Art Campbell

Art started The Groton Line late in 2009 as a synthesis of two careers in newspaper journalism and technical communications -- writing about networks, computers, and software. He's lived in Groton 20+ years, so he qualifies as "one of the new guys."

Sep 152014
 

If you live near Groton Center, you’ve already heard something new on the Lawrence Academy campus this school year — loud, effective, public address speakers on the school’s many athletic fields that project voices a long way across town.

The first tests of the system, around Labor Day, took some neighboring residents by surprise, and John Bishop, the school’s director of communications, has begun sending out advance notification of most tests.

In his news release, he writes, “As part of our ongoing effort to provide a safe living and learning environment for our community, on Wednesday, September 17, from 12:55 to 1:30 p.m. Lawrence Academy will facilitate an all-school safety drill. During the drill, those in the vicinity may hear audio instructions and tones from the external campus alert system. The school will repeat this exercise throughout the school year to ensure the Academy’s readiness for all levels of emergencies. Public safety officials will be on hand and will provide helpful feedback.”


Sep 152014
 

Dear Editor:

On Thursday, September 11, the Groton Council on Aging sponsored a luncheon at our beautiful new fire station to give the senior citizens of Groton an opportunity to thank the First Responders who serve them. On behalf of the seniors of Groton I would like to share our presentation of that day.

“Today we gather to honor and thank the First Responders of Groton for their service to our community. It was September 11, 2001 that our country became painfully aware of the collaboration of First Responders. They are our police department, our fire department and our EMTs.

Each is an independent department of their own yet interwoven and dependent on one another.

A community cannot be whole without this tight collaboration. Together they serve and protect, without regard to their own safety and their own lives they instinctively react to the emergency at hand. Their families sacrifice as well with missed holiday dinners, kids baseball games and birthdays as they serve our community.

We also remember the spiritual challenges they may face, responding to a car accident or overdose of a teenager, the door they may have to knock on to tell a family of the loss of a loved one, and those they cannot save.

Their hearts bear a heavy burden.

For most of us, it is unimaginable to think of the physical and mental burden on our first responders and those around the county that have responded to emergencies and terrorists attacks on our cities and our country.

We are eternally grateful.

The Senior Citizens of Groton and the Groton Council on Aging humbly thank them for their sacrifices. We are grateful to live in a town where we know our fire and police by their first names, a place where they know their community and its residents, a community that cares.”

With gratitude,

Kathy Shelp

Council on Aging Director
Town of Groton


Sep 132014
 

Former Groton firefighter and town employee Steve Mickle’s wake drew a large crowd of mourners when it began in the Groton-Dunstable Performing Arts Center at noon on Saturday.

After an hourlong service that began at 4 p.m., Mickle’s casket was loaded onto Ayer Fire Department’s Engine 4 in a steady rain. His turnout gear was hung at the back of the engine, flanked by two firefighters who escorted the casket, riding on the engine’s tailboards. The procession, more than a mile long, rolled slowly through town. It lit up Main Street with a blinding display of flashing and strobing emergency beacons and the lights of hundreds of motorcycles, many of them ridden by members of the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club — Mickle was a member, and died in a cycle accident September 2. The procession ended at the Groton Country Club, where a celebration of Mickle’s life continued.






Sep 122014
 

Groton' s $8M Central Fire Station will be dedicated and open to the public on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Groton’s $8M Central Fire Station will be dedicated and open to the public on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In one of Town Hall’s better kept secrets, Groton’s new $8M fire station on Farmer’s Row will be dedicated Saturday morning at 10, and the fire department will host an open house so that residents can tour the station for three hours, until 1 p.m.

“We’re going to have the Open House for the fire department, and this year is special because we’re doing the open house in a brand-new facility here. We’re going to start right off at 10 in the morning with a short ceremony, 20 or 30 minutes with a bunch of speakers from the Selectmen’s office, Josh Degen, (State Representative) Shelia Harrington, as well as a representative from the building committee. Chief Joe Bosselait will be here to do a brief change-of-command ceremony, too, although I’ve actually been the chief for a couple weeks,” Groton Fire Chief Steele McCurdy said. “And then the fire station will be open and available for tours until one o’clock in the afternoon. We’ll have some pastries and some light refreshments here.”

Town Manager Mark Haddad sent out invitations to the Open House and dedication some time ago, but the event was not publicized at all — no news releases or other information was sent to any media outlets — until Board of Selectmen Chair Josh Degen followed up on a request for information from The Groton Line and issued an open invitation to the community on September 7 by email to area news media. A list of people that Haddad invited was not available when this story was published.

A steel beam from the World Trade Towers that is now a memorial in front of the fire house was dedicated at a First Responder’s Lunch yesterday, September 11, the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the New York City buildings.


