Saturday, September 18, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Greetings Franklin! Did you recognize what type of plant last week's mystery flower belongs to?

If you said "grass" you are correct!

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I'm not sure which type of grass this is. I had thought it was big bluestem, Andropogon gerardi, but I lost the plant tag. Drat. At any rate, it's a native grass that I bought from Garden in the Woods a few years back, and it has been a show-stopper in my garden ever since.

This particular native grass grows into a very tall clump, that, as you can see, is currently almost as tall as me. But native grasses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, quite a few of which are fun for gardens as well as good for wildlife.

You may not have ever thought before about grass having flowers, but grass is a type of flowering plant. You just have to look closely to see the flowers.

You typically don't see flowers on mowed lawns because the grass needs to reach a taller height in order to produce flowers.

Native grasses aren't typically used in lawns. However, unlike the imported lawn grasses, native grasses handle our native growing conditions far better than their lawn counterparts. The grass I show above, for instance, remained emerald green throughout this summer's drought, even though I hardly ever watered it.

The next time you find yourself in a unmowed area, have a look at the grass, and see if you can't spot the flowers.

Here is next week's native plant:

Here is a hint: the fruit is a lot more interesting than the flowers.

Happy plant-sleuthing!

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Encourage them to answer the survey

The early returns have shifted already from almost an even split (13-no, 12-yes) to almost 2-1 margin favoring the No vote.

Should the Main St traffic pattern be changed from 1-way to 2-way?

No   - 40

Yes -   23

Total  -  63

This is a small number of the total residents (approx. 33,000) and of the registered voters (approx. 19,000)

The survey will remain open until midnight 9/28/10 so the numbers can be prepared for the Town Council meeting and public hearing on the 29th..

Encourage your friends and neighbors to have their say. Now is the time!

Visit the Franklin Downtown Partnership website to participate.

Franklin, MA

Franklin Police offering Bike Helmets

The Safety Division has a number of bicycle safety helmets available, free of charge, on a first come first served basis. 
Sizes from toddler to adult available. 
Email Sergeant Spillane if you are interested in a helmet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Have you had your say yet?

In the first 12 hours of the posting, just over 50 people visited the link, and 25 contributed to the survey. At this point, the survey results are split 13-No, 12-Yes.

Have you had your say yet?

Follow this link to the survey on the new Franklin Downtown Partnership website

After you complete the survey, check out the new website?

Are we missing something? Let us know.

Franklin, MA

Two fact sheets on new health care, poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau

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New Census data show Massachusetts leads nation in health care coverage; poverty rises nationally while federal assistance softens blow

September 16, 2010

The U.S. Census Bureau today released data on health insurance and poverty rates for 2009. Two new fact sheets by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center examine the data.

Massachusetts Still a Leader in Health Coverage
reports on Census Bureau data indicating Massachusetts health care coverage still leads the nation. Nationally, health care coverage is declining. 

Using a multi-year average, the Census data estimate that in the 2007-2009 period, Massachusetts had a health insurance coverage rate of 94.9 percent -- more than any other state in the nation.  The closest state to Massachusetts was Hawaii, with health insurance coverage of 92.2 percent.  Texas, on the other hand, covered only 74.5 percent of its population during the 2007-2009 period.

The state's insurance rate of 94.9 percent demonstrates the impact of the Massachusetts health reform law implemented in April 2006.

(Today's data are useful for examining national trends. On Sept. 28, the Census Bureau will release data that will allow for more accurate state-level analysis.)

A second fact sheet, Poverty Rises Nationally in 2009, New Census Bureau Data Show, examines national poverty data released today by the Census Bureau.

As a result of the Great Recession, the year 2009 saw a significant increase in the national poverty rate.  The poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent in 2009 from 13.2 percent in 2008, the Census data show. The poverty rate would have risen even further had it not been for key public benefit programs and the expansions made to them under the 2009 Recovery Act. Unemployment insurance benefits alone kept 2.3 million individuals out of poverty in 2009, the data show.

On Sept. 28, the Census will release the 2009 American Community Survey, which provides reliable, single-year  data on poverty at the state level, including for Massachusetts.

The fact sheet Massachusetts Still a Leader in Health Coverage is available at or by clicking here.

The fact sheet Poverty Rises Nationally in 2009, New Census Bureau Data Show is available at or by clicking here.

See MassBudget's Budget Browser to explore Massachusetts state budgets from Fiscal Year 2001 to the present, as well as budget proposals offered by the Governor and the Legislature.

