Chelsea Council Gets Back to Business for 2019 Session

Chelsea Council Gets Back to Business for 2019 Session

The City Council got back to business Monday night with a special organizational meeting and then quickly taking care of the new year’s first agenda items.

As expected, the Council approved a second term for Damali Vidot as council president. District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada was voted in as vice president, and Yamir Rodriguez as the Council’s delegate to the School Committee.

“I want to thank all my colleague’s for entrusting me with one more year as president,” said Vidot. She is the first female councillor to serve two back-to-back terms as council president.

Vidot said she is looking forward to a year of unity and respect on the council.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved funding for new contracts for the City’s two police unions.

The contracts include a retroactive salary increase of 2.5 percent for FY17 and 3 percent for FY18 and FY19. There is also a 3 percent increase slated for FY20 and an additional 1 percent increase that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The contract also implements residency requirements for all new hires for the Police Department.

Later in the meeting, the Council also approved an amended residency ordinance for all police, fire, and civil service employees.

The ordinance requires that all personnel who live in Chelsea at the time of the hire must maintain residency for five years from the date of hire. Personnel who do not live in the city at the time of hire have six months to relocate to Chelsea.

Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson cast the lone vote against the amended ordinance, using the example of a child who might have to look after sick parents as a possible reason an employee may not be able to relocate.

•During the public speaking portion of the meeting, some familiar guests dropped in to say thank you to the Council.

Several members of the Chelsea High senior class thanked the council for its recent vote to fund a turf field cover to the tune of $170,000 for the new high school field.

With the field cover, the senior class and subsequent classes will be able to hold outdoor graduations.

“We’ve put so much hard work into this, and everything that has happened has been amazing,” said Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste.

Poste and several other seniors presented the Council with a signed letter in appreciation for their efforts. They also asked the council for their signatures on a proclamation documenting the students’ and the Council’s efforts to work together to make the turf field cover a reality.

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In Appreciation: Remembering Elaine Richard

In Appreciation: Remembering Elaine Richard

The greatest legacy of Elaine Marie Richard was seated in the front rows at the Our Lady of Grace Church.

The four loving and devoted sons, Ken, Jim, Jack, and Edward – these four scholar-athletes, all graduates of Chelsea High School and the best universities in the nation – led a beautiful tribute to their beautiful mother.

When it came time to encapsulate all that Mrs. Richard had meant to her family and the great example she had set for her children and the family, it was Jack Richard, who stepped to the lectern to deliver the eulogy.

A brilliant, personable man who excelled at Tufts University and Boston College Law School, Jack rose to the occasion with words that showcased the richness of his talents.

“Before I speak for my brothers, I should first speak for my mother,” he began. “Many of you here today have been so good to her through the years, and I know she would want me to begin by thanking you all and by telling you how much she and we appreciate all your kindnesses to her big and small.”

Jack told the assemblage that the day truly was “a celebration of life, a full life very well-lived and filled with great joys, but also marked by great sorrows.”

Jack said their mother grew up in a big triple decker in Chelsea “in a house full of family and faith” where she was doted on by her older sister, Marjorie, and brother, Edward.

Elaine Doherty Richard was an excellent student herself and graduated at the top of her class at the St. Rose School.

“When Elaine Doherty, that cute little girl, grew to become a beautiful young woman, she met the one and only love of her life,” said Jack. “Ken Richard was talented, handsome, strong, and as we kids would say, ‘wicked smart.’”

Elaine Doherty and Kenneth Richard married when she was 22. “The four of us were always so proud of both of our parents,” said Jack.

The four boys were born five years apart. Mrs. Richard would prepare meals for her four sons and her husband each day. She would send her sons off each morning to Our Lady of Grace School. The boys did their homework at night at the dining room table with the assistance of their mother.

“But day after day, every day, Elaine Richard did it all with grace and with cheer,” said Jack. “All in all, our mom, against all the odds at that time and place, she succeeded. She was proud to say she went 4-for-4 with her sons.”

