Third COVID Case In Belmont Schools As A Chenery Staff/Student Tests Positive

Photo: Chenery Middle School

A Chenery Middle School community member – either a student or staff – has tested positive with the coronavirus, according an email from Belmont School District Superintendent John Phelan.

The Belmont Health Department sent the district confirmation on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 11:45 a.m. This is the third person who either attended or worked in Belmont schools to come down with the COVID-19 virus in the past three weeks. Just last Friday, a positive case was reported at Belmont High School. In late September the first case in Belmont was reported at the Winn Brook Elementary School.

Unlike the earlier incidents, the person was present at school and in close contact with others during their infectious period which is two days prior to becoming symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, two days prior to testing, up until the time the student/staff/teacher is isolated.

Individuals who were in close contact with the community member have been notified privately and should be tested, said Phelan. Regardless of test results, those who were in close contact must self-quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure to the person who tested positive.

To further prevent transmission of the virus to other staff and students, the district has sanitized the school with a focus on the areas frequented by the community member that tested positive.

“Although we cannot provide specific information about our school community member who tested positive, please continue to monitor your child for symptoms, and keep your child home if he/she/they shows any symptoms or is not feeling well,” said Phelan.

Breaking: First Coronavirus Case In Belmont Confirmed, Attended Biogen Conference

Photo: The Belmont resident with the coronavirus attended a Biogen conference at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf (Google maps)

Belmont’s first positive Coronavirus case in a resident has been confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, according to a press release dated Wednesday, March 11 from Wesley Chin, director of the Belmont Health Department.

“The presumptive positive individual is in good spirits and reports mild symptoms,” said Chin.

A parent of students who attend the Chenery Middle School and Belmont High School, the resident took part in a Biogen conference at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf in late February which is “Ground Zero” in the spread of the respiratory disease. As of Tuesday, approximately 70 out of 91 presumptive positive cases in Massachusetts are linked to that leadership meeting.

Only the parent has shown symptoms of the virus known as COVID-19; the students and other members of the family are symptom free.

The resident and the family are now complying with a 14-day in-home quarantine protocol provided by MDPH, said the press release. The individual is isolated in the home and is staying away from members of their family.

Even before the confirmation, the individual and its family have been out of school and work since the previous week as a preventative measure to reduce the chance of community spread.

In light of the first positive case in town, the Belmont Public Schools Facilities Department is cleaning and disinfecting the schools the children attend as well as the Belmont Public Library, which was cleaned prior to opening today.

The school department has strengthened cleaning protocols at all schools, with a focus on high touch points. It is also closely monitoring hand towel and soap dispensers to ensure regular refill and has ordered a large supply of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to be distributed to all schools.

There are now plans to systematically disinfect all other town buildings moving forward, said Chin.

Local health departments, including the Belmont Health Department, conduct contact investigations of confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19 cases, in collaboration with MDPH. This helps to prevent further spread by having contacts of cases self-quarantine.

The US Centers Disease Control (CDC) has updated recommendations for people at higher risk — older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

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.

Principal McAllister Leaving Chenery For Central Office [Video]

Photo: Mike McAllister.

Micheal McAllister, the popular principal of the Chenery Middle School, will be heading to the Belmont School District’s Central Office to become the director of the newly named Office of Human Capital.

Entering his 20th year in the Belmont Schools, McAllister has been the Chenery principal for the past four years after spending seven years as principal of the Butler Elementary School in the Waverley neighborhood. He began his career as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at the Chenery in 2000.

McAllister earned his BA from Northeastern and a master’s in education from Harvard. He lives with his family in his hometown of Bedford where he served on the School Committee for six years (2013-2019) and was Chair from 2015 until 2018.

“We will welcome Principal McAllister to his new role after we post and search for an interim principal to replace him for the remainder of the 2019/20 school year,” said Belmont District Superintendent John Phelan announcing the news on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The district will post for the permanent principal position for the Chenery that would start on July 1.

“I think that the district is about to undergo a lot of change, to be able to have a hand in helping steer that in a good direction is an amazing opportunity,” McAllister told the Belmontonian. He noted that bringing the new Belmont Middle and High School “online” in the next five years will require a great deal of time and effort on his part.

McAllister will handle the district’s human resources duties, including the recruitment and hiring staff and educators, negotiating contracts, benefits, professional development opportunities, retirement, and other related employment issues. 

After 20 years as a classroom teacher and a school leader, this will be McAllister’s first time working in the central office.

“When I saw the job description, one of the things that struck me was that I’ve done a lot of those duties already, so I think I can parlay the skills and experiences that I’ve had,” he said.

“I think the central office is really closely connected to the schools, and I think that I can help do that. I am one of those rare people that has experienced at the elementary, middle and high schools, and I have relationships at all those schools and I’m hoping that we can build on this,” McAllister said.

