In the end, it was a unanimous vote by the
School Committee to enter into negotiations with Almudena Abeyta as the next
superintendent of schools, although it took a handful of votes to reach that
The Committee met Thursday, May 9 to
consider three finalists to replace Mary Bourque, who is retiring this year
after more than 30 years in the Chelsea schools.
While each of the three finalists for
superintendent garnered some support from Committee members Thursday night,
Abeyta, currently the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and
Assessment for the Somerville Public schools, had the majority of the support
from the board throughout four votes.
While there was not unanimous support for
Abeyta from the get-go, Committee members universally praised the high quality
of all three finalists. In addition to Abeyta, the other two finalists were
Anthony Parker, the Weston High School principal, and Ligia Noriega-Murphy,
assistant superintendent of secondary schools in the Boston Public Schools.
“Chelsea is very lucky tonight to have three
outstanding candidates,” said At-Large School Committee member Frank DePatto.
“The city is in good hands with any of the candidates.”
DePatto noted that having three highly
qualified candidates did make for a difficult decision for the Committee
members, a sentiment echoed by District Five School Committee member Henry
Wilson – who just joined the Committee a few weeks ago.
“I changed my mind and then I changed my
mind again,” said Wilson. “Today, I did a lot of praying.”
District Seven School Committee member Kelly
Garcia said Abeyta was the candidate who spoke most to her as an educator.
“She answered every question with calmness, urgency,
confidence, and experience,” said Garcia.
In the first round of voting, it looked like
Abeyta was in as the choice of the School Committee with a 5-3 vote. The
Committee’s ninth member, Rosemarie Carlisle, could not attend the meeting
because of a medical issue.
However, after some legal consultation, it
was determined that the vote was taken after only one name was entered into
nomination. Under procedure, the Committee should have entered all candidates
being considered into nomination.
During that round of voting, Abeyta fell
just short of a majority, garnering four votes, with Noriega-Murphy getting
three and Parker grabbing one vote. A second round with the top-two vote
getters ended with a 5-3 majority for Abeyta, enough to secure approval.
DePatto, who voted for Noriega-Murphy during
the open nominations, made the motion to make the vote unanimous for Abeyta.
Even though he
backed Noriega-Murphy, after the meeting, DePatto said he was happy with the
outcome of the meeting.
The Chelsea Night Market plans is smoking,
and that’s because the first installment on June 8 will have fire jugglers,
amongst musicians, comedians and a full slate of food and craft vendors.
Unveiled earlier this year, the Night Market
is part of the City’s Chelsea Prospers campaign and looks to add activity to
the downtown area on summer evenings with a creative and exciting market in the
Luther Place municipal parking lot once a month.
As the plans come together for the first
Market, Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said she couldn’t be happier with the
way things have come together.
“It’s going amazingly,” she said. “We’ve got
this really cool Turkish band that’s playing on the first day. We will also
have the Boston Circus Guild coming and they will have two performances. There
will be folks on stilts, jugglers, people juggling fire and close interactive
magicians. They will have a 20-minute fire performance during the evening.
Think juggling things on fire with incredible music behind it.”
Graney said she couldn’t yet reveal the
vendors, but they have 13 signed up so far that will be a great mix of exciting
items and food.
“I’m really excited so many local businesses
and food businesses are looking to take part,” she said. “We’re not doing food
trucks because we want an intimate atmosphere with open BBQs and food service.”
All of that will be flanked with creative
lighting that is meant to ‘wow’ visitors as they come via the newly-refurbished
“Our plan is to encourage people to come
into the Market using the Chelsea Walk and it will be like ‘kapow,’” she said.
“They’ll be hit with the lights and music and circus acts and vendors.”
There will also be community entries into
the Market, with a group of comedians participating and the Chelsea Pride
Committee having a booth.
“The Pride Committee will be having their
flag raising the day afterward, but they will have a booth at the Market too,”
she said. “They plan to use grease body paint to have people write things on
themselves that they are proud of. I love a lot of the community vendors are
trying to do new and different things instead of just standing behind a table.”
The first Night
Market will be on June 8 from 7-10 p.m. with a rain date of June 15.
The new Chelsea Stadium is only a few weeks from being completed and put into use, school officials said this week.
