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Beloved Swampscott teacher dies after flu complications

Phyllis Gotlib.
Phyllis Gotlib.Handout

Swampscott school officials said three of the district’s elementary schools would be closed on Friday after a beloved music teacher passed away this week due to “complications from the flu.”

In a statement sent to parents and forwarded to the Globe on Thursday, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said Phyllis Gotlib, who had been teaching at the Swampscott elementary schools since 1999, became “unexpectedly ill” over the weekend, and was out sick for two days this week.

Gotlib, 68, died suddenly Wednesday due to complications from the illness, according to an obituary that ran in the Globe this week and school officials.

“She had touched the lives of hundreds of staff and thousands of students,” Angelakis wrote in the note to the school community. “Phyllis was both a kind and generous colleague, always greeting you with a smile and a kind word. She was a bright light, with a great sense of humor, a passion for music, and her students. She will be sorely missed.”

Angelakis said the district would make school psychologists and adjustment counselors available to both the Hadley and Clarke elementary schools, where Gotlib taught, to help students cope with the sudden loss.


In a separate robocall to parents in the district, Angelakis said the two schools and the Stanley elementary school would be closed Friday so that school staff and families could attend services for Gotlib.

Angelakis also said that because officials learned that Gotlib’s death was flu-related, cleaning crews were sent into the Clarke and Hadley schools early Thursday morning to “thoroughly clean all doorknobs, railings, her classrooms, and common areas including teacher prep spaces and hallways,” work that was “completed long before students arrived this morning.”

School officials, when contacted by the Globe, would not comment further.

Gotlib grew up in Bangor, Maine, and Brookline, and graduated from Brandeis University, according to her obituary. She received a master’s degree in applied piano from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and raised her family in Marblehead.


“She was a loving mother, sister, aunt, grandmother to Jacob, and devoted friend to many, especially her dog Pepper,” the obituary said. “Her life was filled with music, as an accomplished pianist and adored elementary school teacher.”

Earlier this month, Jenny Ching, a popular Needham mother, died just days after being diagnosed with the flu. Ching went to the hospital with cold symptoms and was diagnosed with the flu; she then came down with pneumonia and developed an infection, according to a GoFundMe page created by a close family friend.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Emily Sweeney of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.