Burbank Picked To Be Modulars’ New Home With a $2.2M Pricetag

Photo: Belmont Superintendent John Phelan.

The fall Special Town Meeting now has a price tag for the big ticket item on its agenda as Belmont Schools Superintendent John Phelan recommended four new modular classrooms be sited at the Mary Lee Burbank Elementary School on School Street.

The anticipated cost of the project – which will be up and running in September 2018 – is $2.2 million, excluding furniture and teaching equipment, Phelan told the Belmont School Committee at its Tuesday meeting, June 20.

“This is a very significant ‘ask’ to the town for the Burbank to take on the modulars,” said Phelan.

The Burbank was selected at the Butler Elementary School to be the home of the third set of modulars used by the district – there are several at the High School while six were installed at the Chenery Middle School in November 2016 – to alleviate the skyrocketing enrollment gains occurring throughout the district.

Phelan said adding the classrooms will help reduce class sizes in elementary grades from 25 and 26 students per room to a more acceptable 22 to 23 students.

Last month, administrators and staff held a pair of two-hour meetings at each school to discuss the concerns of residents and parents of adding prefab structures, afterward was a walk of the sites with an architect.  

The Burbank four modular will be sited adjacent to the rear of the school building which will allow for a covered walkway. The location will also have a minimal impact on neighboring houses as it’s lower than nearby Richardson Road and next to a stone wall.

Another factor leading to the Burbank taking on the modulars was its ability to take on additional students without affecting the teaching going on at the school. While it could have met the needs of students if selected, Phelan said the Butler had been home to a historically smaller school community, which has worked educating students successfully.

The greatest difference between the two proposals was the extensive infrastructure proposed at the Burbank. Including the repair and expansion of the parking lot and the overhaul of the playground area while the Bulter’s improvements would be limited to adding sod to the school’s two playgrounds.

In dollars and cents, the Burbank’s infrastructure costs exceed $692,000 compared to $172,000 at the Butler.

Heather Rubeski of Dalton Road, a Burbank parent and Precinct 7 Town Meeting Member told the committee and Phelan that presenting the most expensive option to the town’s legislative body could result in pushback by members.

“When I look at the cost difference of almost $500,000 … I think there is gonna be a lot of questions at Town Meeting on why are we spending all this extra money to put them at Burbank when the town has many things it needs to spend money on,” Rubeki said.

Putting on her “parent’s hat,” Rubeki also asked why would the district select the Burbank for additional space when the school population has been static resulting in children being bused to the school in September 2019.

“It has a feeling of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ and that has become very noticeable in the parent conversations,” she said.

Town officials and Town Meeting members had already begun on how to pay for the modulars with discussions on whether to dip into the “free” cash account which paid for the prefab classrooms at the middle school (a total of $1.4 million) or to finance the project through a bond.

Phelan said moving forward with the project is the best solution until a decision is made on the future of the new Belmont High School which will impact the district’s building requirements. 

“This is something that I believe is a good decision for the town … that this is a short-term trend that will help inform our long-term planning as well,” he said.

Belmont Elementary Schools Honored On Beacon Hill

Photo: Burbank Principal Tricia Clifford with state rep Dave Rogers (left) and state sen. Will Brownsberger. 

A pair of Belmont elementary schools were the toast of Beacon Hill as each received recognition for stellar work in education.

The Daniel Butler Elementary and Mary Lee Burbank Elementary schools were honored at the Massachusetts State House in a ceremony held Wednesday, Feb. 1 recogning 51 Bay State schools for high achievement, making strong progress, narrowing achievement gaps or a combination of all three.

The Butler school was honored for receiving the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Award given by the U.S. Department of Education for achieving at a “very high level,” while the Burbank school was saluted as a Massachusetts Commendation School for their high academic progress. The Butler received the National Blue Ribbon award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in November.


State Rep. Dave Rogers (l) Principals Michael McAllister (formerly Butler, now heading the Chenery Middle School in Belmont) and Danielle Betancourt (Butler), State Sen. Will Brownsberger at the Massachusetts State House.

Principals Michael McAllister (formerly Butler, now heading the Chenery Middle School in Belmont), Danielle Betancourt (Butler), Tricia Clifford (Burbank), and Belmont Superintendent John Phelan attended the ceremony. Also in attendance were State Rep. David Rogers and State Sen. William Brownsberger. There were opening remarks by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester, the Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito presented the awards.

For more information, and a complete list of the 51 Massachusetts schools honored, head to the Mass Department of Education web site.

Honored: Belmont’s Butler Picks Up Its Blue Ribbon Award

Photo: Principal Michael McAllister (left) with Abu Kumi, director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Belmont’s Daniel Butler Elementary School was formally honored in Washington D.C. after recently being named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School for Exemplary High Performance.

Butler is one among 279 public and 50 private schools receiving this honor, and one of three Bay State schools recognized for this honor.

Former Butler Principal Michael McAllister, now the headmaster at Belmont’s Chenery Middle School represented Butler at the Nov. 8 ceremony.

“This award confirms what I’ve known all along, and now the public knows, that there is amazing teaching and learning happening at the Butler school,” says McAllister.

