Fiorentini Reflects on 2018: Strides Made in Schools, More to Do in Gang Fight

(Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini emailed a year-end message to residents ahead of the New Year's holiday. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News)

As Haverhill looks ahead to 2019, Mayor James J. Fiorentini is praising the great strides made in the school system—but acknowledges there is more to do when it comes to the fight against gangs, guns and drugs.

Issuing a year-end email message to constituents on Dec. 28, Haverhill’s longest-serving leader applauded the “big investment” made in city schools.

“In June, Superintendent (James F.) Scully retired and we brought in a new superintendent, Margaret Marotta. She has been working tirelessly to make our schools better,” Fiorentini said. “In September, we received encouraging news MCAS scores rose significantly at the High School and Tilton schools. This is good progress.”

In his letter, Fiorentini touched on the issue of school building maintenance, assuring locals help is on the way—specifically at the Consentino School. Following the state’s School Building Authority approval for aid money in December, Haverhill’s middle school will eventually see a new roof as part of a “major renovation,” Fiorentini said. Haverhill was one of only 12 schools across the Commonwealth to receive such funding.

“Our goal is to keep the roof functioning while the state-funded project proceeds. We worked with the school maintenance department to make enough repairs that the roof can last for two to three more years,” the mayor admitted. “Only time will tell if this will work.”

One thing that also became clear in 2018, said Fiorentini, is that the city’s fight against crime is far from over. With the addition of UTEC resources and counselors from the Lowell-based outreach effort, Fiorentini is “hopeful” the crime rate can improve. Additional priority has been placed on the police department’s gang unit, which regularly patrols high-crime neighborhoods and concentrates on identifying gang leaders, Fiorentini said.

Six shootings happened in Haverhill this year—two of them fatal. As WHAV previously reported, the case against Nike Colon’s alleged killer Eddy Almonte is progressing at the Superior Court level, while Carlos Rivera was arrested and charged this fall with the May 2018 death of Jeffrey Larkin.

The most recent shooting incident took place on Dec. 29 on Hilldale Avenue, with the 21-year-old Haverhill man injured expected to make a full recovery from what police called “non life-threatening” wounds.