to E.O. Wilson, professor emeritus of biology at Harvard. In his 1984 book Biophilia (which loosely translates to “love of life”), Wilson says that our love of nature is an evolutionary desire to be surrounded by other forms of life in the natural world. It is therapeutic, especially in a time of uncertainty.

It’s no wonder that Lexingtonians Les and Cindy Savage turned to walks as a respite from being cooped up.  In 1995 Lester purchased many copies of a book written by Lexington resident Tom Sileo. He would give the book to his real estate clients as a gift. The book, Historical Guide to Open Space in Lexington, is a multi-faceted guidebook to each of the conservation properties in Lexington. But it is so much more than your standard handbook for nature lovers. It is a book designed to immerse the reader in the history of each place—the ways that the land was used by its owners and the human-made contributions to the landscape. Additionally, it contains Tom’s knowledgeable observations on plants and tree species as well as animals and birds you might find there.

Sileo’s book is available at the Buckman Tavern gift shop.

Setting out for a walk on conservation land, Les and Cindy would grab the book and head out with a couple of friends to explore. “We started to read about the interesting history of these places…and very quickly we realized the value of this rich history, and the book,” Cindy says.  They started giving Les’s last copies away to their friends. Soon the word got out that they had this book, and the requests started coming in. With their supply dwindling, the couple reached out to the author and convinced him to reprint this invaluable resource.

The book has now been updated and reprinted and is for sale at the Buckman Tavern gift shop in Lexington. Tom has generously decided to donate the proceeds from the book’s sales to the Lexington Historical Society and the Lexington Conservation Commission.

I now have my copy of the book, and  I understand what a great resource it is! Each chapter is devoted to a different property and contains the relevant history of the place, observations about flora and fauna, and suggested walks. It makes a lively and entertaining walking companion and a great way to learn about the history of the community through the years.

At Cindy’s suggestion, I contacted Tom, and we talked about the book and how he came to write it, his love of history and the natural world.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


 

Laurie Atwater: Would tell me a little bit about this book and how you got the idea to write it back in 1995?

Tom Sileo: Well, Alice Hinkle, at the time, was the editor of the [LexingtonMinuteman. She loved the conservation lands, and I loved the outdoors. I was living in Lexington then. My grandfather lived in Lexington for a long time, and I moved from Boston to Lexington because I was familiar with it. Previous to that, I did a little bit of writing on the outdoors. So when I came to Lexington, I started walking the conservation lands, liked what I saw, and I liked the whole philosophy. So I started writing articles that Alice Hinkle published in the Lexington Minuteman.

What’s an example of a typical article you might have written for the Minuteman?
For instance, I might do Whipple Hill. I’ll go over the history of Whipple Hill, as I could find it from the library, the town hall, the Town Clerk’s office. Then I would combine that history with the previous land uses that make up the property that caused it to be the way it is. And then, I would describe a suggested walk and a natural history of a place. I’m familiar with, plants, flowers, and herbs. So it would be a fairly light article that would describe a bit about the history a bit about the physical nature of the place.

So, I started doing research on Lexington’s history and on these properties. And I realized that so much happened in Lexington that people aren’t familiar with because it’s overshadowed by, of course, revolutionary history.

So I decided that I could use these properties as “outdoor museums.” It fit with the conservation commission’s philosophy—to try to have a conservation land in everybody’s backyard. I discovered that in the early days, they really fought hard to preserve these properties. And David Williams is unbelievable—he’s the guy behind the curtain who is so vocal about conservation land and protecting property. He makes it all happen. So, for instance, when you drive down 128 in Lexington, you don’t see lots of buildings. You get a sense that Lexington is this rural town because as you pass through it on the highway, you see these conservation lands. So, they did a very thoughtful job of this.

I was a stockbroker back then, and I ended up taking time off to write. For this project, I spent hours in the registry of deeds in Cambridge. What I wanted to do is take each of these, as I called them, ‘outdoor museums,’ and find the very first settler of these properties. Then I discovered the original grant for the properties and traced that through to the time when the Conservation Commission protected that land forever.

Originally they were big, big, lots of land. They were eventually broken up, and different owners had different uses. I went to the Town Clerk’s office, and I found who had how many cows, how many oxen, and even a listing of slaves (which there really weren’t many slaves in Lexington). The Town Clerk’s office has all that. I’d trace back every exchange of property, and get to know what the property looked like. I’d look at old photos, I talked to hundreds of people who were around or remembered people who were around going back to the 1920s, ’30s. [Larry] Whipple, one of the guys who was a part of the Historical Society, had done these wonderful interviews, and they were all on tape. I listened to every one of them!

I started to piece together everything that happened on these properties with the idea that it was these land uses that created their character. And so for instance, you go to Paint Mine—that was a place where they manufactured the paint that painted some of the houses in Lexington. It was an old ochre mine. There were old muskrat dens there. That’s a defining feature of that property. The Great Meadows was a peat bog. Peat was a big deal when wood ran out. And that defines why that place looks as it does. Similar to Dunback Meadow, which also had peat bogs.

Then there’s Whipple Hill and the old Fairlawn Nursing Home. Originally the guy who owned the Parker house in Boston, he put his mistress up there when his wife was sick, and she owned that place. These fascinating stories are all documented in the book.

Most people aren’t aware that Lexington was once a summer resort destination for Bostonians anxious to escape the city heat. Quite a few of the estates were built as summer homes.

Yes, I wrote a book also about Horn Pond in Woburn, and that was another destination for Boston people who wanted to go out to the country. There was also a trolley that went out to Benson’s Animal Park [on Bedford Street in Lexington], and that [park] was a destination for recreation. Eventually, Bensons moved up to Hudson, New Hampshire, and it became an even bigger thing.

So, there’s all these pieces that I think make Lexington so interesting as a town—above and beyond the Revolution. There was even a mysterious death when they were digging the Old Res! That’s in the book. Race tracks were big. I have a photo of a sulky track on Middleby Road. That was very popular. Some crazy stuff happened in town, so I wanted to take all this information and put it all together into one book. You can take the book and walk the properties and stand there and go, ‘Wow, this is what happened in this place.’

Each wave of immigration also brought something new to Lexington.

Yes, this was interesting; I do talk about this in the book. There was a family that wanted to move to Lexington when the Protestants ran Lexington. They refused to sell to the Catholics, so the Catholics would hire what they called ‘the straw buyer’—someone who would step in and buy a property—someone acceptable to the Protestants, and that’s how they came in. So you had all these Irish coming into East Lexington the 1860s.

And then, in the 1900s, the Italians like the Busas came in and started farming. There were also numerous pig farmers, and the pig farmers were the garbage men! When the piggeries came in, the old line Lexington gentleman farmers hated it because it started to stink. And the furriers too, that was another industry that was not looked too well on. The well-known Robbins family of East Lexington were furriers.

When I started putting all this together, I suddenly I had a 370-page book! My, now, ex-wife [Tara Dickison], did all the maps. We did it all by hand, just going around each property. I would do hundreds of walks. I was so afraid that the Lexington Historical Society wouldn’t like this book coming out because they had this pristine view of Lexington as this noble town that played a big part in the Revolution. But they were very generous, and they provided a lot of information. I did go to Concord in order to try to place the book to sell there, and this older woman looked at me, and she said, “You take your Lexington book back to Lexington.” In ’95, I sold thousands of these books, and I did hundreds of talks. People in Lexington just loved their local history.

One of the other things that I added to the book, and I kept in the revision, was a marvelous listing of the birds in Lexington written by John Andrews a long-time Lexington resident and birder. I put that into the book, and I added a few things to it. It’s a nice piece for anybody interested in birding.
I had the book printed appropriately by the Minuteman Press, and they did a nice job. I added some new information and photos.

Are you still writing books or columns?

