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Needham

Needham 35th in property taxes

Posted February 27, 2009 09:31 AM

Needham’s average property tax on a single-family home is nearly $7,000 -- $6,907 for 2009, according to the state Department of Revenue.

That ranks it 35th in the state.

This week's Your Town chart of average property taxes on single-family homes shows that the highest average taxes are paid for in a cluster MetroWest communities -- Weston, at $15,293, followed by Sherborn, Dover, Concord, and Carlisle.

The state median is $3,573.

Needham digs out

Posted December 22, 2008 10:48 AM

By Erica Noonan, Globe Staff

Needham public works director Rick Merson said Monday that was still computing the cost of cleaning up this weekend's storms, after three days of round-the clock work and upwards of 70 public and privately-contracted snowplows to keep the town's 124 miles of roads clear.

Despite the exhausting schedule, the cleanup went well, he said, with few complications, he said.

A tree brought down a main power line on Greendale Avenue, near Rte. 128, overnight -- knocking out power for one-third of Needham's residents for a few hours early Monday morning -- but the damage is now repaired, Merson said.

The weekend storms, which dumped between 14 and 16 inches of snow on Needham and nearby suburbs, was a particular challenge "because it just wouldn't stop coming," Merson said. "Usually you have a little break, to plan and strategize your cleanup. This one wouldn't let up."

The work was intensified by considerable weekend car traffic, he said, with many drivers braving the roads to do last-minute holiday shopping, he said.

The town's salt and sand stores now need replenishing after three days of constant use, but Merson said the re-orders are in, and he forsees no problems getting more supplies before the next snowfall.

Last year, the town spent upwards of $600,000 on snow removal, much of it coping with record-setting snowfalls unusually early in the season.

This year is getting off to a later start in terms of heavy snow, so it's difficult to say how much the town will spend for the 2008-09 winter, he said. There is only about $200,000 currently budgeted for plowing, but that's "well under" what the town will almost certainly need, Merson said.

Needham Menorah lighting set for Dec. 23

Posted December 22, 2008 07:49 AM

The Needham based Chabad Jewish Center will celebrate the Festival of Lights at the annual public Menorah lighting ceremony at Needham town common on Tuesday at 5:30 pm.

According to a release, "This year will feature a unique menorah which will be filled with toys. In solidarity with Moshe Holtzberg - the two year old son of Rabbi Gabi and Rivkie Holtzberg who were brutally murdered in their Chabad House in Mumbai, India - the toys will be distributed to children who have lost their parents or suffered from a terrorist attack.''

The press release continued:

“Moshe, and kids like him must know that we are deeply concerned for their welfare” said Mrs. Chanie Krinsky, program director at the center. “I would love to see another smile on little Moshe’le’s face” she said.

Chanukah propagates the universal message that ultimately good will prevail over evil, freedom over oppression and light over darkness. “This is a message that is vital especially in wake of the horrific attacks on the peace-loving people of India.” said Rabbi Mendel Krinsky, director of the center. “Our unique Menorah will put the lessons of Chanukah into practice by sharing the joy of Chanukah with those who are less fortunate.” he said.

Following the kindling, the program will feature live music, dancing, donuts, hot chocolate, and a raffle. As in previous years, a Menorah will be displayed inside the town hall during all eight days of the holiday.

For many, Chanukah brings back fond memories of childhood years and serves to renew a sense of Jewish identity. The Chanukah lights provide us with warmth, joy, strength and inspiration. Such is the purpose of a community-wide celebration to be held at the Needham Town Common.

In its Chanukah outreach campaign, the Chabad Jewish Center joins thousands of Chabad Lubavitch centers across the globe, which are staging similar public displays of the Menorah and its symbolic lights. From Australia to Africa, Columbia to Hong Kong, New York City to the White House lawn, hundreds of thousands will experience the joy of Chanukah with Chabad Lubavitch.

Needham the latest to crack down on student drinking

Posted November 7, 2008 04:22 PM

Needham High School students have been holding house parties involving alcohol, according to Paul Richards, the school’s principal, who sent an email reminder to parents Friday morning that student athletes can be suspended from play for 25 percent of their season if they are caught drinking.

“It’s got us gravely concerned,” he said in a phone interview.

Although he said he knew of only two house parties since school started, such gatherings, usually with alcohol served, are regular occurrences in area communities.

“I think most principals would say that house parties on the weekend are fairly regular in their towns,” said Richards. “It’s the social scene.”

Thanks to cell phones, small gatherings often mushroom into large parties as friends find out a classmate’s parents aren’t home, he said.

The email to Needham parents was not in response to recent Newton car accidents involving students who, according to Newton police, had either been drinking or were coming from house parties. Richards said he had not heard about those incidents.

“The principals in the area have talked a lot about drinking,” said Richards. “This fall for whatever reason it started when Lincoln-Sudbury and some other schools took a hard approach toward their Friday night football games.”

He was referring to the first football game of the season at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in September, when one student was hospitalized and several were cited by police or suspended for drinking.

Richards said a student can be suspended for drinking on school property, but with house parties, there is very little the school can do – unless the student is an athlete. Then, a student can lose 25 percent of their season for a first offense, said Richards, even without an arrest. A verbal report from a police officer that a student was drinking is enough for an athletic suspension, he said.

“We have tried as a school to become more proactive and more aware of what’s going on,” said Richards.

-- By Lisa Kocian

Below is the text of the email that Richards sent to parents this morning.

Dear Parents,

We continue to hear reports during these first two months of school that the Needham police are responding to house parties that involve a large number of Needham High students. Typically, large quantities of alcohol are found on the premises and it is evident that many of the students have been drinking. For those who stayed on the premises, students have been turned over to their parents. Others have been charged.

In some of these cases, a small gathering appeared to quickly get out of hand. At times, we have received telephone reports from neighbors that some of our students were at parties and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, and were driving as well.

If student-athletes are cited by the police at a weekend party, there is a school sanction through the MIAA which we administer (loss of 25% of the season for first offenses). More importantly, we do not condone this sort of behavior for safety reasons and spend considerable time working with students to help them make good decisions during adolescence. Since many of the students routinely discuss the party scenes at school, there is an excellent opportunity for you to have a conversation at home about your own expectations of them and your concerns for their personal safety. It also serves as a reminder that students may face serious legal consequences in addition to possible suspension from school and after school activities when they consume alcohol illegally.

Deb Engler, Needham's Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coordinator, included the following "keys to prevention" in last year's Student-Parent Directory:
1. Be clear about your expectations.
2. Take a firm stand against the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
3. Teach resistance skills.
4. Reach out to other parents.
5. Provide help.
6. Be proactive.

Thank you for your continued collaboration and support as we try to address this very important issue facing our students.

Paul Richards
Principal, Needham High School

Tank near Needham elementary school is breached

Posted October 10, 2008 05:06 PM

Needham parents, already concerned about air quality at their local elementary school, learned Friday an underground fuel tank at the school may have a breach.

The breach is at the Newman School, which opened three days later than other Needham schools this year because of air quality problems. Its heating and ventilation system was revamped after some staff members reported allergy-based health problems.

According to an e-mail to parents today from Superintendent Dan Gutekanst, school officials discovered the leaky tank problem Thursday.

The potential breach in the double-walled tank, which is located near the school’s loading dock and supplies heat to the building, was discovered by engineers testing soil around the tank as part of a study about the school, Gutekanst said in the e-mail.

The engineers notified the town’s public works and public facilities department who drained all the oil from the tank and are in the process of installing a temporary tank while the underground system is inspected.

“The work that is being done will not interfere with the safe and healthy operation of the school and will largely go unnoticed,” Gutekanst wrote.

The town is working with the stated Department of Environmental Protection and following all their guidelines, Gutekanst wrote.

The Newman School, located on Central Avenue, hosts students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Here is the email in full:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dear Newman Families:

Yesterday afternoon we learned that the underground oil storage tank located near the loading dock that supplies fuel for Newman's heating system may have an inner wall breach in its double wall design. The engineers who have been studying Newman as part of their work for the Permanent Public Building Committee (PPBC) have been testing the soil around the underground tank and reported their concern to the town's Department of Public Works (DPW) and Department of Public Facilities ((DPF). As a precaution, the DPW has removed all the oil from the tank and is in the process of installing a temporary oil tank while the underground system is inspected to determine further steps. The DPW is working with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and following their protocols and guidelines for such a project. Rick Merson, Director of the DPW and Chip Laffey, Director of DPF are coordinating this work.

The work that is being done will not interfere with the safe and healthy operation of the school and will largely go unnoticed. Barbara Collins and I thought it would be prudent to alert parents about this work now in progress. Barbara will also provide updates about the work as appropriate. Once again, I am reminded of the swift and proactive way in which the town has responded and have full confidence the DPW will tackle this quickly and efficiently.

Thanks for your ongoing support and good spirit! Enjoy the Columbus Day weekend with your families.

Sincerely,

Dan Gutekanst
Superintendent of Schools


- Brian Benson

Needham wants a senior center

Posted October 4, 2008 12:42 PM

After much number crunching, Needham officials believe the town can afford a new, larger senior center, without an override, and selectmen are setting up an exploratory committee to figure out how to make it happen.

Among neigbboring towns, Randolph and Milton have free-standing senior facilities, Canton shares share space in senior housing facilities and Walpole's Senior Center is attached to the town's municipal building, officials said. Dedham voters this summer rejected a tax hike for a senior center, but some residents still want one.

Needham wants to join the crowd. “I think a senior center is a must have for a community,” said Selectman John Bulian.

The existing center in Needham, considered too small at 6,000 square feet, is located in the basement of the Stephen Palmer building on Pickering Street.

For more than a decade some townspeople and officials have looked for alternatives to the crowded space, which has also had flooding problems. But there has never been a consensus on the right location, and other municipal needs -- like emergency repairs to the Newman School's failing heat and ventilation system -- have overshadowed plans for a new senior center.

Recommending a location will be one of the top priorities of the new committee.
Bulian said he sees two possible sites worth exploring: Ridge Hill, which was previously proposed, and Green’s Field in downtown.

Green’s Field is a 4.5-acre, town-owned, parcel between Great Plain Avenue and May Street. The field is used for Little League and soccer. Bulian said the area where a play structure now stands could be used for the senior center. The play structure is in bad shape and needs to come down anyway, he said, and could be replaced with something new elsewhere.

The Senior Center Exploratory Committee will likely be established this month, according to Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, and a project could go before Town Meeting in about a year.

-- Lisa Kocian

Needham launches sick building study of troubled elementary school

Posted July 14, 2008 08:52 AM

Needham officials have launched an environmental study of the Newman School, part of which was shut down this year because of indoor air quality issues.

The town has hired the architecture firm of Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc. to conduct the study, and in particular to review the condition of the heating and cooling system. At least five classrooms at the school have been temporarily closed after teacher and students complained of feeling ill this spring.

The study will include an assessment of the options for replacing the system as well as an investigation into what caused the problems, said Steven Popper, director of construction and renovation for the town.

The study, which is already underway, should be completed by mid October, Popper said.

-- Laura Colarusso

Calling a technology timeout

Posted March 10, 2008 07:56 AM

NEEDHAM

With cellphones strapped to their hips and the Internet in their pocket, they hustle down suburban streets, always racing off to somewhere. One child's swim lessons, another's choir practice. There's Hebrew school to attend, and science projects to finish, and, finally, from many suburban families, there is screaming.

People want to be unplugged, be unscheduled.

And so, in recent years, town officials have started giving people that opportunity, writes Keith O'Brien, a roving reporter for the Globe's regional editions. Month-long calendars have been created in Needham, Newton, Belmont, and Bedford suggesting daily activities that don't include watching television or instant-messaging. Nights have been set aside in these towns - as well as in Northborough and Southborough - where meetings and school homework are forbidden, freeing families up to spend a quiet evening together. And in Needham - where the local "unplugged" or "unscheduled" movement began - a few brave souls decided to do something radical last Friday.

No e-mail. All day.

"When you combine the number of hours devoted to television and being online, it could be up to 10 hours a day or more," said Jon Mattleman, director of the Needham Youth Commission, who planned "Needham Unplugged." "So I really want people to think about it. If you're doing anything for 10 hours a day, what does that mean for your life?"

Read more about the family time vs. technology time debate in the online edition of today's Globe.

Researchers studying the impact of technology on our lives say it's a valid question, given the ways that digital gadgetry divide us as well as connect us. But in a world gone wired, calls for technological temperance often fall on unwilling ears - even when people say they want to go unplugged. And carving out family time for board games on the living room floor?

Read more about

Town meeting funding puts park improvements on track

Posted March 4, 2008 07:30 AM

NEEDHAM

The Town Meeting has approved spending $1.5 million to upgrade the facilities at Memorial and DeFazio parks.

The money will pay for moving the track facility from Memorial to DeFazio and upgrading it from six to eight lanes, said Patricia Carey, director of the Needham Park and Recreation Commission. Construction on the new track will begin in July.

The money is part of a larger $7 million project that is expected to include improved drainage and synthetic turf on fields at the two parks. Private donations are covering the additional $5.5 million, officials said.

-- Laura Colarusso

Needham to offer juggling lessons

Posted February 9, 2008 07:13 AM

NEEDHAM

Town officials are hosting a seminar for stay-at-home parents of children in kindergarten through third grade to help them juggle their roles as "parent, partner, chauffeur, and master scheduler."

Needham Youth Commission Director Jon Mattleman said that the seminar, which will explore issues like how adults can take care of their own needs while still being a good parent and partner, will take place over four sessions starting Mar. 11. The sessions will run from from 9 to 10:30 am.

The clinic will be free and -- this is the best best part-- include on-site child care.

--

This is a test, this is only a test ...

Posted January 31, 2008 07:06 AM

NEEDHAM

Town officials will be testing Needham's new telephone-based reverse 911 system on Saturday. The test will begin at around 10 a.m. and is expected to last for less than one hour.

Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick and Fire Chief Paul Buckley are asking residents who do not receive an automated call from the system by 11 a.m. to contact the Emergency Management office at 781-455-7565 or the Fire Department Dispatch Center at 781-444-0142.

-- Laura Colarusso

Meeting will help decide future of two parks

Posted January 11, 2008 08:30 AM

NEEDHAM

The Board of Selectmen has voted to hold a special Town Meeting on March 3 that will likely determine the best way to renovate DeFazio and Memorial parks.

The town will decide whether to pay roughly $1.5 million to move the existing running track from Memorial Park to DeFazio and to upgrade it from six to eight lanes.

Other articles on the warrant could include amending the 2008 operating budget and amending the general by-laws of the town. The meeting will be held at the Newman School.

-- Laura Colarusso

Wing night on tap in Needham

Posted January 2, 2008 07:41 AM

NEEDHAM

Town officials are planning on open meeting next Thursday night to discuss with residents the demolition of the Webster Street wing of Needham High School.

The Webster wing is expected to be vacated on Jan. 27 and the demolition is slated for mid to late February. The meeting will also cover traffic and parking concerns on the streets around the high school.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

-- Laura Colarusso

Special Needham meeting could decide if park renovations are on track

Posted December 31, 2007 07:20 AM

memorialpark.JPG
The view from Memorial Park.
(Globe staff photo by David Kamerman)

NEEDHAM

The Board of Selectmen is considering calling a special town meeting to decide the fate of renovation plans for DeFazio and Memorial parks.

Board chairman Gerald Wasserman said the most difficult issue is whether the town will agree to pay roughly $1.5 million to move the running track at Memorial to DeFazio Park and to upgrade it from six lanes to eight.

The board has not yet decided when it will vote on whether to hold the special Town Meeting, which would probably take place sometime in March, officials said.

-- Laura Colarusso

Brimming rainy day fund makes for sunny financial picture in Needham

Posted December 11, 2007 07:45 AM

NEEDHAM

An independent audit of the town's finances for fiscal 2007 has found that Needham is financially "stable," David Davison, assistant town manager and director of finances, said recently.

Needham is able to collect its bills on time and had a sizeable rainy day fund balance of approximately $7.7 million as of June 30, the end of the 2007 fiscal year, according to Melanson Heath & Company, the firm that performed the audit.

That balance, which accounts for eight percent of the town's overall expenditures from last year and is an important statistic for credit rating agencies, is up from $6 million in fiscal 2006, officials said.

-- Laura Colarusso

Needham becomes the latest community to suspend ties with the ADL's No Place for Hate program

Posted December 7, 2007 11:10 AM

adl.jpg

NEEDHAM

The Needham Board of Selectmen has voted to suspend ties with the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate program.

The town's Human Rights Committee recommended distancing Needham from the anti-bias program, which promotes tolerance and diversity, because the ADL has waffled on its recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The board of selectmen voted Tuesday to act on the committee's recommendation.

Under national pressure from Armenian-Americans and human rights advocates, the ADL recently acknowledged that the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenians are "tantamount to genocide," but declined to further refine that stance. The committee had requested that the ADL unequivocally recognize the massacres that took place between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide.

Four selectmen voted to suspend ties. One selectman, James Healy, abstained from the vote because he did not feel the board should take up the issue.

-- Laura Colarusso

Local merchant mourned after hit and run death

Posted November 30, 2007 09:39 AM

hitandrun.jpg
Jane Goodman during her arraignment yesterday in the death of a pedestrian. (Image courtesy of WBZ-TV)

NEEDHAM

For shoppers and retailers on a small commercial strip along Route 135 here, Michael Dorfman, 67, was the kindly clerk who patiently measured children's feet and gave them a lollipop as they left Michelson's Shoes.

