A Large and Successful Class Graduates from CHS

A Large and Successful Class Graduates from CHS

Some 344 students walked across the stage at Chelsea High School on Sunday, June 10, as part of commencement exercises – becoming one of the largest classes to graduate in decades.

The Class of 2018 followed an unusually large class in 2017 as well.

At Sunday’s commencement, Supt. Mary Bourque said the class had distinguished itself by not only its overall numbers, but also its successes.

“All of you standing here are the living and breathing reason why we say our mission is to ‘We Welcome and Educate,’” she said. “No matter when you entered the Chelsea Public Schools, we wrapped our arms around you and moved you along the road to graduation. Class of 2018, I want you to know that we are so very proud of you and your accomplishments.”

Of the graduates, 64 percent are attending a two- or four-year college next year. Bourque listed off 79 colleges where students have been accepted, including Wellesley College, Williams College, Tufts University, UMass-Amherst, University of Maine, Hamilton College, Drexel University, Denison University, Bryn Mawr College, Boston University and Boston College – to name a few.

Scholarship awards from those schools totaled $4.4 million, the largest amount ever at Chelsea High.

The rest of the class plans include:

  • 4% are entering a certificate program.
  • 2% are entering a Trade School.
  • 6% are taking a Gap Year.
  • 2% are entering the Military.
  • 20% are going directly into the work force.
  • 2%, are still working on their plans.

The Class of 2018 was also special in that 180 of its students enrolled in the dual enrollment/early college program with Bunker Hill Community College.

“Together you earned 1,374 college credits equaling approximately 458

courses,” she said. “You saved over $250,000 on tuition and fees and saved another $40,000 on books.”

The average numbers of credits earned was eight, but Bourque said on student, Samir Zemmouri had earned 33 credits, the equivalent of a full year of college.

“Most impressive is that 69 students completed English 111 College Writing I course, a required course that often acts as a prerequisite for college coursework; and 15 students of the 69 entered our country and began their educational career at CHS as an English Language Learner,” she stated.

There were also seven members entering the military, including:  Pedro  Barrientos, Krishell Chacon-Aldana, Adrian Diaz, Nelson Hernandez Jr., Denis Martinez Pineda, Carla Romero and Melinen Urizar Perez.

Bourque closed out her comments about the Class of 2018 on Sunday with five points of wisdom. More than any achievement, she advised to live a life of purpose.

“Choose to live a life of purpose,” she said. “A life of giving back. Knowing our purpose in life empowers us, strengthens us, grounds us. It gives us the courage and conviction to fight the good fight and for the good reasons. A life of purpose is a successful life.”

Read More

Community Preservation Committee Announced

Community Preservation Committee Announced

The newly established Community Preservation Committee will lead Chelsea’s use of funds provided by the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

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.

Nine members appointed to the Community Preservation Committee are: Bea Cravatta, Judith Dyer, Caroline Ellenbird, Jose Iraheta, Michelle Lopez, Yahya Noor, Ron Robinson, Juan Vega, and Tuck Willis. Five members, by statute, represent City boards and commissions. The remaining four members are appointed by the Chelsea City Manager with the following requirements for each of the seats: one seat requires expertise in open spaces, housing and/or historical preservation; one seat requires expertise in development, business, finance, and/or construction; and the two remaining seats will be for individuals with a history of community involvement.

Community Preservation Committee (CPC) members serve a three-year term in a volunteer capacity, and must be residents of Chelsea. The CPC’s primary responsibilities include: approving an administrative budget for the City’s Community Preservation program; developing an annual Community Preservation Plan; reviewing project applications and making recommendations for funding approval. Further, CPC members are required to meet with regularity and engage with community groups throughout the City as needed.

The Committee is organized by John DePriest, AICP, Director, City of Chelsea Department of Planning and Development. An RFP has been prepared to hire a Professional Planning consultant services to develop the Community Preservation Plan. The Community Preservation Committee solicits and reviews proposals for use of the Community Preservation Act funds and  makes recommendations on how funds should be used. The funding of any project requires a recommendation from the committee.

For more information go to:  https://www.chelseama.gov/community-preservation-committee.

