Chelsea Supt. Mary Bourque said just when urban educators plagued with a flawed funding formula thought they made some progress, the state yanked all that progress from under them recently.
Bourque, the past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the co-chair of the Urban Superintendents Network, has been working with the state for more than two years to fix a problem for Chelsea and many surrounding districts involving low income students – now called economically disadvantaged. The change has cost the Chelsea Schools millions of dollars per year in funding that they expected, but no longer qualified for.
“In the urban districts, we’re all on fragile ice right now,” she said. “Everything is coming at us at one time. It really begs the question about whether the allocation for education of students of poverty going to be the place where the state goes to make cuts and balance the budget every year. That’s not what the Foundation Formula budget is meant to do. It’s really almost immoral.”
Schools like Chelsea, Revere, Everett and Brockton – among others – have been hamstrung for the last two years due to major reductions in state funding due to the change in the formula. That change entailed making economically disadvantaged students qualify for that title only if their families were on some sort of public welfare benefit. Unfortunately, in communities like Chelsea, many families don’t qualify for those benefits due to their immigration status or because they haven’t been in the country legally for five years. Without that, the schools don’t receive nearly as much money to educate a very difficult and needy population.
This year, Bourque said, they added several new “qualifiers” for the economically disadvantaged tag – such as programs that students in Chelsea might qualify for despite immigration status.
However, as soon as that battle was won, Bourque said the state turned around and lowered the amount of money given for each student – making the gain a complete wash.
“We worked hard with the state to come up with solutions and they did add more students to qualify,” she said. “But as soon as we got more students, they reduced the amount of money given for each student.”
Bourque said the Chelsea Schools are likely going to be down another $1 million from where they feel they should be in the coming budget year. She said they will keep working on it, though.
It has been a real learning experience for the long-time administrator, though maybe not a positive one.
“To ignore systemic injustice and failure while children’s futures are compromised is morally and ethically, wrong,” she said. “It is not who we are as a Commonwealth nor is it who we want to be. The Grand Bargain of 1993 (for Education Reform) is not more and hasn’t been for many years. It is time for courage and time for action; our children and their futures are far too important.”
Forty-year-old Lily was a vibrant, loving mother who was an organist at her church, and known for her delicious baked goods. Privately, she suffered from serious depression, self- medicating herself with alcohol. Lily’s daughter, Secretary of Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, vividly remembers caring for her as a teenager, watching her mother withdraw from life before her passing.
“I’m not ashamed that the illness runs in my family. My job is to channel that adolescent anger into a professional commitment to treat addiction and mental illnesses, and not stigmatize people with chronic conditions,” said Sudders, “So often the way into treatment for people with addictions and mental illnesses is through the criminal justice system.”
Sudders shared her personal experiences with city leaders and business owners during “The Opioid Epidemic: Our Businesses & Workplaces,” on Feb. 7 at the Comfort Inn & Suites, Revere. Presented by the Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop Chambers of Commerce, and the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative, the breakfast raised awareness about substance abuse in the workplace.
“Addiction is a disease. It is not a lack of will power. Addictions are very powerful,” explained Sudders. “We are in the middle of an epidemic in Massachusetts. This is very important to us. We are in this with you.”
Sudders recommended that employees be aware of which workers have addictions, are on the way to addiction, or have family members with addictions. These employees may often call in sick or use vacation time, but could be caring for a sick loved one.
“We want to make sure that people we work with have access to treatment and support,” Sudders said. “We are trying to expand access to treatment.”
Over the next five years, the Commonwealth and Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration will invest more than $200 million into Medicaid to increase access to residential recovery homes, treatment medications, and recovery coaches.
“I’m grateful for the connection between these three, very-close communities,” said Sudders. “They have strong legislative leaderships and great community partnerships.”
According to a December 2017 Center for Disease Control report, the opioid crises has been linked to a two-year drop in life expectancy for the second consecutive year; with opioids being the largest contributor of unintentional injuries due to overdose.
“There is a glimmer of hope,” Sudders said. “But there is still a lot of suffering and work that we need to do together.”
Although six lives are lost each day in Massachusetts from overdoses, there has been a decrease in opioid-related deaths as compared to last year. The Commonwealth has noticed a significant decline in opioid prescriptions, and a 200-percent increase in non-fatal overdoses.
“Businesses are also on the front line, just like first responders and health care workers,” said Alexander Walley, MD, Boston Medical Center. “Throughout Massachusetts people are faced with this in their own families, employees, customers, and public spaces.”
