Chenery Greets New Interim Principal As Kate Conway Accepts Position

Photo: Chenery Middle School.

Long-time educator and administrator Kate Conway has been named the interim principal of Chenery Middle School, according to the Belmont School District. Conway will start on March 19 and remain in the role until the end of the school year.

Current Chenery Principal Mike McAllister and Conway “will work together on March 19 and 20 to provide some transition discussions, updates, and meetings,” said the release.

McAllister will begin his new role as human resources director at the Central Office on Pleasant Street on Monday, March 23.

Conway has been a successful school principal and administrator throughout her career. Mrs. Conway spent most of her employment in the Cambridge and Wilmington Public Schools as a principal of middle schools, K-8 schools, and an intermediate school (grades 4 and 5). She has also provided interim work in the Dedham and Cambridge Public Schools as principal as recently as 2017.

Kate is a graduate of Lesley College with a Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Judith Malone Neville, the district’s Interim Director of Human Resources, is reaching out to the staff and the PTO for volunteers to serve on the Search Committee to help select the next Chenery principal who will start on July 1.

Risk Low: Belmont Health Dept. Updates School District On Students And COVID-19

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist shown implementing molecular testing. (CDC image)

In a health advisory to the Belmont School Department issued today, Feb. 28, town’s health officials said the chances of students catching the new respiratory illness known as COVID-19 is currently slight but those attending Belmont schools should take precautions.

The state “that the risk for COVID-19 continues to remain LOW with one confirmed case … in Massachusetts,” wrote Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Director in a memo released to the school district.

Due to the limited exposure to the illness statewide, Chin does not recommend wearing face masks or cancelling athletic or school events.

The memo comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn Americans that they should prepare for the possibility of an outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus as the new strain of flu continues to spread worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus which comes from a large family of viruses – which includes the common cold, flues and more severe respiratory illnesses – which may cause animals or humans to become sick.

Chin said the Belmont Health Department was sharing this updated information “to help keep it informed about the emerging global health concern” as it continues to monitor the latest information from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The Belmont Health Department is following public health guidance provided by the CDC and MDPH, which “may include the monitoring of individuals who may be quarantined at home as needed.”

“As this situation continues to evolve, if any special instructions are provided, the Belmont Health Department will communicate them to the community,” said Chin.

Chin also list “some things you can do” to remain healthy:

Keep yourself and others healthy

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

Know the facts and help prevent the spread of rumors:

  • Be sure you are using a reliable source for your information
  • CDC updates its website frequently with information and guidance about COVID-19:
  • CDC continues to provide updates for travelers at:
  • MDPH provides regular updates for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
  • The Belmont Health Department will post community wide advisories on the Town of Belmont’s home page if there is a change in risk level:
  • Face masks are not recommended for the general public at this time.
  • Face masks can be useful in some settings, such as a clinic waiting room, to prevent someone who has a respiratory illness from spreading it to others.
  • Cancelling public events is not currently recommended as the risk for COVID-19

Please continue to remain calm and open-minded

History has seen many instances of societies excluding, blaming, or devaluing those feared to have an unfamiliar disease. Recent examples include Ebola, HIV, and past influenza pandemics where fear led to stigma and discrimination. In many instances, the discriminatory actions caused the health problems to worsen as those who felt alienated avoided seeking out health care and information they needed. We encourage you to continue to remain calm.


Contact your healthcare provider for all medical emergencies and health related concerns. All other questions may be directed to the Belmont Health Department at 617-993-2720.

Boys Hoops Shut Down Rockets In Playoff Opener, Billerica Next On Friday [Video]

Photo: Mac Annus at the line vs Reading.

Belmont Boys’ Hoops began its campaign to repeat as sectional champions with an emphatic victory over Middlesex Liberty rival Reading Memorial High, 87-45, in the first round match up of the Division 2 North playoffs.

“We had a great week of practice and we played a good game on offense and defense,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Adam Pritchard.

With its victory, third seed Belmont will host 6th ranked Billerica Memorial High School on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. after the team from Billerica defeated Somerville, 66-47.

The Marauders spread the rock around with three starters topping the 20 point mark with junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephens leading the way with 25 points followed by senior Mac Annus and junior Tim Minicozzi each with 21 points.