Read More

Albanese Upset Over Council’s Cut

Albanese Upset Over Council’s Cut

Saying he is disappointed with the Council’s posture toward the Fire Department during last week’s successful $100,000 budget cut to his department, Chief Len Albanese said the Council missed an opportunity to help bring the Department forward.

The Council, particularly Council President Damali Vidot, called for the cut and said the Fire Department overtime budget had requested an increase. She and others felt like that number – which in the past has been described as being abused – should be doing down.

Albanese said it wasn’t fair, and he said he Council hasn’t listened to his calls for an appropriate percentage of funding and more staffing.

“I’m disappointed with the cut that was made and the comments made by Council President Vidot,” he said. “This year we made budget. I told the Council that if they properly funded the Fire Department we would do our best to live within that range, and we delivered. We require no supplemental funding to finish the year.

“I have advocated for more staffing since my first month on the job,” he continued. “We have acquired both the staffing and apparatus to make that happen. Now, we need this additional staffing to translate into more boots on the ground daily. If the recent fire on John Street is not indication enough of that, I’m not sure what is. These major fires in our densely populated neighborhoods are a significant threat to our community. We need as much help as possible in the first 10 minutes of these fires to protect our neighborhoods.”

He said the John Street fire was one where they lucked out because had other calls been going, the staffing might not have been there to respond correctly.

“We are lucky that all of our apparatus was available at the time of that alarm and not tied up on other calls,” he said. “I assure you, the devastation would have been much worse. Twenty homeless could have been 100. We cannot count on luck. We need to be prepared with a reasonable amount of protection based on the threat that we face.”

In 2016, Albanese presented to the Council that the Fire Department budget is around 6.25 percent of the overall budget, and national standard indicate it should be between 6.5-7 percent based on the call volumes.

This year, they would be 6.25 percent and that represents less percentage-wise than in 2016.

“Our overall budget represents only 6.25 percent of the overall City Budget which is actually less percentage wise than we received in 2016,” he said. “Even when you consider that we will eventually take over the new hire salaries in full, we will still be between 6.5 and 6.75 percent of total budget, well within a reasonable and acceptable range.”

For his overtime request, he said he requested a 4 percent increase to the current year’s $1.25 million overtime budget. That, he said, is because salaries increased by 4 percent and so there would be less overtime coverage.

“It’s one thing to hold the line, but to cut our entire request, plus an additional $50,000 that we had this year makes no sense,” he said. “It’s like saying thanks but no thanks.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he believes the chief can make things work despite the cut.

“I was opposed to that cut,” he said. “I think the chief can make his overtime and salaries work. He has some open positions. There are three now…Hopefully he’ll make it and if he can’t, I’ll have to come to the council in the spring and ask for more money.”

Albanese said the cut won’t stop them from carrying out their plan, but it does no one any favors.

“The $100,000 cut will not keep us from continuing on our plan to increase daily staffing, but it doesn’t help,” he said. “With the amount of information we have provided the council, I think those members who voted to support this cut missed an opportunity to show their commitment to protecting our neighborhoods. The $100,000 is literally one-half of 1 percent of the City Budget, but it can translate into having an extra firefighter searching for a trapped occupant. To me, that’s money well spent.”

Read More

Gerrish Street Gang Member Sentenced on Racketeering and Drug Trafficking

Gerrish Street Gang Member Sentenced on Racketeering and Drug Trafficking

An East Side Money Gang (ES$G) member was sentenced last week in federal court in Boston on racketeering and drug trafficking charges.

Henry Del Rio, a/k/a “Junior,” a/k/a “JR,” 21, of Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to five years in prison and four years of supervised release. In February 2018, Del Rio pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, commonly known as RICO, one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin, and one count of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number.

Del Rio is a self-admitted member of the ES$G, a Chelsea-based street gang, which uses violence to further its criminal activities and enforce its internal rules. Specifically, ES$G uses violence to protect its members/associates, target rival gang members/associates and intimidate potential witnesses. The ES$G is also involved in drug trafficking, including cocaine, cocaine base (a/k/a crack) and heroin in Chelsea and surrounding communities.

