Schools Look to Restore Some Positions with Additional State Money

Schools Look to Restore Some Positions with Additional State Money

Chelsea School officials are looking for one last vote from the City Council in order to restore several cut positions from the existing School Department Budget, this after getting nearly $1 million in additional funds from the state recently.

Supt. Mary Bourque said it was nice to get the additional monies, but she didn’t want anyone to think that it has ended the funding problems in the Chelsea schools.

“We were actually not ‘held harmless’ because that fund was only funded at 56 percent,” she said. “We should have received $1.1 million if we were really held harmless. I’m thankful, but they are still not addressing the funding gap. We’ve applied a very small Band-Aid to a large wound…I don’t want the community to think we fixed this. This is $900,000, but we had a $3.2 million budget gap.”

Supt. Mary Bourque said a combination of additional monies came in in September from State Legislature appropriations for English Language Learners and for the “hold harmless” fund to help districts with uncounted low-income students.

Bourque said Chelsea was able to get $630,000 for ELL students, and another $296,000 for the “hold harmless” account. That equaled $926,000 that they were able to appropriate to restore “painful” cuts made during last spring’s budget process.

Bourque said with the ELL money they were able to bring back two crossing guards, restore one yellow bus route, a special education teacher at the Clark Avenue Middle, a special education paraprofessional and intervention tutors.

Meanwhile, she said the “hold harmless” monies will be used to, among other things, restore a full-time librarian that will operate at Chelsea High School 75 percent of the time, and the Mary C. Burke Complex 25 percent of the time.

The librarian cut was controversial because it accompanied cuts in the previous years to librarians at the elementary school. The restoration allows a librarian presence at both the high school and elementary school once again.

“The reason we split the time is because two years ago we cut the elementary librarian completely and we’ve gone a full year without a librarian down there,” she said. “I’m all for the digital technology piece, but I also feel you instill the love of reading in children when you put a book in their hands. The 25 percent at the Complex isn’t enough for me and I want more time there going down the road.”

The School Committee has approved the acceptance of the additional monies, and the Council has had one reading on the issue. They are expected to vote on it at their Oct. 15 meeting.

MCAS results at Chelsea High reflect high dropout rate from surge of unaccompanied minors

The School Department has received the public rollout of the MCAS results for the district and the schools ranked in the lowest 10 percent of districts statewide, with Chelsea High School particularly cited for having a high dropout rate.

Supt. Mary Bourque said five of the district’s schools did well, with two flatlining and Chelsea High declining.

The results have qualified the district as one of 59 statewide that are required to have state assistance.

Bourque said the dropout rate hasn’t been a major issue at CHS in the past, but she said the change comes as a result of the unaccompanied minor surge that happened about four years ago. The dropout rate is a four-year look at the students starting and graduating.

“The kids we’re getting now are from the major surge we had four years ago and that’s the reason we’re seeing the graduation rate issue,” she said. “You don’t feel that for four years down the road. However, we’re going to continue to feel it.”

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Supt Bourque Calls on State to Fund Gateway School Districts, says Chelsea Will Not Be Defined by a Standardized Score

Supt Bourque Calls on State to Fund Gateway School Districts, says Chelsea Will Not Be Defined by a Standardized Score

The Chelsea convocation on the first day that teachers return for work after the summer break has always been a venue that Supt. Mary Bourque has used to unveil plans for the district.

Hundreds of educators from the Chelsea Public Schools, led by Supt. Mary Bourque (front row), made a statement Monday morning with ‘I (heart) Chelsea’ T-Shirts that sent a message to those on Beacon Hill that Chelsea Schools need a fix to the formula that funds the schools statewide. The scene came during the annual Back to School Address and Convocation by Supt. Bourque.

On Monday, though, she used her time to unveil a hope for the state of the state’s schools – and to send a message statewide that schools like Chelsea will not be defined only by a standardized test score and a series of cuts delivered in the state budgets.

