The Life Of A John R. Rollins School Student (1987–1993)

Mark Sinacori in Mrs. Nadeau’s 3rd grade class in the John R. Rollins School, September 1990

It was old. 95 years old to be exact when I first started Kindergarten there. The John R. Rollins School on Prospect Hill in Lawrence, Mass will always be memorable to me. Even though the school had a lot of flaws in structure and amenities, there were indeed good times!

Mrs. Kennedy, school principal at the Rollins School. I remember her as a wise but friendly woman, always loved children, and she loved playing the piano for them just before Christmas!

Mrs. Kennedy was our principal when I started at the Rollins School in 1987. The parents fought and fought on Prospect Hill to get a Kindergarten at the Rollins as it never had one and a lot of kids in the area were now entering Kindergarten. I know the Storrow School had a few of them, but for some reason, I guess they were full or something. So the Rollins created their first single Kindergarten class in the fall of 1987. For about a week before, I went to the Breen School and was bussed there each day with several guys from the area and had Mrs. Ford, who had grey hair and was very jolly. One girl I became good friends with at the Breen stayed that entire year, then transferred into the Rollins in the first few weeks of first grade. I immediately became smitten with her and chased her for the next 3 years until the end of 4th grade, but after that point we stayed friends. The only time I went to Mrs. Kennedy’s office was to stop fighting with this guy, who would always fight with me in the Storrow Park and then when we started school in the Rollins, we kept fighting in Kindergarten and into 1st grade and then when that girl showed up it became worse. After he stayed back in 1st, we fought when I was in 2nd grade for a few weeks or so, not sure how long, it was mostly him pushing me or provoking me to hit him back. In the end, I ended up with a black eye and my Mom felt enough was enough and that was the only time I went to her office. I recall she sat us down, gave us a talking to and said “What are you guys fighting over? Why has this been going on for so long?” Not to get the girl involved, we just shrugged our shoulders, as the fighting happened long before she showed up and was basically just him throwing sand at me in the park and me pushing him back at times. We simply shrugged our shoulders and she had us shake hands and after that point we became friends. My Nana used to pick me up at times and she’d stop at the office and she and Mrs. Kennedy would talk. She was a good principal who was friendly with all the kids. Sure, she had to be a little strict if there were trouble makers, but I remember her as caring and just before we all got out for Christmas vacations, she’d play the piano in the auditorium and we’d all sing Christmas songs in there. Something I never understood though was why she let the school go to waste. It was such in poor condition when I showed up. When you watch the video below that she’s in, she sympathizes with everyone and how stuff needed to be done way before I showed up, the school needed lots of repairs and the city just didn’t have the money or the care to do them there or in any school. Mrs. Kennedy passed away during our February vacation in 1992. I remember when we all came back to school all the teachers were sad. Mrs. Salvo, at the start of class told us what had happened and the whole class was sad, all except one boy, the biggest trouble maker who had been to her office many times the past several years. “Good, I hated her!” We all were shocked to his response. He just kept going on and on about going to her office all the time and getting in trouble but it was his fault, he would have never gone had he been a nice kid. It was so bad that Mrs. Kannan had to come upstairs and talk to him. “She gave you so many chances! So many chances!” She kept telling him over and over. “I don’t care!” he shouted back and turned his face. It was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen, and he never got expelled. He should have been after that point. He was the biggest bully in the history of the Rollins when I was there. Mrs. Kennedy was a good principal. Everyone was so sad when she passed. But replacing her was Mrs. Sullivan, and she stuck with the school until it closed in 1999 and went on to being principal at the Parthum School from the time it opened until the end of the early 2000s.

CLICK THE LINK ABOVE TO SEE A VIDEO OF THE SCHOOL FROM 1990 WITH MRS. KENNEDY THE PRINCIPAL.

