Chenery’s Modulars Have Arrived, Flat Tires and All [Video]

Photo: The new look at the Chenery: modular units on the tennis court.

When Branchaud Road’s Milo Pikcilingis heard the trucks in the Chenery Middle School parking lot around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, he had to see what was happening.

As he peered outside, he saw big flatbeds carrying what looked like buildings coming towards his house. Milo’s day was set! 

In fact, what Milo saw were modular classrooms – bathrooms included – ready to be placed on what  was once the school’s tennis courts. 

“So far so good,” said site manager Rich Russo from Littleton-based Triumph Modular overseeing the construction.

The six classrooms – equipt with their own bathrooms and powered with underground electrical wiring – will hold up to 25 students, making a dent in the rapid increase in student enrollment in Belmont schools. The district bought the units for $1.4 million, funded from the town’s “free” cash account. 

“A new modular has a lifespan of between 10 to 15 years, and even longer if maintained,” said Russo.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

For the rest of the day, Russo’s crew would gently back the large units so they would slide in-between units and then moved sideways into place. 

Constructed in the mid-west, the units were shipped to Triumph’s Littleton office before making its final journey to Belmont. On the way here, the crew lost nearly 400 tires due to the pressure of transporting the heavy structure.

Russo said it will take five weeks to make the units ready for students.

As for Milo, his attention to everything going on caught the attention of the workers who made him a “manager,” providing him a hard hat and neon yellow safety vest.

“I’m amazed how fast they built it,” said Milo’s dad, Aaron Pikcilingis as his mom, Laura Burnes, and older sister, Eloise, came by to also watch the excitement.

“Yesterday it was a tennis court and today, classrooms. Amazing.”

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Meet Belmont: A Crowded Success

Photo: Cookies from Plymouth Congregational Church.

After 13 years, you could be excused to think that Meet Belmont – the annual late summer community “meet and greet” held Tuesday, Aug. 31 – would become old hat.

Think again. 

At 7 p.m., the Chenery Middle School cafeteria was packed with kids, parents, couples and residents learning about Belmont for the first and some, the 14th time. 

Nearly 100 non-profit organizations and town government departments were on hand to greet the wandering mob, with the noise high enough that normal speaking levels required leaning onto each other to hear what was being said. 

Mark Maida of Longmeadow Road came to Meet Belmont with his two children, Aubry, 5, and Wesley, 3.

“We wanted to learn about all the things that are going on in Belmont and how we can be a better part of the community. There are a lot of activities to do in town and lots of organizations that go great work,” he said, carrying a load of pamphlets and other stuff in his arms.

Grouped by related interest – government agencies and committees along the wall, religious organizations next to each other – volunteers gave out information, novelties (kudos to Belmont Light with its sunglasses) and candy and treats to anyone interested to hear what they had to say. 

“It’s great,” said Ellen Gitelman, executive director of Belmont World Film, the town’s film screening group, of being an exhibitor at Meet Belmont.

“Year after year, we get at least 30 to 35 people sign up for our mailing list. We see them at our Family Film Festival, the young families moving to Belmont, and they say, ‘Hey, you look familiar’ and I realize how I met them,” said Gitelman, who also said two businesses are eager to sponsor the festival after meeting her at the get-together.

By the end of the night, participants learned about the Garden Club’s Winter House Tour on Dec. 3, enjoyed the uniqueness of the Morris Dancers, how to register their cat with the town (Town Clerk Ellen Cushman registered just about 20 new voters) and how to register for sports camps run by the Recreation Department.

For the new organizers of this year’s Meet Belmont – Allen Babroudi, Natalie Leino, Erin Lubien, and Carol Trager – the night could not have gone more swimmingly. 

“All of us are very proud of what occurred tonight,” said Lubien, noting that the rise in parents and children at the event was due to a closer connection with the schools, principals and groups like the PTA/PTO.

“We have been working around the clock for the past month doing this, and it came together at the end,” said Lubien, praising the 25 residents and students who volunteered Tuesday. 

And for next year? Lubien said the group is already thinking about that night. 


Belmont Garden Club.


“I’m coming for your cat!”


Belmont Media Center.


Organizer Erin Lubien (right) with Anne Mahon.


The voice of Belmont, officer Daniel MacAuley with Lt. Kristin Daley manning the Police Department’s table.


Town Clerk Ellen Cushman (left) with Asst Town Clerk Meg Piccione answering one of many questions about being a town resident.


Belmont Dramatic Club, the second oldest community theater organization in the country.