MassBudget provides independent research and analysis of state budget and tax policies, as well as economic issues, with particular attention to the effects on low- and moderate-income people.
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In the News - solar, Tri-County

Franklin company goes solar

Franklin, MA

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Downtown Improvement Project - Survey

The Franklin Downtown Partnership has opened a survey to gather input on the proposal to change the traffic pattern downtown from 1-way to 2-way on Main St.

The Partnership is hosting this survey on their newly revamped website:

You can go directly to the survey here:

Note: As a member of the Downtown Partnership, I helped to revamp the website. Many thanks to my daughter Allison for her assistance with the website header. The individual photos were taken by Lisa Piana, Terri Frank, and myself. Allison 'magically' put them together with the Partnership logo for us.

Franklin, MA

In the News - Fire dept, Library, bottle/can drive

Franklin Fire Department holding an open house


Friends of Franklin Library seeks book donations for book sale

Bottle and can fundraiser for Franklin school coming next month

Franklin, MA

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wachusett St Construction

Construction on Wachusett Street is currently focused away from King St and the Parmenter School. Be aware of restrictions in the area. The construction crews do move fairly quickly.

Reminder that Lincoln St is closed for part of the day today!

Franklin, MA

What does class size have to do with it?

For me, the best statement for the impact of class size on educational test results comes from Jane Hyman, the Jefferson Elementary School Principal,  in the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sep 14.

One group of students was in the 3rd grade two years ago. Only three class rooms available for this group resulted in high class size, the MCAS results showed they did not meet the AYP guidelines. 

Same group, the next year with four class rooms, they did meet the AYP guidelines (which also increased from year to year).

The same group, this year is back in three class rooms. With a return to large class sizes and the fear is that the AYP will not be met.

Franklin, MA

School Committee - 09/14/10

The collection of posts from the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sep 14th can be found here:

Franklin, MA

In the News - schools, Jimmy Fund,

Some Franklin schools need improvement

from The Milford Daily News News RSS 

In Franklin: Jimmy Fund team hosting fundraiser

from The Milford Daily News News RSS 

Franklin, MA

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Live reporting - Closing

5. Information Matters

Superintendent’s Report
a. Enrollment Update 
Davis Thayer - only elementary school with an increase, most data showing moving from town, i.e. relocations

middle schools also lost students
high school did gain, some were returns from private school, others were incoming moves from other area

b. Personnel
as mentioned earlier, all positioned filled with exception of special ed at the Parmenter School

Rachel's challenge - Oct 27th at Annie Sullivan from Sheriff Belloti's office
current students at the high school have no recollection of Columbine

School Committee Sub-Committee Reports - none

School Committee Liaison Reports - none

6. New Business
To discuss future business that may be brought before the School Committee.
Cafasso - away at an offsite and will miss the Sep 28th meeting

Trahan - Casino Night coming up in Nov

Glynn - also will miss the Sep 28th meeting

Run for Bob - Oct 2nd at the former Putnam facilities off Washington/Grove Sts

7. Adjourn

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Action items

4. Action Items
a. I recommend approval of the Elementary School’s School Improvement Plans as detailed.  motion to accept, passed 7-0

b. I recommend acceptance of a check for $252.00 from Wells Fargo Community Support Campaign for In-house enrichment at FHS. motion to accept, passed 7-0

c. I recommend acceptance of a check for $252.00 from Wells Fargo Matching Gifts Foundation for in-house enrichment at FHS. motion to accept, passed 7-0

d. I recommend acceptance of two checks, $50.00 from Sylvia Ficco and $500.00 from Georgia D’Errico from the Class of 1960 for the FHS Scholarship account. motion to accept, passed 7-0

e. I recommend acceptance of a check for $50.00 from Martha Akers from the Class of 1960 for in-house enrichment at FHS. motion to accept, passed 7-0

f. I recommend acceptance of a check for $91.43 from Follett Educational Services for supplies for Jefferson Elementary School.  motion to accept, passed 7-0

g. I recommend acceptance of a check for $27.74 from Olympia Sports for in-house enrichment for the FHS.  motion to accept, passed 7-0

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Discussion only items

3. Discussion Only Items
Update on Opening of School
It was eye opening to hear the parental/community feedback to the police on opening day, they were not nice and kids were in the car, the police were doing all they could do
Mr Nutting has been helpful in addressing the construction on Wachusett St in particular

Administration getting lessons in making bus passes, person out on an emergency personal leave

Transportation Update
(numbers to be added later)
bus counts underway, there is a wait list, once the numbers have been finalized, we can try to use the wait list

Superintendent Evaluation Process
propose to have Mullen meet with Sabolinski to go over the goals, etc.
that data then would come back to us for review and discussion

