Six Months Later, Puerto Rico Still Devastated by Hurricane Maria

Six Months Later, Puerto Rico Still Devastated by Hurricane Maria

Six months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many areas of the country outside the tourist hot spots are still in crumbling disrepair – some without electricity since the first storm, Hurricane Irma – and residents of the island nation that is closely tied to Chelsea continue to suffer.CHEL_20180412_A1

Record photographer Keiko Hiromi traveled to Puerto Rico in late March to survey the damage, having followed the story last fall when Chelsea galvanized to provide thousands of pounds and multiple truckloads of donations to help relieve the situation.

Residents of Chelsea are closely tied to Puerto Rico, with thousands here having been born there or having had relatives emigrate here from the island.

Hiromi reported that upon landing at the airport, things looked normal, but upon leaving the population centers, she discovered homes in much the same shape as the day after the devastation.

“When I landed at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on March 21, everything looked normal as if nothing had ever happened,” she said. “As I spent five days travelling through Puerto Rico, sometimes away from the functioning tourist areas, I witnessed Puerto Rico in recovery. Many raw scars were still unmended: debris on roads, houses without roofs. Yet, at the same time, I encountered the faces of resilient, strong, patient people, compassionate for each other.”

At the Chelsea Collaborative, Director Gladys Vega and Program Manager Sylvia Ramirez were not surprised at what Hiromi found. Both said they are worried that too many have forgotten about the disaster despite the fact that little has improved for many there.

“I knew that the island was going to be devastated, and at the same time I am shocked how citizens of the United States are so ignored,” she said. “In the next few months, the hurricane season is going to be starting again, and Puerto Rico is nowhere near able to take their normal storm season. One thing I was extremely sad about is we are not getting any help. The news has forgotten about Puerto Rico and moved on to other things. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is still in devastation. People are suffering, they have no housing and they’re hungry.”

Ramirez said she feels the same way.

After the devastation, she headed up the Collaborative’s efforts to provide aid to those in Puerto Rico, and also to welcome families coming to Chelsea from the island for refuge.

She said much remains the same there, but that story isn’t getting out.

“I think the lack of coverage in the news doesn’t really portray the reality of what’s happening there,” she said. “People go on with their lives and they focus on their kids, they go to work, Christmas came and went. It’s no longer a priority because it’s not in the news. Our plan here in Chelsea is to do another call for action in June or July to bring attention to the situation. The worry for everyone is that nothing is being done to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.

“People go on with their lives, but there are still parts of the island absolutely devastated and nobody is talking about that,” she continued.

That is exactly what Hiromi reported firsthand.

In Toa Baja, just outside of San Juan Hiromi found Miguel Anjel Mericado at his home. His home still had a collapsed roof that had not been fixed and was open to the elements. Beams rested on the floor and electricity was spotty. He collected items that he could find in order to continue the efforts of fixing the home.

Hiromi also visited Yabucoa, where Maria first made landfall.

In Vega Alta, a rural community in the mountains, she visited a family that had no electricity since Hurricane Irma – the first storm to hit Puerto Rico last year even before Hurricane Maria.

Herberto Rivera, a school bus driver there, had been powering the family home with a generator they purchased months ago. They hoped that power would come back to the community before the next hurricane season.

In Chelsea, Ramirez said they are currently working with 55 families who came to the city after the hurricane for refuge, with 18 of them still in FEMA hotels. Statewide, she said, there are nearly 700 families in hotels who arrived after the storm, and 530 are in FEMA hotel rooms. The dire need is that FEMA will stop paying for those rooms on April 20. Already 123 families have used up the FEMA payments and are being paid for by the Red Cross.

She said they are still collecting furniture for those refugees moving into apartments, and they are still trying to secure more stable living conditions.

At the same time, the identical fight continues on the island of Puerto Rico.

“There are still a lot of people without electricity and with blue tarps on their roofs,” said Ramirez. “That’s the reality.”

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Council Passes Unique Pilot for Students, Not Everyone on Board

Council Passes Unique Pilot for Students, Not Everyone on Board

The Chelsea City Council passed a unique pilot program by a vote of 8-2 on Monday night that would allow qualifying students at Chelsea High an opportunity to finish their Associate’s Degree after high school on the City’s dime.

The program is a partnership with Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and was championed by City Manager Tom Ambrosino this year in his State of the City. It is seen by him and the School Department as a logical extension of the dual enrollment program at the high school that allows students there to take college level courses at BHCC.