Authorities say Dorfman was in a crosswalk when he was fatally struck by a Saab driven by Jane Goodman, 72, of Dedham around 6 p.m. Wednesday, staff writer John C. Drake reports in today's City & Region section. He had just left work and was steps away from his Mazda sedan, which was still parked near the intersection yesterday afternoon.

Goodman was arrested in Wellesley after witnesses provided a description of the car. She pleaded not guilty in Dedham District Court yesterday to charges of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, leaving the scene of an incident causing personal injury and death, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. She was released on $20,000 bail, and her license was revoked.

Michael Dorfman's widow, Elinor, said there was no excuse for the driver not to stop after striking her husband, who also leaves two adult daughters and two grandchildren.

Read more about the tragedy in the online edition of today's City & Region section.

Two cents worth of a multi-million-dollar renovation

Posted November 27, 2007 08:33 AM

needhamtownhall.JPG
(Globe file photo)

NEEDHAM

Needham officials are asking for residents to give their input on what Town Hall should look like after a planned renovation project.

The Board of Selectmen and the Permanent Public Building Committee will hold a public hearing on Dec. 10 to see what Needhamites would like to change about the building. The meeting will take place at 8 p.m. in the Needham Public Library.

The building was constructed in 1902. The goal of the project, which is in the design phase, is to preserve the history of the building while modernizing it for the town employees who work there.

-- Laura Colarusso

5 out of 5 dentists in Needham getting their fluoride again

Posted November 14, 2007 10:00 AM

NEEDHAM

Needham began adding fluoride to its water supply again last week after a period of several weeks when the town could not get any of the chemical through its supplier, officials said.

The town had not expected not to receive any fluoride until January 2008, water treatment manager William Wanberg said, but officials were able to purchase an emergency 800-gallon supply of the substance from another chemical company.

-- Laura Colarusso

Hurry up and wait

Posted November 9, 2007 06:51 AM

NEEDHAM

Faced with a decision this week whether to fund a $500,000 project to design a new senior center at Ridge Hill, the Needham Board of Selectmen punted.

The board voted earlier this week to refer the issue for further study. The money would have been used to develop a construction plan and to develop a project cost estimated to be presented to the 2008 Annual Town Meeting.

-- Laura Colarusso

Three-and-a-half hours that turned a town inside-out

Posted November 8, 2007 02:11 PM

needham.JPG
Hillel Neuer, a visiting civil rights official from Geneva, walks out of Stone Hearth Pizza at gunpoint after jittery employees called police and reported his behavior as suspicious.
(Globe staff photo by Yoon S. Byun)

NEEDHAM

A murder is always a traumatic event for a quiet suburban town like Needham, but technology transformed Friday's tragic killing of a 78-year-old homeowner into a townwide convulsion, during which both the advantages and pitfalls of instant communication were on display.

With a suspected murderer on the loose, an entire town full of children and innocent civilians was alerted, locked down, and finally reassured, all with remarkable speed, staff writers Ralph Ranalli and Lisa Kocian report in today's Globe West

At the same time, holes in the system were exposed, mistakes were made, and the heightened state of alert resulted in a televised armed standoff in the middle of Needham Center that turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Read more about 3 1/2 hours that turned a peaceful suburb inside out.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Human rights worker was "traumatized" by mistaken-identity arrest, lawyer says

Posted November 5, 2007 08:07 PM

neuer.JPG
Hillel Neuer leaves the Stone Hearth Pizza restaurant in Needham Center and is taken into custody by heavily-armed police.
(Globe staff photo by Yoon S. Byun)

NEEDHAM

The executive director of a Geneva-based human rights group was "victimized" and "traumatized" by his arrest after a tense standoff with armed police, his lawyer said this morning.

Employees of Stone Hearth Pizza in Needham Square reported that a jittery man who might have been armed entered the restaurant. Manager Maria Paranagua said the man kept checking the front of the building and changed his clothes in the bathroom. After receiving cellular telephone calls from off-duty employees that a murderer was on the loose, employees called 911, Paranagua said.

That report led town and State Police to essentially shut down the town center and deploy SWAT teams to rooftops.

About 20 minutes later, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, walked out of the restaurant. Police arrested him at gunpoint and charged him with disorderly conduct. UN Watch is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations. Neuer was in Boston to deliver a speech, according to his attorney, David G. Eisenstadt.

Norfolk District Court Clerk Magistrate Salvatore Paterna dismissed the charges against Neuer, saying he reviewed police reports and found no probable cause to go forward. Officials confirmed that Neuer was not armed when he was in the restaurant.

After charges were dropped, Eisenstadt read a statement to reporters that said Neuer had been traumatized by the incident and that his reputation had been tarnished.

-- Ralph Ranalli and John Ellement

Norwood man arraigned in Needham baseball bat murder

Posted November 5, 2007 12:48 PM

dunn.JPG
Murder suspect William G. Dunn of Norwood
(Photo by Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

NEEDHAM

Prosecutors alleged that today in court that a baseball bat was the weapon used in an attack Friday in a Needham basement that killed a 78-year-old man and sent his daughter-in-law to the hospital with severe head trauma.

Dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit, William B. Dunn, 41, kept his head bowed during his brief arraignment in Dedham District Court, staff writer John Ellement reports on the Globe's Local News Updates blog. Norfolk assistant district attorney Michele Armour told the court that Dunn had been installing a lawn sprinkler system at the home of Robert J. Moore Sr. when there was a confrontation.

Dunn grabbed a baseball bat, Armour said, and beat Moore and his daughter-in-law, Nancy Moore. Armour did not say what sparked the alleged attack.

Dunn pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, armed assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was ordered held without bail, and is scheduled to return to court on Dec. 13.

Dunn's attorney, Robert Griffin, spoke briefly with reporters outside court and rebuffed questions about an insanity defense, saying only, "I'm not ruling anything out."

The Globe reported Sunday that Dunn was voluntarily committed to the psychiatric ward of Norwood Caritas Carney Hospital in August after making paranoid statements to his wife, according to a missing person report his wife filed with Norwood police.

Griffin said today that to his knowledge Dunn did not have a prior history of violence. He added that his client's family was devastated.

Why wait til next year?

Posted October 30, 2007 10:34 AM

ellsbury.JPG
It's not too early to start thinking about catching rising Red Sox stars like Jacoby Ellsbury during the 2008 baseball season.
(Globe staff photo by Jim Davis)

NEEDHAM

Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Needham is hosting its ninth annual fundraising gala on Friday night, and among the prizes at a live auction will be 2008 Red Sox tickets and a tour of Fenway Park.

The event, which will take place at the Newton Marriott at 2345 Commonwealth Avenue, is open to the public with tickets available for $150 per person. Anyone seeking more information is urged to call 617-754-0779.

-- Laura Colarusso

From the vastness of space to the streets of Needham

Posted October 9, 2007 10:03 AM

NEEDHAM

Needham residents and officials will honor astronaut Sunita Williams Oct. 27 with a parade.

The celebration will include the Needham High School Marching Band, the Pollard Treble Choir, the Highland Glee Club, Needham Girl and Boy Scout troops, as well as the Fire and Police Departments' honor guards.

Williams will lead the parade, which will start at the Fire Station on Chestnut Street and end at Town Hall. State Senator Scott Brown and State Representative Lida Harkins are both expected to attend.

-- Laura Colarusso

State to begin school project studies early

Posted October 4, 2007 09:51 AM

REGION

The state will begin feasibility studies for local school projects about a month earlier than anticipated, potentially allowing some projects to be ready for Town Meeting votes next spring, staff writer James Vaznis of the reports in the Globe's City & Region Section today.

On Nov. 2, the state School Building Authority will decide which school districts' proposed projects to study first. Other districts will be selected on a rolling basis after that.

Being selected for a feasibility study doesn't automatically guarantee construction funding, but it is a prerequisite. More than a dozen school districts west of Boston are among 161 districts statewide competing for about $500 million in construction funds this year, the first time in four years the state is doling out school construction money.

In choosing which feasibility studies to pursue first, the state has been dispatching inspection teams to analyze building conditions and enrollment trends, visiting 90 districts so far. Those districts include Berlin-Boylston, Franklin, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Maynard, Nashoba, Natick, Needham, Norfolk, Shrewsbury, Wayland, and Wellesley.

The resulting studies, which should be completed this winter, will give the state the first glimpse of how much it could potentially cost to do all the projects. In all, 161 districts have expressed interest in 422 school projects.

Needham officials looking to renewable energy funding

Posted October 3, 2007 07:46 AM

NEEDHAM

Town officials are looking to qualify for funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state’s development agency for renewable energy, through the Clean Energy Choice program.

Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick said the town would earn matching grants from the MTC for each resident that opts to pay a premium on their energy bills to support renewable energy. The cost of the premium depends on the supplier.

If 150 Needhamites enroll in the program by April 30, 2008, the town will qualify for a 2-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system.

Needham Human Rights Committee sends strong message to ADL

Posted September 12, 2007 01:19 PM

NEEDHAM

The Needham Human Rights Committee has decided to send a strongly worded letter to the regional and national offices of the Anti-Defamation League, demanding not only the unambiguous recognition of the Armenian genocide but support for the genocide resolution in Congress.

The committee made the decision at its Sept. 5 meeting, which was attended by dozens of Needham residents, Armenian activists, and others including Mark Sedaris, the vice-president of the Watertown Town Council, Watertown councilor-at-large Marilyn Petitto Devaney, and Holocaust scholar Jack Nusan Porter.

Stay tuned to Globe West and Globe West Updates for further details.

Nordstrom clearly the big early draw

Posted September 7, 2007 11:34 AM

nordstromshoppers.JPG
Nordstrom was the big early draw
(Globe staff photo by Mark Wilson)

NATICK COLLECTION BLOG-A-THON

So far (by 11:35 a.m.) Nordstrom appears to be the big early draw for the Natick Collections.

Healthy -- but not overwhelming -- crowds are walking the main corridor of the new building and checking out stores like Juicy Couture, Coach, and LaCoste, but Nordstrom is elbow-to-elbow. The department store is also the early leader in the battle for shopping bag visibility supremacy.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Next stop: Needham?

Posted September 5, 2007 11:28 AM

greenline.JPG
(Photo by Jodi Hilton for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON/NEEDHAM

Srdjan Nedeljkovic and James O'Connell have a plan, and they want to share it. The pair of Newton residents have teamed up to discuss the benefits of extending the MBTA's green line through Newton Upper Falls into Needham.

Nedeljkovic is a physician who has written an extensive proposal touting the environmental benefits of the possibility. O'Connell works for the National Parks Service and is a historian with an interest in street railways in Newton. Both advocate that a T extension in Newton is the most economically viable way to spend MBTA transportation dollars.

The cornerstone of their plan would reactivate a long-unused spur of the Riverside D line. The tracks run parallel to Needham Street and past the Depot bakery in Newton Upper Falls. Their ideas will be aired through Sept. 30 on The Environment Show, produced by the Green Decade Coalition on NewTV's blue channel.

-- Megan Woolhouse

MBTA to seek proposals for development at Riverside Station

Posted August 20, 2007 01:22 PM

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MBTA officials believe Riverside Station is ripe for development
(Globe staff photo by Dominic Chavez)

NEWTON/WESTON/NEEDHAM

MBTA officials said they will request proposals as early as this fall from developers interested in building housing and commercial space at the Riverside T station.

Transit officials also said they have asked aldermen in Newton to solicit input from Auburndale residents who will be affected by the project and and that they will will incorporate those ideas into the design requests. Several neighborhood residents have spoken out against the project, saying the streets are already jammed with auto traffic.

The Riverside station sits on 22 acres close to the borders of Weston and Wellesley, less than a half-mile from Interstate 95 and the Massachusetts Turnpike.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Did Sunita's star shine too brightly in the East?

Posted July 16, 2007 12:42 PM

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(NASA photo)

NEEDHAM

While Needham native and astronaut Sunita Williams was big news in Globe West, she was a bona-fide megastar in India, where news that space shuttle Atlantis' heat shield was damaged prompted demonstrations and eruptions of public prayers for her safety.

But should the half-Indian Williams have been embraced so worshipfully as an Indian hero? An article by Shekhar Hattangadi in Little India (which bills itself as "the largest circulated Indian magazine in the USA) has an interesting take.

Needham restaurants pay the price for underage liquor sales

Posted July 2, 2007 11:47 AM

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NEEDHAM

Selectmen have hit two local restaurants with liquor license suspensions after they were caught serving alcohol to teenagers.

Mandarine Cuisine off Highland Avenue and The Rice Barn off Great Plain Avenue will not be allowed to serve up booze for two days in July, according to Gerald A. Wasserman, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

Teenage decoys who attend school outside Needham were sent in May to every restaurant in town with a liquor license. Local police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving collaborated to make the undercover operation happen. When the teenagers ordered beer and wine, bartenders at the Mandarine Cuisine and The Rice Barn served them without asking for identification, according to Wasserman.

Town officials have clamped down on underage drinking and drug use in a number of ways recently.

Last month, the high school revised its drug abuse policy for next year to include prescription and over-the-counter medications. Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst and Police Chief Thomas J. Leary also recently signed a “Memorandum of Understanding,” in which both departments will keep each other informed and coordinate in punishing students caught participating in illegal activities.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Williams is looking forward to pizza, beach walks

Posted June 23, 2007 06:27 AM

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Atlantis lands in California
(NASA photo)

NEEDHAM

Needham native and astronaut Sunita Williams returned to Earth yesterday, her record stay in space lengthened to 195 days because bad weather delayed and diverted the shuttle Atlantis.

Family and friends sighed with relief when the shuttle landed smoothly at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the backup landing site, Globe correspondent Claire Cummings reports.

"Until they really touch down, you're not really sure," said Williams' s sixth-grade teacher, Angela DiNapoli , who has been e-mailing her former student throughout the six months.

"I'm just glad that she's back," DiNapoli said in a telephone interview. "Deep down inside I knew she'd make it back OK. It was a beautiful landing."

Williams flew back in a reclining position so she could readapt to gravity more easily and underwent an immediate medical checkup. She will be monitored for 45 days and will be on a strict diet and exercise regimen, including swimming.

Williams, 41, was expected to stay overnight in California and return today to Houston, where her family, including her parents, Deepak and Bonnie Pandya , who live in Falmouth, await her arrival.

Williams set an endurance record for the longest space flight by a woman at 195 days. During her stay on the International Space Station, she also set the record for most time spacewalking by a woman.

She told reporters Wednesday that she looked forward to a slice of pizza and walking on the beach with her husband and dog, Gorby. But she was going to miss the space station.

"When you've been somewhere for six months, it becomes your home and it's hard to leave," Williams said.

Williams proudly displayed her Massachusetts roots during her stint on the space station. She talked often of her love of the Red Sox, and ran a version of the Boston Marathon on a special treadmill, while her sister Dina Pandya ran the race on Earth.

In May, Williams held a video conference from space with DiNapoli's students at Newman Elementary in Needham.

-- Globe City & Region section

Sunita leaves space, ends up on Left Coast

Posted June 22, 2007 04:13 PM

NEEDHAM

Space shuttle Atlantis and its seven astronauts returned to Earth safely Friday, ending a two-week mission to deliver an addition to the international space station and bring home a crew member and Needham native Sunita Williams from the outpost.

Atlantis crossed the Pacific and glided to a stop on a runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California. NASA managers had hoped to land the shuttle in Florida, but bad weather forced controllers to abandon that plan.

It was NASA's first manned flight of the year.

-- AP

Sunita may be bound for California

Posted June 22, 2007 01:44 PM

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Clouds hang over the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a second day.
(AP Photo by Chris O'Meara)

NEEDHAM

For the second day, rain prevented space shuttle Atlantis from landing at Kennedy Space Center on its first try, leaving NASA managers to decide whether to try a landing in California instead. Needham native Sunita Williams is one of the astronauts on board.

"Our mindset down here is we're going to land you somewhere safely today," Mission Control told the shuttle crew Friday morning.

The first landing attempt at California's Edwards Air Force Base, the shuttle's usual backup landing site, would be at 3:49 p.m. If the weather cleared up over Florida before then, NASA could instead try bringing the shuttle into Kennedy at 3:55 p.m.

"We're going to take a hard look at (Kennedy) at the next rev ... and we'll also be looking at Edwards," Mission Control told Atlantis' astronauts.

Despite the initial wave off, Atlantis' astronauts took two steps in preparation for landing -- they put on their orange spacesuits and closed the shuttle's payload bay doors, which are kept opened during flights to keep heat from building up.

The crew has five chances Friday to land, the first had been at 2:18 p.m. in Florida and the last at 6:59 p.m. in California. If the weather spoils all those opportunities, mission managers would try again Saturday, with another backup landing site in New Mexico in the lineup.

The preferred landing site is Kennedy, where it is easier and far cheaper to get Atlantis to its hangar to be prepared for its next mission in December. If it lands in California, it would cost $1.7 million and take up to 10 days to get the shuttle home to Florida aboard a jumbo jet.

Read more about NASA's troubles getting Atlantis home on Boston.com.