McAllister said it will be a major adjustment to go from daily managing hundreds of students and educators to an office on Pleasant Street.

“I get fired up by the interaction. I love being in a place where 1,500 people know me and I know 1,500 people, I love that, you know, so it’ll be a big, but it’s just a different type of leadership. You know, and I think that as a leader, you’re always trying to move into a place where you’re being challenged. And this is this will definitely be a challenge.”

Chenery Students Are Champions of Pangolin’s Plight

Photo: A pangolin.

When you think of trafficking animals, the first that come to mind are likely rhinos, tigers, ocean turtles and lions.

But it turns out that one in every four mammals taken from their home in the wild by humans is a slow-moving, cute fellow known as the pangolin or, as some will know them, the scaly anteater.

This wonderful prehistoric creature which lived when dinosaurs ruled the roost 80 million years ago is the only animal that has protective keratin scales resembling a pine cone covering their skin. Part anteater and armadillo, the pangolin will curl up into a tight ball when threatened, frustrating predators which have no way of penetrating the armor. There are several videos of lions left baffled while encountering the native to large parts of mid-sub Saharan Africa, India and Southeast China.

But its existence is threatened by its only true predator, man.

In the past decade, nearly one million pangolins were stolen from their native habitat to be sold for its meat in markets in China, Southeast Asia and Africa. In China, its scales are used as folk remedies despite the fact the scales are similar to fingernails.

The dire condition of this mostly nocturnal animial became the cause of four fifth-grade classmates at Belmont’s Chenery Middle School who have declared it their business to bring the plight of the pangolin to the attention of the world.

“My friends and I heard about pangolins when our teacher gave a homework assignment about them,” said Reno Ragar who is joined by his classmates Maxwell Abouzeid, Jonah Litman and Michelle Lin.

While there are many animals, insects, flora, and birds that are endangered, the fifth graders decided to promote the pangolin’s predicament because “the fact that it is a relatively obscure animal, and since it is the most trafficked mammal in the world,” he said, having seen a pangolin at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

The team ultimately decided to create a comprehensive website dedicated to learning all about the pangolins and the real threat of extinction it faces.

“I selected this form of raising awareness because I am very familiar with computers and Google Sites that is the software we used to make the site,” said Reno

“I think our efforts have educated some people about pangolins, but more publicity is needed,” he said.

It is just that sort of connection with others that promoted the team to write a request to best selling middle school author Stuart Gibbs(Spy School and FunJungle series) to highlight pangolins in some future book.

Gibbs replied to the Chenery team noting his next book was going to be on animal trafficking and he will “mention pangolins at one point … and will probably devote more room in my author note in the back of the book to them.”

With the web page and Gibbs mention in his future book as examples, “I hope that our efforts will inspire other people to educate others about pangolins and this horrible crime,” said Reno.

Chenery To Address Racist, Homophobic Graffiti At School-Wide Response Wednesday

Photo: Chenery Middle School.

Every class at Chenery Middle School will spend a portion of the Wednesday, Nov. 21 school day to address the discovery of racist and homophobic graffiti in one of the building’s bathrooms.

In correspondence to parents sent on Tuesday, Nov. 20, Chenery Principal Michael McAllister said the profane and offensive markings were found last week in a first-floor bathroom by staff. McAllister said he was “stunned” finding “[r]acist language, homophobic language, and profane language adorned the side wall and the mirror.”

“[I]t was difficult to read such hateful language,” said McAllister.

Hate graffiti has been on the increase at nearby school districts. Reading Memorial High School has been plagued by someone who has been drawing swastikas more than 30 times in the past year and a half with eight in the past few weeks. Malden High School, Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School and middle schools in Reading have recently seen this sort of vile vandalism. A recent study by the Anti-Defamation League reported that hate crimes at all schools that includes graffiti have increased by more than 100 percent in the past year. 

But for McAllister, until last week’s incident, “Belmont had been the exception.” McAllister said despite an ongoing investigation, no one has been identified “responsible for such vitriolic language and disregard for the values we hold as a school community.”

McAlister said while the “culprit” may be hard to identify, the school will have a substantial response. “In times like these, we are reminded of the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr that, ‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,'” wrote McAlister.

“We cannot simply do nothing. As your school leader, I cannot let this incident be swept under the proverbial rug. A statement needs to be made that we are not a community that will simply let this kind of thing slide,” said McAlister.

On Wednesday, students will remain in their homerooms as teachers will review the facts of the incident. Educators will start a conversation with the students, emphasizing how the hate vandalism impacts each pupil and what message should be sent to the student who wrote the graffiti with the aim to show students the large-scale impact of a single action.

Responses will be written and posted throughout the school, especially in the bathroom in which the hate occurred.

“As one colleague stated, ‘We could post words of hope on that same wall where there were once words of hate. We can take back that wall,'” said McAlister. 

