Community Preservation Committee to be Very Active

Chelsea residents can expect to see a flurry of activity from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) over the coming year.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for a round of pilot projects recommended by the CPC.

The projects recommended by the CPC included money for the rehabilitation of the city’s Civil War monument, improvements to the Garden Cemetery, a Marlborough Street Community Garden proposed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), renovation of the Governor Bellingham-Cary House, renovations to the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum (Walnut Street Synagogue) and for the city to hire an Affordable Housing Trust Fund housing specialist on a one-year contract basis.

Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million before any money was spent on the recent round of pilot projects.

The projects that could be funded during the initial pilot round were capped at $50,000 each. The total of the seven proposals that came before the CPC is just under $270,000, according to CPC Chair Jose Iraheta.

Although Iraheta said he can’t speak for the other members of the CPC, he said he was excited by the Council’s approval of the pilot program.

“The committee has been entrusted by our fellow Chelsea residents to help preserve our open spaces, historic sites, and housing affordability,” Iraheta said. “The projects that were funded through this pilot honor our fellow community members’ wishes. I cannot wait for our next funding round and see what kind of solutions our community comes up with.”

One of the immediate goals for the CPC is to make sure everyone in Chelsea knows what the CPA is, what the community values are, and how the CPC funds have been used, according to the CPC Chairman.

“The CPC will focus on standardizing the community engagement efforts, capture our community’s voice in the community preservation plan and create a straightforward application process so people can know what to expect,” Iraheta said. “We want to create a system that is responsible for our community’s goals and priorities. If organizations and individuals know what to expect, we hope to see more robust and strong community projects that reflect our community’s values.”

To accomplish this, he said the CPC will be engaged in deep reflective conversation around the pilot process, including inviting CPC members from other communities to learn from their experiences, building on proven practices.

“My expectations are for the next grant applications to receive more solutions that meet the values, goals, and priorities laid out in the Community Preservation Plan,” Iraheta said.

A CPC meeting was scheduled to be held on Thursday night.

During the summer, the CPC will work to finalize engagement and application timelines for CPA projects. The next round of funding will not be limited to the $50,000 cap of the pilot round, Iraheta said, but a final decision has yet to be made on if there will be a larger cap on the requested amount.

Organizations or individuals can get more information on how to apply and on the Community Preservation Plan through the City of Chelsea’s Community Preservation Committee dedicated portal at www.chelseama.gov/community-preservation-committee.

Iraheta said he would like to continue to see proposed projects that meet the core values of the Community Preservation Plan.

“The CPA funds are a tool that strengthens our communities through funding for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation preserve,” he said. “The CPC does not implement projects; community organizations and individuals do. If your proposal adheres to the values in the Community Preservation Plan, we will consider your application for funding.”

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DiDomenico Urges Action on High Quality Pre-K

Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of his bill, S.265, An Act ensuring high-quality pre-kindergarten education. This legislation would expand preschool, using grants from the state, beginning with high-needs communities that are ready with a state-approved expansion plan.

“Across Massachusetts, people are ready for more preschool,” said DiDomenico in his testimony before the Committee. “I have heard from countless parents who want this learning opportunity for their children, but often can’t afford it or are on waiting lists. Local communities, led by community-based programs, school districts, and mayors, have solid plans for preschool expansion and are waiting for new public dollars to begin implementation. That is why I filed this legislation, and I am confident this bill is an important next step towards improving and expanding high quality early education for our kids”

Pre-kindergarten education has been proven to have significant short- and long-term impacts on children’s educational, social, and health outcomes. However, about 40 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts do not attend preschool. For those children who are enrolled in pre-K, many attend schools with high student-to-teacher ratios, low family engagement, and inadequate teacher qualifications. These children enter kindergarten at a disadvantage as compared to their peers who receive high-quality pre-kindergarten education. These initial setbacks in intellectual, social, and emotional development affect children throughout their lives, as they regularly underperform in school and afterwards.

This legislation filed by Sen. DiDomenico would target underperforming school districts, providing 3- and 4-year-olds in those neighborhoods with pre-K education administered by qualified teachers in programs following federal Preschool Expansion Grant quality standards. Since his election to the Massachusetts Senate in 2010, fighting to provide kids in the Commonwealth with access to high quality early education has been one of Sen. DiDomenico’s highest legislative priorities. This bill has remained a key component of the Senator’s legislative agenda and is one of his top early education policy items this legislative session.

