Starbucks Returns To Cushing Square, Opening In Mid-June

Photo: Starbucks returns to Cushing Square.

Caffeine lovers, hipsters and teenagers, rejoice! Starbucks is returning to Cushing Square with an opening in the second week of June.

The multinational coffeehouse chain with 30,000 stores worldwide came before the Select Board on May 29 at Belmont High School to obtain a common victualler license which was granted unanimously.

“We’re still probably not going to be able to open for about another week or so trying to finish up the site, make sure it’s safe in the public,” said Daniel Brennan who works for dpb Design Consultants which partners with Starbucks on permitting and licensing.

“We don’t have a concrete [opening] date but after talking to the construction manager, it will probably be a week to two weeks after Friday [May 31], when we get our certificate of occupancy,” said Brennan.

Daniel Brennan, dpb
Design Consultants

Brennan said the store will likely have a “soft” opening. “[Starbucks] usually does a ‘friends and family’ where they invite the employees and their families so they can test out all the equipment and get it going,” he said.

The best approach for the public to know when the store is open “is go by and see people inside.”

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin noted the health department has signed off on the site.

The 42 seat store will have 25 to 35 employees working on the site. There will be approximately 20 off-street parking spaces adjacent to the location between two buildings.

While the store will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Brennan asked the board to approve a closing time of 10 p.m. which was permitted in the special permit approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“We will likely want the later time after it is open so we don’t want to come back for the change,” said Brennan.

Advise And Consent: Town Meeting Opens Budget Season With Roll Call Q&A

Photo: Mike Widmer, Belmont’s Town Moderator.

While the second half of Belmont’s annual Town Meeting is dedicated to all things budgets and numbers, the reconvened gathering of the town’s legislative body tonight, Wednesday, May 29, will have the opportunity to give its “advise and consent” on the contentious matter of roll call votes.

The evening’s appetizer is six questions presented by Town Moderator Mike Widmer to the approximately 290 Town Meeting members to obtain an “informal sense” of the body regarding the parameters and procedures for recorded votes.

During the first session of Town Meeting in April, roll calls were requested on a series of votes including several which the articles passed by sizable margins. While many seeking recorded votes said their goal was greater transparency by elected members, others viewed it as “vote shaming” (there’s an app for that) to point out those who made unpopular votes.

The answers to the questions will be “strictly advisory and non-binding” and used to inform Widmer, the Select Board and “others” whether to consider any potential articles on the topic at a future Town Meeting.

The questions include yes or no answers to when an automatic roll call should be used instead of anonymous vote (all the time vs only on close margins) and what is the threshold percentage or number of members needed to have a roll call and whether to use percentages or a member count.

“Town Meeting seems quite divided on the issue of roll calls, some arguing for roll calls on every article while others wanting to raise the 35-person requirement,” said Widmer.

“I have no way of knowing how many support which position and of course there are lots of alternatives beyond these two positions. I think it will be helpful to get a sense of [Town Meeting] in order to develop a proposal with the Select Board to be presented at the fall Town Meeting,” said Widmer.

While the objective of the pre-meeting Q&A is to find the sense of Town Meeting, the decisions could dampen or accelerate citizens petitions seeking to force the issue.

An article at fall Town Meeting on the future of the hows and whys of roll call voting will likely be driven by the Select Board. And so far the three-member board is keeping an open mind on the issue.

“We haven’t made any decision to take any action at this point,” said Tom Caputo, chair of the Select Board at Tuesday’s groundbreaking for the Belmont Middle and High School. “But we’re pleased that [Widmer] is putting those questions in front of town meeting and looking to get their feedback and we’ll take action from there.”

“I think the [Select Board] wants to make sure that we are helping to support town meeting and ensuring that we are both achieving accountability, but also minimizing some of the more acrimonious activities than we’ve seen in in the last couple of Town Meetings,” he said.

Waltham’s Okie Named Burbank’s Interim Principal

Photo: The rear of the Burbank School.

Waltham educator J. Seeley Okie has been named interim principal of the Burbank Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year, according to a news release from Belmont Superintendent John Phelan.

He will begin his tenure at the Burbank on July 1.

For the past seven years, Okie was an assistant principal at the MacArthur Elementary School in Waltham. Prior to becoming an administrator, Okie taught third and fourth grade in the Natick Public Schools, the Charles River School in Dover, and the Keys School in Palo Alto, Calif. Okie began his career in education as a K-12 science teacher in the Foothills Academy, Wheatridge, Colo.