-- AP

Atlantis landing put off until tomorrow

Posted June 21, 2007 04:00 PM

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Ominous clouds fill the sky over the shuttle landing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
(NASA TV image)

NEEDHAM

Space shuttle Atlantis will stay aloft until at least tomorrow due to adverse weather conditions in Florida, delaying Needham native Sunita Williams' return after six months in space, NASA officials said.

"Thunderstorms in the vicinity of Kennedy forced flight controllers to wave off both opportunities today," an update posted on NASA's web site states. "Controllers and the Spaceflight Meteorology Group will closely monitor forecasts for Friday’s opportunities in Florida and at Edwards Air Force Base in California."

-- Ralph Ranalli

First shuttle landing pass scrubbed due to weather

Posted June 21, 2007 01:23 PM

NEEDHAM

Space shuttle Atlantis, with Needham native Sunita Williams aboard, skipped its first landing opportunity today because of showers and clouds at Kennedy Space Center.

The showers were within 34 miles, and there were clouds within 8,000 feet of the landing strip at Kennedy Space Center, both violations of flight rules, NASA said. The shuttle's next chance to land will be in about two hours, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

-- AP

Hogwartsapalooza!

Posted June 21, 2007 09:47 AM

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Even Harry himself seems a little awed by all the hooplah.
(Image courtesy of Warner Brothers via AP)

NEEDHAM

Apparently looking to head off a hype shortage in advance of the July release of the latest Harry Potter movie, the Needham Libary is hosting a free four-week Hogwartsapalooza film fest.

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" will be in theaters next month, so the library is showing each of the four previous Potter movies on successive Fridays in the Community Room.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone," the first in the series, will be shown tomorrow at 2 p.m. The showings will conclude July 13 with "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Little wizards, muggles, and their parents are urged to visit the library online for a full list of times and dates.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Needham doctor's medical license suspended after overdoses

Posted June 21, 2007 07:21 AM

NEEDHAM

State officials ordered a Needham doctor yesterday to stop practicing medicine, charging that he provided poor care to at least 30 patients, including improperly prescribing strong painkillers to some who later died of overdoses.

In three cases, patients died within several days of their appointments, during which the physician prescribed drugs such as methadone and OxyContin, Globe Heath & Science writer Liz Kowalczyk reported today.

The state Board of Registration in Medicine, which licenses physicians in Massachusetts, said Dr. Joseph Z. Zolot, 56, a specialist in nonsurgical orthopedics, "poses an immediate and serious threat to the public health, safety, or welfare," requiring immediate suspension of his license. The board ordered Zolot to surrender his wall certificate and wallet-size card.

Zolot can appeal the temporary suspension. One of his lawyers, Jeffrey Catalano, did not return a phone call to his Boston office yesterday.

A woman who identified herself as Zolot's wife, Jane , said in a telephone interview last night that her husband was not available. "He denies all the allegations and the decision of the medical board will be appealed. That's all we can say," she said.

Zolot also is under investigation by law enforcement officials. Federal and state officials armed with a search warrant raided his office May 17, seizing dozens of patient records, according to one law enforcement official.

Read more about the suspension of Zolot's license in the Globe's City & Region section.

Astronaut's father: she dreams of going to the moon

Posted June 20, 2007 05:21 PM

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams’s father, Dr. Deepak Pandya, radiated pride today after watching a news conference between the shuttle Atlantis crew and television reporters.

“[Suni] was answering the questions very nicely. She looks good,” said Pandya, of Falmouth. “She appeared to be quite happy.”

The Atlantis is scheduled to land at 1:55 p.m. tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Weather forecasts show the possibility of thunderstorms in the area. The landing could be delayed to 3:30 p.m. if the weather is bad, according to NASA.

As the hours tick toward Williams’s return, Pandya said he is focusing on the joy of the occasion rather than the dangers.

“We are God-loving people,” said Pandya. “We leave everything in the hands of God. We don’t worry.”

Pandya acknowledged that last week was a tough one. Astronauts repaired a tear in the shuttle’s thermal blanket and also dealt with a crash in the computers that operate the space station’s oxygen and navigation systems.

“At that time we had many ups and downs in our minds,” said Pandya.

Pandya and his wife, Bonnie, will wait for Williams in Houston, where NASA is headquartered. Only Williams’s husband, Michael, is allowed to meet with the astronaut immediately after her landing in Florida, said Pandya. He said he expects his daughter to arrive in Texas sometime next week. Astronauts may take at least two days to be able to walk after space travel, he said.

After Williams recovers from her six-month stay aboard the International Space Station, the astronaut is planning to travel across the United States and possibly India, said Pandya.

She has received dozens of invitations to talk with schoolchildren in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and her hometown Needham. Pandya said Williams also has received an invitation from the Red Sox to throw the first pitch at one of the team's games.

Even while she's been in space, the astronaut has spoken of embarking on more cosmic adventures, her father said.

“She has talked about going to the moon,” said Pandya.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Tense times for astronaut's family

Posted June 20, 2007 09:24 AM

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A Muslim boy prays for the safe return of astronaut Sunita Williams from space in Ahmadabad, India
(AP photo)

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams’s older sister, Dina Pandya, will breathe a sigh of relief when the shuttle Atlantis lands tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a tumultuous 12-day mission.

Pandya watched NASA TV round-the-clock last Thursday after the computer system crashed on the Russian side of the International Space Station. The computers control the craft’s oxygen and navigation systems.

“The quicker she gets home, the better,” said Pandya last week. “Everyone’s totally fine and safe. I feel confident she’ll get home safely.”

The shock of the computer meltdown came after NASA discovered that a piece of the shuttle's heat shield shortly after the June 8 launch. NASA officials have said they believe the heat shield is safe for the shuttle's reentry into the earth's atmosphere.

Williams, a Needham native, spent the last six months aboard the orbiting laboratory. She has logged more time in space than any other woman.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Astronaut may visit Needham school

Posted June 19, 2007 02:41 PM

NEEDHAM

After astronaut Sunita Williams recuperates from her six-month stay in zero gravity, some of her young fans in Needham are hoping to welcome the space traveler back to her hometown.

Williams has kept in touch with her former sixth-grade teacher, Angela DiNapoli, now a fifth-grade teacher at the Newman elementary school.

DiNapoli's students chatted with Williams via a satellite link before and during her mission. Now they may get to meet the astronaut in person. Williams is planning to visit the school this fall, said DiNapoli.

The Atlantis shuttle undocked from the international space station at 10:42 a.m. today over the Coral Sea north of Australia.

Atlantis circled the space station so that crew members could gather video and photographs of the recently-expanded solar wings. Williams and the crew are scheduled to land at 1:54 p.m. Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The trip hasn't gone completely smoothly.

Dina Pandya, Williams’s older sister, said she watched NASA TV around the clock last Thursday after the computer system crashed on the Russian side of the space station. The computers control the craft’s oxygen and navigation systems.

The computer meltdown came after NASA discovered a tear in the thermal blanket that protects Atlantis during re-entry. The tear, discovered after the shuttle's June 8 launch, has been repaired.

“The quicker she gets home the better,” Pandya, of Falmouth, said last week. “Everyone’s totally fine and safe. I feel confident she’ll get home safely.”

Williams has logged more time in space than any other woman.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Reverse Curves

Posted June 18, 2007 08:38 AM

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NEEDHAM

The Curves for Women fitness chain is again trying to set up shop in Needham -- this time above the Starbucks at 902-910 Highland Avenue -- regrouping after an unsuccessful attempt to locate the fitness studio on Chestnut Street.

The Planning Board is expected to vote on Curves franchisee Owner Cathy Frost's application tomorrow. Planning Director Lee Newman said she expects the board to approve Frost’s application, though members will likely set parking limits and restrict the number of people who can use the facility throughout the day.

Frost’s original application to open on Chestnut Street failed two years ago after the Planning Board decided the fitness studio did not offer a one-on-one service – a zoning requirement for that district. She applied for a zoning change to allow fitness facilities in Town Center, and Town Meeting approved her request in May 2006. After finally receiving the Planning Board's approval to open on Chestnut Street, Frost scrapped the plan after running into building code problems.

-– Lauren K. Meade

The future of Needham

Posted June 15, 2007 09:09 AM

NEEDHAM

Town planners will soon next week conceptual plans for the redevelopment of Needham Center, the Heights, and the Chestnut Street Business District. Residents also will learn why businesses such as the Gap never come to town – and why Needham is fast becoming the retail banking capital of the western suburbs.

The Planning Board and the Needham Center Study Committee will discuss the existing land use, zoning, parking, traffic, transportation and local market trends at an informational meeting later this month.

Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick said she has made it her goal to revitalize Needham’s local economy.

Over the past two years, the town has approved a 350-unit affordable housing project in the Needham Business Center. The town also has aimed to revamp the Heights section of town, by green-lighting the jazz restaurant Blu on Highland and paving the way for a combination apartment and business complex in the vacant gas station on 868 Highland Avenue.

The informational meeting will take place Monday, June 25, from 7 to 9:45 p.m., at the Broadmeadow school’s Performance Center.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Needham High cracks down on prescription drugs

Posted June 10, 2007 08:08 AM

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Needham High School Principal Paul Richards
(Globe staff photo by Tom Landers)

NEEDHAM

Needham High School Principal Paul Richards has revised the substance abuse policy to include safeguards against the abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.

Students who are under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, and now legal drugs used illegally will be suspended for at least three days. Students possessing these drugs on campus without permission from a nurse will be suspended for at least five days with the possibility of expulsion. Distributing drugs, legal and illegal, is grounds for at least a 10 day suspension or expulsion.

Richards also revised the code to include mandatory substance abuse counseling within 30 days of a violation.

In April, Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst and Police Chief Thomas J. Leary agreed to collaborate to prevent juvenile substance abuse and violence on and off campus. Gutekanst also implemented a zero tolerance policy in which students who bring drugs, weapons, or cause violence on campus can be prosecuted.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Back from the stars ... into the arms of family

Posted June 8, 2007 01:33 PM

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After six months in space, astronaut Sunita Williams is heading home.
(NASA photo)

NEEDHAM/OUTER SPACE

When astronaut and Needham High School graduate Sunita Williams arrives home in eleven days, members of her family will travel to Houston to quietly welcome her and help her physically recover, her sister Dina Pandya, tells Globe West.

Since Williams’s muscle and bone mass have likely weakened during her six month mission aboard the International Space Station, said her sister, who will care for her during her first week home from space. Pandya, a web developer for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute who lives in Falmouth, said she hopes to get her sister up and walking along the beach as soon as possible.

Williams' mother, Bonnie Pandya, will care for Williams for the next month.

Williams' ride home, the Atlantis space shuttle, is scheduled to take off tonight at 7:38 p.m., as long as weather conditions are clear during the ten-minute launch window. The mission will last eleven days with a seven person crew.

--Lauren K Meade

Needham leads the pack

Posted June 8, 2007 10:50 AM

NEEDHAM

Massachusetts Board of Education Chairman Christopher R. Anderson is considering the Needham Science Center as a model for school districts across the state, according to Needham Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst.

Anderson was scheduled on Tuesday to tour the mini-museum housed at the Newman elementary and talk with officials from 9 a.m. to noon. The Science Center contains a menagerie of 80 animals, a display room of exhibits, and a library of classroom activity kits. The school district almost shuttered the Science Center’s doors after a $1.48 million override failed in April 2006.

Fundraisers won the Science Center a yearlong reprieve; Gutekanst put the museum back into the budget after cutting at least one staff member. Anderson also serves as the president of Massachusetts High Technology Council, having been a council member since 1984.

Former Governor Mitt Romney appointed him in 2006 to head the state board of education.

– Lauren K. Meade

Developing games for the developing world

Posted June 7, 2007 09:20 AM

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A prototype of a low-cost laptop for the One Laptop Per Child program. The machine is powered by the hand crank.
(Image courtesy of One Laptop Per Child)

NEEDHAM

One hundred virtual game developers, educators, writers, musicians and artists will flock to Olin College tomorrow for the first-ever Game Jam to benefit the non-profit organization One Laptop Per Child.

Game developers will work for three days to create educational games, which will be distributed to children in developing nations.

After the conference, the games will be available on SourceForge.net, and open source software development website, so that folks at home can experiment. One Laptop Per Child, a Cambridge-based nonprofit, is working to upgrade worldwide educational standards in part by distributing low-cost laptops to children around the world.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Moonwalking with Sunita

Posted June 4, 2007 11:55 AM

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Sunita Williams (left) on one of her four spacewalks.
(NASA photo)

NEEDHAM

Two Russian cosmonauts living with Needham native Sunita Williams on the International Space Station completed last a 5-hour, 25-minute space walk last week with her help.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov installed debris protection panels on the Russian side of the craft. They are scheduled for another space walk on Wednesday. Williams, who has conducted more spacewalks than any other woman, guided the first-time spacewalkers from inside the space station.

Williams has completed four spacewalks since arriving on the orbiting laboratory in December. She is currently preparing for her June 8 mission home.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Artists 1, Developers 0

Posted May 29, 2007 10:39 AM

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Steven Branfman can now create his dream of an artists' collective in Needham.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEEDHAM

Potter Steven Branfman has received a thumbs up from the Zoning Board of Appeals to renovate and convert the 114-year-old Thorpe Street Mill into an artists' cooperative with 30 studios.

When asked by the board to define which types of artists will be allowed to use the property, Branfman said it would be open to a wide mix, including sculptors, jewelry designers, painters, landscape architects, graphic designers, musicians, Web architects, and craft makers.

Branfman who runs a business called The Potters Shop inside the mill, is purchasing the building for $100,000 from his close friend and landlord Lewis Cohen. Since January, the potter has been trying to save the mill from being sold to real estate developers who covet the woodsy property near the high school.

Now that he has the town’s permission, Branfman said he will commission the architectural blueprints and put the construction out to bid in the next few weeks. He he said he hopes to have the project started by August.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Newsweek’s “Best High Schools” list includes six area schools

Posted May 24, 2007 06:46 AM

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Needham High's new rallying cry: "We're No. 1,028!"
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

DOVER/SHERBORN/WELLESLEY/WESTON/
NEWTON/WAYLAND/NEEDHAM

Six schools in Globe West have made Newsweek’s newly released 2007 “America’s Best High Schools” list, including Dover-Sherborn High School, which ranked second highest in the state.

Of the over 1200 public schools on the list, Dover-Sherborn ranked 127th, Weston High School 186th, Wellesley High School 487th, Wayland High School 686th, Newton South High School 714th, and Needham High School 1028th. The state’s highest ranking school was Boston Latin School, which at 76th was the only Massachusetts school to make the top 100.

Rankings are based on only one factor: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2006 divided by the number of graduating seniors. Newsweek reports that while some critics consider the criteria too narrow, research studies have shown that passing scores on AP exams are a predictor of college success.

Scores from 27,000 public schools were reviewed, meaning schools included on the list are in the top 5% of public schools nationally. Three schools fell off the list from last year: Hopkinton High School, Newton North High School, and Holliston High School.

-- Denise Taylor

Walking between the raindrops

Posted May 22, 2007 02:44 PM

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NEEDHAM

The weekend's persistent showers messed up a parade and a yard sale or two, but they couldn't stop 1,000 walkers from Needham, Wellesley and Dedham from raising nearly $300,000 for cancer care and research.

The annual all-night Relay for Life event was scheduled to take place on the Needham High School track, but walkers instead strolled through the halls of the high school from 3 p.m. on Saturday to 9 a.m. on Sunday. Teams of 8 to 15 people rotated walking, eating and sleeping. During breaks in the rain showers, walkers went out to the high school’s courtyards to grill out and set up tents.

Nick Simmons-Stern, a local high school student who helped run the event, said that about half of the participants were students at Needham High School.

Walkers this year raised $200,000 for the American Cancer Society, with another $90,000 in pledges projected to come in throughout the next couple of months, said Kate Welch, society's staff coordinator for event.

-– Laurent K. Meade

Not fading away

Posted May 21, 2007 09:59 AM

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Former Needham superintendent Stephen Theall is keeping busy.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEEDHAM

For former Superintendent of Schools Stephen J. Theall, retirement hasn't meant mean slowing down.

Theall was recently appointed as the executive director of the Massachusetts Organization of Educational Collaboratives. The organization advocates for inter-district collaborations to educate students, including those who are learning disabled, gifted, or in need of vocational training.

Theall retired from Needham Public Schools last June after 21 years in the district, of which the last seven were spent as schools chief.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Needham town hall renovations cause rift

Posted May 16, 2007 07:38 AM

NEEDHAM

Town Meeting has approved a $50,000 study of design options for a Town Hall renovation, but not without some strong words for local officials.

The debate over renovating Town Hall, the centerpiece of Needham’s downtown, has been pitting local historians against some selectmen. Historians want to restore the 1902 building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to its original glory. Selectmen, meanwhile, hope to provide more space for town employees, who work in cramped conditions with few amenities.

Town Meeting members who spoke out called for maintaining the historical authenticity, rather than modernizing the structure. Robert Larsen called the current condition of the building a “disgrace to the Town of Needham.”

James Hugh Powers, who has been a Town Meeting member for half a century, remembered when the legislative sessions were held in the second story meeting hall. That hall has now been divided into two floors with a temporary roof and used for offices and storage.

Member Glenn Orenstein, however, said that the working conditions of town workers were paramount.

"The interior is not exactly a palace" he said. "None of us would want to work in that environment, yet we ask our town employees to do so everyday.”