Bourque said that this will be the year they reclaim the “heart and purpose” of who the Chelsea educators are. She said last year was one of the most difficult years of her career, and she is ready to put that behind.

“Whether it was the severe budget cuts we endured for a second year in a row, the lack of action by the state on the Foundation Budget Reform recommendations, the partial funding of the Economically Disadvantaged rates, or the noise, chaos, and pervasive negative rhetoric swirling around us from all layers of leadership – yes, in my career I will look back on 2017-2018 and say it was not an easy year,” she said. “But we…rose above it all and for that I thank all of you. We rose above it all and will continue to do so this year because we know we are succeeding in putting our students on the journey of life. While others may not hold public education to the high moral value and may not make the commitment to the next generation that is needed, we in Chelsea are different. We know and deeply value our purpose for being here in education, in Chelsea schools.”

Bourque said that the state has been on a very high-pressure, high-stakes mission of academic urgency for 25 years that has labeled every school as one-size-fits-all. That has played out in the labels given districts via the MCAS test results. She said that isn’t fair and has taken the heart out of education.

While she said such standards in the MCAS are valuable and worthy, the system needs to account for different districts like Chelsea that face different challenges – such as poverty, immigration and English Language Learners.

“I contend that the unintended consequences of this 25-year system is the loss of the heart of education,” she said. “The heart of who we are as educators. As a State, we have lost our way and forgotten what is most important in education. It is time then, to rise up and take the heart and purpose back, one classroom at a time.”

The end of the speech was a rallying cry in which Bourque called on all Chelsea educators to fight for things such as revamped state financing and Foundation Budget reform and other such changes at the state level.

“We will fight for our students and for what is right,” she said. “We will rise up as a collective voice, as a force of positivity, civility, advocacy, purpose, and heart whether at the local, state, or national level. We will lead the change that needs to take place from test score accountability framework to state education finances.”

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Chelsea School Official Gerry McCue Honored at Retirement Celebration

Chelsea School Official Gerry McCue Honored at Retirement Celebration

The guests at the retirement celebration for popular Chelsea Public Schools official Gerry McCue gave him a

Assistant Supt. of Schools Sarah Kent, Human Resources Director Tina Sullivan, Deputy Supt. of Schools Linda Breau, and Supt. of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque make a special presentation to their retiring colleague, Gerry Mccue

prolonged standing ovation.

“I’m not done yet,” McCue politely told the crowd.

McCue continued his farewell speech, and when the guests knew he was done, they stood up again and showed their gratitude to a man who truly made a positive impact in Chelsea.

McCue, executive director for administration and finance for the Chelsea Public Schools, was honored at a retirement party June 14 at the Winthrop Yacht Club.

At the request of Supt. of Schools, Dr. Mary Bourque, McCue took a seat in a chair at the front of the hall as colleagues and associates took the podium to laud his 26 years of service in the Chelsea School Department.

Kelley and Lindsey McCue, his two daughters, spoke of how “our father has always led by example and he will be a tough act to follow.”

“Our dad has always been a role model, not only for his family, but for also for his extended family. He has a tremendous work ethic, he’s a compassionate leader, and a true advocate for the community he has worked in. Chelsea has been his home away from home for the past 26 years. Thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate Gerry’s next chapter in life which I’m sure will be filled with the same reward and fulfillment he’s had during his career here.”

Bourque said when she asked colleagues across the school district to describe Gerry McCue in one word, “we got, patient, listener, passionate, caring, dedicated, smart – but universally everyone one said, ‘calm.”

Bourque praised McCue’s wit and humor and his ability to remain calm no matter the chaos.

“Gerry, thank you for taking a risk on Chelsea public schools back in 1992 when the city was in receivership and the schools were not doing well,” said Bourque. “But we are a better school system because you have been here  and I am a better superintendent because I have had the honor of working with you as an assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent, and superintendent.”

In a warm and gracious speech, McCue said how much he enjoyed his work in Chelsea and being part of the Chelsea community at-large. He thanked his colleagues and his family for their support during his career and said the city will always have a special place in heart.