Belmont raced off to a 11-2 lead midway through the first quarter from the outside coming from threes from Minicozzi, Annus and sophomore center Kevin Logan who started the game.

Reading didn’t panic and through senior captain Taylor Marchant crept back to within five, 18-13. at the end of the quarter.

But Belmont broke out in the second quarter as Jackson-Stephens got of the snide with nine points as the junior was targeted when the Rockets began moving from under the basket to defend against Belmont outside scoring. Belmont’s solid defense and “push, push, push” transition gave the Marauders the open looks that gave them a 35-18 half time lead with Annus leading the way with 14 points including three 3s.

Reading started the second half going with a quicker but smaller lineup to spark the offense but that only allowed Belmont to dominate under the boards and allowed them to run the Rockets off the court, scoring 33 points and putting the game to bed finishing the third up 68-35.

Girls Hoops Taking the ’75’ Tuesday, Feb 25, To Cambridge For Tourney Opener Vs R&L

Photo: Belmont’s Nina Minicozzi rounding the pick from Emma McDevitt during a game at the TD Boston Garden vs Pembroke.

After coming off a decisive away victory over Arlington on Feb. 7, the Belmont High Girls’ Basketball team was on a high note. At 11-6, the Marauders had secured a place in the MIAA Division 1 North tournament during a five game winning streak, had dominated fellow playoff squad in the SpyPonders – as well as revenging a home loss to Arlington – and was now playing for a good place in the sectionals.

But rather than heading up the seeding ladder, the Marauders took a tumble losing its final four to end the season at 11-10 to find themselves a 12th seed with an opening round game against its neighbors to the east, 5th seed Cambridge Rindge & Latin (16-4).

Belmont will be taking the MBTA’s number 75 bus – figuratively – to Cambridge on Tuesday, Feb. 25 for a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Falcons.

Defense will be the Marauders hallmark as it has been during the teams six year run in the playoffs. Starting with the guard play from junior Kiki Christofori and sophomore Sarah Dullagan, Belmont will attempt to create pressure against the opposing backcourt, attempting to minimize the Falcons noted athleticism. You can expect junior Abbie Morin and sophomores Bridgette Martin and Meredith Christo to coming in often to spark the defense.

Offensively, it will come down to Belmont’s sophomore Nina Minicozzi who has been a whirlwind down the stretch scoring in double digits and junior bomber Reese Shapazian who has been deadly throwing up threes. Expect the McDevitt sisters – junior Emma and sophomore Sophie – and junior Addie Wagner to contend under the basket on both ends of the court.

“I think we are a dangerous team to anyone in the tourney,” said Head Coach Melissa Hart. “We do need to clean up some things and we can be a little emotional when things go well or not so well. But I think this is a team that can advance.”

Public Meeting On Impact To Pleasant St. From Proposed McLean Development Set For March 2

Photo: The intersection of Pleasant Street and Olmstead Drive.

The proposed 144-unit townhouse/rental apartment development on the McLean Hospital campus will not only create a new residential neighborhood in Belmont, it will also bring a slew of vehicles onto Pleasant Street as locals drive off to work and do their daily tasks.

A public discussion on the traffic implications related to the potential McLean Hospital on Pleasant Street near Olmstead Drive will be held on Monday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. during a joint session of the Select and Planning boards at the Little Theater in the Belmont High School, 221 Concord Ave.

In previous meetings before the boards, discussions included adding a traffic light at the intersection of Pleasant and Olmstead as well as a possible van/bus option for residents to cut down on the number of trips to and from the development.

For any questions, please contact Patrice Garvin, Town Administrator at 617-993-2610 or

3rd Seed Boys Hoops Meets Reading (Again) In 1st Round Playoff Matchup Monday, Feb 24

Photo: Senior Mac Annus drives against Burlington

If familiarity breed contempt, then the boys’ basketball teams from Belmont and Reading High are about to target each others shortcomings as the Middlesex Liberty rivals meet each other for the third time this season in the opening round match of the MIAA Division 2 North sectional tournament.

The third seed Marauders (16-4) and the 14th ranked Rockets (9-9) will continue their re-re-rematch on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Belmont’s Wenner Field House.

