The Chelsea Public Schools have had a life-line in the State Budget the last few years as finances have gotten more difficult.
That life-line is known as the ‘Hold Harmless’ provision, or more popularly the ‘Pothole’ account. This year, that account is little to no help for Chelsea as the district saw their funding slashed in half.
Last year, Chelsea got an additional $1.214 million from the Pothole account funding – a fund that seeks to help districts who are not getting a proper count of their low-income students due to changes three years ago in the way they are counted.
However, this year Chelsea will only get $296,000, nearly $1 million less than last year.
“The whole idea of the account is to hold us harmless for the change in the way they calculate the funding, which has taken dollars away from us,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Come to find out, it was slashed this year at a rate of about 56 percent, so we are not held harmless because that would mean you are at 100 percent. By their own admission, we aren’t held harmless at 100 percent.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was disappointed in the funding allotted to Chelsea for the Pothole account, and the ability not to be able to fix the funding for the long-term. That was something he had proposed in the education funding bill.
“I’m disappointed that was also not addressed within this session,” he said. “It would have been addressed with (the education) bill and it’s another reason I’m disappointed with how all of this happened.”
Rebecca Flores pretending to be a rock for Steve, the chinchilla, to land on with his large feet during the Animal Adventure program at the Chelsea Public Library last Wednesday, March 16. Young people were able to meet a python, a skunk and a skink – all in one place.
On Monday, August 24, Chelsea High School was bustling with teachers, staff and community members. After staff gathered for breakfast, the crowd listened intently to a motivating speech led by the Superintendent of Chelsea Public Schools, Dr. Mary Bourque. She welcomed back the members of the Chelsea Public Schools and offered a big thanks for all their hard work, filling the Chelsea High gymnasium with enthusiasm and energy for the upcoming school year.
Dr. Bourque gave a special shout-out to the custodians who spent all summer cleaning and re-cleaning the facilities.
“Thank you to all who keep us running 365 days a year,” Bourque said, as she gratefully acknowledged the cafeteria workers, custodians and crossing guards. “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
The crowd applauded as Dr. Bourque introduced staff members who assist in maintaining and bettering the Chelsea Public School district, including, the Chelsea Police Department, the IT Department, the City Manager as well as State Representatives.
Bourque also discussed the Bridge To Success, a five-year commitment that has been established to ensure that all students achieve at high levels, think critically, and graduate from the school system college and career-ready. Chelsea Public Schools is committed to being a model for other school districts in the way they utilize this practice. The list of values associated with the commitment includes:
All children can learn
Results matter more than intentions and it is the job of adults in the community to help children succeed
The diversity of our school community is a source of strength and a resource for the education of all learners
It is our job to take students from where they are to where they need to be
“What we stated on that warm day in August 2011, and we have restated frequently since, is that we are engaged in the deep transformational change work of a school system; not a school, but rather changing the systemof how we work together and how we educate all students in Chelsea,” she said. “We have taken our work to scale across nine schools. We have done by designing and implementing the structures, pushing and moving the culture, and as Richard Elmore would state, by impacting the instructional core—impacting the classroom—impacting each student, one pupil at a time. Together, let’s reflect today on where have we come from.”
Bourque stressed that over the last four years, the staff and teachers have bought into the “Chelsea way” of educating young people, and the results are showing.
“We shifted our collective culture to what is now known as the ‘Chelsea Way’ of education—a culture of adult learning, collaboration—and inclusivity; everything we do, we Chelseafy it to meet our needs,” she said. “We believe in co-planning, inclusion, co-teaching; re-teaching, feedback, reflection, and we welcome and educate all students without question – from 67 countries and speaking 36 languages. We have opened our doors and partnered with our community. As a result, more than ever over the last four years our community has deepened their value of, support of, and belief in our schools. We have worked with pride with our community partners to support our students, their families, our educators, and our programs. We have expanded our work to collaborate with other school districts such as the 5 District Partnership, and we learn; we constantly seek to learn from each other.”
Chelsea Public School District will utilize values and initiatives to raise the daily student attendance rate, lower the dropout rate and ensure that proper testing is implemented at the middle school levels, prior to moving on to high school.
Bourque, however, did issue a challenge and said the state had pointed out in a June review of Chelsea Public Schools that not all students were getting better.
“We have yet to see the consistent and needed impact at the instructional core—at the student level classroom to classroom, school to school,” she said. “As Jim Collins states, in order to go from good to great, we need to face the brutal facts of where we are and where we need to grow and improve. This is what the state highlighted to us in their review of our school district in June. We are impacting and closing the achievement gap for some but not for all students.”
