Letter to the Editor

First Year on the School Committee

Dear Editor,

While it seems like only yesterday that I was fortunate enough to be selected to fill a vacancy on the Winthrop School Committee, it is in fact one year since my appointment.  I thought I would take this opportunity to report to the citizens of our town what I have experienced so far, and my hopes for the future. Today, I am more convinced than before of the importance of an excellent educational system to our community and the impact it has on each one of us.

As many of you know, my passion for education is deeply rooted. I began my career as a speech therapist in public schools, including in Burlington, Massachusetts, after which I became a faculty member at Emerson College in Boston in the field of Communication Disorders. More recently, I have worked in higher education administration, serving my longest terms as a Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Emerson College and Vice Provost at George Mason University.  My current role as a grandmother of two young girls, one of whom attends the Fort Banks School, is both most challenging, and most rewarding.

On the School Committee, my main interest has been in Curriculum, and I chair the subcommittee on that subject.  I am very pleased that Ms. Lori Gallivan accepted the position of Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability.  In the short time that she has been here, she has improved organization, efficiency and communication by effectively working with teachers and principals. You can now look at the Curriculum and Instruction section of the Winthrop Public School website to see what our children are learning each week! 

Our work on the School Committee is very team-oriented, and most of our ideas, proposals, discussions and deliberations are worked out in subcommittees.  All of us serve on several subcommittees, and my involvement with my fellow committee members and our Superintendent, Lisa Howard, has given me a broad understanding of the work ahead.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing our school system are lack of funding, attracting and retaining qualified teachers, and maintaining reasonable class sizes. Funding is the major hurdle to overcome many of these challenges.

As an example, we faced a sudden influx of kindergartners in late August and early September, which meant that we needed to add a teacher and an aide to maintain a reasonable class size.  Fortunately, the Town Manager and the Town Council worked with the Superintendent and School Committee to come up with the necessary funds to remedy this situation, albeit later in the school year than if the funds had been readily available. 

The good news is that we have an influx of new teachers who are eager for professional development and, of course, competitive salaries. The Superintendent is carefully tracking and encouraging professional activities, monitoring class size, overall enrollment and, through collaborative work with teachers and principals,  has developed an in-depth understanding of the budget and our needs. 

I pledge to work with my fellow School Committee members, the Town Council and other interested citizens to develop strategies to resolve our challenges and celebrate our successes. The work to provide a first-class education for our childrenis not easy, but it is very important.  It requires the support of the whole community, not just parents and guardians of current students.  I welcome your ideas and input now and in the future.   Based on my service during the past year, I am optimistic about our future, and I intend to seek election to remain on the School Committee in November.


Suzanne Swope, Ed.D.

Winthrop School Committee Member

Now Is the Time to Quit Smoking

Dear Editor, 

February is American Heart Month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is a leading cause of heart disease.

Smoking can lead to the narrowing of blood vessels and high blood pressure and quitting smoking greatly improves heart health.  So, make a resolution for a healthier life for you and your family. If you’re a smoker, quitting is the most important step you can take to protect your health, decreasing the risk of lung disease, cancer, and even early death.

If you want to quit and tried in the past, don’t give up. It often takes several tries before you can quit for good. However, with planning and support, you can become tobacco-free.

The Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline offers both telephone and online support 24 hours a day, seven days a week (with some holiday exceptions) by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or through KeepTryingMA.org.  Online support includes quit planning tools and chatting with others who are trying to quit.  Free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are available to eligible users.  The combination of coaching and quit-smoking medication can make you nearly three times as likely to quit for good!

Quitting smoking can be hard—here are five ways to make it easier:

1. Set a quit date. Choose a quit day this month. Give yourself about two weeks to prepare.

2. Tell your family and friends you plan to quit. Share your quit date with important people and ask for their support. Daily encouragement and planned activities can help you stay on track.

3. Anticipate and plan for challenges. The urge to smoke is short—usually only three to five minutes. Those moments can feel intense. Before your quit date, write down healthy ways to cope with cravings so you can get past them.

Healthy choices include:

· Drinking water

· Taking a walk

· Calling or texting a friend

4. Remove cigarettes and other tobacco from your daily routine. Throw away your cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean your car and home. Old cigarette odors can cause cravings.

5. Talk to your doctor about quit-smoking medications. Over-the-counter or prescription medicines can help you quit for good; your quit coach and pharmacist can provide guidance.

For more information, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit KeepTryingMA.org. 

Make the choice to quit today, making February, American Hearth Month, the beginning to a smoke-free and healthier you!


Edgar Duran Elmudesi, MSWMetro Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership

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