What the Rollins school looked like by the time Mark entered it in 1987. It needed all new windows as they were the original ones from 1892. The city did a horrible job at updating anything back then. All the schools in the city had original windows going back to the time the schools were built. Some in the late 1890s and some in the early 1900s and 1910s. In summer of 1992 they finally replaced all the windows from top to bottom along with all the shades in the school which were green and “crisped” from the sun from many years of usage. The windows were replaced with white ones and the shades were also white.
This is what the school looked like in summer of 1992, after all the windows were replaced. However, there were still a lot of flaws, such as the bricks that looked like the school had burned at some point, all charred black due to age. Superintendent Scully told everyone one time “These old schools that were built in the early 1990s and prior, as they age the ‘smoke’ and that changes the color of the bricks to black on the outside. The green paneling around the windows also looks charred here.
Mark’s Kindergarten class, which was held in the library and cut off by wall dividers. It only had 3 windows, and stetched across the length of the back of the auditorium, oposite the stage. On the other side of the wall were clusters of books on shelves, where the library probably was at the time. In 1992/2993, the library was for sure held behind that wall divider which was no longer a Kindergarten class. Following the red arrow, thatr’s where Mark would sit in his kindergarten class. Ms. Fusco had her desk against the windows and Mark’s desk he shared with several other kids was closer to the entrance of the classroom.
Looking up at the ceiling every day, this is what Mark saw. Old, chipping paint which fell on his desk. In 1992, the school finally fixed that problem when the ceiling and the stage area and walls in the auditorium were freshly painted white.

I began Kindergarten at the Rollins School in September of 1987. I recall having class in the auditorium, blocked off by rug covered wall room dividers. Memories I have of that year include paint falling endlessly from the ceiling and onto the desks and floor of my classroom, the cobwebs in the cafeteria basement windows, and the unsanitary conditions the school was in at the time. Yes, for 1987, the school was way past its peak of serving kids. We had some great teachers though! I don’t blame the teacher’s, no. Nor Mrs. Kennedy, the principal at the time when the school was way passed its time as being fit to serve as a school. The city as a whole was bad. It was at the worst point when I started school in 1987 into the early 1990s with all the fires and gangs and whatnot. The city had no money, and the schools, most of them were in need of new windows for sure. Several were built in the late 1800s, the Rollins, being the oldest in the city, was built in 1892. Summer of 1992 I recall both the Rollins and Oliver getting new “White” windows. But after that point, all the schools remaining got “brown” ones. I’m not sure what year they replaced them in the rest of the schools, but I want to say 1994–1996 the latest, all the other schools such as The Leonard, Bruce, Leahy, Tarbox and Wetherbee all got new brown windows. Had the city replaced all the windows in all the schools in summer of 1992, they very well could have been white like the Rollins and Oliver had gotten.

Like I said, I don’t blame the staffers of teachers for how unsanitary the school was back then. I blame the janitors mostly. The janitors were really nice to us kids but were too dumb to see all the mess in the basement. For christ’s sake, if windows are filthy, even if you can’t clean them because they’re gonna break, at least DUST if there is dust all around them! I recall 1987–1992 the basement windows being FULL of cobwebs. FULL. It was as if we had lunch in a freaking ghost house or something. It was disgusting that I couldn’t even look in the direction of the windows or else I would have thrown up at some point. I mean, who allows that to happen? The city and school system most likely. The lunch ladies probably saw it and complained but they never said anything, nor did the teachers. By the time I got there the damage had been done. Those unsanitary conditions probably had been building up for years. I recall in 1992, my cousin was eating his sandwich and a spider web drooped right over his head and probably hit his sandwich as he ate it. I was so ready to open my mouth at that point, but it was the end of the 1991–1992 school year, and when we came back that fall, all the windows had been replaced and all those cobwebs removed….well, maybe for just the time being… If you watch the video of the school from 1990, Mrs. Kennedy, the principal even addresses the flaws. We as students didn’t just see them, the teachers did as well. She knew it was way passed its time. She knew it needed updates. She felt so bad as did the teachers. But nobody could really do anything because of how bad the school system was back then. It was horrible.

