The Pentucket School District kicks off its first annual Above the Influence week today. The goal of the week is to raise awareness about substance abuse and help kids strengthen their refusal skills, explained Janice Hirschfeld, Pentucket's K-12 director of guidance and health.

Planning for the week actual began last summer when high-schoolers attended a workshop to train them in leading the effort for the schools. As part of the week-long campaign, officers from the freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior classes are paired up with police in each of the three district towns to give presentations to Pentucket's sixth- and eighth-graders. At the end of the talk, students are asked to commit to remain "above the influence" by signing a banner declaring abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Those who make the pledge receive a "Make the right choice" bracelet as a reminder and a demonstration of their commitment to the drug- and alcohol-free cause.

Throughout the week, the schools will host age-appropriate anti-drug and alcohol theme days and make daily announcements to reinforce healthy decisions. During lunch periods at the high school Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) will show a DVD discouraging the illegal use of substance and provide opportunities for interested students to take the "above the influence" pledge and receive the commitment bracelet. A resource table with further information and opportunities to seek further support for them or a friend will also be available. Faculty at the high school will be asked to review the district's new substance abuse policy to make sure everyone understands the benefits for students.

The week culminates on Friday with talks at the high school and middle school by a representative of the Freedom from Chemical Dependency Educational Organization. Founded in 1976, the organization is a leader in on-site drug education and substance abuse prevention services for schools across the United States and the world.

"This week promises to be a valuable experience for Pentucket Regional School District students to gain insight into the many aspects and dangers of drug and alcohol use," said Hirschfeld. She encouraged parents to view it as an opportunity to discuss this important topic with their children.


Spring sports signups and information night is today in the high school cafeteria at 6 p.m. Spring sports officially start on March 15.


Tickets to the Pentucket High School's production of "Beauty and the Beast" can be purchased online under the high school link at until Friday. Show dates are March 11 and 12 at 7 p.m. and March 13 at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Senior citizens and Pentucket teachers may attend a free matinee performance on Wednesday, March 10 at 3 p.m.


The annual middle school March Madness Student/Teacher Basketball Tournament is Tuesday, March 11. Students wishing to participate should enroll at the main office by today. A free throw contest begins at 5:15 p.m., and single elimination games kick off at 5:45 p.m. Tickets are $3 at the door.


The middle school will be administering the MCAS on the following schedule: March 23, Long Composition, grade 7 only; March 25, English/Language Arts Session No. 1, grades 7 and 8; and March 30, ELA Session No. 2, grades 7 and 8. Make-up days are March 31 through April 1. Attendance is important and students are encouraged to eat a nutritious breakfast.


Jennifer Solis is a Daily News correspondent covering Pentucket Regional School District and the West Newbury Board of Selectmen. She can be reached at

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