Sep 112014
 

The Groton, Ayer, Dunstable, and other area fire departments; and the Red Knights motorcycle club, will bid farewell to Steven Mickle this Saturday in Groton. A wake is planned at the Performing Arts Center in the Groton Dunstable Middle School from noon to 4 p.m., when a service will take place. After the service, a procession will wind down Main Street to the Groton Country Club, where a celebration of Mickle’s life will be held.

Mickle was killed in a motorcycle accident in Berwick, Maine, on September 2. The accident remains under investigation, according to a Berwick Police Department spokesman.

Saturday’s events have been planned by the Ayer Fire Department, where Mickle last served. He had also been a call firefighter with the Groton and Dunstable departments and was a popular long-term Town of Groton employee.

During the wake, firefighters will provide an honor guard around the casket, Ayer Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi wrote in an email.

“After the service is completed, the casket will be placed on top of the fire truck for the procession to the Country Club,” Pedrazzi wrote. “The procession will be the Groton Police Chief, two Red Knight motorcycles, Ayer Engine 4 with the casket, then the family. After that, the plan is to have the NEMLEC (North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council) motorcycle group lead the rest of the motorcycles to the Country Club. There is no room for cars at the Country Club so Dee bus has provided transportation for the people that want to go to the Country Club.

Traffic is expected to be heavy on Main Street all day Saturday, according to a Groton Police Department spokeswoman, but no detours or special preparations were planned other than the bus shuttle from the Middle School parking lots to the Country Club.


Sep 112014
 

Schools’ open, and this year that includes two special classes for town officials and employees. Two mandatory training days have been scheduled in the wake of a ruling by the Attorney General’s office that the Board of Selectmen violated the state Open Meeting Law and several “unsubstantiated” allegations of harassment within the Fire Department.

  • Open Meeting Law training for all members of town boards and committees reporting to the Board of Selectmen or the Town Manager, and all selectmen, will take place Wednesday, September 17. Sponsored by the Board of Selectmen, the meeting is mandatory for all members of all boards and committees that report to the BoS or the Town Manager.
  • Mandatory Discrimination and Harassment Training for all town employees will take place Thursday, September 18.

The Open Meeting Law violation occurred this spring when then-Chair of the Board of Selectmen Peter Cunningham telephoned board members and asked their thoughts on an idea he had to assist Blood Farm’s rebuilding effort by waiving building permit fees. Two members of the board refused to discuss it, and the polling became a public issue just before the spring town election in which Cunningham was re-elected. The Groton Line files an Open Meeting Law complaint. Town counsel, the law firm of Koppelman and Paige, and Town Manager Mark Haddad, asserted that Cunningham’s action was not a violation of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office disagreed, and upheld the complaint.

The Board of Selectmen decided at its meeting this Monday that if there was space available at the September 18 OML class, the public may attend, but priority will be given to board and commission members. The BoS also invited members of elected boards and commissions that do not report to it to attend if they wish.

In discussion in a number of Board of Selectmen’s meetings over the last few months, the board approved a training program for itself and members of all town boards and commissions reporting to it directly or through the Town Manager. Because the Attorney General’s office doesn’t provide in-person training, only webinars, Haddad arranged with Koppelman and Paige to present a training program. According to BoS Chair Josh Degen, the workshop will be video taped and available on the town’s cable access channel and its Vimeo.com video server. Board and committee members who do not attend the session in person are required to view the tape and file paperwork stating that they understand the law, Degen said.

The fire department harassment allegations, also made this spring, led to an internal investigation that concluded the allegations were “unsubstantiated.” After that inquiry wrapped up, Haddad initiated a second investigation that triggered the “non-reappointment” of four firefighters, who have since filed suit against Haddad and other town officials. According to an internal email issued by Haddad, the town’s insurance company “recommends” that the training take place. Town Hall, the Groton Public Library, and other noncritical offices will be closed from 10 a.m. to noon on September 18th while the employees are in class. This class will also be presented by the town counsel law firm, Koppelman and Paige.


  • Open Meeting Law training takes place Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the Function Hall of the Groton Country Club, 94 Lovers Lane.
  • Discrimination and Harassment Training takes place Thursday, September 18, 2014 in the Performing Arts Center of the Groton-Dunstable Middle School on Main Street, from 10 a.m. to noon. Many town offices will be closed at that time.


Sep 102014
 

Groton-Dunstable Regional High School — one of the country's best college prep schoolsArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Groton-Dunstable Regional High School — one of the country’s best college prep schools

In its second appearance in Newsweek magazine’s list of America’s Best Schools (You’ll have to search for “Groton” or “Dunstable” to locate the details.), Groton-Dunstable Regional High School jumped from the middle of the pack into the listing’s top ranks. This year, Groton-Dunstable is ranked fifth in Massachusetts and 86th in the United States. Last year, G-DRHS was 12th in the state and 388th in the country.