I just finished an extensive 600-page book on Wildlife Pond, which is up at Beaver Brook in Hollis, New Hampshire. And it’s basically the whole history— birds, plants, and everything that happens throughout the year. I do nature photography too, so that book has a lot of my nature photography. And, then I’ve written a novel. I am one of those guys who has to write. Maybe one day, when I retire, I’ll start to publish and sell those things seriously, but for now, it’s just a fun diversion.

Share this:

Pandemic Pups

                                                                Zane

 

By Cindy Atoji Keene

 

Of course, there’s a dog named Kennedy in Lexington. And pups named Fenway, Boston, Fig Newton, and Sox. There must also be many owners who like food, as other dog names in town include Hashbrown, Cucumber, Tofu, Creampuff, Maple Sugar, Marzipan, Noodles, Clementine, Juice, and 14 dogs named Cookie.

Perhaps the longest dog name we saw on the town clerk’s list was Maximillian Sir Pugs A Lot (imagine calling that in a dog park). And the most popular dog’s name in Lexington? Looks like it might be the 40 or so dogs named Charlie.

Abbey to Zuzu, the 2114 dogs licensed in Lexington last year are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole, as the quote goes. “Dogs are one of our purest loving relationships; they are just so eager to connect and love and please. We share a very particular intimacy with dogs,” said psychologist Amy Briggs Bledsoe who shares her Frost Road home with her family and dog Maisy, part Jack Russell Terrier, dachshund, mini pinscher, and a mix of other breeds.

It was Bledsoe who got the idea to form a Facebook group just for dog owners during the height of the pandemic. She had moved to Lexington and found it a very dog-friendly town, but there was no dedicated social media site for the community of dog owners. If a dog was lost, or neighbors had questions about vets, leashes, or dog food, they had to ask on other town forums.

So she started chatting with fellow dog owner Cindy Savage about forming a Facebook group simply called Lexington Dog Owners Group. The group now has over 800 members in less than three months and is a resource for everything from dog adoption, pet food recalls, free crates, groomers, coyote sightings, flea collars, dog ophthalmologists, and much more. What to do about a carsick dog? Or a sheepadoodle who gets the zoomies, or a lost dog?

The Lexington Dog Owners Group especially coalesced around a dog named Zane, who escaped from his owner in February. Zane had just been brought up to Lexington by a Texas rescue organization and was in the process of being adopted when he got spooked and ran into the woods. For almost a week, Zane was spotted running around Lower Vinebrook and attempts to lure him were in vain. Missing Dogs of Massachusetts, a non-profit organization that works to locate missing dogs, got involved and some volunteers even went door to door with flyers, asking others to help find the dog. Zane’s story stirred people who were worried about the dog shivering in the winter cold with no shelter. Savage, who was actively involved in Zane’s rescue, said she even had strangers coming up to her in the grocery store, asking, “What’s going on with Zane? Is he okay?”

Amy Briggs Bledsoe with Maisy and Cynthia Savage with Prince. Both dogs are rescues. COURTESY PHOTO

The capture of Zane was almost made for the movies; it was so serendipitous. There were many Zane sightings, and then amazingly, Zane approached a woman walking her dog Rudy in Lower Vinebrook. She knew it was Zane but didn’t have a collar, but her husband happened to look down, and amazingly, someone had left a collar and leash right there on the ground. Zane was captured and adopted by another family, and the Zane saga ended. And yet, it didn’t because the whole episode brought the Lexington Dog Owners Group Facebook group even closer together.

But there’s another angle to this story, one that ties Lexington to southern states like Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as well as Caribbean countries like Aruba and even overseas in places like Qatar. These are all locations where homeless dogs are rescued, transported to the U.S., and then adopted by families, including here in Lexington. Savage, for one, had never known the joys of owning a dog until she adopted one from a shelter; then, completely enamored, she began looking for ways to help abandoned dogs in other countries. When she and her family traveled to Aruba for vacation a few years ago, they brought home four puppies in carry-ons, who all found new homes in the area. There are also dogs in town who might have formally been street dogs in places like Turkey, Puerto Rico, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, and more. In most developing nations, only about 5 percent of dogs have owners in the Western sense, compared to 95 percent in the U.S., according to reports from the Humane Society of America. The rest are strays who rely on handouts, or ferals who feed at landfills, vacant lots, or slaughterhouse waste piles. Potcake dogs from the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, for example, are a familiar sight in Lexington; a name given because locals feed the caked remains of a cooking pot to the dogs. The dogs typically look like a mix of hound, mastiff, spaniel, terrier, or retriever and are typically smart, loyal, and loving.

In Lexington, as across the country, there was a pandemic puppy boom during the pandemic. COVID-19 lockdowns spurred a scramble to secure canine companionship to fill the void. The Lexington Dog Owners Facebook group reflected the boom in dog ownership. Many new puppy parents posted questions and photos, including pictures of dogs napping during Zoom calls. One overwhelmed dog owner wrote, “Anyone else out there totally love their new fur baby, but also overwhelmed by the demands of their new puppy?!” She wanted to commiserate with other pet parents, but did she have regrets? Absolutely none.

For Bledsoe, whose clinical psychology practice in Cambridge has been booming during these ruff (pun intended) times, it has been a relief to be able to come home to her four-legged friend. “The pandemic has been so painful and isolating, and to be able to come together around the love of dogs and share with others who have that passion has been extra special during this time which is otherwise so dark,” she said.

No doubt the dog community in Lexington will continue to grow, and maybe even someday, the town will get a dog park. In the meantime, according to the list of names maintained by the town clerk, there is even a dog in town named Lexington. But dog owners, take note: there’s no dog named Massachusetts! Maybe it’s time to name your new pup after our beloved Bay State.

Share this:

Hoofer at Heart

Thelma Goldberg

Thelma Goldberg loves the math and the magic of tap.

By Cindy Atoji Keene

A dancer who is an academic might seem like an oxymoron. But that’s only if you haven’t met Thelma Larkin Goldberg, Ph.D., who just received her doctor of philosophy from Lesley University last March. The accomplished tap dancer was defending her dissertation just as the pandemic hit, and while others were cleaning out their offices and rushing to go home, she conferred with her advisor in the barren building. As the state and city shut down, Goldberg never was able to attend a cap and gown ceremony nor the symbolic hooding, but her advanced degree affirmed what everyone who is acquainted with this tousled hair spunky blonde realizes: Goldberg knows her stuff.

Goldberg’s dance studio, the Dance Inn, is a fixture in Lexington, located on the bottom level of the Monroe Center for the Arts on Massachusetts Avenue. With 400-500 students a year, tens of thousands of dancers have waltzed through the Dance Inn classes for over four decades, learning tap, jazz and ballet, hip hop, and adaptive dancing.

But despite her dance business and its numerous productions – recitals, performances, parades, competitions – Goldberg is at heart a tap dancer. Tap dance, rather than just a style of dance, has a complex history with an African American narrative intertwined through its rich origins. While tap dancing today seems to be a lost art featured only in old, grainy black and white movies like Singing in the Rain, Goldberg has centered her life and career around using her body and feet for percussion.

Goldberg would be the first to admit that she doesn’t have a typical petite and diminutive dancer’s body. “I was never raised to see dance as a career,” she said, standing in the living room of her Ledgelawn house. She doesn’t have tap shoes on but demonstrates shuffles and ball changes, brushing lightly against the hardwood floor. “Teachers encouraged me to be excellent in dancing but said, ‘you have to go to college and pursue other things.’” She danced and taught while she earned her degree and was an educator in Boston. But she wanted to take a break, and her husband, Stephen “Goldie” Goldberg, an accountant, agreed that they could open their home, then a small Cape on Hill Street, to students. They moved all the furniture out of their front room, and while the young dancers sang, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout,” Goldie’s tax clients laughed in his adjacent office.