Growing up in Lawrence, I was always a good kid, and it always showed in school. I got it from my parents and grandparents each day to be a good kid in school and not to fight or swear and to be good to my teachers. And I always was. Teachers always trusted me. I was usually the one chosen to go on errands and such over the years, bringing stuff to other teachers or things to the principal that my homeroom teacher needed to give them. I recall always getting great conduct each year. I was pretty much one of the best behaved, especially out of the guys.

In Kindergarten, we had a few guys and girls who stuck with the school up until 4th grade or right up until the end of 5th grade. These kids were some of the nicest because they had been there for so long, a few trickled in a year or two or three, but were not well behaved. A few deserved to be expelled yet weren’t. The teachers and principals would never tolerate bullying or wise guys, so many kids who repeatedly were trouble got detention. I never got one in my 6 years there. A few kids, even the ones who were nice to me got them for fighting or swearing. I never did either.

The teachers were all memorable when I was there from 1987–1993.

For Kindergarten we all had Ms. Fusco. She was new that year. Not much I can really say about her, but I remember class was fun. She was the only teacher for Kindergarten that year and just had our class. Then, Mrs. Riley, I believe, taught Kindergarten up until she retired.

For first grade, kids either had Mrs. Castiglione, dubbed “Mrs. C.” or Mrs. Charlebois. First grade was fun, but Mrs. C. was very strict,in fact, the strictest teacher I had there, but it was for our own good for being disruptive or not paying attention for talking in any way while she gave her lessons to the class. She was my homeroom teacher. Yes, even I got in trouble a few times for talking in class. That was the only thing I got in trouble for, yet it only went as far as “Mark, put your name on the board,” or “Mark, stand in the corner.” I think, maybe a total of four times that year I had to stand in the corner and a few I had my name on the board. Getting to stand in the corner was the first strike, the second was name on the board if we repeated that certain something, mostly talking. Not sure if it went any further after that, but I recall it happening just a few times and then at parent teacher meetings after 2nd quarter, it stopped once my parents and her agreed I was a good kid and I needed to stop taking during her lessons. I guess it was a learning thing as I was just 6. However, the kids I’d talk to wouldn’t get in trouble because they were quieter in tone or they just didn’t respond back, knowing they’d get in trouble. Practically all the kids got in trouble a few times for talking that year. Even the nicest of nice. Some cried over it if they had to stand in the corner, since, you know, they were just 6 at the time and found it scary to be lectured about misbehaving. But Mrs. C. was awesome and cared about us as a whole, wanted us to read and be respectable while she taught us. After a while I caught on and did just what Mrs. C. wanted and I stopped getting reprimanded. This worked well as the rest of my schooling from 2nd to 8th grade, I was always well behaved and not as chatty as I had been, during class lessons. Teachers always trusted me. In first grade we learned to read. I was one of the best readers in the class at first and then I don’t know what happened but somehow out of the three groups we had that year, “The Busy Bee’s,” The Blue Jays,” and “The Beavers,” I started out as a Busy Bee, then got tossed into the Blue Jays as did some others who were having it tough after a while, and finally The Beavers, which was the lowest group and the “slowest readers.” I guess I just let the pressure get to me and made the reading a struggle when it wasn’t all that hard and listening to so many slackers read I guess I might have imitated them and their speed as it was catchy, my ability was much more though than lowest reader as I had officially started out as one of the strongest, just a dumb thing that happened as a 6 year old, I guess. Yet my teacher liked me and trusted me because I was a good kid and was never a wise guy. I always did all my work and was always cooperative with my classmates. A field trip I recall was going to Boston and on the Swan Boats in spring of 1989. Mrs. C. retired in the fall of 1992 and was replaced by Mrs. Driscoll, who taught chapter one Reading.

