WESTFORD — Welcome to the July 16 edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Here, we highlight the most important news you may have missed this week in Westford.
Westford Academy held a ‘Meet & Greet’ on Thursday for two potential candidates to succeed former principal James Antonelli.
Twomey tapped as next principal
Though, in a Friday afternoon email to students, faculty and staff, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christopher Chew announced that Dean of Students Daniel Twomey would succeed James Antonelli as Westford Academy’s new principal.
He will begin his role on July 17.
“I am very grateful to all of the people who were able to participate in that meet and greet of the finalists as it was very well attended. The feedback provided was helpful and informative,” wrote Chew in an email
He added, “He [Twomey] is well aware of both the strong reputation of academic excellence within our district as well as the profound need to be able to adjust to the growing demands required to successfully support ALL of our students’ social emotional wellbeing.”
Finalists were chosen by a 10-member committee consisting of students, staff, parents and Westford Public Schools administration.
Chew notes that though three potential finalists were selected, one withdrew their candidacy prior to the public event.
Who is Daniel Twomey?
Previously the Director of Athletics at Westford Academy, Twomey has served as a Dean of Students at the Academy since 2017.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Providence College and Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Fitchburg State University.
Before his role at WA, Twomey was a middle school math teacher, summer schoolteacher, coach and after school counselor. He also served as Groton-Dunstable Regional’s Director of Athletics.
As principal, Twomey’s says his two main goals would be to maintain WA’s “excellent” academic prestige and ensure that students “love being there.” He prides himself on his relationships with students and teachers and being a good listener.
“I am visible throughout the school often [and] I welcome students to school in the morning,” Twomey said. “The quick interactions with students as they’re coming and going is important to me. I’ve learned a lot from them in those moments.”
Twomey hopes for students to recognize him as an instructional leader if he is selected for the position.
Twomey plans to include students’ perspectives on potential improvements to WA while encouraging creativity, problem-solving skills and connections.
He says he aims to prioritize belonging and multicultural diversity at WA through orientation programs and buddy systems for incoming students. He says he will continue multicultural events in order to include “every type of student who goes here [to WA].”
Although he admits WA “still [has] work to do” in terms of diversity.
Twomey says he is passionate about later start times, noting the challenge an early start time poses to students.
“7:45 a.m. is very early … that’s a challenge. That’s something that’s very important to me, it always has been,” he said.
Attendee’s appreciated WA for providing the opportunity to interact with the finalists.
“It’s empowering to be involved in the decision making process,” Westford resident Subir Choudhury said.
His wife, Soma Choudhury, also liked the ‘Meet & Greet.’ However, she noticed concern with the lack of parents in the audience.
“I would’ve liked to see more parents participating … We have a large Indian community and I would’ve liked to see more involvement [from them] tonight,” she said.
Overall, the event allowed Westford teachers, students, families, and residents to play a role in the decision making process.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for townspeople and staff and students to meet the two candidates and ask questions,” said WA history teacher Amanda Everett.
The Select Board has voted to support H. 3025, which would permanently allow remote participation for government meetings.
The board voted unanimously to endorse a letter submitted to the board by Tom Barry, a former member of the late Access to Town Meeting Committee’s Remote Participation Group.
Initial findings, support for House bill
“We spent about 18 months looking at how to progress towards hybrid meetings and we quickly realized that it was going to be almost impossible to do on our own as a town,” Barry told the board during a July 11 meeting.
The former committee’s remote participation group, which was disbanded along with the committee at large on March 28, initially researched three remote participation methods.
One method would allow for remote informational sessions, with voters using physical ballots to vote from home. According to the group’s findings, this method would not be legal in Massachusetts after consultation with Town Counsel.
Another method would host two meetings, one where residents would discuss articles and proposed amendments. A second meeting would then be scheduled to allow only for in-person voting.
A final method, which the Town of Wayland is currently pursuing, would allow for a hybrid Open Town Meeting, with residents attending either in-person or online to propose amendments, ask questions and vote.
The Town of Wayland is actively pursuing legislative approval, however, the group found that there are “hundreds” of potential obstacles in following Wayland’s lead.
Recommendations from the former committee, group
In its final recommendations, the group recommended that the Town of Westford take a “wait and see” approach for the foreseeable future.
“We decided that we should support the Town of Wayland and anyone else that is looking to propose hybrid meetings,” Barry said.
He added, “we’re asking the state to step up so to speak and come up with some software that any town can use. We firmly believe that type of meeting will add a lot of residents to the Annual Town Meeting.”
The former committee also proposed a number of recommendations before it was disbanded, many of which are already present at Open Town Meetings. The use of electronic voting clickers, an earlier start time of 9 a.m. and the use of a countdown clock among others are just some of the recommendations now in place during Open Town Meeting.
Remote participation in government meetings — which began as a temporary measure during the pandemic — has been extended through March 31, 2025.
After that, municipal governments must revert back to in-person participation if lawmakers do not pass legislation ahead of the deadline.
Under current, temporary regulations, government bodies, with the exception of Open Town Meeting, may meet virtually, but they are not required to.
H. 3025 would allow government bodies to continue to offer remote and hybrid participation for regular government meetings. The proposed bill would also allow virtual participation for Open Town Meeting.
The proposed bill does not include funding for cities and towns in need of infrastructure upgrades to provide remote or hybrid meetings.
The proposed bill does not mandate cities or towns provide remote participation, rather it allows them to continue to offer remote and hybrid options should respective boards, committees and commissions choose.