While the Marauders nearly doubled up the Rockets, 84-46, in the first meeting on Jan. 3, the second was a low-scoring slugfest as Belmont barely squeaked by the hosts, 45-42, on the last day of the month.

A win against the Rockets will see Belmont at home against the winners of the Billerica vs Somerville match later in the week.

Belmont had a solid second half of the season, with a 8-3 record, with a few hiccups along the way. The team retained the Middlesex Liberty title going undefeated in division play while knocking off the Middlesex Freedom champs Burlington, 70-61, running off a 17-2 punch-to-the-gut scoreline in the final 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the game.

While the squad defeated top-ten ranked hosts Catholic Memorial, it also saw its two year league and three year home undefeated streaks come to an end with losses to Freedom division foes Wakefield and Watertown. Belmont ended the season with a two-point loss to Division One Andover in the finals of the Comcast Tournament.

It was during the last half that Belmont senior forward Mac Annus joined the select few to break the career 1,000 point mark against Woburn on Seniors Night on Feb. 13.

Annus, junior forward Preston Jackson-Stephen and forward Tim Minicozzi will take on the offensive roles. Senior guard Avery Arno will join spark plug sixth man junior guard Ali Noorouzi in upping the tempo on both ends of the court. Sophomore Kevin Logan, who saw his time on the court increase after an impressive performance coming off the bench against Catholic Memorial, will add height and heft under the basket.

For long time Head Coach Adam Pritchard, the playoffs are the reward for the work the team committed to at the beginning of the season.

“They’ve been a great group to coach. They have a real bond that will important against some of the best teams in the entire state,” he said.

Five Days Of Early Voting For Presidential Primary Starts Monday, Feb. 24

Photo: One week of early voting in Belmont.

Belmont voters are now able to cast ballots early for the presidential primary election ahead of Super Tuesday, March 3.

With voter turnout expected to be high due to the large number of candidates seeking to challenge President Trump in the general election in November, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin permitted five days of early voting.

Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman announced early voting will take place on the following dates and times: 

  • Monday, Feb. 24        8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 25        8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, Feb. 26  8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
  • Thursday, Feb. 27     8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 
  • Friday, Feb. 28          8 a.m. to Noon

Early Voting will only take place at the Belmont Town Hall, 455 Concord Ave. Election Day voting will occur at each of the eight voting precinct locations in town.

Early Voting is available to all voters of the Commonwealth, unlike Absentee Voting that is only available to those voters who will not be in Belmont on Election Day or cannot vote in person on Election Day due to a medical disability or religious conflict.

The Town Clerk’s office always recommends that voters carry  identification when going to the polls or Early Voting in case one is required due to inactive status. 

Questions should be directed to the Town Clerk’s office at 617-993-2600.

Draft ’21 Budget Tops $137M, Balanced Using One-Time Funds As Override Looms

Photo: Town Administrator Patrice Garvin at the town budget joint meeting.

Like Bullwinkle J Moose pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the town of Belmont rolled up its sleeves, dug deep into the financial hat and pulled out the latest draft of the fiscal year 2021 budget.

But the document revealed at a joint meeting on Monday, Feb. 10 at the Beech Street Center was missing something that had be anticipated for the past six months; an operating override to balance a revenue shortfall in the $6 million range.

For this coming fiscal year budget, the town will instead use one-time revenue sources and a trimming of expenditures around the edges of town departments to reach its fiscal goal.

“We’re really trying to think outside the box on how to balance the ’21 budget,” said Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Administrator who led the budget effort with help from the newly created Financial Task Force II.

The highlights of the draft FY ’21 budget include:

  • The total operating budget is $137 million – $136,581,778 to be precise – a 6.4 percent increase, up $8.3 million, from fiscal ’20.
  • The school budget will increase by $1.9 million to $62.5 million, a 3.1 percent increase.
  • The town side of the budget will increase by 0.3 percent, a $117,000 jump.
  • The largest increase is in fixed costs, up $6.6 million to $30.8 million, a 27 percent increase largely due to the new debt associated with the construction of the Middle and High School.

Garvin said the continued skyrocketing school enrollment is overshadowing the budget and grabbing a large portion of new revenue as Belmont will have 4,700 student by this coming October, an increase of 300 students in four years.

“It seems to be driving everything in this budget,” she told a joint meeting of of the Select Board, School Committee and the Warrant Committee with members of the Capital Budget committee in attendance.