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Legislature Approves Chapter 90 Funds

The Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill authorizing $200 million for Chapter 90 funding to help municipalities complete road, bridge and infrastructure improvement projects. The bill also facilitates the financing of $1.5 billion for highway projects and $200 million for rail projects at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

“Not only will these funds provide critical resources to cities and towns across the Commonwealth and fortify larger regional transportation projects, they will create jobs and spur economic growth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “These investments support our vibrant economy by improving our transportation infrastructure.”

“Each year, the Legislature invests in Chapter 90 funding to help cities and towns across the Commonwealth with critical improvements to roads, and I am once again proud to support this legislation which will help cities like Revere,” said Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere). “I thank Speaker DeLeo, Chairman Strauss, Boncore and the entire Transportation Committee for their work in crafting this bill that provides needed dollars to help municipalities with roadway infrastructure.”

“The Commonwealth’s roads, bridges and arteries are our economy’s life blood,’ said Transportation Committee Chair Senator Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop). These appropriations approved today will go a long way toward providing our municipalities with the financial resources they need to ensure our infrastructure is building toward state of good repair.”

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School Superintendent Finalists Visit Chelsea for Community Forums

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 questions.

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 missed out.”

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.

Cutline –

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 May 9.

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School Committee’s Garcia Fires Back After Hernandez Letter

About one month after former School Committeeman Julio Hernandez – the vice chair of the Committee – suddenly resigned, citing a lack of interest in the Committee from other members, one member is firing back to say the School Committee is committed.

Kelly Garcia.

In his letter last month, Hernandez cited financial reasons mostly for his resignation, but also indicated that many members of the School Committee didn’t show up to meetings and didn’t have the best interest of the kids at heart.

In a letter to the Record this week, member Kelly Garcia said she disagreed with that summation and defended her record.

“I persevered and fought against every obstacle that came my way, and I continue to serve on the committee and stand right by my students both in my classroom as a Special Education teacher, as an advocate for increased funding at the State House on Beacon Hill, and the School Committee member representing District 7,” she wrote. “I never gave up on the students of Chelsea because once again, and in Hernandez’s own words, ‘our students’ education is no JOKE.’

“I was appalled to read such negative commentary by a former elected official,” she continued. “A person who has chosen to break his commitment to the Chelsea School District and its students should not be now using social media to undermine those who are left to choose a replacement, while at the same time, having to choose a new Superintendent.”

The letter also indicated that she believed it was Hernandez that failed the students of Chelsea, urging him to move on with dignity.

“Hernandez is an aspiring professional, and I ask that he leave this position with dignity and respect for himself and for his former colleagues who continue to work hard attending the majority of the meetings, asking thought-provoking questions, and searching for the next superintendent,” she wrote.

Hernandez’s resignation came just before the resignation of School Committee Chair Rich Maronski, who also voiced frustrations with the fact that many members don’t attend meetings. He is continuing to serve out through the end of the superintendent search.

Hernandez resigned immediately after the letter.

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Council, School Committee Seeks to Fill Vacancies Quickly

The Chelsea City Council and School Committee held a joint meeting on Tuesday night, April 9, to get a quick step forward on filling two vacancies on the School Committee.

Members Present included City Councilors Roy Avellaneda, Damali Vidot, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez, Judith Garcia, and Yamir Rodriguez.

School Committee members present were Frank DePatto, Rosemarie Carlisle, Jeannette Velez, Rich Maronski, Lucia Henriquez, Ana Hernandez, Kelly Garcia, and Yessenia Alfaro.

Due to the recent resignations of School Committee Chairman Richard Maronski and Vice Chairman Julio Hernandez, the Chelsea City Council and Chelsea School Committee are looking to fill their seats.

“This is a job that should be taken seriously and hopefully we get someone that’s responsible and will show up,” said Maronski.

“It’s unfortunate that we have these two sudden resignations, but I’m hopeful as it has allowed for significant dialogue around expectations and the representation our families deserve,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I am looking forward to working with the School Committee to fill the vacancies.”

Any residents of District 3 or District 5 that are interested in serving the remaining unexpired terms through December 2019, are asked to submit their resumes and letters of interest to City Council and Chelsea School Committee at: LKoco@Chelseama.gov or mail to City Council at 500 Broadway, Chelsea, MA 02150.

