Inaugural Belmont High Coffeehouse to Help the Homeless

The Belmont High School cafeteria will be transformed into a coffeehouse of old – without the cigarette smoke, of course – as the Belmont High School Working to Help the Homeless club will host its first-ever acoustic coffeehouse on Thursday, May 22 at 7 p.m.

The event is open to public with advanced tickets being sold for $5 at Champions Sporting Goods in Belmont Center.. The ticket price includes the cost of ice cream and other treats once inside.

The performances include:

  • Rosy Fitzgerald
  • Amelia Fox
  • Joe Fitzgerald and Sydney Perkins
  • Brass Band (Michael El-Hayek, Max Davidowitz, Rowan Wolf, Jasper Wolf, Sami Belkadi, Jack Carbeck, Rafi Wagner)
  • Ribz Daddy G and The Jamboree (Ekim Otucu, Max Davidowitz, Eli Workman, Alex Gharibian, Sary Abi-Hassan)
  • Emma Taylor
  • Charlie Smith
  • Aimee Lin
  • Aidan Hamell
  • Ben Covell
  • Amy Wang
  • Barry Eom
  • Maerose Pepe

Each of these exceptionally talented performers auditioned for the chance to showcase their skills at the coffeehouse and is well worth the $5 entrance fee.

All of the proceeds will benefit Mary’s House, a shelter in Waltham for homeless families. The shelter provides temporary housing for these families and gives them access to help around issues such as parenting, nutrition, budgeting, substance abuse, and vocational and educational goals.

An Ace: Belmont High’s Dr. Shea Named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

Early in the celebration honoring him as the 2015 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, May 6, Dr. Jeff Shea gave the impression that he would have liked to be anywhere BUT sitting at center court of Belmont High School’s Wenner Field House.

With the entire student population and teachers in the bleachers, a brass band and chorus serenading him, a gym adorn with dozens of large signs of congratulations, and school, local and state officials gathered to honor him being named the state’s top teacher, Shea pensively sat next to his wife, Valerie, under an oversized banner proclaiming him the state’s teacher of the year.

“It was nerve wracking,” Shea said later. “Like your first day in the classroom.”

On, appropriately, National Teachers Recognition Day, Shea was presented with the title before the entire Belmont High community.

“Wow,” Shea said when he got to the podium, later noting that “I wouldn’t have chosen to get everyone together here for this particular reason.”

“I see this award not so much as a personal award but certainly as a reflection of the strength of our community,” said Shea, an Arlington resident who attended Andover High School before matriculating at Tulane University.

From golf pro (Shea taught on the greens in western Massachusetts and on Maui) to educational professional, the Belmont High School social studies teacher creating and leading the popular global leadership courses for 11th and 12th graders, his help introducing new technology – such as iPods to 9th grade freshmen entering the High School in September – to spur learning “and his overall ability to inspire merits him this particular recognition,” Dr. Thomas Kingston, Belmont’s school superintendent, told the assembly.

A 10-year Belmont district veteran who also coaches the resurgent Boy’s Golf team, Shea “is the kind of teacher that marries the passion for teaching … to a greater understanding of the subjects he loves and knows,” said Kingston. “It’s pretty wonderful to have someone like [Shea] on our faculty because … he represents the best in all of us,” he said.

Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Mitchell Chester – who also recognized the other teachers in the Field House “who are second to none in the world” – said “this is the place to be” as the state honors Shea. Shea will also speak before the legislature in June and will be the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

Calling him a continuous learner who is “very reflective” on educational issues, Chester said he could not think of a more important area of study today than Shea’s interest and teaching of global leadership because “increasingly where you grow up is going to be less … determinative of your opportunities” so it important “to understand the global world in which we live.”

“I am deeply humbled and extremely honored” to win the award, said Shea who gave special recognition to his “mentor and very close friend” recently retired sixth grade teacher Joanne Coffey who took Shea under her wing at Belmont’s Chenery Middle School.

Shea noted one of the major strengths Belmont has to resulted in his award and Belmont High’s high academic reputation “is the commitment parents … have made to their children’s education” having benefited from that effort which included the “generosity” of the Foundation for Belmont Education.