But just as Elaine and Kenneth Richard “were about to enjoy all the benefits of their work – with all four kids in college, they were finally about to get some well-deserved time together for themselves, my young and healthy dad passed away suddenly,” related Jack. “My mother’s sweet and happy world was crushed. She was only 44 years old.”

Following the death of her husband, Elaine Richard “never quit on life and she soldiered on, and day by day, year by year, she built a new life and she taught us a lesson in grace and in perseverance, a truly good example.”

“If you know my brothers and me,” then you know Elaine Richard,” said Jack. He praised his brothers, “Ken, who was thrust in to the role of the man of the house when he was just a college kid, protective of us all and the most solid dependable man there is; Jim, a deeply spiritual man whose faith and his family are the very center of his life; and Ed, the best guy with the biggest heart who would do anything for you, but also with the strongest will of anyone I’ve ever known. We are what we are because of her.”

Jack Richard said this Christmas their mother gave the family “the most important gift and lesson.”

“She taught us how to die,” said Jack. “For two weeks, we had all been taking turns at her bedside, just as she had done with us so many times when we were sick as children. We got to say how much we loved each other. We held her hand and we told her how good she was. She spoke of how this family she had built would live on, in us, in her 12 grandchildren, in her five great-grandchildren.”

Elaine Doherty Richard died on Christmas day. She was 86 years old. She will be missed.

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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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Year in Review:Balancing Prosperity and Priorities

Year in Review:Balancing Prosperity and Priorities

The year 2018 saw many changes in Chelsea as the city tried to balance prosperity with priorities all year long. While new investment poured in, residents struggled to stay in the city and schools grappled with budget cuts. Meanwhile, public transit increased substantially in a positive direction with the introduction of the new Silver Line service.

• Flooding becomes a major issue after a Jan. 4 blizzard and a March 2 storm, both of which occur during substantial high tides. The Jan. 4 blizzard caused a huge storm surge that flooded many parts of the city and even shut down operations at the Chelsea Street Bridge.

• The New England Flower Exchange celebrates its first Valentine’s Day holiday at its new location on Second Street after being in Boston’s South End for the past 50 years. The new facility has been brought online seamlessly.

• Wynn CEO Steve Wynn seemed to be in control of his company and the project in Everett until late January, when he was accused of sexual misconduct in a Wall Street Journal report. The allegations quickly gathered steam, and by February Wynn had resigned from the company and the license for the Everett casino was in jeopardy and the project to be moving forward “at risk.” The new CEO became Matt Maddox and the company saw huge amounts of turnover throughout the year. By the end of 2018, the license for the Everett site was still in limbo and an investigation into the matter still had yet to be revealed – having been delayed for months.

• City Manager Tom Ambrosino says in his State of the City on Feb. 26 that now is not the time to save up money, but rather the time to continue investing in the City and its residents. He announces several key programs for the upcoming year.

• Sen. Sal DiDomenico is involved in a heated and intense bid for the office of Senate President over several months, but in the summer comes up just short in getting the votes necessary to prevail. Sen. President Karen Spilka gets the nod instead, but DiDomenico remains the assistant majority leader and ends up coming out of the battle in a very good position of leadership.

• Students at Chelsea High stage a walk-out in regard to school safety and school shootings on March 15. Despite lots of snow, thousands of students take to the Stadium for the one-hour protest.

•YIHE company returns to the City with a new plan for the old Forbes site in the Mill Hill neighborhood. They start the process in April with a scaled down version of their previous plan, but reviews of the project continue throughout the year and into 2019.

• The new Silver Line SL-3 service debuts on Saturday, April 21, in Chelsea. The service starts out a little slow, but by December the MBTA reports that ridership has exceeded its estimates.

• The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home secured a $70 million budget item from the federal government in April that allowed the replacement of the Quigley Hospital to move forward. The Community Living Center has a groundbreaking in the fall and construction is ongoing in the new year.