Candidates must be registered voters in their respective districts and must be able to pass a CORI. The Chelsea City Council and School Committee will be accepting resumes until Friday April 26, and will conduct interviews on Monday April 29. Anyone that lives in either District 3 or District 5 is encouraged to apply. If you aren’t sure of your district, please visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseama.gov” t “_blank” chelseama.gov under the City Clerk’s department for a map or call the City Clerks office at (617) 466-4050.

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Rep. Ryan Pleased with Assignments

Rep. Ryan Pleased with  Assignments

State Rep. Dan Ryan said this week he is pleased in what is considered a step up in becoming the vice chair of the Post Audit Oversight Committee – a powerful committee that runs investigations of government operations and actually has subpoena powers.

“I want to thank Speaker DeLeo for this appointment, and my House colleagues for voting to affirm his trust in me,” said Ryan. “I look forward to working with Chairman Linsky and other committee members in continuing to bring solid, cost-effective government programs to the electorate.”

Ryan said Post-Audit Oversight certainly isn’t a household name for most people in the Town, but said it has a unique mission and is a sought-after committee on Beacon Hill.
“The Post-Audit Oversight Committee is a select House committee that has a unique mission,” he said. “Members of the committee are tasked with ensuring that State agencies are abiding by legislative intent and the program initiatives put forth, by the legislature, through the budget process. When necessary, the committee will work with administrative agencies to propose corrective actions to best serve citizens of the Commonwealth.”

One of the most visible investigations conducted by the Committee came several years ago in the previous administration when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) came under fire for its handling and management of numerous cases involving children.

Ryan has also been assigned as a member of the Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery Committee, and as a member of the Transportation Committee.

•Just across the North Washington Street Bridge, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz came away with one of the biggest scores for the Boston delegation in getting assigned as chair of the powerful Ways & Means Committee.

Rep. Ryan said that having such an important chair nearby will be very good for Charlestown as well as the North End. That will particularly be apparent with projects like the North Washington Street Bridge, which affects the North End as much as Charlestown.

Michlewitz told the Patriot-Bridge that he is humbled by the appointment, and that while he has to build consensus across the state, he will keep his district and Boston in the forefront.

“I am honored that Speaker DeLeo believes I can do the job,” he said. “The first order of business is creating and debating a $42.7 billion budget. A lot of work has been done in committee, but we have a short timeframe to get a lot done. The thing I was to stress is my district is my number one priority.”

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Maronski Elected Chair Of School Committee

Maronski Elected Chair Of School Committee

The School Committee elected Richard Maronski as its new chair during its first meeting of 2019 at City Hall. Maronski, who has been a member of the committee for three-and-half years, succeeds Jeanette Velez, who held the position for the past three years.

“I’m honored to be selected by my colleagues to lead the School Committee in the coming year,” said Maronski. “I want to thank Jeannette for her leadership and the commitment he has shown to the students in Chelsea.”

The son of Ann Maronski and the late Charles Maronski, Richard is well known in the community. He was the Chelsea High star quarterback who led coach Bob Fee’s Red Devils to an amazing come-from-behind 34-26 victory over Everett in the 1980 Thanksgiving game. Maronski threw touchdown passes to Paul Driscoll to spark Chelsea’s rally from a 20-0 deficit. Some fans call it the greatest game in the long history of the Chelsea-Everett series that ended in 1989.

Several members of Richard’s family graduated from Chelsea High School, including several uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, in a time period that ranged from the 1930s to 1990s. His popular sister, Patricia Maronski Yee, was a CHS cheerleader and graduated in 1990. Richard graduated in 1982.

“I’m very proud of my family’s long history of attending Chelsea schools,” said Maronski. ‘Everyone received a good, solid all-around education and each has fond memories of their positive experiences in the Chelsea schools. In particular, my father loved Chelsea. He was there the day we beat Everett on Thanksgiving.”

Maronski also served as president of the Chelsea Youth Basketball League and coached two teams in the league. He was also the CHS freshman boys basketball coach.

A former Chelsea city councillor, Maronski has established his priorities for the new year.

“My first priority is to form a committee of Chelsea residents to help select a new school superintendent (Supt. of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque has announced that she will be retiring from the position),” said Maronski. “We are working with the Collins Center at UMass in the selection process.”