He’ll be fine.

Butler’s Principal McAllister Named to Chenery’s Top Post

Photo: Mike McAllister. 

Daniel Butler Elementry Principal Michael McAllister is returning to the Chenery Middle School where he started his Belmont career as a fifth-grade teacher.

But this time, McAllister is coming back in September as the Chenery’s new principal.

“Principal McAllister was chosen from a field of very strong candidates who participated in a rigorous interview and selection process,” said Belmont School District Superintendent John Phelan. 

McAllister, a Bedford resident (who is on his town’s School Committee for the past three years), replaces Kristen St. George, who announced she would be leaving her position in March. He was a finalist for the Chenery position with Belmont High School Assistant Principal John Muldoon and Watertown Middle School Principal and Belmont resident Kimo Carter.

A Bedford native (as is his wife, Meg), he graduated from Bedford High School in 1995. He and his wife have two children. McAllister holds a B.A. in Political Science and English from Northeastern University and an Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University.

McAllister was named principal of the Butler in 2009, having previously been the district’s social studies director and a teacher at the Chenery. 

“McAllister is a proven leader in the district, who brings a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience as an educator and leader. I am confident in his ability to advance the good work already happening at the Chenery and to work together with the Chenery staff,” said Phelan.

Financial Watchdog Committee OK With Funding for New HS Design, Modulars

Photo: Belmont Superintendent John Phelan at the Warrant Committee.

The Warrant Committee unanimously supported proposed funding sources for two outstanding school capital needs: the purchase of six modular classrooms to be located at the Chenery Middle School and the hiring of a project manager and funding for a feasibility study and schematic designs for the renovated/new high school.

The vote by the committee, which is the financial “watchdog” for the Belmont Town Meeting, came after short presentations by school and town officials at the Chenery Middle School Wednesday night, April 13.

What makes the funding approach different from the traditional method of issuing bonds to raise the funds, the town is arranging to pay for these needs via in-town financing.

The $1.4 million proposed by the School District for six modular classrooms to be located on the Chenery Middle School tennis courts will come from the town’s “free cash” account; the $1.75 million to pay for creating plans and hiring a property manager for the new Belmont High School project will come from the proceeds of the sale of town-owned property off Woodfall Road to a luxury residential developer.

The new classrooms – which will be ready for the start of the upcoming school year in September – are needed as the district grapples with continued overcrowding as enrollment levels continue to skyrocket, with a projected 400 additional students entering the system from Oct. 2015 to Oct. 2019.

“And we have a very real need at the Middle School” when it comes to finding space to use for teaching, said Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan, pointing out that classes are being taught in areas previously used as offices and storage rooms.

The modular classroom will be purchased rather than leased after an analysis conducted by the town’s Facilities Department found it is cost beneficial to own the pre-hab structures if held for more than three years, according to Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan.

According to the superintendent, “we will be in need of this space for some time,” upwards to a decade, said Phelan.

“If I could find the money and the space, I would ask for six more classrooms,” he said.

The direct transfer of the $1.75 million from the sale of the Woodfall Road property to the newly created Belmont High School Building Committee “just made sense” as the sale was a “one-time funds from the sale of a capital asset,” said Sami Baghdady, chair of the Board of Selectmen and the board’s representative on the committee

These funds will pay for the initial stages of the renovation/new construction of the high school including feasibility and design studies that are required to be financed within 220 days after the project is approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority in January.

While there are other financial avenues the town could have traveled to pay for the project – free cash and a special account known as the Kendell Fund which has more than $3.3 million – a discussion among town leaders and the Treasurer’s office that the Kendell fund should preserve to finance studies of future capital projects including a Police Station, DPW Yard, and town library.

While there will be a need for additional funds down the road, the Woodfall Road money should be “enough funds to get the Belmont High Building Committee through the initial feasibility phase.”

Authors Springs Into The Chenery for Summer Reading/Book Fest

Photo: Young Adult authors and Belmont residents Diana Renn (left) and Ammi-Joan Paquette who will participate in the “Spring Into Summer Reading” Author Festival & Book Fair.

The Chenery Middle School is where the action will be this afternoon, Thursday, April 14, as seven Young Adult book authors will meet readers and answer questions at the “Spring Into Summer Reading” Author Festival & Book Fair from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Chenery Middle School cafeteria.

The fair is open to all students, especially those from the town’s four elementary schools.

