Belmont Hires State Bureau Director To Run Town/School Facilities

Photo: Stephen Dorrance.

Belmont has been on a hiring spree since the beginning of the New Year with a new Town Administrator, Light Department director and a principal for the Wellington all coming on board.

And this week, the town welcomes a new facilities director who comes from the ranks of the state bureau of facilities.

“We finally found someone,” said Town Administrator Patrice Garvin as she introduced Stephen Dorrance – an hour later than expected – to the Board of Selectmen at its Thursday night meeting, April 12. Garvin said Dorrance was one of four finalists and his qualifications rose to the top.

Dorrance comes to Belmont having worked for the past four years as a multi-site facilities director for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, responsible for the building management and maintenance, regulatory compliance and environmental services at four hospital campuses – Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, Pappas Rehabilitation Hospital for Children, Tewksbury Hospital and Western Massachusetts Hospital – that houses 45 buildings, 800 beds, high pressure boiler/power plants, 10 miles of roadway, 1,000 acres of land, and 20 acres of parking.

“I’m looking forward to this. I’ve been a member of the National Trust for Historical Preservation for 20 years and love the character of Belmont,” Dorrance said, and will seek to “make these old, beautiful buildings even more beautiful.” 

Dorrance, who has a BS from Suffolk and a Master’s from Harvard, is now responsible for maintaining more than one million square feet of buildings and grounds under the control of the Board of Selectman and the School Committee since the operations merged seven years ago.

Concord’s Assistant Director Selected To Head Belmont Light

Photo: Christopher Roy.

Christopher Roy, the assistant director of the electrical utility in neighboring Concord, was selected Monday afternoon by the town’s Light Board.

Roy “is a rising star in the field. He’s got a vision, a drive and the ability to take Belmont Light to the next level,” said Light Board Chair Adam Dash as the board voted unanimously for Roy who was interviewed by the board, April 9, along with the other finalist, acting Belmont Light General Manager Craig Spinale.

According to Rick White from Groux-White Consulting who facilitated the candidate search, Roy will be hired once a successful negotiation of a contract is finalized, The contract will be from three to five years with a salary ranging from $140,000 to $180,000. 

Tall and confident, Roy carries himself like the athlete he was a 6’4″, 240-pound tight end playing for Tufts back in 2004. In fact, Roy said he values the discipline and respect that a sports background provides him.

The assistant director in Concord for the past five years, Roy said he comes to Belmont knowing the way municipal utilities are structured today may not fit that same way in the future.

“The role of the general manager is to oversee your operation and make sure the utility is growing. In the short term, it’s personnel” with career paths and succession plans while long term, it’s rate adjustments and implementing the greenhouse gas reduction programs” in 2050. “But you have to establish a foundation today.” 

Rates in Belmont, Roy said, are poised to provide revenue for progressive initiatives … “everything is there, the potential is there. It just has to be unlocked.”

The board struggled with the decision saying the decision was “a close call; it would be a tough choice” noting how Spinale took over the general manager’s position in September after “a very difficult and tumultuous time,” said Dash, while also taking up the task of decommissioning the town’s three retired substations.  

I don’t know what more [Spinale] could do and he has done a really, really great job,” said Dash.

If there was one area that impressed the board was Roy’s ability to break down an issue and produce a solution. The members each pointed to Roy’s answer of one of the interview questions which required each candidate to make a seven-minute presentation on Belmont’s electric rates which are higher than surrounding communities and how to maintain or lower them as residents demand energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases.  

Member Mark Paolillo – a self-professed “numbers guy”  – was “fascinated” how Roy dug deep into the Belmont data with an “in-depth analytical analysis of the rates” that showed many areas where Belmont could make great savings. Dash said Roy looked through the numbers and “saw the issue and called it out … and that shows some level of sophistication and then took the numbers and ran with it.” 

Roy also stated while under state general law he has the ability to set policy apart from the board, he would always first look to town government and residents priorities in a collaborative manner rather than strike out on his own. 

“He’s someone who is focused on building a team, the importance of cultivating that team … and a keen idea of making it succeed,” said new board member Tom Caputo. 

“Chris seems really passionate by public power and where he wants to go,” said Paolillo. 

