Happy Anniversary to the Lexington List

Harry Forsdick’s community email forum has been connecting Lexington for twenty years—and it’s still going strong.

By Jeri Zeder

Step aside, Mark Zuckerberg. By the time Facebook launched on February 4, 2004, our very own Harry Forsdick had been running the Lexington List for nearly two years, with Lexington residents sharing everything from the dates of the East Village Fair to out-of-town restaurant recommendations to announcements of School Committee meetings to questions on snow-blower repairs. And way, way, way more.
The Lexington List, an email-based community bulletin board and discussion forum founded by Forsdick on September 22, 2002, turned twenty this year. It was, and still is, a private (not Town-run) forum hosted, administered, and moderated by Forsdick himself, with membership open to people who live and work in Lexington, and to METCO families with children in Lexington schools. The List’s first member was Hank Manz.

Membership slowly increased in its first three years, took a steep upturn from 2010 through 2015, then saw a surge in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It boasts just over 1,800 members today, with an archive of some 43,600 messages. It costs around $100 a year to run. In a fundraiser several years ago, List members donated enough money to cover List expenses for the next ten years—a tribute to its value and popularity.

Harry Forsdick

Harry’s Vision

When Forsdick started the List, he did so knowing its potential. “I had been living the internet since I started grad school at MIT in 1971, and I’d seen all these things that could be done,” he says. “I thought there were not enough opportunities for people to share their tips and tricks for living in Lexington. I had a slightly loftier goal than just, oh, who was your roofer, but also, did you see a good play, did you go to a good concert.” From the start, Forsdick has let topics flow organically, following whatever happens to be going on in town that people wish to talk about.

The first subscribers were friends Forsdick had invited to join, and also members of Town Meeting, who learned of it from little business cards that Forsdick left on information tables. The first three messages to the List were by Forsdick’s. Message #1 introduced the List. Message #2 demonstrated possible topics drawn from actual subject lines from the Arlington List, on which the Lexington List was modeled, including: “can you identify this insect?”; “dog play group”; “reliable silver coin dealer”; and “holy moly (was grass fed beef)”. Message #3 was Forsdick’s query about where to find wooden shipping palettes. Then, on September 26, 2002, the first message that wasn’t Forsdick’s was posted: Message #4, by Jon Dreyer, asking how to get a school bus policy changed.
And off it went.

Early Challenges

The first challenge Forsdick encountered in those early days involved discussions of controversial subjects. Whenever conversations got too heated or prolonged, Forsdick noticed an uptick in membership resignations. In response, Forsdick started a separate email discussion group and called it Lex Pol-Rel, a nod to the adage “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company.” Members of the Lexington List can join Lex Pol-Rel and talk about anything they want to, for as long as they want to, provided they comply with Forsdick’s rules of civility (no name-calling or personal abuse). In further service of civility, Forsdick requires people to sign their full names whenever they post to either list. “People have their own reputation to think about when they say things on the List, and I think that can result in civility,” Forsdick says. “People do value their own reputation.”

The Covid Connection

The Lexington List is often where people hear news as it’s unfolding. “I like serving that civic function of having a place where you could go and find out the latest,” says Forsdick, who estimates that he spends a total of about an hour a week administering and moderating the List. He says that, in the early confusing days of what became the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of messages skyrocketed, and membership surged. It was a touching demonstration of neighborly concern and support. “I think there’s something about closing your eyes and imagining someone writing what they’re writing and sort of trying to put yourself in their shoes,” Forsdick says. “COVID was particularly emotional like that, because you knew a lot of people were scared.”

List member Melanie Lin learned just how potent community-level information-sharing can be in a crisis like COVID. Lin, who is co-president of the Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL), frequently posts CAAL news to the Lexington List, and disseminates information from the Lexington List to the Chinese American community. When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and medical-grade masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) were scarce, CAAL raised $280,000 to buy PPE to support hospitals, nursing homes, and individuals. Lin informed the Lexington community about the availability of PPE from CAAL primarily through the Lexington List.

Fast forward a couple of years to a party Lin recently attended. When a man there heard of her connection to CAAL, he told her, in a voice filled with emotion, that early in the pandemic, his sister had to care for her very sick husband at home and desperately needed PPE. He learned about CAAL’s PPE program, and was able to get his sister what they needed. “They felt very isolated and desperate,” Lin says, recounting the conversation. With resources from CAAL, publicized through the List and elsewhere, “they felt like someone cared about them.”
Lin has used the List for personal purposes, too. She attended high school in China, but many of her high school classmates are here in the United States. When she was organizing a high school reunion, she posted a message to the List asking for recommendations on a venue. Thanks to advice she received from John Rudy, a devoted Lexington List member, the reunion was held at a place in Newport. Seventy people attended. “It turned out to be a really great choice,” Lin says.

And Even the Weather…

List member JJ Krawczyk uses the list to, among other things, post his highly popular messages about local weather. He serves as a storm spotter for the National Weather Service, helping the NWS to track severe weather and its impact on communities. “The National Weather Service really likes getting pictures and information to document when there are extreme weather situations,” Krawczyk says. “If I send out a message to the List saying ‘send me pictures of damage or anything,’ people have really been good about that. I have a bunch of different eyes around town.” He sends the documentation along to the NWS, which allows them to see the actual storm results and correlate that to the data they were looking at. NWS uses the information to provide timely and accurate reports and help keep communities safer.

Sharing Ideas; Creating Community

Irene Dondley, one of the original List members, misses the small community that the List was in its early days, but still finds merit in hearing views that are unlike her own, in learning about town issues she might not have otherwise known about, and in staying connected to the larger community. “I had a window that was rotting and I put out a question about it and somebody contacted me off-list and I hired the person and it worked out well,” she says. “I think I found my electrician on the list. Things like that have been worthwhile.”
Umesh Shelat, a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 7, says that the lists help him stay informed about the many perspectives on various issues that he’ll have to vote on at Town Meeting. “The Lexington List,” he says, “is a great resource because Lexington by and large is a town of relatively thoughtful, intelligent people who spend a lot of time doing research for their day to day lives, and this is a forum that allows them to share the results of that intelligent, thoughtful analysis for everybody.”

Andrei Rădeulescu-Banu is a heavy user of Lex Pol-Rel, where he enjoys posting and reading about national and international issues. He reads widely, and when he comes upon something particularly striking, he feels a compulsion to share it. Lex Pol-Rel is his outlet. “You can put it on Facebook, but Facebook is not really that good a medium for these things because that’s more with friends and family,” he says. Pol-Rel is where he’s likely to find people interested in that information, and in sharing what they find.

A Lifeline

For Olga Guttag, the Lexington List has been nothing short of a lifeline. Even before the pandemic, health issues were keeping her cooped up in her house. “This was my connection to the world,” she says about the List. “I was a prisoner in my own home, and the List was definitely one of the ways I still felt that I was part of the community.” Guttag is known for sharing her knowledge of do-it-yourself home repair projects. In response to a recent question, she posted a message about how she fixed her driveway without having to redo the entire thing. “If I know something, I’ve probably done a lot of research, and it really irks me that all that research is used only by me, so if somebody asks a question on a topic that I know a lot about, I try to answer in detail,” she says. These days, Guttag is using the List to collect items needed by Ukrainian refugees.