The two standing ovations said it all about the high esteem in which Gerry McCue was held and the valuable contribution he made to the Chelsea schools.

As Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson said afterwards, “This was a great tribute, a wonderful celebration for a true professional.”

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A Large and Successful Class Graduates from CHS

A Large and Successful Class Graduates from CHS

Some 344 students walked across the stage at Chelsea High School on Sunday, June 10, as part of commencement exercises – becoming one of the largest classes to graduate in decades.

The Class of 2018 followed an unusually large class in 2017 as well.

At Sunday’s commencement, Supt. Mary Bourque said the class had distinguished itself by not only its overall numbers, but also its successes.

“All of you standing here are the living and breathing reason why we say our mission is to ‘We Welcome and Educate,’” she said. “No matter when you entered the Chelsea Public Schools, we wrapped our arms around you and moved you along the road to graduation. Class of 2018, I want you to know that we are so very proud of you and your accomplishments.”

Of the graduates, 64 percent are attending a two- or four-year college next year. Bourque listed off 79 colleges where students have been accepted, including Wellesley College, Williams College, Tufts University, UMass-Amherst, University of Maine, Hamilton College, Drexel University, Denison University, Bryn Mawr College, Boston University and Boston College – to name a few.

Scholarship awards from those schools totaled $4.4 million, the largest amount ever at Chelsea High.

The rest of the class plans include:

  • 4% are entering a certificate program.
  • 2% are entering a Trade School.
  • 6% are taking a Gap Year.
  • 2% are entering the Military.
  • 20% are going directly into the work force.
  • 2%, are still working on their plans.

The Class of 2018 was also special in that 180 of its students enrolled in the dual enrollment/early college program with Bunker Hill Community College.

“Together you earned 1,374 college credits equaling approximately 458

courses,” she said. “You saved over $250,000 on tuition and fees and saved another $40,000 on books.”

The average numbers of credits earned was eight, but Bourque said on student, Samir Zemmouri had earned 33 credits, the equivalent of a full year of college.

“Most impressive is that 69 students completed English 111 College Writing I course, a required course that often acts as a prerequisite for college coursework; and 15 students of the 69 entered our country and began their educational career at CHS as an English Language Learner,” she stated.

There were also seven members entering the military, including:  Pedro  Barrientos, Krishell Chacon-Aldana, Adrian Diaz, Nelson Hernandez Jr., Denis Martinez Pineda, Carla Romero and Melinen Urizar Perez.

Bourque closed out her comments about the Class of 2018 on Sunday with five points of wisdom. More than any achievement, she advised to live a life of purpose.

“Choose to live a life of purpose,” she said. “A life of giving back. Knowing our purpose in life empowers us, strengthens us, grounds us. It gives us the courage and conviction to fight the good fight and for the good reasons. A life of purpose is a successful life.”

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Clark Ave’s Siriani Named Rotary Teacher of the Year

Clark Ave’s Siriani Named Rotary Teacher of the Year

It came as quite a surprise, but was much deserved, as Supt. Mary Bourque and Clark Avenue Middle School Principal Michael Talbot informed Clark Ave teacher Sally Siriani on May 31 that she was the Chelsea Rotary

Supt. Mary Bourque, Teacher of the Year Sally Siriani, and Clark Ave Principal Michael Talbot.

Teacher of the Year.

Siriani has spent 20 years in the district, all at the Clark Avenue Middle teaching math and science in grades 5 and 6.

“I love the kids,” she said. “I as born to do this. I put magnets on the refrigerator when I was little and pretended to grade homework papers. I played school all day. My friend Holly Correia, who now teaches in Revere, would always play school. We would take stuffed animals and put them in seats and play school all day long. I’m flattered and honored and shocked. It’s great to be recognized.”

Siriani grew up in Winthrop and attended Catholic Schools there, graduating from Winthrop High School in 1990. She attended Fitchburg State and then worked at the now-closed Assumption School in Chelsea. When it closed down, she was hired to be one of the first teachers in 1998 to come into the new Clark Avenue Middle School.