Swan Boats, Spring of 1989, Boston, Mass. Rollins School 1st graders visit Boston and take a ride on the swan boats. Mark Sinacori sits three rows back, to the right of teacher aide Ms Merrill

For 2nd grade, kids either had Mrs. Farrell or Mrs. Bertelsen. I had Mrs. Farrell. 2nd grade was fun because we learned how to weave and watched a ton of movies. I don’t remember much else about that year. Just a lot of weaving, adding and subtracting, telling time, learning how to count money, reading and spelling. Mrs. Farrell was a good teacher and always brought in treats for the class, such as Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts which came out around that time period in 1989/1990. I also remember her bringing in a New Kids On The Block concert VHS and we watched that together with Mrs. Bertelsen’s 2nd grade class in my homeroom.

For 3rd grade, kids either had Mrs. Nadeau or Mrs. Kannan. I had Mrs. Nadeau and was always one of the top kids in the class. I was always one of the best in math with multiplication and division,which we learned that year, was one of the first few to complete the 0 through 12 times tables. I also placed second in the class math bee once we learned all the multiplication and division tables. I remember my Dad saying she was one of the best teachers I had because at parents night, he liked it when the teacher would address him as “Mr. Sinacori” and I think she did that. She was also a great teacher and always praised how hard I tried yet always wanted me to do neater, readable work with my handwriting,my only real flaw as a student in my lower grades. 3rd grade was one of my favorite years because my teacher was one of the best and all the kids loved her. That year, we also learned about the battle of Lexington and Concord, the Indians, learned how to make soap and candles, made friendship cake which took over a month to do, and, in Mrs. Kannan’s class when my class switched with her class, we learned about fine arts and artists such as Mary Cassatt, and learned geography and states and their cities. I missed perfect attendance by one day that year.

For 4th grade, kids either had Mrs. Salvo or Mrs. Jalbert. I had Mrs. Salvo. Mrs. Salvo, overall, won the award according to my parents as the best homeroom teacher I ever had. Both with the Rollins and Holy Trinity combined. Personally, I think so, too. It was close between both Mrs. Nadeau and Mrs. Salvo, but with Mrs. Salvo, the students, overall, laughed so much in that class and had so much fun as a whole whether it was a joke she said or a joke or rude comment kids/wise-guys would say back to her in class just to be funny but in no way mean. My parents recall Mrs. Salvo as being caring, kind, sweet, funny, and also addressed them as “Mr./Mrs. Sinacori”. Man, I cried so much that last day of 3rd grade as I knew Mrs. Jalbert personally because she’d visit my tenants who lived upstairs at my house as they were in her family and I always hoped to get her for a teacher as the years went on, plus my best friend in class was getting her and we had every homeroom together since 1st grade, and most of the class was getting her. I cried and cried like a baby when I saw I was getting Mrs. Salvo and I wasn’t familiar with her, but that fall, it was a different story. We got a few new students that year who were really fun and awesome and who became good friends of mine, my best friend had left the school, and I finally got to know Mrs. Salvo as a teacher as I wasn’t familiar with her. Both Mrs. Salvo and Mrs. Jalbert were two of the best teachers I ever had in my time in the Rollins and all my classmates loved both of them. Mrs. Salvo was big with cracking jokes with the class, getting us to do creative writing and poetry assignments, and I realized I cried over nothing. It turns out my Nana actually knew her father when they were growing up in Lawrence as they were close in age. Also, she ironically babysat Mrs. Salvo’s husband when he was a baby as I believe they lived in the same neighborhood and she was close with his parents when he was born. So it was fun learning those stories. While Mrs. Salvo taught her homeroom Science, Mrs. Jalbert taught her class Social Studies, so we’d switch classes for those subjects. I recall so many field trips our class went on that year and Mrs. Salvo and Mrs. Jalbert making them so much fun. We hit every place that year, including the textile museum, the museum of fine arts, The New England Aquarium, Plum Island, and, finally, the Museum of Science. Mrs. Salvo and Mrs. Jalbert were good teachers and also great friends. I remember on the bus ride to the Museum Of Science, they were talking about recipes and how Mrs. Salvo prepared her ham and other dishes and catching up on how their families were doing. We also celebrated the 100th birthday of the school that year in 1992 and put on a talent show with songs from the 1950s to the 1980s such as “Barbara Ann,” “The Beat Goes On,” “Beat It,” “Where The Boys Are,” “Flashdance: What A Feeling,” and“Material Girl”. I wish I had video of that performance, it was a lot of fun! I’m sure there were people who took video of it back then. 4th grade, overall, was my favorite year there. Although, I admit, some subjects became harder such as Math, Science and History, mostly because we had to read from text books. Before that, school was very easy. At the end of the year I had perfect attendance.