The authors attending the fair include: 

  • David Yoo, 
  • Erin Dionne, 
  • Josh Funk, 
  • Julie Berry, 
  • Kekla Magoon, 

And a pair of Belmont resident authors 

  • Diana Renn
  • Ammi-Joan Paquette

In addition to meeting the authors and asking them questions, participants can attend workshops and presentations – Dionne will speak about writing a catchy beginning to stories to “hook” the reader – and buy books that the authors will sign. Each book sold will help support the Chenery library!

Registration for Belmont Jr. Marauder Football Now Open ‘Til April 30

Photo: Belmont Junior Marauder Football players who played on Harris Field.

The Belmont Junior Marauder Football Program is holding its registration period for the fall 2016 season. The registration period ends April 30, and the program will not accept players after that date.

The Belmont Junior Marauders were created to provide Belmont’s 7th and 8th graders with the opportunity to play grade-based NO weight limit football. The team participates in the Eastern Massachusetts Middle School Football League and will play teams from Winchester, Arlington, Bedford, Melrose and Saugus among other regional middle school teams.

Preseason will begin on Aug. 22 and games are played on Wednesday afternoons. Practice will be held on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Bus transportation to and from away games will be provided. There will be a mandatory parent informational meeting April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont Lions Club, 1 Common St.

Registration forms are available on or website and in the main office at the Chenery Middle School. You can also request a registration form by sending an email to

All Registration Forms  are due on or before April 30, 2016.

Assistant Principal Coplon-Newfield Leaving Chenery

Photo: Daniel Coplon-Newfield

A week after the Chenery Middle School’s principal announced she was stepping down in June, her second-in-charge told parents and staff Monday, March 7, he is also leaving the Belmont middle school at the end of the school year.

Daniel Coplon-Newfield, a long-time teacher and assistant principal for the Upper School since 2011, wrote in an email he leaving the Chenery to become Head of School at the Vassal Lane Upper School in Cambridge. One of five public schools for 6th-8th graders, Vassal Lane accepts students who have completed local Montessori schools.
“This represents a great opportunity for me as I continue to develop as a school leader and I am excited about this big next step,” wrote Coplon-Newfield, who first came to the school in 2005 as a Behavior Specialist; Special Education Teacher.
“I cannot overstate my respect for the tremendous teaching staff here at Chenery. They are, without a doubt, some of the best middle school educators in the country and I will miss working with them,” said Coplon-Newfield
Coplon-Newfield statement comes a week after Chenery Principal Kristin St. George announced she was stepping down from her role. The departures leave a large gap in experience and leadership to be filled before the last week in August when classes begin in the 2016-17 school year. 

‘The Heist!’: Chenery Artist Presents One-Night Only Show Wednesday

Photo: What was lost and yet to be found nearly 26 years ago.

On March 18, 1990, two men wearing Boston Police uniforms overpowered a pair of night guards and stole some of the world’s great works of art that belonged to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum located in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood. 

That now iconic art theft is the impetus for a unique and exciting arts show presented by student artists from the Chenery Middle School.

“The Heist!” a one-night only art performance, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., explores and interprets the historic event as student tour guides will lead groups through the art show in which students present their interpretations of the works lost in the robbery more than a quarter of a century ago.

Imagined, created and hosted by the eigth grade art elective classes (Printmaking, Sculpture, and Drawing & Painting) at the Chenery, the show will include special guests from the Gardner Museum, according to Kristen Ripley of the Chenery art department.

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Modular Classrooms Heading to Chenery’s Tennis Court

Photo: The Chenery Middle School tennis courts which will house six modular classrooms in August 2016.

After putting off a decision for the past two years, Belmont School District announced last week it will place six modular classrooms on the Chenery Middle School tennis courts for the start of the 2016-17 school year in August.

The classrooms – single-story temporary prefabricated structures most notably used last to house Wellington Elementary students as the new school was being built five years ago – are being brought to the middle school to alleviate the skyrocketing enrollment in the past five years that is taxing the building’s capacity, according to Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan and members of the Capital Budget Committee. 

The decision to go with modulars is not a surprise as the district initially discussed adding temporary classrooms nearly three years ago when the Space Task Force established by former Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston concluded the Chenery “does not have enough space to support the current level of student enrollment” and won’t be able to fit the large classes funneling from the four elementary schools in the next five years.”

The solution “will result in the need for modular classrooms” by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

The six classrooms – equipt with their own bathrooms and powered with underground electrical wiring – each can hold up to 25 students, making a dent in the rapid increase in student enrollment in Belmont schools. 