Thus Dance Inn was born, a blur of students, teachers, and recitals. Lexington, said Goldberg, was a perfect place for her studio because the town is clearly dedicated to arts and education. Lexington, as well, is a community of intellectuals and Goldberg’s cerebral approach to dance fits right in. “In order for tap dance to become more relevant in today’s dance world, teaching training programs should be designed to include ‘how’ and why’ to teach tap history and music theory,” she said. Goldberg considers tap-dancing very mathematical, with order and pattern sequences. “I love thinking about rhythm, breaking it down into quarter notes, 16th notes, triplets. Am I swinging or standing? How long can I hold a silence? How many notes fit in a phrase and stay with the choreography or movement I’m trying to express?” Goldberg, who has written two instructional books about tap education, also has an active social media presence, with a YouTube tap dance channel and tap notes blog, and more.

Perhaps the most significant measure of a dance studio’s success is its impact on its students. Countless numbers of Dance Inn trainees have gone onto have their lives changed by dancing. Goldberg’s own children, Sebastian and Robin, are professional dancers. Ryan Casey, a Spanish teacher at Lexington High School, began at the Dance Inn when he was five and went on to become a choreographer, dance journalist, and nationally recognized dancer. “Goldberg puts tap at the forefront of her school, whereas most schools do that with ballet. Putting rhythm-based dancing in the lead is very unconventional,” said Casey.

Goldberg is 68 now, and as tap dancing can be demanding on the back, knees, and feet, she has suffered her share of injuries. Her beloved husband Goldie passed away three years ago from cancer, and she often cries as she dances alone in her living room to songs like Better than Anything by Natalie Cole and Diana Krall. The pandemic has hit the Dance Inn, making it impossible to hold student’s hands while she’s teaching them steps and forcing her to purchase microphones so students can hear instructors through their masks. Portable tap dance floors make it possible to have classes outside, and Zoom sessions have become indispensable.

But does Goldberg have any plans to retire? Absolutely not. Her dance adventures are only just beginning, she says. “I still have too much to do.” Her father, an avid ballroom dancer, didn’t stop dancing till he was 92, and she plans to follow in his footsteps and beyond.

She walks over to her brightly painted stand-up desk, customized for her. Her library – books on tap dancing America; tap dance dictionary; steppin’ blues; vaudeville and jazz bands – perch nearby. Goldberg sees tap dance as having a renaissance lately, with developments and improvisation; she’s having conversations with other experts about the assimilation of tap dance and its musical history, as well as teaching and philosophy. “The integration of music with movement can be an academic experience,” she says. Dancer academian? Hardly an oxymoron when it comes to Goldberg!

 

 


The Dance Inn

1403 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420

Phone: (781) 863-5360

Share this:

What’s So Great About the Lexington Education Foundation?

Why LEF is a critical part of school success in Lexington, and how you can help.


In partnership with Lexington Public Schools, the Lexington Education Foundation provides grant opportunities to encourage innovation and inspire joy in teaching and life-long learning.LEF invites all community members to participate in its mission.

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

After the schools closed down last spring, Amy Ryan joined the board of the Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) as Communications VP. A mother of four— with children at Estabrook Elementary, Diamond Middle School, and Lexington High—Ryan works full-time in public relations. Like many modern families, especially those raising multiple children, the Ryan household has a lot of moving parts. Pre-Covid, she and her husband were happy to donate money to LEF every year and drop off the occasional tray of bagels for an event.

But then, as Ryan explained, Covid changed everything.

THE LEF BOARD MEETS VIRTUALLY

“I started to attend virtual School Committee meetings and to see the struggles teachers were dealing with,” she recalled. “With four kids in school, I realized I could use my skill set to spread the good word about LEF. For me, the most meaningful thing to do was join this board, work with teachers directly, and work with the grants that really make positive impact.”

Ryan said she has quickly come to realize how this investment of her time and expertise contribute to feelings of connection to the schools and the town. “It’s a sense of community. For someone who has kids in multiple schools across the spectrum [from elementary to high school], it helped me feel better connected to all the schools at the same time, rather than spend a few hours in each one, here and there.

“The LEF board is also a bunch of really smart, sophisticated people,” Ryan continued. “Even though it’s virtual right now, they help me ‘up my game.’ I love the interaction, and I think we help each other to be better and stronger. We all kind of need that these days.”

LEF Co-President Raquel Leder agrees that being connected to the whole school district is a major benefit of involvement in the Lexington Education Foundation. Leder’s main focus as a board member is grant administration, which she finds both exciting and fulfilling, but the rewards of learning about what lies ahead for her three children have been invaluable as they transition through the grades.

“It can seem scary and daunting and you’re wondering how your kids will handle it,” Leder said. “The people involved with LEF help you understand what’s happening at the next level before your kids get there— which is exciting and cool and supportive.”

Co-President Patrice Cleaves, also a mother of three, became involved with LEF because she wanted to use her marketing skills and because she sees LEF as a way to “spread your wings” to help the entire school community. “I purposely didn’t join the PTO at Estabrook School because I found my skill set better suited to serving the district-at-large,” Cleaves said. “It’s been really great to be a part of LEF because you connect with the kids, you talk to teachers. you see and hear the emotions in their voices when they talk about the grants.”

One of the ways LEF connects directly with students is through the organization’s Student Ambassadors program, whose participants can attend board meetings and review grant applications submitted by teachers, administrators, and staff. Cleaves expressed deep appreciation for the students that participate in the Ambassador program: “[They] are the most well-spoken, smart group of kids. I’m always in awe of them. Their questions are really eloquent. They are a credit to the Lexington Public Schools.”

SOME BACKGROUND ON LEF

As expressed on its website, the Lexington Education Foundation “is a community-based nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that raises financial support from families and businesses in Lexington to fund exceptional educational activities that address the Lexington Public Schools’ priorities but fall outside the scope of the LPS budget…. Since 1989, LEF has awarded more than $5 million for activities designed to enrich the learning experience and strengthen the achievement of every student in every Lexington public school.”

LEF’s stated mission is: “To bring the community together to build and sustain the excellence of Lexington public schools. To support exceptional educational activities in all Lexington Public Schools. To bring innovative instruction and new technologies into Lexington’s classrooms. To support faculty’s professional learning. To help our schools build strong, student-centered learning communities that inspire and engage every student to reach their greatest potential.” Co-President Leder puts it this way: “At the center— and why I love LEF— are the grants. They help our students by helping our teachers, administrators, and staff. Everything we do builds around the grants so it was only natural— when Covid came in— to find a way to help through grant-giving.”

RISING TO THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGED EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE, PART ONE

Pre-Covid, LEF awarded $250,000 in grants each year in three different categories:

• School Community Grants which provide equal dollar amounts to each school for principals to use at their discretion for innovation and creativity initiatives;
• Fellowship Grants which provide access to funds for professional development/learning;
• Program Grants that a group of teachers can apply for to develop or expand programming.

LEF’s ability to fund grants is derived from a number of sources: direct donations from parents and other community members; appreciation recognitions called STAR Awards; corporate and small business sponsorships; Trivia Bee, Celebration for Education, and other events.

Once Covid caused the schools to close down—and not incidentally sidelined LEFs revenue-producing events—the Board realized it needed to evaluate the district’s needs, and LEF’s ability to meet them, in a changed landscape. Leder explained it was at this juncture that LEF re-committed its pledge to award $250,000 in 2020-21, no matter what the year brought.

The first order of business, then, was to create a new Covid Response grant category which has a rapid approval turnaround of two weeks, rather than the usual, far longer grant cycle.

To this initiative, LEF dedicated $100,000 of the $250,000. So far, about half of the $100,000 has been awarded. Examples of grants given include two from the elementary schools that are math-related and intended to support early learners as they acquire essential foundational skills via off-screen activities, such as math puzzles and tactile manipulatives.

Another grant— awarded to a Diamond School Science teacher— enables students to “travel” to Europa, one of the moons of the planet Jupiter. In this activity, students focus on teamwork, problem-solving, communication, and decision making: skills that directly connect to Science curriculum standards for the grade level.