Okie earned a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Colby College. He obtained a Master’s Degree in School Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Lesley College.

Belmont High’s ‘Little Shop’ Secure Multiple Nominations For State Theater Awards

Photo: The poster.

Feed me those nominations, Seymour!

The Belmont High School Performing Arts Company production of “Little Shop of Horrors” was nominated for a slew of awards by the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild which announced nominations for their annual MET Musical Theater Awards last week.

“A huge congratulations goes first and foremost to the entire student cast and crew of the show,” said Ezra Flam, Performing Arts Company’s Producer/Director.

Forty-nine High Schools across the state submitted productions for consideration this year which were seen by three adjudicators who scored the shows in a number of categories. In each category, the five or six highest scoring productions or individuals were nominated for their work.

The show was nominated for:

• Best Lighting Design

• Best Scenic Design

• Best Sound Design

• Best Orchestra

• Best Dance Ensemble

• Best Choral Ensemble

• Best Technical Crew

• Best Lead Actor: Sammy Haines as Seymour Krelborn

“The range of categories in which we were nominated encompasses the work of virtually every student involved in the show.  It’s a testament to the hard work of all of our students who put so much of their time, energy and passion into the show,” said Flam, who congratulated several staff members and students “whose work with the PAC is invaluable.”

Anastasia Elliot, Vocal Director

Jenny Lifson, Choreographer

Arto Asadoorian, Pit Band Director

Chris Fournier, Lighting Designer

Anna Moss and Ian O’Malley, Set Design and Technical Direction

Lila West, Costume Designer

Christin Rills, Puppet Coordinator

Sophia Shen ’19 Lights Crew Chief

Molly Annus ’20, Neal Lonergan ’20, Set Crew Chiefs

Sam Lubarr ’19, Adrine Kaligian ’20, Stage Managers

Eliana Roberts ’19, Sound Crew Chief

“Of course, far more than any public recognition, I am proud of the show and of the work of the Performing Arts Company as a whole,” said Flam.

“I am lucky to work every day with a wonderful group of students and colleagues.”

Final Race: Brendan’s Home Run 5K Ends After 18 Years This Father’s Day

Photo: The start of the Brendan’s Home Run 5K.

For 17 years, Belmont celebrated the life of a young resident with a road race that became a Father’s Day tradition.

But the 18th edition will be the last as the Brendan’s Home Run 5K finishes its long successful run on Sunday, June 16.

“This is the final year of the road race,” said Casey Grant, president of the Brendan Grant Foundation and father of Brendan who died in 2001 after a collision while playing baseball.

“There’s a lot of good memories. And we’ve done a lot of good. But the effort to put on a race that both residents and some really good runners want to attend is just enormous,” he said during a break at the Memorial Weekend Baseball Tournament that took place Saturday.

(In a related note, due to the construction of the Belmont Middle and High School, this year will be the last for the tournament at its present location, the Brendan Grant Memorial Field.)

Grant cited a number of factors for ending the event, but foremost was losing key people who supported it for two decades. The most significant loss was race director and vice president of the foundation Brian Rogers who died suddenly last year, which Grant called a “shock beyond shock.”

“[Rogers] was quite honestly, the champion of that whole effort from the very beginning” when the race started in 2002, said Grant.

The race – which serves as a fundraiser for the foundation – started small but grew each year under Rogers’ tutelage. An experienced runner, Rogers handled the “incredibly intense volunteer effort” that attracted young up-and-coming runners including an Olympian (London 2012’s Steph Reilly from Ireland), numerous US Olympic Trails participants, NCAA national champions, marathon winners (Belmont’s own Becca Pizzi), families, joggers, plodders, walkers and for many years a famous astronaut, Apollo 11’s Micheal Collins.

“It’s just people generally do not understand how much work goes into. It’s enormous and it’s brutal,” Grant said.

While the race was successful, Grant said he and Rogers felt for the past few years the time was approaching for the race to come to a conclusion.

“Brian and I used to talk about having a logical end for the race and actually going out on top, and not withering on the vine,” said Grant. Rather than find a replacement for Rogers – “You know that was impossible” – Grant and the foundation decided this year would be the last.

“Here it is, the race’s 18th year, and Brendan was 18 when he passed on, and we thought, you know, it was time,” said Grant. “We clearly want to do it one last time, and honor all these wonderful people have done so much over the years, and really, given tremendous amounts.”