A Gift and a Resource

As a person who loves information and is intellectually curious about the world, Forsdick has enjoyed watching the List grow and change and become a vital piece of the fabric of Lexington. He has archived every message ever sent to the Lexington List—a wonderful resource for history buffs, data geeks, and anyone wishing to look back at early 21st century Lexington history—and he welcomes as subscribers anyone who meets membership requirements. “I’ve learned a lot about the people who live in Lexington, how many different points of view and talents they have,” he says. “I’m glad that people feel that this is where they can turn to, to talk.”


Hank Manz, a three-term Select Board member and popular Scout leader, passed away in 2020, but his engaging posts to the Lexington List are still community favorites. Take, for example, Message No. 18,700, from June 18, 2011.

A resident who was uncomfortable with reptiles had turned to the List for advice on shooing away a garter snake that had taken up residence by her back door. Manz responded with a delightful riff on the wildlife in his and his wife Wendy’s yard: “When we had grubs in the lawn,” he wrote, “we had skunks. Seven of them to be exact.

Hank holding one of his campaign signs autographed by well-wishers at his retirement from the Select Board.

When the apple trees were really producing, we had a resident woodchuck. The compost pile attracts voles and the woodpile attracts shrews so we now have animals who drop in to hunt them including the neighborhood cats.

And we have a bumper crop of dandelions this year so now we have two resident rabbits. Storing seed in the shed brought us tons of mice and more than a few mini-bears, also known as chipmunks. Now we store leftover seed in metal bins. Oh, yes, we stopped putting out trash the night before so now the raccoons have moved on. They were entertaining, but very noisy … If a snake moves into our yard, he will have plenty to eat and we will welcome him.”



Membership on the Lexington List is open to residents of Lexington, METCO families whose children attend Lexington schools, and people who work for a company or organization at an office that’s located in Lexington. Posts are archived and visible to the public.

To join, read up on the rules at https://forsdick.weebly.com/lexlist.html , then click the blue “+Apply For Membership In This Group” button at https://groups.io/g/lexington/, or send an email to lexington+subscribe@groups.io . Subscribers can choose to receive each message as an individual email, or get messages in a digest (up to twelve messages grouped together in one email) or a daily summary.


Jeri Zeder is a long-time member of the Lexington List.

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A Bolder Past for a Brighter Future

“History is more than just the study of things that have already happened. It’s a set of analytical skills and competencies that is necessary for understanding and navigating the world.” -James Ikeda, Educational Consultant


Next year, in a groundbreaking move, Lexington High School will be offering two new courses: one in African American history, and one in Asian American history. From conception to syllabus, students and faculty are equally involved in their design.

It’s unusual for courses like these to be offered at the high school level. It’s all happening because of student activism.

Back in February of 2019, five METCO students in the 2020 graduating class—Annabelle Charles, Takirah Clark, Kyra Cooper, Naiomi Harris, and Alea Turner—were exploring with METCO Academic Support Teacher Gretchen Segars what LHS did to observe Black History Month. The more they looked into it, the more they realized that recognition of African American history was pretty much relegated to February.

“We felt like a lot of what we knew about Black culture we either learned ourselves through internet research, or it was told to us by other Black people. We weren’t educated through the school on Black topics,” says Kyra Cooper, LHS ’20, who is now majoring in global finance at Suffolk University . In contrast to Lexington, Cooper’s friends in Boston were covering Black culture and history in school. “When I would talk to kids from Boston Public Schools, it felt like something was missing from my education,” Cooper says.

Kyra Cooper LHS ‘20
When I thought about Black history education in Lexington, the only picture I remember was a diagram of slaves packed into a boat. It’s kind of upsetting that the curriculum only showed the pain that Black people went through. They didn’t show the creativity that we had, like the stuff we had invented. It was a very awkward position to be in, especially when you’re the only Black person sitting in a class full of other people who aren’t Black. You almost feel like a spectacle. A teacher would say something like, oh, slaves were punished for doing this, this, and this. And then you get the side-eye from the kid sitting next to you, people looking at you to see how you’re reacting to these things. … I think this new education is very beneficial, not just for the mental state of Black students, but for keeping white students and people who aren’t Black educated. It helps to prevent microaggressions, which is something that I had to deal with a lot when going through the Lexington Public School system.”

With Segars’ encouragement, the students started thinking that LHS might offer courses in Black literature and history. “They were saying, ‘This is essential to our well-being in school,’” Segars says. “‘We need to be able to have a space where we can be centered for a moment, where Blackness can be celebrated and hard conversations can be had.’”

But the students wanted more. They wanted better representation throughout the school system. They wanted Lexington Public Schools to hire more teachers of color.

Merkeb Amanuel LHS ’22
I think it’s exciting that they’re offering African American history and Asian American history. The fact that these classes are starting to enter our curriculum I think will set a precedent for the future for more cultural classes to be in our schools.”

So, they started a petition drive, with one petition seeking the creation of courses in African American literature and history, and the other seeking greater diversity in hiring. They set up stations with music in the cafeteria, explained their goals to their classmates, and within a week, each petition garnered around four hundred signatures. They delivered the course petition to the heads of the English and Social Studies departments, and the hiring petition to the Superintendent’s office.

“They [students]were saying, ‘We need to have a space where we can be centered for a moment, where Blackness can be celebrated and hard conversations can be had.’” -Gretchen Segars, METCO Academic Support Teacher

The English department was already offering an East Asian literature course, and got right on board with the idea of a course in African American literature. English Department Head Jane Day calls both courses, which are year-long electives, a “resounding success.” They are taken by students of all colors, backgrounds, and nationalities. The same is true of the women’s literature class; it’s not only girls that enroll. “I’m really proud of that, that our students recognize the value in these courses, that they are highlighting voices that are not their own, but they want to learn about them, and they’ll spend a whole year digging in,” Day says.

Min Feldman LHS ’22
I am proud to be joining a legacy of students who pioneered the way, and hopefully being an example to the freshmen or underclassmen or the middle schoolers who might

The students were among the catalysts for other diversity efforts, including a professional development forum for teachers, and the school system’s hiring of a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. In 2019, they received the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award, presented by School Superintendent Julie Hackett before Lexington Town Meeting.

Charles, Clark, Cooper, Harris, and Turner never got to take the courses they lobbied for; they graduated before the literature course was offered, and they went off to college without knowing the fate of their demands for an African American history course or the hiring of more teachers of color. (Lexington Public Schools has been making steady progress with diversity hiring, but is still far from representing student demographics—see below.)


“We weren’t really doing it for ourselves,” Cooper says. “We were doing it for the kids who were younger than us.” And they were doing it for all students, regardless of background. “Not only is it education for Black students, but it’s also education for non-Black students,” Cooper says. “If you’re learning about other ethnicities or other nationalities, and you’re familiar with that topic, you’re going to know right from wrong.”

Ameera Suttles LHS ’24
“One thing I’m excited for is for everyone to get a chance to learn. I feel like history is just a big story of everyone’s different perspectives.”

But Cooper and her friends left a legacy. By their example, they inspired other students to pick up the mantle. In the fall of 2021, Phoebe Tian, then a junior, took action that would lead to the formation of the two new history courses. In the wake of rising violence against Asian Americans across the country, she organized the Asian American and Pacific Islander History Inclusion Benefit Concert at LHS. “After that, Dr. Dunne reached out to everyone,” Tian says.

Tian is referring to Kerry Dunne, the new head of LHS’s Social Studies department. Dunne invited interested students into focus groups to create the courses in African American history and Asian American history. She met regularly with dozens of students, many from the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Student Council, during the weekly free study and enrichment period known as I Block. Dunne also made available a Google doc where students could contribute their thoughts and ideas.