RISING TO THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGED EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE, PART TWO

LEF’s second Covid-related effort started this past December/January. It piggy-backs on the saliva surveillance pool-testing initiative originally spearheaded by the Wellesley Education Foundation for the Wellesley Public Schools.

According to an interview with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Julie Hackett, published in the January/February Colonial Times Magazine, the saliva testing pool model makes it possible to offer screening to a greater number of people at a fraction of the cost of individualized testing. Lexington’s program is voluntary and tests are self-administered. This program focuses solely on middle school and high school students and has been extended past the original 8-weeks, due not only to the arrival of new virus strains but also to the success of identifying several asymptomatic cases, which allowed the Schools to quickly isolate affected individuals and avoid community spread.

An elementary school program will begin in early March so that kindergarten through second-grade students may return to in-person learning during the month of April.

For Lexington, the cost of the original saliva-testing program for the middle and high school populations is $229,000. LEF is partnering with the district to help defray the expense; to that end, LEF has established a fundraising campaign separate from either its regular grant program or the Covid Response grant program.

Of the $229,000, LEF has raised $55,000. Superintendent Hackett, reported in the CTM interview that the district has also filed paperwork to take advantage of funding offered through Governor Baker’s new nasal swabbing program, although the outcome of that request is unknown at this time.

Whatever the final cost is, the LEF board members say that the organization stands ready to help as much as possible because, as Co-President Cleaves said, surveillance testing provides protection and comfort for teachers, parents, and students.

DONATE, PARTICIPATE

The Lexington Education Foundation website provides more information on LEFs various programs, how to become active in the organization, and how to donate to any/all its initiatives, including the STAR, CONSTELLATION, and GALAXY appreciation awards. A recipient of these appreciation awards can be anyone in the community who merits recognition— not only teachers, staff, administrators but also business owners and employees, Town Government volunteers and staff, medical workers, child care providers, etc.

Leder, Cleaves, and Ryan want to extend a warm welcome to anyone who wants to help with LEF’s efforts. There is always a need, they say. Roles and tasks of all kinds on LEF’s board and committees are designed to suit all levels of interest or availability. Specific areas include event support, school liaisons, fundraising, communications, social media, partnerships, advisory, resource development.

Leder also noted that LEF has engaged in deeper thinking about the organization this year: what it wants to do and what it wants to be going forward. “If someone cares passionately about their children’s education and they want to help the community, LEF is a great place to be,” Leder said. “A lot of people are feeling the pain of what we’ve been going through. Voicing disappointment does nothing. If you channel that energy and desire for things to get better, there’s hope. “We really want to reach out more and have LEF look more like what Lexington looks like as a community,” she continued. “We want to bring more diversity into the organization. We have so many opportunities, at all levels, from a few hours to a bigger commitment. All skills are welcome. Everyone belongs here.”


www.lexedfoundation.org

Everyone is welcome!

 

 

Share this:

Beating the Pandemic Blues: Three Stories of Hope and Resilience from Lexington Musicians

Noah Harrington, a jazz bassist, composer and arranger with Maurizio Fiore Salas, a guitarist and Venezuelan cuatro player. Together they are Noah y Maurizio. The two musicians met at Berklee College of Music.

 

By Jane Whitehead


For musicians worldwide, the outlook changed brutally in March 2020 as COVID-19 shuttered venues, cancelled gigs, and raised a gigantic question mark over the future of live music. We heard from three professional musicians with strong Lexington ties how they rode out a rollercoaster year, and what it takes to hold on to their artistic vision and find inspiration at a time of radical uncertainty.

Noah y Maurizio Wins Iguana Music Fund Grant

In December 2020, the Boston-based string band Noah y Maurizio was among 24 New England-based musical groups to be awarded an Iguana Music Fund grant by Passim in Cambridge. For band co-founder Noah Harrington, a jazz bassist, composer and arranger, the $2000 grant was a welcome boost at the end of a challenging year.

In a recent conversation, Harrington, a 2015 Lexington High School (LHS) graduate and prize-winning alum of the LHS Jazz Combo, described the joy and frustration of melding an international group of youthful virtuoso string players into something like a musical family, only to have everyone “scattered to the cosmic winds” from Minnesota to Brazil by the global pandemic.
Noah y Maurizio evolved out of friendships and musical collaborations Harrington formed at Berklee College of Music, and at the prestigious Acoustic Music Seminar at the Savannah Music Festival. Maurizio is Maurizio Fiore Salas, a guitarist and Venezuelan cuatro player, composer and arranger. (The cuatro is a Venezuelan folk stringed instrument in the guitar family.)

Harrington and Fiore Salas met while studying jazz composition at Berklee and exploring their shared interest in mixing traditional and contemporary music of North and South America. At the Acoustic Music Seminar in 2018, Harrington was enthralled by the musicianship of cellist Parker Ousely and Canadian fiddler Clara Rose.

Rose’s visit to Boston in February 2019 was the catalyst for a week of intense rehearsal with Harrington, Fiore Salas and Ousely, together with prize-winning mandolinist Ethan Setiawan and Brazilian guitarist João Perrusi. “In a little under a week the group was born,” said Harrington. “The chemistry just felt so good when we started playing together.”

Following a bunch of successful gigs, the group recorded an entire album of new material, released with the title Acoustic Travelogue in March 2020, and praised by cellist Mike Block as “an inspiring display of brilliant solo and ensemble playing, as well as beautiful tune writing and arranging.”

Recreating that chemistry to create a second album is Harrington’s priority. He’s currently raising funds to add to the Iguana Fund grant, to cover the costs of bringing the group together again for a week of intensive recording in May at a studio in the Maine woods, with appropriate COVID-testing and quarantining measures. (Since Rose’s return to Canada the crucial fiddler’s role has been filled by bluegrass virtuoso Sofia Chiarandini, he noted.)

The concept for the album is for “a composer/performers’ collective” with everyone contributing compositions. Harrington is prepared to back the project with his life savings if necessary. “I really believe in the vision of what we’re doing,” he said. “I believe in the players and I believe we can make art that is meaningful and that can help a lot of people in this time.”

Lorelei Marcell – Solo Singer-Songwriter, Heading West

Above: Lorelei Marcell, a Lexington senior and solo vocal artist will be heading to LA after graduation to pursue her career in music.

“I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” said pop singer-songwriter Lorelei Marcell, 18, a Lexington High School senior with a serious online fan-base (52,000 followers on Instagram, over 500,000 streams on Spotify), and a professional management team based in Los Angeles, where she hopes to build the next stage of her career.

That ambition is no pipedream. Marcell has worked with professional managers since she turned 16. Her collaborations and friendships with established musicians and producers have resulted in a half-dozen professionally produced music videos released on YouTube.

Her first release of 2020 was “Dreamin About You,” described on the music review website neonmusic.co.uk as “a catchy pop anthem steeped in nostalgia” with “polished confident vocals” from Marcell, who co-wrote the song with Valerie Broussard, Stefan Litrownik, and her song-writing friend and producer Shannon McArthur.

As COVID struck in March, Marcell admits that her usual optimism was dented. “That was like an ‘oh gosh, what am I going to do?’ moment,” she said, “because no artist has ever experienced this before, especially when they’re up and coming and trying to get their name out there.”

She decided to amp-up her social media presence, live-streaming several gigs over the summer and going ahead with the August release of her latest single “Eyes Closed,” co-written with British-born Grammy-nominated songwriter-singer and producer James Abrahart (JHart), who has written for Justin Bieber, Keith Urban, and Usher. That connection came through Shannon McArthur, who was once Abrahart’s roommate, noted Marcell.

Although Marcell has reached her largest audience online, she has always enjoyed live performance. From age 10, she’s sung at open mics, performed at local Lexington benefits, and entertained diners in restaurants from Boston to Concord. One thing that COVID has taken away, she said, is the biggest thrill of singing live: “that intimate connection with people you don’t know, people you’ll probably never meet again.”

