Market Day in Belmont: Maple Syrup Candy, Tomatoes and Jamaican Truck Food

The Belmont Farmers Market is open today, Thursday, June 26, from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Belmont Municipal Parking Lot at the corner of Channing Road and Cross Street behind the Belmont Center shopping district.

This week, guest vendors are Coastal Vineyards, Sugar + Grain, DC Farm Maple Syrup and candy (new this season!) and Seasoned and Spiced. For a list of weekly vendors, visit the market’s Web site.

This Week’s Food Truck: Jamaica Mi Hungry, starting at 3 p.m.

In the Events Tent
The Farewells, a local acoustic duo, returns to the market, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

• Stone Hearth Pizza, a staple in Belmont Center for many years, serves samples from their menu from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

• The Belmont Public Library sponsors storytime for preschool and older children. Denise Shaver, head of the Children’s Department, reads from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Belmont Food Pantry
Bring non-perishable items each week to the Market tent. The Market has supported the Pantry with nonperishable food collection over the years, along with donations of fresh produce from the Market’s community garden project.

SNAP Payments

The market accepts and doubles SNAP benefits (formerly called Food Stamps) up to an extra $25 per Market day while matching funds last. Your donations to our parent organization, the Belmont Food Collaborative (, help with programs like this. You can donate securely on the web site, or mail a check to PO Box 387, Belmont, MA 02478. We appreciate your support!

The Market is open on Thursdays through October 30, 2014, rain or shine.

What to Do Today: Creating Comics for Kids, Planning Board and the Pool

• The Belmont Public Library will be holding a “Create Your Own Comics” for kids 10 and up with cartoonists Veronica and Andy Fish. Learn about comics history, character design and the comic creation process. Leave with material and resources to create your own comic. It takes place from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Assembly Room. Those interested can sign up here.

• The Planning Board will meet with the Underwood Pool Building Committee at 7 p.m. at Town Hall on parking issues at the new pool complex.

• On this day in 1870, Christmas is declared a federal holiday in the United States.

Making Belmont Shine for the Past 50 Years

In 1964, the newly-opened Belmont Car Wash & Detailing on Trapelo Road was a small operation both is size and the number of people when Paul Tocci Sr. waved in the first car to be cleaned.

“We were in a much smaller site with 11 employees. That year we did 15,000 cars,” said Paul Tocci Jr. who owns the car wash with his brother, Adam.

“Last year, we did a 100,000 cars with 50 employees,” said Paul Jr. after he and Adam were joined by town dignitaries to cut a red ribbon to begin the celebration of the businesses half-century in the community.

During the day-long event, held on Saturday, June 21, the cost of a wash reverted back to 1964-era prices of $1 and $2, barbecue was served to customers, there were tours of the newly-renovated  building and popular radio celebs came by.

For the brothers, Saturday was a great day not just for their business but also for their father, who died a few years back.

“Everything we’ve done here is with our dad in mind. He was prominent in all of our planning,” said Adam.

“We hope he sees us and what we’ve done and he’s happy,” said Paul Jr.

And while the car wash is a business, Belmont Car Wash has become much more of a community resource.

“We call Belmont our hometown. We grew up here so giving back to the community is very important to us,” said Adam, who is the general manager.

Much of that outreach comes in terms of fundraising events that takes place at the site.

“We try to be as proactive as we can with all the community groups,” said Paul Jr. Adam said there are usually six large fundraisers a year with nearly weekly in raffles, charity auctions and sponsoring events.

“That’s part of being a good business neighbor,” said Paul Jr.

“Belmont Car Wash has been in Belmont five years more than I have,” said lifelong resident and Selectman Sami Baghdady. “So it is a staple to the Waverley Square area and to Belmont being a valuable service and it has employed many of our kids.

Will the brothers be around for the next 50 years?

“We won’t but our children will be around. It’s a generational thing. One of them will be here in 2064,” said Adam.


Brassy Comes to Belmont’s Payson Park Music Festival

For those people who like their music a bit on the brassy side, come out to the Payson Park Music Festival to hear The Brass Connection perform.

Formed in 2000, The Brass Connection is a brass and percussion band which has performed more than 300 concerts including an appearance on National Public Radio’s  “All Things Considered.” For their concert at Payson Park, they will perform a Pops-style concert including light classics, patriotic selections, swing, dixieland, Broadway show medleys, classic rock as well as movie and television music.

The concert is sponsored by the Watertown Savings Bank and RE/MAX Renaissance Realty.

