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.
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
“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.
resigned immediately after the letter.
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,”
“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.
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.
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
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.”
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
“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
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
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
•In other business, the Committee voted to
forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.
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.
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
“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
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.”
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
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 email@example.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.
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.
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.