The new track will be named after late teacher/track coach Bernard Berenson, who is in the state Coaches Hall of Fame.
Facilities Director Joe Cooney said the
rainy weather has slowed down the surfacing of the track, but that most
everything else in the long-awaited Stadium project is completed.
“We’re getting very close,” he said. “When
it’s done, it’s going to look dynamite.”
The football field is completely done, he said, but the track has been tricky.
An overview of the new football field looks spectacular but getting the track down has been tricky in the recent rainy weather. The project began last summer and will be completed at the end of May.
Already there has been a base coat of
asphalt put down, but the rubberized surface on the track cannot be placed down
in the rain – which pretty much means it has been delayed for quite some due to
the deluge that has been seen lately.
He said there are two layers of rubberized
surface, and that when it is done, it will be a very fast track for the
The only other things outstanding are the
conduits for the lights, permanent bathrooms, and bleacher improvements.
He said they have
to complete the project by early May because graduation is taking place on the
new field on June 9.
With National Bicycle Month underway, a new
group of cyclists and pedestrians in Chelsea are looking to create momentum and
visibility on safety issues for those that aren’t using vehicles.
The Chelsea Bike and Pedestrian Committee
has formed over the winter and got things rolling with their first community
bike ride on May 8. Now, they said they would continue those rides every Weds.
evening at 6 p.m.
Resident Asad Rahman, an avid cyclist who
commutes to Boston daily from his Broadway home, has been involved in biking safety
issues for a number of years and said he worked with City Planners to try to
get more of a community built around bicycling and walking.
While he thought it might take some time,
surprisingly the movement has grown quickly and they are already planning their
first event and several events beyond that.
“More than ever, I think Chelsea is at a
crossroads to put people and bicycles first instead of cars,” he said. “We’re a
City with five or six street lights and several thousand people and cars go
very, very fast. We hope we can shift the paradigm that people come first and
cars come second…Right now we have a passionate group of people in Chelsea, and
we’ll ride around town on May 8th for about a half-hour and then have a social
time to continue building this community.”
With the help of the City and MassBike, the
Committee is planning several events such as a Bike Repair workshops and a bike
rodeo – this coming at future City events like Fiesta Verano and the Night
The group is on Facebook at BikeWalkChelsea,
and anyone interested in joining them can show up at City Hall 6 p.m. on May 8.
The Vision for the Committee includes:
•To advance cycling and walking as leading
modes of transportation in order to promote the health, wealth, and quality of
life for Chelsea residents.
The Mission of the Committee is:
safe, interconnected, and enjoyable infrastructure in Chelsea for cycling and
walking, through strategy with the Planning and Development department,
resident education on practical use, and community engagement to build
awareness and enthusiasm.
Current and former
municipal employees crowded into Monday night’s City Council meeting as the
council took up a vote to allow City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to negotiate
changes to the city’s group health insurance policies.
Most of those employees
did not leave happily or quietly as the council voted 8-2 to grant Ambrosino
that authority to negotiate the changes. Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Yamir
Rodriguez voted against the order, while Councillor Calvin T. Brown was not
present at the meeting.
The city’s current group
health plan is governed by a three-year agreement with the Public Employee
Committee (PEC) that expires on June 30 of this year.
“During the months of
November through March, I did attempt to negotiate with the PEC a new
multi-year agreement that would provide some cost savings to the group health
plan,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the council. “Unfortunately, I have not
been able to reach agreement with the unions.”
General Laws, Ambrosino stated, in the absence of a new agreement, the old PEC
agreement will remain in effect indefinitely. Without City Council action,
Ambrosino said he cannot put any health care cost savings in place.
The action approved by the
City Council allows the city to take advantage of recent state legislation that
allows municipalities to implement cost saving plan design changes on its own
if no agreement can be reached with the PEC as long as the city agrees to share
a percentage of its first year cost savings with the unions.
With the newly granted
authority by the council, the City Manager said he will negotiate reasonable
design changes to the city’s group health policies, likely by imposing
deductibles in line with deductibles paid for health insurance by state
Ambrosino said even with
any changes, Chelsea will always have health insurance at least as good as that
provided to Massachusetts public employees.