While the Chenery is the only school selected this coming school year, the school district will evaluate the enrollment numbers at the elementary schools with the possibility of purchasing more units for one or more of the district’s four elementary schools. 

Phelan said the district has no timetable on how long the units will be used or if they will be moved from school to school when there is a need for more classrooms. 

“[They’ll be] used as long as needed,” he said. 

While Phelan said the district has yet to decide on the type or style of the “mods” to be placed at the Chenery “we are working with the same engineering firm that Winchester is using” during the construction of that district’s new High School.

On that project, Littleton-based firm Triumph Modular added eight classrooms as a new school was being built on the site of the current building. 

Closer to home, Triumph was hired by Belmont Hill School in 2013 to provide six classrooms, an open testing area, five private offices, a conference room, and restrooms for staff and students for a year and a half during construction of a school building. 

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Modular units at Belmont Hill School 2013.

According to a “rough budget” from a modular study created by the school district, the estimated cost for lease the mods for three years comes to $1.12 million compared to the upfront cost of $1.23 million buying the units. 

“The one benefit with buying [the modulars] is that there is a resale market for the newer units” as opposed to the type the district bought in the past, said Ann Marie Mahoney, Capital Budget chair. 

While the school district has yet decided if they will lease or buy the units – “a cost analysis [is] underway” to determine the financially wise course, said Phelan – the likely purchase of the modular structures could result in the Capital Budget Committee using its entire $1.1 million budget acquiring the units.

“We can’t keep asking taxpayers to bond another million dollar expense,” said Mahoney.

“But then we can’t meet requests from the other departments this budget cycle,” she said.

“It will simplify our Town Meeting report,” Mahoney said wistfully.


Being Green Assists Belmont With Energy Savings at High and Middle schools

Photo: Chenery Middle School.

Most residents know a significant amount of educational energy is produced by teachers, staff, and students at Belmont High and Chenery Middle schools. 

What citizens may not realize is that the schools are also the greatest user of conventional energy in Belmont, consuming 50 percent of all power used in town buildings. 

Any opportunity to reduce or conserve power there could go a long way to reducing the town’s carbon footprint and save taxpayers money, according to Gerald Boyle, Belmont’s director of facilities. 

Thanks to a “green” energy grant that accompanied being designated by the state as a Green Community, Belmont’s heaviest users of energy will soon be retrofitted and installed with energy control systems with the aim of containing costs at both facilities by using electricity more efficiently. 

The $151,000 grant will pay for the bulk of the $174,000 price tag – after energy credits, the town’s contribution is $11,000 – to install the systems, said Boyle before the Belmont Board of Selectmen on Monday, Dec. 28, at Town Hall. 

“We look at the best use of our money, and we view this as collecting from low-hanging fruit,” said Boyle.

The new computerized systems will allow for greater control of the schools’ environments – cooling and heating could be operated and scheduled from the Facilities Department’s office in the Homer Building. It can also produce reports and data highlighting how specific systems components such as pumps, fans, and motors, are working and if repairs are needed, said Boyle.

According to Boyle and David Kale, town administrator, the payback will be immediate. Boyle predicts annual savings of approximately $17,000 at each school with total repayment within four and a half years.

Selectman Mark Paolillo questioned if placing the system in the High School was worth the cost as the building could be renovated beginning in the next five years. (Editor’s note: Last week the Massachusetts School Building Authority selected Belmont High in the final review round before it decides on which projects it will fund in late January 2016.)

Boyle said the systems can be incorporated into a newly-renovated building “so it will not be ripped out” when the renovation takes place.

The grant was part of the package Belmont received after being named one of the state’s Green Communities last December, which encourages energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and promote the town’s clean energy goals.

Belmont will also be eligible to apply for future grants – up to $250,000 each year –to fund local renewable power and energy saving projects.

Belmont became eligible to become a “green community” after meeting five criteria including:

  • committing to renewable energy-friendly zoning,
  • expedited permitting,
  • programs to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years,
  • the purchase of fuel-efficient municipal vehicles, and
  • Creating an energy efficiency requirement – known as the “stretch” code – for new commercial/industrial construction, as well as residential construction of more than 3,000 sq.-ft. The Belmont Town Meeting adopted this code in May 2011.

As part of the application process, an energy audit by Marlborough-based Guardian Energy of all town buildings to review the lighting, water use, and windows was completed to create an energy reduction plan. Town conducted a detailed analysis of municipal buildings and the costs associated with meeting the Green Communities goals. 

Funded by a regional cap-and-trade program, more than $30 million have been paid out to cities and towns since 2010.