Grace Ou LHS ’23
“I think that having students collaborate with the teachers can really foster an environment where students are actually interested in the curriculum and actually want to engage specifically in areas talking about culture.”

“Let me give you an example of how this was so valuable,” Dunne says. “In the African American history course focus group, we were talking about, what do you most want to see in this course? And there was an African American student, Nathanael Esperance, who raised his hand. And he said, ‘The thing I most want to see emphasized in this course is Black success. I want students to be learning about African Americans who made major contributions that were very positive to this country, and who are right now, today, continuing to make positive contributions to our country.’” Dunne says, “I literally grabbed a pen and I wrote ‘Black success’ and underlined it twice. And we used that phrase in the course description. I would not have come up with that on my own.”

“An example of other input we got was with the Asian American history course,” Dunne says. “It was very important to students to see the South Asian presence in that class.” Students made clear that, in both classes, they wanted to learn about personages from local history as well.

Chuning Yang LHS ‘23
We usually learn about the Bill of Rights, the Revolutionary War, just mostly U.S. and European-focused ideas. I feel like I never learned much about Asian or African history, and as I became older, I realized how little I learned about Asian and African history.”

Students helped write the course descriptions, which are published in the LHS Program of Studies. Both courses are one-semester electives, and will be taught for the first time next year. Dunne expects they will be fully enrolled. The curriculum development work will be accomplished this summer, supported by a $10,000 grant from the Lexington Education Foundation. The grant will pay for six workshop days for two teachers, plus honoraria of $100 to each of six students for their work reviewing and selecting books and course materials. Further funding for the Asian American history course will come from the benefit concert organized by Tian. Dunne will match that with regular department funds for the African American history course. A substantial portion of the grant will pay for a consultant who will mentor the two teachers as they develop the courses and teach them for the first time.

The consultant is James Ikeda, a high school history teacher, community-college adjunct professor, and doctoral student in history at Northeastern University. He created and teaches an Asian American history course at Bunker Hill Community College and an African American history course at Quincy High School. “History,” he says, “is more than just the study of things that have already happened. It’s a set of analytical skills and competencies that is necessary for understanding and navigating the world.”

Phoebe Tian LHS ‘23
We wanted to make sure that in the first Asian American history course, all the core cultures and all the people from that area are represented—not just East Asian, but Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. And we also wanted the course to cover not just civil rights activism and social movements, but also the modern experience of culture and immigration, and of the experiences of Asian Americans living here. I think that’s what makes this course so unique and diverse and basically amazing.”

Both the English and the Social Studies departments are increasingly adding the voices of Asian Americans and African Americans to their required courses. These new specialized electives are opportunities for students to go deeper. Ikeda has a distinct perspective on why this is crucial: American history is frequently taught as having a prevailing master narrative, which typically either omits the history of those Ikeda calls “minoritized” people, or merely uses their history to fill out the narrative. That approach, Ikeda believes, blocks important epiphanies. “I don’t think, just for an example, of Asian American history as a corrective where you are modifying a master narrative,” he says. Instead, he thinks it is an opportunity to reconceptualize history to reveal new truths about the past. “There doesn’t have to be a single story that contains all historical truth, but in fact historical truth is multitudinous enough that you need to have a lot of different entry points,” he says.

Isaac Ostrow LHS ’22
“There was a passage about the Trail of Tears [the 5,000+-mile forced march of some 100,000 Native Americans in 1830, which killed 15,000 people] which minimized the scale of the atrocity and the forced eviction and, effectively, genocide, and said that a positive consequence was that it brought American democracy to more parts of the American continent, which seems so shortsighted and inappropriate and wrong. There are so many ways that is an issue, but that was in my AP history textbook. Our history curriculum and certainly the AP history curriculum doesn’t go far enough at all.”

In other words, these new courses have the potential not only to broaden students’ understanding of the past and to see themselves made visible within the American story. These new courses may also lead to a more sophisticated appreciation for the discipline of history by students and faculty alike.

Perhaps that’s ultimately the power of what LHS grads Annabelle Charles, Takirah Clark, Kyra Cooper, Naiomi Harris, and Alea Turner started in 2019: the rigorous, enriching opening of minds that these courses will bring to our high school, and that our graduates will give to the world as they launch into life.



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Minuteman Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillon Says Goodbye After 15 Years

Minuteman Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillonwas gifted with a pair of green, hand-crafted Adirondack chairs. (All Photos By Reba Saldanha)

It was an occasion filled with high spirits, expressions of sincere gratitude, and fond farewells at Minuteman High School as students, teachers, and administrators showed their appreciation to the district’s longtime superintendent, Dr. Edward A. Bouquillon, on May 12.

He plans to retire in June after 15 achievement-filled years.

Under summery blue skies with a balmy feel in the air, hundreds of students grouped by their career technical programs headed for the school’s football field. Many were carrying signs bearing messages thanking Dr. Bouquillon for his dedication and leadership.

As they wound their way around the perimeter of the new athletic field, bagpiper Seth Fagans of Acton stood in the center playing, adding a lilting musical nod to Dr. Bouquillon’s Irish heritage.

The next phase of the event took place inside the building in Minuteman’s theater. Principal George Clement spoke first, praising Dr. Bouquillon for doing so much to enhance students’ education and for preparing them for productive careers.

“His mission [was] to help kids discover what they love to do and what they do well, and to help kids gain an individual economic opportunity,” Clement said. “The question: Did he get the job done? The answer: Hell yes!”

He then read a checklist of Dr. Bouquillon’s most significant personal and professional accomplishments – “hire and foster top talent, get the school budget in order, rewrite the district charter, watch the school win multiple awards for excellence, be a proud husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and son, as well as a dynamic, generous, and strong servant-leader.”

Perhaps Dr. Bouquillon’s biggest success involved his steadfast advocacy for a new, badly-needed, state-of-the-art Minuteman school facility. It opened its doors in the fall of 2019.

Another notable triumph of his tenure came a year earlier when Minuteman earned the prestigious designation of National Blue Ribbon School in 2018, an honor conferred by the U.S. Department of Education. That same year, Dr. Bouquillon was named a semi-finalist for National Superintendent of the Year by the National Association of School Superintendents.

In his remarks, Dr. Bouquillon struck a thoughtful tone. He said he has been conferring often with his successor, Dr. Kathleen Dawson, as she transitions into the role of Minuteman’s superintendent. She will begin on July 1.

Minuteman Superintendent-Director Edward A. Bouquillon, who will retire next month after leading the district for 15 years, was surprised with a parade of students and staff on Minuteman High School’s new athletic track on May 12, 2022.

The school is “in very good hands,” Dr. Bouquillon said.

He took time to thank his family, including his wife, Diana, recognizing that people sometimes have to make tough choices between their family and the rigorous, unavoidable demands of a job such as a school superintendent.

Continuing on the theme of making choices, Dr. Bouquillon said that the staff’s mission is to help kids “make good choices” for their career pathway and future.

“Helping kids find their passion – that’s what we do, and we do it well.”

Rounding out the tribute were two presentations to Dr. Bouquillon. The first was from Assistant Superintendent Amy Perreault, who gave him a pin to wear on his kilt. The other was from students in Carpentry, who made Adirondack chairs for him.

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Bowman School Pollinator Garden

TEXT BY: E. Ashley Rooney
PHOTOS BY: Peter Lund

Teaching young students to become stewards of the environment.

Working with the soil is great fun. Students researched native flowers with the help of Trevor Smith (pictured right).