The pandemic did however give Marcell and her friend and frequent accompanist David Moore a unique live gig experience. Thanks to a contact of Moore’s, they were invited to perform for patients and frontline health care workers at the Boston Hope Hospital, a temporary field hospital set up at the Boston Convention Center in mid-April to care for COVID-19 positive homeless adults, in a line-up that included Alicia Keys and Yo-Yo Ma.

Marcell credits the choral program at Lexington High School with supporting her development as a well-rounded performer. Although “it’s very different from what I do in my own career,” she said, singing with the school’s renowned chamber chorus, Lexington High School Madrigal Singers, affectionately known as “Mads,” has opened up “a whole new world of musicianship.”

After finishing high school in May, Marcell plans to move to LA in September to pursue her solo career full-time “in the hub of everything.” The prospect of moving to a new city is both scary and exciting, she said, especially with the wild card of COVID thrown in. But pandemic or no, her goal is clear: “I want to have as many people as possible listen to my music and hear what I have to say. There’s a lot that comes with that, but I’m so ready for the challenge,” she said.

Music of Hope and Defiance – Lizzy and The Triggermen

Singer-songwriter Lizzy Shapiro grew up in Lexington and counts LHS drama and music teachers Steve Bogart and Brian McConnell as mentors. She fronts the ten-piece band Lizzy and the Triggermen and is based in Los Angeles.

With a growing reputation as one of the hottest swing bands in Los Angeles, noted in Elmore Magazine for the “powerhouse vocals and femme fatale swagger” of its leader, singer-songwriter Lizzy Shapiro, the ten-piece band Lizzy and the Triggermen anticipated a banner year in 2020.

Shapiro’s team of seasoned jazz musicians includes virtuoso trombonist/arranger Dan Barrett, who collaborated with Benny Goodman, and over the last two years, the band’s packed live dance shows at storied LA venues including the Wiltern, the El Rey and the Troubadour have gained rave reviews and a devoted following.

“We had our biggest year yet scheduled by February 2020,” said Shapiro, speaking by phone from her home in Los Angeles. Back then, the band was prepping for the annual South by Southwest festival held every March in Austin, Texas, and for a cluster of gigs around the launch of their first album, Good Songs for Bad Times, including a New York City debut at The Cutting Room.

On March 6, 2020, Shapiro was driving to San Francisco with the band’s instruments and bandstands for a big show at City Hall, when her phone lit up with texts announcing the cancellation of everything. “By the end of that week it was pretty clear we were not going to do any of the things we were planning on doing for the year,” she said.

After initially deciding to hold back the release of the album – written and recorded pre-pandemic – Shapiro was struck by how eerily prescient one track now sounded. Her composition “Dance Song (For the End of the World)” starts with a foot-tapping beat under a British male voice sampled from an archival BBC Radio World War II broadcast announcing: “All gatherings for purposes of entertainment and amusement are prohibited until further notice.”

The parallel was too striking to ignore, said Shapiro. So she and the band decided to release the album in May 2020 and produced a music video to go with it. They reached out to artists in 15 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam, with one instruction: “Film yourself dancing at home.” The resulting music video went viral, and Good Songs for Bad Times reached #3 on the iTunes Top 40 US Jazz Albums chart.

“I don’t know that that song would have resonated with so many people if we’d released it at any other time,” said Shapiro, who grew up in Lexington and whose early mentors included inspirational drama and music teachers Steve Bogart and Brian McConnell at LHS. She studied music and comedy at Yale, and trained as an opera singer before moving to the West Coast in 2005 where she made a name as a comedy writer, producer and actor, creating and starring in an Emmy-nominated TV show for the History Channel, The Crossroads of History, 2016.

That background in film and TV now enables Shapiro and the band to bring Hollywood production values to virtual events from live-streaming gigs to corporate and private parties worldwide. “That’s a space I’m really excited about,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro finds hope in the Depression-era music from which the band takes its inspiration. “There’s a kind of defiance and hope that emerged from the music in response to what was happening in society,” she said. Uncertain as the future of live performance is at present, she sees another cause for optimism in the longing for human connection awoken by the pandemic.

“It’s easy to take something for granted when there’s no fear of it going away,” she said, so “when it’s safe to gather again and do live shows, there’s a hope that people will be really hungry for that in a way they weren’t before.” And surely that’s a hope shared by performers of all stripes, all over the world.


To learn more and hear their music, follow these performers online:

NOAH y MAURIZO
noahymaurizio.com
instagram.com/noahharringtonbass
facebook.com/NoahHarringtonMusic
LORELEI MARCELL
Instagram: @loreleimarcell
Spotify/Apple Music etc: Lorelei Marcell
LIZZY AND THE TRIGGERMEN
Lizzyandthetriggermen.com
Instagram: @lizzyandthetriggermen

Share this:

The 11th Biennial State Of Clay At LexArt

The 11th biennial State of Clay is a juried show, showcasing original and innovative ceramic work. Current and former residents of Massachusetts are eligible to apply. The show aims to broaden public awareness of contemporary ceramic art, and to provide a venue for Massachusetts’ clay artists. The juried entries showcase a wide array of ceramics, which highlight a variety of building styles, firing techniques and clay types.

Our artists are educators, studio potters, established professionals, and emerging artists who have found clay to be a malleable medium that has inspired them to seek the best of themselves in their presentations.

The show is hosted by the Ceramic Guild of LexArt (formerly known as the Lexington Arts & Crafts Society) in Lexington, MA. Juror Julia Galloway will choose pieces for awards. The Artists’ Reception will be virtual, due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Julia Galloway is a potter who creates utilitarian work, and is a professor at the School of Visual and Media Arts, College of Arts and Media, University of Montana (Missoula). She was raised in Boston, and received her BFA at the NY State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, and an MFA at the University of Colorado (Boulder). She is currently a Director at Large for the National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts (NCECA). Her work has been included in numerous journals and books. Julia has had numerous solo shows, and is part of several museum collections, including the Smithsonian Museum, the Renwick Museum, and

The Huntington Museum of Art among others. We are thrilled that she agreed to jury this year’s show.

The Lexington Arts & Crafts Society was founded in 1935 as a non- profit regional education center dedicated to the preservation and promotion of excellence in both traditional and contemporary arts & crafts. Last year, the organization was renamed LexArt. Each year, it holds a variety of exhibits in the Parsons Gallery, providing year-round space for members and outside groups to exhibit and sell their work. LexArt is composed of nine Guilds, most of which offer classes and workshops throughout the year.
Currently there are 38 members in the Ceramics Guild, which maintains a fully equipped studio with 5 kilns. LexArt has roughly 300 members and offers over 100 courses in various arts and crafts throughout the year taught by both Guild members and outside professional artists and craftspeople


The show runs from May 15 thru June 13, 2021.
Exhibit Hours Wed/Thurs/Fri 12-4, Saturday & Sunday 10-5
Virtual Artist Reception May 23 from 5:30 – 6:30

Share this:

LexSeeHer – Celebrating Lexington Women

The 2020 reenactment tableaux of the Massachusetts suffragist delegates to the 1913 Pageant
created by LexSeeHer members.

The LexSeeHer Steering Committee has enthusiastically taken up the charge to expand Lexington’s collective memory to include the many women whose hearts and minds have enriched the community for centuries.

LexSeeHer has several projects in the works, including a street banner project spearheaded by Girl Scout Troop 66265, a free Speaker Series, and the establishment of a new monument to celebrate Lexington women.

Co-Chair Betty Gau shares, “We have been studying monuments across the state and country, and learning from guest speakers like Kathy Jacob, who has researched and written about significant monuments.” Ms. Gau shares a favorite quote from Ms. Jacob, who says that public monuments: “… weave an intricate web of remembrance in which certain threads are highlighted, or validated, while others are dropped and disappear.”