-– Lauren K. Meade

Dangerous road to finally get a facelift

Posted May 15, 2007 12:35 PM

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Needham resident Ellie Spyropoulos looks over a dangerous stretch of Chestnut Street
(Globe staff photo by Jonathan Wiggs)

NEEDHAM

One of the most dangerous roads in town will finally get a much-needed facelift after a 10-year uphill battle between local and state officials.

Town meeting members voted to authorize $1.3 million to help fix a portion of Chestnut Street running from Marsh Road to the Needham/Dover boundary -- a major artery into town -- that has long been under state jurisdiction.

Needham agreed in 1997 to accept responsibility for the road on the condition that the state complete a $2.4 million reconstruction. The Massachusetts Highway Department failed to fulfill its end of the bargain until this year, said Selectmen John H. Cogswell who presented the article item to a recent Town Meeting.

The construction now is estimated to cost $3.7 million, of which the state agreed to contribute the original $2.4 million. Before the vote, Town Meeting member Paul Siegenthaler criticized local officials for not doing more to get the state to pick up more of the costs.

“Why would we let the state off the hook here? It doesn’t make any sense here,” he said.

Cogswell, however, defended the deal as the best that could be achieved. “We finally have a commitment from the state after fighting for 10 years,” he said.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Needham by the numbers

Posted May 10, 2007 10:20 AM

NEEDHAM

Needham’s 20,079 residents are left-leaning politically speaking, love dogs, and have trouble returning their library books on time. At least, that’s what the numbers say, according to the 2006 annual report released last week.

Needham is home to 6,464 Democrats, 2,848 Republicans, and 9,022 unenrolled voters. In total, they they paid $66.1 million in real estate taxes, recycled 3,430 tons of paper products, threw out 7,845 tons of trash, and forked over $44,883 in library fines. The town issued 2,365 dog permits.

Crime was down 6.5 percent to 677 reported offenses. But cases of breaking and entering rose 53 percent to 66. Juvenile arrests and complaints stayed about the same at 43 charges.

Needham suffered 38 cases of Lyme disease – up from 23 in 2005 – and 15 cases of whooping cough. Four people contracted salmonella poisoning. The Health Department administered 4,520 flu shots.

And, just in time for Mother’s Day, families welcomed 306 newborn babies into their homes.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Between High Rock and a hard place

Posted May 10, 2007 09:24 AM

NEEDHAM

The town's boards and committees are at it again.

Finance Committee Chairman Steven Rosenstock recently chided the School Committee for not being candid last month with voters who supported the $21 million Proposition 2.5 debt exclusion override to renovate the High Rock elementary into a school for sixth graders.

Speaking at the opening this week's Town Meeting legislative session, Rosenstock criticized town officials for going against the Finance Committee’s recommendation to ask voters for a $1 million operating override to run High Rock when it opens in 2009.

“We were clear that buildings should not be built without the operational funds to run them,” said Rosenstock to an audience of several hundred.

The Selectmen and School Committee have said they did not support the $1 million "companion" override because they did not believe the operating costs could be accurately predicted three years in advance.

Prior to the April 10 election, the School Committee tried to present a united front with the Finance Committee. Rifts between the two boards during the April 2006 election season were widely cited for the school’s failed $1.48 million operating override.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Needham astronaut to return next month

Posted May 9, 2007 06:27 PM

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Williams at work in the space station in February
(Reuters/NASA TV photo)

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams will return to earth next month as originally scheduled, having logged more time in space than any other woman.

The Needham native has been living aboard the International Space Station since December.

She has been busy. She has done everything from expanding the orbiting laboratory to running the Boston Marathon while weightless to chatting via satellite with Queen Elizabeth II.

Williams’ family in Falmouth is anxiously awaiting her safe return home.

Ground Control told Williams last month that the launch of the shuttle Endeavor, which was scheduled to bring her home, had been pushed back to August.

A hailstorm over Kennedy Space Station had damaged another shuttle, the Atlantis, upsetting the flight schedule for the rest of the year.

After a careful review of the schedule, NASA managers gave Williams the thumbs up for a return next month. This time, it will be aboard the recently-repaired Atlantis, which is scheduled to lift off June 8.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Needham High upgrades security post-Virginia Tech

Posted May 7, 2007 09:31 AM

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Needham High will get a security upgrade this summer
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEEDHAM

The ripple effects of the Virginia Tech shootings have reached Needham High School, with Principal Paul Richards announcing several new security measures including 11 exterior and 10 interior surveillance cameras that will be installed after this summer throughout the building. Richards outlined the initiatives in an e-mail to parents.

“It’s hard to know where to starting writing in light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech two weeks ago,” Richards wrote. “The incident highlights the fact that no school or institution can guarantee such an event from taking place.”

The safety measures at Needham High will be a balance between security and prevention, he said. For example, the cameras will not be monitored live but will be used only for emergency situations.

All exterior doors will be locked except for the main entrance where a new administrative office will be located. Greater supervision will be available before and after school when many students are in the building without teachers watching over them.

Richards told parents he believes the most effective way to prevent school violence is by building relationships between adults and students, particularly making sure students feel comfortable telling adults when classmates post frightening comments on Facebook, receive or hear of violent threats, or have general concerns about another student.

–- Lauren K. Meade

Ticked off

Posted April 27, 2007 09:05 AM

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NEEDHAM

In 1975, Polly Murray’s husband and two sons were stricken with what seemed to be a contagious form of rheumatoid arthritis.

In another corner of their woodsy Connecticut suburb, Judith Mensch’s 8-year-old daughter also fell ill with joint pain, fever and headaches. Four other children on Mensch’s block complained of similar symptoms. So began a medical mystery in Lyme, Conn., which wasn’t solved until eight years later with the discovery of Lyme Disease.

The Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Needham will educate residents next week on how to recognize disease-carrying ticks. Dr. Jonathon A. Edlow, an expert on Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses, will discuss the history, symptoms and treatments for Lyme disease.

Edlow is the deputy chief of emergency medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and wrote the book, “Bull’s Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease.”

The free lecture takes place on Monday, May 7, in the hospital’s Dickerson Room, starting at 7 p.m.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Medfield boy dies during lacrosse practice

Posted April 25, 2007 09:37 AM

MEDFIELD/NEEDHAM

An eighth-grader at St. Sebastian's School in Needham died yesterday while practicing lacrosse on a school field, officials said.

William Judge, 14, of Medfield collapsed shortly after 3:30 p.m., rescue officials said. Officials at the Catholic school for boys said he was involved in a "noncontact drill" at lacrosse practice.

In a statement last night, school officials said he received immediate medical attention from school officials and members of the Needham police and fire departments. Paramedics took him to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Needham, where he was pronounced dead.

-- David Abel and Michael Naughton

Widow of troubled Pulitzer Prize winner to speak

Posted April 23, 2007 01:51 PM

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William Styron in 1998
(AP photo by Kathy Willens)

NEEDHAM

Pulitzer-Prize winning author William Styron became a literary success at age 26 with the publication of “Lie Down Darkness,” about a young girl’s suicide.

But it wasn't until during a trip to Paris 34 years later that the author himself first realized that he suffered from depression. Even the major international literary award he received that day wasn’t enough to draw him out of his state of joylessness, Styron later wrote in a memoir.

Styron's widow will speak next week on her husband’s debilitating struggle with depression, which he chronicled at age 67 in “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness." Rose Styron, an American writer and poet, will reflect on how she helped her husband, who died last November at age 81, cope with his illness.

“In Conversation with Rose Styron,” a lecture sponsored by the Needham Coalition for Suicide Prevention, begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 6, in the Community Room of the Needham Public Library. The event is free to the public.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Needham man arrested on charges of referencing Va. Tech slayings in threat

Posted April 19, 2007 02:53 PM

NEEDHAM

A judge ordered a 20-year-old Needham man to stay away from Boston University where he attends classes and wear a GPS locating device 24 hours a day after he was arraigned today on charges that he sent a threatening instant message that invoked the Virginia Tech massacre.

Andrew Rosenblum allegedly sent the IM late Monday night in which he vowed to bring a gun to Wheelock College and kill a female student and others, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's office

"It's going to be VT all over again," Rosenblum allegedly wrote in one IM, said Conley spokesman Jake Wark. The woman saved and printed out the IMs and contacted Boston police. Rosenblum was then tracked down at his Needham home.

Today in Roxbury Municipal Court, Rosenblum faced three counts of threatening to commit a crime. He pleaded not guilty and Judge Edward Redd set bail at $50,000 cash and imposed a stringent list of pretrial conditions, including house arrest except to visit his attorney or a doctor.

-- John R. Ellement

Bueller?... Bueller?

Posted April 19, 2007 06:42 AM

NEEDHAM

Hoping to crack down on absenteeism during Town Meeting, resident James Hugh Powers has filed a citizen’s petition to form a committee to study the organization and functions of the 240-member elected body.

Powers, who has served on Town Meeting since 1951, said he’s concerned that voters aren’t being represented fairly when Town Meeting members play hooky. It’s not uncommon for 20 to 30 members to be absent on a given night during the month-long legislative sessions.

Powers, 83, said younger, upwardly mobile families may feel less connected to Needham. He said he’s even heard that members have stayed home to watch the meetings on cable television.

Powers first proposed creating a study committee in 2005 and Town Meeting successfully adopted the petition, but the Town Moderator has never appointed any members, Powers said. He hopes that this year, by filing another petition, volunteers will step up to the plate.

-– Lauren K. Meade

The price of "Yes."

Posted April 15, 2007 02:00 PM

NEEDHAM

What does it cost to get a property tax override passed? In Needham, the answer is apparently $14,025.

The Yes for Needham campaign raised that amount through more than 100 donations before last week’s vote. Individual contributions ranged from a low of $20 to the $2000 donated by the biggest donors, Bridle Trail Road residents Steve and Krista Alperin.

A number of supporters gave $500 to the campaign, including Aaron and Whitney Connaughton of South Street, Mark and Kimberly Notkin of Bridle Trail Road, Terry and James Windhorst of Norwich Road, and David Black of Whitman Road. The money paid for direct mailings, signs and an advertisement in the local newspaper.

Voters approved a $1.1 million operating override to avoid laying off nine teachers and a $21 million debt exclusion override to renovate High Rock Elementary School. An operating override raises the town's tax levy permanently, while a debt exclusion override lasts only until the construction bonds or loans for a particular project are paid off.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Sister hopes astronaut will return soon

Posted April 11, 2007 06:31 PM

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Sunita Williams walks in space in February
(AP Photo/NASA TV)

NEEDHAM

Dina Pandya is hoping her birthday wish will come true on Aug. 1 -- that her sister, astronaut Sunita Williams, will be back on Earth to join in the festivities.

But Pandya is not optimistic.

Williams, a Needham native, may have to stay aboard the International Space Station two months longer than expected. She was supposed to return home in June via the Endeavor after a six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. The Endeavor is now slated to lift off in August, at the earliest.

Backups in the launch schedule happened after a February hailstorm over the Kennedy Space Center in Florida damaged the engine of another shuttle, the Atlantis.

The damage to the Atlantis, which is now slated to launch between June 8 and July 18, meant a delayed launch for the Endeavor.

“She was alluding to it for a while,” said Pandya, of Falmouth, who chats with her sister in space via a video link. “This is a pretty big change.”

But Pandya is used to her sister’s voyages to faroff places for periods of time that are unpredictable. As a naval aviator, Williams made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War.

Her astronaut training has taken her to Russia and the underwater Aquarius habitat.

“Sometimes you have to stay on the ship longer than scheduled,” said Pandya.

Williams has been in the news recently because she plans to run the Boston Marathon -- in space -- on a specially-designed treadmill aboard the space station.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Mr. Mill, meet Mr. Wrecking Ball ... Or not...

Posted April 8, 2007 06:45 AM

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NEEDHAM

By the end of the month, Steven Branfman will learn whether his plans to save the Thorpe Street Mill from the wrecking ball will become a reality.

Branfman’s studio, The Potters Shop, currently is the mill’s only tenant. He wants to purchase and renovate the aging mill into an artist’s collective. The plans include restoring the interior and exterior, putting in 30 studios for sale, adding landscaping, and converting the backyard into a wooded park for artists and neighbors.

Similar collectives include the Waltham Mills’ Artists Association, the Brickbottom Artists Association in Somerville, and ArtSpace-Maynard. Early cost projections for the Thorpe Mill project are $2.2 million, which Branfman has said he will finance through bank loans.

Branfman will be seeking approval for a permit change from the Zoning Board of Appeals on April 25 at the John Elliot elementary. The hearing is scheduled for 9:10 p.m.

–- Lauren K. Meade

Needham astronaut to run Boston Marathon -- on space station

Posted March 29, 2007 07:41 PM

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Sunita Williams walking in space
(NASA Photo)

NEEDHAM

Sunita Williams has qualified for this year's 111th running of the Boston Marathon. But on April 16, the Needham native who is a NASA astronaut will be situated 200 miles above the earth's surface -- so she'll run the 26.2 miles on a treadmill aboard the International Space Station.

The Boston Athletic Association issued Williams bib number 14,000 today. Race Director David McGillivray sent the bib electronically to NASA, which will forward it to Williams.

The 41-year-old Williams, who qualified for the marathon when she ran a 3:29:57 in Houston last year, will be harnessed to a specially designed treadmill with bungee cords.

“I considered it a huge honor to qualify and I didn’t want my qualification to expire without giving it a shot,” Williams, who is expected to return to earth this summer, said in a statement.

FULL ENTRY

Choosing sides in Needham

Posted March 26, 2007 05:31 PM

NEEDHAM

With a showdown on Needham’s two overrides looming, the battle lines are being drawn.

The town's taxpayers will be asked for for a $21 million debt exclusion override to fund the renovation of the High Rock School and the $1.1 million operating override to keep nine teachers. An operating override permanently raises the city's property taxes, while a debt exclusion override only lasts until the borrowing for a particular project is paid off.

The “yes” camp is moving ahead full throttle with events, sophisticated websites, and blogs. Two groups, Citizens for Needham Schools and Yes for Needham are trying to drum up support for the overrides, saying they are necessary to ensure educational quality.

Meanwhile, a group of seven nay-sayers are hoping to build a momentum for the “no” vote before the April 10 election. Member Robert Larsen said the group consists of mostly senior citizens who tend not to be web-savvy. The group doesn’t have a name, though most participants have been members of the Needham Taxpayers Association at one time, Larsen said.

Larsen said the group may lack the marketing abilities of their younger opponents, but was largely for defeating last year’s $1.48 million school operating override, thanks to a half-page ad last spring in the local newspaper. The ad drained their funds for this year, he said, so the group will rely on free editorials to the local newspapers to get out their message.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Needham's Guatemalan connection

Posted March 23, 2007 01:10 PM

NEEDHAM

This weekend, the Congregational Church of Needham celebrates the 20th anniversary of its partnership with Santa Maria Tzeja, a village in Guatemala.

Dinner and dancing Saturday night will provide a break in a weekend of workshops looking at how both communities have benefited from the relationship and the larger issues of immigration and the global economy.

Speakers include delegates from Guatemala and Needham residents who have volunteered there.

Families are welcome to attend Saturday night's festivities, which will also feature games and a silent auction.

The cost is $10; $25 for a family. For details, call Clark Taylor 781-400-5076.

Italian-American painter honored in Needham

Posted March 21, 2007 03:31 PM

NEEDHAM

This March exhibit at the Needham Public Library Friends’ Gallery has been a posthumous tribute to Impressionist painter Giovanni Castano (1896 – 1978), whose murals can be seen on the walls and ceiling of the Wang Theater.

Born in Gasparina, Italy in 1896, Castano emigrated to Brockton with his family at the age of eight. He spoke no English when he entered the fourth grade of Sprague Grammar School, but found a way to communicate with teachers and classmates by drawing pictures.

A prodigy by age 10, Castano received receiving art commissions at the Lions of David Synagogue and a Brockton department store while still a boy and later attended the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The young artist studied under American Impressionist Philip Leslie Hale and rubbed elbows with with John Singer Sargent.

In 1938, he founded Castano Galleries located on 171 Newbury Street. The gallery featured Italian and American art of the Impressionist Period and the Needham Heights resident became the principal agent for the American Painter Winslow Homer, selling more than 100 of Homer’s works to major museums and collections. At 74, Castano was commissioned to restore the Herter murals in the House of Representatives Chamber of the State House.

For the exhibition, daughter Elvira Castano Palmerio, chose 16 works showcasing the breadth of her father’s work including oil, watercolor and pastel scenes of Boston, the western suburbs and Italy. While he spent much of his career selling the works of famous American artists, Castano remained modest about his own considerable talent, his daughter said.

“He never promoted himself," she said. "That was one of the great traits of my father.”

-– Lauren K. Meade

Short circuit prompts Needham school evacuation

Posted March 19, 2007 11:27 AM

NEEDHAM

A short-circuit in a classroom heater prompted fire officials to evacuate Mitchell Elementary School in Needham this morning.

Smoke and a bad smell kept children and teachers outside the Brookline Street building for about 30 minutes while firefighters examined the heater, said Needham Deputy Fire Chief Charles Rizzo.

A school nurse will evaluate the air quality in the affected classroom before children resume classes there, Rizzo said.

-- Erica Noonan

Get that ball!