And despite the considerable accolades the district has received – last week, Belmont High was ranked the top open enrollment public high school in Massachusetts and 151st in the country by US News & World Report – the administration “is still trying to move us forward.”

He also took time to point to his colleagues, “so many amazing teachers in the room, so many deserving teachers” that Shea suggested Chester be provided a parking pass as he could return next year to make the same presentation.

Shea finally spoke to his former and present students, those he taught at the Chenery, in his High School classroom or coached on the golf course.

“The trait that most defines the students at Belmont High School is your curiosity and that will lead you to many successes in the past and will lead you to many successes in the future. It also makes teaching a lot of fun” with students who “want to learn is incredibly important.”

“So I would be remise if I did not say at this point that I apologize to students and facility for the interruption in teaching and learning this morning,” he said.

“[Teaching] is a great profession because it is so very challenging and trying to overcome challenges, I think, is life,” he said.

Belmont High’s Jeff Shea Named State’s Teacher of the Year

Dr. Jeff Shea has been leading his students to explore the world outside of Belmont, and make a difference.

Recently, Shea, a social studies teacher at Belmont High School, created a microfinance project for students in his innovative Global Leadership course, an elective open to 11th and 12th graders designed to increase students’ awareness of international issues.

Using online resources and other technology like a class blog, Shea asks students to examine human rights challenges and consider solutions through the frameworks of finance, leadership and diplomacy. One lesson was choosing a recipient from across the world to receive money in an effort to benefit their community. After a semester of discussions and presentations, the Shea’s class used a small pool of money – including using his own funds – for the expansion of a dairy farm in Uganda and a foreign exchange business in Liberia.

Shea has made presentations on his course at international teaching conferences and to educators nationwide.

While teaching leadership in the classroom, Shea also managed and coached an extremely young group of golfers to a historic third-place finish in the state Div. 2 golf championships.

For his innovative teaching and leadership, Shea was named Wednesday, April 30, as the 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year.

Shea will be recognized in a ceremony at Belmont High School on Tuesday, May 6 at 9 a.m. in front of the entire school and state officials.

Early End: Belmont High Graduation June 1; Final Day of School, June 20

Sometimes, due to a quirk in the calendar, holidays are celebrated a lot earlier than what is customary. This past year Hanukkah – which is usually held in December – fell on Thanksgiving while Easter can come as soon as the third week in March.

And that phenomenon will occur this year for the graduating class of high school seniors as Dr. Thomas Kingston confirmed this year’s Belmont High School graduation will take place on Sunday, June 1 at 3 p.m. in the Wenner Field House at Belmont High.

“It’s the earliest day on the calendar that we can hold graduation,” said Kington at the Belmont School Committee meeting held on Tuesday, April 29 at the Chenery Middle School, who noted that the class of 2015 will have their ceremony on one of the latest dates, in the second week of June.

Kingston also announced that unless there is an emergency in town that would force the closure of school for a day (or with the current frigid spring, the possibility of another “snow” day) the final day for the Belmont school district will be Friday, June 20. That will also be an early-release day district wide with the High School ending its day at 10:30 a.m. and all schools “out for summer” before noon.

“So those folks anticipating camp dates and vacations can start making their plans” with a date certain finally set, said Kingston.

Belmont High Named As One of Nation’s Best

As the saying goes, you don’t come to Belmont for the roads; you come for the schools.

And in the latest issue of US News & World Report, Belmont High School is honored as one of the top-rated high schools in the country, earning the magazine’s “Gold” medal. The Concord Avenue school is ranked 151st nationally out of 19,400 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia examined that includes charter and examination-entry schools from across the US.

Using the USN&WR ranking criteria, Belmont High is rated higher than 99.2 percent of all high schools in the country.

The top-ranked high school in the country is the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas, Texas.

In Massachusetts, Belmont is the top-ranked open-enrollment high school, rated just below the state’s top school, Boston Latin, an exam school, and the Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough. Wellesley High and The Bromfield School, the town of Harvard’s public high school, round out the top five schools.

In 2013, the school was ranked 193rd nationally.