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Foreign Language Update

2. Guests/Presentations
c. Foreign Language Update – Michele Kingsland-Smith,  Kristy Yankee (Director of Foreign Languages)

The full report being presented and discussed is here:


2010-2011 first year not running a language program in the middle schools
primarily due to the unfunded mandate from the State on the bullying requirements
developed the health program to include the bullying initiatives
switched the 3.8 teachers in the middle school from language to health

Issue with the cutting of Latin due to the trouble finding qualified teachers
9 Latin teachers came and went

At the High School
AP French is back after two years without being offered
AP scores have been stable, hovering around 3
last year, the Spanish scores improved to 3.75

French and Spanish saw updated curriculum at the high school
Developed a scope and sequence for the middle school Spanish program during August

Participated in the presentation from Rosetta Stone
ranging from $100/student to approx. $50,000 for the district as a whole
survey underway to assess desire for a Latin Club possibly to use this program

34 high performing districts were identified across MA
data was updated to include the Hockomock league school districts

From the report:

According to the 2010 DESE data: 
 None of the 41* districts currently offer an elementary program. 
 22 districts eliminated their middle school program since 2008; Decrease of 35.3%. 
 Spanish and French are still the predominant languages offered at the middle level (9 of 12 districts). Latin is offered in 6 of 12 middle schools. Chinese is offered in 1 district.
 The number of middle school programs offering two or more language studies was decreased by 30.7%, from 26 districts in 2008 to 8 districts in 2010.
 90.2% of the districts offer French, Spanish and Latin at the high school level (37 districts); Increase of 13.8%. 
 The number of districts offering four or more language studies at the high school remains stable: 16 districts (39%) vs. 13 districts (38.2%) in 2008. 
 The average 2010 FTE per predominant language: 
o Chinese - 0.86 FTE, 11 districts 
o French - 1.98 FTE, 35 districts 
o Spanish - 4.06 FTE, 40 districts 
o Latin -1.22 FTE, 24 district

Cafasso - one of the best, most comprehensive report I have seen in my years here, thanks for the effort that went into this. To be able to go back and read this to see what had been happening. If foreign language were an MCAS subject, then perhaps we wouldn't be seeing this.

Sabolinski - we do firmly believe in foreign language, if there is an influx of cash we would restore these program to the elementary and middle schools

Trahan - great job, it will be good for the community to read and review

Mullen - Did I read that level 2 could be offered at Freshman
Sabolinski - it could be, the Charter School is one of our feeder schools with strong French students

Kingsland-Smith - we have had issues with personnel so if we can get the right folks we can do what we would like

Rohrbach - unfortunately our reductions are on pare with what other communities are doing across the state

Cafasso - what are the requirements for elementary, middle and high school?

Kingsland-Smith - content degree in the Classics as well as subject certification in each language

Sabolinksi - We do that, BU is one where we go directly on campus. We go to PC, they have a classic program. BC, Brown.

You can know the subject matter but if you don't know how to reach out to the students, they that doesn't help

HM - 59, AS - 17, Remington - 26
the numbers will change depend upon the day chosen, could it be scheduled at each middle school on different days? to offer the students an option, clearly dependent upon the parent or other transportation provided.

Sabolinski - DESE on a conference call confirmed that there is a trend in finding less qualified foreign language teachers

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - Elementary principals

2. Guests/Presentations

b. Elementary School Improvement Plans – Elementary Principals

Keller - started with 606 students but only 600 today with a report of some more coming.
Students are making gains but there are subgroups that are not making the targeted goals.
Literacy goals are the same across the elementary schools
Collaborative leadership expands upon last year to address bullying with a more defined procedure
Response To Intervention (RTI) will be rigorous, forms being updated, data driven, focusing on Tier 2 interventions

Davis-Thayer - 92% of the students met benchmark reading expectations
Office discipline referrals went down
Collaborative leadership formed to work through school items, making good progress
Expanding math CET assistance to grades 3-5 this year
Data being used to focus on specific issues to drive instruction
Addressing bullying, Bobcat buddies, work on reporting to develop the data
K and 2nd are high class sizes, 3 and 4th grades reduced with additional teachers

Parmenter - did show progress on MCAS, up by 1 point in all groups
special ed subgroup missed by 1 point, missed for second year in row, now with an action plan to correct
Literacy work continuing with district effort
Working on RTI this year, to get the students support at the first sign of falling behind
2 additional classroom teachers for 3rd and 5th grades, lowering to between 18-19 in the 3 and 5th grades with the new teachers, teachers hired, classrooms being set up, they will start with classes next Monday
Examining closely on how the special education instruction is delivered, keeping the students connected with the instruction, rather than pull them out of the classroom from an other subject
Creating common planning time for teachers so they can look at, analyze the data and make the necessary modifications to the lesson plans
MCAS is only one snapshot taken during the year, this planning time will be used during the year to address it on an on-going basis