Previously, the building was used as Chelsea High School.

Current Supt. Mary Bourque was the assistant principal at the time and said that Siriani was the backbone of the school.

“Personally, I know Ms. Siriani from our early days at the Clark Avenue School and her deep devotion to providing the highest quality education for all students,” said Bourque. “I also remember the days when a new school was but a conversation for us all. Ms. Siriani has lived through another Clark Avenue Middle School milestone – construction – and is now teaching  a new generation of students in the new building that we used to only dream about in 1998.”

Principal Talbot said her strength is building relationships with her students.

“She collaborates with the other Math teacher at her grade level in order to best meet the needs of all of her students,” he said. “She regularly uses pre-assessments to see where the gaps are and flexibly groups her students in differentiated activities in order to help them with the mastery of the skills that are required. She also asks students to self-assess themselves, set realistic and challenging goals, and then plans thoughtful learning activities for all of her students.  She works incredibly hard on behalf of her students and she is able to build strong relationships with her students, as evidenced by so many coming back to see her each year.”

Siriani was to be honored at the Rotary Lunch on Tuesday, June 5.

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School Shuffle:Several Key Members of the CPS Make Moves

School Shuffle:Several Key Members of the CPS Make Moves

The Chelsea Public Schools are making some big moves at the end of this school year, with the biggest news being Chelsea High Principal Priti Johari moving to the Central Office from CHS to an assistant superintendent position.

Her departure from CHS follows the departure of Assistant Principal Ron Schmidt – who now will lead the new alternative high school within CHS.

“I am announcing that effective July 1, 2018, Chelsea High School Principal, Priti Johari, will be promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent for Strategic Programs and Accountability,” wrote Supt. Mary Bourque. “To replace Ms. Johari, we will be posting for principal candidates as soon as possible. We are also convening a ‘Selection Committee’ to do the first round of interviews. The job of the Selection Committee will be to narrow the field of possible candidates to the top 2-3 highest qualified for me to interview. I will choose from the 2-3 finalists.”

Bourque told the Record that right now the Committee is looking at five or six semi-finalists. She said they would forward two names to her soon, and she expected that an announcement could come as soon as Friday.

She said with two key leaders at CHS leaving, the thought of a slip-back is on some people’s minds, but she said they are prepared not to let that happen.

“One of the good things we’ve put into the CPS is we build the system so that we collaborate very well,” she said. “One of the things about Chelsea is because of our turnover, we have gotten very good at picking things up quick and making sure they don’t go back…As superintendent, that’s why you always build a deep bench.”

Another piece of big news is that Principal Maggie Sanchez Gleason is leaving the Kelly School as her husband has received a promotion that requires them to move to London.

That opened up the position for Assistant Principal Lisa Lineweaver, who is a former School Committee member and a Chelsea resident. Lineweaver has two children in the schools and came to Chelsea last year after teaching in Boston for many years.

In the realm of retirements, the biggest news is that long time Director of Administration and Finance Gerry McCue will be retiring.

Bourque said she is still looking for a replacement for him, and will be engaging the Collins Center from UMass Boston to help locate and choose replacements. The Collins Center was engaged by the City Council a few years ago to help choose a city manager.

Other notable retirements include:

The six Central Office and district wide administrators retiring are:

  • Tina Sullivan, Director of Human Resources
  • Linda Breau, Deputy Superintendent (who will be moving to Human Resources for one year before retiring).
  • Linda Alioto Robinson, Director of REACH
  • Miguel Andreottola, Director of Technology
  • AnnMarie LaPuma, Director of Assessment and Planning

For Andreottola, Bourque announced this week that long-time resident Rich Pilcher has been promoted to director of technology. Pilcher is also a Chelsea High graduate.