Each participant will receive a tribute booklet in their runners packet “to honor all these great athletes as well as all these people who’ve passed on and support them,” said Grant.

Belmont Girls’ Lax ‘Ride The Wave’ To Playoffs, First Time Since 2012

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Lacrosse seniors: (from left) Kelsey Hanley, Julia Casey, Marissa Cecca (co-capt.), Breah Healey, Lindsey Gaziano (co-capt.), Mia Kaldenbaugh (co-capt.).

Belmont High Girls’ Lacrosse Head Coach Katy Ananian said one of the top goals of her third season in charge of the Marauders was a return to the MIAA Division 2 East sectional tournament which has eluded the program for the past seven years.

“They deserve [the playoffs] this year,” said Ananian of her young team with seven sophomores and a freshman on varsity. “They really earned it.”

Anaian and the team can now check that box as the Marauders secured their place in the postseason for the first time since 2012 with a convincing 19-9 victory over hosts Stoneham on Thursday, May 23.

Senior co-captain Marissa Cecca

The victory gave Belmont its ninth victory (along with eight losses) of the season that has been as streaky – it opened the season with five victories followed by a four and then three-game losing streaks – as it is successful.

“I tell them that we can’t take our foot off the gas for the rest of the season. Every single thing matters whether it’s at practice when they’re picking up a ground ball, it’s going to affect us in the long run,” said Ananian after a victory against Quincy.

The victory allowed the Marauders to forego a “win or go home” scenario in the last game of the season at Newton North where Ananian will match wits with her sister, Abby Ananian, the Tigers’ head coach.

With the exception of a few games against the best teams in the league, Belmont has battled in each contest, led by a strong defensive crew made up of seniors Mia Kaldenbaugh (a co-captain) and Leah Gaziano along with sophomore Ashley Green. The team is backstopped by another sophomore goalkeeper Kendall Whalen, who is becoming a steady shot blocker in net.

Speedster senior co-captain Marissa Cecca is one of the quarterbacks of the Marauders’ attack paired with sophomore Ainsley Conroy. Up front, 10th grader Jordan Coppolo and junior Sarah Looney are joined by junior all-star and three-year starter Caroline Findlay who once again is Belmont’s leading scorer. Against Quincy, Findlay tallied her 200th goal of the season, only the fourth Marauder to achieve that mark.

Junior Caroline Findlay with the game ball.

Already committed to attend and play for NCAA Division III powerhouse Franklin and Marshall (which reached the semifinals this year), Findlay said her scoring prowess is a “crazy thing” as she will be a defender in the college game. “But I think I’ve grown so much playing attack.”

Reaching the milestone “is something I’ve been working towards since freshman year but I couldn’t have done it without my coach and teammates constantly pushing me to get better,” said Finlay.

Rokosz Hurls Javalin to Division 2 State Title

Photo: Alex Rokosz on the pitch for Belmont High.

Belmont High Senior Alex Rokosz brought home a state championship medal from the Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships held on a breezy Saturday morning, May 25, at Merrimack College.

Seeded fourth coming into the meet, Rokosz took the title with a throw a personal best of 167 feet, 6-inches beating back the efforts of Central Catholic teammates Brendan Cesati (165’9″) and top seed Lewy Baez-Troncoso (162’9″).

Rokosz now heads to the All-State Meet on Thursday, May 30 at Westfield State University.

Alex follows in the footsteps of his older sister, Katrina Rokosz, who took third in the javalin in the Division III meet and then threw at the National meet in 2016.

Both Rokosz’s were outstanding soccer players for Belmont High School.

School Committee OKs Grade Reconfiguration At Schools In 2023

Photo: The Chenery will be seeking a new name when the new Middle and High School opens in 2023.

With construction beginning on the new Belmont Middle and High School in less than a month, Belmont School Committee voted unanimously at its Tuesday, May 21 meeting to approve changing the grade configuration at each of Belmont’s six public schools.

When the Middle and High School opens in the fall of 2023, the district will place grades K-3 in the four elementary schools, grades 4-6 at the Chenery with grades 7-12 occupying the new school building on Concord Avenue.

The recommendation came from the Reconfiguration Working Group, one of the groups formed as part of the District Configuration Education Plan.