On Friday May 27, Rosanne Barbacano’s Room 11 gardening experts worked with Trevor Smith from Weston Nurseries and students in Kindergarten and other Grade 2 classes to plant over 15 varieties of native plants in the Bowman School garden space (located at the flagpole side of the school).

There were squeals when the students found a grub, contented “ahs” when they smelled the mint plant; and great excitement about being superheroes who were saving the bees.

In the 90s, teacher Steven Levy (a published educator) had a garden at Bowman. He grew and harvested wheat there! Upon departing from Bowman, Steven Levy “left” the garden plot to his successor Rosanne Barbacano to incorporate into her classroom studies.

Over the years, the garden project “fit in well” with her grade 2 science units. “I began to ‘weave’ the realization of Bowman’s Pollinator Garden into my science teaching of the “Nature’s Partners” unit,” she explains. Her “dream project,” as she describes it, was to start a “Pollinator Garden” at Bowman. “I realized that a Bowman Pollinator Garden would provide both—meaning, curricular connectivity, and enhancement to Bowman’s landscape,” Rosanne says.

Pollinator Gardens are a relatively new response to the decline in pollinator species (especially bees). Because the decline is closely associated with the loss of habitat, planting gardens rich with yummy nectar and pollen is a small effort to remedy the damage caused by agribusiness and chemicals.

Rosanne connected with Gardening Expert Trevor Smith, the Design and Education Manager at Weston Nurseries. Smith is an award-winning landscape designer, holding several landscape certifications, including MCH, NOFA AOLCP, LEEDGA, and IPCI, and a past President of the Ecological Landscape Alliance and a current Trustee.

Smith was willing to work with Rosanne’s class to help create a Pollinator Garden at Bowman.
The garden is about a lot more than bees and butterflies. Rosanne’s second-grade students have worked hard to understand pollinators and why plants need pollinators. Two students, Katie and Sara, told me that they learned new vocabulary words like pollination, nectar, and larva!
The second-grade curriculum unit is titled “Nature’s Partners.” Rosanne wanted to keep the second graders engaged, motivated, and agents of change as they solved the problem of making a home for pollinators.

Barbacano describes the student’s enthusiasm during Trevor Smith’s first classroom. She explains that seeing and recognizing many native plants and critters bred enthusiasm and engagement. “Student ecologists became convinced that native plants can help familiar and local plants, animals, and other organisms to work together to stay alive.”

Trevor asked the students what endangers bees. One answered, “When they get killed by spray bottles of stuff.” Trevor explains how a garden can play a substantial role in the local ecosystem by helping create climate resilience.

The students researched over 20 varieties of native plants considering native plant height, light, and soil requirements. Meanwhile, regenerative landscape designer Trevor Smith presented a webinar to the Bowman PTO in preparation for the Pollinator Garden. He continued to assist Room 11 gardeners with the design and plan for the 16’3” by 12”5” garden.

They decided to plant the pollinator plants listed in the table below. This program has allowed the young gardeners to learn about classification, life cycles, and the relationship between plants and butterflies in pollination and reproduction.

Beyond providing sustenance for their six-legged friends, Trevor and the second grade pollinator activists want everyone to know how the Bowman Pollinator Garden plays a substantial (very important) role in rebuilding the local ecosystem and helps create climate resilience (for example, strengthening our native plants means cleaner air for us). Students created posters to send the message to the Lexington Community to support native plants.

“The best teaching and education allows student agency alongside the enthusiasm and expertise of gardening expert, Trevor Smith. As a classroom teacher, I just provided the “steering,” a proud Rosanne Barbacano notes with satisfaction.


Start planning your spring garden with pollinators in mind.

  • Allium cernuum Nodding Onion
  • Asclepias incarnata-  Swamp Milkweed
  • Asclepias tuberosa-  Butterflyweed
  • Chelone glabra- White Turtlehead
  • Eutrochium fistulosum-Joe Pyeweed, Trumpetweed
  • Lobelia siphilitica-Blue Cardinal Flower
  • Monarda fistulosa-Wild Bergamot
  • Monarda punctata-Spotted Beebalm
  • Penstemon digitalis-Beardtongue
  • Vernonia noveboracensis-New York Ironweed
  • Agastache Scrophulariaefolia-Purple Giant Hyssop
  • Pycnanthemum tenuifolium  Narrowleaf Mountain Mint
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Little Goldstar’-Black Eyed Susan
  • Carex pensylvanica-Pennsylvania Sedge
  • Rosa carolina L. Carolina Rose, Pasture Rose

Note: We include this list so everyone can take advantage of the second graders research into plants that would help the pollinators, particularly the bee.

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Rachel Dratch Nominated for a Tony Award

By Jim Shaw


Rachel onstage – COURTESY PHOTO

By all accounts, Rachel Dratch was going places. If you talk with her high school friends, they’ll tell you that she was destined for success. After graduating from Lexington High, she went off to Dartmouth College. For most, that’s where the journey ends; you graduate and then head into the working world. But Dratch wanted something different. She was naturally funny and wanted to pursue a career in comedy and acting. She was accepted into Second City in Chicago, where she bonded with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

Interestingly, Dratch and Poehler both worked at the popular Lexington eatery Chadwick’s. Having been there many times, I can see where they would both revel in the organized chaos that prevailed at Chadwicks. Great memories, but I digress.

Soon, Dratch, Fey, and Poehler would move to New York City and take their place with the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL). Dratch would spend seven seasons on SNL, often incorporating her high school experiences into her sketch comedy routines.

After Dratch left SNL, she appeared in several films and had recurring roles on programs like 30 Rock. Now her career has led her to Broadway, where she landed in the new hit play, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive.

Rachel and the cast – COURTESY PHOTO

Although the play opened only a few weeks ago, Dratch’s performance has garnered critical praise and led to her being nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play.

As you might expect, Dratch explained that she was honored just to be nominated. During our conversation, she said, “Honestly, I know this is the cliche, but I feel like it’s an honor just to be nominated. I’ve been acting in plays and doing theater for a long time, but a lot of people don’t know that because they just know me from SNL or some of my films. It’s just cool for me to be nominated because it brings me into this theater world that I’ve been an admirer and a fan of for so long. Sounds like BS, but it’s really true.”

Dratch talked about the play and working with the other cast members, including Vanessa Williams who portrays the First Lady. She said, “POTUS is a brand-new play. There are seven women and it’s a farce. It’s seven women trying to keep the President focused. I’ve heard it described as Noises Off meets VEEP. It happens to take place at the White House. But, it’s not political in the sense that you don’t know who the President is. You never see the President; it’s never declared if he is red or blue. It’s just these women trying to keep putting out the fires at the White House. It’s definitely a comedy. It gets a lot of laughs.”

Directed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, POTUS is a Broadway debut by playwright Selina Fillinger. Along with Rachel Dratch, Lilli Cooper, Lea DeLaria, Julianne Hough, Suzy Nakamura, Julie White, and Vanessa Williams star in the comedy about the women in charge of the man in charge of the free world.

Dratch explained “I started out doing both plays and improv. And then, when I moved Chicago, there was a lot of improv. Second City is sketch. It’s just both improv and sketch. I’m used to both of those worlds. But at Second City, we were doing sketches that we wrote, so this role is really fun even though it’s not really improv. But the part is such that I could create a lot of physical comedy within it. It’s a culmination of all the other stuff I’ve done.”

I asked her about working on Broadway, and she was very enthusiastic. Rachel said, “It’s been really fun. Broadway is booming! It feels like New York is back, and we get good crowds every night, and people seem like they really, really want to laugh. On top of just laughing at the jokes, there’s like this extra level of fun.”