Schools are nominated for the award by the state department of education, and are recognized in one of two performance categories; Exemplary High Performing—among the top schools in a state; or Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing—schools making the fastest progress in the their state in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Current Butler Principal Danielle Betancourt says the honor is well-deserved.

“This achievement is a testament to the passion, strategic effort, education and teamwork that each person in the community contributes,” she said.

McAllister is coming back to the Butler with a plaque, a blue ribbon flag and a banner which will soon be presented to the Butler school community to display.

Super Heroes Big and Small Run ‘Round and ‘Round the Butler

Photo: And … they’re off!

It’s not every day your principal transforms into a superhero.

But last Wednesday, Nov. 2, the Butler Elementary’s Danielle Betancourt became “The Incredibles” Elastigirl who possesses the ability to stretch her body like rubber.

Well, that’s what she said she could do, although the majority of the time Elastigirl/Betancourt joined other costumed educators and staff cheering and encouraging all the students who participated in the Third Annual Butler Fun Run, the yearly fundraiser to help fund the school’s PTA enrichment programs.

Canceled twice due to wet weather, the second day of November proved sunny and cool, the perfect conditions for students from each grade to run, skip or walk around the school on the course designed by PE teacher Ted Trodden. After warming up in the gym with real local hero Becca Pizzi, the students were given a pedometer and sent out to run with their class. When they finished, each student was invited to sign the special banner and check how many steps they took.

This year, $21,000 was raised, which will go toward field trips, enrichment programs in school, library books, teacher supplies and professional development for the Butler staff.

So why did Betancourt choose the heroine of the Pixar Animation Studios film?

“Because she has arms that stretch so wide that she can hug the entire school!” said the newly-installed principal.

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Join the World: Stride to Learning Wednesday on Int’l Walk to School Day

Photo: From last year’s walk to school day.

On Wednesday morning, Oct. 5, Belmont students will put on your walking shoes and join youngsters from 4,407 schools around the world who are walking and biking to school as part of the 20th International Walk to School Day. 

Two of those schools with events include the Wellington and Butler elementary schools. 

For Butler walkers, there will be five meeting points a short walk from school, where families can meet up and walk together. Students are encouraged to wear the Butler blue T-shirt or other bright blue for this special day.

The Wellington events include nearly a dozen starting locations, many with “guest” walkers including town, school and public safety personnel and even Moozy the Cow – the mascot of Moozy’s Ice Cream. 

Beginning in 1997, International Walk to School Day is a global event that involves communities from more than 40 countries walking and biking to school on the same day with the goal of beginning an worldwide movement for year-round safe routes to schools for walkers and bike riders.

[BREAKING] ‘Blue Ribbon’: Butler Awarded National Education Honor

Photo: The Butler School.

Belmont’s Daniel Butler Elementary School was named a 2016 “National Blue Ribbon School” for being an Exemplary High Performing School, according to U.S. Secretary of Education, John. B. King, Jr., who made the announcement on Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Washington DC.  

Butler is among 278 public schools receiving this honor along with 50 private schools. 

The Butler is the most heterogeneous of Belmont’s four elementary schools with a highly diverse student population, coming from two dozen countries speaking more than 35 different languages and dialects.

“I congratulate all of the Butler teachers, students, and families,” said Chenery Middle School Principal Mike McAllister, who was Butler’s principal from 2009 until this June. 

“I cannot think of a community more deserving than them. I am so proud of them.”


Michael McAllister.

Schools are nominated for the award by the state department of education, and are recognized in one of two performance categories:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools and 
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools. 

Exemplary High Performing schools have a high number of achieving students as measured by state assessments. 

“This achievement is a testament to the passion, strategic effort, education and teamwork that each person in this community contributes,” says current Butler Principal Danielle Betancourt.


Danielle Betancourt.

McAllister will represent the Butler School at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 7 and 8. 

For more information, go to the National Blue Ribbon Schools website.

We’re #1: Belmont Schools Earn Top-Ranked Level 1 Status, Butler a ‘Blue Ribbon’ Candidate

Photo: Butler Elementary.

The Belmont School District and its six schools earned the Level 1 Accountability Determination as the district continues to show “the strong, positive results of well-aligned curricula, high-quality instruction, and high expectations for all students,” according to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education which released 2016 accountability data for schools and districts on Monday, Sept. 26.

All schools, and therefore the district, earned the Level 1 Accountability Determination for meeting the gap-narrowing targets for “all students” and the “high needs subgroups.”

“Our students’ performance on the state assessments and growth measures continues to be impressive,” said John Phelan, Belmont Public Schools superintendent, adding that the district earned the Level 1 Accountability determination for meeting the gap-narrowing targets for “all students” and the “high needs subgroups.”

The state’s accountability system sets the goal of narrowing proficiency gaps by half in six years, as measured by the Progress and Performance Index (PPI). 

“High needs” is the unduplicated count of all students belonging to at least one of these three subgroups: 

  • students with disabilities, 
  • English Learner (EL) and former EL students, and 
  • economically disadvantaged students.