“We remind students every day in our school motto that we are all expected to be “Respectful, Responsible, and Ready to learn.” Actions like that clearly violate the expectation of respect. Actions like that violate the responsibility we must all feel towards each other in a community. Actions like that impact our ability to learn with a free and open mind, forcing us to focus on protecting ourselves from threats before all else,” said McAlister.

Chenery’s Soap Box Derby Club Impress In First-Ever Competition

Photo: The first ever Chenery Middle School Soap Box Derby Team.

The Chenery Middle School’s Soap Box Derby Team, led by Coach Leon Dyer, had a lot of fun on its first-ever competition in the Indoor Rally Race held in the parking garage of the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall the weekend of March 3. The team competed in the morning race on Sunday, March 4.

The team fared well in its first-ever event. Liam Mitchell came in 2nd (with Liam’s last race being a difference of .03 second), James Barmakian came in 5th and Ian Goentzel came in 8th (taking over the spot of Eamon Khan, a 7th grader who had to leave early).

The Chenery Team started almost a year ago taking a field trip in June 2017 to the Arlington Soap Box Derby Championship. After seeing that event, the group of students was sold in building a few cars. Over the past few months, Barmakian, Goentzel, Mitchell and Khan and coach Leon Dyer built four Super Stock Soap Box Derby cars in the Tech Ed classroom at Chenery Middle School.

Ryan Bauer, a Chenery 7th grader who has been participating in Soap Box Derby racing for roughly four years, served as the team’s racing advisor. He was first in his Stock division at the Cambridge race. Ryan was great at answering questions about the cars and competitions.

The team is planning to compete in one or two additional events before the Championship Race in Arlington on June 2. Moving forward, we are looking to add up to six additional cars to the fleet and a trailer giving a total of 8 to 10 students the opportunity to build, learn, race, and compete in Soap Box Derby.

If interested in sponsoring a Soap Box Derby Car, please email Dyer at

The Soap Box Derby is a youth soapbox car racing program which has been run in the United States since 1934. World Championship finals are held each July at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. Cars competing in this and related events are unpowered, relying completely upon gravity to move. There are three types of Soap Box Derby Cars. Stock, Super Stock, and Master’s Class.

Chenery Middle School Talent Show This Wednesday, Jan. 24

Photo: This Wednesday.

The 6th annual Chenery Middle School Talent Show is Wednesday, Jan. 24 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the school’s Auditorium.

The talent show is a wonderful opportunity for Chenery students and staff to share their many talents and be a part of a community-building event. Students get to showcase their passions and develop their confidence and grit as they perform in front of their peers.

Tickets are $10 and directly support the Grade 8 Washington DC Trip Scholarship Fund. Tickets are available for purchase at Moozy’s (corner of Belmont and Trapelo), Champions Sports in Belmont Center, and the night of the show. Students may also purchase tickets directly from Mr. Dyer in room 117. Concessions will be sold during intermission by the Chenery Middle School PTO.

Gas Line Replacement Begins Friday at Washington and Branchaud

Photo: Road work on Washington and Branchaud.

The prep work has been done, and the work to replace a major utility line a block from the Chenery Middle School is set to begin today.

National Grid is scheduled to replace the natural gas main at the intersection of Branchaud Road and Washington Street. As part of this project, we will also replace the natural gas service piping that connects the main to the customer’s gas meters of nine houses.

Traffic will be affected at the site.

Construction is expected to begin on Friday, Aug. 25 and end approximately on Monday, Sept. 4, all dates weather permitting. The first day of school at the Chenery Middle School is Wednesday, Sept. 6.

We will work hard to complete this project promptly and with minimal disruption to the community,” said Grace Sawaya, Community & Customer Management manager for National Grid in a press release to the town.

National Grid has produced a YouTube video on the gas main replacement process, in addition to a second video explaining the replacement of the service pipe to customer homes at

“We’re here for you if you have any questions about this project. Please contact me at 781-907-3419
We look forward to working with you as we upgrade our community’s infrastructure,” said Sawaya.

Chenery Closed Tuesday Due To After Effects Of Monday’s Power Outage

Photo: Schools out for … June 13.

Chenery Middle School will be closed Tuesday, June 13 due to the impact of yesterday’s power outage on the building’s backup generator.

In an email to middle school parents and guardians, Belmont Superintendent John Phelan said that after consulting with the Belmont Fire Department “there is a concern the backup generator at the Chenery is not within the state safety regulations.”  

“Therefore, the school will not be in session on Tuesday, June 13th for Chenery students,” he said.

Phelan warned the school community there is “a possibility that this process may take more than one school day” to bring the generator up to Fire Department muster. He said he would keep adults, students, and educators updated throughout the day.

In the one bit of good news for parents and kids is that the “cancelled day of school will NOT be added to the end of the school, per Department of Elementary and Secondary Education policy,” said Phelan.

“The last day of school for all students, including Chenery students, remains Wednesday, June 21.”