The Daley and Bailey schools in Lowell are often confused for one another.
In addition to the similar-sounding names, they stand next to each other, separated only by baseball fields and the newly christened Michael John Prestipino Jr. Basketball Courts, in the Highlands section of the city. Folks are constantly mistaking one for the other, and it's perfectly understandable.
For two Highlands families, though, there's no mistaking another trait both schools share: The staffs go above and beyond to make students feel special.
Let's begin at the Daley, where one family -- the Callerys -- experienced a rather traumatic 2013.
In May, Mike Callery, the patriarch, died while undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, leaving a wife and two teenage daughters. Routine testing of both of Callery's daughters, because the disease is hereditary, revealed that both girls carry the gene -- and that Delia, 14, needed surgery pronto to remove a tumor. While the tumor turned out to be benign, Delia missed more than a month of school, and mom Lisa Callery said Delia and older sister Molly, 17, will have to be tested regularly for the rest of their lives.
"I can't imagine being a 14-year-old and facing the things that kid faced last year," Lisa said of Delia.
A bright spot in the year, however, was the Daley Middle School, where Delia is an eighth-grader.
"Between losing Mike in May and her getting sick in October, the way the staff at the Daley has handled it as a school and the help they've given us is just outstanding," she said. "They've truly rallied around her and been unbelievably good to her."
Callery heaped praised on Principal Liam Skinner and Assistant Principal Rob Doyle.
"They're public servants, just like police and firemen, and they don't get the recognition," she said. "I have no words to say how grateful we are to these people. The Daley School came through for the Callery family in a big way."
Skinner, while grateful for Callery's kind words, deflects some of them back at her and her family.
"We have a terrific staff and wonderful school community, and I hope it's what we try to do in meeting the needs of every child," he said. "We're delighted Delia has come through as well as she has, but I told Lisa I admire her for what she has been through. When a school and a parent are equally and cooperatively involved, the child is going to be much more likely to be successful."
Walk next door to the Bailey, and you might see Luke Noel, an 8-year-old third-grader (9 next month) who uses a wheelchair due to Duchenne muscular dystrophy, with which he was diagnosed at age 4.
When it came time to send Luke to school, his parents, Paul and Renia Noel, were unsure if public was the way to go.
"We heard nightmare stories of parents having to sue schools to get their children what they needed," Renia Noel said. "When speaking to other Duchenne parents across the country, a lot of them say they're not getting the assistance they need for their children. That has never been the case at the Bailey."
Luke has a staff member working one-on-one with him at the Bailey, and the school makes sure he's always a part of the action.
Some professionals told the Noels that Luke might be better outside a school setting.
"But Luke likes school," Renia said. "It gives me peace of mind to know he's so well taken care of there."
Bailey staff members, led by Principal Jason McCrevan, even successfully nominated Luke to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is sending the family to Disney World in April.
Luke is the youngest of four kids, and, like the Callery girls, his three older sisters all went through the Bailey and now the Daley, and the Noels know they can expect the same treatment when Luke's ready for middle school.
So if you confuse the Daley and Bailey schools, it's only natural. After all, their names are a lot alike. Fortunately, so is their belief that children should come first.
Dan Phelps' email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @PhelpsSun.