Friday, September 20, 2019

Student Opportunity Act

A big thank you to Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Jason Lewis for their work on the Education Subcommittee to bring the Student Opportunity Act forward. This is an unprecedented $1.5B in funding for MA public schools. The bill provides equity in funding to the most neediest districts. Please see the following statement from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendent's (MASC)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Student Safety is #1. Please see the following article by Correspondent Sean Sweeney on how we are keeping our football players safer.
By Sean Sweeney, Correspondent
Over the last decade or so, a number of football programs — not necessarily just in our area — have lost numbers due to fear of concussions. Instead of losing a good portion of their latter lives because they bashed their bodies together, some people are staying away from the sport entirely.

However, several local programs are tackling the concussion issue, so to speak, by reducing the impact in preseason, as well as during in-week practices in the lead-up to their games.

First, Ayer Shirley is in the second year of using Guardian Caps on their helmets, and coach Phil Marchegiani says the use has helped cut down on concussion in the Panther program.

Second, Lunenburg has gone with an implanted microchip in the Blue Knights’ Riddell helmets, which measures three different levels of impact on every player, connected to a monitor on the sidelines.

The Guardian Cap is currently utilized by thousands of football programs at the high school and college level — UMass has used it in spring practice — and is said to reduce the impact by 33 percent. It is clipped on to any helmet via the face mask, as well as via Velcro.

In past years, Ayer Shirley has felt the impact of concussion during the preseason.

This year, though?

“We’ve dramatically reduced the number of concussions,” Marchegiani said, “and we had no concussions related to football in the preseason this year. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have a few each and every year.

“The Cap is just a tool to help reduce. It can’t eliminate. And you also have to be smart about how you practice in terms of the lengths of time, the types of drills, what you’re teaching, reducing your contact, and get that squared away.”

Marchegiani had first discovered the Guardian Cap from Jude Kelly, who currently coaches football at St. Paul’s in Bristol, Conn. The Falcons have used the Caps for four years.

“They have spring football, and they had a number of concussions,” Marchegiani explained. “Once he went to the Cap, it greatly minimized the risk.”

He also said that parents have told him that they are now seeing the Cap in action, and that their fears about their sons playing football are reduced.

That’s something that can help participation numbers across the board.

“If you’re looking for ways to improve participation, and safety can be a part of the game, then the Cap is one of those solutions to multiple concerns and problems,” he said.

At Lunenburg, the Riddell Impact Program sees microchips embedded into the helmet, and coaches wear a monitor on the sidelines that informs them if a player has taken a hit to the helmet.

“It monitors and measures three different levels of impact,” Blue Knights coach Steve Boone said Friday. “Your high level, your medium level, and your low level of impact. And it measures for every single player — and it measures where the hits are taken.”

The where is important, as it can tell the coach specific things before even watching the game film, i.e. if the player is ducking before impact, given where the impact on the helmet occurred.

And that can turn into a teachable moment.

“You can adjust his stance, work with him on tackling and everything else,” Boone said.

Should a player have a high level impact, the monitor will go off.

“It doesn’t say that he has a concussion, but it alerts you that he has taken a hit that could possibly do that, and you can take them out and check them,” he said.

After practices and games, that information is loaded into a database inside the school, and everything is tracked.

“I can tell you how many hits the kid has had over a week, his career, in a year,” Boone added.

In addition, Boone can plug in the team’s practice plan into the software and see which drills have a higher possibility of impact.

“You can then look at the drill, adjust the drill, or something like that to see if you can limit impact,” he said. “So from a coaching standpoint, you can now make sure that it’s as safe as can be.”

The superintendents of both districts — Dr. Mary Malone of Ayer Shirley and Dr. Kate Burnham of Lunenburg — were behind their coaches in implementing their methods.

“(Malone) was great in terms of supporting us for them,” Marchegiani said. “She jumped right on it right away and said if it’s all about player safety, we’re going to provide the means. The kids, when we first proposed it, there was a little bit of skepticism that lasted all of maybe one day. And then they knew this was non-negotiable, that this was where we were going to go to protect our kids, both now and in the future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Holdenwood Trail Run, Sunday, September 29

Please see the following message from Ayer Shirley Educational Foundation (ASEF). I hope many of you will come out and support them.

THANK YOU for all that you have done in helping us spread the word about the Holdenwood Trail Run, which is less than two weeks away - on Sunday, September 29th!  All proceeds for the run benefit the Ayer Shirley Educational Foundation, which provides grants to students and staff of the Ayer Shirley Regional School District. 

We look forward to seeing many of our students and staff participating and enjoying such a special day for our community!  And it’s not too late to register!  Online registration will be open until Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 6:00 PM (EST) at Day of race registration opens at 9am.

New this year, all registered ASRSD staff & students are eligible for a Special Raffle!!  Please visit the ASEF table on race day to be entered.

Thank you again for all of your support!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Public Forum Presentation and Video of the ASRHS Athletic Fields Project

For those who were unable to attend the public forum on the ASRHS Athletic Fields Project that was held at the Middle School on September 10, please see the PowerPoint presentation here. Watch the video here.