The reasons the working group advocated the changes include:

● There is no conclusive research that one configuration is better than another; rather, the research speaks to the need to ensure smooth, positive transitions from one school to the next. In addition, the grade groupings of K-3 and 4-6 are similar developmentally while the working groups believes 5th and 6th grade students will benefit from being with a younger grade.

The change will both free up space for other uses including additional classrooms at the five lower schools – Burbank, Butler, Wellington, Winn Brook, and Chenery – and allow the removal of the modular classrooms at the Burbank and the Chenery.

● There will be increased opportunity for teacher collaboration among 4th grade teachers, and vertically with teachers in grades 5 and 6.

One consequence of the changes will require a name change for the Chenery as it will no longer house the middle school. One suggestion that came during an earlier School Committee meeting for the new moniker is the Chenery Upper Elementary School.

Belmont joins the city of Boston in reconfiguring its school district. Boston is eliminating middle schools and creating two major grade configuration to reduce the number of times students switch schools with lower-grade schools ending after sixth or eight grade.

Thesis, Capstone, And Change At Belmont High School [Video]

Photo: The 2019 award recipients of the Blacker Prize: (from left) Alexander Park (third place), Abigail Mohr (first place), Cameron Anderson (second place).

It’s one of the anticipated events of the school year as the Belmont High School English Department hosted the annual Lillian F. Blacker Prizes for Excellence in Writing on Wednesday, May 15, in the Peter Holland Library.

This time, there was something extra on the afternoon’s agenda: change. Prior to the ceremony was a presentation of the department’s inaugural senior English Capstone projects which will likely be what most seniors in the future will choose as their year-long endeavor in critical thinking.

“It’s going to be a big and exciting change for this community,” said Lindsey Rinder, director of English, ELE, and Reading for the Belmont Public Schools.

In the past 25 years, the capstone project has become the serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience for students has become the standard in both upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses.

Established last year at Belmont High, the pilot program re-envisions the senior thesis as project-based learning. At the beginning of the school year, 81 students – about 30 percent of all seniors – volunteered to take part and worked closely with English teachers Anne-Marie Fant and Kimberly Masterson.

As with the traditional thesis, the capstone students were required to follow a detailed roadmap that included writing an inquiry question on a topic of their choosing, exploring the question in a variety of sources and forms, and completed a portfolio of writing to demonstrate their final thinking on the topic, as well as their intellectual curiosity, said Rinder.

But unlike the thesis which is entirely written, the capstone students employed a wide range of creative outlets to demonstrate their knowledge. Podcasts, museum installations, video documentaries, poetry collections, artworks and fashion were on display as

Rinker believes “most students will be doing a capstone project instead of a senior thesis,” with the exception of AP English students who will continue producing the traditional written thesis.

A report on the capstone program will be presented to the Belmont School Committee on Tuesday, May 21 and the committee will likely vote on Tuesday, June 4 whether to implement the change in the 2019-2020 school year.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation to three seniors for outstanding writing ability on their senior theses. Each student reads, researches, and writes a lengthy paper investigating a literary topic. English faculty members determine the winners after an extensive reading process.

The 2019 prize recipients are Abigail Mohr (first place), Cameron Anderson (second place), and Alexander Park (third place). 

Abigail Mohr: The Tyrant and the Scribbler: Creative Truth-Telling in the Works of Salman Rushdie.h

Cameron Anderson: The “Supreme Vice” and the “Red, Red Rose”: The Varied Attitudes Towards Religion in the Works of Oscar Wilde.

Alexander Park: Sine Honore, Virtute, et Gloria: The Evolution in American Perceptions of its 20th Century Wars

Other notable Theses and Capstones can be viewed here.

Family and friends established the Blacker Prizes more than twenty years ago in memory of Blacker, a longtime Belmont resident who was a director of the Harvard Medical News Office and very active in community affairs as well as a true lover of literature and language, said Rinder.

Belmont High’s Performing Arts Company Ends Season With Two Improv Shows

Photo: The Spring Improv Show will take place on Thursday and Friday

The 35 members of the Belmont High School Performing Arts Company’s Improv Troup will be taking to the Little Theater stage to close out another season of the school’s award-winning student theatrical group.

Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24
7 p.m. in the BHS Little Theater
FREE for Students
$5 for Adults

Come once or on each night: the improv show is guaranteed to be it’s own unique event, featuring games and scenes all made up on the spot based on audience suggestions.

The PAC Improv Troupe performs twice a year with the spring show featuring short form favorites along with long-form structures.