• The Chelsea Walk is transformed throughout the spring, summer and fall in a unique placemaking partnership between the City and GreenRoots. At the end, there is a new mural on the Walk and more activity. New things are also planned for the Walk in 2019.

• A $3.1 million School Budget gap hits the School Department hard, with numerous cuts reported to key school services. Th School Department, City and state grapple with the issue all summer long, but no resolution to the issue emerges at the end of the legislative session. The school funding fix is still outstanding, and no fix has yet been passed to help districts like Chelsea, who have been penalized mistakenly by a new formula.

• Chelsea High sophomore track star Stephanie Simon caps off a stellar year by heading to the National Track Meet in North Carolina over the summer. She placed 15th in the high jump and 27th in the triple jump out of a field of athletes from around the nation.

• Students at the Clark Avenue Middle School are ecstatic to return to school on Aug. 29, and that’s because they were able to enter their brand new building for the first time. The Clark Avenue premiered to excited parents and students for the new school term after many years of construction.

• The Sept. 4 Primary Election features many surprises, but the biggest headline of the night, however, was when Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley upset sitting Congressman Michael Capuano decidedly. Capuano had campaigned hugely in Chelsea, and won here with 54 percent of the vote. However, a strong Boston turnout propelled Pressley to an big win. Pressley also had notable support in Chelsea from Council President Damali Vidot and School Committeeman Julio Hernandez.

• The Two-Way Broadway proposal gathers steam, but fizzles out as residents and elected officials protest the change vehemently. That came after a late-August approval of the plan by the Traffic Commission. However, in September, it fails to get past the City Council. Broadway will remain a one-way street.

• Supt. Mary Bourque surprises most in late December when she announces she will retire at the end of 2019, pledging to help the School Committee with a new superintendent search throughout the year.

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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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Vidot to be Chosen as Council President for a Second Year

Vidot to be Chosen as Council President for a Second Year

Council President Damali Vidot has lined up the votes to be chosen as the Council President for a second year in a row, a rare move on a Council where most only serve for one year and pass it on.

“I’m excited to serve again and thank my colleagues for their confidence,” she said this week. “From what I’m hearing, it’s the first time a woman has served for two consecutive terms as Council President. I don’t have it all figured out, but I believe my colleagues trust my leadership and know I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Aside from Vidot, the vice president will be Luis Tejada and the School Committee liaison will be Yamir Rodriguez.

The Council in Chelsea doesn’t vote on its leadership positions until its first meeting in January. However, the Council does line up its votes and preferences in December. Rarely, if ever, does the vote change between December and January.

Vidot said one of her goals is to begin looking at the boards and commissions within the City, such as the License Board and Zoning Board.

“One of my goals is to better monitor these boards in the city, like the Traffic Commission and the ZBA,” she said. “I feel like at different levels these boards exist and that no one is in control. I’ve seen residents come up 100 percent against a project, and it goes through anyway. These are things we really need to look at to make sure we’re all on the same page. It feels like we’re all running in different directions now.”

Additionally, Vidot said she hoped to foster a good working relationship between councillors in the coming year.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to work with all the different councillors,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re all working together and doing the best we can…There are so many different needs. You take a councillor like Bob Bishop from Prattville and a Councillor like Enio Lopez from District 4 and their needs in those districts are so different, but I look forward to being able to work together to address each of them equally.”

The Council has yet to set a date for its first meeting and its organizational meeting for election of officers, but it is expected to be on Jan. 7.

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Peace on Earth…in All Languages

Peace on Earth…in All Languages

The Berkowitz School Select Chorus sent a message of peace on Earth is four languages on Tuesday
morning at their annual Winter Holiday Concert. The group of first-through-fourth graders brought their show to a conclusion with ‘Circle the Earth with Peace’ at the show – a message well-received by all during the Christmas season.