Mark Sinacori with Mrs. Salvo, the night of the Rollins School 100th birthday in April of 1992. Students and teachers dressed up as if they were back in 1892 when the school first opened, which explains for the costumes/attire.
Mark’s 4th grade class in late 1991 or early 1992 stop playing dodgeball outside of Mrs. Salvo’s class and take a photo for the Rollins Centennial book. Mark is to the left of Mrs. Johnson in his “6” sweater.

Gym with Ms. Johnson was amazing! She had it very tough I bet with making due with the little space the school had to play sports on. But somehow it all worked out! I recall we played baseball and kickball near the Platt Street side of the schoolyard and dodgeball more towards the Platt Court side. . In winter or rainy days we’d either go in the basement and play bowling by the boys bathroom, dodgeball outside of Mrs. Salvo’s 4th grade class, use the parachute in the auditorium, or we’d play 7up where 7 people would tap someone on the head and then after that they’d stand up in front of the class and that person tapped would have to guess who got tapped, if they did they’d replace them. Then there was also a game we’d play where one person closed their eyes and the rest of the class went into 4 different corners. The person would call out corners and people would sit down. After each calling, they mixed again to different corners until one person was still standing then they’d be caller teller. We’d also play duck-duck-goose in the schoolyard and also in the auditorium at times. I seem to also recall blue and red hockey sticks with fuzzy end pieces and we played hockey at times as well in the schoolyard. Ms. Johnson stayed from 1987/1988 when she started teaching gym there and continued right on to the Parthum and finally had decent facilities such as a nice gym, basketball court and baseball field to teach gym on, finally. i

4th and 5th graders at the Rollin School in April of 1992 get ready to sing. Mark Sinacori stands center stage, waving out to his dad.
Ms. Johnson, the gym teacher, directs the 4th and 5th graders as they finish their medley of songs from the 1950s to the the 1980s, ending with “The Beat Goes On!”
The Rollins School 100th birthday cake.
Mrs. Nadeau, 3rd grade teacher, cuts the cake for the 100th celebration.
Mark and his Rollins School cake!
Mark in the school auditorium, which had been completely painted over ceilings that didn’t chip anymore and a clean white backing to the stage with a green stamp of “100 Years Of Learning 1892–1992 Rollins School” which was being sold on water bottles, erasers, pens, shirts, and reusable book/shopping bags in efforts to fix and repair the clock tower which had an inactive bell that didn’t work for years. The bell was repaired sometime post summer of 1993 and rang on every hour after that point, I believe.
Another shot of Mark sitting on the stage at the Rollins School auditorium.

For 5th grade, only a select number of kids the past few years at this time, including the class of 1992–1993 (my class) were asked to stay and have Mrs. Krawiec. She was the only 5th grade teacher there. Mrs. Krawiec was a lot of fun and loved creative writing, poetry, singing, song writing, musicals, you name it! Also another fun year in the Rollins. At the end of the year, the class performed “Shades” by Hank Beebe. I also was the last student of the month, for June of that year before I left the school.

Rollins School 5th grade, October of 1992. Mark Sinacori and his friends James and Edward present their scarecrow project.
Mark Sinacori performs on center stage in the Rollins School in April of 1993 “Shades” by Hank Beebe

Click the link above to watch my final performance at the Rollins School, center stage in my trolls gym shirt as my 5th grade class sang “Shades” by Hank Beebe, choreographed of course by Mrs. Krawiec in April of 1993.