On the web page dedicated to the listings the magazine explains that the list is focused on college prep schools: “Newsweek’s 2014 Rankings highlights schools that do the absolute best job of preparing students for college. This year, our methodology is more stringent than ever with new measures of quality and a higher standard for data.”

Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez wrote in an email, “I wish to congratulate all students, staff, families, and our community for this recognition. I am glad that Newsweek has recognized the great academic merits of our high school. Being ranked 86th in the country represents our strength nationwide; being ranked 5th in Massachusetts demonstrates our leadership at the state level. … I am so proud to be a part of this community.”

High school principal Michael Mastrullo wrote, also in an email, “We are proud to be recognized by Newsweek as one of the best schools in the country. The two towns of Groton and Dunstable have demonstrated a deep commitment to education, and that commitment has borne fruit. Above all else, the acknowledgment by Newsweek is a testament to the hard work and effort demonstrated on a daily basis by students and staff. Although one cannot put too much stock in rankings, it does serve as affirmation that we are on the correct course. In addition, it simply makes the rest of the state and country aware of what we already know. G-DRHS is a great place to work and a great place to attend high school.”

On the web site, Newsweek explains the analysis that went into the rankings:

Threshold Analysis: First, we created a high school achievement index based on performance indicators (i.e., proficiency rates on state standardized assessments). For the absolute list, the index was used to identify high schools that perform at or above the 80th percentile within each state. …

Ranking Analysis: For the high schools on both lists identified in the threshold analysis, we created a College Readiness Score based on the following six indicators:

  • Enrollment Rate — 25 percent
  • Graduation Rate — 20 percent
  • Weighted AP/IB composite — 17.5 percent
  • Weighted SAT/ACT composite — 17.5 percent
  • Holding Power (change in student enrollment between ninth and 12th grades; this measure is intended to control for student attrition) — 10 percent
  • Counselor-to-Student Ratio — 10 percent”

Last year, Principal Michael Mastrullo explained “That places us in, approximately, the third percentile in Massachusetts and in the first percentile in the country.” This year’s jump up the chart puts the school in the top percentiles of both state and national ranks.

In Massachusetts, Lexington came in first and 19th overall, followed by Boston Latin, Westborough, and Weston.


Sep 092014
 

Election workers at the Groton Country Club urged on a light voter turnout in Tuesday's primaryArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Election workers at the Groton Country Club urged on a light voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary

One thousand eighty three people, 14 percent of Groton voters, cast ballots in Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican party primary elections and generally followed state trends on winners and losers, based on incomplete returns at 10 p.m.

Town Clerk Michael Bouchard released unofficial Groton returns at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Statewide, most Republican office seekers were unopposed, but a few Democratic Party races were contentious.

Attorney General Martha Coakley led the Democratic field of gubernatorial hopefuls, polling 286 votes. Steven Grossman trailed with 242, and Donald Berwick came in third with 216.

Seeking the governor’s nomination on the Republican ballot, Charles Baker topped Mark Fisher 234 — 72.

In the Democratic race for attorney general, Maura Healy topped Warren Tolman 535-187.

In the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor, Stephen J. Kerrigan came in first with 335, followed by Leland Cheung with 201, and Michael E. Lake with 62.



Click here to view the unofficial result tally sheet.



Sep 092014
 

Several town officials received court papers this morning informing them that they — and the town — are being sued in Middlesex Superior Court for violating labor laws, civil rights laws, the state’s Strong Chief Law, and other statutes surrounding the departure of four call firefighters from the Groton Fire Department this spring.

A seven count lawsuit naming Groton Town Manager Mark Haddad, all five members of the Board of Selectmen, former Fire Chief Joe Bosselait, Fire Captain Susan Daly, and Fire Lieutenant Tony Hawgood (Daly and Hawgood are married) as defendants was filed in last Thursday by Rob Bowen, a Lunenberg labor attorney representing former Groton Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and former call firefighters James Horan, Ben Miele, and Stephen Tervo.

Board of Selectmen Chair Josh Degen said, “I won’t, and no member of the Board of Selectmen will, make any comment on any pending litigation.

The suit alleges that the town officials violated the state Strong Chief Law, state and Federal civil rights laws, wrongfully terminated the firefighters from their positions, interfered with contractual relationships (related to the firefighter’s job roles), and inflicted emotional distress upon and defamed the four firefighters.