U.S. News teamed up with the Washington, D.C.-based American Institutes for Research, one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world, on creating the ranking methodology that is based on, as the magazine stated, “the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”

According to the magazine, Belmont High scored high on college preparedness, with nearly three-quarters of high school seniors taking and passing at least one AP advanced course.

The school also rated very high, 63rd in the country, in students taking and passing AP exams in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses.

Things to Do Today: Jazz Tonight, Story Time at the Benton, Planning Board in the AM

• Today is the final day to file your federal and state taxes. Remember? You can always ask for an extension.

• It’s Jazz Night at Belmont High School as several great ensembles will be performing in the school’s auditorium beginning at 7 p.m. This is a “don’t miss” opportunity to hear the musical talent there is at the High School.

• The Planning Board will be meeting at 8 a.m. (yes, in the morning) in Conference Room 2 of Town Hall where they will discussing among other matters Town Meeting Article 8 and 9, an amendment to the zoning code effecting dog kennels, doggie day care and canine-related activities as a result of the rewriting on the Board of Health’s regulation on all things relating to handling and keeping of pets.

• Pre-School Story Time will be held at the Benton Library, Belmont’s independent and volunteer run library, at 10:30 a.m. Stories and crafts for children age 3 to 5. Parents or caregivers must attend. Siblings may attend with adults. Registration is not required. The Benton Library is located at the intersection of Oakley and Old Middlesex.

• The defending state champions Belmont High School Rugby Club takes on Needham High School at Harris Field tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Belmont High School Girls’ Track will be hosting the Spy Ponders of Arlington High at Harris Field beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Belmont Baseball, Softball Sweep Watertown in League Openers

The wind was howling out of the northwest Wednesday, April 9; it was not a day that a home run was going to decide the games at the softball and at Brendan Grant Field at Belmont High School as the school’s softball and baseball teams got their Middlesex League seasons underway against arch rivals Watertown High.

But the Belmont teams didn’t need the long ball as both squads saw their lead pitchers make opening day statements as the Marauders swept the visiting Raiders.

Senior co-captain Brendan Shea gave up a single run to the Raiders as his teammates made Watertown pay for some sloppy early season play to win 7-1. The southpaw, who has signed a letter of intent to play for Div. 1 UMass-Lowell next year, struck out 11 while limiting Watertown to a handful of hits.

“[Shea]’s our number one and pitched out of a couple of tight spots. He’s a gamer and that’s why he’s a scholarship player,” said Head Coach Jim Brown.

Belmont scored four runs in the first three innings on a single hit – a single by sophomore shortstop Cole Bartels –  capitalizing on four miscues by the Raiders. That was more than enough support for Shea who got out of a fifth-inning bases loaded, no out jam with a strike out and a double play created by a base-running mistake by a Watertown player.

“We did some small ball stuff but could have done a little better in our execution. That’s how we are going to win this year, with bunting players over and sac flies,” said Brown.

Over at softball, a very familiar athlete was having her way with the Raiders; senior pitcher Kendel Brown – the stellar defender on both field hockey and Girls’ ice hockey – simply kept Watertown batters off balance while the Marauders’ batters had a field day as Belmont swamped the visitors, 22-4, in a shortened five-inning game.

“We had played one non-league game before this (a 16-2 loss to Cambridge Rindge and Latin) and we weren’t ready having only been outside twice before that game,” said first-year coach Steve Price.

“But I had a good feeling coming into this game after a week of practice and we had our line up ready to go today,” he said.

On the offensive end, sophomore shortstop Julia Rifkin had an inside-the-park home run and batted strongly during each at bat as did senior Micaela McKay and sophomore Lia Muckjian had a pair of hits.

“Really, the entire line up swung the bat very well today as evident by the score,” said Price.

IMG_0205 IMG_3769 IMG_3754 IMG_3752 IMG_3738 IMG_3732 IMG_3725 IMG_3719 IMG_3714 IMG_3708 IMG_3696

Hard Winter on Your Car? Get It Washed and Help Kids in Need

Take the winter salt and grim off your car this Saturday, April 12 at the Belmont Car Wash in Waverley Square and  at the same time help children in need.