The show gets underway at 6:45 p.m. at Payson Park at the corner of Payson Road and Elm Street.

The season runs every Wednesday evening until Aug. 27. In addition to the evening programs, four children’s concerts will occur on consecutive Fridays at noon beginning July 12.

Belmont Schools, Teachers Union Sign Three-Year Deal

Limitations to Belmont’s financial future and job security trumped demands for big pay increases as the Belmont School Committee and Andy Rojas, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen, approved three-year labor agreements with the four bargaining units represented by the Belmont Education Association on Tuesday, June 24.

“There’s been a relationship of honest communication and trust established that we can build upon,” BEA President John Sullivan told the Belmontonian after the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting held at the Chenery Middle School.

“We hope that the process producing these agreements has helped deepen relationships based on trust and mutual understanding that will support teaching and learning through the life of these contracts,” said a press release dated Wednesday, June 25 that was signed by Belmont School Committee chair Laurie Slap and Sullivan.

After a year-long negotiation, the union and the committee reached the tentative agreements on Thursday, June 12 with the BEA units approving the four respective agreements on Wednesday, June 18.

The four units comprise teachers (Unit A), directors and assistant principals (Unit B), clerical employees (Unit C) and paraprofessionals (Unit D).

On the salary front for teachers – that makes up the largest BEA unit with approximately 300 members – most of the increases over the next three years will be going to the most senior of the teachers. Those with 14 or more years of service, known as “top spots,” will receive the bulk of increase:

  • Year one, only the “top” educators will receive a 1 percent increase,
  • Year two a 2 percent increase for the top educators while those with 13 years or less will receive a 1 percent increase, and
  • Year three, top step educators will get a 2.5 percent with the less-senior educators receiving 1 percent again.

Yet those increases have been tampered down by the effective dates of the jump in salaries; increases in the first year will not begin showing up in pay packages until the 113th day of the year, with similar delays in the subsequent years; 109 days in year two and 121 days in year three.

“So the one percent increase in the first year is really about 80 cents to the dollar,” said Sullivan, a teacher at Belmont High School who led the union’s 10-member negotiating team.

“We believe the compensation picture has stayed within the projected available revenue that will be coming to the school department over the next three fiscal years,” said Belmont District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston who participated in his final committee meeting before department from his three year “interim” position on June 30.

While the contract’s pay compensation increase is sparse for most teachers – two percent over two years – the membership approved the union’s package overwhelmingly, said Sullivan.

“We had a lot of questions on salaries in our meeting last week,” said Sullivan, having met with his membership for an hour before the votes was taken last week.

Modest increase in salary

“There was faith in the team and trusted the work that we had done with the school committee. … [the] compensation package allows Belmont to say competitive in retain and attract highly-qualified teachers,” said Sullivan.

In a recent Boston Business Journal report, Belmont teachers ranked 30th in state according to salary information from 2011 with an average teacher’s salary of just lower than $80,000.

“We remain on that upper level of compensation with other towns so we are competitive,” said Sullivan.

The relatively modest pay increases for Belmont teachers in this contract is based on the acceptance by both sides that the town is unlikely to see any appreciable increase in available revenue for the foreseeable future.

The realization Belmont relies heavily on residential property taxes – whose increases are limited to 2 1/2 percent annually – while lacking the capacity to generate tax revenue from new growth such as commercial real estate or fees restricted what the union could ask for and the town to give.

“The agreements provide for compensation in line with projected annual School Department revenues for fiscal years 2015, 2016, and 2017,” said the School Committee press release.

Both the committee and Sullivan said the most important issue facing the sides was that the district “remains committed to attract and retain a highly qualified staff that meets the needs of our students,” according the committee’s press release.

The other major agreement achieved in the contract is job protection for paraprofessional such as teacher’s aides. The new contract states that at the end of the 2015-16 school year, no [paraprofessional] who has successfully completed five years of service can only be dismissed with “good cause.” In addition, a new evaluation system will be jointly negotiated during the upcoming school year.

“We have a highly-dedicated group of professional aides that does a great job supporting students. It’s a sign of respect and [they] feel better with their position within the district,” said Sullivan.

In addition to the job protections for the aides, the agreements also provides the standardization of clerical personnel job classifications and pay-for-performance benefits to directors and assistant principals, said the press release.

The agreement continues the “step and lane” salary schedule in which teachers receive pay for years of service and education level they achieve.

Kingston said while he continues to believe “step and lane” compensation is “unsustainable,” he said this contracts mitigates the formula by acknowledging the limits on revenue growth.