The problem with the program in Chelsea, Ambrosino and others said, is that many students after graduation don’t have the financial resources to continue on and finish the Associate’s Degree they have been working towards.

The pilot program would use $150,000 in the first year, and would be open to students who have completed 12 credits while still in high school within the dual enrollment program. They also must remain Chelsea residents while receiving the benefit.

If a student applies for and gets a Pell Grant, BHCC will provide a subsidy as well and will waive tuition for the student as part of their end of the bargain.

“I had concerns at first, but I did some digging and it’s a good program,” said Councillor Leo Robinson. “I will be supporting this.”

“Many of the students in dual enrollment can’t complete their degree by the time they graduate high school, and they just don’t have the resources to complete it afterward,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I think now is a great time to invest in our young people.”

But not everyone was on board, and some who voted for it had concerns as well.

Councillor Luis Tejada ended up voting for the matter, but said he was challenged by it.

“My challenge is with the money going to just Bunker Hill,” he said. “What I have a bigger problem with is you take care of your household first before you take care of your extended family. If you take care of everyone else before your household, you will tank…We have a $3 million deficit in our school system and Free Cash should be devoted to that first…If there is excess cash, maybe it should be devoted to the public schools.”

The chief detractor, however, was Councillor Bob Bishop, chair of the Finance Committee. Bishop said it’s a good program, but shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayers.

“To me, it’s a big problem because we’re using taxpayer money on something we’re not required to spend it on,” he said.

“This $150,000 is a pilot program and next year it could possibly be a lot more money,” he said. “I don’t understand how we can get involved in the business of paying for college for a select few…I suspect this is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. This is $150,000, but it will be $500,000.”

Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed with Bishop, saying it should be funded by private money and not taxpayer dollars.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda said it was about investing in the future of students in the modern era.

“The school education system we have is outdated,” he said. “Everyone knows you need more than a 12th grade education in this economy. You need advanced courses beyond high school. As a City, we have to prepare them. It only makes sense to prepare them for today. Unlike 30 or 40 years ago, a college education is required for that.”

Councillors Judith Garcia was absent for the vote, but had vocally supported the matter in previous meetings.

  • On a related note, the Council voted 10-0 without much discussion to approve a $50,000 program to help City Hall employees pay for courses to advance their education. That program was also proposed by Ambrosino and championed by the Council.

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Secretary Pollack Would like Silver Line to go to Everett

Secretary Pollack Would like Silver Line to go to Everett

Just as the Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line gets ready to launch in Chelsea on April 21, State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said in a meeting in Boston that she would like to see it eventually expand to Everett – a plan that Everett officials and the Lower Mystic Regional Transportation Working Group has touted as well.

The Silver Line 3 (SL-3) will being operations on April 21, making a 30-minute journey from the Mystic (Market Basket) Mall to South Station, via Logan Airport and the Seaport in Boston, every 10 minutes. The BRT will run on a separate bus-only lane through Chelsea and over the Chelsea Street Bridge.

Pollack said that a draft of the soon-to-be-released Transportation plan, called Focus 40, will have a recommendation for Everett to be included in an expansion of the new Silver Line service.

“That service will open on April 21, and we’re looking forward to the opening,” she said. “That is a BRT service and we hope to continue it from Chelsea into Everett and Sullivan Square and other highly congested areas. That’s one other thing we are looking at in our Focus 40 plan.”

Those statements came at a breakfast in the Back Bay on March 20 where Pollack was the keynote speaker and addressing investment in the Orange Line. She also highlighted the new Silver Line service and the agency’s hopes to expand it in the years to come.

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Station of the Cross

Station of the Cross

ChelseaRecord

Julio Figueroa as John The Apostle, Ramona Rodriguez as Mary Mother Of Jesus, and Kinian Lobo as Mary Madeline march in grief at Jesus’s suffering during the annual St. Rose of Lima Church’s Stations of the Cross throughout the streets of Chelsea on Good Friday, March 30. Hundreds of parishioners came out to participate in the march.

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Photography Contest to Capture Richness of Life in Chelsea, and Fame for Local Artists

Photography Contest to Capture Richness of Life in Chelsea, and Fame for Local Artists

Amateur and professional photographers of any age are invited to participate in the Welcome to Chelsea Photo Contest.  The contest is presented by Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s initiative for vitality in the downtown, and the Facebook group Chelsea MA Photography Club coordinated by photographer and former City Councillor Matt Frank.