Members of the Belmontian Community Service Club of Belmont High School will be at Belmont Car Wash drying off your cars and all tips for their work will go to benefit Cradles to Crayons, the Boston-based non-profit that provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive at home, at school and at play.

The day of service, sponsored by Belmont Car Wash, will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Things to Do Today: Bunker Hill, Playtime, Learning to Dance, HS Sports

Another sunny, spring day in Belmont today, Friday, April 11:

• In conjunction with One Book One Belmont 2014, the Senior Book Discussion Group at the Beech Street Center will discuss” Bunker Hill” by Nathaniel Philbrick. The author of “Mayflower” and “In the Heart of the Sea,” tells the story of the first, and perhaps bloodiest, major battle of the Revolutionary War. All are welcome to attend this book discussion that begins at 11 a.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. 

Playtime, a drop-in, informal playgroup for toddlers and preschoolers, where both children and adults can meet new friends, will meet in the Children’s Room of the Belmont Public Library at 10:30 a.m. Call the Children’s Room at 617-993-2880 with any questions.

A free demonstration on Learning to Dance will be held at 1:15 p.m. at the Senior Center at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St. Dance instructor Paul Hughes ( will lead the demonstration. Participants will not need a partner to take the class.

• Lots going on in Belmont High sports: Girls’ Tennis takes on Winchester at the High School courts at 3:30 p.m., Baseball host Wakefield at 3:45 p.m. at Brandon Grant Field adjacent the High School and Boys’ Lacrosse return to Harris Field after defeating Stoneham to take on Reading at 4 p.m.

On they day in 1727, Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” premiered at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.

To The Rescue: High School Auditorium’s ‘Worst’ Seats Under Repair

While Town Meeting representatives all across Massachusetts have the burden of sitting through endless committee explanations, Powerpoint presentations and public debate on the minutia of town governance, Belmont Town Meeting members have an additional hardship: the seats themselves.

With the majority of Town Meeting sessions held in the Belmont High School auditorium, reps had little option then to take their chances with the infamous seats in the hall.

Some of the seats – installed in 1970 – squeak, others poke, more twist lumbars into pretzel-like contours, most do all three at the same time.

“I don’t see how they expect us to conduct the business of the town in such conditions,” Nancy Reppucci, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting representative told the Belmontonian after speaking on the matter to the Belmont Board of Selectmen on March 31.

Reppucci said the five-decade old chairs, built on steel frames and secured to the floor in rows, have deteriorated to the point where it is impossible for many members with weak backs to attempt sitting on them.

It has gotten so bad, said Reppucci, that dozens of the approximately 300 representatives are requesting straight-back chairs for their use. But that number is limited due to the auditorium’s fire code.

Yet, as then-Selectman Chair Mark Paolillo noted to Reppucci, any attempt to replace the seats with new or used rows would be considered a major renovation and immediately require the town to make the auditorium compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act code, which would cost the town untold money it doesn’t have.

In addition, the town is seeking the renovation of the High School which would include the auditorium.

But since Reppucci’s plea, a temporary solution to sore backs and other body parts has been hatched to cushion the blow to high school students, parents who attend events at the school and, of course, Town Meeting members who are spending time in the auditorium.

In conjunction with Belmont Town Administrator David Kale and Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston and under the leadership of Gerald Boyle, the town’s joint Facilities Manager, 222 of the worst of the worst chairs will be repaired in an attempt to resolve the “ongoing issue” that “has impacted the functionality of the auditorium,” said Boyle.

The town has received a bid from South Shore Upholstery Service to re-upholster a total of 222 seat cushions at the High School Auditorium, at a cost of approximately $72 each, explained Boyle, for a total of approximately $16,000.

“The total of 222 represents all the seats in the lower center section, but we will rearrange seat cushions from the entire auditorium so the “worst” 222 are re-upholstered. We will do them in three phases of about 75 each,” said Boyle.

And to Reppucci’s and many of the Town Meeting members relief, the work is expected to be completed prior to the first night of Town Meeting on May 6.