However, a letter to the
City Council submitted by the Chelsea Public Employees Committee outlined over
two dozen reasons why members believe the adoption of the changes to the group
health insurance should not be adopted.
“The PEC strongly believes
that the adoption of Sections 21-23 is inappropriate and premature for multiple
reasons: the Self-Insurance Trust Fund is running about a $2 million surplus;
the PEC has agreed to apply any surplus to reduce future health insurance
costs; City Manager Thomas Ambrosino wants the sickest families among City
employees and retirees to pay $1 million more on an annual basis currently paid
by the City; the PEC and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino agree that no changes to
employee/retiree health insurance are needed until FY2022; Ambrosino has failed
to bargain in good faith for a successor PEC agreement; a grievance, including
an alleged unfair labor practice, are pending at this time; and Sections 21-23
will effectively disable bargaining on health insurance,” the letter summarizes.
City Council President
Damali Vidot noted that her husband works for the Department of Public Works
and that any changes in health insurance would directly affect her. However,
she said the changes are necessary to allow Ambrosino to negotiate with city
“We hire the Town Manager
to negotiate with the unions, and I’m not comfortable when he does not have all
the tools needed for the negotiations,” said Vidot.
Vidot she said she hopes
Ambrosino can go back to the unions with the new negotiating tools and find
common ground with the unions. In addition to wanting the best for city
employees, Vidot said the council has a fiscal responsibility for the entire
The council president also
said that there has been some miscommunication on the issue, especially when it
comes to retirees. Vidot said changes to group health insurance plans would
only affect a very few retirees who do not qualify for Medicare.
District 1 Councillor
Robert Bishop said he agreed that the City Manager should have all the tools
available as he negotiates with the city’s union.
As the vote took place, many in the audience shouted and voiced their
displeasure, with several people stating the council should be ashamed of their
vote. The meeting came to a brief halt as the crowd noisily filed out of the
council meeting, with several audience members individually appealing to
Along the edge of Rumney Marsh in the late
19th Century, Slade’s Mill was bustling. The tidal-powered factory on the
creek, with its rooms fragrant with the wafting aroma of exotic spices –
paprika from Spain and ginger from the Orient – was where the spice grinding
“It was here, in an old Massachusetts mill
that the most interesting step in the distribution of spices began,” said
educator and historian, Jeff Pearlman. “Inside Slade’s Mill the air was golden
brown from grindings of pure spices.”
During the Bellingham-Cary House Association
Annual Meeting on April 27, Pearlman presented a timeline of Slade’s Tidewater
Mill, explaining the connections between Revere and Chelsea. Pearlman is a
member of the Revere Society for Cultural and Historic Preservation, a
non-profit organization that protects and promotes the history of the Revere
The Town of Chelsea originally consisted of
four farms, the first of which was purchased by Henry Slade, who erected the
first church, bank, and City Hall on the waterfront land. In 1734, Slade began
grinding tobacco and corn in the mill.
“The charter states the following,” began
Pearlman. “’This mill must at all times hold itself in the readiness to grind
corn for any citizen of Chelsea, provided that the corn is raised in Chelsea.’”
In 1837, Slade’s sons, David and Levi,
conceived the idea of grinding spices in the mill, and began importing spices
from around the world. By 1850, D and L Slade Company became the largest
producer of spices in New England.
“The boys ground up a half barrel of
cinnamon, slung the barrel between two poles, and trudged across the marsh to
Boston,” Pearlman explained. “The cinnamon was sold to grocers, and a new
industry was born: the business of spice grinding.”
First, the spices passed through magnetized
steel plates to remove foreign objects, such as nails and wire. Spices were
then pulverized into fine powders beneath grinding rolls. Next, the powder was
lifted into continuous buckets, sifted, and loaded into barrels that were
delivered to packing plants in Boston.
“Spices were not only used to stimulate
jaded appetites; but their sweet, pungent odor made them useful as medicine and
deodorants,” mentioned Pearlman. “Up to this time, spice had been sold to the
housewife whole, and each had a hand-grinder.”
The mill was refurbished in 1918 following a
fire and acquired by Bell Seasonings. In 1932, the mill was converted to
electric power, and operated until July 1, 1976.