The organizers seek images that capture the richness of life in this dynamic city.

“What people, places and things tell you that you are home?  What image serves as invitation for others to visit Bellingham Square, Chelsea Square, Broadway? What does Chelsea mean to you? Everyone sees the city through a different lens, and we want you to show us your view!” they declare.

Entries will be accepted until May 31, 2018 via the contest website at https://tinyurl.com/PhotoContestforChelsea. An illustrious panel of judges will then select multiple winners in the categories of Local Business; The People of Chelsea; Community; and Chelsea, Past and Present. The panel will nominate a slate of finalists for a People’s Choice award to be determined via popular votes on the Chelsea MA Photography Club Facebook page.

All of the top images will be reproduced in large print format and displayed in the new storefront gallery, Gallery 456, coming soon to the former Salvation Army store on Broadway.  At the conclusion of the summer-time exhibit the winners will take home their high-quality, framed images with the Best in Show and People’s Choice winners receiving additional prizes.

The judging panel includes:

  • Darlene DeVita, an award-winning fine art photographer who specializes in portraits that capture the energy and humanity of her subjects. Her creative eye, patience, humor and unobtrusiveness have made her one the most sought-after photographers in Greater Boston. Between photographing weddings and exploring her fine art world, Darlene shoots portraits at her studio in Chelsea. She was Co-Director of the Gallery@Spencer Lofts for fourteen years, served as a member of the Chelsea Cultural Council and is a co-founder of CHARCOLL (Chelsea Artists Collaborative).
  • Matt Frank is a life-long resident of Chelsea and served on the Chelsea City Council for ten years after four years on the Planning Board.  His government, non-profit and community-based work focuses on policy and project-based initiatives that serve the public interest. His interest in communications and community building combined with a deep appreciation of the beauty of city life led Matt to pursue an interest in photography. Matt captures our beloved city with a painterly eye as he celebrates the colors, textures and moods of Chelsea’s ever-changing landscape.
  • Roselee Vincent holds the16th Suffolk District Seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, comprised of the communities of Revere, Chelsea and Saugus. A champion for the arts, Rep Vincent served on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, giving her an opportunity to visit with arts advocates across the state and learn how the arts are vital to local economies across the Commonwealth.
  • Sury Chavez, a painter, was born in Los Angeles but spent much of her childhood in her ancestral home of Guatemala. While East Boston is where she now resides, the colors, flora and fauna of Central America continue to inspire her work. Local businesses, The Cuscatlan, Bella Isla Express and Pan y Café, have partnered with Sury for decorative murals and menu boards and she’s working with Chelsea’s Beautification Committee to illustrate “Welcome to Chelsea” signs for key locations throughout the city.
  • Marianne Ramos is a self-taught “outsider artist” who believes everyone can express themselves through art. A resident of Chelsea for the past 35 years, she serves as Program Coordinator for the Chelsea Senior Center. What began out of economic necessity became the foundation of her artistic philosophy as Marianne embraces a Do-it-Yourself approach and environmental stewardship through the use of recycled and non-toxic materials. An extension of her civic involvement, Marianne’s works are typically presented in settings that foster community building.

Beyond the photography exhibit on Broadway, all submitted photographs will contribute to a collection of images for the promotion of the City of Chelsea as a great place to live and to visit. Submitted photos will become part of a collection of images for use by the City in materials like municipal reports, the city website and informational brochures.

For more information about the Welcome to Chelsea Photography Contest visit https://tinyurl.com/PhotoContestforChelsea.

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Chief: Chelsea Dispatch Erred in Accident on Mystic/Tobin

Chief: Chelsea Dispatch Erred in Accident on Mystic/Tobin

The failure of Chelsea Fire apparatus to be dispatched to a serious motor vehicle accident with an ejection on the southbound Mystic/Tobin Bridge Sunday is being blamed on a dispatch error.

The accident occurred in the southbound lane on the Tobin further into Charlestown on Sunday, and one of the occupants was ejected from the vehicle in a serious accident.

Typically, as the long-standing agreement goes, on any Tobin emergency, Boston crews head northbound, and Chelsea crews head southbound due to the easier access for each community in those directions. That is the case even when the emergency is further back on the bridge in Chelsea or Charlestown.

However, during the ejection accident on Sunday, Chelsea crews did not make it there, and some postulated that it was because Boston hadn’t notified Chelsea.

Not so, said Chief Len Albanese.

“This isn’t a Boston Fire issue,” he said. “On this call it was a Chelsea Dispatch error. Boston did notify our dispatch and they had the information but did not send it out. This can’t happen. We have to do a further investigation as well, but this was a Chelsea Dispatch error that we are working to correct.”

Chief Albanese said they have spoken with the 9-1-1 Director about the issue, and the chief wants to re-open the policy regarding the Tobin to make sure everyone is aware that Chelsea goes southbound on all accidents.

“We are going to update the policy immediately and work on the specifics of it,” he said.

The crash happened on Sunday morning on the Cana Ramp with two cars and was listed as very serious due to the fact one person was ejected. The ramp was closed for some time.

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MS-13 Member Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Chelsea Murder

MS-13 Member Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Chelsea Murder

An MS-13 member was sentenced on March 22 in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

Bryan Galicia Barillas, a/k/a “Chucky,” 21, a Guatemalan national who resided in Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 22 years in prison and five years of supervised release. Galicia Barillas will be subject to deportation upon completion of this sentence.  In October 2017, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.

The racketeering activity by Galicia Barillas, a member of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha (ECS) clique, included his involvement in the death of an innocent bystander in Chelsea. On Oct. 18, 2014, Galicia Barillas and Hector Ramires, a/k/a “Cuervo,” another member of the ECS clique, encountered a group of individuals in Chelsea suspected of belonging to a rival gang.  Ramires, who was armed with a weapon that Galicia Barillas had provided on an earlier occasion, shot at one of the suspected gang rivals and missed, killing an innocent bystander who was looking out a nearby window of a room she shared with her three children. Galicia Barillas was a juvenile at the time of the murder.

Galicia Barillas also accepted responsibility for his role in a Sept. 8, 2014, stabbing and attempted murder of an individual in Chelsea, which Galicia Barillas also committed when he was a juvenile.  Shortly after he turned 18, Galicia Barillas was involved in an April 2015 conspiracy to kill an MS-13 member that the gang believed was cooperating with law enforcement, and a May 26, 2015 stabbing and attempted murder of a suspected rival gang member in Chelsea.

Ramires pleaded guilty in October 2017 to RICO conspiracy involving murder and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11, 2018.

After a three-year investigation, Galicia Barillas and Ramires were two of 61 persons named in a fifth superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States with thousands of members across the country, including a sizeable presence in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, including murder, against suspected gang rivals and those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. The fifth superseding indictment alleges that, from approximately 2014 to 2016, MS-13 cliques in Massachusetts were responsible for, among other things, six murders and approximately 20 attempted murders, as well as robberies and drug trafficking.

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School Budget Shortfall Hits More than $3 Million, Called Today’s Civil Rights Struggle

School Budget Shortfall Hits More than $3 Million, Called Today’s Civil Rights Struggle

The Chelsea Public Schools has hit a major shortfall in its budgeting for next year, and reported at recent meeting that it is in deficit $3.1 million, and has been underfunded by as much as $17.2 million by the state funding formula.

It has now become a major call to action for the school community and for activists in Chelsea, including the Chelsea Collaborative – whose Director, Gladys Vega, called on the City Council to support joining a lawsuit against the state for underfunding schools.

That suit was filed by Brockton and Worcester last week due to what they believe is chronic underfunding of urban schools through the 1993 Education Reform School Budget Formula.

“This reimbursement problem in the formula needs to be solved and I think we need to address the formula and I urge the City and the City Council to join with Brockton on this lawsuit against the state,” said Vega at Monday’s Council meeting.

She was right on the same page with Supt. Mary Bourque, who on Monday morning said they are seriously considering making that move.

“We have not officially joined, but we are seriously exploring the need to join this lawsuit,” she said.

By the numbers, the state Chapter 70 School Budget has underfunded the Chelsea Schools in five categories, according to the schools. One of the key pieces comes from the new definition of economically disadvantaged students (formerly low-income), which has caused an underfunding of $1.077 million in the coming year. Other areas included things where full reimbursements are promised, but only partially delivered – such as with Charter School reimbursements.

Those numbers include:

  • Fringe Benefits, $5.78 million
  • Charter School Reimbursement, $2.014 million
  • Special Education Tuition, $7.98 million
  • Homeless Student Transportation, $373,059

This came on the heels of a very lively and contentious meeting at City Hall by the School Committee on March 15, where the School Budget process was rolled out to a standing-room only crowd.

Bourque led off the meeting saying it is time to stand up for public education, and pressure legislators to take up the cause – a cause she said was the Civil Rights struggle of our time.

“Sadly, we find ourselves in a time and place where we are not willing as a society to invest in public education,” she said. “Each year I come to you with a budget that is failing each year to meet the complex needs of our students. Each year I come to you with a budget that fails to provide an equitable education compared to public school children in wealthier communities. Each year these educators…are being asked to do more with less and less. Providing our schools with the funding that’s needed to educate the next generation is the Civil Rights struggle of our time. I ask you: Will you join me in this Civil Rights struggle and our quest for social justice? We need to have the courage to standup now and today for public education.”

The Chelsea Teacher’s Union called for the same kind of advocacy, but also called on the City and the City Council to use its $34 million in Free Cash to shore up the School Budget.

“For the short term, the City of Chelsea has made some significant investment in the schools and we appreciate that. However, we need more,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the union. “The City has $34 million in Free Cash and the City is seeing significant real estate development. What is the purpose of all this this development and progress if the proceeds aren’t going to support the education of the kids in Chelsea? The CTU welcomes the opportunity to advocate for changes at the state level. That’s a long term solution. I’m asking the School Committee and the school community to lobby the City Council to release more funds to the School Department here in order to prevent the cuts to this proposed budget.”

Catherine Ellison, a special education teacher at the Browne Middle School, said many of her students have suffered because of budgets last year. She said last year the middle school Special Education budget was slashed, and after hearing of the impacts, the budget still wasn’t restored.

“Caseloads have soared while resources have severely declined,” she said. “Children have been forced to struggle in mainstream classes while funds were cut…Our staff and our students have been aggressive in addressing the increasing and complex needs of our brilliant, resilient and magnificent children. It’s time for the school district to do the same.”

Chelsea is not alone in the struggles, which is why the lawsuit is such a tempting option for urban schools like Chelsea.

Already, in Everett, mid-year cuts to the tune of $6 million were avoided by an infusion of cash by the City, and it is expected that the Everett Schools could need as much as $8 million to plug holes next year.

Revere has a similar circumstance and isn’t as far in its budgeting process as Chelsea and Everett, but it is expected they will have a sharp deficit as well.

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Police Briefs 03-29-2018

Police Briefs 03-29-2018

PHONE FEUD

On March 16, at 12:10 p.m., officers responded to Bellingham Square and spoke to the victim who is employed by Assurance Wireless, a company that provides free cell phones for low-income individuals.

The victim stated the male in question applied for a phone, but was denied.  He said that the subject was upset and later approached him while in the area of the Rainbow Apparel, located at 428 Broadway. He stated that the subject snatched a cardboard box containing one cellular phone out of his hand and went across the street to the laundromat. The subject was identified and placed into custody.

Fidel Hernandez, 50, of Quincy, was charged with unarmed robbery and violating the knife ordinance.

MARCH MADNESS

On March 16, at 4:02 p.m., officers were dispatched to  207 Shurtleff St, the Chelsea Community Center for a report of an unwanted party. Upon arrival, officers spoke with the reporting party, who works at the front desk. She advised officers that a male party known to her had walked into the building and onto the basketball court without paying the required fee. She stated that she told him she would be calling the Chelsea Police if he didn’t leave and his reply was something to the effect of, “I want to see them come in here and get me.” Officers were able to place the male into custody after he refused to leave, and began arguing with employees at the front desk. He additionally was trespassed from the property.

Elyas Abdi, 19, of 180 Central Ave., was charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, threatening to commit a crime, and disorderly conduct.

TWO MS-13 PLEAD GUILTY

Two MS-13 members have pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to charges of racketeering conspiracy involving murder.

Oscar Recinos Garcia, a/k/a “Psycho,” 24, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty March 21 to RICO conspiracy and being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled Recinos Garcia’s sentencing for June 13, 2018.

On March 20, Jose Andrade a/k/a “Inocente,” 27, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Judge Saylor scheduled Andrade’s sentencing for June 12, 2018.

Andrade and Recinos Garcia were both members of the Everett Locos Salvatrucha, or ELS clique, of MS-13. The defendants admitted that their racketeering activity, on behalf of MS-13, included their involvement in the murder of a teenager who was associated with MS-13 and wrongly suspected by the gang of cooperating with law enforcement. On July 5, 2015, the victim was murdered in Lawrence by Josue de Paz a/k/a “Gato” and another MS-13 member. Evidence showed that Andrade and Recinos Garcia were both involved in planning the murder and shared the intent to have the victim killed. The evidence also showed that Andrade was part of the original plan to kill the victim, but was unable to participate in the murder because he was arrested in June 2015. The gang then recruited De Paz to commit the murder, and Recinos Garcia passed along the message to De Paz to kill the victim.