Del Rio conspired with other gang members and associates to distribute heroin and other drugs in Chelsea. Additionally, Del Rio sold a confidential informant a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun with an obliterated serial number and a 30-round, high-capacity magazine from Del Rio’s residence on Gerrish Street in Chelsea.   Del Rio is one of 53 defendants indicted in June 2016 on federal firearms and drug charges following an investigation into a network of street gangs that had created alliances to traffic weapons and drugs throughout Massachusetts and to generate violence against rival gang members. According to court documents, the defendants, who are leaders, members, and associates of the 18th Street Gang, East Side Money Gang and the Boylston Street Gang, were responsible for fueling a gun and drug pipeline across a number of cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts.

Read More

Avellaneda, Traffic Commission Move to Protect Silver Line Stations

Avellaneda, Traffic Commission Move to Protect Silver Line Stations

The City has moved to protect the resident parking around the new Silver Line Stations and busy 111 bus stops, anticipating a rush of commuters that will look to capitalize on easy parking in the day and a fast bus into Boston.

The Traffic Commission in late May approved the plan to enforce the existing resident parking program during the day hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Typically, in most parts of Chelsea, the resident parking program is enforced at night from midnight to 5 a.m.

Some exceptions are near the Commuter Rail and near the Chelsea Court.

The City Council approved the plan last week, on June 4.

The idea came from Councilor Roy Avellaneda, who first began talking about it at Council in December.

He said this week that he was glad to see proactive action.

“We don’t want to see commuters coming from Everett, Malden and Revere driving over to Chelsea and parking all day long so they can take the Silver Line into Boston and park for free,” he said. “I’m glad they also decided to take the extra step of protecting the busier 111 bus routes too. This is a win for Chelsea residents.”

After suggested by Avellaneda, Planner Alex Train worked up the proposal and sent it to the Traffic Commission.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they will begin enforcing the ordinance soon after they relay information to residents, as residents will need to have information in the areas affected. Most residents already have resident stickers, but they may need to be aware to get placards for their visitors during the day hours.

That’s a major change from what is currently in effect.

Ambrosino said they plan to have a public meeting on June 21 to explain the program and give out information to those effected. He said he wants to make sure people have a chance to digest the information as there were no public meetings beyond the Traffic Commission.

The meeting will take place at Chelsea City Hall in the City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.

The areas effected for the Silver Line include:

  • Gerrish Avenue from Broadway to Highland;
  • Library Street, from Broadway to Highland;
  • Highland Street, from Marlborough to Box District Station;
  • Marlborough Street, from Broadway to Willow.

Those areas affected by the 111 bus stop protections are:

  • Washington Avenue, Bloomingdale to Heard St.;
  • Washington Avenue, Spruce to Jefferson;
  • Franklin Avenue – all;
  • County Road, from Washington to Basset;
  • Forsyth Street, from Washington to Franklin;
  • Gardner Street, from Washington to Parker Street.

Read More

City Manager says New Residency Ordinance Unenforceable Until 2021

City Manager says New Residency Ordinance Unenforceable Until 2021

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he would gladly enforce the new Police and Fire residency ordinance confirmed last week at Council, but not until at least 2021.

“It has to be negotiated through collective bargaining,” he said. “The firefighters are under contract until 2021, and the police are now at the state Joint Labor Management Commission. It probably won’t be able to be negotiated with either unit until 2021. We have no plans to enforce it until there is a new contract because the law is clear this is a change in the contract subject to collective bargaining.”

The Council voted for the matter last month, and staved off a challenge to that vote last week, led by Councilor Giovanni Recupero. Recupero has tried for seven years to get the residency plan in place for new police and fire hires. The plan now in effect would require all new hires as of July 31 to live in the city for five years after hire.

The matter, however, cannot be enforced until the City Manager re-negotiates the contracts with the police and fire, meaning that all member would get raises in exchange for that change in working conditions.

Ambrosino said the unions could decide not to agree to the matter, which would also make it unenforceable if it is outside any contract.

“An ordinance cannot supersede a mandatory collective bargaining matter,” he said. “It is unenforceable until it shows up in a collective bargaining agreement.”