Posted March 13, 2007 02:32 PM

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NEEDHAM

The Central Catholic girls' basketball team advanced to the state finals in Worcester following their 61-42 victory over Needham yesterday in the EMass Division 1 final at the Garden. Globe staff photographer Jim Davis caught Central's Jackie Vienneau diving for a loose ball with Needham's Colleen Hart at right.

Rats, with wings

Posted March 13, 2007 12:21 PM

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Eptesicus Fuscus, more commonly known as "Yikes! There's bat in the house!"
(AP photo)

NEEDHAM

A bat captured in Needham recently tested positive for rabies, public health officials are warning.

The bat, detected in late-February, is the second found in the town with the potentially-fatal virus since September, according to the Needham Health Department.

Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of infected animals. In humans the virus enters the central nervous system, often causing a fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that rabies causes 55,000 human deaths a year worldwide.

The Needham Health Department has issued a warning that residents use caution if a bat is found indoors. Local health officials are advising residents to secure the bat in a room and contact the animal control officer at the Needham Police Department. The animal control officer will capture and transfer the bat to the state’s public health laboratory for testing.

For more information visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health online.

-- Laurent K. Meade

A little Louisa May Alcott

Posted March 11, 2007 08:04 AM

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(Image from janturnquist.com)

NEEDHAM

Library patrons can travel back in time next Sunday to the horse and buggy days when proto-feminist Louisa May Alcott hobnobbed with the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The library will host a living history performance in which actress Jan Turnquist portrays Alcott, who wrote the semiautobiographical novel "Little Women" in 1868. As Alcott, Turnquist will chat with audience members about her friendships with Thoreau and Emerson, her views on women’s suffrage and educational reform, and how writing took her from rags to riches.

The audience is free to ask Alcott questions.

Turnquist has been featured in television productions on PBS, the Fox Network, and the British Broadcasting Corporation. She founded InterAct Performances, an organization that delivers living history presentations, seminars and workshops.

The event takes place March 18 at 2 p.m. in the Community Room of the Needham Public Library on 1139 Highland Avenue.

–- Lauren K. Meade

90 years of Thin Mints?

Posted March 10, 2007 09:39 AM

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NEEDHAM

Over the decades, Needham Girl Scouts have earned built friendships and contributed to the community while earning badges for everything from ironing to computer programming.

Tomorrow, Needham’s 500 scouts are celebrating 90 years of service with a free reception and museum exhibit tomorrow at the Needham Historical Society. The exhibit features historic and contemporary uniforms, photos badges, and instruments from the first drum and bugle corps, said Jan Drake, a trustee for the Needham Girl Scouts and a former troop leader.

The Girl Scouts craze hit Needham in June 1917 when six girls formed the Red Rose Troop, devoting themselves to community service and the outdoors. The exhibition runs from 2 to 4 p.m. at 1147 Central Avenue.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Cross country

Posted March 7, 2007 07:09 AM

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NEEDHAM

The students at William Mitchell Elementary School walked, danced, and skied across America during a fitness program designed to motivate mini couch potatoes to turn off their Nintendo Wiis.

Last year, parent and registered dietician Jen Tuttelman, came up with the idea to have classrooms to work as teams to "walk" 3,200 miles across the United States throughout the month of February.

Tuttelman developed a method of converting activities such as swimming, hockey or sledding into miles walked. (The calculation involves comparing calories burned during 15 minutes of sports and play with those spent during brisk walks.) Teachers tracked the miles on large maps of the country, often incorporating geography lessons, said Tuttelman.

“In Needham, we have few overweight children. But it doesn’t mean kids are fit or have the stamina to be where kids were ten years ago,” she said.

–- Lauren K. Meade

Needham selectmen to vote on two tax hikes

Posted March 6, 2007 07:14 AM

NEEDHAM

Selectmen will vote tonight on whether to put two separate school tax hikes on the April ballot.

The School Committee has requested a $21 million property tax debt exclusion override to fund a permanent, three-story reconstruction of High Rock elementary to house the district’s sixth graders in 2009. This question also includes a $763,000 technology upgrade at Pollard.

A second question would ask voters for a $1.06 million property tax operating override to save nine middle and high school classroom teachers, one special education teaching assistant and an elementary art or physical education teacher. The override would add three elementary teachers needed to ease increasing enrollment in the youngest grades and a middle school physical education teacher cut from this year’s budget.

A debt exclusion raises taxes for the period it takes to pay for projects. An operating override permanently raises the amount of money a municipality can collect.

The School Committee agreed last week not to also seek a $1 million so-called “companion override,” which would seek future operating funds for High Rock when it opens.

The Selectmen’s meeting starts tonight at 7:30 at Town Hall.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Raising some clams for Pearlington

Posted March 4, 2007 10:26 AM

NEEDHAM

In the 19 months since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi gulf coast, volunteers from Needham Cares have sent money, supplies and helping hands to the residents of communities like Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

Meanwhile, the folks of tiny Pearlington have suffered quietly in the shadows. But Needham Cares President Bill Tilburg has pledged to focus more of this year’s initiatives on Pearlington, a town of 1,684 people before the storm.

A representative from the Pearlington Recovery Center, Laurie Spaschak, will update Needham residents on March 22 on the conditions and needs of the coastal town, which is located 25 miles west of Biloxi. She will speak at Needham’s annual Inter-Service Club dinner at the Sheraton Hotel on Cabot Street.

The event is open to the public, with tickets costing $30. Anyone seeking more information is urged to visit Needham Cares online.

-– Lauren K. Meade

What's next, pre-school Vegas nights?

Posted March 3, 2007 09:51 AM

NEEDHAM

The School Committee has denied a request by the high school Student Council for a lift of the ban on fundraising raffles for after-school clubs.

The students were concerned about declining funds for the clubs, but the School Committee denied the request, saying that state law bars gambling for anyone under the age of 18.

Chairwoman Marianne Cooley, who has a daughter at the high school, suggested that teens can get around the law by encouraging adult organizations such as the Needham Education Foundation, parent-teacher councils and Booster clubs to host raffles on behalf of their organizations.

-- Lauren K. Meade

A real turn-off in Needham

Posted February 27, 2007 09:58 AM

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NEEDHAM

If you’re the type of person who can talk on the phone, scarf a slice of pizza, log a meeting into your BlackBerry and Instant Message an update to your boss - all at the same time - the Needham Youth Commission wants you to chill out.

Thursday, March 1 begins the Youth Commission’s month-long Needham Unplugged program designed to encourage families to shut off the television and other electronica and spend time together. The program culminates on March 22, when all the town organizations are encouraged to take the night off.

The Youth Commission is encouraging town offices, civic and sports groups and religious organizations not to meet that night and students in the entire district will not be assigned homework.

All month long, Needham residents can attend family activities, including Yoga, hip hop and swimming classes at the YMCA. The Youth Commission is offering tips for family get-togethers, such as playing card games, making sundaes, and having breakfast for dinner.

The activities are available on the Youth Commission’s website.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Hey Martha, got a recipe for Tang smoothies?

Posted February 26, 2007 11:02 AM

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It's always a bad hair day in space: Astronaut Sunita L. Williams, a Needham native, looks over a procedures checklist in the Quest Airlock of the International Space Station.
(NASA photo)

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams, who is living aboard the International Space Station, will play hostess in April to billionaire software engineer Charles Simonyi and last month asked asked none other than domestic diva Martha Stewart to think up some recipe ideas using space food ingredients and tips on keeping the space station spic and span.

Williams was interviewed in January on Stewart’s television show. The Needham High graduate wrote in her mission log that Stewart is good friends with Simonyi.

“Martha will be in Baikonur [the site of the Russian Cosmodrome] to see the launch. Hopefully she stuffed his bags with good food for us!!!” wrote Williams.

The Hungarian-born space tourist will launch April 7 aboard the ISS Soyuz 14 for a 10-day mission to the orbiting laboratory. Simonyi will return to Earth with Williams’s current crewmates, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin. In their place, two Russian cosmonauts will become Williams’s roommates.

– Lauren K. Meade

Crossen declines re-election bid to Needham School Committee

Posted February 21, 2007 05:04 PM

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NEEDHAM

Attorney Gary C. Crossen, who faces possible disbarment for his conduct in the Demoulas Supermarkets lawsuit, will not seek reelection for one of four open seats on the School Committee.

Crossen, who has served on the committee for seven years, has denied wrongdoing and has long maintained that the inquiries have no bearing on his decisions to serve on the school panel. The disbarment case is slated to go before the full Supreme Judicial Court in early September.

Another incumber, accountant Jeff Simmons, also was not among the seven candidates who filed for the School Committee race as of Tuesday's deadline. Neither Simmons nor Crossen could be immediately reached for comment.

The candidates who have filed for three-year seats are incumbents Marianne Cooley and Joseph Barnes and would-be newcomers Holly Horrigan, Constance “Connie” Barr, and Karen “Kori” Rogers.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Yes, but can they teach you how to Photoshop ex-boyfriends out of family pictures?

Posted February 21, 2007 08:02 AM

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Needham's historic Upper Falls Schoolhouse
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEEDHAM/WELLESLEY

The Needham and Wellesley Historical Societies are hosting a workshop this weekend in which historians Gloria Greis of Needham and Beth Krimmel of Wellesley will discuss the proper handling, storage and display of antiques, heirlooms and other treasures for future generations.

The workshop takes place this Sunday at 2 p.m., in the Needham Historical Society’s Upper Falls Schoolhouse on 1147 Central Avenue.

Refreshments will be served. Admission is free for Needham and Wellesley Historical Society members; tickets cost $5 for non-members. Anyone interested in attending is urged to call the Needham Historical Society at 781-455-8860.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Turning a new face toward Needham's future

Posted February 18, 2007 03:40 PM

NEEDHAM

A new face will sit in Planning Board member Paul Killeen’s seat at next week’s meeting.

Killeen officially stepped down earlier this month because the travel requirements of his new job made it difficult to attend the meetings. May Street resident Jeanne McKnight was appointed on February 13 to fill the interim seat.

McKnight, worked as a town planner in Framingham for six years, earned a degree from Harvard Law School in 1986, and has since worked in real estate law. After moving to Needham 18 years ago, she has served on several planning subcommittees to study the town’s economic growth.

– Lauren K. Meade

High price for High Rock

Posted February 17, 2007 09:56 AM

NEEDHAM

Preliminary cost estimates for the renovation of High Rock school have thrown a wrench in the the town's plans, with some Selectmen wondering whether the town should consider other alternatives to relieve the space crunch at Pollard Middle School.

School officials last week unveiled estimates between $19 and $22 million. The Selectmen were hoping for construction costs of $14 million or less.

Selectmen have until March 6 to vote to put an override on the April 10 ballot, but selectman James G. Healy has suggested that the School Committee postpone the decision for another year and apply for reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Healy also suggested that officials reconsider a more basic, $7.5 million renovation plan that the School Committee rejected as a a less-than viable long-term solution.

Selectmen John A. Bulian, meanwhile, has suggested that the School Committee “switch gears” and consider planning for a new middle school at DeFazio Park.

-- Lauren K. Meade

The art of science fiction

Posted February 13, 2007 09:28 AM

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NEEDHAM

When reference librarian Gay Ellen Dennett attended her first science fiction convention in 1980, she said she was “blown away” by the cover art. Since then, she has been an avid collector of prints and oil paintings commissioned for well-known sci-fi titles.

Many works from her personal collection -- including images of dragons, enchanted spirits, and distant galaxies -- are on display this month in the Friends Gallery at the Needham Public Library.Among the works is Rhode Island artist Bob Eggleton’s commission for the science fiction collection "Transfinite: The Essential A.E. van Vogt" (shown above).

Dennett said more than 90 of the works will be auctioned this weekend at the New England Science Fiction Association’s annual convention at the Westin Waterfront in South Boston.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Needham confronts teen suicide

Posted February 12, 2007 08:06 PM

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The Needham suicide-prevention poster.

NEEDHAM

In its first public response to four teen suicides between November 2004 and April 2006, a suicide-prevention coalition this April will blanket Needham storefronts, restroom stalls and school hallways with posters reading “Listen to the Silence.”

The poster also includes a statistic from the 2006 Needham Youth Risk Behavior Survey: “In Needham more than 135 youths in grades 8 to 12 made a plan to commit suicide, and more than 60 made a suicide attempt.” Youth Commission Director Jon Mattleman said coalition members deliberated heavily about whether to use the statistic, with some feeling it was too “in your face.”

“My comfort zone was gone when the first kid committed suicide,” said Mattleman.

In addition, the coalition is encouraging families to read William Styron’s 84-page book "Darkness Visible: a Memoir of Madness," his personal account of depression and suicidal thoughts. The Youth Commission is giving away 50 free copies, after which the books will be available for a discount.

-– Lauren K. Meade

The tunes on the bus

Posted February 12, 2007 05:04 PM

NEEDHAM

While the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round, the radio on the bus might be selling your kids something.

Bus Radio, a Needham-based company, has emerged as an alternative to the FM stations that bus drivers often use to placate energetic kids, the Press-Enterprise of California reports.

While the station is geared towards its audience of bus-riding children, some activists say that the advertisements broadcast on-air are problematic. The ads differ from those on standard radio in that Bus Radio runs kid-targeted ads.

The Bus Radio station runs approximately half as much ad time as terrestrial radio stations. Bus Radio has agreements in nine states and is currently in use in four California districts.

-- Adam Sell

Money, money everywhere, but not a thing to buy

Posted February 8, 2007 11:00 AM

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Citibank will be serving up a different sort of green in the former Zathmary's gourmet food store space.
(Globe Staff photo by Mark Wilson)

NEEDHAM

Sure, residents of Needham Heights will have plenty of places to put their money. But will they have anywhere to spend it?

Continuing a trend that is fast turning the Heights into Needham’s banking district, the Planning Board recently approved Citibank’s application to move into the former Zathmarys gourmet food shop on 1000 Highland Avenue. Meanwhile, across the street, Eastern Bank will open in the demolished Needham Appliance store and Brookline Bank will soon make a new home at the former Mayfair Cleaners down the street at 902 Highland.

Property owner Bill McQuillan of Boylston Properties considered restaurants and retail stores for the vacant Zathmarys space, but said he was comfortable with Citibank, having worked on a deal with them to open a branch in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

Citibank officials didn’t seem worried about competition from their neighbors and “expect to find a niche,” McQuillan said.

-– Lauren K. Meade

Bus riders in the sky

Posted February 4, 2007 01:06 PM

NEEDHAM

Some years ago, on a flight from Kansas City, Mo., to Boston, the woman sitting next to Lee Levitt asked him if he would give up his aisle seat in exchange for her husband's middle seat a few rows back.

Levitt, a Needham businessman, considered the long, cramped flight he would have to endure in a middle seat and told the woman, "No." The woman responded by jamming her high heel into Levitt's thigh.

"At first I did nothing," recalled Levitt, a frequent business traveler who now works for IDC, a market research company in Framingham. ...

Read more of this story on the trials and tribulations of business travelers in today's Globe.

-- Keith O'Brien

Masters of disasters

Posted January 31, 2007 12:49 PM

NEWTON / NEEDHAM / WATERTOWN / WELLESLEY

Newton, Needham, Watertown, and Wellesley are among 27 greater Boston communities that are the best prepared to respond to epidemics and natural or man made disasters, a national public health organization has determined.

The cities and towns singled out by the National Association of County and City Health Officials were rated on their their response readiness, planning, workforce competency, and emergency exercises, officials said. Greater Boston was also cited for its overall readiness, one of only six regions in the nation to receive such the recognition, said Newton Health and Human Services Commissioner David Naparstek.

"The bar is set very high for public health groups to meet this standard,” Naparstek said.

-- Connie Paige

Needham high schooler arrested after box cutter attack

Posted January 26, 2007 09:36 AM

NEEDHAM

Police arrested a 13-year-old student at St. Sebastian's High School in Needham yesterday after he attempted to assault another student with a box cutter, authorities said.

The arrested student, who was not named, was charged with assault by means of a dangerous weapon and released to his parents. No injuries were reported, and police did not release any other details.

-- Globe Reports

No school -- and no homework, either

Posted January 24, 2007 09:26 AM

NEEDHAM

High schoolers in Needham recently enjoyed a no-homework vacation, according to a Wall Street Journal article published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Senior Ariana Wermer-Colan, however, said that she still spent a significant amount of time studying. "It's too competitive not to," she said.

Schools are increasingly giving students less homework and concentrating instead on making the best use of the time the students spend in the school buildings, the Journal article notes.

Wermer-Colan, while looking forward to another homework-free vacation in February, is concerning herself with college applications. She's applied to 11 schools.

-- Adam Sell

Astronaut says life in space takes some adjusting

Posted January 17, 2007 04:09 PM

Sunita L. Williams 2.jpg

Williams takes a walk -- in space
(NASA Photo)

NEEDHAM

She wakes after a fitful sleep, craving a cup of coffee. A sip escapes from its container and floats before her eyes in a perfect, piping hot sphere.

She lets the droplet float around for a bit until it cools down enough to lap up without burning her tongue.

So starts another work day for Sunita Williams. At least she doesn't have to worry about a commute. She's always on the job, 250 miles above the earth.

Williams, a month into her half year stint aboard the International Space Station, has learned that even something as routine as a morning java requires strict attention to detail. In this case, she forgot to close the plastic tab on her cup.