“Women belong in our shared built environment,” adds co-chair Jesse Steigerwald. She continues, “Today, you could walk through the center and not necessarily find any permanent evidence that women have played an important role here for more than 300 years, socially, economically, and politically. Even in the 1700s, women helped organize; Anna Harrington, a Lexington woman, hosted a large Spinning Match that was organized as a protest against the King’s tax scheme. We would like to make sure that residents and visitors understand the important roles played by women.”

Ms. Gau continues, “The more we learn, the more excited we are to help make sure these stories are easily discovered, whether people are interested in Lexington’s critical role in the American Revolution, or want to know how women have contributed to the abolition movement, women’s suffrage, literature, and discoveries!”
Martha Wood, Steering Committee member, recalls the group’s launch on March 8, 2020. Wood says, “We timed our first event with the official opening of the Lexington Historical Society’s Something Must Be Done: Bold Women of Lexington exhibit, which took place on International Women’s Day. A team of Girl Scouts from Troop 66265 helped collect the very first pledges. We were deeply inspired by the many Lexington women included in the exhibit at Buckman Tavern.”
Amber Iqbal, another Steering Committee member, shares that it was very exciting to be able to see the Something Must Be Done exhibit, “The Historical Society’s presentation of inspirational women leaders from the era of the 1700s to the present is an essential effort. We, as women, have a responsibility to convey the knowledge of these bold and strong women to the next generation.” Ms. Iqbal is now helping make women even more visible with limited edition LexSeeHer mugs.

SUFFRAGISTS SEEN IN THE CENTER

As you walk through the center today, aspects of the Bold Women Exhibit have been installed in the windows at CVS to celebrate the role that Lexington women played in the U.S. suffrage movement. A timeline offers viewers the chance to see where local events and national events intersected in the long road to the 19th Amendment.

There are many women involved in this movement from Lexington whose names aren’t yet well known. The Wellington family submitted petitions to the state of Massachusetts asking for the women’s right to vote as early as 1850. Eliza Wellington made a Lexington suffrage banner in 1887 that declares “Something Must Be Done.” This banner was carried by Vera Perin Lane when she and (at least) two other Lexington women traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in the Women’s Suffrage Pageant in March of 1913. Florence Livingston wrote the lyrics for a suffrage song that was performed at the 1914 Boston Suffrage Parade.

Windows at CVS include costumes worn by Lexington’s Suffragist Reenactors who staged a special tableaux in honor of the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th amendment. Hats designed by Corinne Steigerwald; sashes by Michelle Tran and Jessie Steigerwald. Window assistance from Stacey Fraser and Martha Leticia Valencia.

The CVS window exhibit was a collaboration between the Historical Society and LexSeeHer, and include a reproduction of the photograph from the Schlesinger Library archive that depicts Massachusetts suffragist delegates to the 1913 Pageant, along with a photograph from the 2020 reenactment tableaux. The windows also include the replica “Something Must Be Done” banner made by Jessie Steigerwald after careful research at period banners in Schlesinger’s collection. Look closely at items in the window to help solve some research mysteries! If anyone has information about Vera Lane or the original banner, please reach out to the Historical Society or LexSeeHer members.

GIRL SCOUTS LEAN IN TO LEARN

Girl Scout Troop 66265 volunteered to collect pledges for the monument project last March and that inspired the girls to continue working on the idea for their Silver Award. “When I asked the troop if this is something they’d be interested in leading, it was a unanimous ‘Yes!’ from the girls,” says leader Lauren Kennedy. “I am continually surprised by how excited and engaged the girls have been with this project; it has been the main focus of our year.”

Girl Scout Troop 66265 Visits the Historical Society to learn more about Revolutionary Women.

With help from the Lexington Historical Society and the LexSeeHer committee, the girls have been researching and learning about bold Lexington women for the past eight months—holding meetings both virtually and socially-distanced in person. To make the women they have been studying more visible in town, the seventh-grade Cadette Scouts are designing vibrant banners to be installed in downtown Lexington for Women’s Equality Day this August.

Banners will incorporate the purple and gold colors used by American Suffragists who fought for the right to vote. Each banner will carry the silhouette of a woman whose contributions to Lexington are noteworthy. “We are having a lot of fun working on this project and we have learned a lot about the women of Lexington,” says Scout, Rory Kilgore. “When we were dressing up as women from different time periods we tried to think about what that woman accomplished and what we could add to the silhouette to make them each stand out.”

GET INVOLVED!

If you would like to become involved with LexSeeHer, visit the website. There will be continuing opportunities to celebrate the many inspiring Lexington women throughout the history of the town. All programs are intergenerational, incorporate the arts, and provide a chance to combine fun with fundraising. Sign up on the website to receive updates.

 


Educational Speaker Series

Starting in the fall of 2020, LexSeeHer promoted ways to learn about monuments and monumental Lexington women by establishing the LexSeeHer Speaker Series as part of their Educational Outreach.  The Committee hosted prominent speakers in 2020 during Zoom meetings open to the community.  Guest speakers presented slide shows, spoke about their area of expertise and fielded questions from the Zoom audience.

Speakers in the series have included a committee member from the New York City Monumental Women organization that established the Women’s Rights

Pioneers monument in Central Park; historian Stacey Fraser, curator of the Lexington Historical Society Bold Women of Lexington exhibit; Kathy Jacob Schlesinger, Library archivist and author of a book on Civil War monuments; Emily Murphy, Curator for Salem Maritime and Saugus Ironworks National Historic Sites and researcher of the Lexington 1775 Spinning Match; Elise Adams, President of the New England Sculptors Association, and Erik Durant, Sculptor of many Massachusetts public sculptures.

Spring 2021
April speakers will include talks by local sculptors, state monument organizers, and historians specializing in research on women. Check the website, and register to be kept up-to-date on future speakers.

March 31st, 12:00 – 1:00 PM – A leader from Montgomery Alabama who established a city monument to honor motherhood and created a multi-media walking tour of women’s history of the city will speak to the group. Thye talk will include a virtual Tour of Montgomery Alabama, Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.

Visit LexSeeHer.com
to register for the Speaker Series sessions. 

Share this:

Patriots Day 2021 – Schedule of Virtual Events

Scan with your phone for more information.

Visit patriotsday.com for updated information

Or, if you have questions about any of these events, please email celebrationscmte@lexingtonma.gov

 

 

 

 


Door to Patriotic Spirit – Online registration

Lexington’s Town Celebrations Committee (TCC) is inviting residents of Lexington to participate in “Door to Patriotic Spirit” by decorating the exterior of their front door with a patriotic theme. There will be an opportunity for the community to view your creativity.

Prizes will be awarded for winners based on the following criteria:

-Visual Impact,

-Craftmanship,

-Theme,

-Creativity, and

-Originality

There will be 9 Precinct Finalists (one from each Precinct) and one of them will be selected as a Grand Prize Winner.

Precinct Finalists will receive Gift Certificates worth $75 and the Grand Prize Winner will receive Gift Certificates for $200.

Gift Certificates are from Local Businesses.

Winners will be selected by appointed judges and will be informed by e-mail by the Town Celebrations Committee.

Go to patriotsday.com to register and for more information.

Monday, March 15 to Saturday, March 27

Patriots Point Walk: Miles & Smiles – Online registration

This is a great opportunity for families, friends, or school groups to enjoy a healthy walk, run or bike ride while accumulating miles visiting the many different historic monuments and memorials associated with Patriots’ Day.

The Town Celebrations Committee (TCC) will supply a map with these destinations marked; participants visit them, track their miles and take smile photos.
Participate in the Miles & Smiles Contest
In order to participate, you must be able to use a smartphone tracker app, or GPS tracker, and take photos of your tracks.
An online registration system will be available on Monday, March 22. Individuals, families or school groups may register through end of day on Monday, April 19.