Both sides agreed that employing in part the principles of interest-based bargaining – in which both sides expressed their underlying interests for each request – greatly assisted the negotiation process.

The committee and the town will also be created a Joint Labor-Management Committee to “continue addressing district-wide issues of mutual concern,” said the press release.

“It’s building on the relationships we’ve established so we won’t have as many items in three years with the next contract,” said Sullivan.

“We don’t want to put everything on hold for three years,” said Slap.

The specific details of the agreements are available on the Belmont School Department’s website under the School Committee tab in the next few days.

Things to Do Today: Digital Help, Summer Reading for Kids, Bridge at the Beech

• The Belmont Public Library is providing one-on-one Digital Library Help from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Reference Room. Learn how to download eBooks from the library and set up a device. Get started with Zinio to read free digital magazines. E-mail and Internet basics, social media, or basic computer skills. Registration is required; register online or call 617-993-2870 to register by phone. Some services require downloading an app. Please come prepared with your Apple ID, Adobe ID, Amazon Account information or other password and log in information for your device.

• The Belmont Public Library has begun its annual Children’s Summer Reading Program that will run until Aug. 15 for those entering preschool to 6th grade. Registration is already underway: read for a chance to win a book, attend a pizza party and other prizes. Head over to the Library’s Children’s Room for more info.

• Duplicate Bridge Club meets from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Beech Street Center at 266 Beech St. Every Wednesday the club holds American Contact Bridge League-sanctioned games. All are welcome to play. Cost is $7. Call 339-223-6484 for more information.

• On this day in 1950, the Korean War begins with the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. Seventy-four years before, in 1876, the Battle of the Little Bighorn in what was the Montana Territory was fought in which a force led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was annihilated by a coalition of Native American tribes; Custer was killed, as were 267 of his men including two of his brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law.


Things to Do Today: Preventing Fraud at the Beech, Gentle Yoga for All

Gentle Yoga, a great way to end the work day, begins today and runs on continuous Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. through Sept. 2. at the Beech Street Center. This is a non-Council on Aging evening class that is open to all ages  in Belmont. The cost is $15 per session or $130 for 10 sessions.

• Belmont Police Department Lt. Kristin Daly, joined by representatives from the Massachusetts Bankers Association and Springwell, will present a timely lecture on “Preventing Fraud” at the Beech Street Center from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Learn about the types of scams and fraud that exist and financial exploitation of seniors. Get practical advice about how to prevent becoming a victim.

• The Underwood Pool Building Committee is meeting with the Conservation Commission at 7 p.m. in Town Hall for the public meeting on the $5,2 million pool complex slated to replace the existing 102-year-old pool.

• The Belmont School Committee will meet at 7:30 p.m. at the Chenery Middle School, 95 Washington St. to discuss and vote whether to accept using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test in place of the MCAS test to assess Belmont students’ learning progress.

• On this day in 1846, the saxophone is patented by Adolphe Sax in Paris.

Moving on Up: Wellington 4th Graders Exit Towards Middle School

IMG_1323It was a bit past 11 a.m. on Friday, June 20, the last day of school for students at the Roger Wellington Elementary School, and the crowd of parents packed the edge of the school’s front walkway.

Smartphones were on camera mode, iPads held aloft and cameras at the ready as the school prepared to bid farewell to their latest batch of fourth graders as they would head up Goden Street next year to the Chenery Middle School with a “moving up” celebration for the “graduating” students.

In the tradition of graduation celebrations at the high school, elementary schools and the Chenery are incorporating final day of school events for fourth and eighth graders to help students transition to their next school, and saying goodbye to teachers and staff (and the school) one last time.

“It’s a very exciting day; he’s very excited to go into the Chenery,” said Rene Hudson, mom of fourth grader Bruce.

“It’s a big transition for him as he’s my oldest,” said Hudson who will be coming to two more celebrations when her pair of younger children move on in the next few years.

Finally, after touring the inside of the school one final time, the fourth graders emerged – many wearing “Exiting Wellington” blue T-shirts – led by Principal Amy Spangler and Gwen Irish was retiring Friday after 42 years as a second grade teacher at the school.

Moms and dads gave out flowers, kisses and high fives to the bemused students alternated between the happy state of being on summer recess and the melancholy of saying so long to teachers and friends.

“It’s sad because you’re leaving your teachers but going to the Chenery is exciting because of new teachers, new friends. That’s awesome,” said fourth grader Talia Fiore, while nearby a few students had tears in their eyes.

