Best Health Degrees Releases National Rankings of Human Services Master's Programs - PRNewswire

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Lay should let sleeping dogs lie - Lowell Sun

Lay should let sleeping dogs lie - Lowell Sun

Lay should let sleeping dogs lie - Lowell Sun

Posted: 05 Mar 2021 10:15 PM PST

THREE REASONS why School Committee wannabe Dominik Lay should abandon all efforts to replace his buddy Bob Hoey, who resigned from the committee Feb. 26 just a few days after his abhorrent, racially insensitive behavior on a local cable television show:

First, the evidence to support Lay's claim he lives in Lowell and not Boston is scant. After Lowell officials received complaints that Lay did not live in the city, and in fact lived in Brighton, City Solicitor Christine O'Connor penned a four-page letter last week explaining in part why Lay does not live in Lowell.

O'Connor, a top-notch sleuth, found via a search of public records that Lay has owned his Brighton property since 2015, however, a search of the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds shows that Lay has been associated with this property since November 1995.

Over the years, Lay refinanced his mortgage multiple times, most recently in mid-2020.

O'Connor's letter also states that Lay requested a change of address so his real estate and water bills would forward to his Brighton residence, and attested to a residential address in Brighton to Lowell's Board of Assessors relative to his ownership of his Lowell property.

Lay also received a $3,153.02 residential exemption for his Brighton residence, "the maximum deduction allowable under this procedure for 2021," as O'Connor notes in her blockbuster finding. "In order to qualify for a residential exemption, the owner must own the property and live in as a primary residency."

The smoking gun, though, is that Lay filed a Declaration of Homestead in 2009. By signing this document, he declares that his Brighton address is his primary residence.

The Sun learned that Lay is registered to vote in Lowell, which is a requirement to run for School Committee in Lowell. However, one must register to vote at their primary residence.

Second: Lay is part-timer on Sen. Edward Kennedy's staff, handling constituent services. Kennedy, and several members of his staff, including Lay, have shown an inordinate amount of interest in the city's voting districts.

It's all fueling speculation the Kennedy camp is trying to recruit city council candidates that would, if they got elected, provide the votes he would need to become city manager.

Kennedy denies such engineering efforts. But never forget this nugget: aggressive efforts by Kennedy's staffers to put Stratham Street, where Hoey lives, in South Lowell rather than Belvidere.

Kennedy needs more headlines on what he's doing for the 1st Middlesex District, not those relating to his next job.

Third: The Column will let veteran city councilor and former Mayor Rita Mercier carry the ball on this one.

Before The Sun could finish asking a question about Election Commission Chairman Zoe Arthur, she said: "Let me stop you right there."

Mercier is referring to Arthur's decision to sit on Lay's hearing, scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday to plead his case that he is indeed eligible to replace Hoey, as Lay was the next-placed finisher in the last city election.

As Mercier knows, Arthur also works for Kennedy, as his constituent services director. Arthur told The Sun that she reached out to the state Ethics Commission and filed a disclosure. The commission, Arthur said, ruled that she was allowed to participate in the hearing. Arthur said she has decided to participate because she is the only Democrat of the three people on the commission. If she were to recuse herself, only two members of the commission would participate, both Republicans.

"She called the state Ethics Board and they said there would be no conflict there," Mercier said in an interview. "I can't understand that, I find that hard to believe. If that's what the state Ethics Commission says, I think they're completely wrong. And I'm not saying I'm an authority, but it reeks to me of a conflict of interest… That's her colleague. Does she show any bias because this guy works with her? I don't get it. I don't get it whatsoever."

She also wants Arthur to recuse herself any time Kennedy is on the ballot, though she said she should be allowed to serve in her role during City Council and other municipal elections.

When asked whether Arthur's rationale for serving in Lay's hearing — that she would be the only Democrat — was valid, Mercier was unconvinced.

"She's using that as an excuse. Then why don't we let (Interim Director of Elections) Elliott Veloso, why don't we let him substitute in an emergency case like that?," she said. "It's just my opinion. I mean, I don't think that's a good excuse. Everybody's got excuses today, don't they?"