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Berkowitz School Drum Corps Keeps the Beat Going

Berkowitz School Drum Corps Keeps the Beat Going

Fourth-grader Yandeliz Rodriguez-Gonzalez confessed this week before the Berkowitz School Winter Concert that

Berkowitz fourth grader Yandeliz Rodriguez-Gonzalez is shown drumming during Tuesday’s Winter Concert at the school. She is one of about 20 kids from the Berkowitz that are part of the Berkowitz Advanced Drummers – a program that is three years old. She said drumming is just in her blood.

drumming is just in her blood.

Her father is a drummer, often playing the bongos around the house, and the rhythm has rubbed off on her as well.

So when her school began offering the Drum Corps, she signed up immediately two years ago and hasn’t stopped keeping the beat since.

“I love the salsa rhythm; it’s just in my blood,” said Yandy. “I got inspired to play the drums from my dad because he is a drummer. My dad is Puerto Rican and he’s been playing the drums since he was little. He has taught me the salsa rhythm and I have enjoyed playing at school now too. It feels great to play with others. They are with me and understand me and understand why I’m so obsessed with drums.”

Yandy is one of about 15 young people that participate in the Berkowitz Advanced Drummers (or B.A.D. for short) , a program championed by Berkowitz music teacher Richard Romanoff to help bring instrumental music experiences to the children.

Beyond the drumming, kids are able to also play keyboards, violin or ukulele.

“The drumming group has been a very positive experience and has become very popular with the students here,” he said. “I’m just trying to open up opportunities for students and give them as many opportunities as I can to help them make music.”

Romanoff came to the Berkowitz three years ago, and Principal Adam Deleidi said he had been at Somerville High School for 11 years prior. However, he wanted to experience how younger kids seek musical experiences, which drew him to the Berkowitz.

“He’s done a lot with instruments and the drumming group is one example of that,” he said.

Fourth-grader Daniel Booth has been involved only four weeks, but already he has found that drumming is an outlet for his creativity and also a way to better understand math – which is his favorite subject.

“It is like math because you really need to look at the symbols and have to know when to start and end and stop,” he said. “It takes math to know what you’re going to do. My teacher, Mr. V, taught me math is always going to be in your life even when you’re not in school.”

Booth said it has been his first chance to play a musical instrument, and he realized that he probably should have been playing the drums for a long time.

“I’ve learned you can do different tones on a drum and you can really do anything on a drum,” he said. “Drumming has become one of my favorite things of all because I always have been thinking about the beat in my head. Every time I drummed on a desk or on a book, I felt like it had a good beat to it.”

For Yandy, she said being able to drum at school has been a relief in the mornings.

“To me, it’s kind of calming,” she said. “It’s like talking with music.”

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Council Rejects Silber Center School Bus Traffic Plan

Council Rejects Silber Center School Bus Traffic Plan

Monday night, City Councilors rejected a plan that would dramatically impact traffic and parking around the John Silber Early Learning Center on Hawthorne Street.

The recommendations from the Traffic and Parking Commission, based on a request from School Facilities Director Joseph Cooney III, sought to block traffic from Congress Avenue and Hawthorne Street, only allowing bus access to Hawthorne Street during the hours of 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and to move a school bus lane from Shurtleff Street to Hawthorne Street. Cooney also requested a painted “Buses Only” parking area in front of the school on Hawthorne Street and to change the existing language on the signs to “No Parking, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., School Buses Only.”

Several councillors said they were dismayed by the effect the changes would have for residents in the area, and also said they thought the Council should have had more of a say in the proposed changes.

“Why take away all of the parking for the whole day?” asked District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “You can’t just say we are going to do this and this is what it is. What’s going to happen to the people who live there?”

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda echoed Recupero’s concerns.

“Reading this, it is a major change and there has not been the outreach this deserves,” he said.

Many major details were missing from the proposal, Avellaneda added, including what would happen with parking when school is not in session. He said it would have been preferable if school officials had met with councillors before making the recommendations.

“I know that behind this, the intent is the safety of school children,” Avellaneda said. “But I don’t think this has been fully vetted or thought out.”

  • In other business Monday night, the Council unanimously approved spending $170,000 for a turf field cover at the new Chelsea High School field. This cover will allow for outdoor activities on the field, including high school graduation.