On the registration system, you can:
-enter and update how many miles you’ve gone
-upload your GPS track images
-upload your Smile photos (see below)

Prizes will be awarded for:
-most miles traveled (based on GPS track images)
-most creatively designed travel routes
-best Smile photos

Photos will be posted online for voting within 48 hours of receipt. Judging is based on 50% community response and 50% Celebrations Committee input. Winners will be announced on April 26.

Smile Photos
Take selfies at the places you visit. We’ve created 2 Patriot Pals you can include in your photos (see right). Choose either one and personalize it by naming, coloring and decorating it. You can also post your photos to social media, using #PatriotPal. And be sure to link to the PatriotsDay.com website.
Monday, March 22 to Monday, April 19

HISTORIC  ZOOM  SEMINARS
In partnership with Cary Library
Sign up at patriotsday.com

• Monday, April 12 @ 1:15 – 3 pm
They Were Good Soldiers: The role of African-Americans in the regiments of the Continental Army, by John Rees
• Tuesday, April 13 @ 7 – 8:30 pm
“I am a daughter of liberty:” Women in the American Struggle for Independence, presented by Dr. Carol Berkin
• Wednesday, April 14
Voices of 1775, with James Hollister

COMMUNITY EVENTS
Lions Club:  Virtual 5K Road Race, register on line at http://www.lexingtonlions.org/5MileRoadRace.cfm
Boy Scout Troop #160: Virtual Pancake Breakfast sponsored by Boy Scout Troop #160. To order your take-away basket, visit https://www.troop160lexington.com/
On LexMedia April 19:

TOWN CELEBRATIONS COMMITTEE / PATRIOTS’ DAY ON PARADE

•A short history of Patriots’ Days

•Past Favorite parade participants

•Short video presentation of this year’s community events

LIONS CLUB EVENTS

USS Lexington Memorial https://usslexington.com/, A ceremony will be presented on LexMedia, Monday, April 19
Awards Minuteman Cane, White Tricorn Hat and Youth Commission – Recipients will be announced on LexMedia, Monday, April 19

OTHER EVENTS

• Hancock Church Handbell concert

• Rebroadcast of Dan Fenn’s “What Really Happened That Day.” Honor Dan’s memory by watching his half-hour talk on what really happened on April 19, 1775.

• Lexington Minute Men Company. For Patriots’ Day programming, visit lexingtonminutemen.com

• Lexington Historical Society, for programming https://www.lexingtonhistory.org/events.html

• 10th Regiment of Foot. For Patriots’ Day programming, visit http://www.redcoat.org/

• “To all the Friends of American Liberty”: The 1775 Lexington Alarm Letter at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library @patriotsday.com https://www.srmml.org/

• Lexington Minute Men and Lexington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution Zoom webinars – The Civilian Frenzy of April 19, 1775 and Huzzah! Researching Your Revolutionary Roots, to register, visit patriotsday.com

• Rebroadcast of Dan Fenn’s “What Really Happened That Day.” Honor Dan’s memory by watching his half-hour talk on what really happened on April 19, 1775.

• Lexington Minute Men Company. For Patriots’ Day programming, visit lexingtonminutemen.com

• Lexington Historical Society, for programming https://www.lexingtonhistory.org/events.html

• 10th Regiment of Foot. For Patriots’ Day programming, visit http://www.redcoat.org/

• “To all the Friends of American Liberty”: The 1775 Lexington Alarm Letter at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library @patriotsday.com  https://www.srmml.org/

• Lexington Minute Men and Lexington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution Zoom webinars – The Civilian Frenzy of April 19, 1775 and Huzzah!       Researching Your Revolutionary Roots, to register, visit patriotsday.com

 

 

Share this:

LPS COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Plan – an interview with Dr. Julie Hackett, Superintendent of Lexington Public Schools

Dr. Julie Hackett and a student volunteer assemble testing kits.

Lexington Public Schools recently announced the rollout of a new plan to provide school-based testing for COVID-19 to help stop the spread in our community as a result of asymptomatic cases, adding the community’s growing and evolving body of knowledge into consideration when interpreting COVID-19 data. Teams of staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly to roll-out the plan which began Tuesday, January 12, 2021 and will continue for 8 weeks.

Kim McCormick, LHS PTO President, met virtually with Dr. Hackett to learn more about the plan. Their conversation appears below.

KIM MCCORMICK// Good morning Dr. Hackett, tell me about LPS’s COVID-19 Surveillance Plan
DR. HACKETT// Hi, Kim. We are excited to announce the roll-out of PCR Saliva Pool Testing for some of our staff and students. We know it has been a struggle for many to secure an appointment for COVID-19 testing, so we hope the school-based testing will make life easier for some of our staff and families.

KIM MCCORMICK// PCR Saliva Pool Testing, what does that mean?
DR. HACKETT// LPS entered into a Service Agreement with Mirimus Clinical Labs to conduct PCR Saliva Pool Testing. This testing can identify and isolate asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 virus, enhancing the health and safety of those in our school buildings and offices. Based on the efficacy studies conducted to date by Mirimus, pool test protocols detect the existence of the COVID-19 virus, which can be narrowed down to detection at an individual level. The COVID-19 testing protocol I just described is at a fraction of the cost of what it might otherwise be, providing an opportunity for LPS to regularly test a larger school population.

KIM MCCORMICK// Governor Baker just announced free COVID-19 testing for all Massachusetts public schools, how does this affect your plan?
DR. HACKETT// We began the process of developing an LPS COVID-19 Surveillance Testing Plan in December, as referenced in the letter I sent to families on December 23, 2020. On January 8, 2021, Governor Baker announced that there would be free weekly nasal swab testing for all school systems. Our plan includes staggered testing schedules for all LPS staff and all middle and high school students, as PCR saliva tests are more appropriate for these age groups. We plan to take full advantage of the State’s new nasal swab testing by offering it to our elementary school students. We submitted the required paperwork to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and we are in the process of developing an elementary testing plan. Parents have an opportunity to weigh in on the process by accessing the survey we recently shared.

KIM MCCORMICK// Who is eligible to be tested?
DR. HACKETT// Testing is completely optional, although we highly recommend that everyone eligible participate. The tests will be available for all LPS staff, whether remote or hybrid, as well as Lexington High School students in Cohorts A and B Hybrid, and those participating in varsity and junior varsity sports, We also plan to offer testing to Clarke and Diamond students in Cohorts A and B Hybrid. Individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 90 days are not eligible. Individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms or do not feel well, should not take this test; they should get a diagnostic test following the recommendations and services available at Stop the Spread sites.

KIM MCCORMICK When will testing take place?
DR. HACKETT LPS staff who choose may participate in our pilot during the week of January 11th, and then on a staggered schedule. Students at LHS, Clarke, and Diamond in Cohort A will pick up their kits starting Tuesday Jan. 19th and test every other week for 4 weeks. Students at LHS, Clarke, and Diamond in Cohort B will pick up their kits on Thursday Jan. 21st and test every other week for 3 weeks. The difference in the number of testing times is due to the February break.

KIM McCORMICK// Why is LPS offering PCR Saliva Pool Testing now?
DR. HACKETT// We have been following the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) guidance since May 2020. According to HGHI, “Surveillance testing for educators, paraprofessionals, and other staff is recommended in order to reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission, once the level of community spread has exceeded 20/100,000 daily new cases. LPS recently reached 21/100,000 cases of COVID-19. The time is right to get Surveillance Testing underway in Lexington Public Schools, and we are grateful for our community’s partnership in this critical effort.

KIM MCCORMICK// Will LPS use COVID-19 Surveillance Testing to return to full in-person school?
DR. HACKETT// Surveillance testing means different things to different people in our school community – some want it to be a tool we can use to “go remote,” while others want to use it to make the case for a “full return” to school. I want to be very clear that we are not using LPS Surveillance Testing to determine a particular model of teaching and learning, instead we will follow the advice of the HGHI to ‘use metrics of community spread as general points of information, not on-off switches for closure and opening.’

