School Committee’s Garcia Fires Back After Hernandez Letter

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

Kelly Garcia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hernandez resigned immediately after the letter.

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Council, School Committee Seeks to Fill Vacancies Quickly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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School Committee Chair Rich Maronski Resigns from His Seat Cites Frustrations with Committee Attendance

School Committee Chair Rich Maronski Resigns from His Seat Cites Frustrations with Committee Attendance

School Committee Chair Rich Maronski announced on Tuesday that he will be resigning from the Committee as of May 3 – citing that the frustrations with attendance at the meetings was getting in the way of his family life.

Maronski has been on the Committee for four years, and was appointed at the time. He previously served on the City Council, but said his experience on the School Committee was much more frustrating – leading him to decide it was time to move on.

“I believe the taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth and the kids are paying the penalty,” he said. “It needs to change. Our School Committee needs to go back the old way or they need to be appointed. It’s the only job I know where you don’t have to show up, don’t have to call in and don’t get fired. I hope our City leaders take a deep look at this and make some changes.”

Maronski was elected chair this year in his fourth year, and he was accompanied as vice chair by Julio Hernandez, who also resigned last week.

While Hernandez cited family and school complications, he also said he left frustrated by the sparse attendance of some members of the Committee.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he said in a statement last week. “…I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our students’ education is no joke.”

Maronski said things started off bad from day one, when he showed up to take his appointed seat but not enough School Committee members showed up to form a quorum and have an official meeting.

“I had to come back another night when there were enough members there to have a meeting,” he said.

He also said he became severely frustrated two years ago when the Committee was faced with voting on a $1.1 million grant that would help save jobs for teachers that had been cut.

The Committee only had to show up in enough numbers for a formality vote that accepted the grant.

“We didn’t have enough members for a quorum and we couldn’t vote on a measure that was going to save teacher jobs,” he said. “There are no phone calls and people just don’t show up…It’s been going on for years.”

More recently, he said the Committee wasn’t able to get enough people to vote on the Superintendent’s Job Description, so the Search Committee had to work for a month with only an unapproved draft until they could get enough members at a meeting to vote.

“My well-being and my family’s well-being come first,” he said. “I was taking this home with me. I’m getting married soon and it wasn’t fair. The reason why I chose to resign is because maybe I could bring light to our City leaders that this situation has to change…We do have some very good School Committee members that give their time, but a lot don’t.”

He said the Committee also plays an important role for supporting the kids in the schools. He said he would love to see a Committee where members are active and involved, supporting the kids at reading events, sporting events and concerts.

“We live in a City where there are a lot of single parent homes and so it’s even more important the School Committee members show up to these kids’ events to support them,” he added.

Maronski said he had all the respect in the world for the Central Office, the principals, the teachers and the buildings/grounds crews.

He also said Supt. Mary Bourque has done a great job in a hard job.

“Mary Bourque has the toughest job in the city,” he said. “We had our differences, but 90 percent of the time we agreed and only 10 percent we didn’t.”

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School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

The School Committee passed a $95.4 million School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the total number of nine committee seats.

The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved by a 4-2 vote.

School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.

School Committee members and administrators said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the needs of the Chelsea schools.

Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.

“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino. “The City is really trying to do its fair share.”

That included the City providing an additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.

“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.

Regardless of how the School Committee ended up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City Budget.

“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and reasonable,” said Ambrosino.

Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70 state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.

Bourque said she agreed that the time is now to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be underfunded $17 million by the state.

The other factor leading to cuts in the budget is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the superintendent.

Carlisle voted against the proposed budget, but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but with the state.

“The problem is with the state,” said Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a message.”

School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

“The votes we make are very hard,” she said. “This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the best of the entire school system.”

But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have projected another 10 for 2020.

“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,” he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t support these cuts.”

School Committee member Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state funding formula.

•In other business, the Committee voted to forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.

•The School Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing Conference in May.