For the past several meetings, Chelsea High students have organized and spoken out in favor of the proposal.

With the vote taken, several councillors praised the students for the role they played in making the request a reality.

“I’ve never seen a group impact the Council on an issue as much as you guys,” said District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada. “Keep up the good work and know that this is the way to get things done in life.”

  • The Council also approved a request by Council President Damali Vidot to place signs at five locations around the city where Chelsea police officers have been killed in the line of duty over the past 150 years.
  • In other parking and traffic related news, District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia announced that Fire Chief Leonard Albanese rescinded a request to change the traffic flow on Chestnut Street.

A petition from St. Stanislaus Church with dozens of signatures stated that the temporary change of direction on the street had been detrimental to the day-to-day business operations of the Parish rectory and created multiple hardships for parishioners and others in the area.

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Senior Captain Balances Work, Family, School and…Basketball

Senior Captain Balances Work, Family, School and…Basketball

Jose Gutierrez wears many hats in his family and on the Chelsea High basketball team as well, but this week, he is wearing the captain’s hat and has taken one step in leading an experienced hoops team to a good year.

Chelsea kicked off its season on Tuesday against Essex Aggie and cruised to an easy victory behind the defensive effort and leadership of Gutierrez.

The Record sat down with Gutierrez on Monday afternoon, and the two-time captain and senior said they have a scrappy team this year.

“We have a very scrappy defense this year,” he said. “I’m excited to see how we do on the defensive end and how that will create our offense. We’re going to be all up in your face – rah-rah – trying to put pressure on you so you’ll turn over the ball. It’s a very scrappy team.”

The team returns seven seniors for second-year Coach Judah Jackson, and Gutierrez said they have learned from their playoff loss last year against Waltham.

“Last year we didn’t have the experience,” he said. “this year, we’re full of seniors. If we all do what we’re supposed to be doing, we’ll have that confidence come playoff time to get that kind of win.”

Gutierrez, 18, grew up in Chelsea and went to the Kelly School and the Wright Middle School before landing at Chelsea High. He also played in the Chelsea Youth Basketball League (CYBL) and said it made him more of a team player.

“It helped me to focus more on the game and not just going out as an individual player,” he said. “Every year it was myself and another kid who did everything for the team. We would win, win, win and then during the championship we would always lose because we were just two guys and never involved our other team members. That helped me grow as a player because my IQ for basketball got a lot better.”

Same could be said for his academic IQ as well.

Gutierrez busies himself taking a rigorous college preparatory schedule and is enrolled in the Bunker Hill Community College program that allows students to take college classes in high school.

“It is a lot more difficult this year,” he said. “Right now I’m trying to focus on my high school classes so I can go to Bunker Hill next year and pursue my dream of becoming an EMT.”

Becoming an EMT is very personal for Gutierrez, who said two years ago he and his family watched helplessly as his father had a heart attack in their home. When the paramedics arrived, he said he was impressed with their skill and how they were able to care for his dad.

It hooked him.

“Two years ago my dad had a heart attack 20 minutes before we celebrated Christmas,” he said. “We celebrate at midnight and right before he had a heart attack. It was so tough to see my dad having cold sweats and shaking and I couldn’t do anything. That’s really when I knew I want to be an EMT.”

Gutierrez also runs track and plays soccer too, having been on this fall’s outstanding Chelsea High soccer team that went undefeated in the regular season.

However, Gutierrez also has to work as a janitor at a local radio station, where his parents supervise him. He is also responsible for watching his 9-year-old sister, who has become the team mascot and honorary water girl.

He said every time he hits the practice floor or suits up for a game, he has to thank his parents, Rafael and Nolbia. He said it’s because of them that he even gets to still play sports.

“They have helped me so much,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this. I’m a senior and I need to work and save money. It’s because of them I’m able to do three sports every year and do what I want to do.”

Gutierrez and the Red Devils will host Greater Lowell at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14, in the gym.

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