Rachel explains that it’s a busy schedule of performances. She said, “We have eight shows a week and a matinee on Wednesday and Saturday.”

This is a limited engagement play that is scheduled to end in August, so don’t wait to see it. A weekend of Broadway in New York City can be lots of fun, especially if you’re going to see Rachel Dratch in POTUS at the famed Shubert Theatre. For tickets, visit shubert.nyc/theatres/shubert.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Rachel who would be her “plus one” at the Tony Awards, her son Eli or her mother, Elaine? She laughed and said, “Oh my gosh, I haven’t decided. I have like two hours to decide who’s going to be my ‘plus one’. I don’t know. And, I have to let them know by five o’clock.”

Well, I can speak for many of your supporters here in Lexington that we’ll be tuned in and rooting for you. We wish you all the best. And, congratulations on your nomination.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS on Sunday, June 12th from 8-10 PM.

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Debt Exclusion for New Police Station: What You Need to Know

The Town now has a dedicated web page on the Town’s website at www.lexingtonma.gov/PoliceStation so that residents can learn more about the project and make an informed decision on June 6. I invite residents with additional questions to contact me directly at townmanager@lexingtonma.gov or by calling my office at 781-698-4540.


By James J. Malloy
Town Manager

James Malloy,
Town Manager

On June 6, 2022 Lexington voters will be asked to vote on a debt exclusion for a new Police Station. As most residents are aware, the Town of Lexington has been planning for over a decade to replace the existing undersized police station with a new police station that would blend in with the Town Office Building and Cary Memorial Building.

Over the past three years, the Town’s efforts on the Police Station Project have ramped up. We have looked at a number of different options for the design, including whether the Police Station should remain in its current location move to a new location, whether to build a new structure or renovate and add to the existing building as well as what was the best option for the Hosmer House. Additionally, we put the project on hold for a year while we engaged the public through a series of community conversations and training programs aimed at having a dialogue with residents over concerns related to national incidents involving the police and how this has impacted Lexington residents. The conversations and training gave us the opportunity to gather more input from the community on what they wanted in a modern-day police department and police station and design accordingly.

Since last summer when the Select Board approved moving forward with the building design, and Town Meeting approved the final design appropriation at the Fall Town Meeting, the project has quickly moved forward. At a Special Town Meeting on March 28, 2022, Town Meeting approved an appropriation for the Police Station by a vote of 174 in favor; 1 opposed and 6 abstentions (99.4% in favor). That Town Meeting appropriation is for a debt issuance that is subject to a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion.

A Proposition 2½ debt exclusion differs from an override in that the debt exclusion is only for the amount of the annual debt service payment, and it reduces over time, eventually reaching zero when the debt is fully paid. An override is a permanent override of the Town’s Proposition 2½ tax limitation for a set dollar amount and remains in effect. To be clear, we are seeking a temporary debt exclusion and not a permanent override.

The total amount of the debt that will be excluded is $33.5 million, which is estimated to be repaid over a 20-year debt issuance with the first year of debt being in Fiscal Year 2025. If the debt exclusion is approved by voters on June 6, the Police Department will temporarily move to 173 Bedford Street and demolition and construction will begin later this year, with a new Police Station in place by late 2023/early 2024.

How do we know we need a new police station?

A rendering of the new Police Station –  COURTESY PHOTO

The best practice when determining the size of a building or facility is to go through what is referred to as a space needs analysis. This analysis looks at current and projected needs of a facility over a set period of time (usually a 30-40 year planning timeframe) and then designates a certain amount of square footage for all expected uses over that planning timeframe. Lexington went through a space needs analysis for the Police Department in 2011, which found that the Lexington Police Department needed approximately 30,000 square feet of space. The current Police Station is 13,060 square feet and was found to be inadequately sized for the department and community. This study was reviewed for accuracy in 2019, and with additional community input, the current project as designed is approximately 34,200 square feet.

What has been the timeframe for this project?

Planning for this project started around 2010 with the appropriation to undertake the space needs analysis in 2011. This project was strategically planned to follow higher priority/greater need projects, such as several school buildings and the Fire Station. In 2019, the Town reviewed alternate locations prior to making a final decision to have the Police Station remain at its current location. In 2020, in response to national incidents related to policing, the Select Board put the project on pause so that the Town could engage a consultant to provide both training for town staff and the community. Additionally, there was a series of community conversations with local affinity groups, led by Select Board members Doug Lucente and Joe Pato. In 2021 the Select Board approved having the architect move ahead with the final design, and in the Fall Town Meeting approved the appropriation for the final design funding. At the Special Town Meeting in 2022, the full construction cost was approved by Town Meeting, leading to the June 6 debt exclusion election.

How much will it cost?

The total amount of the project is estimated to be $35,181,630, which includes prior appropriations. The appropriation approved this Spring at the Special Town Meeting was $33.5 million, which is the amount that would be excluded from Proposition 2½.

What is the cost to the average single-family tax bill?

The Police Station debt is estimated to cost the average single-family taxpayer $258 in the first year of the debt, down to $149 in the 20th year of the debt repayment (average of $204 per year). This works out to approximately a 1.6% increase over current taxes for the first (highest) year.
What happens if we wait?

Earlier in the project, the estimate was that construction inflation would cost approximately $120,000 per month that we held off on construction. During the pandemic, with supply chain issues, this per month inflation figure increased dramatically and most projects now are seeing much higher costs due to construction inflation. Waiting at this point in time would only increase the cost of the project.

Will this impact the plans to build a high school?

The Town undertook an analysis of the cost of the Police Station and High School Projects and started planning on mitigating the cost of these projects with long term debt planning. This included a mechanism to set aside extraordinary new growth into a Capital Stabilization Fund to provide a sustainable method of mitigating the debt costs of these projects.

The estimated impact for the Police Station Project for the average single-family home in Lexington is $258 per year (or $21.50 per month) which is approximately a 1.6% increase in the property taxes for an average single-family home. It is anticipated that the High School Project debt service, which is currently estimated at $15.2 million per year ($350 million project) will be offset by a transfer from the Capital Stabilization Fund of approximately $11.5 million from new tax revenue generated from commercial projects that have already been approved. With the next debt service of $3.7 million, the High School Project is anticipated to add $318 per year to the average single-family home or a 1.9% increase.

Since the repayment on the Police Station Project will begin several years prior to the High School Project, the highest anticipated increase is 3.1% in the first year of the combined Police Station/High School debt. This does not include additional new growth that could offset costs of these projects, only the new growth associated with projects that have already been approved. Based upon this debt analysis and the long-term planning the Town has undertaken, we believe this amount of debt is acceptable against the benefits of these two projects.

What are the plans for the Hosmer House?

Hosmer House –  COURTESY PHOTO

The Town has issued three different Requests for Proposals (RFP) to have the Hosmer House moved by a private party. We are currently working with the bidder on the most recent RFP to hopefully work through the permitting and approval process to move the Hosmer House to a new location off-site so that it can be re-used as a residential property. If that does not get fully approved and moved to a new site, the Town will consider moving the house to a portion of Fletcher Park outside of the footprint of the Police Station and will develop plans to integrate the house into the final design for the park.
Where can I get more information?

The Town now has a dedicated web page on the Town’s website at www.lexingtonma.gov/PoliceStation so that residents can learn more about the project and make an informed decision on June 6. I invite residents with additional questions to contact me directly at townmanager@lexingtonma.gov or by calling my office at 781-698-4540.