While many of the slides are self-explanatory, should you have any questions about the project, or are interested in touring the current athletic fields please contact me at 978-772-8600 x1507, or via email

Should you have any questions regarding the tax impact to Shirley taxpayers (slides 17-19), you are encouraged to contact Town of Shirley Town Administrator Mr. Michael McGovern at 978-425-2600 x200, or

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Great News! Workforce Skills Capital Grant Award for ASRSD

On Thursday, August 29, the state awarded $12 million in grants to 45 schools to acquire the newest technologies to educate students and expand educational opportunities. The Skills Capital Grants are awarded by Governor Charlie Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which was created in 2015. Schools applying for the grants are asked to partner with local businesses and align curriculum and credentials with industry demand.

The district was awarded $82,951 to establish the Panther Innovation Learning Lab. Congratulations to the grant writing team: Maureen Kilcommins, Phil Moore, Steve Tulli, and Charlie Caliri. Mary Beth Hamel was the lead on the team and has been credited for bringing her leadership and outstanding expertise to the team.

The high school students will receive training in industry design software such as SolidWorks and AutoCAD and in the safe use of equipment found in the manufacturing industry.

This equipment grant will provide access to explore new career options that engage students in real world tasks utilizing software licensing and the engineering design process such as 3D modeling, prototyping, structural analysis and quality control.

This first time project has prioritized four goals:
Enhance opportunities for students to enroll in dual enrollment coursework in biotechnology, physics and engineering degree programs while still enrolled in high school or participate in advanced manufacturing certificate programs if higher education is not an option.
Provide opportunity for direct instruction and application of skills during the school day using grant funded software and equipment. After hours the lab will be utilized by robotics programs and Adult Community Education.
Develop understanding/interest in the STE(A)M industry for target populations (females, English Learners, low income students, and students with disabilities) through the design/build/test/review process.
Develop and mentor the soft skills required in the workforce- communication, time management, problem solving, and conflict resolution.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

In the News...

Lowell Sun, August 23, 2019

Away at Camp Sunshine this summer in Maine, were from left, front row, Sierra Quinty and Vanessa Delk. Rear row, Beth Quinty, Jim Quinty, Sean Doyle, Eleanor Capasso, Shaunessy Straitiff, Brandon Vachon and Catherine Quinty. Not picture: Aileen Peddie, Dejah Fleurancois.

CASCO, MAINE – A group of Ayer Shirley Regional High School students and a teacher from the school are spending a week at Camp Sunshine on beautiful Lake Sebago, but it’s not a vacation.

They’re volunteers at Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening medical conditions and their families. According to the organization’s website, it has served over 50,000 people in 27 countries since the camp was founded in 1984.

On a mission to provide respite, relaxation and recreation in an environment as close to a summer resort as possible, with specially-trained staff, doctors available 24/7, hospitals, emergency and urgent care facilities nearby, Camp Sunshine offers age-appropriate activities for children and families facing similarly serious challenges, where the kids and their adult family members can mix, mingle and bond.

“Everybody gets to play,” said Jim Quinty, who headed up the excursion with his wife, Beth.

Camp Sunshine relies on volunteers, some of whom return year after year, according to the website.

Group members who met last week at Far and Near in Shirley to go over the trip itinerary one last time before heading off to Camp Sunshine included the Quintys, town residents who fit that profile.

The two longtime camp volunteers recruited students to join them and added a teacher to the roster.

“Last year, we took five kids along,” Beth Quinty said.

This year, there are more than 10 students in the group, plus the teacher chaperon, Lolly Capasso.

Beth and Jim Quinty have been volunteering at Camp Sunshine for many years, before and after they married and had children. In fact, it’s where they met.

Student volunteers this year included Brandon Vachon, Shaunessy Straitiff, Vanessa Delk, Sean Doyle, Mairead Harley, Dimitiri Battle, Dejah Fleurcoise, Qeanu Smith and Quinty siblings, Sierra, Deran and Catherine.

Once there, the students will get an introduction to the camp and a full day’s training for their roles as volunteers. They will stay in a dorm-like facility built for the purpose a few years ago. Early on, volunteers camped out in temporary trailers, Beth Quinty said.

Camp Sunshine guests stay in fully-equipped suites.

Volunteers are assigned to various age groups and pitch in where they’re needed, Jim Quinty said, from sports to arts and crafts to helping out in the dining hall and more. Evenings, there’s entertainment. “After a week,” they’ll be exhausted,” he predicted, adding that when the group returns, they’ll all be back in school the next day, students and teacher alike.

But it all sounds rewarding. “I like working with kids,” said Catherine Quinty, who is considering a career in physical therapy. She’s been going to Camp Sunshine with her parents for years.

“As a kid, I made a really good friend there who was losing her hair,” Catherine said, due to previous treatment for her illness. (None of the guests at Camp Sunshine are in active treatment while there, her mom said.) The other girl, who has since died, liked to braid her pal’s long hair. One summer, Catherine had her head shaved in solidarity with her friend, she said. It’s all grown back now, abundantly.

Another student in the group said he looked forward to a “powerful, challenging experience.”

Beth Quinty hopes they will all want to do it again and that some of them might sign up for a fundraising “Polar Plunge” later this year to benefit Camp Sunshine.

Student Opportunity Act

A big thank you to Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Jason Lewis for their work on the Education Subcommittee to bring the Student Op...