Other than teachers, so many other people were memorable during these years in the Rollins School. All the chapter one teachers and teacher aides were amazing! They always helped out with certain classes in certain year levels, whether it was telling them stories, helping with projects, getting them to rehearse for school plays or performances in the auditorium, or accompanying us on field trips. Mrs. Sacchetti was the librarian, always nice and caring. Mrs. Dechayne and Mrs. Coppola were the Math instructors for chapter one while Mrs. Driscoll and Mrs. Wlodyka were the Reading ones. When Mrs. Castiglione retired at some point in 1992/1993, Mrs. Driscoll took over as first grade teacher for her. All were amazing, friendly, upbeat, helpful, and memorable. Ms. Merrill was the first grade helper and she was also very nice and memorable. Ms. Johnson was the gym teacher and though she had very little space to make use of since the school was small and lacked a lot of amenities, she always made gym a lot of fun. Mrs. Licciardi was the art teacher and Mr. Kruger was the music teacher and I recall the class giving him such a hard time in my last two years as kids were wiser and more outspoken. Both were fun teachers. I don’t really recall much of Mrs. Flosman, but she was there to help some of the students who were slower at learning than others, I believe. She also helped out and aided the teachers at times over the years. The lunch ladies were Mrs. Comasso and Mrs. Richardson and when Mrs. Richardson retired in 1992, Mrs. Grasso took over for her. The principal when I started was Mrs. Kennedy, who had been there since the 1970s. She unexpectedly passed away in early 1992 and was replaced by Mrs. Sullivan. Both were great principals and always made the school a fun, friendly and caring environment for students. With Mrs. Sullivan, my Mom was familiar with her as they both went to the Rollins School together in the 1960s and knew one another growing up, so my Mom and her got to catch up on old times and stories over the years when she’d come to the school and visit and when Mrs. Sullivan was principal there from February 1992 to June 1993, my Nana I think even knew her and would talk to her when she’d come to pick me up and also knew Mrs. Kennedy when she’d come to pick me up after school when I was in Kindergarten to early 4th grade. Mrs. Parthum was teacher’s aide there when I was in 4th grade.Mrs. Sullivan and Mrs. Sacchetti I think were sister in laws, and Mrs. Parthum was Mrs. Sullivan’s sister, I think, and my Mom knew or was familiar with all of them growing up so it was fun knowing the majority of my teachers knew some of my family in some way. No matter what, teachers and faculty always made an effort to get to know all the families.

I left the Rollins in June of 1993. Had the school gone to 8th grade I would have stayed. The new Parthum School was built in 2001 and all the teachers transferred there. In 2003, while in college, I student observed at the Parthum and saw many of my old teachers there. Most were near retirement and were all happy to see me. When the Rollins closed in 1999 from being a K-5th grade school, I believe Ms. Riley who taught Kindergarten, Mrs. Bertelsen who taught 2nd grade, and Mrs. Kannan for years there, retired. When I student observed at the Parthum they were not there. Mrs. Salvo retired in 2003, Mrs. Farrel in 2004, and Mrs. Jalbert in 2007. All three were happy to see me along with other teachers who were still there, helping out such as Mrs. Dechayne, Mrs. Wlkodyka and Mrs. Copolla. Even Mrs. Driscoll was there teaching first grade! And of course, Ms. Johnson, the first of my former teachers I ran into on my first day student observing.

The Rollins School teachers in Lawrence, Mass in April of 1992. Photo for the 100th birthday of the school.

In memory of:

Mrs. Kennedy who passed away in 1992

Mrs. Krawiec who passed away in 2003

Mrs. Copolla who passed away in 2004

Mrs. Flosman who passed away in 2004

Mrs. Richardson who passed away in 2013

Mrs. Wlodyka who passed away in 2014

Mrs. Jalbert who passed away in 2016

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