When the budget was being written in the fall of 2019, there was a realization that revenues would not come close to filling a $5.6 million revenue gap created by rising expenses from the Middle and High School project and schools.

With funds from the stabilization fund created in 2015 with $4.5 million raised by a Proposition 2 1/2 override all but depleted, it was assumed the town would call for an override in Nov. 2020 to resolve the shortfall.

In November, 2019, in an update to the Special Town Meet, the newly formed Financial Task Force II made a somewhat bold announcement to commit to a balanced budget without an override.

And on Monday, the curtain was pulled aside to reveal just how the town would pull $5.6 million out of the budget hat:

  • The largest component will come from free cash, the town’s reserves, taking $3.5 million. This will draw down the account to $2.4 million in 2021, skirting just above the percentage required by credit agencies to allow Belmont to maintain a coveted AAA bond rating.
  • The town-owned electrical utility, Belmont Light, will provide a $1 million PILOT payment (payment in lieu of taxes), substantially more than the $625,000 it annually provides the town. That payment will be returned back to the utility over time as the utility’s PILOT payment going forward will be lowered to $500,000.
  • The final component is $1.2 million from indirect costs from Water and Sewer Enterprise accounts. This is being accomplished by following a recommendation from the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass/Boston on a different way to calculate indirect costs.

She said she was confident that the hit on free cash will be replenished during the summer when the state certifies that amount.

“I’m not nervous about that number,” said Garvin.

In addition, there will be a trimming of expenditures in fiscal 2021:

  • Delay in capital purchases such as new police cruisers ($210,000), turn-out gear for the Fire Department ($26,250) and Central Fleet Equipment for the DPW ($47,385).
  • The implementation of the Health Plan Design Change which is projected to limit health costs to a four percent increase.
  • Freeze cost of living adjustments (COLA) during union negotiations at zero.

When asked why the town would not bite the bullet and use funds from an override to fill the current revenue gap, Garvin said “I believed we could balance it with one time funds that we have on hand and its always preferable to do so without going to the taxpayers with an override.”

While the town will push the funding of an operational override starting in Fiscal Year 2022, residents will cast their vote on a Prop 2 1/2 measure on Nov. 3, the date of the Presidential election. Garvin said the town is currently in discussion with town departments and the schools to calculate an estimate for the amount the town will ask voters to pass.

Garvin said that funding number will be announced just before the annual Town Meeting.

Middle/High School Project Takes Big Step Towards Final Cost Number

Photo: Daedalus Project’s Shane Nolan report on the trade bids during a recent meeting of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee.

A sigh of relief was heard from the members of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee Friday. Feb. 7 when the bid results from roughly a third of the cost for the $295 million school project came in just under where they thought it would be.

Shane Nolan, senior project manager with Owners Project Manager Daedalus Projects revealed that final bids – which were opened the day before, Thursday, Feb. 6 in a process called “rip and read” – for the 18 trade subcontractors including skills such as masonry, painting, tile work, and plumbing totaled $73.6 million, approximately $1.7 million under their pre-bid estimated value.

“Is this when we cheer?” asked committee member and Select Board Chair Tom Caputo.

The bid results included some large savings in glass and glazing (an underbid of nearly $834,000) and electrical (at $17.9 million, the bid was $1.89 million under the estimate) that off set overbids in HVAC (at $24.4 million was $3.2 million over the estimate) and roofing and flashing (over by $420,000), Nolan told the committee.

With those favorable numbers in hand, the committee voted to add back work struck from the project in 2019 during what Nolan described as the “painful value engineering exercise” which resulted in $19 million cut out of construction.

Brought back from their sidelines will be:

  • Skylights in the High School Maker Space and Middle School Art Room $74,000,
  • A canopy outside the loading dock entrance, $76,000
  • A slab heat ejection at the loading dock $262,000, and
  • Wall tile to four stairwells, $202,000.

Friday’s result is a big step in finalizing the total project cost, according to Bill Lovallo, Building Committee Chair.

“If you want to just look at this as a $237 million project, a third of the job [is underway], a third of the job were in the trades that Shane just read out … and locked in and about a third of the job is still in its final stages,” said Lovallo.