Slade’s Mill is now on the National Register
of Historic Places.
The building was renovated in 2004, and
today, Slade’s Mill Apartments contains 18 studio and one bedroom units. A
museum on the ground floor exhibits original machinery, photographs, and a
spice cabinet with glass and metal Slade’s and Bell containers.
“Spices are now a
common household necessity. No longer are they counted as the choicest
possession of the wealthy,” said Pearlman. “Men and women live longer in a
spice-laden atmosphere. Perhaps there is something in the theory that spices
have a beneficial effect on health and appetite of the human race. I wonder
where the saying, ‘Spice of life,’ came from.”
The three finalists for the position of
superintendent of schools have been on whirlwind tours of the district this
week, concluding the day with a community forum at the Williams School.
On Monday, Weston High Principal Anthony
Parker visited Chelsea and spoke with teachers/staff, business leaders and at a
community forum in the evening. On Tuesday, Ligia Noriega-Murphy, currently the
assistant superintendent of secondary schools in Boston Public Schools, went
through the same agenda. Finally, today (May 2), Almudena Abeyta, currently the
assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the
Somerville Public Schools, will visit the city and have a forum at 4:30 p.m.
School Committeewoman Jeannette Velez said
the School Committee would start with separate rounds of public interviews with
the candidates. They would follow the same order as this week.
All interviews are open to the public.
Interviews will be held at City Hall Council Chambers in the evening.
The goal of the Committee is to have a vote
on May 9 – after the final interview – to decide who to pick and negotiate a
contract with. If all goes well, that person would likely begin on July 1.
At Monday’s community forum, Parker said he
was very interested in Chelsea because it was a challenge and a place to learn.
Though he has spent most of his career in suburban schools like Newton and
Weston, he said he feels like he could be very successful in Chelsea.
“I like what I read about Chelsea and I like
the emphasis on building bridges and the pathways,” he said. “I like the
diversity of it…It was different enough for me to be interesting. I think any
district is a challenge. It’s the opportunity to build on what is here. What
you have is Chelsea is you have a great district that wants to be excellent in
many ways. I believe I can help you do that.”
He also said he hasn’t applied to any other
districts, only Chelsea.
“This is where I want to be,” he said.
The forum was sparsely attended, and likely
because it wasn’t well publicized ahead of the beginning of the forums by the
Collins Center – which is running the superintendent search process.
However, numerous students from the Chelsea
Collaborative and organizers from the Collaborative did show up with many
The conversation went from opinions on
expulsion to outside opportunities to gun violence.
At that, Parker said his students – like
Chelsea last year – organized a walkout for school safety.
He said he believes in supporting student
voices – something that has grown to be very important to students at the high
school over the last year. Students at Chelsea High have successfully organized
the walk-out, and also successfully advocated to move graduation back outside
on the new turf field.
“I walked out with them,” he said. “We knew
it was happening and supported it. It was a genuinely student-led effort. We
need to support that even if we disagree with that they want to do. I think if
a district didn’t support students on that particular situation, I think they
When it came to challenges between suburban
Weston and urban Chelsea, Parker said he would likely have a learning period
with getting community and parent participation – which often lacks in Chelsea
but is strong in Weston.
“If our parents cannot make meetings or
conferences because they are working multiple jobs or are too busy, then we
need to go to them,” he said. “I would spend time finding out where they are
and where I need to go to engage them.”
The process with the School Committee next
week on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday is open to the public.
Anthony Parker, currently the principal at
Weston High, listens intently to a question from students during Monday’s
community forum at the Williams School. The three finalists have been in
Chelsea this week for whirlwind tours and forums. Next week, all three will
meet with the School Committee for public interviews. A decision is expected
The year 2019 marked the 8th annual Chelsea Empty Bowls fundraiser to help raise awareness to and funds for combatting food insecurity. Here, Julia McDermott, Yahaira Guzman, and Sylvester Valdez hold their recently purchased bowls during the event on Thursday, April 18, at the Williams School.
The REACH program teamed up with the Learning Communication and Functional Academics classes at Chelsea High School to create a beautiful Spring mural in the Chelsea High School cafeteria. Thank you to project leaders Gaby Solis, Sonybel Quiñones and Stephanie Rodriguez