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School Budget Cuts Starting to be Felt in the Community

School Budget Cuts Starting to be Felt in the Community

Closing a $3.1 million budget gap is never painless, but now in the weeks after those cuts were announced, many in the community are starting to take notice.

This week, one of the most notable cuts that is being discussed is the removal of the librarian from the Chelsea High  School (CHS) Library.

Supt. Mary Bourque said the cuts, including the librarian, were part of the School Committee’s attempt to deal with state funding discrepancies that have been dealt to the City over the last few years. She pointed out that last year, the Schools had to cut the elementary school librarian as well.

Now, the school system is left with only two librarians at the Middle School level.

Bourque said they had to prioritize teaching and learning, as well as their turnaround plan that is already in place. When making tough decisions, the librarian at CHS was a hard, but clear, choice.

“We needed to stay close, first and foremost, to the principles that would help meet the needs of our students,” she said. “We used data and we based the decision on the data. This is our third year of budget cuts. It’s illustrative of the broken state funding formula…This year we’re cutting the librarian at the high school because of the standards we stood on. We looked at the data and circulation numbers are down. Kids at the high schools are doing a lot of research online now. There were only about nine books a day being checked out for a 1,500-student body.”

Speaking up big for the CHS librarian was fellow librarian Martha Boksenbaum, who is the Children’s Librarian at the Chelsea Public Library. She said a school librarian shouldn’t be sacrificed, especially since the librarian at the elementary school was cut last year.

“One might argue that if there isn’t a School Librarian, students can just go to the Public Library instead,” she wrote in a letter to the Record this week. “In reality a School Librarian does things the Public Library cannot possibly do. School Librarians are part of the school; they know the teachers, the teachers know them and they work together on a daily basis so School Librarians can make sure students have what they need to complete their assignments.

“Students in Chelsea deserve more than this,” she continued. “While school funding is tight and hard decisions have to be made, this is a sacrifice Chelsea High students should not have to make.”

Bourque said she did a survey and found that most schools in the area were down to one librarian districtwide. That was true in Revere, Saugus and Malden. In Winthrop, there is no librarian in the schools.

In Chelsea, they left the two middle school librarians because they also teach classes, where the elementary and high school librarians did not teach.

“Librarians are the support services for students and are necessary, but when you have to decide whether to increase class sizes by keeping the librarian or keeping class sizes at 30 and cut support services like librarians, that the choice,” she said. “We can’t cut the teachers in the classrooms.”

The school librarian was only a small part of the cuts made to the School Budget.

Other cuts included:

  • Three administrative positions.
  • 10 instructor positions.
  • Two whole-class paraprofessionals.
  • 10 one-on-one paraprofessionals.
  • Discontinuation of the 5th to 8th grades Citizens Schools at the Brown Middle and Wright Middle Schools.
  • Mandatory Connect Digital Lead Teacher Platform.
  • Reduction in the extraordinary maintenance and technology budget.

Of all of those, Bourque said they needed to be careful about pushing off the maintenance and technology budget.

“You can only do that so many years in a row before it comes back to bite you,” she said. “We have to be careful in doing that.”

Meanwhile, Bourque said the cuts are a call for the community to unite in lobbying the entire legislature to support Senate Bill 2325, which was proposed by Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz. Bourque said that bill contains all of the fixes to make sure cuts like this wouldn’t have to happen for a fourth year in a row.

“It behooves us all to be on the same path with our advocacy,” she said.

House Budget contains pothole account to help schools like Chelsea

The House Budget passed last week by the state House of Representatives has some encouraging news regarding school financing – and word from Beacon Hill is that the funding changes will outlast any vetoes from Gov. Charlie Baker.

The House put in a $12.5 million “Pothole Account” to help districts hurt by the change in ‘Economically Disadvantaged’ definitions a few years ago. Last year, there was no such funding, but this year it looks like that money will make it through.

The money would be allocated to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and they would be charged with disbursing it to the affected district.

Supt. Mary Bourque said the pothole account in the House Budget is good news, but she hopes that there are some changes.