The Needham native said she is finally getting the hang of life in a microgravity environment. Initially, she battled nausea and felt disoriented. Up, down, left, and right -- it was hard to tell one from the other at first.

Williams has been recording her journey in a mission log and in emails to family and friends, including her friend and sixth grade teacher Angela DiNapoli.

Williams recently completed her first spacewalk. She had practiced for it in a pool at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, but nothing can quite match the real thing.

“Oh my gosh. I hope I can do this,” she confided thinking to DiNapoli.

The maneuver was not only tricky but dangerous. If she brushed against the solar panels that power the station, she could get electrocuted. Williams told DiNapoli that she felt like Spiderman scooting up a wall when she climbed up a truss of the space station. ...

Read more about Sunita Williams's adventures in space in tomorrow's Globe West.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Local family makes $2 million gift to playing fields

Posted January 11, 2007 04:26 PM

NEEDHAM

Needham residents and supermarket scions Bud and Eileen Roche have pledged to donate up to $2 million towards a project to completely refurbish town athletic fields at DeFazio and Memorial Parks.

The Roche family donation -- along with another $1 million raised privately over the next several months -- will allow the town to complete a major segment of the $5 million project, which includes the installation of new synthetic turf on both fields, relocating and rebuilding an eight-lane running track, and an improved drainage system, said James Healy, chair of the town’s Field Study Committee.

He said the gift was thought by Needham officials to be the largest private donation ever given to a civic cause.

``It’s hard for me to express my gratitude to the Roches for what they’ve done for Needham and what they are doing for the adults and kids who will be using these fields in the decades to come,’’ said Healy.

-- Erica Noonan

At work she's a nitpicker -- literally

Posted January 10, 2007 10:56 AM

07we1nits 3.jpg

Helen Hadley demonstrates her nitpicking technique at her Needham home
(Globe Staff Photo by Bill Polo)

NEEDHAM

Helen Hadley bends close over the target area, magnifying glass in hand. Repositioning her lamp, she peers carefully at a single hair.

‘‘There it is,’’ she murmurs as she deftly removes her specimen and transfers it for safekeeping. She turns back to her work, steely-eyed and determined.

A detective? A forensic scientist? No, the Needham woman is one of a rarer breed. She’s a professional nitpicker — yes, that’s nits, as in the eggs of head lice, and today’s crime scene is the head of a 9-year-old girl.

While over-the-counter products like Nix can kill the adult louse, the only way to eliminate the eggs is by manually removing them.

Even with a fine-toothed lice comb, it’s not an easy task. Often families think they have rid themselves of the tiny parasites, only to find a new generation thriving a few days later. For those people, Hadley is a godsend.

Hadley, who is in her mid-50s, may be the only professional nitpicker in New England, although in the absence of accrediting schools and associations, it’s hard to be sure.

She does know of several nitpickers in California, Florida, and New York, but she hasn’t encountered competition in this area. She’s been called to homes as far away as Rhode Island and New Hampshire, but works mostly in suburban Boston.

Although she does advertise through mass mailings to elementary school nurses, word of mouth is her biggest source of business. Even at $100 an hour, her unusual calling can keep her booked up to two weeks in advance. ...

Read more of the story about Helen Hadley's unusual job in tomorrow's Globe West.

Keeping fit in space

Posted January 2, 2007 05:50 PM

running12.jpg
Williams on the treadmill
(NASA Photo)

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Williams is no stranger to long-distance running.(She finished the 2006 Houston Marathon in 3 hours, 29 minutes.) But even for the veteran athlete, jogging in zero gravity is tricky at best.

Aboard the International Space Station, the Needham native is participating in an experimental fitness program designed to reduce the loss of bone and muscle mass in space travelers. She will lift weights, run and cycle for at least two hours a day.

“Lots of folks ask about the treadmill because it is hard to imagine how one can run in space without gravity,” Williams wrote in an email to friends and family. “We are strapped down to the treadmill using a harness and bungees.”

Williams said that the treadmill and exercise bike are both fitted with a “vibration isolation system” that keeps vibration from the exercises from affecting various systems on the space station.

The space station “can’t really take that stomping around,” she wrote.

Williams is literally working out from head to toe. She will go shoeless for most of her stay on the orbiting laboratory. She will use her feet to grasp objects so the muscles don’t atrophy while she’s floating for the next sixth months, according to her former sixth grade teacher Angela DiNapoli, who has been communicating with the astronaut through email and cell phone.

Williams wrote, “I have spent the last two weeks just getting used to living here and understanding how everything works. I finally feel settled. Amazing how ALL the muscles can adapt! So, I am ready to start working out seriously. In fact, it is really necessary to make sure that we are in tip top shape for our [spacewalks] coming up in February! That will be the true test of how well we have been doing up here.”

Williams is scheduled for spacewalks on February 2, 6, 10, and 19.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Needham woman receiving new cancer drug

Posted December 27, 2006 01:57 PM

NEEDHAM

A Needham breast cancer patient is receiving a new drug that is the equivalent of having an ovary removed, but with one big difference - she may still be able to have children.

Every month, Robin Khadduri receives a shot of a drug that blocks testosterone. Recent studies have shown the drug, often used to treat prostate cancer, can improve the survival odds for women with breast cancer.

The big plus with the drug, the Associated Press reports in a story in the News Tribune of LaSalle, Ill., is that, unlike ovary removal, it is not permanent, preserving a woman's ability to have children later.

-- Erica Tochin

Andrew Spielman, 76, expert on insect-borne diseases

Posted December 22, 2006 12:04 PM

NEEDHAM

Despite his ability to see beauty in the insects that so many find revolting, Dr. Andrew Spielman admitted to being annoyed by mosquitoes.

Dr. Spielman, formerly of Watertown and Newton and most recently of Needham, died Wednesday at Brigham and Women's Hospital after a short illness, the Globe reports in an obituary today. He was 76.

Dr. Spielman was a leading authority on diseases that insects carry from person to person, and his research brought him to some of the most remote places on the planet.

"He had a singularly holistic view of the balance between man and mosquitoes and between the biology and ecology of both," Barry R. Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, where Dr. Spielman was a professor, said in a statement.

-- Adam Sell

It's warm out there

Posted December 17, 2006 12:02 PM

NEEDHAM

Brenda Balon, a member of the garden club in Needham, tells the Los Angeles Times today that "I have plants that are thriving that normally would have died. My dianthus and snapdragons are flowering, and my butterfly bush looks pretty good too."

The Times took a look at the recent warm weather in the area in an article today headlined, "Boston feels the warmth."

Needham High principal fires back at critics

Posted December 14, 2006 05:17 PM

NEEDHAM

richards.jpg

Paul Richards finds himself at the center of a firestorm
(Globe Staff Photo by Tom Landers)

After criticism from Rush Limbaugh and a jab from Jay Leno, Needham High principal Paul Richards is firing back, defending his decision to no longer publish the honor roll in the local paper.

He said media attacks on him and his school were "character assassination" and that a decision made to reduce student stress had been "twisted into a 'politically-correct move to protect self-esteem.'"

Richards was blasted for coddling his students on radio talk shows, including conservative Rush Limbaugh’s, and was the butt of a joke by Jay Leno in his Tuesday night monologue on "The Tonight Show."

Limbaugh chided Richards for caving under parental pressure.

"So one parent complained and the school bent over backwards! They just fell, spine turned to mush,” Limbaugh said on his show Wednesday.

Richards’ office has been deluged with media calls, according to his secretary. The principal said he never expected that the policy would spark so much attention.

“I’m shocked,” Richards wrote in an email to the Globe. “This was simply an FYI to parents, until it was fed to the media by parents who disagreed with this. I had no intention of making a public stand.”

In light of the backlash, the principal said he hopes the story got the debate rolling on how schools can reduce stress among teens.

“The character assassination of Needham Public Schools and myself was unfortunate, but there is indeed a value in providing 'food for thought' on an issue that many would like to think doesn't exist,” Richards wrote.

Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst said that the decision on the honor roll was not "made in isolation," but rather in the context of school district's efforts to address the school's pressure cooker atmosphere.

The suicides of four students from Needham in the past two years has heightened concerns about academic pressure.

To read Richards' explanation of his decision, check out the Needham High School website, and click on "Daily Bulletin."

-- Lauren K. Meade

Jay Leno pokes fun at Needham honor roll decision

Posted December 14, 2006 01:26 PM

NEEDHAM

"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno riffed on Needham High School in his monologue Tuesday for no longer publishing its honor roll in local papers.

"How politically correct is this?" Leno said. "In Needham, Massachusetts, the high school there will no longer publish the honor roll for fear it might make the kids flunking out feel bad – their self esteem."

He then quipped, "What are the odds those kids could even read it?"

"Isn’t that like not printing the sports page because it would make the Oakland Raiders feel bad?" he joked.

High School principal Paul Richards has defended the decision not to publish the honor roll, saying it will lessen the competitive culture surrounding grades.

-- Calvin Hennick

McNamara: Needham principal made the right move on honor roll

Posted December 13, 2006 11:35 AM

NEEDHAM

eileenmcnamara.jpg

City & Region columnist Eileen McNamara weighed in today on the decision by the principal of Needham High School to suspend the publishing of the names of honor roll students in the local newspaper.

Here's the top of her column:

Paul Richards wants to change a culture, not to coddle its kids.

That would have been hard to discern from the mockery the principal of Needham High School was subjected to yesterday on talk radio.

Richards earned a full measure of media contempt not for awarding trophies to everyone on the varsity football team or for replacing letter grades with a pass-fail system. He was excoriated for suspending, on an experimental basis, the longstanding practice of publishing the names of honor roll students in the local newspaper.

"Gosh forbid we hurt anyone's feelings," sneered Scott Allen Miller of WRKO, whose scornful sentiments echoed across the dial. Richards is coddling underachievers. Richards is undermining academic excellence. Richards is setting kids up for a "big fall" when they have to compete in the "real world."

On the contrary, Richards is doing all he can to keep each of his 1,400 students strong to transition into that world. He is investigating, by trial and error, how a school system might nurture all of its students while celebrating those who excel. It is not an easy balance to strike anywhere; it's especially difficult in suburban Boston.

Needham High rolls up the honor roll

Posted December 12, 2006 04:39 PM

NEEDHAM

Needham High students no longer will get to see their names in the newspaper when they are placed on the Honor Roll for academic achievement.

High School principal Paul Richards has ended the practice of sending the list to the local media.

In an e-mail to students and parents, Richards said that Needham’s high achievement levels have a dark side, creating a competitive culture among students where grades are compared within groups and argued over with teachers.

He said he received 60 e-mails from supporters and critics of his decision.

Critics said publishing the honor roll in the local paper counters the media’s emphasis on athletics and tragedies.

Richards responds: ‘‘By having an honor roll in the first place, the school participates in a sorting of students.

‘‘We have no intention of making the honor roll the scapegoat for a larger issue and apologize if this tradition is near and dear to your heart.’’

— Lauren K. Meade

Astronaut: shuttle liftoff was a blast

Posted December 12, 2006 03:32 PM

NEEDHAM

sunita3.jpg

Williams before the launch
(NASA Photo)

In an email from outer space to her family, astronaut Sunita Williams described the blastoff of the space shuttle this weekend as, well, an uplifting experience.

The launch “was surely a great eight minutes for us. We were screaming with joy,” Williams said in an excerpt provided by Williams' sister, Dina Pandya, of Falmouth.

Williams began the email, "Hi, I'm floating. It's awesome."

Williams, 41, made her first flight to space on Saturday aboard the Shuttle Discovery. The Needham High School grad will live aboard the International Space Station for six months. She will help rewire the space station’s power source and participate in a fitness and nutritional study in a zero gravity environment.

Pandya, 44, watched her little sister take off from the Banana Creek viewing station at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Pandya said she went for one last stroll with Williams last Wednesday, the day before the shuttle originally was scheduled to launch. Pandya, Williams and their parents, Bonnie and Deepak Pandya walked on the beach. Williams’ dog, Gorby, romped at their heels.

They took care of some last-minute family business – making sure that all of Williams’ friends who came to the launch received a gift bag and that Dina Pandya remembered to sign Williams up for the Boston Marathon.

The Pandyas also gave their space-bound daughter some Red Sox memorabilia to take with her to space.

When low cloud cover over Cape Canaveral delayed the launch, Pandya said she hoped she would get to see her sister one more time. She tried to arrange a jog with Williams, but the NASA crew took the delay as an opportunity for more training.

NASA officials also had the 7-member crew on a different sleep schedule, making it even tougher for the sisters to get together, said Pandya. Williams was told to stay up until 3 a.m. and wake up at 11 a.m.

But they talked on the phone frequently. During their final phone conversation, Pandya said she told Williams, “I love you. I know you’re going to do great.”

Pandya said Williams replied, “I’m going to make you proud. Thanks for sharing in the adventure.”

-- Lauren K. Meade

Astronaut brings a piece of Needham with her

Posted December 11, 2006 12:20 PM

NEEDHAM

Sunita L. Williams brought several things with her aboard the shuttle Discovery. One of them, the Globe reports today, is a small white flag containing Needham's town seal.

Williams, who lived in Needham as a child, also took a 2004 Red Sox World Series championship hat, a New England Patriots hat, and a Needham schools T-shirt.

This will be the longest documented journey for any Needham artifact, and certainly the first voyage into outer space. An engineer from Needham once took the town flag to Antarctica.

-- Erica Tochin

Into the wild blue yonder

Posted December 9, 2006 09:04 PM

NEEDHAM

shuttlelaunch2.jpg

(NASA photo)

Flashes of flame from space shuttle Discovery lit up the darkened sky Saturday as the space shuttle blazed off the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla. for the first nighttime liftoff in four years.

Sunita Williams, who grew up in Needham, and the six other astronauts are on a mission to rewire the international space station, one leg of a three-year race to finish construction on the orbiting outpost before shuttles are retired in 2010.

The illumination from the shuttle turned night into day for the spectators at the Kennedy Space Center. A cloudy sky with blustery winds earlier in the day gave way to clear skies and a gentle breeze at launch time.

-- AP

The scene at Cape Canaveral

Posted December 8, 2006 10:55 AM

NEEDHAM

Needham elementary school teacher Angela DiNapoli says NASA tried until the very last moment to launch the space shuttle last night.

DiNapoli is down in Cape Canaveral, Fla. to witness the launch because one of her former students, Sunita Williams, is one of the seven astronauts on the flight. The launch was postponed to tomorrow because of the weather.

DiNapoli described the countdown in this email to Globe West:

It was really looking promising. When we boarded the buses at 6:45 p.m. for the launch, we started to see stars in the sky and everyone was cheering and hopeful. The clouds had cleared in the area of the launch site for a while.

They stop the clock twice: once at T-minus 20 minutes to check all the systems. At that time, all systems seemed fine. Then they stop the clock at T minus 9 minutes and holding for about 40 minutes. That's when they had a check of all the systems, and every one was fine, except the cloud ceiling.

It was only at 5,500 feet but it has to be at 8,000 feet. We could hear mission control and and the astronauts talking over the loudspeakers. Everything seemed fine except the clouds. The astronauts did have a problem with the joystick that works one of the many cameras that takes pictures of the external tank during liftoff. However, they said that there was enough overlap that there wasn't a problem.

NASA said that cloud ceiling can change quickly so they decided to drop the clock to 5 minutes, but the window for launch was only another 10 minutes. During the next 5 minutes, NASA had a weather plane flying above the site to check the current cloud coverage.

Then they started a 5-minute countdown ... to see if they could launch. I was sitting in the VIP section with the family which was away from the guest section. ...

The crowd got really quiet. You could have heard a pin drop. We listened intently to mission control and the mission director discussing what to do. ...

The audience had their fingers, toes, ankles, etc. crossed, hoping the clouds would clear. We were hopeful until they hit 30 seconds and then we knew it was going to be scrubbed. We were all disappointed, but we know the safety of the crew is the major priority. ...

So that's where we are right now. Say a prayer that everything is fine for Saturday. ...

Angela DiNapoli


Clouds force delay of shuttle launch

Posted December 7, 2006 10:26 PM

NEEDHAM

shuttle2.JPG

The shuttle on the launch pad tonight
(NASA TV via AP)

Sunita Williams will have to wait at least till Saturday to get into space.

Low clouds forced NASA to delay the launch of space shuttle Discovery from Cape Canaveral, Fla. tonight, with the next attempt scheduled for Saturday night.

NASA managers waited until the end of the countdown before deciding to call off the launch scheduled for 9:35 p.m. ET. It would have been the first launch at night in four years.

“We gave it the best shot and didn’t get clear and convincing evidence that the cloud ceiling had cleared for us,” launch director Mike Leinbach told Discovery’s seven astronauts.

Williams, who grew up in Needham, is one of the seven. Her mission will be monitored by a special group of fans: her sixth-grade teacher, Angela DiNapoli, and DiNapoli's class at Newman Elementary School.

Williams, who graduated from Needham High School in 1983, now lives in Houston with her husband, Michael.

-- Associated Press

Circus comes to Wellesley

Posted December 7, 2006 02:40 PM

WELLESLEY

circus.jpg

Performers rehearsing for the circus
(Photo courtesy of Matthew Brouillard)

Rather than running away to join a circus, Matthew Brouillard formed his own -- and for college credit, to boot.

With a $1,200 budget, the 21-year-old Olin College student enlisted 20 performers from the Needham college and from Wellesley College to show off their talents in the elaborate juggling act of poi spinning, acrobatics, and aerial silk dancing.