Employers were encouraged to foster a supportive atmosphere and offer resources and benefits to employees. Business owners were recommended to implement clear policies regarding leaves of absence and time off, and to seek professional advice when confronted with substance abuse-related issues.
“People in recovery can be great employees, and employers can help,” said Dr. Walley, director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program. “Opioid use disorder is a chronic condition of the brain. Treatment works and people recover. That’s an important message.”
Registered Democrats in the City of Chelsea Ward 4, held a Caucus on February 3, 2018 at the Chelsea Public Library to elect Delegates to the 2018 Democratic State Convention.
Elected Delegates are:
Olivia Anne Walsh
91 Crest Ave.
103 Franklin Ave.
Thomas J. Miller
91 Crest Ave.
Theresa G. Czerepica
21 Prospect Ave.
This year’s State Convention will be held June 1-2 at the DCU Center in Worcester, where thousands of Democrats from across the Commonwealth will come together to endorse Democratic candidates for statewide office, Including Constitutional officers and gubernatorial candidates
Those interested in getting involved with the Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee should contact Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh, Ward 4 Chair, at 617-306-5501.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a capital bond bill on Tuesday that increases bond authorization by $244 million to support initiatives across the Commonwealth, including construction of a new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
“This bill funds critical projects across the Commonwealth, including the Last Mile broadband project and money for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home renovation project,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We thank the Legislature for bringing us one step closer to updating the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home for our veterans.”
The bond legislation signed Tuesday includes $199 million to replace the long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, which is expected to be partially reimbursed by the federal government pending final approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also directs the administration to study the long-term needs of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.
“The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea provides comprehensive, quality health care and residential services with honor, dignity and respect to the Commonwealth’s veterans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The upgrades to the Soldiers’ Home ensure that the physical plant meets modern health care requirements commensurate with the needs of our veterans.”
On May 31, Gov. Baker filed egislation to address immediate capital needs statewide, including $950 million for higher education projects, $880 million for construction, renovations, and accessibility improvements at state office buildings, $700 million for health and human services facilities, $550 million for public safety facilities and $375 million for court facilities. While the legislation signed Tuesday includes authorization for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, several items from this bill remain pending.
“We are pleased to see authorization for the replacement of the Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home passed, which was proposed in our capital budget plan,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “By leveraging the use of significant federal resources to build the new facility, we optimize the value of the Commonwealth’s capital investment in this project.”
Temple Emmanuel honored Barry Kirshon and his wife, Darleen Kirshon, in a surprise ceremony Sunday morning at the historic house of worship on Cary Avenue.
The Kirshons thought they were there to present flowers to Rabbi Oksana Chapman on a day celebrating the near-completion of an extensive renovation project at the synagogue.
But Barry and Darleen were the true honorees as the congregation bestowed flowers and gifts upon the Kirshons, including the high honor of having a permanent, inscribed plaque placed on the bimah.
During his remarks for the rabbi, Barry noted that as a young boy he attended Hebrew School at Temple Emmanuel under the tutelage of Mr. Maurice Pearlman and took his bar mitzvah lessons there.
“It was a terrific time of my life back in the 1960s and I remember it well,” said Kirshon, owner of Kirshon Paint on Park Street. “It’s just an amazing thing that this temple has been able to survive and so many haven’t. It’s due to people like Sara Lee Callahan and Richard Clayman and others that have led this temple for many years. I’m just honored to be here. We’ve gone through a lot of work to get this place revitalized and there’s a lot work to do still but we’re getting there. It will be a wonderful place to be and enjoy and pray.”
That’s when Rabbi Chapman and Temple President Callahan turned the spotlight on the Kirshons for their continuing generosity and many acts of kindness.
“This temple has many angels who care deeply about the community and are sent to us by God to create and recreate this beautiful space that brings joy to all who enter,” said Chapman. “The two specific angels that we are celebrating today are our own Darleen and baary Kirshon. Your dreams with your hard work became a reality for all of us to celebrate and enjoy.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan presented a congratulatory citation from the Mass. House of Representatives to the Kirshons in recognition of their contributions to Temple Emmanuel.
“We offer our sincerest congratulations to Barry and Darleen Kirshon for their selfless generosity toward the renovation of Temple Emmanuel,” said Ryan. “Your hard work and unwavering dedication is a credit to both Temple Emmanuel and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Callahan then presented a proclamation from City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the City of Chelsea recognizing the Kirshons for “their volunteer work and extraordinary generosity that has helped Temple Emmanuel continue to thrive as a welcoming place for worship, reflection, and refuge.”