We appreciate the Town’s support on this project. We have worked to make sure the project is inclusionary and following the Town’s integrated building design and construction policies to ensure the project is sustainable. We believe the new Police Station will provide an outstanding facility for our Police Department and our entire community.



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Bread Obsession Comes to Lexington

By E. Ashley Rooney

Vardo Haimo (L) and Joan Forman in their new facility at 433 Marrett Rd.

About ten years ago, I wrote a story for my favorite news magazine about Vardo Haimo, who has lived in Lexington since 1994. She was a high-powered executive with a Harvard doctorate for Putnam Investments. Then along came the 2008 recession. Like many of us during that time, she came home.

In 2009, she decided to replicate the Jewish rye that she had enjoyed as a child at Pratzel’s Bakery in St. Louis. She started baking, but she baked more loaves than her family could eat. An entrepreneur with floury hands, she set up a website and supplied homemade bread to her friends. They ordered, and the former high-powered manager became a retail baker. By 2013, Varda was selling her crusty, flavor-packed loaves at the Waltham Farmer’s Market, where customers bought her Lexington Sourdough, her New York bagels, and many other loaves. After a few months, she received a cottage wholesale license from the State of Massachusetts and started selling to several nearby businesses

With more orders than she could handle, she asked Lexington resident and her friend, Joan Forman,  to join the business. They built a commercial kitchen in Waltham, where they have been baking for wholesale and farmers’ markets for the last five years, The business kept growing, and they kept hiring more people. Soon they outgrew their space and again started planning an expansion strategy.

Varda’s goal from the beginning was to bake as much great bread for as many people as possible. She says, “That hasn’t changed, and I feel that Bread Obsession has kept to that 100%. We have not ever made our bread worse for expedience or profit. The rest is execution – figuring out how to get the bread made, sold, and delivered to the customer. As we have grown, that is what keeps changing.”

Currently, their most significant business is selling bread for wholesale to independent stores, like Codman Farms in Lincoln and Bermans Fine Wines in Lexington, and also to restaurants such as Woods Hill Table in Concord and Seaport. They are still at the Waltham Farmers Market after all these years and added Lexington a few years back. They make thousands of baked goods per week, including loaves of bread, baguettes, bagels, buns, and pastries.

Now this Ph.D. with her flour-covered hands is opening a much larger baking facility in Lexington at  433 Marrett Rd. Their new shop also gives them enough room to open their first retail counter so that they can sell directly to customers from their home base!

I asked what advice she would give the novice baker who dreams of following in your footsteps? Varda responded, “When I first started this business, it was a hobby grown large. What I didn’t appreciate then was the challenge of working consistently and constantly to satisfy a growing customer base. This is a baking challenge, but also a challenge of getting the bread to the customer in a timely manner, day after day. Making a wonderful product is very important but only the first step to developing a successful baking business.

She added, “I would say that if you don’t just absolutely love bread from your head to your toes, you should find another line of work because baking is a tough business. I have had a lot of jobs over the years and enjoyed many of them. What makes this particularly special for me is the thrill of building a business from the ground up at first with my own two hands, and then with the help of many other hands. Joan and I give this business all we can in terms of hard work, creative ideas, imagination, and hard-won skills. Then it, in turn, gives us back all the satisfaction that realizing your dreams can provide.”

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Hidden In Suburbia

By Jeri Zeder

Eliza Kuechle, 13, is the author of Keek’s Cookbook, a collection of recipes she created for people who live in food deserts. Courtesy photo.

Food insecurity in prosperous communities

Last school year, thirteen-year-old Eliza Kuechle learned lessons she’ll never forget.

Eliza lives in Lexington, attends Belmont Day School, and was blessed to have as her seventh-grade social studies teacher Gretchen Fogelstrom, who taught a class on food justice. The students learned about the food industry—from Big Corn to harvesters, truckers, meat packers, food deserts, and food waste—through the lens of the people directly involved, and engaged in a “design-thinking action challenge”: identifying population groups affected by food injustice and crafting solutions to mitigate their struggles.

Of particular interest to Eliza was food deserts. A food desert is an area where most of the community lives at least one mile from, and has very limited access to, the nearest supermarket. People in food deserts tend to rely heavily on fast food and convenience stores—not particularly healthful options.

“I never really realized that this was the case,” says Eliza (her last name is pronounced KEEK-lee). It dawned on her that, for her class project, she could write a cookbook to help people in food deserts prepare healthy meals.

Eliza’s journey to authoring Keek’s Cookbook has lessons for us all about food insecurity, and not just in food deserts, but right here in Lexington, where relative affluence can mask real need.

HUNGRY IN LEXINGTON   Food insecurity is the condition of living without access at all times to enough food to live an active and healthy life.

Before the pandemic, around one in fourteen—some 2,300 Lexington residents—were food-insecure. During the pandemic, that number rose to one in ten—around 3,300—likely an undercount, says Adriene Worthington, Director of Nutrition Programs for The Greater Boston Food Bank. This hardship causes more than hunger. “We find that a lot of people who are having a hard time affording food have to make really difficult choices between paying for food or paying for things like heat or medication,” Worthington says.

Even before the pandemic, the Lexington Food Pantry was serving around 140 people each week, primarily seniors. That number shot up to around 252 during the pandemic, at one point hitting a high of 350, and the demographics shifted from mostly senior households to mostly families with children. The stimulus checks brought those numbers down, but as recently as June, the pantry was still serving slightly more than 200 people a week.

“There is this perception that, if you live in Lexington, you couldn’t possibly need help,” says Usha Thakrar, a member of the Lexington Food Pantry’s board of directors and executive director of Boston Area Gleaners, a nonprofit that connects farms to those in need. “I can’t tell you the number of people who say to me, what do you mean, there’s a food pantry in Lexington?” That lack of awareness, she says, “creates this barrier to asking for help or accessing services because of the perception that if you live in this town and can afford to live in this town, you must not need assistance—which is not accurate.”

Harriet Kaufman, one of the founders of Lex Eat Together, a nonprofit offering community meals, says, “We knew that there were people in Lexington who were food-insecure, and we thought that it was probably beyond what the public records show.” During the pandemic, when community meals weren’t possible, Lex Eat Together turned toward financially supporting the Lexington Food Pantry and helping to get to the Pantry meals made by Minuteman High School students from food rescued by Food Link, an Arlington-based nonprofit.

With support from Lex Eat Together and Food Link, the Lexington Food Pantry offered meals made by Minuteman High School students during the pandemic.

Lexington, in fact, is a diverse community with wide economic disparities, according to Melissa Interess, Director of the Town’s Human Services department. In this town, where the median home value is around $1.3 million and median household income is more than $186,000, the following is also true:

  • 3.2 percent—around 1,300 Lexington residents—live at or below the federal poverty line (2019 numbers).
  • 8 percent—around 2,600 Lexington residents—are enrolled in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program (2018 numbers).
  • Since December 2016, the number of Lexington residents receiving SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) hovered around 700. That number swelled to nearly 900 during the pandemic.

In 2019, thanks to donations and public trust funds, the Town of Lexington Human Services department distributed $2,800 in grocery assistance and $20,738 in financial assistance to residents in need.

“Don’t make assumptions. That’s what I hope people take from these numbers,” Interess says.