Chief Jefferson was asked to submit a letter of resignation and the three firefighters were not automatically reappointed to their positions in June after Haddad conducted an investigation during which he determined that he had been lied to and that at least one of the firefighters “had an awful attitude,” apparently related to being investigated. (See The Groton Line’s story on Haddad’s investigation.).

All four fire fighters signed union cards with the Teamsters Union while they were employed, and that fact is mentioned but not stressed in the complaint.

Although town employees are reappointed to their positions annually by the Board of Selectmen, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel had always been omitted, or exempted, from the procedure until this June, when almost all were included in the ritual for the first time. Except for Horan, Miele, and Tervo, who lost their jobs when their names were not submitted by Bosselait when he sent the “reappointment” list to Haddad and the Board of Selectmen.



Click here to take a look at the court papers.


The complaint goes on to request a trial by jury, which fits in with statements all four firefighters made earlier this year: that they want an open forum to air “what really happened,” instead of the closed door Town Hall investigation, Haddad’s stated lack of notes from his fact gathering, and dismissal by email.

The firefighters are asking for several remedies including an order for the town to comply with the state’s Strong Chief Law; public acknowledgment that the town didn’t handle the situation, or situations, properly; and unspecified monetary damages and attorney fees.


Sep 072014
 

Betsy Fitzgerald

Betsy Fitzgerald


A little bit of Groton might have found its way into Betsy Fitzgerald’s latest novel, Neelie’s Truth, even though the action takes place in a small town in the Connecticut River valley’s tobacco fields in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It’s the small town sensibility, and even more, the sensibility of small New England towns that was prevalent a generation or two ago, she said.

“I think small towns tended to think of themselves as being enclaves then. I didn’t live in Groton then, but I imagine Groton was a much more agricultural town than it is now. Some of the things about small town life, particularly at that time, are universal. I think small New England towns tended to be homogenous, generally, with less diversity, and a more limited cultural experience — I don’t think of that as a negative necessarily, just as a fact of life,” Fitzgerald said.

“This wasn’t a difficult book to write because I drew a lot on what I learned growing up in a small rural community similar to the one that my main character, Neelie, lives in. It isn’t about my direct personal experience, but my understanding of life in a small rural town,” she said.

Fitzgerald will talk about Neelie’s Truth and her use of Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing web site, to publish it, at the Groton Public Library on Tuesday, September 16, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Copies will be available for purchase and Fitzgerald will be signing copies too.

According to a press release from the library, “Neelie’s Truth is an award-winning literary novel. Betsy Fitzgerald is a former New York Times writer whose fiction has been recognized by the Santa Fe Literary Competition, Laurinda Collins Whitney Short Story Competition, and Connecticut Writers.”

“I set out to write Neelie’s Truth as simply the story of a young girl who is suddenly left on her own. Her father deserts the family and her mother becomes unable to manage well. And I was interested in seeing how this girl keeps her life together, and she does, indeed. But it became a story that was bigger than this one girl struggling with her own life. It takes on some major themes that really resonate today. I didn’t plan it that way, but the issue of unexpected gun violence, of guns in the hands of children, is something that’s in the book. And you know, I think it’s a book that will get people to ask questions,” Fitzgerald said.

“The story is set in the late 1950s, early 1960s. What makes that era interesting for me, and I think, the readers, is that it was a simpler time, before we had electronic connections to people. People were connected more intimately in their communities.”

“Relationships were in the community. People interacted directly — you still see that some in small towns. But it was also a time when the mother of the family was physically at home with children — it was a different kind of family dynamic than we have now,” she said.

Fitzgerald almost blushes when talking about how reader reviewers have mentioned Neelie’s Truth in the same sentence with the classic coming-of-age novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

“I consider it incredibly high praise that Neelie’s Truth is compared in any way to To Kill A Mockingbird. Certainly Harper Lee’s book was a strong influence on me as a young reader. I read it as a young teenager and it always seemed to me the perfect book. Perfectly told. Simply told. Those are the things I strove for in Neelie’s Truth. I wasn’t influenced by To Kill A Mockingbird directly; I didn’t set out to write a story that would be a kind of New England version of To Kill A Mockingbird, but I admire that style and that kind of story telling. I think it comes from my journalism background. The story should stand on its own without a lot of frills and frou-frou.”

“Neelie’s Truth does take on some significant issues the way To Kill A Mockingbird does. When you do that through the lens of a small town, I think that can be a powerful way to approach significant issues like racism, or violence. Violence of any type seems more real and more jarring,” Fitzgerald said.

Registration is requested, but not required for Fitzgerald’s talk, and can be done online.

Fitzgerald blogs at www.betsyfitzgerald.com and www.notsmallatall.com.
(Betsy Fitzgerald-Campbell is Executive Editor of The Groton Line. — Ed.)