Rinse, Repeat: Belmont High’s Principal Search Back To Square 1 With Interim Head For Next Year

Photo: Belmont High School

They got the candidates they were looking for but like the belle of the ball, everyone wanted to dance with Jonathan Bourn to Belmont’s chagrin. 

While Wellington Elementary has found the right person to lead the school, the search for the educator to succeed Dr. Dan Richards at the helm of Belmont High School – and lead it possibly into its new building in 2022 – goes back to square one as Bourn, the current principal of Norwood High School since 2015 and sole candidate selected by the search committee turned out to be a popular candidate for many communities other than just Belmont. With a good reputation as a youngish educator who can connect with staff and students (but who also rubbed some school committee members the wrong way when he pushed and succeeded to move the school from the Bay State to the Tri-Valley athletic conference), Bourn was sought after to become high school principal in both Medway and Braintree, where he was the only candidate selected from 25 finalists.

Something was amiss when Mary Pederson, the district director of human resources, sent an email on Tuesday, April 10 an “update … on the status” of the high school principal’s search rather than an announcement on a new hire in the opening paragraph.  

Bourn, who resigned as principal of Norwood High School in mid-March, met with Belmont High students, staff, parents and administrators on April 2. But despite passing over a number of qualified candidates to only go forward with Bourn, Pederson said, “after a thorough review and thoughtful consideration of all information gathered through this rigorous process, the decision has been made not to move forward with Mr. Bourn as the next Principal of BHS.”

Coincidently, Braintree announced on Tuesday, April 10 that it would be reopening its search for a new principal as Bourn would not be coming to the South Shore town. Bourn is one of three candidates for the Medway position, which is close to his Walpole home. 

With the ability to hire a principal to manage a highly successful program before the new school year all but nil, Belmont District Superintendent John Phelan is starting a two-pronged approach to run the school. The first is redo a full-fledged candidate search beginning early in the coming school year in the fall of 2018.

But with the reality that Belmont High will not have a permanent leader on board until July 2019 at the earliest, Phelan will appoint by June 1 an interim principal for the 2018-2019 school year from the ranks of retired principals, an internal candidate, or other qualified educational leaders. While interim leaders are in the unenviable position of being a short-term fill in, one needs only look at Belmont’s last interim head, superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston, whose three-year tenure was celebrated as bringing stability and professionalism to the district. 

Somerville’s Franke Selected Next Wellington Principal

Photo: Allison Franke (Linkedin)

Wellington Elementary has found its new principal.

“I am happy to announce that Allison “Alli” Franke has accepted the position of Principal of the Wellington Elementary School. Her work in the District will begin on July 1,” said Mary Pederson, the district’s director of human resources. 

Franke takes the school’s reins from Amy Spangler, who left after five years at the school.

Franke is an assistant principal of Somerville’s Capuano Early Education Center, a pre-K, and Kindergarten school, for nearly four years, after working for four years as a literacy specialist at the Franklin Elementary School in West Newton. She’s held numerous posts in and out of elementary education – including two years as a teacher at Boston Renaissance Charter Public School – after starting her career as a kindergarten and second-grade teacher in the Los Angeles schools for nearly four years beginning in 1998.

A DC native, Franke graduated with a computer science degree from Amherst, earned an Ed.M in Language and Literacy from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and a masters in organizational management from Endicott. 

Opinion: Criminal Justice Reform Lightens Up On The Little Guy

Last week, the legislature sent a broad reform of the criminal justice system to Gov. Baker with a unanimous vote in the Massachusetts State Senate and a near-unanimous vote in the House of Representatives.

The bill is about lightening up on the little guy – the person who has made some mistakes but wants to turn a corner and live right.  If possible, we want to lift that person up instead of locking them up.  And we want to cut away the web of bureaucratic entanglements that make it hard for them to get back on their feet.

For the most dangerous offenders though, the focus has to be on public protection and the bill also gives police and prosecutors a number of useful new tools.

Last fall, both branches produced and approved comprehensive criminal justice packages that examined the system from front to back.  The bills that each branch produced differed from each other in approach and in hundreds of details.

A bi-partisan, bi-cameral conference committee including three members from the House and three from the Senate (two Democrats and one Republican from each branch) spent the last four months sorting through all the pieces. We considered and discussed each piece individually and we hope we succeeded in re-assembling a balanced bill, each piece of which actually works. We hope and believe that the final bill is really a better bill than either branch started with.