Maronski would also like to address the issue of Chelsea teachers leaving the school system for positions in other school districts.

“We have a high turnover in teachers in the Chelsea schools,” said Maronski. “I’d like to see more stability in our teaching positions.”

Maronski said the School Committee meets the first Thursday (7 p.m.) of every month. He welcomes parents to attend the meetings and speak during the public portion.

The School Committee elected Julio Hernandez as vice chair of the board.

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School Committee Votes to Bring in Collins Center for Super Search

School Committee Votes to Bring in Collins Center for Super Search

The School Committee voted last Thursday at its meeting to employ the Collins Center from the University of Massachusetts-Boston to assist in the search for a new superintendent of schools.

At the same time, the Committee put an aggressive timeline on the search, looking to have a candidate chosen by July 1.

New Committee Chair Rich Maronski said they felt the Collins Center did a good job with the City Manager search a few years ago. He said they plan to have a retreat meeting with the Center this week to understand the search parameters and to get things started.

Supt. Mary Bourque announced in late December that she planned on retiring in one year’s time, putting a date of December 2019 as her final month. She has pledged to stay on to help with the search and to acclimate any new candidate to the job through next fall.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he was sad to see Bourque go, but is encouraged by the Committee’s quick action on the Collins Center.

“Selfishly, I’m sad because Superintendent Bourque has done a tremendous job as leader of the Chelsea School System, and her and I had a very productive partnership,” he said. “However, she is certainly deserving of her well-earned retirement. As for the search, I was pleased to hear that the School Committee has agreed both to hire the UMass Collins Center to help with the search for a successor, and to hire a Superintendent for July 1 so that the person will be able to work together with Mary for the first six months to establish a smooth transition.”

More information on the start of the search and the process is expected by next week, Maronski said.

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An Amazing Job:Supt Mary Bourque Announces Retirement Plans for 2019

An Amazing Job:Supt Mary Bourque Announces Retirement Plans for 2019

School Supt. Mary Bourque announced this week that she will retire from the Chelsea Public Schools within the coming year, an announcement that few expected outside of Bourque’s inner circle.

Bourque met with the Human Resources Subcommittee of the School Committee on Thursday night, Dec. 20, and informed them of her decision to retire in December 2019.

“I am giving the School Committee 12 months’ notice to give them time to unify around a process to look for and support the next superintendent,” she wrote. “As for me, I will continue over the next 12 months to advocate, champion, and innovate for all our students, families, and staff. I will continue to build the systems that will outlive all of us. Together, we will continue to have Chelsea’s presence known and heard at the State House advocating for equal access, opportunities, social justice, and adequate funding. We will as Chelsea educators continue to be known and highly respected.”

The news traveled fast throughout the community, and many praised the job Bourque has done over the last seven years as superintendent.

“Mary has done an amazing job and her position is not easy,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “Every year she has to do more with less resources. Chelsea has been going through a lot of changes  and with her retirement, it’s an opportunity to get another person who has some connection to Chelsea or has a connection to the demographics of the school system. It’s a very hard job.”

Bourque didn’t elaborate on what her post-retirement plans are, but even after having served more than 30 years in the Chelsea Schools, she is not at the typical retirement age.

She said she would continue to serve Chelsea students in the field of education, perhaps hinting at a larger state-wide position.

“Upon retirement I plan to continue to serve Chelsea students and all children in the Commonwealth through the field of education,” she wrote. “I am and have always been a wife, mother, and teacher; I will never stop being all three. I still have much to contribute to the world of education and much to learn. I will never stop giving back and seeking to make the world a more equitable place for our students and families.”

Likewise, she said she has given advance notice so that she can support the School Committee in the superintendent search process. She stated she is fully committed to supporting the School Committee as they begin and carry out a “robust” search for a new superintendent. She also said she would be around to help put together a transition plan.

“My goal for all of us is that this transition will be smooth and seamless; we will not lose ground in all that we have built and achieved,” she wrote. “Our Chelsea Public Schools Five-Year Vision will be attained.”

Bourque was chosen as superintendent in 2011, and has served in that role since. Prior to that, she was the leader of the Clark Avenue School when it became transitioned to the old high school, and she was a teacher for many years before that.

Bourque has deep roots in Chelsea, and still lives in the city – as do many of her relatives.

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