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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Simon A Diamond on The Track Chelsea High Junior Star Heads to National Meet

Simon A Diamond on The Track Chelsea High Junior Star Heads to National Meet

At a certain point, it would be wise to just leave the Chelsea High record books in girls’ track blank until junior Stephanie Simon graduates.

Chelsea High junior Stephanie Simon is putting together another outstanding indoor track season this year, and will head to the National Championship meet in New York this weekend. When she’s not on the track, though, one might find her weaving in and out of the streets on her skateboard.

The champion jumper, runner and hurdler tends to break most school records, and then break her own records time and time again. At a certain point, her coaches say, they will probably fill it all in after she graduates.

Simon, 16, comes from a strong athletic family – and her sister, Martine – is the only runner to have ever beat her in a meet. Now, she has focused in on jumping events and has put together a string of wins during the indoor season this winter.

Recently, she took first place in the Division 2 state long jump, and took second place in the New England Championship meet. Earlier this year, at the multi-state Dartmouth Relays, she took first in the long jump and high jump.

This weekend, she will travel to New York City for the second year in a row to compete in the National Championship indoor meet.

But back in Chelsea, if you see a young lady cutting it up on a skateboard, that might be Stephanie Simon.

“When I’m not training or practicing, I like to ride a penny board,” she said. “I ride it everywhere, even to school. I think that’s why I can jump. I think that’s something every jumper has to have to be successful and that is being able to take a risk. You have to be willing to take a risk to throw yourself in a pit of sand or give it everything you have to flop up and over the high jump bar. It’s the adrenaline I like.”

Simon was born in Chelsea to Hubert and Mathilde Simon, who originally came from Haiti. Her older brother, Norbert, was also a track standout, as was her sister, Martine, who graduated last year. She said her younger brother, Emanuel, has potential in the 200 sprint.

She attended the Early Learning Center, the Berkowitz School, the Clark Avenue Middle School and has settled in at Chelsea High – where she keeps a 3.4 grade point average and is active in academics.

But her cool demeanor likely comes from having to contain herself on the track. Unlike with the sprints – where she also has great success within the conference meets – she said she has learned that a jumper (whether high jump, long jump or triple jump) needs to stay in control.

“Adrenaline is good for running, but for jumping you have to kind of put it in a bottle and use it to motivate you and counter it with technique,” she said. “For jumping and sprints, unlike distance running, it’s half mental and half physical.”

It will be a very important quality when she arrives at the New York City Armory this weekend with her coach, Cesar Hernandez. Last year was her first indoor national meet, and she said it was overwhelming.

“Last year, stepping into that building was so overwhelming,” she said, noting that there hasn’t been another Chelsea runner since Bobby Goss decades ago to go to nationals. “Every runner there was working hard and wanted to win. I didn’t do so well, but it made me even more determined to do better at the national outdoor meet in North Carolina last spring and I did.”

When she went to the Dartmouth Relays earlier this year, she said that same New York feeling came upon her, but she was able to shake it off, which is something she said she will do when she goes back to New York this week.

“I told myself it’s the same events and the same sand,” she said. “I was able to recover and move on.”

Amazingly, Simon was never a runner until she got to high school, unlike many top runners who have been at it since grade school.

“My freshman year I didn’t even run that first season,” she said. “I liked soccer. I was able to make varsity my freshman year. In the winter, I played basketball. Then I did outdoor track and I was really good at it. In track, there was so much support and it was like a big family. My freshman year I was trying to figure everything out. Everyone kept telling me I had more potential in track. I listened to them and I’m glad I stayed.”

Simon credited Coach Hernandez with helping her take bigger and bigger steps as a runner and, especially, as a jumper. As a raw athlete, she had talent, but she said Hernandez helped her to develop technique and pushed her not to just rely on athleticism.

“If he wasn’t my coach, I would not be doing what I’m doing,” she said. “He fits the kind of coach I need.”

She also credited her teammates for being a great support system.

She also credited her family, who she said has been very proud of her academically and in sports.

“In our family, everyone has their thing they are best at,” she said. “I guarantee I win at track.”

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A Visit from Santa

A Visit from Santa

Justin Machado holding his new Phlat Ball after his special visit with Santa at the Chelsea Police Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The annual pre-Christmas visit to Santa has become a staple for local children, with the Police partnering with the Early Learning Center (ELC) this year.