KIM MCCORMICK// What is this costing the District?
DR. HACKETT// Our Service Agreement with Mirimus is for 8 weeks of testing and costs $229,000, which is equivalent to three or four full-time teaching positions to put the cost into perspective. The District is committed to funding this plan and enacted a budget freeze to ensure that we are able to cover the costs of surveillance testing. Some of our community partners, including the Lexington Education Foundation (LEF), are fundraising to supplement our effort, as many school communities have done. The complex models of teaching and learning developed to keep us safe during the pandemic are more costly. The good news is that new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds are on the way, which may help to cover some of the costs. If we do not receive additional funding, we will need to continue to make reductions to our current operating budget in order to cover the costs.

KIM MCCORMICK // How can people donate to the LEF fund?
DR. HACKETT//We are greatly appreciative of the LEF and the Lexington community for all the support of our schools, both in terms of their volunteerism and through the generous donations for grants. Individuals may make donations directly to LEF from their website LexEdFoundation.org.

KIM MCCORMICK// Are there volunteer needs and opportunities?
DR. HACKETT// We are so thankful for our partnership with the PTO/As as well as the PTO President’s Council (PPC) for diving into this project and designing and managing the volunteer aspects in conjunction with our Director of School Health Services, Karen Rufo. Community members interested in helping may complete the volunteer form from a link on the LPS website.

KIM MCCORMICK// This is a big undertaking, thank you so much for your leadership.
DR. HACKETT// Thank you, Kim, and I want to be sure that the community knows that so many LPS staff, as well as community volunteers and the School Committee have been instrumental in making this plan not only possible, but also operational. I’d like to specifically thank Karen Rufo, Director of School Health Services and all the LPS nurses and the custodial staff who are essential individuals in the success of the plan. They are truly our local heroes who take risks everyday to help preserve the health and safety of our entire school community and our students.

Share this:

Keys for Kids – New Location, Same Love and Passion for Teaching Music

By Devin Shaw


Keys for Kids students.

Keys for Kids has been a staple of the Lexington community for over two decades. Thousands of local students have learned music and life lessons throughout the various locations the school has called home. Inga Magid, Founder and Educational Director of Keys for Kids, has spent years trying to find a new location for the school in Lexington that was more centralized and visible—facing obstacles at every turn. Then recently, an opportunity presented itself when a vacancy became available at 411 Waltham Street, in the little shopping plaza, which is also home to Tricon Sports, Bruegger’s Bagels, and Nature’s Way Cleaners. For Inga, it was love at first sight.

 

Mrs. Magid told me, “What I love about our new location is it’s more visible—it’s close to the center, it’s close to the schools, and it’s close to many of the families that participate in our various programs. It’s great for the families because it is next-to-or-near a coffee shop, a donut shop, a sports store—pretty much anything you can think of. And, there is tons of parking!”

 

This was not just as simple as moving into the vacancy. With the new home for Keys for Kids, Inga has shaped the storefront into a musician’s dream. She told me, “It was a six-month project. We gutted the entire facility. It has turned into a music school built from the ground up. It has everything you need for perfect acoustics, along with a fantastic layout. It’s bright, sunny, and versatile. We even recently put the signup!”

 

Inga continued, “It has a very large main classroom which allows us to hold classes in person again, as well as online. We now have the ability to integrate the two.”

 

Like every small business, Keys for Kids was forced to adjust its entire business model overnight due to COVID. In-person classes were halted, and Inga was forced to innovate. She explained, “I will never forget it; it was Thursday, March 12th, and I was teaching my night class, and all of a sudden, all of the parents were reading their phones, and they said, ‘Oh my god, starting tomorrow school will be closed!’ So, by the next day, we had moved our classes online. At that point, I didn’t know how to use Zoom or even have a camera! I was moving my computer by hand so the students could see what I was talking about! The next day I ordered two more cameras, and every day our classes got better. I am proud that we did not miss one lesson!”

 

Inside the new Keys for Kids studio on Waltham Street.

That is a perfect example of the devotion and passion of Inga and the Keys for Kids faculty: faced with adversity, it took fewer than 24 hours to adjust and make sure no student missed a class. And now, the classes have become so popular they are a permanent addition! Inga told me, “There are obviously challenges when it comes to online classes, but there are also so many amazing resources online that we have never explored. Also, now with multiple cameras so the students can follow what my hands are doing from almost any angle. Another great aspect of online teaching is former students that moved away or otherwise cannot be in person are now able to be in our classes again!”

Keys for Kids provides a passionate and highly specialized faculty ready to work hard for its students and can adapt quickly. Inga said, “We offer piano, violin, guitar, singing, percussion, ukulele, and ensemble classes.” She continues, “Our faculty is amazing. It is a group of highly educated instructors with years of experience teaching all types of students—including those with disabilities. They are performers, they are teachers, and, most importantly, they are inspirational. We are so lucky to have such a fantastic faculty.”

Inga has been teaching piano for decades. In that time, she has created an education program unlike any other. She proudly explains, “It’s a very unique program because it’s a combination of all the many styles of teaching: Asian, Russian, European, and American.” She continues, “three-year-olds will start playing the piano and will learn to read music. It’s a program that I have been developing over the course of 35 years, and even after all of my years of teaching it still astounds me that children can learn to read music so well at such a young age. It happens every year and it truly is inspiring.”

Christiana Iyasere has had three children learning music at Keys for Kids; they all started around the age of four. She said, “Inga is a really exceptional music teacher in the sense that she clearly has a mastery of the music herself. It is rare to have a teacher who has such exceptional skill, and who is able to both impart the technical skills in a teaching format, and promote a love and appreciation for the arts in the same way that she can. The other thing that I think is particularly special about her is that she has incredibly high standards for each student, and understands where they are and what their potential is. I think it’s rare to find individuals or teachers that have such faith in what your children can truly achieve and are willing to do the work with them to get them to that point. She clearly is one of those individuals.”

Ted and Jen Murphy also love Keys for Kids. Their daughter, Courtney, has also been studying there since the age of 4 (she is now 8). Even more important to her parents is the fact that Courtney finds both her lessons and practice sessions to be enjoyable and a great source of pride and accomplishment.  “One of the many strengths of Keys for Kids is that Inga employs a ‘hands-on’ management style at the school,” says Jen Murphy.

Ted Murphy tells explains, “She brings a rare energy and accountability to all of the classes, which teaches children responsibility and ownership of their progress. This helps them in all of their studies and activities.” Courtney’s love of Inga’s approach motivated her to take up the violin as a second instrument. Ted tells me, “Nowadays, there are fewer distractions and activities to compete with playing and practicing. We are grateful that Courtney has developed a passion for music due to the inspiration of talented and devoted teachers.”

For Inga, Lexington is home. She has lived here for 19 years. Her business is here. She raised her children here. She has great pride for the town, and being part of the community is extremely important for her. She says, “I am so happy that we have been able to teach in Lexington for so long and truly become a part of the community. That personally means a lot to me as a longtime Lexington resident.” But, being part of the community isn’t enough for Inga—she also gives back. She says, “Music programs in most school systems are not as well funded as other programs, so each summer, we host our Summer Performance Gala, and we donate all proceeds to the Lexington Public Schools’ Music Department.”

And, while Lexington is both Inga’s and Keys for Kid’s home, the new home on Waltham Street is the next step for this staple of Lexington education and culture. Inga encourages people to stop by and experience her faculty’s passion and dedication and see the beautiful brand-new facility with the pristine sound. And, while you’re there, make sure to ask about the popular Summer Music Day Camp.

 

While you are there, you will probably find Inga teaching or playing the piano. She concludes, “The saying goes: ‘choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ Well, I can tell you—they were right.”



411 Waltham St,

Lexington, MA 02421

781-274-9729

 

Share this: