The story of the Chelsea High Class of 2019
won’t be complete with just a rundown of what happened in the hallways of the
In fact, it’s what this class did at City Hall, on social media and in rooms with powerful decision makers that will define the 312 seniors who will walk across the stage on Sunday to collect their diplomas and celebrate a journey concluded.
Workers on Monday began cobbling together more than 20,000 hard plastic squares over the new Chelsea Stadium turf field to protect it for the first outdoor graduation in many years. The new situation was a hard-fought win for the Class of 2019, and will likely define them for years to come, school officials said. Graduation takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 9.
That story starts and ends with having graduation under what (hopefully) will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.
will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.
Principal Alexander Mathews said the class
is very accomplished academically, socially and athletically, but it has taken
an extra step of moving outside the school and advocating in the community.
“It’s a class that more than any I’ve seen
is driven to show leadership in a way that feels organized and professional,”
he said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with what I’ve seen at Chelsea
High this year – even in the face of discord among the adults at times…They
remained calm and serious even when so much was happening around them. It’s a
very community-minded ethic in the group. They are genuinely of a belief that what
they’re doing is best for the community and not necessarily their families
only. They believe they are doing this for the future of the other classes
behind them. That’s pretty impressive in a teenaged mind.”
The Class of 2019 decided early on that they
wanted to be able to graduate outside, and it wasn’t just to get some sun.
In fact, since the graduation moved into the
indoor gym, many family members have been excluded from the ceremony due to
space reasons. With larger classes and larger families, many parents found they
had to go and watch the graduation on a telecast in the cafeteria.
Students in the Class of 2019 didn’t think
it was right and fought back against that.
“In some cases, relatives traveled hundreds
or thousands of miles to be there, but weren’t able to be with the family in
the gym,” said Mathews.
It seemed like an attainable goal, but then
they ran into the red tape of consumer affairs.
That came in the form of the warranty of the
brand new turf field at the Stadium where graduation would take place. That
warranty would be void, City officials learned, if the graduation were held on
the field without and protections in place.
And those protections cost nearly $200,000.
School officials and City officials
seemingly told the class members that it was a good effort, but couldn’t be
Leaders like President Jocelyn Poste and
activist Manuel Teshe would not take ‘no’ for an answer. They began to
fundraise and attend City Council meetings to speak in favor of finding a
solution to their predicament.
After a lot head scratching, City Manager
Tom Ambrosino, Supt. Mary Bourque, the School Committee and the Council found a
solution, but it cost $175,000. Students advocated that the expense was well
worth it so that families could be together on what was a very big day.
And the City agreed.
This week, workers have been cobbling
together 25,000 hard plastic pieces over the new turf field that will protect
it on graduation and preserve the warranty as well.
“I think these students have realized the connection
between their growing academic skills and their ability to influence policy and
important decisions around the city,” he said. “Seeing that connection is
really motivating for students.”
And those students, in what is another one
of the largest classes in several years (last year had a record 344), will take
the academic and advocacy lessons they have learned this year to a number of
great colleges, universities and workplaces.
Students will be attending schools such as
Dartmouth College, Tufts University, Boston University, Suffolk University and
others. There are also several full-ride Posse Foundation Scholars attending
schools such as Bucknell University, Denison College, Union College, and Centre
University in Kentucky.
take place on Sunday, June 9, outdoors at the new Chelsea Memorial Stadium at 1
p.m. – rain or shine.
For the eighth year, the Girl Scouts of
Chelsea will kick off the Memorial Day Commemoration with a Parade up Broadway
to City Hall, where an official ceremony will take place at 9 a.m.
The Girl Scouts will kick off their parade
at 8:15 a.m. on May 27 from Welsh Funeral Home parking lot, 718 Broadway.
The Ceremony will take place on the front
lawn of City Hall, with the laying of the wreaths, several numbers by the
award-winning Chelsea High Concert Band, and essays from students in the
The Parade is to
recognize all who served and sacrificed for the country, but it is also open to
community organizations that wish to march. If anyone has any questions or
would like to participate in the Parade, the can call (617) 466-4250.
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
Members of the Chelsea High School Class of 2019 are a step closer to getting their wish of an outdoor graduation on the new high school field.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is requesting the City Council approve spending $170,000 from the City’s Stabilization Account to buy a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
“This removable, plastic covering will allow for greater use of the field for non-sporting events, including allowing for an outdoor graduation for the Chelsea High School Class of 2019,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The city is in the midst of a $3 million-plus upgrade of Veterans Field at Chelsea High School. The first phase of the project, replacement of the artificial turf and the new track, is scheduled for completion this fall, according to Ambrosino. A second phase involving lighting and restrooms will continue in the spring.
The new turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if certain uses occur on the field, including large static crowds, spiked heels, or chairs with four legs. The City Manager said these restrictions would all but eliminate the use of the surface for any non-sporting events.
“One method for eliminating this problem is to purchase a removable, protective surface for the turf, which is how the problem is handled in many large artificial turf stadiums across the country,” Ambrosino stated. “However, we did not budget for such a protective surface in this project.”
At the request of the school, Ambrosino is asking the Council to approve the additional funding through the School Capital Stabilization Account, which Ambrosino said was specifically established for these types of School Department capital expenditures.
At its Monday night meeting, the council voted to take up the issue in its Finance Subcommittee.
The request from the City Manager was good news for Chelsea High Senior Manuel Teshe, who addressed the Council earlier this month about senior class fundraising efforts to secure an outdoor graduation.
“Mr. Tom Ambrosino made me feel like people were listening to us after all the work we did,” said Teshe. “We felt alone, and now we appreciate the chance that the City is even considering it.”
Prior to hearing from Ambrosino, Councillors Ray Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, and Yamir Rodriguez introduced an order asking the City Manager to explore the purchase of an event decking system. After hearing about Ambrosino’s request to use the stabilization funds for the purchase, Avellaneda withdrew the order.
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.”
Alexander “Lex” Mathews was seen enthusiastically welcoming Chelsea High School students on their first day of
Lex Mathews, new principal of Chelsea High School, is pictured in front of the school sign.
school this week. That personable approach is an indicator of the accessible manner he will bring to his new position of principal.
Mathews, 49, also brings elite academic credentials to the principal’s office, having graduated from prestigious prep school Milton Academy and earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, and advanced degrees from Harvard University, and Hunter College in New York City.
Mathews began officially on July 1, succeeding Priti Johari, who is now an assistant superintendent of Chelsea schools. His administrative team at CHS includes Assistant Principals Linda Barber, Kim Murphy, Mark Martineau, and Magali Oldander, ELL Coordinator Deidre Collins, and Special Education Coordinators Alan Beausoleil and Daymon Peykar.
Originally from Alaska and California, Mathews previously served in school principal and assistant principal positions in Somerville, South Boston, Somerville, and the Bronx in New York City. He has 23 years of experience in the field of education.
Mathews will be in charge of the day-to-day operations at Chelsea High which has approximately 1,500 students.
“I strongly believe in teamwork and the idea that every employee in the school matters tremendously to students,” said Mathews. “The principal may seem like a really important person, but to some students, there’s a paraprofessional that matters a lot more than the principal. To some families, there’s a teacher that matters a whole lot more.”
Mathews also believes that for Chelsea High School to be successful, “we have to be able to work together.”
He will expect administrators to be in the hallways “making connections, building community and raising expectations.”
Mathews organized a freshman class trip to Tufts University this summer. “The goal was to get them thinking about college in the ninth grade, instead of waiting for tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade, because by that time, if you have a bad grade point average, it’s hard to recover,” said Mathews, who is married and has three children.
He is excited to be working with Supt. of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque and the faculty and staff at CHS.
“Dr. Bourque has been supportive, inspirational, accessible – just extremely helpful,” said Mathews. “The other employees have also been inspiring and helpful and all are seeking to make an improvement in the school. I also look forward to any opportunities to meet with members of the community.”
Tom Thompson, Class of 2018, goes up for a dipsy-do layup against Josh Concepcion and Hamza Abdul (L) during the championship of the Battle of the Classes, which kicked off The Movement summer basketball league. Class of 2018 and the Class of 2008 battled it out at Chelsea High on Saturday, June 30. Despite having youth on their side, the Class of 2018 lost out to the champion Class of 2008.