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ELC Put on Lockdown Wednesday as Shots Fired Outside

ELC Put on Lockdown Wednesday as Shots Fired Outside

The John Silber Early Learning Center, or Shurtleff School, was put on a heavy lockdown Wednesday afternoon after police responded to shots fired on Congress Avenue.

There were no injuries as a result of the incident.

At 1:30 p.m., the ShotSpotter system triggered at 101 Congress Ave. near the school. Police discovered one man in the area who was hiding shortly after the incident. He was found to have a replica firearm on him and was taken into custody. However, later, witnesses said he had not been the shooter, but rather the intended victim.

Chelsea Police are looking for additional suspects.

Police were stationed at the school during the lockdown, and things were soon restored to normal. School was released by 2:30 p.m.

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St Rose Students to Stage Walkout on March 14 to Draw Attention to Gun Control

St Rose Students to Stage Walkout on March 14 to Draw Attention to Gun Control

Students at the St. Rose School in Chelsea have organized a walkout on Weds., March 14, to make a statement about how the federal government is handling gun issues as related to school shootings.

Trinity Hoffman, 13, and an eighth grader at St. Rose, said she and several students felt it was important to be part of the national effort, which encourages students to walk out of school for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 students killed recently in a Florida high school.

“We just really want a lot of people to hear how we feel about this and how the government is  failing to deal with the problem.”

Hoffman said students would leave class on March 14 and march on Broadway to Chelsea City Hall for a gathering. There, they will mark the 17 minutes, which is being done at many schools nationwide. Revere High students are also staging a similar effort in that city.

When the solemn moment is over, students at St. Rose will return to class. The walkout will entail about 50 students from the St. Rose 7th and 8th grade classes.

Hoffman said they are encouraging students from other Chelsea schools to join them.

Teacher Cristina Rivera said the staff and school are supporting the student decision, and believe it to be a good learning experience.

“It came about because of conversations that we were having in class,” said Rivera. “Students were very concerned about Florida and about an incident that happened in Wakefield. Even though it wasn’t credible, students came back to St. Rose and initiated a discussion. We had heard about the March 14th date already and we let the students vote on it and they wanted to do it.”

She said the students have taken charge making signs and mapping out the route and planning the action. She said the school believes it’s a great learning experience for the kids, especially around getting involved civically.

“We feel it’s really an important part of learning democracy and something we want to support in our students,” she said. “In four years, our oldest students will be allowed to vote. However, having a voice and learning to participate starts before that. Exercising their right to assemble freely on an issue they are passionate about is the start of learning about this democracy.”

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Chelsea Public Library Wins NASA@ My Library Grant

Chelsea Public Library Wins NASA@ My Library Grant

The Chelsea Public Library announced Tuesday that it has been awarded a grant from NASA and the American Library Association called NASA@ My Library.

Chelsea Public Library is one of 75 libraries that have been chosen from a total of 513 applicants to receive the NASA@ My Library grant, and is the only library in Massachusetts selected to participate in the initiative.

The NASA@ My Library project is led by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute. Partners include the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, Pacific Science Center, Cornerstones of Science, and Education Development Center. NASA@ My Library is made possible through the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate as part of its STEM Activation program.

The Children’s Librarian Martha Boksenbaum said, “We are very excited to have won this grant, it will enable the library to bring more STEM programming to Chelsea, and build an environment of exploration, play and learning.”

The library will receive the following from this grant:

  • Two NASA STEM Facilitation Kits including STEM tools and programming materials including a green screen and solar eclipse viewing glasses
  • A $500 programming stipend
  • Travel reimbursement for the Children’s Librarian to travel to Denver, CO for training

In implementing this grant, the Chelsea Public Library will run at least three programs between May 2017 and October 2018.

  • A Solar Eclipse Viewing Party on August 21.
  • A series of workshops in which children and adults can explore the NASA Facilitation kits

materials and activities

  • An Earth Day Celebration in Spring 2018
  • Guest visits from Subject Matter Experts to engage with children and families

The Chelsea Public Library provides programming free of charge, and strives to create an environment of learning and exploration to the Chelsea community.

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Citizen Schools Helps Chelsea Students with Donated Backpacks

Students from Chelsea public schools, including those that participate in Citizen Schools’ Expanded Learning Time, will kick off the new school year with 900 donated backpacks full of pencils, notebooks, rulers, and more. Citizen Schools, an organization that empowers public middle schools in low-income communities with longer learning days, received the backpacks filled with supplies as a donation from Kronos Incorporated, Mass.-based global leader in workforce management solutions.