Read More

Temple Emmanuel, a Renaissance in Chelsea

Temple Emmanuel, a Renaissance in Chelsea

Chelsea was a thriving center of Jewish life during the last century.  Located just four miles northeast of downtown Boston, Chelsea had the densest concentration of Jews outside of New York City.  The Jewish immigrants to Chelsea established about two dozen orthodox synagogues and one conservative temple.  Temple Emmanuel was formed in the 1930s and continues with a dedicated congregation from the local area and across the US.

As a commitment to Temple Emmanuel and Chelsea, the members raised almost $100,000 and just completed an extensive renovation.  The sanctuary was built in the 1840s as a Methodist-Episcopal church with high ceilings and excellent sight lines to the ark.  In the 1950s the sanctuary, which seated almost 500, was often full for the high holidays.  We still attract crowds to our major functions.  A few years ago we mounted a Jews of Chelsea Exhibition that attracted more than 500 visitors.

The re-invigoration of Temple Emmanuel reflects a loyal membership and a dynamic tireless president, Sara Lee Saievetz Callahan.  Sara Lee learned effective leadership from her mother and grandmother, who were very active in the community including the Chelsea Soldiers Home and the Assumption Church.  Rabbi Oksana Chapman has been very creative in preserving some religious aspects of conservative traditions while adapting to embrace a diverse community.  For example, services now include a chorus and musicians; interfaith and same-sex weddings and congregants are celebrated.  The temple renovations include a large social hall and an updated kitchen, which can accommodate up to 135 for both religious and secular functions.

Chelsea is in the midst of a renaissance and is growing with the construction of government, commercial, and residential buildings plus a new transportation hub.  Temple Emmanuel welcomes new residents, those with roots in Chelsea, and anyone seeking a welcoming and warm environment (haimish in Yiddish).  We invite visitors and prospective members at any service or function.

Temple Emmanuel is throwing a party and invites you to celebrate our recent renovations and continued commitment to the renaissance of Chelsea.

Saturday evening

June 16, 2018

7-11 PM

Temple Emanuel

60 Tudor Street in Chelsea

Enjoy our food stations!

Dance and enjoy our entertainment!

View our exhibit: a century of Chelsea cultural life!

Just $100 per person, which includes two tickets for beer and wine. Call 617-889-1736 for more information.

Come see the preservation of Chelsea history.  The Temple Emmanuel building dates from the 1840s as a Methodist-Episcopal church with high ceilings, excellent sight lines, and solid elegant woodwork.

As a commitment to Temple Emmanuel and Chelsea, we raised almost $100,000 and are completing an extensive renovation.  We continue as enthusiastic supporters of our community by investing in the renewal of Chelsea.  Come see our progress and celebrate with us!

Read More

Anniversary Celebration

Anniversary Celebration

Kiaralis, Mike, and Sara Sandoval attended the 40th Anniversary of Chelsea TND where Mike was awarded as Chelsea member of the year. TND celebrated 40 years as an organization founded in Chelsea, and also celebrated their outgoing Director Ann Houston and their incoming Director Rafael Mares.

Read More

Packed Chambers:Budget Passes, but with Some Rare Controversy, Drama

Packed Chambers:Budget Passes, but with Some Rare Controversy, Drama

The City Budget vote at the Council is usually a night of empty seats and methodical tabulation.

Not so this past Monday night when teachers, students and School Department employees packed the Chambers and councillors debated over several controversial cuts to the document.

One councillor, Bob Bishop, even cast a lone vote against the City Budget.

In the end, the Council did approve the budget 10-1.

The total spending came in at $195,964,074, with the breakdown as follows:

  • General Fund Budget, $174,074,177.
  • Water Enterprise Fund, $8,397,199.
  • Sewer Enterprise Fund, 12,808,779.
  • General Fund Free Cash, $683,919.

The total sum represents an increase of 6.6 percent over last year’s budget.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it was a document that represented a philosophy in government and he was proud of it.

“A budget is not just a compilation of numbers and spreadsheets,” he said. “A budget is always a document expressing a philosophy of government. This budget delivers services and programs and invests in our people, our community.”

The real drama came for the School Department, which needed a large influx of City cash into its coffers to avoid massive cuts to it program after being shorted several years by the state’s funding formula.