TURNING DATA INTO ACTION   As Eliza discovered, it’s challenging to transform information into truly effective solutions. The very first recipes she developed were wonderful, but they needed tweaking to reflect the limited groceries that are available to low-income people marooned in food deserts. At Ms. Fogelstrom’s suggestion, Eliza visited a local convenience store to better understand what her target audience was up against. “I noticed that every food that they sold there was canned. And so, I had to back up and say, well, in my recipes, none of the food was canned. I basically had to start again,” she says. Her original breakfast parfait recipe called for yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola. “But,” she says, “they don’t have granola or fresh fruit at convenience stores. So, I created a new recipe: a parfait with yogurt and shredded wheat.” In a sad but realistic nod to convenience-store shopping, with the exception of bananas, none of Eliza’s recipes include fresh produce.

What Eliza accomplished—that shift in her thinking—is a lesson for anyone seeking to make a difference. “We tend to approach solutions from our own vantage point,” Ms. Fogelstrom says. “Eliza had to take that very mature step and get out of herself and realize, well, I do want to make an impact, and that means I need to do something that maybe I won’t necessarily want to use myself. And once she started figuring it out, she caught fire, and it was great.”

LEXINGTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO THE RESCUE    In a typical year, nearly 650 Lexington Public School students, or 8 to 9 percent of the student population, receive free or subsidized lunch through the National School Lunch Program. But when the pandemic hit, nothing was typical. The economy tanked. Schools closed in March of 2020. Through a combination of state and federal support, the LPS Food Services department quickly pivoted to offering free breakfast and lunch to anyone aged 0 to 21, and did so for the next fifteen months, seven days a week, summer included. Staff members worked while masked and socially distanced and largely before there were vaccines to protect them.

“There’s been a tremendous sense of pride to be part of that,” says LPS Food Service Director Kevin Silvia.

From March 2020 to June 2021, the Lexington Public Schools Food Services department prepared and distributed 175,952 free breakfasts and 335,657 free lunches to residents aged 0 to 21 experiencing food insecurity. Photos courtesy of Lexington Public Schools. Courtesy photos. 

By the time the program ended this June, LPS had served 175,952 free breakfasts and 335,657 free lunches by dropping meals into the trunks of cars lined up at the “open site” at Lexington High School, or, in the case of about twenty-five families unable to travel, by delivering to their homes. It was a lifeline. “Some people got emotional when we were giving them the food,” recalls LPS Procurement Operations Manager Debbie Harvey. “They were like, ‘We never asked for food before, but we really need it.’”

Though that program is over, during academic year 2021-2022, LPS will provide free lunch to all in-school students through a nationwide program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The importance of this assistance for children’s growth and education can’t be overstated. “A child who goes without nutrition in their system for twelve or more hours—it does terrible things to their ability to focus and learn and synthesize information,” says David Coelho, LPS’s Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations.

POKING HOLES   As Eliza delved into her project, her cookbook kept improving. “My teacher is really into poking holes,” Eliza says. “That’s what she calls it. It’s really making your brain think deeper. If it weren’t for her poking holes, I definitely wouldn’t have this final product.”

That final product, in addition to recipes, has some nifty features: a Google map identifying food deserts and convenience stores in Malden, Waltham, and Woburn; a shopping list and week’s meal plan; and tables comparing the nutritional value and cost of each recipe to a McDonald’s meal. “I didn’t realize that McDonald’s is actually pretty expensive compared to the recipes that I created,” Eliza says. She adapted many of her recipes from those provided on the Campbell’s Soup website, and she kitchen-tested each one herself.

Of course, part of the fun of project-based learning is seeing what your classmates come up with. Some students developed a prototype for a biodegradable six-pack soda ring. Others assembled a website dedicated to a meatless diet. Still others created podcast episodes addressing food inequality, access, and waste. “The kids were fully engaged,” Ms. Fogelstrom says. “I heard them say over and over again, ‘I didn’t know about any of this! We have to do something about it!’”

Lexington resident Rachel Mott-Keis has shared Keek’s Cookbook with the nutritionists at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, where she is a family physician. “Most of my patients who are struggling financially are working one and even two jobs, and they still can’t make ends meet. It’s an unfortunate testament to our current economy and how wealth is distributed,” she says. “Everyone’s health is improved when the health of the community as a whole is better.”

And as Eliza shows us, there’s so much we can do if we’d only give it some thought.

Food Insecurity in Lexington—Ways to Give and Get Help

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Immigration in Lexington


We have all heard the saying that America is a nation of immigrants. Almost all Americans today either immigrated themselves or are descended from immigrants, whether from England in the colonial era, other parts of Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, or Latin America and Asia in more recent times. This trend shows no sign of stopping, and, on a national, state, and local level has made us a more economically dynamic and culturally rich society.

According to the American Immigration Council, one in six Massachusetts residents is an immigrant, while one in seven residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. Here in Lexington, immigration trends have changed over the centuries. With each new settlement, the look of Lexington has also changed. From Irish workers in the 19th century to the more recent addition of Asian professionals, immigration has made our town that much richer and more diverse.  And it will continue to evolve and develop in fascinating ways.

Irish immigration 

Above: Situated at the corner of Burlington and Hancock Streets, the 200-acre Kinneen farm spanned the area from Grove Street to where Diamond Middle School now stands and included what is now Kinneen Park. Photo from the Lexington Historical Society Archives.

By 1850, the Irish were the largest ethnic group in Boston. A significant number of Irish immigrants found work in Lexington, maintaining the railroad, working on farms, or as maids – especially at local hotels. It was only natural that those who farmed in the old country would migrate to farming communities such as Lexington.

By 1865, the number of Lexington citizens born in Ireland had grown to 353. The flood of Catholic Irish into town brought about the founding of the first Catholic church in 1875. In the Centennial of St. Brigid’s Parish, Robert Wright (p. 9) stated that “the foundation of the infant church and later the large super structure would thusly be paid in large part by the maids and the gardeners and the farmers out of the meager earnings they gathered in the great houses of the town.” Of the 266 families surveyed in the 1885 Lexington census, 61 had a head of household born in Ireland.

Most of the Irish lived across the railroad tracks by the streets now known as Woburn, Vine, and Cottage. Integration with the long-term Lexington citizens was slow. Some Irishmen found it difficult to purchase land, but eventually they succeeded.

By 1870, approximately 12 Irish residents had managed to purchase their own farms in Lexington. Situated at the corner of Burlington and Hancock Streets, the 200-acre Kinneen farm spanned the area from Grove Street to where Diamond Middle School now stands and included what is now Kinneen Park. The Maguire family purchased the Katahdin Woods property in 1864; they owned the eastern length of Wood Street by the turn of the century. James Alexander Wilson, who immigrated in 1877 to work on his uncle’s farm, bought a farm along Pleasant Street in 1903. We know that farm today as Wilson Farms.

Lexington became well known for its dairy and animal breeding. In 1875, only Worcester produced more milk and grazed more cows than Lexington.

The Next 100 Years

According to the 1885 State Census, the proportion of residents who were first or second-generation immigrants was 45 percent. By the end of the century, Lexington was becoming more of a town as the farmland turned into house lots.

In the 1950s and 1960s, after Route 128 was opened, entire neighborhoods were created such as Turning Mill and Peacock Farm.  The fields of celery, corn, and tomatoes were cleared, and affordable houses aimed at young middle-class families were built. Lexington was now  accessible to young families desiring to live in the green-grassed suburbs but commute to work along 128 or in Boston.  Many of the men worked at nearby universities and research institutions. Their wives cared for the children, ran the household, and volunteered in the community.