Committed to supporting organizations that encourage, educate, and train the next-generation workforce through its GiveInspired corporate giving program, Kronos made the donation in recognition of Citizen Schools, an organization that inspires the future workforce. Kronos also joined forces with its partners Cognizant, The WFC Group, Workforce Insight, and one of its leading retail clothing and accessories customer to further add to the contribution.

“Kronos is excited to help Citizen Schools ensure that its Chelsea students have a great start to the school year,” said Liz Moughan, director, retail and hospitality practice group, Kronos. “At Kronos, we value the impact of giving back to our communities and investing in the future and we collaborate with a variety of causes and organizations that focus on growing and empowering the next-generation workforce. For these reasons, we recognize and value Citizen Schools’ tremendous contribution and are humbled and pleased to organize the backpack donation.”

Media is invited to the presentation of backpacks during a back-to-school event on Thursday, August 25 at 2:30 p.m. at the Williams Building, 180 Walnut Street, Chelsea. Liz Moughan, senior director of the retail and hospitality practice group, Kronos, and Megan Bird, executive director of Citizen Schools Massachusetts, will be on-site distributing backpacks to students along with employees from both Kronos and Citizen Schools. Chelsea city manager Tom Ambrosino is also expected to be on hand.

Citizen Schools is a national nonprofit organization based in Boston, which provides academic support and enrichment to middle school students from high-need districts in six states. Volunteer teachers lead Expanded Learning Time (ELT) programs in subjects such as robotics, financial planning, and marketing during after-school hours. The organization’s mission is to help children from low-income school districts overcome the opportunity gap that exists between them and kids from more affluent communities.

Citizen Schools operates in two Chelsea middle schools, the Joseph Browne School and the Eugene Wright Science and Technology Academy, and will serve about 900 students this year. The dropout rate in Chelsea is more than triple the state average – 6.4 percent compared to 1.9 statewide. After the first year Citizen Schools partnered with Chelsea schools, English Language Arts proficiency rates improved by 16 percentage points. In addition, about 50 percent of Chelsea students come from homes characterized as economically disadvantaged and for 80 percent of those students, English is not their first language.

“Citizen Schools is proud to join forces with Chelsea Public Schools and Kronos,” said Megan Bird, executive director, Citizen Schools Massachusetts. “These backpacks and supplies will help prepare our students and get them excited for the start of the school year.”

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Stricter Lead Testing In School Fountains Detects 17 Problems

By Seth Daniel

The Chelsea Public Schools has conducted a laborious sampling of all the water fountains and faucets used for food preparation in its buildings this summer and found that 17 of 313 fixtures had levels above the limits.

The testing was reported by Supt. Mary Bourque on Wednesday morning and indicated that the schools have tested randomly every year throughout the schools over the last 20 years, but had never tested every fixture and, this year, had to test with newer, stricter standards.. This year, likely in light of the fountain problems discovered in Boston schools this past term, the Chelsea schools decided to conduct thorough tests using the new, stricter lead level standards recently adopted by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“A total of 313 water samples have been recently tested,” wrote Bourque in a letter to parents that went out Thursday (today) morning. “While we are pleased to report that the Silber Early Learning Center, the Wright Academy, the Browne Middle School and Chelsea High School passed with no samples tested above the lead action level, the sampling did indicate that 17 fountains and sinks had lead levels that exceeded the Massachusetts action level for lead in drinking water.”

The problems were detected mostly at the Burke Complex. Those exceeding levels were at the following schools:

  • One water fountain and one sink at the Clark Avenue Middle School.
  • Two water fountains at the Kelly School.
  • Four water fountains at the Berkowitz School.
  • Four water fountains at the Hooks School.
  • Five water fountains at the Sokolowski School.

The problems at the school buildings, especially the Burke Complex, is a bit confounding due to the fact that it is such a new facility with fully updated plumbing. Bourque said an analysis has indicated that they don’t believe the water source is contaminated nor is the plumbing faulty.

“Because our schools are relatively new, and based on an analysis of our recent test results, we do not believe the internal school plumbing is contributing to lead levels,” she wrote. “We have also confirmed that our water source does not contain lead. The testing is indicating isolated instances of excessive lead levels which are likely caused by the installation of these faucets or water bubblers or the fixtures themselves…We will be replacing the fixtures identified above and retested before they are available for use.”