Additionally, two Belmont schools received special commendation for their assessment outcomes:

Daniel Butler Elementary School is one of three Massachusetts public schools the U.S. Department of Education is considering as a candidate for the 2016 National Blue Ribbon School Candidate for High Performance. Last year the Butler was commended for High Achievement.

Mary Lee Burbank Elementary School is recommended for High Progress.

Belmont High School earned a Level 1 Accountability Determination, up from a Level 2 from last year because the progress of students in the “high needs” subgroup last year was not sufficient to meet their particular gap narrowing goals. Thanks to their careful analysis of the data and action plan to address the issue, performance of students in the high needs subgroup improved.

“The high school administrators, teachers, and students are to be commended for developing the school’s accountability determination to Level 1 this year,” says Janice Darias, AsstSuperintendent of Belmont Public Schools.

“I extend my gratitude and congratulations to all who worked to support our students’ learning,” she said.

The annual Progress and Performance Index measures a district’s, school’s, or subgroup’s improvement towards its target over a two-year period on up to seven indicators: 

  • narrowing proficiency gaps in English/Language Arts, mathematics, and science; 
  • student growth in English/Language Arts and mathematics; 
  • and the annual dropout rate and graduation rate for high schools. 

Detailed information is available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. Here is the link from the Belmont Public School website that will take you to the information.

New Principal Brings A World Of Experience To The Butler

Photo: Danielle Betancourt.

Danielle Betancourt, a vice principal at the Brophy Elementary School in Framingham, was named on Monday, June 13, as the next principal of the Butler Elementary School. She will arrive in the district July 1, said Belmont Superintendent John Phelan at Monday’s Town Meeting. 

She replaces Michael McAllister who moves to the Chenery Middle School as its new principal. 

Betancourt, who has lived with her family around the world, including Moscow, Philadelphia, London and in Massachusetts for the past 12 years, will take charge of the district’s most diverse school, with students coming from two dozen countries and speaking more than 35 languages. 

Betancourt matriculated at Fordham University where she was received a Bachelor’s Degree in Russian Studies, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College, and a Master’s of Education in Organizational Management from Endicott College.

Betancourt was named a vice principal at the Brophy in June of last year. Before her appointment in Framingham, she spent an 18-month principal internship at the Horace Mann Elementary School in Newton, where she has been a teacher in a full-inclusion classroom since 2011. 

Prior to the Mann, she served as an elementary teacher in the Boston Public Schools for four years including as a first-grade teacher at the John Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester.

Additional experiences include co-chairing the PTA at a primary school in England, serving as co-president of the Wharton Kids Club in Philadelphia, and teaching at the Samantha School for English in Russia. 

Butler Principal Finalists Set To Visit Belmont Thursday, Friday

Photo: The Daniel Butler Elementary School.

The Butler Elementary Principal Screening Committee has completed its work and has forwarded to Superintendent John Phelan four candidates as finalists, according to Mary Pederson, director of human resources for the Belmont Public Schools and a member of the search committee.

Those candidates are:

  • Julie Babson has worked in the Belmont Public Schools since 1998. Currently, she is a third-grade teacher. Before moving to the elementary schools, she taught fifth grade at the Chenery Middle School.
  • Danielle Batencourt is currently a vice principal at the Brophy Elementary School in Framingham. She has taught second and first grades, respectively, in Newton and Dorchester.
  • Brad Kershner is presently the Director of the Primary School within the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton. Prior to that position, he taught at the preschool and elementary school levels in San Francisco and Berkley.
  • Tiffany Back is the assistant principal and teacher at the Bowen Elementary School in Newton. Back also taught grades 4 and 5 at the Franklin and Underwood elementary schools in Newton, and the Paton Elementary School in Shrewsbury beginning in 2000. 

The public is invited to meet the candidates in the Butler’s library at the times listed:

Thursday, June 2

  • 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.: Julie Babson
  • 7:15 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Danielle Batencourt
  • 8 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.: Brad Kershner

Monday, June 6

  • 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.: Tiffany Back

Spring Clean All Electronics at Butler Elementary’s Recycling Day

Photo: Recycle all electronics.

The annual Butler Elementary PTA Electronics Recycle Day will take place this Saturday, May 14, from 8:30 a.m. at the school, 90 White St.

It’s time to “Spring Clean”, so head out to your garages, into the forbidden closets and damp and scary basements. Prices charged are:

  • $10 each for computer monitors
  • $15 each for TVs 27” diagonal or less
  • $20 each for TVs more than 27” diagonal or wood console TVs
  • $25 each for projection TVs
  • $15 each for large appliances (examples: washers, dryers, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc.)
  • $35 for “all you can bring”: laptops, CPUs, cameras, CD-ROM/DVD drives, servers, speakers, iPods & accessories, computer accessories, mice, keyboards, video equipment, copy/fax/scanner/printers, wires and parts, plugs, audio equipment, phones and phone systems, DVD players, stereos, UPS (backup systems), VCRs, walkmans & microwaves

Prices are lower than the town, and no need to purchase pickup stickers. Don’t miss this opportunity to de-clutter and free up space. We look forward to seeing you there! Please share with others!

We accept cash or checks only!