A Massachusetts program allows students to certify their expertise in a second language.
The Seal of Biliteracy Program at Westford Academy for multilingual students not only includes the world languages offered at WA classes, but a student’s native language.
What is the Seal of Biliteracy?
The program has been adopted by over 40 states and recognizes high school students with functional and academic levels of proficiency in English and a partner language of their choice. The program aims “to help students recognize the value of their academic success and see the tangible benefits of being bilingual.”
“For many years the importance of being multilingual has not been appreciated in the United States. The Seal of Biliteracy, the national push as well as the state push, is an effort to basically recognize the great importance of producing students who are educated [in speaking] multiple languages,” WA Spanish teacher Stephanie Grabowski-Devlin told WestfordCAT.
She added that there are “cultural benefits that provide our students [with] being able to speak another language. Learning about people from other cultures is something that will create more empathy [and] more ability to work with and relate to people in other countries.”
To qualify for a seal, students must receive an MCAS score of at least 472 in Language Arts to satisfy the English language requirement and score at the Intermediate High level of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language exams.
ACTFL is an organization that aims to “[expand] cultural richness and diversity at all levels of education” and provide resources to language educators and learners.
Westford Academy’s involvement
Westford Academy has participated in this program since the spring of 2019 “to promote multilingual pride and encourage families to help their children maintain fluency in their home languages” according to the May 8 School Committee Presentation.
As the curriculum coordinator for World Languages, Grabowski-Devlin recruits seniors to take the qualifying language exams every October. The exams begin in January and finish in mid-April.
The Seal of Biliteracy is awarded to qualified WA seniors at graduation as a printed seal on their diplomas and a wearable honor cord. It is also noted on their official transcript for college and future employment opportunities.
So far, students have received the Seal in 12 languages: Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Tamil.
The Massachusetts Seal of Biliteracy recognizes students whose first language is a language other than English. These “heritage speakers” are encouraged to continue fostering their skills in this language.
Westford Academy student Alice Guo was awarded the Seal with Distinction for both Spanish and Mandarin. She felt that the program was “an amazing way for me to feel celebrated [for] speaking these languages and taking them seriously.”
Mandarin is Guo’s first language, qualifying her as a heritage speaker.
“I think the seal is a really good encouragement for people to keep speaking their home languages if they have one. I know a lot of people eventually just stop speaking it and start speaking English all the time.” Guo said. “I think it’s really nice to hold onto this piece of [my] culture, this connection with [my] parents and grandparents.”
Westford Academy student Emily Fu’s first language is also Mandarin, and she felt the Seal program motivated her “to take Mandarin more seriously.” She was awarded the Seal with Distinction for Latin and Mandarin.
“As a child of first-generation immigrants, my parents feel more connected to their Chinese culture…this was an opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture,” Fu said.
She added that she feels “learning more about other cultures, perspectives and ways people think make you more open as a human in general.”
Fu’s statement rings true for Grabowski-Devlin’s beliefs regarding the Biliteracy Program and the general importance of learning a second language.
“For me the importance [of the Biliteracy program] is…to help recognize and honor the cultures and languages that we have here in Westford [and] Massachusetts. And that we encourage our students to develop language skills that will make them better prepared global citizens,” Grabowski-Devlin said.
Looking for summer activities in Westford? You’re in luck, there’s plenty of (mostly free) activities to do in town.
Historic tour of Westford
Interested in history? Westford has over a dozen sites on the National Register of Historic Places, an official list curated by the National Parks Service for historic places marked for preservation.
Goat, bunny yoga
Good Pickin’ Farm hosts Goat Yoga and ‘Basking with Bunnies’ throughout the summer.
Goat Yoga will be hosted on July 15 and July 23 at 1 p.m. and July 29 at 3 p.m. Register in advance online.
‘Basking with Bunnies’ will be hosted on July 15 at 12:30 p.m., July 23 at 2:30 p.m. and July 29 at 1:30 p.m. Register in advance online.
Live music, events and the community market
A number of venues host live events and music in Westford throughout the summer.
Stephanie Beach Magic is coming to Westford Common on July 22 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person and $10 for families. For tickets and more information, call (978) 692-6333 or visit pcawestford.org.
The Parish Center for the Arts will host their Open Mic Night Sampler on July 23 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Westford Common. The event is free tp the public, but donations are encouraged.
Kimball Farm is hosting live music through Aug. 26. Shows are hosted every Friday and Saturday with occasional shows on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All shows are hosted from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and are free to the public. Check out the full schedule online.
Good Pickin’ Farm is hosting live music at its farm this summer. Tickets are $15 for the general public. Check out the full schedule online.
The Westford Community Market is held on Tuesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Roudenbush Community Center through Aug. 22.
Beaches and hiking
Though a number of oceanfront beaches remain closed throughout the state, Westford’s beaches remain open to residents to enjoy.
Town beaches at Forge Pond and Edward’s Beach will remain open until Aug. 19. Residents can park for free, but non-residents are $5 per person per day. Concessions stands are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week during the season.
Love the outdoors? Did you know that Westford has over 75 miles of public trails? Check out Westford’s trails through the Westford Conservation Trust. Trail booklets can be purchased for $5 at Muffins on Main, Roudenbush or the Town Clerk’s Office.
Want to do more than hiking? Check out the trust’s Tuesday trail steward group. The group meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. to perform maintenance on a number of trails in town. Sign-up online or or call Bill Harman at 978-692-3907 to be notified of this week’s trail.