Oak - 457 students, down three classrooms
enrollment declining over the last three years
the decline in enrollment helped partially to meet the goals
Did make AYP in the special ed subgroup
special education declining likely due to the support being provided in the regular education early on
Continuing with the hands on equations started last year
Oak accepting Davis Thayer kindergarten students for one year to help with that situation

Jefferson - Introduction of many members of the team that worked on the plan, including a parent
Highlight the reading goal rather than go through what the committee has already read
Summer reading numbers have gone up
The focus on reading has been bringing benefits elsewhere including MCAS
Study island during time when attendance would be taken to provide special assistance
FAST Math is being used and making a difference when trying to solve word problems
two years ago, 3 3rd grades with large class sizes and did not make AYP, the next year, there were 4 4th grades and this class made AYP, this current year, now in 5th grade, back to three classrooms, she is concerned.

Kennedy - immediate gains in amount of reading and conversations about the reading
Introduced algebraic number thinking, understanding of higher order math skills
Spent last year analyzing the results from the parent survey in the spring of 2009
Added a PCC newsletter to the principals newsletter to help with communications
math focus less on higher thinking, more on coordinated efforts amongst the teachers and special educators
Did not make AYP for special ed in math
Response To Intervention (RTI)
strengthening the home school connection, increase parent involvement in the schools
Added a 3rd grade to reduce class size from 27 to 20

Cafasso - many of you mentioned the class size issue, we have struggled to give you the financial support you need, (1) how is the lack of resources playing out? (2) how do you handle the new 'federal' teachers?

Kennedy - started wading through resumes on the day before school, interviewed on the first day, letter to parents, met with students. teacher was hired, notified students Monday (9/12), all children got a placement letter (a second 'first' day), a gathering for the new classes in the cafeteria (blue, yellow, red, and green). Song helped separate and celebrate. Teachers had special activities for the classes today prepared. Strive for gender balance, student and teacher style and needs all re-looked at, 2nd grade teachers reviewed and provided input, then 3rd grade teachers had final review before re-allocation.

Similar process at the other two elementary schools

Parmenter - 15 candidates narrowed down to five for interview with the team, 2 rose to the top from the interviews
Experienced with everyday math and readers workshop
new teachers met the students today, meeting more Weds, Thursday placement letters will go home
Friday the students will move to the new classrooms, a celebration and a coffee for the parents will also be held.

Glynn - have you heard feedback from the parents on situations where the class sizes were not addressed?

Roy - Did you find in your searches were you getting lots of applications?

Yes, hundreds of candidates!

Roy - happy to hear that you have been working hard to make this as minimal impact to the students as possible

Sabolinski - thanks to the staff and principals for their working in turning this around as quickly as they did. All but one special ed teacher is hired and ready to go. There was a compelling case to add teachers to these schools.

Franklin, MA

Live reporting - AYP Update

2. Guests/Presentations
a. AYP Update
Maureen Sabolinski,  Michelle Kingsland-Smith

The MCAS Data was released today, posted to Schools website

2010 AYP Report to SC

The full report summary is shown here

There is good news in the report, no action items to really address.
The district remains at a high performance status.

There are areas that require work, Parmenter (ELL), Remington (year 1 of 2 in improving status)
Comprehensive plans (via the school improvement plans) to work on raising the performance.

The after school program will look to target the lower performing students for ELL and Math for after or before school. Individual student success plans to be developed and then work in small groups with teachers to get the extra help required.

Teachers to come from within the schools, positioned posted for teachers to apply to.

The MCAS bar is raising, 57% of the schools are in need of improvement against the standard. The bar will continue to raise until 2014. This is an increase from 53% in 2009.

We are teaching to the test. It is not a 'dirty term'. Those tests reflect the standards. We recognize the open response questions are what the students should be doing. We are also recognizing excellence in instruction.