On the same day that the legislature approved the results of our conference negotiations, it also voted through a bill that speaks specifically to the challenges of in-prison rehabilitation programming and the re-entry process. That bill, which grew out of negotiations in the 2015-6 session, complements the larger package.

Much of the conversation in the press over the past few years has been about a few hot-button issues, especially mandatory minimums for drug offenders. The package does knock out some of the mandatories that currently apply even to little guys who are not selling opiates. 

But people serving drug mandatory minimums account for a relatively small portion of incarceration (10 or 15 percent) at the state level and the need for reform goes beyond the problem of high incarceration rates.  The criminal justice system is a sprawling bureaucracy. As a case moves through the system, dozens of decisions get made and offenders ultimately have to work very hard to meet the sometimes-conflicting requirements of officials who control their lives.

We have passed a bill that makes responsible changes in every stage of the system to reduce the burdens that the system places on people and their families. At the same time, we have passed a bill that, in many respects, makes the public safer.

Most issues in criminal justice involve hard judgment calls and many are deeply controversial. They are the kind of difficult issues that many seek to avoid. I’m very grateful to the leadership of the House and Senate for giving us the green light to move a big bill forward. And I’m grateful to every single member of the House and the Senate for stepping up to the plate to offer creative ideas and to cast difficult votes on many complex issues.

I’ve published complete details on the package at and will also be very happy to answer questions or hear concerns at or 617-722-1280.

Will Brownsberger

State Senator, Second Suffolk and Middlesex

Winter Wonders: Belmont High Globe All-Scholastics and League All-Stars Named

Photo: Julia Martin, alpine all-star.

Four Belmont High School winter athletes took home regional honors from the Boston Globe by being names Eastern Massachusetts All-Scholastics in their sports. In addition, the Middlesex League released its list of Belmont all-stars which included a record eight members of the league winning Boys’ Swimming team.

Carly Christofori (Girls’ Basketball), Julia Martin (Alpine skiing), Anoush Krafian and Calvin Perkins (Indoor Track) were selected All-Scholastics athletes by the Boston Globe.

  • The Middlesex League MVP, Krafian ended her indoor high school career winning the state pentathlon crown and three days later the 55-meter hurdles and placing second in the high jump in the All-State meet. She would go on to place 5th in the pentathlon in the National meet in New York.
  • Martin, who dominated the league this season, finished fourth in the giant slalom and 10th in the slalom at the state championship.
  • A four-year starter and Middlesex League MVP, Christofori lead Belmont to the Division 1 North finals in the team’s first year in the upper division.
  • Perkins turned in the second-best time nationally in the indoor 600 meters and won the All-State meet and is a member of Belmont’s All-American 4×400 mix relay team that placed 6th in the National meet.

The Belmont athletes who were selected Middlesex All-Stars include: 

Girls Basketball: Carly Christofori, Jess Giorgio, Megan Tan.

Girls Hockey: Meg Higgins, Rachel Iler-Keniston.

Girls Indoor Track: Carey Allard, Olivia Cella, Emily Duffy, Anoush Krafian, Alexa Sabatino, Soleil Tseng.

Girls Alpine Skiing: Ashley Green, Julia Martin.

Boys Hockey: Kevin Dacey, Steve Rizzuto.

Boys Swimming: Ilias Arredouani, Damien Autissier, Antony Bulat, Luc Durand, Will Findlay, Tor Metelmann, Samuel Thompson, Rickey Ye.

Boys Alpine Skiing: Nicolas Coppolo, Max Vigneras.

Boys Basketball: Danny Yardemian.

Belmont World Film’s International Festival Takes You To An Indonesia Spaghetti Western

Photo: A scene from “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts”

The Belmont World Film annual International Series presents the New England premier of the 2017 Indonesian film “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” tonight, Monday, April 9 at Belmont’s Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Rd.

A witty and darkly subversive revenge movie about a young widow who turns the tables on her would-be attackers. Deeply rooted in the cultural and geopolitical landscapes of Indonesia, this eastern-style Spaghetti Western is also a welcome change from male-centric cinema culture.

The night’s guest speaker will be Veronika Kusumaryati, a native of Indonesia and a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology/Film and Visual Studies at Harvard.