Mercier also said that, if Lay really doesn't live in Lowell, he owes Dennis Mercier an apology for taking a seat that was rightfully his on the School Committee in 2017. In that election, Lay finished fourth, with 5,637 votes. Dennis Mercier, son of the the late Lowell Mayor Armand "Voice of Reason" Mercier, finished seventh, with 4,709 votes

"I am not saying I'm perfect. I'm not. But I try to be fair, and I try to be honest, and I try to speak without hurting anybody. I just speak of what I feel is right or what I feel is wrong. And I think it's wrong to pretend that you live in a certain area of the city, and you actually don't," she said.

She also doesn't want to be labeled as prejudiced for speaking her mind.

"Please don't say, 'Oh, she's prejudiced.' You know, I hate them saying 'she's prejudiced. She's racist. She's this.' I'm not! I have an opinion… it's my opinion that I think the state Ethics Commission is wrong. If you have to make a decision, and it involves an immediate family or a coworker, you should be excused from that. Mother of God."

THE ELECTION Commission normally has four members, two Democrats and two Republicans. Besides Arthur, the current members are Beverly Anthes and James Pope.

Recently resigned is Ratha Paul Yem, who is said to be strongly considering a run for City Council.

If Anthes' name sounds familiar, it should: Her husband is George Anthes, the co-host of City Life, the cable show during which Hoey dropped his racial bombshell.

Anthes showed no emotion, no reaction, nothing, after Hoey laid bare his blatant racism.

Lowell Telecommunications Corp. has suspended the show for three months.

THE 1ST Middlesex District is comprised Dunstable, Lowell, Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsboro and Westford. At least one elected official, Groton Select Board member Josh Deegan, chimed in on the Hoey disgrace.

In a statement to the newspaper, which landed before Hoey actually did the right thing, Deegan said: "Anti Semitic comments have no place in this world. Mr. Hoey as an elected official is charged with the oversight of education for the children of Lowell and has demonstrated the worst of our society. Lowell is an immigrant city filled with a diverse cultural mix. The use of his slur on a publicly televised forum shows a complete disregard for cultural diversity. This is not the type of person any community should choose to represent your citizens especially children. I hope that you and your fellow members have the courage to stand up to his heinous speech. It is time to be upstanders and not bystanders to his hurtful and degrading rhetoric."

FOLLOWING THE resignation of Diane Tradd as the city's top planning and development official, City Manager Eileen Donoghue has turned to a trusted aide to oversee the Division of Planning and Development on an interim basis: Assistant City Manager Kara Keefe Mullin.

In keeping with Donoghue's personnel tradition, Keefe-Mullin will not be a candidate for the permanent job.

The DPD job, which pays well into six-figures, has been posted and a five-member committee will review applicants and eventually submit finalists to Donoghue.

Of course, the names of potential applicants are already surfacing. They include two, well-respected DPD staffers Craig Thomas and Christine McCall. Thomas is the deputy director and McCall the enonomic development director.

The name of former city councilor George Ramirez, who has planning and development experience from his days at MassDevelopment/Devens, is also making the rounds.

ARE CLEAR lines being drawn in the sand between two different factions of the Lowell School Committee in the wake of Hoey's racial meltdown?

It seemed that might be the case at a Wednesday meeting that Mayor John Leahy later called "bizarre."

The committee voted 3-2 to approve $8.3 million in budget transfers from various line items with savings in order to fund
professional development, technology and facility needs — but not until after a heated discussion that left some members frustrated.

Leahy and Jackie Doherty, the opposing votes, were concerned there wasn't enough transparency and specific detail on how the school administration would use the money, particularly for professional development and facilities improvements.

Leahy said Thursday the committee isn't there to "just rubber stamp everything," and he and Doherty weren't trying to be argumentative. He said they just wanted a clear plan for the money.

That didn't appear to be how Mike Dillon and Hilary Clark took it, however.

About 20 minutes into the discussion of the transfers, Dillon had already had enough. Granted, it had come after another budget-related discussion that had already seen Dillon and Leahy disagree over the process for allocating money for next year — a process Superintendent Joel Boyd had also used last year.