Currently, six of Chelsea’s nine schools are at a Level 3 Accountability Status.
“We are not meeting the level of rigor needed for 21st Century learning in all classrooms and for all students,” said Bourque. “Together, we own these facts, and together, in the coming school year, we will commit to address these findings. We will commit to accelerating learning.”
Excitement for the upcoming school year rippled through the crowded gymnasium at that point, as Bourque stated enthusiastically, “Welcome back to the accelerated school year. The energy is electric.”
One would have thought they were giving away free iPads at the Chelsea Public Library last week as the Summer Reading Program began in earnest, but the popularity lay in good, old fashioned books and a focus on keeping kids engaged in reading over the lazy summer months.
From movies to working their way to becoming a superhero, kids in Chelsea have plenty to do at the Library this summer.
“This year, the Summer Reading Club has become very popular and the theme is ‘Every Hero Has a Story,’” said Martha Boksenbaum, children’s librarian. “This year, when the kids sign up they receive a superhero cutout. Each time they come to the library, they get to put another part of super hero gear on the cutout. If they fill up the super hero with gear, they get a real super hero cape. We are emphasizing super heroes this year, and we’ll have real life superheroes visiting the library.”
There will be police officers, animal handlers and a special super hero training as well. Boksenbaum took the unique step this year of visiting all of the elementary schools dressed as a super hero to drum up support for the program, and to bridge the gap between the library and the schools.
“I did go to the schools dressed as a super hero and that was exciting for the kids,” she said. “That has brought us a larger number of excited children showing up at the library to see what that’s all about.”
Students will also get credit at school this fall for completing the Summer Reading Club.
•Thurs., July 9, Sparky’s Puppets, 11 a.m.
•Friday, July 10, Movie: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, 2 p.m.
•Monday, July 13, Movie: Penguins of Madagascar, 2 p.m.
•Thursday, July 16, Jungle Jim: Superhero Training, 11 a.m.
•Thursday, July 23, Jenny the Juggler, 11 a.m.
•Tuesday, July 28, Movie: Frozen, 5:30 p.m.
•Thursday, July 30, Meet the Chelsea Police Dogs, 11 a.m.
•Thursday, Aug. 6, Great Big Faces Cartoonist, 2 p.m.
•Monday, Aug. 10, Movie: Cinderella, 2 p.m.
•Thursday, Aug. 13, Animal Adventures, 11 a.m.
•Thursday, Aug. 20, Make a Superhero Mask, 3:30 p.m.
Another popular feature of this year’s summer program at the library is that each week is that every week a teacher from one of the elementary schools will be at the library to read with their students. That will happen every Tuesday.
“That was exceptionally popular last year with more than 100 kids showing up every week,” she said. “So, we will do that again and get all four schools in the complex participating. We’ll emphasize one school each week. We had the Kelly School last week and it was a big hit again.”
There will also be a drop in Lego Club available and the age newborn to 6 Raising a Reader Stories in the Park program every Wedne
Children’s Librarian Martha Boksenbaum of the Chelsea Public Library has kicked off the Summer Reading Club and a whole host of activities
this summer for young people in Chelsea to peruse.
sday morning as well.
“We have a lot going on and I’m very excited about it,” said Boksenbaum. “Last year, we increased our programs and I think this year will be even more exciting and successful. Chelsea Public Library is very busy during the school year, but it’s in the summer that the library really explodes with activity. We get so many kids coming in.”
On Saturday, March 16th, Chelsea’s eighth grade boys’ basketball team accomplished a great feat; eleven of our city’s student athletes won the Shamrock Tournament championship game. This win is only the beginning of a series of victories that I envision for our Chelsea youth.
From day one of practice, my message to all of our youth has been to become a student first, then an athlete. This basketball program is being built on the foundation of academic excellence, discipline, sportsmanship, dedication, and persistence. Once our athletes embody these values, they will experience success both on the basketball court and in our classrooms. Chelsea’s youth is full of potential, both academically and athletically. Volunteers, mentors, and adults in Chelsea can help our children manifest their potential by lending a guiding hand and fostering a strong sense of values.