For more information contact:
Belmont World Film
P.O. Box 104
Belmont, MA 02478
Telephone: 617-484-3980

Want Talent? Come To Belmont Idol This Friday

Photo: Past Idol winner Lea Grace Swinson.

American Idol? How about something much better: Belmont Idol!

Everyone – students, residents, families – are invited to attend this year’s talent competition taking place on Friday, April 6 at 7 p.m. in the Belmont High School auditorium. 

Expect solo acts, groups, musicians, rappers and more talent than one stage can hold. And they mean talent: Lea Grace Swinson, Belmont High class of ’17, who won Belmont Idol as a freshman was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music.

Tickets can be purchased at the door:

Students: $10

Adults: $15

Kids under 12: $5

All proceeds to benefit diversity programming at Belmont High School.

Running Riot: Belmont Girls’ Rugby Romp Over Algonquin In Season Opener

Photo: Belmont’s Grace Christensen racing to her second try against Algonquin. 

After losing players to graduation (the entire front line), injury or interest in other activities, Head Coach Kate McCabe of Belmont High’s Girls’ Rugby Team wanted to see just what sort of squad would they have as they prepare to defend their 2017 MIAA State Championship against a slew of new teams entering the sport this year.

And it appeared the season’s opener would be a good test as the Marauders hosted Algonquin Regional, the team it narrowly defeated in the championship game last June.

If Wednesday’s game were an exam, you’d be giving the team an A-plus as Belmont ran riot over the T-Hawks scoring ten tries (a better-known equivalent is a touchdown in football) to romp to a 54-0 win before a nice-sized crowd at Harris Field.

“Yeah, that [score] was a surprise,” said Marauder’s scrum-half and senior captain Jess Rosenstein after the match. “They are the definition of a ‘tough’ team. They are a forward attacking team, so we had to prepare for that.”

It didn’t help Algonquin’s cause losing two starters in the first eight minutes to seeming injuries, but it wasn’t likely a game changer as Belmont was ready to set an early marker of its dominance on the field.

With a good mix of returning players and several youngsters in their first-ever game, Belmont dominated the important areas of the game including winning rucks – restarts after a player is on the ground – and scrums where Rosenstein was outstanding in delivering the ball to the outside wingers. The Marauders also won most of the one-on-one battles as its collective tackling was a difference maker as Algonquin could not find an offensive rhythm.

Where last year’s team was known for its grinding, physical offense that tired out opponents to score, this first game saw a squad that created room inside and outside to run at will. Junior fullback Gabriella Viale found just such an opening at the 15-minute mark and sprinted 20 meters for the first try of the year. Three minutes later, junior Number Eight Grace Christensen stiff-armed her way 70 meters down the left sideline to up the score to 12-0.

Another Belmont veteran, junior right wing Hannah Hlotyak, took a pass and outran the opposition at the 21-minute mark to give Belmont a 17-0 margin. While Algonquin was able to gain possession, the Marauders’ defenders tackling, led by several solid hits by Lock Maddie Mulkern, kept pushing the T-Hawk back for losses while dominating side-outs and winning the ball in scrums and rucks. 

Belmont ended the half with its fourth try as Rosenstein took a big chance and kept the ball from a scrum and scampered 40 meters through the middle of Algonquin’s backs to put the Marauders’ took a 24-0 lead after the first 35 minutes.

It took Viale just 80 seconds into the second half to sprint down, this time, the right sideline to put the game out of reach at 29-0. The remaining 33 minutes was a lopsided affair with Belmont’s ball distributing in midseason form as the Marauders’ threatened to score at any time. Mulkern, Hlotyak’s second and Johanna Matulonis’ first-ever try scored by the midpoint of the half while Hook Elise Ferriera driving try was followed by a terrific sprint by newbie Calista Weissman who outran the T-Hawks left side and nearly lost her shorts from a failed last-ditch attempt to stop her from scoring.

“It was a little strange to win this way, but we’ll take it,” said Rosenstein.

Belmont will be on the road against Needham and Lincoln-Sudbury before returning to Harris Field next month when it hosts the first-year varsity squad from Weymouth on Wednesday, May 9 at 6 p.m.