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School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

By Adam Swift and Seth Daniel

In a sudden move, District 5 School Committee member Julio Hernandez has resigned – one of the City’s up-and-coming political figures that many thought had a big future on the Committee.

Hernandez, a Chelsea High graduate, told the Record this week that it was with a heavy heart that he resigned, and he felt it was necessary as he had to work more hours and attend college at the same time.

“When I ran for office, I had more support from my family,” he said. “As rent started getting higher, I knew that I needed more income, and while still being in college, I decided to look at other jobs.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he continued. “Student advocacy has always been my platform, to serve all students the right way. From starting the policy of an outdoor graduation, to having the opportunity to work with many teachers who really care about this community. I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our student’s education is no joke.”

Hernandez, 20, said college, family and financial constraints hit all at once this year, and he couldn’t in good conscience serve on the Committee while not being able to show up.

“I know once I’m done with college, I’ll be back to serve the community I love and cherish,” he said. “I want to thank all the people who supported me, and are still supporting me in my time of sorrow.”

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Council President Damali Vidot said Hernandez had given notice to the City Clerk that he would be stepping down as of April.

Because his resignation is more than 180 days from a City Election, Vidot said the City Charter calls for a joint meeting of the Council and the School Committee within 30 days to appoint a replacement. That replacement would serve through the city election in November, when the position will be on the ballot.

“Julio was an incredible leader during his tenure,” said District 5 City Councillor Judith Garcia. “He did an incredible job while on the School Committee and was a great representative for District 5.”

Garcia encouraged anyone from District 5 who is interested to apply for the open seat.

However, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said the Council and the School Committee may want to leave the position open until the municipal election.

“I may have some reservations about filling the post,” said Avellaneda. “There’s only one more month until (candidates can) pull papers, and then the election is in November. I feel it may be best to leave the seat unfilled.”

Appointing someone to a short-term on the School Committee would give that person a leg up on other candidates who run for the seat in the general election, Avellaneda said.

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Chelsea Record,Collaborative to Sponsor Candidate Forum Oct 26

The Chelsea Record and the Chelsea Collaborative have agreed this week to sponsor a candidates’ forum at the Burke Complex auditorium on Monday, Oct. 26, for City Council and School Committee candidates.

The forum will seek to include all candidates and to ask questions of candidates in contested races. The goal is to familiarize the public with the candidates and their stances in one of the most hotly contested elections in some time.

The forum is open to the public and will be broadcast on Chelsea Cable TV as well. Parking is available in the school parking lot.

“We are pleased to co-sponsor this forum with the Chelsea Collaborative so that the voters in Chelsea can learn more about the candidates and their positions on the issues,” said Stephen Quigley, president of the Independent Newspaper Group. “Civic engagement is necessary as Chelsea moves forward under new leadership.”

Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega said forums are important in order to have voters who can hold their representatives accountable.

“I think we as community residents need to gather information from our candidates because when there is information, there is justification and hope,” said Vega. “If we don’t talk about the issues we are not acknowledging the responsibility we all have to built a better Chelsea. By holding these forums we are providing more information about the candidates to the voters, we are not only empowering our voters but also our residents. We all need to share the responsibility of keeping political officials accountable so they don’t abuse their power.”

The School Committee portion of the forum will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

After an introduction, all candidates will answer a first question that will serve as an opening statement, and will have one minute to do so. Those participating will be candidates in contested and non-contested races.

There are three contested races on School Committee.

Following that, two questions on the issues will be asked of only those candidates in contested races. Those same candidates will also be afforded a 30 second closing statement.

Then at 6:30 p.m., a 90-minute City Council forum will begin.Once again, after a brief introduction, all Council candidates – including district and at-large candidates in both contested and non-contested races- will answer the first question, which will act as an opening statement.

Following that, only candidates in contested races will participate in the questioning.

Only three district seats are uncontested.

There will be three rounds of questions asked.