"Is this necessary?" Dillon said, and suggested members needed to meet outside of committee business to work out whatever differences were keeping them from being on the same page.

A frustrated Dillon said Boyd's team had spent hours working on everything and all the committee wants to do is nitpick details
they've already discussed.

"This is how we do things," Dillon said. "We bring in the superintendent, we nitpick, we beat him up."

He said he reads all the documents and he's ready to make decisions when he comes into meetings — seemingly suggesting some of his fellow committee members weren't putting in the same effort.

"We need to let the superintendent and his brilliant team run the budget and stop nitpicking," Dillon said. "It's insane."

"All right and that's fine, but it's our responsibility as a School Committee to know where the money's being spent," Leahy said.

"I know where the money's going," Dillon said. "I already know this stuff."

"Let me finish," Leahy said. "When somebody comes in and asks you to approve a policy that isn't finished, like last week, that's insanity. We approved a policy that nobody knows what the final outcome was, and we approved it. And the same thing tonight."

He was referring to a revised policy on pre-K registration, which had elicited a long discussion over the insertion of an extra sentence at the last meeting.

Dillon said it was yet another example of nitpicking.

"That's not nitpicking," Leahy said. "Would you go buy a car and they gave you a contract and said, 'Sign this, I'll fill out the details later?'"

"Mister mayor, I read all these documents, so don't make it like I'm going into this blind," Dillon said, later adding that the committee needs to get its act together.

Clark said she found it to be "clear as day" and shared Dillon's exasperation.

Leahy said Thursday the lack of action aggravates him, too. He said he and Boyd have different ways of thinking and Leahy has a hard time sitting through long meetings where they "go over report after report with no action to be taken."

"It's almost like we're having a meeting to plan the meeting to plan the meeting," Leahy said.

He said his and Doherty's concerns around how the professional development funds would be used comes from teachers relaying to them that the professional development they had at the beginning of the school year was poorly organized by the central office.

"It was kind of a free-for-all, from what teachers told me," Leahy said. "They didn't get anything from it."

Boyd tried to defend the professional development at the meeting, saying it was clear from teachers' performance throughout the school year that it was effective.

"We don't really need a narrative, with all due respect," Leahy said, cutting him off.

BOYD'S "brilliant team" will soon be down a member.

Chief Schools Officer Linus Guillory will be headed to Brookline this summer after the Brookline School Committee voted unanimously Thursday to appoint him as the superintendent of schools. His appointment is effective July 1, pending successful negotiation of a contract.

Just before the vote, Brookline School Committee member Helen Charlupski noted that Brookline is "never known to be totally unanimous on anything."

"However, there was agreement on the fact that Dr. Guillory's strong interpersonal skills and his commitment to putting students first were a good fit for Brookline," she said.

Charlupski said she was impressed by the number of school principals, administrators and School Committee members from Lowell who participated in a virtual visit to provide feedback about Guillory.

"Their main comment was 'Lowell's loss is Brookline's gain,'" she said.

THE LAST thing the Lowell School Committee voted on Wednesday night was a revised list of subcommittee assignments in light Hoey's resignation.

As mayor, Leahy appoints members to the subcommittees and decides who chairs each.

One of the decisions he made was to appoint Doherty as the new chair of the Facilities & Transportation Subcommittee, a position that had been held by Hoey.

That didn't sit well with Dillon, who asked Leahy to consider him as chair instead.

"It has nothing to do with Ms. Doherty, but I've been a part of the committee," Dillon said. "I've been involved in the talks and I want to keep spearheading that movement, so I would request that you think about that."

Leahy said as soon as the committee knows who Hoey's replacement will be, he'll "probably make some adjustments."

Dillon said the subcommittee, which was supposed to meet last week, has work to do to prioritize the facilities needs to be addressed with the transferred funding, and he didn't know how long it would be for the new committee member to be appointed.

Leahy said as far as he knew, Dominik Lay was requesting a hearing to challenge his residency determination.

"So that's a no on the changing the chair position," Dillon said.

"For right now, yeah," Leahy said.

