By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — When Franklin School Principal Mary Lou McCarthy recently announced her retirement, three young journalists got right on the story.
Deran Hazarvartian, Rachelle Zinland-Pukhovitsky and Genna Ferres, all fifth-graders, put their heads together and came up with several questions, including a hard one: “Why can’t we sit wherever we want in the cafeteria at lunch?”
The trio then asked McCarthy for an interview, which they recorded in a question-and-answer format. They got their principal to reveal what she plans to do during her retirement. She told them she hopes to sleep and travel more.
Regarding cafeteria seating arrangements, McCarthy summed it up in one word: Behavior. Students sit in assigned seats so that behavior and loudness can be kept under control, she explained.
The story made the front page of The Franklin Flyer, the school’s newspaper, which has published its winter edition. Deran, Rachelle and Genna are the editors of this publication, whose latest edition boasts 20 pages of news, features and photos.
The Franklin Flyer has been around for about eight years, according to fourth-grade teacher Abby Gilbert. After the paper went through a dormant stretch, Melissa Gray, mother of two sons at Franklin, got inspired to revive it.
A number of students asked about resurrecting the newspaper, she said.
“I had a lot of help,” she added.
Gray and three other mothers of students, Shephali Ghelani, Kim Cooperstein and Beth Hassanein, organized 20 or so aspiring young newspaper people, who began searching their school for stories. Gilbert said she serves as a “liaison” between the parent advisers and McCarthy.
David Naggar, father of one of the newspaper’s reporters, Dominic Naggar, takes care of layout and photo reproduction for The Franklin Flyer. Dover Press printed 475 copies of the paper.
Arjun Ghelani, a fourth-grader, interviewed his friend David Cooperstein, who celebrates Christmas by serving food to homeless people at Haven from Hunger in Peabody.
Jonathan Gray, another fourth-grader, went to Ipswich to interview the people who run Service Dog Project Inc.This organization trains Great Danes to serve as balance dogs, helping people who have muscle control problems.
Fourth-grader Asher Chamuel wrote a piece about why David Ortiz is his favorite baseball player. Claire Perrone, a third-grader, interviewed a classmate who moved to North Andover from Switzerland this past summer.
The Franklin Flyer seeks to promote RAISE values, both students and parent advisers said. In the North Andover schools, those values are respect, achievement, inclusion, service and empathy.
The students demonstrated during conversation with this writer that they know what those values mean. For example, fourth-grader Adam Hassanein defined empathy as “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
“This has been an amazing experience,” Melissa Gray said. “I’m so proud of all the kids.”
She said she expects subsequent editions will be printed in the spring and toward the end of the school year.