The exodus  from the older neighborhoods in Greater Boston to the suburbs created new Jewish communities in many towns, including Lexington. Many Jewish scientists, business people, and entrepreneurs found careers in Route 128 industrial parks west of Boston. The welcoming and caring spirit of the town is evident in that three Lexington churches—Methodist, First Parish, and Hancock—generously offered worship space to the Jewish congregation. Temple Isaiah, with 71 families, was on its way.  In May of 1963, the first Annual Meeting was held in the new building; on September 13-15, 160 member families celebrated  the official Dedication Weekend for the new building.

Between 1979 and 1990, Lexington residents came together through the Lexington Ecumenical Resettlement Coalition to help 16 Cambodian families fleeing the horrors of genocide in their country and assist them in resettling here in Lexington. Within this supportive network, the Cambodian families adjusted to the United States and had the opportunity to create a community for themselves.

From the early 20th century, waves of Armenians arrived In the United States for political reasons and economic opportunities. In 1982, Armenian Sisters’ Academy at 20 Pelham Rd. opened, and Armenian families moved to Lexington to offer their children an Armenian/American education. The now-defunct Armenian Sisters’ Academy was a comprehensive Armenian elementary and middle school committed to educating the whole person.

Today, Lexington has continued its tradition of being a warm, welcoming community by forming a coalition of concerned citizens from the town and surrounding communities, calling itself the Lexington Refugee Assistance Program or “LexRAP.” LexRAP is a Lexington-based non-profit organization helping refugees to settle in the United States and to become productive and well-adjusted members of the community. This assistance includes a support network for housing, food, clothing, transportation, health care, education (especially learning English), employment, legal aid, and socialization. Beneficiaries of this assistance must have received (or be legally seeking) permission to live in the U.S., either temporarily or permanently.

Asian Immigration

In 1940, Lexington residents included only five people from a race other than Black or White in its population of 13,187. The 1970 census shows Asians composed  2% of the population, but in those days, the categories listed under ‘Asian’ were only ‘Chinese’ and ‘Other Asian.’

The family photo above is of Jinling Liao and her family who immigrated from China.

The loosening emigration restrictions under Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China, in the late 1980s and the end of the Soviet state in 1991 stimulated more foreign-born scientists and researchers to immigrate. Although Chinese immigration to the United States dates back to the 19th century, the Chinese immigrant population multiplied during the 1990s and 2000s. According to the Migration Policy Institute, today, there are almost as many native-born U.S. citizens who claim Chinese ancestry as there are Chinese immigrants.

The Chinese moved to Lexington because of its good schools, welcoming diversity, and proximity to Boston and Route 128.  My friend Jinling says, “Living in  Lexington  made us feel we have been truly living in our American Dream:… having the opportunity to become whatever we want to be as long as we are willing to work hard;  being  able to get  our children the best education  we can have in the world; being accepted by a lot of  friends who are well educated, open-minded and warm-hearted intellectuals in this diversified community .”

According to the Pew Research Center, “the Indian population in the United States has doubled since 2000. Many are engineers, doctors, and scientists. Indians are highly educated (72%) with bachelor’s degrees or above compared to other U.S. Asians (51%) and the general U.S. population (30%).”

Today, according to a recent Boston Globe article (6/7/2021), Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in Greater Boston, “surging 207 percent from 1990 to 2019 compared with 166 percent for Latino people and 52 percent for Black people.  Disparities within the Asian American community are enormous, often reflecting the wide range of immigration paths from refugees to employment-based visas.”

In 1990, Lexington’s Asian population was about  6.5%. Like many others, they are skilled professionals wanting to settle down and attracted to Lexington because of its professional and academic residents and commitment to good schools. Many Asians are engaged in town government and participate on its many boards or committees.

The U.S. Census (July 1, 2019) estimates that the town’s population was 33,132, the racial makeup of the community was 63.8% White, 30.1% Asian 1.3% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 3.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino were 2.1% of the population. Although Lexington may not precisely reflect immigration trends nationwide, our town has nonetheless benefited immeasurably through the centuries from the influx of people from other countries. Our culture is enriched, ideas exchanged, and minds expanded. Who knows what Lexington will look like in another 100 years?

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All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

By Mark D. Sandeen

Q: How are climate and infrastructure linked?
A: When we invest in infrastructure like airports, roads, buildings, and power plants, we are making investments we hope will last for 50 years or more. But almost every week we hear about major infrastructure failures caused by climate change. Extended power outages, massive flooding, buckling roads, aircraft grounded, all caused by unprecedented temperatures, drought, and extreme storms.
Infrastructure designed to work in yesterday’s climate, just doesn’t cut it in today’s climate, to say nothing of tomorrow’s climate. Roads in the Pacific Northwest buckled in the 116°F heat, fully 10 degrees hotter than the previous hottest day on record. Steetcars shut down when power cables sagged and melted and thousands lost power when they needed it most. 70% of our power plants are dependent on cooling water to operate. Those plants reduce power or shut down when the cooling water gets too hot or is no longer available due to drought conditions. Climate change is both increasing demand for power while simultaneously damaging the grid’s ability to deliver that power.
Solar and wind power are not dependent on cooling water to produce power. Local renewable energy systems combined with batteries provide resilience when the grid is stressed. In a rapidly changing world, we need to design for the future.

Q: What does that mean for us here in Lexington?
A: While Canada was getting heat wave headlines, we were having our own unprecedented heat wave right here in Lexington. We sweated through temperatures of 95 to 96°F for 3 days in June that felt like 104 to 112°F according to the National Weather Service’s heat index. If we were living in a stable climate, the odds of Lexington having 3 days over 95°F in June would have been 1 in 5 million.

Lexington had 8 days in May and June over 90°F. The Town canceled school because our older school buildings could not provide enough outside air ventilation to keep students healthy at temperature and humidity levels that used to happen only in July and August. On the other hand, our newest school buildings were designed to operate effectively in a climate more like Baltimore than Boston. And those schools were designed to produce 100% of their own power from solar and operate with battery backup in case of outages. Surprisingly our new schools built to these standards have lower total life cycle costs than conventional designs.

Q: What other infrastructure decisions can have a major impact on climate?
A: Parking. Yes, parking has a big impact not only on climate, but on many other issues we care deeply about in Lexington, such as affordable housing, traffic, health, justice, and economic development. Roughly 52% of the buildable commercial land on Hartwell Avenue is dedicated to parking.
Our laws establish separated zones for housing, working, and shopping. Those laws then require developers to provide enough parking spots to enable travel between those zones in single-occupancy vehicles.

There are four parking spots for every car in America. And much of that land sits empty much of the time. This is a waste of valuable real estate that could be used for housing or lab space. It is also a massive subsidy for the automotive and oil industries. We all pay for this subsidy in higher housing costs, office rents and increased traffic, noise, and air pollution that affects our health and quality of life.

If you can drive to work and park for free a couple of yards from the front door, that certainly makes driving a car seem like the obvious choice. But if car owners began paying the true cost of parking, they’d be much more likely to choose public transportation, (e)biking, or walking.

It’s a virtuous circle. Fewer parking spots mean more people taking public transportation, which justifies increased frequency of service, which means more people taking public transportation, which means less traffic, less air pollution, less noise, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The Town earns new commercial tax revenue, which lowers our residential taxes, all from changing the status quo on free parking.

It’s also a virtuous circle when it comes to affordable housing. Reducing parking requirements from 1.5 to 1 spot per apartment, lowers housing costs while increasing the number of affordable apartments by up to 50%. If you’d like to learn more, I’d highly recommend reading “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup.

Instead of staying parked in the past, let’s ride into the future!

Send your sustainability questions to questions@sustainablelexington.org.

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