De Paz and Recinos Garcia were arrested on July 8, 2015, in Somerville in a raid that resulted in the recovery of a firearm, several large knives, photographs of MS-13 members flashing gang signs, and a large volume of MS-13 paraphernalia, including blue and white hats, bandanas and rosary beads. Recinos Garcia was also charged with possession of the firearm seized on that day. Andrade was also charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana after evidence revealed that he and other MS-13 members distributed marijuana on behalf of the gang.  De Paz pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Police Log

Monday, 3/12

Jennifer Khudari, 31, 41 South Ave., Revere, was arrested for operating motor vehicle with revoked license and possessing Class B drug.

Thursday, 3/15

Leonides Bones, 60, 4 Fernboro St., Dorchester, was arrested for possessing alcoholic beverage.

Friday, 3/16

Fidel Hernandez, 50, 36 Elm St., Quincy, was arrested for unarmed robbery and dangerous weapon.

Elyas Abdi, 19, 180 Central Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for trespassing, resisting arrest, threat to commit crime, disorderly conduct.

Saturday, 3/17

Jose Coronado-Hercules, 21, 101 Park St., Chelsea, was arrested for receiving stolen motor vehicle.

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We Need Courage to Stand Up for Public Education

We Need Courage to Stand Up for Public Education

(The following was delivered to the School Committee at its public hearing on Thursday, March 15)

Good evening and welcome to the Chelsea Public Schools FY19 Budget Public Hearing. This year’s budget represents a budget gap of $3.1 million between what we need and what we can do.

We have worked very hard in this budget season to maintain a district lens and sacrifice for the greater good of our students and staff. We have maintained programs and services that are required compliance, regulations or law; we have prioritized our Accelerated Improvement Plan work and our Turnaround Plan work, because that work is about our students’ futures. We have made cuts that were the least impactful on classroom instruction and we have shifted positions with the shifting needs of our student demographics—positions shifted to where there is more student need.

It is fitting that our FY19 school budget is being presented to you this week; because this week is Public Schools Week across our nation. Public schools are the foundation of our democracy. Ladies and gentlemen, I LOVE PUBLIC EDUCATION!

Public education is inclusive and universal. We welcome and educate all races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, and languages. We are the best investment with the highest return on our future as a country, dollar for dollar.

Strengthening our public schools is the best way to ensure our children’s success and our country’s prosperity. And yet, sadly, we find ourselves in a time and place where we are not willing as a society, as a citizenry, to invest in public education. Each year I come to you with a budget that is failing more and more to meet the complex needs of our students.

Each year I come to you with a budget that fails to provide an equitable education compared to public school children in wealthier communities. Each year we, these educators—teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals here tonight are being asked to do more with far less.

Providing our schools with the funding that is needed for our children, for the next generation is the civil rights struggle of our time. Will you join me in this civil rights struggle; will you join me in our quest for social justice?

We need now, today, to have the courage to stand up for public education. We need to have the courage to face our federal and state leaders and demand that the definition of “adequacy” in education, especially for our children in urban communities is no longer a fluctuating dollar figure, annually.

I ask you to:

  • Call or email your state legislators to restore to Chelsea this year the $300 per student rate in the economically disadvantaged allocation – an amount that will provide Chelsea with over $1,000,000 more in our budget.
  • Call or email your state legislators to support Senate Bill 223, An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century, which will begin a seven-year incremental and fairly paced structural fix to the foundation budget formula. Because if the foundation formula was implemented today, without adjusting rates for inflation, but simply giving us what was promised in the formula algorithm itself, such as 100 percent charter school reimbursement rather than 47 percent reimbursement, Chelsea would have an additional $17 million dollars in its Chapter 70 budget.
  • Call or email your congressional delegation to stop at the federal level the continued prioritization of privatization as well as stop the elimination of federal grants such as Title II, Title IV, 21st Century, and other cuts proposed in President Trump’s FY19 budget.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

I ask that each of you have the courage, alongside me, to take the next step and stare down the inequities; I ask that each of you take up the next step in our educational civil rights challenge, in our search for social justice. We can’t wait any longer, the structural deficit is causing harm to our children’s futures.

We need to start loving and funding public education once again.

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