The first two rounds will have questions asked by the panel, with candidates getting one minute to answer.

The third round will include a “lightening round” of questions – where candidates get only 30 seconds to answer questions.

For the at-large race, each candidate will get a different question.

For the district races, there will be one question per district so that answers can be compared.

Finally, each candidate in a contested race will get a 30 second closing statement.

None of the candidates will have the questions in advance, and a representative from the Record and from the Collaborative will ask the questions.

The forum is expected to conclude at 8 p.m.

The forum owes a debt of gratitude to the Chelsea Public Schools for allowing the use of the school, and to Chelsea Cable for broadcasting the program.

BOX OFF SIDEBAR –

Do you have an idea for a question?

The Chelsea Record and the Chelsea Collaborative are soliciting questions from the public to possibly be used in the Oct. 26 candidates’ forum.

If you have a question on any City issue that’s been bugging or perplexing you about local government or the schools, please submit it via e-mail to seth@reverejournal.com. Include the words ‘Question for Forum’ in the subject line. If it’s a good question, we’ll ask it of the candidates on Monday. Please feel free to submit one or more questions.

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Where’s Carlos? School Committee to Begin Removal of Member

Where’s Carlos? School Committee to Begin Removal of Member

School Committeeman Carlos Rodriguez has been missing from School Committee meetings since the beginning of the year, and formal and informal efforts to reach him have gone nowhere, school officials said.

Now, they said they will begin the unprecedented process of having to remove a member of the School Committee for, basically, being absent without leave.

Rodriguez has represented District 3 on the Committee for several years, and has been an active member, but recently he has gone missing. There were rumors that he moved to New York City, but Vice Chair Edward Ells said that couldn’t be officially confirmed. Informal efforts to reach out to him also went unheeded.

Last Thursday, the Committee held a meeting with City Solicitor Cheryl Fisher Watson to discuss how to proceed.

“We instinctively knew what we should do, but then there’s what you’re empowered to do,” said Ells. “There no clear language in the City Charter or in our rules to deal with the situation we’re in. Postscript, we’ll probably look to adjust this in our rules. We certainly aren’t taking this lightly. In the absence of anything else, there’s this moral obligation to take some action. It is a district that is now without representation. So, we’re planning to have a public hearing.”

Ells said that would trigger a process that would alert the City Council.

That process has occurred in the past with the School Committee where a vacancy has occurred and the Council and Committee accepted applications and picked a replacement.

That process will be followed once again unless Rodriguez materializes and explains his absence.

The public hearing will take place at the regular monthly meeting, on May 7, at 6:30 p.m.

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A Great Lady: Lydia Walata Will Be Missed

A Great Lady: Lydia Walata Will Be Missed

Long time residents of this city were saddened to learn this week of the passing of Lydia Walata after a lengthy illness. Mrs. Walata for decades was an active and vibrant member of the civic and political scene in Chelsea. A highly respected member of the School Committee, Mrs. Walata, along with Andrew P. Quigley, Morris Seigal, Liz McBride, Anthony Tiro and Rosemarie Carlisle, helped bring Boston University into the city to run the Chelsea schools, a groundbreaking decision that transformed our decrepit school system and that continues to pay dividends for our schoolchildren today

During her time on the committee, Mrs. Walata was a strong and independent voice, yet she lived by the maxim that it was possible to disagree without being disagreeable. All of her fellow members of the School Committee, as well as the voters who returned her to office many times, had the utmost respect for Mrs. Walata because they knew that she spoke from the heart and always held uppermost the best interests of Chelsea’s schoolchildren.

Mrs. Walata truly loved the city of Chelsea. She lived with her husband, Walter, on Marlboro Street for 56 years where they raised their two children, Kathy, a Chelsea schoolteacher, and Mark, a college graduate who works in the banking industry. She also was a loving a grandmother to Kristopher Surette.

We know we join with thousands of our fellow residents in offering our condolences to hr family. May she rest in peace.

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