The next tribute to Barry and Darleen Kirshon came in the form of a special plaque inscribed with their names that will forever shine on the wall behind the pulpit. The guests responded with warm applause for Barry and Darleen, a final nod of appreciation to a couple that has meant so much to Temple Emmanuel and the community of Chelsea.
“Thank you very much, Barry and Darleen,” said Callahan before the congregation moved in to the function room for a collation.
Dredging the channels last Friday. Materials from the floor of the Harbor will be buried in closed containers off the coast of Charlestown.
As global commerce shifts increasing to larger and larger ship, places like Boston Harbor and the Chelsea Creek need to get deeper.
That’s exactly what is happening right now after state, federal and local officials announced the $350 million project on Friday, Sept. 15, that will dredge the Harbor for the first time in nearly 20 years, and also deepen parts of the Harbor. The project will stretch from the outer Harbor to the Mystic River and up the Chelsea Creek.
At a ceremony in the AutoPort, just on the other side of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge in Charlestown, the announcement was made to kick off the project.
“Investments we make today into the Port of Boston and the Conley Container Terminal are essential for New England to remain an important player in the global economy for years to come,” said Massport CEO Thomas P. Glynn. “We are grateful to our state and federal partners, under the strong leadership of Governor Charlie Baker, Senators Warren and Markey and Congressman Lynch, for continuing to support the Port, help modernize Conley’s facilities and allow the Harbor to handle even larger ships.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said the three year project is critical for the safe passage of larger ships that will be able to make Boston their port of call. This project will continue to make Boston one of the most important ports on the eastern seaboard and protect and increase jobs for our workers as well as increase the economic activity at our docks.
“This project will allow Boston to continue it’s leadership position on the east coast for containers ships visiting our ports,” said DiDomenico. “Every part of my district is impacted by the economic success of our ports and dredging the Boston Harbor will allow us to continue our competitive advantage on the eastern seaboard.”
The $350 million state and federally funded multi-phase project also will support continued growth at South Boston’s Conley Container Terminal, which has achieved three consecutive record breaking years for volume.
“Deepening Boston Harbor and supporting infrastructure investments at Conley Container Terminal are crucial to Massachusetts and New England’s competitiveness in the global marketplace,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are proud to work with our state and federal partners toward these improvements, supporting billions in economic activity and over 1,600 businesses creating thousands of local jobs.”
Project plans include maintaining the inner harbor, and deepening the outer harbor, main shipping channel and reserved channel to allow for larger container ships already calling Conley Container Terminal following the expansion of the Panama Canal. States up and down the East Coast are investing in their ports to accommodate bigger ships. The dredging in the inner harbor preserves vessels’ capability to deliver home heating oil, automobiles, jet fuel, and salt to terminals along the Chelsea Creek and Mystic Rivers.
The overall project to deepen Boston Harbor will cost approximately $350 million, including $130 million from Massport and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and $220 million in federal funding, including $18.2 million allocated in the USACE’s FY 2017 workplan and $58 million included in the President’s FY’18 budget. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock to perform the work.
The first phase of the project consists of maintenance dredging, including the construction of a Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) Cell just off the shore of the AutoPort in Charlestown, which will safely hold tons of sediment from the floor of the harbor. This work is expected to continue through the end of the year.
The second phase of the project, scheduled to begin in mid-2018, will deepen the Outer Harbor Channel, from 40 to 51 feet; the Main Shipping Channel, from 40 to 47 feet; and the Reserve Channel, where Conley Container Terminal is located, from 40 to 47 feet. Currently, Conley is able to handle 8,500 TEU ships – this project will allow it to handle up to 12,000 TEU vessels.
Cambridge College, long considered a pioneer in adult learning, opens their new campus in Boston’s historic Hood Park (Charlestown), having moved from its former location on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.
The new, state-of-the-art campus consolidates the four schools into a single campus in Boston.
“We are delighted to welcome new, returning, and future students to Cambridge College’s beautiful new unified Boston campus,” said Deborah Jackson, President of Cambridge College. “The majority of our students live and work in the Boston area, and our new centrally-located campus will more effectively meet the needs of our busy students while attracting a broader population of new students.”