The City is required to give a set amount of money to the School Department each year, but in the budget crunch of the last few years, the City has kicked in extra funding. On Monday, numerous representatives from the schools were there to speak in support of what amounts to about $4 million (or 5.7 percent) above the required spending amount.

“The state is letting Chelsea down,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the Chelsea Teacher’s Union. “They can’t be relied upon to support urban Gateway districts like Chelsea…When the federal government lets you down, the state government lets you down, there is only one place left to turn – to the neighbors and the local officials of the city. This budget shows that the students and schools in Chelsea can rely on their local neighbors.”

Several others spoke as well, particularly for keeping special education position intact – positions that have been cut heavily in the past few years. School Committee Chair Jeannette Velez urged the Council to approve the additional spending in the budget.

After the vote, the room erupted in applause for the sake of the schools.

But it wasn’t that easy.

While the Council was uniformly in favor of the school measures, there were several things they were flat out against. Major amendments were proposed and hashed out on close votes over the course of an hour.

Almost all of them were proposed by Council President Damali Vidot.

First was a cut of $15,000 to the Law Department – which was a dart in the back of many on the Council. The cut represented funding put in the budget for the Council to have its own attorney on retainer to give them a second opinion when they aren’t satisfied with the City’s staff lawyers.

Only Councillor Giovanni Recupero and Damali Vidot voted for it, with it losing 9-2.

One cut that did survive was a $100,000 cut to the Fire Department as a shot across the bow for their use, and some on the Council would say abuse, of overtime in the last few years.

Vidot said the Department has seen numerous new hires in the last year and has proposed to increase its overtime budget. She said that number should be going down, not up.

The cut was approved 6-4, with Vidot, Recupero, Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez and Rodriguez voting yes.

Vidot also proposed to cut the Police Department salaries by $150,000 to curtail the use of overtime pay being given to officers who do walking beats around the downtown. She said that should come out of regular pay at the regular rate, not as overtime pay.

That measure lost narrowly, on a 5-6 vote. Those voting against that were Calvin Brown, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.

A major discussion took place after that to cut the new Downtown Coordinator position, which comes at $72,000. Vidot said it was a failed program and should be staffed by a Chelsea person who can bring all different Chelsea residents to the downtown to connect in one place. She said she doesn’t see that happening.

However, the majority felt that good things were happening and the coordinator needed more time.

A key supporter was downtown district Councillor Judith Garcia.

That cut failed 3-8, with only Vidot, Lopez and Bishop voting for it.

The final controversial cut proposal was to eliminate monies being spent to keep retiring EMS Director Allan Alpert on board for a year. Alpert plans to retire on June 30, but will be kept on as a consultant to bring the new director up to speed. The cost for that is $55,000.

Vidot said it was unnecessary, and she said it’s time to stop keeping retiring City Hall people on the payroll as consultants.

However, other councillors such as Avellaneda, said there was a succession plan in place for Alpert that didn’t pan out. Now, to make sure a new plan could be put in place, Alpert needed to be allowed to stay on another year.

After much controversial discussion, the cut was defeated narrowly 5-6. Those voting to keep Alpert on were Rodriguez, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.

For the overall budget, all councillors except Bishop voted for it.

Bishop, who has emerged as a staunch fiscal conservative on the Council, said the spending was not sustainable.

“I cannot vote for this budget,” he said. “I can’t be for this budget because it is not sustainable. We’ll hit the wall one day and that $25 million in the Rainy Day Fund will go out one ear because out budget is almost all salaries.”

The City Budget goes into effect on July 1.

Read More

Chelsea High Class of 2018 will Graduate this Sunday

Chelsea High Class of 2018 will Graduate this Sunday

The Chelsea High School Class of 2018 will hold its Commencement Ceremonies Sunday at 1 p.m. at the high school.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque will address the large gathering and offer her official congratulations to the graduates.

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and School Committee Chairperson Jeanette Velez will also be part of the ceremony.

Former CHS director of athletics Frank DePatto said he is looking forward to attending the ceremony for the first time in his capacity as a member of the School Committee.

“I know this class very well and they are an accomplished group academically and athletically,” said DePatto. “I look forward to being present as our graduates attain this important milestone in their lives. Graduation represents the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. I wish the graduates continued success as they move on to college, the military, and the work force.”

Read More