Franklin, MA

Live reporting: School Committee

Present: Douglas, Cafasso, Rohrbach, Mullen, Roy, Trahan, Glynn
Absent: none

1. Routine Business
Citizen’s Comments
Review of Agenda
Minutes: I recommend approval of the minutes from the August 24, 2010 and August 31, 2010 School Committee Meetings. Motion to approve, passed 7-0

Payment of Bills Mr. Glynn motion to accept payment, passed 7-0

Payroll Mrs. Douglas

FHS Student Representatives
new representatives - both seniors

  • Heather Grove, Student Government President
  • Jay Borelli, Senior Class President

Over 100 students participated in Freshman Experience this summer
Parking spot auction underway

Franklin, MA

Franklin, MA: School Committee - Agenda - 9/14/10

1. Routine Business
Citizen’s Comments
Review of Agenda
Minutes: I recommend approval of the minutes from the August 24, 2010 and August 31, 2010 School Committee Meetings.
Payment of Bills Mr. Glynn
Payroll Mrs. Douglas
FHS Student Representatives
Budget to Actual

2. Guests/Presentations
a. AYP Update
b. Elementary School Improvement Plans – Elementary Principals
c. Foreign Language Update – Michele Kingsland-Smith, MS/HS Principals

3. Discussion Only Items
Update on Opening of School
Transportation Update
Superintendent Evaluation Process

4. Action Items
a. I recommend approval of the Elementary School’s School Improvement Plans as detailed.
b. I recommend acceptance of a check for $252.00 from Wells Fargo Community Support Campaign for In-house enrichment at FHS.
c. I recommend acceptance of a check for $252.00 from Wells Fargo Matching Gifts Foundation for in-house enrichment at FHS.
d. I recommend acceptance of two checks, $50.00 from Sylvia Ficco and $500.00 from Georgia D’Errico from the Class of 1960 for the FHS Scholarship account.
e. I recommend acceptance of a check for $50.00 from Martha Akers from the Class of 1960 for in-house enrichment at FHS.
f. I recommend acceptance of a check for $91.43 from Follett Educational Services for supplies for Jefferson Elementary School.
g. I recommend acceptance of a check for $27.74 from Olympia Sports for in-house enrichment for the FHS.

5. Information Matters

Superintendent’s Report
a. Enrollment Update
b. Personnel

School Committee Sub-Committee Reports

School Committee Liaison Reports

6. New Business
To discuss future business that may be brought before the School Committee.

7. Adjourn

Franklin, MA

Office Hours - Sep 26

Stop by for Office Hours

As a member of the Downtown Partnership, I will have a table near the Bamboo House restaurant on Main St and hold Office Hours during the Harvest Festival on Sunday, Sep 26.

I will be coming in from PodCamp Boston 5 and should be at the table by noon time.

Franklin, MA

Franklin, MA: reflection

Another reflection photo from along Main St taken on Saturday, Sep 11.

The small unoccupied building between the Felix-Cataldo Building and Rockland Trust. The brass (?) lamp fixture with the reflection of the Post Office across the street.

Did you take any pictures around Franklin this weekend?

Franklin, MA

Monday, September 13, 2010

Native Plants of Franklin

Sorry I'm late with the native plants this week! Here is the most recent mystery plant:

This is yet another native flower doomed to obscurity by the word "weed" in its name: jewelweed. This tender annual grows abundantly in moist, shady areas, and from mid to late summer it is covered in little orange orchid-like flowers.

The name "jewelweed" comes from the way water beads up into brilliant, flashing gems on its waxy leaves.

The Latin name of jewelweed is Impatiens capensis, which gives a clue as to what common garden plant this is related to: impatiens.

Jewelweed also goes by the name "touch-me-not", because when you touch the little bean-like seed-pods, they pop open violently! That aspect makes this plant especially fun for children.

This next plant is tricky. Forget about specifically what plant it is. If you can pinpoint what type of plant it is, then you're doing well. I'll give you a hint: this is a flower.

Happy plant-sleuthing!

Michelle Clay writes about gardening here in Franklin at the Clueless Gardeners Blog.

Franklin, MA

Real time reporting - Planning Board - 9/13/10

The YMCA discussion is tied around parking and public safety. The facility has exceeded the calculation for parking by over 300 cars with their expansions and exceptions. They are looking to expand further to retain membership (which would also increase parking requirements).

Could the Fire Dept visit on a weekend and report back on the situation? Would they be able to get equipment up the hill through the parked cars?

The Planning Board is in a tough spot; they appreciate the work and services that the Y provides but the parking and safety considerations are a considerable issue.

Need to verify what the occupancy of the building is? One had 480 and another had 720. The number drives the parking requirements so the difference is significant and needs to be resolved. Complicated by the fact the entrance from National Drive is across private property where the Y has an easement and access for safety (the second entrance).

Meeting minutes accepted for June 7, June 21, July 12 (as amended), and July 26.

Application for 216 East Central withdrawn without prejudice, motion to accept, passed.


Franklin, MA

Franklin, MA: Planning Board - 09/13/10 - Agenda

The agenda document for the Planning Board meeting scheduled for 7:00 PM on Monday, Sep 13, 2010.


Note: email subscribers will need to click through to Franklin Matters to view the document.

Franklin, MA