According to representatives from construction manager Skanska, with the trade subcontractor bids included, the total building cost for the project as of Friday’s meeting is $154.5 million. Add into that contingency, insurance and bonds along with management services, the estimated total project cost comes in at $183.0 million.

With a grand total project cost of $237,208,732 – $52 million is coming from the Massachusetts School Building Authority which partnered with the town on the project – the roughly $54.2 million difference is made up of non-trade work controlled by Shanska.

Non-trade contractors are any third party agent that is not directly involved in the major operations of the project.

Unlike the “rip and read” process with Daedalus in which the subcontractors bid is “locked in,” bids for work with the construction manager is “more of a negotiation,” said Lovallo.

The final third of the cost to be revealed in the next six weeks.

High Schoolers Look To Drop A Dime At Town Meeting in Support Of A Paper Bag Fee [Video]

Photo: Belmont High Climate Action Club members (from left) Kate Devitt, Madeline Kitch and Shea Brams.

The brown paper grocery bag: made from renewable resources, is biodegradable, and recyclable. What’s not to love?

But the bags are far from being an environmental panacea as making them puts out CO2 at a rate to be a significant contributor to the climate crisis.

A group of students at Belmont High School is now campaigning to bring a proposal to the annual Town Meeting this May – either as a citizens petition or via the Select Board – to imposed a 10 cent fee on all paper grocery bags with the aim of prompting shoppers to supply their own.

“Our team is working tirelessly to pass this, because big change begins small,” said Kate Devitt, one of the founders of the Climate Action Club at Belmont High School.

“We want to begin reducing carbon emissions locally, and attempt to expand from there; our climate is changing at a rapid pace, and we want to take any measure possible to ensure a livable future for humanity,” said Devitt.

And in Belmont, an area to focus is on the ubiquitous paper bag. There is a misconception, said Devitt, that paper bag as being more climate friendly than the plastic bags they replaced. In reality bag emits three to four times as much carbon to be manufactured compared to a polyethylene plastic bag.

“To be clear, we are not suggesting a return to plastic bags, as we are pleased that a plastic bag ban has been instated in Belmont. We want to incentive the use of reusable bags ,” said Devitt.

The fee would return to the businesses and so is not a tax, she said.

Devitt said the club was introduced to the initiative when they were contacted by Rahul Ramakrishnan, a Belmont High graduate (Class of 2016) attending MIT, who has been working on his own fee-based proposal.

“If Belmont could reduce paper bag consumption through a home rule petition, we would drastically decrease our carbon emissions, while setting a precedent to other towns,” said Devitt, noting Belmont would be the first town-structured community to pass such a fee.

In 2014, Cambridge successfully implemented the exact policy the club will proposed, encouraging customers to “BYOB” – bring your own bag. After the installment of the policy, paper bag consumption was reduced by 80 percent.

Using those results, the club took a look at businesses in Belmont, big and small – Star Market, CVS, Rancatores, convenient stores – and calculated the impact of a fee on the community’s carbon emissions.

The manufacturing of a single paper bag emits about 20g of CO2. Assuming 10,000 households in Belmont use a total of 16 paper bags per week, that is a total of 166 tons of CO2 per year. A typical car produces about 3 tons a year, so that works out that our paper bag usage releases about the same amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, per year, as 50 cars. 

The measure would come before Town Meeting as a new bylaw, requiring a two-thirds approval by the 290 member legislative body.

“Town Meeting’s approval is essential to pass the bill through the ‘home rule,’ a town-specific method of passing a bill that doesn’t require approval from the Attorney General’s office,” said Devitt.

Currently, the club is seeking groups and individuals to support the new bylaw as it heads towards a May vote.

Devitt and Madeline Kitch launched the Climate Action Club over the summer and have more than a dozen active members. Its goal is dedicated to taking action within the town.

“[W]e found that in Belmont, the majority of high school students are concerned about the climate crisis. However, many students are unsure of how to combat these daunting issues,” said Devitt.

And club members have been active, attending Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee meetings to push for Zero Net Energy solar energy at the new institution, collecting more than 250 signatures to support the cause.

“We have [also] attended several climate strikes and Lobby Days as a club, taking the Harvard buses and Red Line into Boston during the school day,” said Devitt.

“Now, we are focusing our time into passing the bill,” she said.