Dillon then voted against the subcommittee reassignments, which passed 4-1, and angrily exited the Zoom meeting before it was officially adjourned.

MIDDLESEX DISTRICT Attorney Marian Ryan took an unprecedented step last week in appointing a director of racial justice initiatives.

Antonia Soares Thompson, who will serve in the first-of-its-kind position, "will deepen and expand the Office's commitment to racial justice and the fairness of its prosecutorial work, create and implement trainings and education initiatives and develop policies related to racial equity across communities in Middlesex County," according to Ryan's Thursday announcement.

"With this new role, we will continue to put addressing issues of race in our communities at the forefront of our work, leading the way in reimagining how a prosecutor's office addresses issues of racial justice," Ryan said in a statement. "Antonia has a rich and deep reservoir of experience working on the issues about which the Middlesex District Attorney's Office cares deeply. Antonia is a recognized leader and we are thrilled to welcome her."

Soares Thompson earned her law degree at Boston College and has worked as a public defender and an educator at the Suffolk University Juvenile Justice Center and Brooklyn College. Her last job was as Restorative Justice Project coordinator at the Stamford, Conn., Youth Services Bureau.

In the DA's Office, Soares Thompson's duties will be to ensure prosecutors are conversant in racial justice issues, lead conversations around policies and practices to improve relations between the police departments and communities and provide a critical voice in Ryan's efforts to identify and eliminate racial bias within the county criminal justice system. She'll also serve on Ryan's Anti-Hate, Anti-Bias Task Force, which addresses the increase of hateful, biased and racist incidents in local communities.

"The work of racial justice within our county must be approached with context, courage, compassion and community if we want honest and impactful progress," Soares Thompson said in a statement. "I know DA Ryan is committed to asking tough questions, having difficult conversations and creating equity as well as justice for all the residents in Middlesex County."

REP. LORI Lori Trahan, who secured a waiver to join the House Committee on Natural Resources this term, now knows which subcommittees she'll serve on.

Trahan recently announced she has secured appointments to the National Parks, Forests, And Public Lands Subcommittee and the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

"As the only Massachusetts member of Congress on the Natural Resources Committee, I prioritized the National Parks and Indigenous Peoples Subcommittees to ensure that not only the folks in Third District have their voices heard at the table, but folks all across the Commonwealth as well," Trahan said in a statement. "My appointment to the National Parks Subcommittee will ensure that national parks and partner entities like Lowell National Historical Park and Minute Man will be preserved for generations to come. And as a member of the Indigenous Peoples Subcommittee, I'll always work to protect tribal sovereignty and their authority over their land."

STATE SEN. Barry Finegold is wasting no time as co-chair of Beacon Hill's new Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity.

On Monday, he and his fellow Co-Chair, state Rep. Linda Campbell, unveiled their legislative agenda for the newly established committee, which is to address issues such as the state's contract for scheduling vaccinations online, cyber threats, e-commerce, data protection and broadband access.

Finegold, who represents Andover, Dracut, Lawrence and Tewksbury, also announced that he has already filed five bills to combat some of those issues.

Namely, the bills would: create a dedicated office of data protection, cybersecurity, and privacy, create a cybercrime prevention program for schools, expand access to new 5G services across Massachusetts, require data brokers to disclose information about data collection practices and require large companies to provide customer service hotlines.

"Massachusetts must rise to the challenges of the 21st century, and I look forward to our

committee's urgent work," Finegold said in a statement.

Finegold and Campbell stressed that the coronavirus pandemic has upped the need for such policies, due to how it has forced the working world to become even more reliant on the internet.

"The pandemic has accelerated work-from-home trends and forced the public and private sectors to upgrade core technological infrastructure. Residents in the Commonwealth now rely on online platforms in order to go to work, conduct business, pay bills and connect with others," Finegold said in a statement. "We need to look to the future and take proactive measures to ensure new technologies are safe, secure, efficient, equitable and reliable."

Among the five bills Finegold has already filed, the 5G bill in particular, called "an act relative to helping residents work remotely," aims to address unequal access to high-speed internet for poorer residents across the state.