Performances will be held at 5 and 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Richard W. Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College in Wellesley.

Tickets are $10, $5 for students and children. All proceeds will go to
the Sharing Foundation, which benefits Cambodian children.

-- Lauren K. Meade

An update from Cape Canaveral

Posted December 7, 2006 11:11 AM

NEEDHAM

shuttle.jpg

The shuttle as it was rolled to the launch pad last month
(Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images)

Angela DiNapoli, a fifth-grade teacher from Needham is waiting to watch the takeoff of the space shuttle from Cape Canaveral today. The shuttle is carrying one of DiNapoli's former students, Sunita Williams, who will be living in the international space station for six months.

Here's some excerpts from an email DiNapoli sent this morning to the Newman Elementary School community.

I just wanted to update you on what's been happening. The launch is still scheduled for tonight at 9:36. The 2 mechanical issues they had are resolved (power surge and adhesive on one of the SRB's). Right now it is the cloud coverage that creates a problem. The clouds have to be at least 8000 feet above ground level for a launch to occur. They have to have a clearing in the clouds for the launch. There is only a 10 minute window to launch. So if they don't launch by 9:46, they will have to try again tomorrow night. Then the launch window will be 20 minutes earlier ...

There is a 60 percent chance for a launch tonight but NASA said that's pretty good odds. Keep your fingers (and toes) crossed. ...

Well, we will have to be at the launch site by 5:00 tonight to board the buses. We will be viewing the launch with the family at the best site at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Banana Creek. ... If you can video tape the event, that would be great. I'm afraid Mr. D and I will be too excited and have a shaky video of it. ...

Thinking of you all.
Mrs. DiNapoli

Needham High grad reaches for the stars

Posted December 7, 2006 08:50 AM

fred.jpg
A technician helps Sunita Williams with her gear during training.
(NASA photo)

NEEDHAM

Sunita Williams, who graduated from Needham High School in 1983, will be making her first spaceflight tonight, weather permitting. Her mission will be monitored by a special group of fans: her sixth-grade teacher, Angela DiNapoli, and DiNapoli's class at Newman Elementary School.

Williams, who now lives in Houston with her husband, Michael, was selected for the astronaut program in 1998. DiNapoli, a huge space buff, is in Florida for the launch.

It will take the shuttle crew about two and a half days to reach the space station, where Williams’s duties will include rewiring the power supply. DiNapoli says she already has an inch-thick pile of e-mails from the Williams, who has been regularly sending students updates about her training. The astronaut has also agreed to write the students every Friday from space.

Read more about Williams' mission in today's Globe West section.

More employees sickened by norovirus at Needham hospital

Posted December 4, 2006 04:42 PM

NEEDHAM

Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Needham is continuing to fight an outbreak of norovirus, a non-life threatening gastrointestinal bug that can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.

Spokeswoman Margaret Pantridge said that as of this afternoon, a total of 41 clinical and administrative employees had called in sick as a result of the virus.

Two patients who had come down with symptoms during unrelated hospital stays were released this weekend, she said.

"We have gotten some questions about whether it is safe for patients to come to the hospital. The risk is very low, but we do recommend that people wash their hands when they come and when they leave," said Pantridge.

The virus can be easily transmitted by person-to-person contact, or contact with infected vomit or bodily wastes, according to health officials. The hospital has been thoroughly disinfected since the outbreak was discovered last Thursday, Pantridge said.

-- Stephanie Siek

Chef Dane's opening in Needham

Posted December 4, 2006 02:57 PM

NEEDHAM

Chef Dane's, California uber chef Dane Mechlin's idea of a cross between a supermarket and a take-out restaurant, is formally opening a franchise in Needham today.

Chef Dane's website says: "We plan the menu, do the shopping, do the chopping, and the cleanup. You assemble and customize personalized gourmet meals to cook and serve it at home. Chef Dane's can save you about 30 hours per month."

It's suggested that prospective customers book online a two-hour session, during which they have prep stations at their disposal where they might make a dozen dinners for a family of six; the food is then brought home in containers that can be frozen.

Costs average roughly $4 to $7 per serving so someone who made a dozen dinners for six could be looking at a bill of roughly between of just under $300 to just over $500.

"Families have steadily moved away from quality time around quality dinners," James Fici, manager of Chef Dane's Needham, said in a statement. "And we know how important it is to bring that part of life back. By doing most of the work ourselves, we give parents the opportunity to put together fresh, healthy, gourmet meals and have fun doing it."

-- Chris Reidy

Four more at hospital sickened by virus

Posted December 3, 2006 09:45 AM

NEEDHAM

Four more employees at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Needham have been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal virus, according to spokeswoman Margaret Pantridge.

The virus has now infected 26 hospital employees and two patients. The virus was caused by germs known as noroviruses , and is not life-threatening.

The hospital became aware of the outbreak Thursday and notified the Needham Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

-- Globe City & Region staff

Countdown approaching for Needham astronaut

Posted December 2, 2006 11:43 AM

sunita.jpg
Astronaut Williams at a recent news briefing.
(Getty Photo by Dave Einsel)

NEEDHAM

Liftoff is scheduled for next Thursday for the Discovery space shuttle, with a crew that will include Navy Commander Sunita Williams, who considers Needham her hometown.

Williams, who will spend six months on the international space station that has been orbiting the earth, tells The Associated Press in a story today that she's always wanted to fly a long-duration mission.

"A long-duration spaceflight will supply answers ... to what happens to the human body, how materials work in space," she said.

In addition to staying at the space station, Williams will help operate the space station's robotic arm. She will also take a spacewalk to rewire the station.

Stomach bug outbreak at Needham hospital

Posted December 1, 2006 03:29 PM

NEEDHAM

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Care Center in Needham is being disinfected after an outbreak of a gastrointestinal virus sickened 22 employees and two patients. Caused by a family of germs known as noroviruses, the disease causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps but is not life-threatening.

Spokeswoman Margaret Pantridge said the hospital first became aware of the outbreak yesterday, when a number of workers called in sick. The two patients were already in the hospital for unrelated medical reasons, she said. Their condition was not available Friday afternoon.

Hospital officials are unsure of where the virus originated, but Pantridge said that they believe it was spread through person-to-person contact rather than contact with contaminated food, another common means of infection.

Noroviruses are a family of viruses that also includes the Norwalk virus, which is notorious for sickening cruise ship passengers and other people in close quarters.

-- Stephanie V. Siek

Redstone nephew files lawsuit

Posted November 21, 2006 07:14 PM

NEEDHAM

Michael Redstone of Needham is suing his uncle, Viacom Inc. chairman Sumner Redstone, for allegedly cutting him and his late sister out of the family business, the Los Angeles Times reports today.

The stake could be worth $1 billion today.

It's the latest feud within the Redstone clan, the newspaper reports.

Family members have been suing one another for at least 35 years.

Needham company to offer radio ads on school buses

Posted November 17, 2006 10:54 AM

NEEDHAM

The rowdy kids in the back may no longer be the biggest source of sound on school buses.

Needham-based Bus Radio is set to offer music and some public service announcements and advertisements to be played on school buses in Swansea, the Providence Journal reports.

The company has plans to approach other school districts in Rhode Island within the next year but has received some backlash from parents who have complained that it turns a school environment into a venue for marketing to young children.

Bus Radio, however, has said that the playlist will be available for parents and school administrators to look over before it airs.

-- Erica Tochin

Glitch repair, old school style

Posted November 16, 2006 03:32 PM

schoolhouse10.jpg
Schoolhouse Day in Needham
(Photo: Bill Polo/Globe Staff)

NEEDHAM

Do you think they had to worry about pixel counts and Flash compatibility during Needham's one-room schoolhouse days?

Unfortunately, we at Westword do, and the online photo gallery that was supposed to have run with Lauren K. Meade's Sunday story about Schoolhouse Day in Needham was submarined by a technical glitch.

The good news is that we fixed it, and you can now see Globe Staff photographer Bill Polo's wonderful pictures of Needham third graders going through a day of school the way their forebears did 150 years ago.

-- Ralph Ranalli, Globe West Web Producer

Parents taking kids out of school more often

Posted November 12, 2006 09:50 AM

NEEDHAM

Martha Winokur of Needham is planning to take her son out of school for a family reunion planned for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

“I know it's against the rules,” the Needham, Mass., mother says she told the school's dean last week in an email. “But we're doing it anyway.”

She's not alone. More parents are pulling their kids out of school for family vacations, according to a Wall Street Journal article reprinted in The Day of New London, Conn.

Some 61 percent of travelers say they would take their children out of school for a family trip, up from 57 percent in 2003 and 45 percent in 2000, says a 2006 survey cited by the newspaper.

Observers told the paper there may be a variety of factors at work, including a shift in values toward more family time.

“I am respectful” of school policies, Winokur said. “But life is short, and in a few years the school will not be there” for her son. “But the family will.”



Funeral for Needham High crash victim

Posted November 3, 2006 07:16 AM

NEEDHAM

Classes were in session at Needham High School early yesterday, but at least 200 students, mostly seniors, took time off from their studies to attend the funeral of Keith MacLean, one of two classmates who died in a fiery car crash Oct. 27.

Several students helped roll MacLean’s pewter-colored casket into St. Joseph Church in Needham Center as a single bagpiper stood outside the church, in the light rain, and played a solemn tune that could be heard faintly inside. MacLean’s family followed the casket. After the congregation of approximately 500 mourners sang a song titled "I Have Loved You," about a half-dozen youths wearing black and yellow letter jackets walked in and sat side by side near the front of the church.

As the prayers and the songs continued, many of the students sat in stunned silence and others wept softly. Approximately 45 minutes into the ceremony, Patricia Flueckiger, MacLean’s mother, addressed the mourners, saying that her son and Igor Guralnik, 18, who also died in the crash, "were both bright stars." Guralnik’s funeral was held Tuesday.

-- Brian R. Ballou

Needham crash victims identified

Posted October 29, 2006 08:10 AM

NEEDHAM

Needham police have identified the victims in a fatal crash Friday on Greendale Avenue as high school seniors Keith MacLean, 19, and Igor Guralnik, 18.

Students cried and hugged each other in front of the students' homes yesterday, the Globe's City & Region section reports.

"This is just a tragedy for the Needham community, there's no way around that," said School Superintendent Daniel Gutekanst.

The crash was the latest in a series of fatal accidents in the region that have happened with teens behind the wheel.

Two killed in Needham crash

Posted October 28, 2006 10:18 AM

NEEDHAM

Two young people were killed at about 9:30 last night when their car slammed into a tree near the corner of Greendale Avenue and Oak Hill Street in Needham, according to police Lieutenant John Kraemer.

Both the driver and passenger were pronounced dead at the scene, he said, adding that police were investigating whether alcohol or excessive speed were factors in the crash.

Needham and State Police were still working to extricate the bodies two hours after the crash, Kraemer said

-- Globe City & Region staff

Olin student is a karate expert

Posted October 25, 2006 11:50 AM

NEEDHAM

Dean Dieker, a 20-year-old senior at the Olin College of Engineering in Needham, was recently recognized for his martial arts skills at an event in Aruba.

Dieker was awarded the title of Sensei by the World Union of Sokes, and was also named Black Belt of the Year by the organization.

He was recognized for his excellence in Tae Kwan Do, and hopes to represent the United States as part of the karate team at the Olympics in 2012, reports the Emporia Gazette.

-- Erica Tochin

Get off those monkey bars!

Posted October 21, 2006 09:08 AM

NEEDHAM

Now children, no hanging upside down from the monkey bars. That's the rule at the Mitchell Elementary School in Needham.

The Globe reports today that rules on play have been increasingly imposed in the Bay State and around the nation during the past 20 years.

"It's a shame that we've come to the point where you have to put all these rules down when kids play," said John Cummings, parent-teacher organization president at Hanlon Elementary School in Westwood. "I think they should let kids fall down ... get up, dust themselves off, and get right back on."

The Globe also found that tag was banned in Attleboro, handstands were banned in Boston, and throwing snow was banned in Norfolk.

The grandfather of invention

Posted October 17, 2006 11:04 AM

NEEDHAM

Leighton Makoto Ige knew a good idea when he saw one.

The recent graduate of Olin College in Needham was home in Hawaii over break when his grandfather showed him a chair he had created to keep his back straight for meditation, the International Herald Tribune reports.

They sold the design to Gaiam, one of America's largest distributors of yoga-related products.

To manufacture the chairs, Ige and his business partners looked globally. They looked for manufacturers in China, and soon after graduating, Ige moved to Hong Kong.

He says he would not have been as successful had he stayed in the United States.

"There's so much I've learned since I've come out here, to actually be in the factories, to work with them face to face," he said.

-- Erica Tochin

Witchy nails not for faint of heart

Posted October 13, 2006 10:24 AM

NEEDHAM

Black nail polish is not just for witchy women anymore, the New York Times reported recently.

A new black polish produced by Chanel is all the rage now among hipsters.

However, not everyone is going with the trend. Diane Iagulli, chief executive of Delta Projects in Needham, says there is no way she would ever paint her nails black.

"I try to tone down how I look," she told the Times. "I'm flamboyant enough in my personality."

-- Erica Tochin

The HP scandal and a Needham private eye

Posted October 10, 2006 06:10 PM

NEEDHAM

Three private investigators who obtained confidential telephone records as part of Hewlett-Packard's boardroom spying probe pleaded not guilty today in a California court to identity theft and other felony charges.

Ronald DeLia, of Needham, managing director of Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc., Matthew DePante of Florida-based Action Research Group Inc., and Bryan Wagner of Colorado were arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Each was released on personal recognizance.

DeLia, DePante and Wagner are among five people criminally charged last week for their roles in the spying scandal at the computer and printer giant. Former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and the company's ousted ethics chief, Kevin Hunsaker, appeared in court late last week.

-- AP

Naughty No. 9

Posted October 7, 2006 07:12 AM

NEWTON

It’s stall and crawl on on the east side of Route 9 just before the Chestnut Hill Mall, but only at night.

The traffic is caused by the city upgrading a water main under the busy highway. Jeremy Solomon, city spokesman, said the work is to improve the flow of water for firefighting because of development in the area, particularly the new Avalon Bay apartments.

Crews are authorized to work only between 7 pm and 5 am. The job should be finished in about a month, Solomon said.

-- Connie Paige

Reading, writing ... and saying no to another drink

Posted September 26, 2006 01:34 PM

NEEDHAM

College freshman have a lot to learn. Now they can add to that list lessons about the dangers of alcohol.

More than 500 campuses around the country are using AlcoholEdu, a program designed by Needham-based Outside the Classroom, to teach freshmen about alcohol consumption. Many colleges have experienced alcohol-related deaths, and administrators don't want to see it happen again.

So far, administrators say, the program has made a difference in student behavior. Schools in the Bay Area reported that there were fewer students transported to the hospital due to alcohol consumption, and fewer police citations for possession of alcohol, the San Francisco Chronicle reports today.

-- Erica Tochin

Needham PI to testify to Congress

Posted September 25, 2006 11:08 PM

NEEDHAM

Three people involved in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s efforts to unmask a boardroom leak -- including a private investigator from Needham -- have been ordered to testify at this week's congressional hearing on the corporate spying scandal that's so far claimed the company's chairwoman and two directors.

The subpoenas are the first issued by the panel in its investigation. They were served over the weekend, according to a congressional aide who asked not to be identified because the investigation is continuing.

Until now, the invitations to testify at Thursday's hearing had been voluntary and other witnesses had accepted them.

The subpoenas from the House Energy and Commerce Committee went to Kevin T. Hunsaker, the technology company's chief ethics officer; Anthony R. Gentilucci, who manages HP's global investigations unit in Boston; and Ron DeLia, the operator of a Needham detective firm hired by HP in the elaborate and intrusive investigation to trace the source of a boardroom leak.

-- AP

HP regrets involvement with Needham firm

Posted September 23, 2006 09:42 AM

NEEDHAM

Computer maker Hewlett Packard Co. said yesterday that a Needham private investigator gave assurances that its methods were legal, then apparently used ``pretexting," or lying, to obtain phone and fax records of 18 company board members, employees, and journalists.

The Globe business section reports today that Hewlett-Packard has come to regret its involvement with the Needham firm, Security Outsourcing Solutions, and HP chief executive Mark Hurd yesterday offered apologies to those who were targeted.

The Needham company is at the center of a huge scandal over corporate spying at HP.

Flu vaccination shortages

Posted September 21, 2006 02:21 PM

NEEDHAM

Dr. Leonard Finn of Needham was led to believe that the shortage of flu vaccinations would be over this year.

But when he tried to order 900 doses, he was told by the company that his order would not be filled completely.

The reason: more and more vaccinations are being sent to big name retailers, such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Costco, and Rite Aid. Flu vaccinations being ordered by small, private-practice physicians are being delayed in favor of the retail giants, Business Week reports.

-- Erica Tochin

From Needham to outer space

Posted September 21, 2006 02:12 PM

NEEDHAM

Astronaut Sunita Lyn Williams is gearing up to go on a mission to the International Space Station. Indians are excited because the American astronaut will be only the second woman of Indian origin to go into space.

But who does Williams credit for her success? The answer may be surprising.

Williams told the Times of India that she was motivated by her schoolteachers in Needham as a child.