Located in the heart of Boston’s vibrant Charlestown neighborhood the new campus sits in the original home of the quintessential New England dairy company H.P. Hood and Sons. The bright and expansive campus offers a wide array of student centric amenities including multiple gathering spaces for small group work, flexible classrooms, ample free parking, a bus shuttle service, the CC Store, and the CC Bistro. As they head into their new modern classrooms, students will be inspired by wall quotes from luminary authors and thought leaders, and creative signage paying homage to Boston’s most notable thoroughfares, such as Washington Street and Commonwealth Avenue, will further enhance the Cambridge College student experience.
Located a mere five-minute walk from the Sullivan Square Orange line T stop, Hood Park is easily accessible to communities throughout the Greater Boston and surrounding areas. In addition, the campus is in close proximity to landmark development projects such as Assembly Row and the Schrafft Center. An array of anticipated new projects will provide a vast offering of housing and retail opportunities, green space, restaurants, and other exciting resources to the neighborhood.
Cambridge College’s new unified campus joins a community that has become a mecca for companies leading the charge in healthcare and biotechnology such as MGH Partners, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Visiting Nurse Association of Boston & Associates, Tierpoint, ERT, and Indigo Agriculture, to name a few.
“We’re excited to become a part of this exciting and vibrant Boston neighborhood. We believe that the new Hood Park community affords us the unique and exciting opportunity to build relationships with some of Boston’s most innovative companies,” said Jackson. “We look forward to becoming a contributing neighbor to the community and hope to forge meaningful relationships with our new neighbors, employers and businesses to both support the neighborhood and Cambridge College.”
Cambridge College will host a Grand Opening reception on October 19. For more details and information, please call 617.873.0621 or email email@example.com.
Senator Sal DiDomenico recently joined State Senators and Representatives from throughout the United States during the 2017 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Summit held in Boston. Each year elected officials meet to share information and best practices at this conference held in different part of the country. This year’s summit was the largest in several years with over 6,000 legislators convening in our Capitol. Senator DiDomenico is a member of several NCSL committees, including Student Centered Learning, and he participated in several sessions on topics such as redistricting, education, intergovernmental affairs, media relations, and manufacturing. This summit was also attended by associations, foundations, and governmental agencies and DiDomenico met with many of these organizations including the Nellie Mae Foundation to speak about their work funding educational initiatives throughout New England. “It was great to join colleagues from throughout the country, and gather information that we can use in our own districts and throughout the Commonwealth,” said DiDomenico. “Having this summit in Boston also allowed us to showcase our collaborative approach to governing that has moved our state forward.”
Since 1975, NCSL has been the champion of state legislatures. They have helped states remain strong and independent by giving them the tools, information and resources to craft the best solutions to difficult problems. They fought against unwarranted actions in Congress and saved states more than $1 billion. They strive to improve the quality and effectiveness of the state legislatures, promote policy innovation and communication, and ensure states have a strong cohesive voice.
The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation that updates the existing statute relative to English language education in public schools to encompass the latest and best practices serving English language learners (ELLs) and to recognize the value of bilingualism as a skill essential to improving career and college readiness and competiveness in the global economy.
An Act for Language Opportunity for Our Kids (S.2125), also known as the LOOK Bill, removes the current mandate requiring schools to use Sheltered English Immersion (SEI), or English-only programs, as the default ELL program model, thereby giving schools the flexibility to establish programs based on the unique needs of their students.
“By allowing parents and local school districts the flexibility to choose the most effective programs to cater to the specific needs of their students is not only good public policy, but also what is best for our students to be successful,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “We live in a global community, and we must be able to adapt to the changing needs of our communities in a thoughtful and constructive way. This bill achieves that purpose.”
“To ensure that every child in the Commonwealth receives the high quality education that he or she deserves, we must rethink the way we approach educating our English language learners,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), the lead sponsor of the bill. “By allowing for flexibility to implement new English learning programs, increasing parental involvement, and recognizing that multilingualism is a valuable asset in today’s global economy, this bill takes crucial strides to guarantee that every student receives a fair opportunity at educational success.”
“Language should never be a barrier to a student’s academic success,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill empowers parents and schools to develop high quality educational opportunities for our English Language Learner students. It also encourages biliteracy, recognizing that knowledge of other languages and cultures is a true asset in our global economy.”
“The current one-size-fits-all model has proven a failure over the past decade plus at teaching education – period,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Jamaica Plain), the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “For the sake of our ELL students, our school budgets, and our workforce, we need to do something different. S.2125 will empower parents and trust educators to make informed decisions about appropriate tactics for a 6-year-old with some English exposure versus a 12-year-old who has received little formal schooling. And in this precarious moment for our country, the bill recognizes that bilingualism is a strength—not a problem to be cured.”