If enacted, it could cut state funding for local governments that try to prevent the deployment of small wireless facilities used for 5G networks, and would require wireless providers to report annually to the committee about their progress in trying to grant all communities access to 5G services by 2024.

The two legislators also highlighted how their efforts could save the Commonwealth some serious money, as the FBI has reported that cybercrimes cost Massachusetts resident over $84 million in 2019.

"The issues that our committee shall tackle are central to the professional and personal challenges we all face every day in our lives," Campbell said in a statement. "There is a critical, most pressing need for much improved access to high-quality digital communication that is secure throughout Massachusetts."

This week's Column was prepared by Reporters Alana Melanson and Amy Sokolow, both in Lowell; Stefan Geller, in Tyngsboro, and Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott.

ICE: International Students Whose Courses Are All Online This Fall Must Leave U.S. - WBUR

Posted: 07 Jul 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Colleges and universities continue grappling with plans to reopen for the fall 2020 semester, with some schools opting to have classes go fully online given the ever-evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic and continued public health concerns.

But new guidance released this week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may change those reopening plans.

ICE, which oversees the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), announced Monday that the agency is walking back exemptions issued in the spring which allowed international students on F-1 and M-1 visas to temporarily circumvent federal regulations around online studies.

"Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency," the press release said.

Instead of maintaining the exemption into the fall semester, ICE will no longer permit international students studying with an F-1 or M-1 visa to remain in the U.S. if their course load for the fall is fully online.

According to the notice, the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas for students abroad who had planned to attend a school in the fall that is utilizing a fully online model, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not allow students attending those schools to enter the country.

For international students already in the U.S. who are enrolled in such programs, ICE says they must either "depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status."

Harvard is one such school, and that poses a problem for its 8,800 students on F-1 visas.

Simge Topalogu is a Turkish-born psychology student at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Simge Topalogu is a Turkish-born psychology student at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Simge Topaloğlu — a third-year Harvard doctoral student in psychology — found out about the new rule in a group chat with other international students on Monday.

"When this was first shared... I just thought someone had misinterpreted it," Topaloğlu said. "But then I read the statement, and I couldn't believe my eyes."

If she's forced to return home to Istanbul, Topaloğlu will face late-night classes and the prospect of learning, teaching and conducting research while living with an elderly relative with a serious medical condition.

In a statement, Harvard's president Lawrence Bacow called the new rule "a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem," and pledged to fight to defend international students and their education.

Even at schools pursuing a hybrid model in the fall, international students have cause for worry.

Smit Kiri is seeking a master's degree in data science from Northeastern University. Kiri was born in Gujarat, India, and has asthma. He said the new policy presents international students like him with an impossible choice.

"I just feel that it's really unfair — that we have to risk our lives and go to the university even if we are, you know, at a higher risk of contracting the virus… or dying from it," he said.

NotablyICE gave no indication as to when this rule will go into effect or whether there will be a grace period, and some colleges and universities are urging international students not to make decisions on their plans for the fall until more is known about the ICE policy.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, says the new guidance  puts universities and colleges in the difficult position of choosing between what's best for public health and what's best for their international students.

"Why [ICE] made this decision now — four to six weeks before many schools start classes — is unclear, but what it has done is throw a lot of people's lives into confusion and put a ton of uncertainty on colleges' plans moving forward," he said.

Reichlin-Melnick said it's difficult to know the scope of the impact, since some universities and colleges may choose to alter their learning plan for the fall as a result of this new guidance. He said the rule is likely to be challenged in court.

According to the SEVP, there are nearly 77,000 international students in Massachusetts.

"All of this will of course be of a major benefit to Canada and other countries that have long competed with the United States for foreign students," he said. "And the downsides, of course, will be huge for local economies, for universities and for America's really powerful position as a world leader in education."

Gov. Charlie Baker was asked during a press conference Tuesday about the decision from ICE. He said the pandemic has created a situation where the rules governing safe travel are constantly changing.

"People ought to make the decisions they need to make at the time they need to make them with the best information they have," Baker said. "I think this one was a little premature."


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