She will spend six months at the ISS, until the summer of 2007. She will be part of NASA's 14th expedition as a flight engineer.

-- Erica Tochin

Patrick takes Needham

Posted September 20, 2006 06:11 PM

Deval L. Patrick scored a convincing win in Needham with 54 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for governor, surpassing his statewide result of 50 percent.

In total, 3,413 voters opted for Patrick; 1,824 for Christopher Gabrieli; and 1050 for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, according to figures from the Town Clerk’s office.

Overall voter turnout came to 36.42 percent of the town’s 18,553 active voters.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Risa Rosengard, 39, bank executive

Posted September 20, 2006 02:59 PM

NEEDHAM

Risa (Singer) Rosengard, senior vice president of marketing in the Waltham office of Bank of America, died of complications from Hodgkins lymphoma Monday at Brigham & Women's Hospital. She was 39.

Mrs. Rosengard graduated from Newton South High School, Tufts University, and Bentley College, with a master's in business administration. An avid reader of mysteries, Mrs. Rosengard also enjoyed interior design and fashion. She chaired fund-raisers for the Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay, Metrowest. Her main focus, however, was caring for her daughters, Mia, 5, and Olivia, 3.

In addition to her daughters, she leaves her husband, Glenn of Needham; her parents, Leon and Harriet (Harnch) Singer of Chestnut Hill; a brother, Alan Singer of Ashland; and a sister, Gail Harrison of Denver. A funeral service will be held at noon today in Levine Chapel in Brookline. Burial will be in Linwood Memorial Park

-- Globe Staff

Needham PI cooperating in HP probe

Posted September 18, 2006 10:47 AM

NEEDHAM

Ronald R. DeLia, a Needham private investigator, is reportedly cooperating with probes of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s conduct, his attorney told the Globe.

Authorities are looking into allegations that the California-based company conducted an improper investigation of employees and board members during a dispute over leaks to the media.

Delia's precise role isn't clear. Last week, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he was seeking information about DeLia's work for the company.

DeLia's attorney said he could not comment on the specifics of the case.

A private eye in Needham and a corporate scandal

Posted September 16, 2006 08:21 AM

NEEDHAM

Needham private investigator Ronald R. DeLia yesterday was asked to testify in Washington this month by congressional officials looking for explanations in the corporate-spying affair at Hewlett-Packard Co.

Congressional committee members want to hear from him in the context of the burgeoning investigation at the California computer maker, which on Sept. 6 confessed that ``some form of pretexting," or lying, had been used to get personal records of its board members and journalists.

The falsehoods came in the midst of a probe of leaks to the media by the firm's board, and touched off a furor that led chairwoman Patricia Dunn to say she would step down from the post this week. But Hewlett-Packard hasn't said much more about its conduct, drawing attention from regulators.

-- Ross Kerber

Read more in today's Business section.

Gothic siren or Plain Jane?

Posted September 15, 2006 09:48 AM

NEEDHAM

Marissa Nadler sings about coffins and gravestones, but her music doesn't necessarily match her style.

The Needham native makes herself out to be a gothic enchantress, but when fans see her for the first time, they are often surprised or disappointed.

"I think based on my music people expect me to be very witchy, like I fly in on a broomstick or something," the 25-year-old tells the Globe in a Weekend section story today.

-- Erica Tochin

nadler.jpg

(Indie singer-songwriter Nadler, 25, of Providence, posed recently at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Photo by William Moore.)

Search for clues in Needham

Posted September 14, 2006 06:34 PM

NEEDHAM

Investigators plan to search the Needham offices of a private investigation firm involved in the Hewlett-Packard Co. spying scandal, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said today.

Lockyer told The Associated Press that he is working with Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly in the investigation of Security Outsourcing Solutions, a small firm believed to have aided HP in its possibly illegal probe to root out media leaks in its ranks.

"He's assisting in getting our search warrants served on that firm so that we can fully examine their records," Lockyer said.

He said the firm's offices will likely be searched early next week, but he has not decided whether the firm broke any laws.

"I would like to see the results of the search warrant before having a settled opinion on that," Lockyer said.

-- AP

A house in Needham and a corporate scandal

Posted September 14, 2006 07:35 AM

NEEDHAM

What does a neatly kept two-story yellow house in Needham have to do with the corporate spying scandal at Hewlett-Packard Co.?

Turns out the house is one of the addresses of Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc.

California officials investigating the corporate spying at HP are examining the role of the firm in the events leading to Tuesday's decision by H P chairwoman Patricia C. Dunn to step down, according to published reports.

The Globe Business section reports today that little could be learned about the company, which also shares space with a downtown law firm.

Media outlets across the country, including the New York Times and Washington Post, were trying to reach someone at the house yesterday.

9/11's wounds

Posted September 11, 2006 09:09 AM

NEEDHAM

A Needham family was upended by the 9/11 disaster, causing borders and bonds to change.

The Globe reports in a front page story today on the turmoil in the family that resulted when David Gordenstein lost his wife, Lisa, in the attacks.

The story says that some in the family clung to the past, while others found security by living with the changes thrust upon them.

"I think we are all finding our rhythm," said David, 47, president of Zeff Photo Supply in Belmont. "But it will surely take many recalibrations in the years to come."


Crash kills two from Needham

Posted September 11, 2006 09:02 AM

DOVER

An Audi sedan crashed into a stone wall in Dover early yesterday, killing two Needham residents.

Douglas Foreman, 43, was driving the car owned by passenger Heather McNeil Piersiak, 41, when it struck a wall at the intersection of Dedham and Mill streets shortly before 1:30 a.m.

Foreman was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Piersiak was taken to Metro-West Medical Center in Natick, and both were pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Authorities said that State Police are investigating the accident and that speed appeared to have been a factor.

-- Globe City & Region staff

Armed robberies raise concerns in Needham

Posted September 8, 2006 09:55 AM

NEEDHAM

A recent rash of armed robberies in Needham has prompted police to warn residents not to walk alone at night and to be aware of their surroundings.

A woman was robbed on Wednesday on Pine Grove Street by three males, one of whom appeared to have a gun.

There were two similar robberies at the end of July, the Globe reports today. On July 25, a female was robbed on Highland Avenue by a man with a handgun. Two days later, a male reported that he was robbed by two men at gunpoint. It is not clear whether the robberies were related.

"I tell people, if you've got to walk outside at night, don't go alone -- and stay in a well-lit area," said Needham Police sergeant Chris Baker.

-- Erica Tochin

Now blogging, a teacher near you

Posted September 7, 2006 10:02 AM

NEEDHAM

It seems that the world of blogging has a new force to reckon with: teachers.

Teachers from Needham to Martha's Vineyard have begun posting to blogs, according to a front-page story in the Globe today. Parents say the blogs have given them something to talk about with their kids.

"Instead of saying what did you learn today I would say, you know, I heard that your first-grade class got some chicks," said Daphne Davidson, mother of a first-grader in Needham.

-- Erica Tochin

blogteach.jpg
(Betsy Blumberg and Melanie Sullivan, elementary school teachers at John Eliot School in Needham, began blogging last school year, Globe Staff Photo by Dominic Chavez)

Military recruiters on campus

Posted September 4, 2006 09:44 AM

NEEDHAM

Hundreds of people have checked into the Globe West bulletin boards to look at the discussion over a move by some parents in Needham to kick military recruiters off the high school campus.

A Globe West story last Sunday reported that parents say the recruiters' presence is "advertising" for the conflict in Iraq. What do you think? Should the military be able to set up booths at high school cafeterias? Let us know your opinion.


Jason Paul Gagne, 32

Posted September 2, 2006 09:21 AM

NEEDHAM

A video engineer, Needham native Jason Paul Gagne had a job that carried him around the world for Olympics and World Cup coverage and, on a daily basis, into Boston's hallowed sports venues. It was a career many sports fans would envy, and he enjoyed it, but more important to Mr. Gagne were the people in his life, many of whom considered him their ``best friend."

``He was just one of those people who everyone was attracted to and liked to be around," said his sister-in-law, Amy of Millis. ``He would give the shirt off his back any time of day . . . I just think he cared about everybody so much."

Mr. Gagne, a freelance video engineer for New England Sports Network and FOX New England sports, died Monday from injuries sustained in an automobile accident, the Globe reports in an obituary today. He was 32.

-- Stephanie Peters

Wooden bats debated

Posted September 1, 2006 12:06 PM

NEEDHAM

Needham resident Richard Carey gave props to the Globe's coverage of the debate raging between aluminum vs. wooden bats in a Letter to the Editor today.

He's in favor of wood.

"If a baseball hit off the handle or shaft of an aluminum bat is capable of killing a pitcher, but a ball hit off the same location of a wooden bat can cause no more damage than a broken bat, wouldn't that fact alone make a metal bat more dangerous than a wooden one?" he wrote. "Wouldn't it be better to have a cracked bat than a cracked skull?"

-- Erica Tochin

Not wanted: recruiters in Needham

Posted August 26, 2006 11:17 AM

NEEDHAM

The uniformed soldiers sit in booths off to the side of bustling cafeterias in high schools across the nation.

It can be lonely duty in a town like Needham, where only one graduate last spring enlisted.

Now David Rhoads, who has two sons who graduated from Needham High, wants the high school to bar recruiters from setting up shop in the cafeteria. Rhoads contends that their presence there promotes the war in Iraq.

“This is advertising,” said Rhoads. “This is not recruiting. This is getting students used to the military being around and being the good guys, not destroying a country.” ...

Read more of Lauren Meade's story in tomorrow's Globe West.

UPromise sold to Sallie Mae

Posted August 23, 2006 11:05 AM

NEEDHAM

College loan provider SLM Corp. -- commonly known as Sallie Mae -- said Wednesday it completed its acquisition of Needham-based college savings plan administrator Upromise Inc. for undisclosed terms.

The transaction was originally announced in June. At that time, SLM said the deal was not expected to materially affect its earnings this year or next year.

Upromise is the largest administrator of so-called Section 529 programs. Savings in 529 plans -- the name is a reference to the federal tax code -- grow tax-deferred, and withdrawals are tax-free when used for education.

The company has contracts to administer Section 529 college savings plans in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New York and North Carolina.

Members of Upromise also earn rebates from thousands of grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and retail stores that are deposited into Section 529 plans. Some 7 million people participate.

Tom Anderson will remain as Upromise's chief executive, leading more than 300 employees at the Needham location, Sallie Mae said.

-- AP

New school of thought

Posted August 15, 2006 04:30 PM

NEEDHAM

Olin College in Needham is so new that whatever ivy there may be on the 5-year-old campus probably hasn't grown past the windows on the first floor.

But that didn't stop the Newsweek/Kaplan College Guide from naming the tiny (current enrollment: 286 students) engineering school as one of the "25 New Ivies" for its ability to attract the nation's top scholars.

Olin is one of three Massachusetts schools to make the list. The other two are Boston College and Tufts University.

-- Erica Tochin

Cool spot in Needham

Posted August 2, 2006 01:44 PM

With temperatures today above 100 degrees, Broadmeadow Elementary opened its doors as a cooling center for residents. The air-conditioned hangout is equipped with 50 gallons of water, television, and computers.

Fire Chief Paul Buckley said this is the first time he recalls that Needham opened a cooling center. Buckley said residents without air conditioning, particularly seniors and children, also are encouraged to go to the library on hot days.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Vacation homework

Posted July 30, 2006 10:37 AM

REGION

Ah, good old summer. A time for teenagers to sleep late, hang out, and daydream. And, of course, there's always homework.

Homework?

The Globe reports today that starting more than a decade ago, the amount of summer homework for high school students has risen in the state's affluent, high-achieving districts.

Some schools think it's gone too far. Needham High School and Weston High have cut back.

"These kids are overstressed and overprogrammed," said Connie Barr, whose daughter will be a senior at Needham. "They need a chance to play and make decisions about how to spend their summer without something hanging over their heads all the time."

Principal Paul Richards cracked down on the amount of homework to allow more time family vacations, camps -- and, of course, internships.

needham2.jpg

(Olivia Boyd, an incoming junior at Needham High, worked Friday at Nobles Day Camp. Boyd fits summer reading into her busy vacation schedule. Photo by Robert Spencer)

Stuck in Lebanon

Posted July 17, 2006 07:59 AM

NEEDHAM

A Needham woman fears for the lives of her daughters who are in Lebanon.

Nayla Raffol says she hasn't spoken to her daughters, Rachelle, 16, Caroline, 14, or Gabriella, 10, since Friday, the Globe reports today.

Israel has been bombing Lebanon after an attack by Hezbollah guerrillas last week in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and two abducted. Hezbollah has been firing rockets into Israel.

Pay to Play

Posted July 14, 2006 05:22 PM

NEEDHAM

Needham High School athletes could play fewer games and participate in fewer practices next year-- even with higher user fees -- if the School Committee approves Principal Paul Richard’s budget recommendations.

No sports will be cut, Richards said, but he and athletic director John Palmer plan to revise the budget for the coming year in a way that will probably eliminate some non-league games and reduce rink time for hockey practices.

After spring’s failed override, fees are rising to $285, up from $175, officials said. Some school committee members have already expressed concern that student-athletes are paying more and getting less.

This year's athletic budget suffered a $35,000 shortfall, largely from increased transportation costs and because fewer students paid user fees than expected, officials said. The year before, the athletic budget was $29,000 in the red.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Appraiser nominated

Posted July 14, 2006 12:04 PM

NEEDHAM

A Needham appraiser has been nominated by Governor Romney to replace an existing member on the Appellate Tax Board, Globe columnist Steve Bailey reports today.

Thomas Mulhern has been pegged to replace Donald Gorton. Bailey says the board is a little-known agency that wields tremendous power in its decisions on tax policy.

-- Erica Tochin

Speaking out loud and clear

Posted July 7, 2006 11:03 AM

NEEDHAM/NEWTON

Three residents of Boston's western suburbs aired their opinions today in the Globe Letters to the Editor.

Sarah Litvin, of Newton, called for better nutrition at summer camps.

Ken Milne, of Needham, talked about his view of the differences between progressives and conservatives.

John Fountain, of Needham, said the philanthropy of Gates and Buffett is no excuse for government not to help people.

Down to the Lake in [Tiny] Ships

Posted July 5, 2006 03:44 PM

NEEDHAM

A shady bank of Rosemary Lake became a maritime battleground yesterday for nine skippers from the Needham-based Minuteman Model Yacht Club, who gathered for a noontime regatta during the July 4 festivities.

Hal Robinson, 70, examined the black carbon fiber hull of his U.S. 1 meter yacht, tightening the mesh and polyester sails before floating it into competition. Despite their toy-like appearance, the boats can cost up to $1,500 and miniature yachters take their sport seriously, abiding by the same rules established by the International Sailing Federation.

The wind whorled in all directions, churning the lake waters into choppy waves. Commodore Cliff Martin, who said the club has members that range in age from 12 to 95, yelled out the course the sailboats were required to take around the brightly-colored buoys positioned throughout the lake: Green! Orange! Red!

The race began. The fleet of ships ripped through the waters toward the first buoy. From the bank, the scene looked like a Fitz Hugh Lane painting -- except for the skippers, who manned the boats from the bank with radio transmitters, whose dials and switches moved the rudders and sails like string-less marionettes.

“You guys are just sitting there. I’m going in!” said Robinson, charging his boat through the fleet and risking a 360-degree penalty circle for making contact with another craft. The gamble paid off, and he safely cruised through the other boats.

As a thunderstorm crept up, the race ended without a winner. Putting aside their competitive intensity, the skippers left to celebrate the regatta at their traditional clubhouse: Dunkin’ Donuts in Town Centre.

-- Lauren K. Meade

Christian bookstore comes to the suburbs

Posted July 5, 2006 11:35 AM

NEEDHAM

The largest Christian bookstore in New England has opened its doors in Needham.

Sanctuary -- located where Whittemore's church supply store sat for decades off Rte. 128 on Wexford St. -- is operated by Jubilee Christian Church of Boston, the largest evangelical church in the state.

The store has a huge selection of books, bibles and gifts, and is already garnering some attention.

Read more about it in this Thursday's Globe West.

Seahorse Power

Posted June 27, 2006 03:48 PM

NEEDHAM

Seahorse Power Co., a Needham firm that makes a cordless public trash compactor and other products has been awarded a state grant.

Seahorse was among four companies getting a total of $1.4 million in grants to further their development of renewable technology.

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative gave grants of between $100,000 and $500,000 to the companies.

The grants came from the state's Renewable Energy Trust fund, which is administered by the technology collaborative, the state's renewable energy development agency. Read more about this and other breaking business stories in the Business Desk's breaking news blog.

West Nile in Needham

Posted June 27, 2006 03:37 PM

NEEDHAM

Beware of bloodthirsty bugs.

For this first time this summer, mosquitoes harboring West Nile virus have been discovered in Massachusetts, state health authorities reported today.

A pool of infected insects was discovered in Needham. No human cases have been reported, the Department of Public Health said.

The virus has arrived in the state nearly a month earlier than last year, when the first pool of mosquitoes carrying West Nile was not reported until July 25.

Check the City and Region blog for more information.

About globe west updates Welcome to Globe West Updates, the news blog of the Globe West regional section of The Boston Globe. Check in with us often to see updated items about Boston's western suburbs from our staff reporters and correspondents. Give us your reaction to our stories in the print editions or on the blog by using the form below. Get involved — with Globe West!
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