Obituary: William ‘Bill’ Skelley; Former Selectman, ‘A True Belmontian’

Photo: William R. Skelley III (Linkedin)

William R. Skelley III, a born and bred Belmontan who served two terms as a Selectman and was known for the honesty and high integrity he brought to town government, died on April 3, 2018, in hospice care in New Hampshire.

Skelley, 70, died from a reoccurrence of cancer he fought for several years, according to close friends.

“He was a mentor to me, one of the best persons who served on the board,” said Mark Paolillo, who spoke to Skelley a few weeks ago. “He was a true Belmontian who served his hometime in a quiet but efficient way.”

“Skelley had a very passionate love for Belmont,” said Jim Staton, a longtime Belmont town official. 

Skelley grew up on Warwick Road with his brothers and sisters. Skelley’s father, William Skelley, spent 40 years on the Cambridge Fire Department retiring as a Lieutenant firefighter in 1982. His mother, Edna K. (Sullivan) Skelley, was a long-time supporter of a Belmont Senior Center. 

An outstanding athlete and student at Belmont schools, Skelley was senior class president at Belmont High School – he was known as “Mr. Belmont High School” – as well as football co-captain his senior year. He was also a member of Belmont’s Division 2 state championship team the previous year.

After graduating from Belmont, Skelley matriculated at Harvard College, playing football for the Crimson and graduating in  1970. He earned a Master’s in History from Boston College in 1972 and an MBA from Boston University in 1976.

Living on Common Street with his wife, Linda, and children, the 1990s was Skelley’s time in town government first elected to Town Meeting from Precinct 5 in 1990. Due to his business background – he worked for Polaroid for nearly a quarter century in customer service and technical support – he was appointed to the Warrant Committee the next year. He was recruited to run for selectman by then-selectman Walter Flewelling and was elected in 1994 and serving until 2000, the final three years as vice chair.

“While he did have differences with other members of the board, he was always looking to do what was best for Belmont,” said Paolillo. Many highlighted Skelley’s involvement in the first Financial Task Force and his major role on the McLean Hospital land agreement. “He also tried to unite what was at times a contentious board. He could do that because he had no ill will to anyone,” said Paolillo. 

Staton said one area Skelley should be praised was his commitment to equality in all areas, as he reached out to Boston innercity youths.

“He was also quite interested in the town’s kids,” said former Board of Health Chair David Alper, who noted Skelley advocated for a Youth Commission to support Belmont’s younger residents. Nearly everyone said Skelley had a “special spot” for youth sports, volunteering on the fields and in the rinks and supporting every team with his presence.

Skilley founded Skelley Medical Company in 1997 which was headquartered in Cushing Square until he moved the operation to Hollis, NH at the invitation of then-Gov. John Lynch, which ended his involvement in Belmont government and saw him uproot to New Hampshire. The firm was praised by President Obama and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and was recognized as the Exporter of the Year for both New Hampshire and New England by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2012.

The company, whose mission was “the reduction of global healthcare costs by providing affordable comprehensive medical equipment solutions,” filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2015, a year after a federal lawsuit was filed against it by a Panama-based investment firm.

With his business closed, Skelley began reconnecting with his hometown, having converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He attended the 50th anniversary of the Marauders championship football team and became a leader in the Veterans Memorial Committee which is seeking to build a new memorial at Clay Pit Pond.

“Bill got involved with the memorial committee not because he was a veteran; he wanted those who did serve to be recognized for what they did for the town and country,” said former Selectman Angelo Firenze, the committee’s president.

His wife, the former Linda Phelps, died a year ago in May just as the couple returned to Belmont. The couple raised their three children, William, Christopher and Maryelizabeth (Fiengo), in Belmont. He was the brother of Barbara Skelley of Belmont, Cathleen Mullins and her husband Kevin of Waltham and the late Ann Marie Carey and Mary Elizabeth Skelley.

Visting hours will be at Stanton Funeral Home, 786 Mt. Auburn St., in Watertown on Friday, April 6 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A celebration of the Funeral Mass will be held in the Church of St. Luke, 132 Lexington St. on Saturday, April 7 at 9 a.m. Burial will take place at Highland Meadows Cemetery in Belmont.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Community Hospice House, 210 Naticook Rd, Merrimack, NH 03054 would be appreciated.

Correction: Mr. Skelley’s name was incorrectly written the headline. We regret the error.