As students – now playing in the turf field and eating popsicles – were looking forward to a new school, teachers viewed the day as the culmination of one adventure.

The ocean was fourth grade teacher Samantha McCabe’s theme this year for her class at the Roger Wellington Elementary School on Orchard Street, with her students being her “little sea turtles.”

“I’m with the children at the best times of their lives,” said McCabe.

And on the final day of the school year, McCabe’s pupils finally reached the shore.

“So we’re all pretty emotional because they are graduating and moving on to a new part of their lives and I will always be a part of this moment.”

“It’s the most amazing moment of my life,” said the seven-year veteran as parents and student wanted one final hug with her.

Belmontonian Op-Ed: Saving the World

As Americans, living in the First World, our quality of life is pretty much taken for granted. When you wear jewelry, eat food, use your phone, have a drink of water, or even just take in a deep breath of fresh air, you don’t think about how you have all of these things or where you get them from. My World Geography class this year has influenced what I think my role on this planet is.

I had never thought about my effect on people I hadn’t even met before, and I’d never thought about how different other people’s lives could be. For example, before learning about both the slums and wealthy parts of Lagos, Nigeria, I’d never thought about how you could see such a noticeable line between the poor and wealthy. The slums, with dirty sewage water and open pipes in the streets, separated from towering skyscrapers and tourists everywhere, by a wall. How, in Rio de Janiero, people were being forced out of their homes to make room for stadiums built for the 2016 Olympics. I never thought water could be a source of political power, like in the Jordan River in the Middle East, where one side flourishes with water while the other slowly wastes away.

I used to think that my role on this planet would just be to grow up and live my life, not giving a thought about the things that we’ve learned in this class. But, this class has spread awareness to the students, like how workers in China at FoxConn, and at Amazon’s factories aren’t treated right. Big companies trick and deceive to find cheap labor. Smog and pollution threaten megacities of people’s health and oceans underwater. Because of this class dropping reality hammers almost every day, I’ve learned that the world is a cruel place and that things aren’t always fair.

But I’ve also learned that there are people that are fighting against injustice, that knowing and learning about the mistreatment in itself is a form of power. So this class may not have taught us a great world where everyone is equal. What it has given to me is truth. That there isn’t really black and white, that it’s all spread out, alternating tints of gray. There are good things, like saving cultures, technology shaping the world and helping people’s lives, innovation, progress, and cute animals like llamas and yaks. The bad verses the good, sometimes you can’t tell. But knowing and spreading information can start a revolution just like a wildfire. We can stop people’s homes from flooding, save the Bajau water people on the island of Borneo, get rid of plastic from the stomachs of birds, and so much more, if we all know something and pass it on. If it isn’t right, speak up. Let other people know.

My role on this planet is to save the world by learning and teaching. The earth may not be the best place right now, but it’s ours. We have so much power in our own hands, being privileged Americans. We have free speech, the ability to learn and explore, and we should make use of this. Information can save the world, and awareness is the key to changing your life.

Lara Zeng

Student in Andrew Semuels’  7th Grade World Geography class

Chenery Middle School 

School Committee, Teachers Set to Sign Three-Year Contract Tuesday

After nearly a year of weekly negotiations and late-night meetings, the Belmont School Committee and the Belmont Education Association, the agent for Belmont’s classroom instructors, will sign a new three-year memoranda of agreement at the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The contact will be signed by BEA President John Sullivan. The BEA represents the district’s school teachers, assistant principals, coordinators, teacher aides/instructional support staff and campus monitors.

Sources contacted by the Belmontonian would not go into detail on the specifics in the contract including the percentage salary increase or whether the two sides have agreed to continue the “steps and lanes” salary schedule. Steps refer to how many years a teacher has been teaching, and lanes refer to how much education the teacher has.

Under the current three-year contract, set to expire on Aug. 31, first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree received $46,546 in fiscal year 2014 while a first year educator with a PhD would earn $55,788. At the top end, a PhD with 15 years of work experience makes just under $100,000.

Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston – who is leaving his position on June 30 – has been publicly critical of the steps and lanes schedules as pay increases are automatically given to educators without consideration for performance. Other critics contend an across-the-board pay increase would be a fair substitute of the current structure.

Supporters of the current pay schedule say that it provides transparency as they are based on easily quantifiable measures ensuring equitable salaries without biases towards teachers and allows those educators to plan for the future by giving them a reasonable assurance of their yearly income.