As a former Chelsea High School student athlete, a paraprofessional in a Chelsea Elementary School, and as a coach, my goal is to change the culture in our city for our youth. From personal experience, I have learned that we can reach our young community through sports, for me, through basketball. I want to give them hope, something to look forward to, and something to be excited about from an early age. I believe that by creating a strong sense of community, loyalty, persistence, and hope on the court at a young age, our student athletes will embody this behavior off the court. For my dream for our youth to come true, we need community support. We need all of the members of the Chelsea community, regardless of age, to believe and support the mission together. Our young student athletes need more parents and more mentors to be on board and on the same page. Having open communication between parents, mentors, and children is the key. Our children, parents, and mentors in the community need to know and feel comfortable approaching one another about academic, athletic, and life concerns. Each child needs a team of adults behind them; supporting and pushing them down the path to success. As a community, we can become an unstoppable force on the court, in the classrooms, and on the streets, if we pave a successful, focused, righteous path for our youth.
Community members that are invested in creating a successful future for Chelsea have realized that we need to dedicate time to and effort into our youths’ lives. At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids. We need to keep our local talent at home in order to build something great for the City of Chelsea, our public schools, and our students. Throughout my years spent in Chelsea, I have noticed a lot of students leaving the Chelsea Public Schools once they reach middle school or high school. I don’t want parents to be nervous or worried about sending their kids through Chelsea Public Schools. We have great leaders in the Chelsea Public School Department that are doing their best everyday to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. We have great teachers who understand what it takes for our youth to become academically and socially successful. Principals, such as Joe Mullaney at the Chelsea Public High School, Andy O’Brien at the Eugene Wright Middle School, and Adele Lubarsky at the Edgar F. Hooks Elementary School, all put in the time and the hard work that it takes to make sure all our kids are able to exceed their potential in academics. I am confident in all of Chelsea’s educators and staff and I urge all members of the community to feel likewise.
Over the past month, our basketball program has experienced great success because the children are listening, learning, and growing as student athletes. Although this travelling basketball team was only fastened together one month ago, I am already very impressed with the successes we have experienced and with the direction we are heading towards. In both of the tournaments we participated in we competed with highly skilled teams from around the State of Massachusetts. Recently, we placed in third at the Reggie Lewis Tournament in Boston, and most recently we won the Shamrock Tournament in Billerica. The excitement and enthusiasm generated from the players and parents throughout the tournaments was more than enough to confirm a victory for Chelsea. As their coach and mentor, I was really proud of them and without their dedication and hard work both on the court and in the classroom we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this as a team and community. We already have been invited back to play in those tournaments next year and the tournament hosts requested we bring in more teams to compete.
Within the next year my goal is to add in a fifth grade, sixth grade, and a seventh grade team to go along with the existing eighth grade team. I would like to establish a traveling team that will play in the North Shore League to compete against other traveling teams in the greater Boston area. I am also going to develop and create the Greater Boston Basketball Club AAU teams for our youth, the children who are putting in the hard work need to be recognized for things other than all the negatives they read or see on the newspapers. For all the negatives there are way more positives. As a community we tend to tune in and focus on the negatives. This can and needs to change. As their coach and mentor, I will have high expectations for all the children who come on board. The program participants will be molded into community leaders and their behavior and dedication will serve as a beacon for their classmates and fellow athletes. A leader always leads by example, and as they grow they can mentor all the young kids in Chelsea. We will give every child a chance to make all teams by having open tryouts. Every child will get a chance to compete. I don’t want to turn away any kid who has potential and is willing to put in the effort. If I can get more help and people on board, I will be able to add B teams so every kid who doesn’t make the A team can still be part of the program. These programs will be year-round and will keep them busy and on the right path. Michelle Lopez does a great job running the CYBL program and I want to build on to that. We can have both CYBL and traveling teams.
Our kids need to experience the competition outside of Chelsea and beyond. As long as they are putting as much effort in education and discipline as they are on the playing field, I will do everything I can in my power to get them all the resources they need to become successful. We can give them all the tools in the world by supporting them as a community. I just need them to use the tools to help them get somewhere in life and through college. I grew up in Chelsea so it was my goal to come back and be involved as a mentor to our youth once I graduated from the University of New Hampshire. Three years ago, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to be a volunteer assistant for Jay Siegal, the varsity basketball coach at Chelsea High School, and that gave me good insight on what needed to be done in our community. I just want to do more and what I can to help the Chelsea youth to stay on track. I want all my teams and kids to be recognized not only for outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. Rome wasn’t built overnight, so it’s going to take one step at a time but I like the direction we are heading in. If we unite as a community, we can accomplish these goals and the children of Chelsea will experience success academically and athletically.
Paraprofessional- Edgar F. Hooks School
Varsity Assistant Basketball Coach- Chelsea High School