Bourque said the administration is taking the 17 problem fountains very seriously, and have taken five action steps to prevent the problem by the time school starts later this month.

First, the fixtures have been shut off and enclosed. Second, parents and school staff were notified. Third, the Chelsea School Committee and Board of Health were notified. Fourth, the fixture is evaluated by a licensed plumber to determine the source of the problem and the fixture is remediated or replaced.

Finally, the fixture is retested to determine if lead levels are below the new Massachusetts standards.

The letter describing the problems and the non-problems was sent out to parents and posted on the district’s online networks Thursday (today) morning, Aug. 11.

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Chelsea High Valedictorian Ivanis Ready for Yale

Chelsea High Valedictorian Ivanis Ready for Yale

CHS Senior Milica Ivanis learned she was the valedictorian of this year's class this past Tuesday, something that came as quite a surprise to her. She will attend Yale University this fall.

CHS Senior Milica Ivanis
learned she was the valedictorian
of this year’s class this
past Tuesday, something
that came as quite a surprise
to her. She will attend Yale
University this fall.

Chelsea High School (CHS) Senior Milica Ivanis has had a spring filled with surprises.

First, she got the surprise of her life earlier this spring when she found out she had been accepted to the Ivy League gem Yale University – which caught her completely off guard.

Second, this past Tuesday she got a second big surprise when she learned from CHS Principal Joe Mullaney that she had finished at the top of her class in what was a very tight finish.

“I had no idea I would be valedictorian,” she said on Tuesday shortly after learning the news. “I wasn’t expecting it because I thought I was third or fourth in the class. There are so many smart kids in my class.

“It’s just like getting into Yale; that was the biggest surprise of my life,” she continued. “I didn’t expect it at all. Yale was my reach of all reaches. I applied to four Ivy League schools and had been wait listed for three of them. When it was time to open up my letter from Yale, I wasn’t expecting much. I waited a half-hour before I opened it up. When I saw that I had been accepted, I couldn’t believe it.”

Though it might have been a surprise for Ivanis, it’s a movie that her family has seen before.

That’s because in 2011, Jelena Ivanis – Milica’s older sister – was also the valedictorian at CHS and also went to an Ivy League school. However, she landed at Harvard University, which is the arch rival of Yale.

That hasn’t been lost on the valedictorian sisters.

“We’ve talked about that,” said Ivanis, 18. “It’s funny. I told her we’re going to be big rivals during football season.”

Ivanis is the daughter of Milenko, who works at the Cambridge Marriott, and Dragica, who works at Chelsea City Hall in the DPW. The family – which also includes Berkowitz School second-grader Mira Ivanis – came to America from Croatia when Milica was only 3.

They had fled from Serbia, where they were living, following the Yugoslavian Civil War – a conflict that devastated the family.

However, new hope was found in Chelsea and Ivanis said her family has embraced the City and its schools.

“In my college essay I wrote about how my home and my village in Croatia had been completely destroyed during the Yugoslavian Civil War,” she said, not wanting to elaborate too much on those tough times. “It’s been very hard coming here because it’s just us. We don’t have a big family in the area. My parents have sacrificed a lot for us and we realize that.”

Ivanis began her academic career at the Silber Early Learning Center (ELC) and went to elementary school at the Berkowitz School. She attended middle school at the Clark Avenue School and finished up at CHS.

She played volleyball all four years and is currently a volleyball coach at the Brown Middle School. She is in the National Honor Society, serving as president this year. She has also been a peer mentor for two years at CHS.

Throughout her career, Ivanis said she felt that Chelsea schools have provided her an excellent education. She points to the fact that she has been able to take seven Advanced Placement (AP) classes at CHS, including such difficult courses as Sophomore AP Biology and AP Chemistry.

“I think that Chelsea is an excellent school, not only for the diversity, but also because it’s a place where students have the support to thrive,” she said. “If students are focused and don’t get distracted by things, they can take whatever life throws at them and make it work.”

Ivanis singled out teachers Michael McCarthy (English), Ana Romero (Spanish), Ilana Ascher (history) and Irene Mahoney as particularly motivating her.

Now, as she gets ready for Sunday’s graduation exercises, her attention has turned to what she might say during her Valedictory Speech.

“I remember my sister’s speech,” she said. “I sat next to my father and it was an ode to my father, and it made both of us cry. It was a special moment. I’m not sure what I’ll say yet.”


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