“First of all, $12.5 million will go fast,” she said. “I have asked Sen. Sal DiDomenico to petition that DESE isn’t in charge of disbursing that account…We need to get it passed first, but second I would like to see that DESE isn’t in charge of that money.”

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Threat at Chelsea High Ends up a Hoax, Wrong CHS

Threat at Chelsea High Ends up a Hoax, Wrong CHS

In a world where every threat to a school has to be taken seriously, that played out on Monday morning at Chelsea High when the schools were put on alert by a social media threat to “CHS” that turned out to be a month old and referring to a school in New Mexico.

Supt. Mary Bourque said around 7:15 a.m. Monday, Officer Dan Delaney was alerted to a threat observed on social media by a parent, a threat that indicated the person was “going to shoot up CHS.”

Bourque said it was unfortunate, but it was something that’s going to happen more often.

“It turns out it was a month old and was referring to a school in New Mexico,” she said. “Every threat has to be taken seriously. We can’t afford to not take threats seriously. At the same time, this is going to be what it’s like in the times we live in…It’s a sign of the times these weekly incidents for schools will be happening. It’s happening around the nation and we’re no different.”

The high school was functioning normally shortly after the threat was investigated.

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Almost Immoral:Supt Bourque, Urban Educators Disappointed with “Fix” to Funding Flaw

Almost Immoral:Supt Bourque, Urban Educators Disappointed with “Fix” to Funding Flaw

Chelsea Supt. Mary Bourque said just when urban educators plagued with a flawed funding formula thought they made some progress, the state yanked all that progress from under them recently.

Bourque, the past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the co-chair of the Urban Superintendents Network, has been working with the state for more than two years to fix a problem for Chelsea and many surrounding districts involving low income students – now called economically disadvantaged. The change has cost the Chelsea Schools millions of dollars per year in funding that they expected, but no longer qualified for.

“In the urban districts, we’re all on fragile ice right now,” she said. “Everything is coming at us at one time. It really begs the question about whether the allocation for education of students of poverty going to be the place where the state goes to make cuts and balance the budget every year. That’s not what the Foundation Formula budget is meant to do. It’s really almost immoral.”

Schools like Chelsea, Revere, Everett and Brockton – among others – have been hamstrung for the last two years due to major reductions in state funding due to the change in the formula. That change entailed making economically disadvantaged students qualify for that title only if their families were on some sort of public welfare benefit. Unfortunately, in communities like Chelsea, many families don’t qualify for those benefits due to their immigration status or because they haven’t been in the country legally for five years. Without that, the schools don’t receive nearly as much money to educate a very difficult and needy population.

This year, Bourque said, they added several new “qualifiers” for the economically disadvantaged tag – such as programs that students in Chelsea might qualify for despite immigration status.

However, as soon as that battle was won, Bourque said the state turned around and lowered the amount of money given for each student – making the gain a complete wash.

“We worked hard with the state to come up with solutions and they did add more students to qualify,” she said. “But as soon as we got more students, they reduced the amount of money given for each student.”

Bourque said the Chelsea Schools are likely going to be down another $1 million from where they feel they should be in the coming budget year. She said they will keep working on it, though.

It has been a real learning experience for the long-time administrator, though maybe not a positive one.

“To ignore systemic injustice and failure while children’s futures are compromised is morally and ethically, wrong,” she said. “It is not who we are as a Commonwealth nor is it who we want to be. The Grand Bargain of 1993 (for Education Reform) is not more and hasn’t been for many years. It is time for courage and time for action; our children and their futures are far too important.”

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Chelsea High Unveils New Bi-Literacy Seal

Chelsea High Unveils New Bi-Literacy Seal

By Seth Daniel

Elsy Sanchez, 17, is one of 11 Chelsea High students to be awarded the new Seal of Bi-Literacy this year during graduation.

Elsy Sanchez, 17, is one of 11 Chelsea High students to be awarded the new Seal of Bi-Literacy this year during graduation.

