Storm Damage on High Street
More than six inches of rain fell in a short period of time on Aug. 8, causing flooding that damaged homes and businesses all over town.
But the worst of it seemed to focus on High Street, which isn’t in a flood plain, but lies near a stream that connects Lake Cochichewick with the Merrimack River.
That waterway flowed into mill ponds that drove industry in the 19th century, so businesses that occupy former mill buildings on High Street today were exposed to intense flooding.
These included Jaime’s Restaurant, where owner Jaime Faria watched a full-sized refrigerator float through a window and across the street.
Gregg Lindsay, owner of Good Day Cafe next door, said his basement was fully submerged and most of the furniture and fixtures in his restaurant were lost. Shops on nearby Mill Street, including Alter Ego Beauty, also filled with water.
Rain fell hard again on Aug. 18, and Town Manager Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues estimated that North Andover sustained $30 million worth of damage from the two events.
Governor Maura Healey and Representative Seth Moulton came to see the damage. But in the end, FEMA said the town didn’t qualify for assistance.
The town is doing its best to assist locals with funds from Columbia Gas, which were awarded to North Andover after a gas explosion in 2018.
Seeking classroom Equity
Each school in the North Andover school district is looking to find a more inclusive way to ensure equity in learning, promoting new practices of student-lead curriculum and family engagement.
While 71.3% of the overall school district student body is white, 14.9% is Hispanic, 7% is Asian and 2.8% is African American, according to 2022-23 enrollment data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
North Andover High School Principal Chester Jackson said all demographics are not equal in achievement but subgroups are showing growth, “so we’re on the right track.”
Math games in the elementary schools and measuring liquids in beakers or elastics down the hallway provide a more student-lead approach that can encourage growth.
Thomson Elementary School gave each student a feather to write positive traits about themselves to encourage thinking of what makes each student special. The project was based on the book “Maybe” by Kobi Yamada, and the feathers were displayed in the halls.
Loss of a casino foe
Susan Tucker, the former state senator and representative known as a champion of housing choices and a detractor of casino gambling, died on Nov. 20 at 79.
Tucker has been described as a great friend by many. Her former chief of staff, Les Bernal, recalled her “great one-liners,” noting Tucker’s sense of humor was a match for anyone. Former state representative Barbara L’Italien said Tucker was always prepared and ready to talk with anyone about issues.
At her core, though, Bernal said, Tucker was a “citizen politician,” someone who wanted to serve because she saw issues that could be solved. Tucker served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1982 to 1992 and in the Massachusetts Senate from 1999 to 2011, representing the district of Second Essex and Middlesex.
Her signature bill criminalized domestic violence, as she worked to support women in abusive relationships find better, healthier solutions. Tucker was a champion of housing initiatives and also worked to support low-income families by targeting auto-insurance fraud rings.
The other issue that she focused on was the spread of casino gambling in Massachusetts. She argued the negative social impacts and expensive bureaucracy needed to support expanded gambling outweigh any potential benefits.
Merrimack College grows
Merrimack College realized an important goal in 2023 when the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board approved its plans to build two new dorms on campus for 540 students.
The school, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, decided after the Great Recession of 2008 that it needed to grow in order to survive and thrive.
The school reached a total enrollment of more than 5,500 students by 2021, after numbering only 2,483 in 2011. During the same period, Merrimack became the fourth largest Catholic College in New England, with more than 620 employees.
The school sought to create housing for as many as 1,000 students in two dorms at Royal Crest Estates, a private development across Route 114 from the college, where 800 students currently reside.
Those plans were part of a larger project that would have completely renovated Royal Crest, where students make up half of the property’s 1,600 residents, but the program was shot down at Town Meeting last year.
The new plans will still leave 260 students living at Royal Crest, but a signalized intersection that MassDOT is installing on Route 114 will allow them to reach campus with less disruption to traffic than is currently the case.
Follow Monica on Twitter at @MonicaSager3
Storm Damage on High Street