For some children, moving into an English-only program too soon has proven to stunt academic growth and major implications on future educational success. This has become a growing problem as the number of ELL students in Massachusetts continues to rise. Since the year 2000, the number of ELL students in Massachusetts has doubled to over 90,204 students, or 9.5% of the student population. Last year, 90% of school districts had at least one ELL student and 19% of districts had 100 or more ELLs.
While overall graduation rates for students have risen in the past 10 years, the achievement gap between ELL students and their peers has not significantly changed. In 2016, the dropout rate for ELL students was 6.6 percent, the highest rate of any subgroup of students and three times higher than the rate for all students. Additionally, only 64% of ELL students graduated from high school, as compared to 87% of all Massachusetts students.
In an effort to reverse these trends, the LOOK bill removes the current mandate requiring Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) as the one-size-fits-all default ELL program model in order to better accommodate the diverse needs of the Commonwealth’s students. Under the bill, school districts may choose from any comprehensive, research-based instructional program that includes subject matter content and an English language acquisition component.
The bill also encourages a high level parental choice and involvement in selecting, advocating, and participating in English learner programs, and requires greater tracking of ELL students’ progress to better identify and assist English learners who do not meet benchmarks.
This legislation also seeks to recognize the value of bilingualism and biliteracy as a skill essential to improving career and college readiness and competitiveness in today’s global economy by permitting school districts to adopt the state seal of biliteracy to recognize high school graduates who have met academic benchmarks, as determined by DESE, in one or more languages in addition to English.
The bill will now move to a conference committee, where negotiators will reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills.
Last fall, when Chelsea’s Edma Ortiz began to get increasingly concerned about the presidential election and what was at stake for immigrants and the Latino community, she finally found the time to get to Chelsea City Hall to register to vote in the election.
However, an irregular work schedule that required her to work odd hours during weekdays, and the death of her mother that took her to Puerto Rico for nearly a month in October, delayed her trip to City Hall.
Getting on a plane Oct. 19 to go back to Boston, she remembered thinking that she needed to go register for the election.
On Oct. 20, she went to the Chelsea Collaborative to get the details on how to fill out the documents.
However, she found out she was one day late – the cutoff for registrations was on Oct. 19, many weeks before the Nov. 6 election.
With that news, the life-long U.S. Citizen was disqualified to cast her vote in what was one of the most important elections in modern history.
That and many other similar stories led the Collaborative to file a lawsuit last year challenging the voter registration cutoff – and this week the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in their favor.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled this week that the voter registration law in Massachusetts – which calls for a cutoff for voting registration several weeks before any election – infringes on the rights of voters and should be reconsidered.
The case was brought by the Chelsea Collaborative and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
“We are extremely happy with the outcome on this case,” said Gladys Vega of the Collaborative. “We strongly feel that this law has to change and we are not saying this should have anything to do with same-day voter registration. What it should have everything to do with is U.S. Citizens being able to have their vote.”
The ACLU said it was a victory for democracy in the state.
“This is a major victory for democracy in Massachusetts, as the court agreed that the arbitrary 20-day voter registration cutoff law is unconstitutional and disenfranchises thousands of potential voters throughout the Commonwealth every election,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU Massachusetts. “As the Trump administration is seeking to limit access to the ballot, Massachusetts should lead nationwide efforts to ensure that everyone has a right to vote. As champions for freedom, the ACLU of Massachusetts is committed to working together with other advocates and the Massachusetts Legislature to protect and expand access to the ballot.”
Vega said the cutoff limits force people to focus on the election in October and September – times when people aren’t paying as much attention.
However, she said when people really want to vote, they find that they no longer can do so.
“I’ve had people come down with the card to register well before the election and we had to turn them away,” she said. “It was too late. One man tore the card up in front of me and said, ‘Why do I even bother.’ That shouldn’t happen…We have to register voters at a time when no one cares about it rather that at a peak time when people start caring about voting and can no longer participate.”
She said one witness in their case before the SJC testified that more than 6,500 voters had been turned away after the cutoff.
She also said technology has come to a point where a cutoff so many days ahead of time is not needed.
“Enough was enough,” she said. “We felt that this was against the Constitutional right to vote. They don’t need the processing time and documentation time any more. Things are done so much quicker that shouldn’t be a problem now.”
The Court has instructed the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Bill Galvin, to craft a law that will be more accommodating.
It will then have to be passed by the State Legislature.