Eleven new Chelsea High School (CHS) graduates will carry at least one more award with them this year than did other classes at CHS, and that award is the newly piloted Seal of Bi-Literacy that Chelsea and several other districts are implementing.

Sarah Warren of Chelsea Public Schools said Supt. Mary Bourque and the administration was looking for a way to recognize students who had strong bi-literacy skills. In Chelsea, because so many students are fluent in Spanish and English, the designation was meaning and was a way to market this unique skill to colleges and employers.

The Awards were given out at the annual Chelsea High Awards Night on Monday, June 5.

“We have just started this,” said Warren. “Dr. Bourque wanted us to see how we could get a meaningful designation in place that would recognize students that achieve bi-literacy,” said Warren. “As a district, we want to recognize students that become proficient in more than one language. We believe that is a very valuable skill for college and in the workplace. In Chelsea, we have a great amount of people who are proficient in more than just English. We’re very excited to be able to introduce this award when students achieve full proficiency in two languages.”

Bourque said she was very excited to be able to premiere the new award to 11 students in the class. She said they will move forward with it in the future as well.

“The Seal is a recognition of the fact that Chelsea Public Schools values students’ language skills and heritage as a huge asset,” said Bourque. “This credential will travel with our graduates as they move on to higher education and future employment. There is increasing demand – both in Massachusetts and nationally – for employees who are literate in two or more languages. By encouraging students to earn the Seal, we are sending the message that the ability to communicate in more than one language and to bridge different cultures is part of being a well-rounded global citizen in the 21st Century. It takes a lot of hard work to become fully proficient in two or more languages, and I couldn’t be more proud of these young people for their high level of achievement.”

Warren said there are three levels for the Chelsea seal.

Platinum winners achieve a 5 on their Advanced Placement Spanish Test and an advanced on their MCAS English Language Arts (ELA) test.

A gold winner scores a proficient on their MCAS test and a 5 on their AP Spanish.

A silver winner scores a proficient on their MCAS test and a 3 or 4 on their AP Spanish.

Elsy Sanchez, 17, was one of the first Gold Seal winners, and came to that point after starting out her high school experience in the English Language Learner (ELL) program.

Sanchez was born in Chelsea and attended the Sokolowski School and the Clark Avenue Middle School. However, after fifth grade, tired of going back and forth to Honduras where her parents had moved – having left Chelsea behind – she decided to stay in Honduras. However, after being in Honduras for some time, Sanchez realized that she had some pretty big goals for her future. She decided that getting to an American university from Honduras was going to be very tough, but getting there from Chelsea was more likely a successful path.

“My father asked me if I wanted a Quincenaera party or to go back to Chelsea,” said Sanchez. “I decided to come back here. So I came and quickly realized my English wasn’t as good as when I left for Honduras in 5th grade. One thing I wanted to do was go to college here.  When I came back to Chelsea, I understood what people were saying, but i couldn’t express myself…Sometimes I would start a sentence and not be able to finish it because I couldn’t think of the right word.”

Sanchez entered the ELL program, known as the Bridge Academy at CHS. There, her teachers saw she was talented and had big goals and just needed a push.

“The teachers always pushed me to challenge myself,” she said. “They are always there to support you. They work to make connections with you. If they see someone who they thinks needs a push, they will push you to do better.”

With that support upon moving back, Sanchez was able to move to the regular Chelsea High program by her sophomore year, regaining her English fluency again.

In her senior year, Sanchez has put her English headaches behind her and took six Advanced Placement classes, including Physics, Stats and Language.

She said she plans to go to Salem State in the fall to study biology and Spanish, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.

“I really like kids,” she said. “I always thought that because I also like science, I could become a doctor and help kids and people feel better. That is the perfect combination for me.”

As for the seal, she said it has the potential to open doors not only for school, but also in the workplace.

“I think it will help me in many different ways,” she said. “We live in a country with many different languages and being able to be fluent in multiple languages will open doors for me along the way. This helps me to market that and it goes on my transcript and on my resume.”

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