A Dozen Candidates In The Mix To Fill School Committee Opening

Photo: The Belmont School District building

It may not be cheaper by the dozen but 12 residents are finalists to fill the Belmont School Committee seat vacated by Andrea Prestwich last month.

The 12 applicants is the same number as the last time a school committee position was filled in 2020, noted Board Chair Adam Dash, for “a thankless job but an important job.”

The candidates were announced at a Nov. 9 joint meeting of the Select Board and School Committee which will vote on Wednesday, Nov. 10, to select the new member.

The candidates are:

  • Diana Cepeda, Trapelo Road
  • Aisha Foxx Telfort, Betts Road
  • Phillip Fremont-Smith, Somerset Street
  • Ralph Jones, Summit Road
  • Marko Labudovic, Carleton Road
  • Frances Leighton, Thomas Street
  • Jeffrey Liberty, Worcester Street
  • Alessandro Miglio, Trapelo Road
  • Glen Robertelli, Bay State Road
  • Jerome West, Trapelo Road
  • Jung Yueh, Waverley Street
  • Amy Zuccarello, Elizabeth Road

A brief mission statement from each candidate can be found at the bottom of the article.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the two sets of members discussed the process of whittling down the candidates until the new member is selected. Following the lead of School Committee Chair Amy Checkoway, the selection will be a two step process. The first step is underway with a review of the application material made up of a statement off interest and the resume.

The second course of action, which the two groups hope will be completed within a two hour window, will take place Wednesday at a public meeting. There will be a “meet the candidate” during which each applicant will make a three minute opening statement which will focus on why they are applying for the role.

After this brief intro, the eight member voting group will reduce the pool to five finalists with a runoff if their is a tie for fifth. Those remaining residents will give short answers to questions from the group. Then a final vote will occur with the best candidate receiving a majority (five of eight voters) with additional rounds if no one reaches that threshold.

What type of skills and experience is the joint election group seeking? You name it! An understanding of the issues before the committee, communication experience, a background in negotiations, teamwork, budget and finance experience, knowing policy development and strategic planning, and being an inquisitive person would be perfect for this position.

Statement of interest from the candidates for Belmont School Committee (Cuts have been made for length)

Cepeda: “I would be a good candidate for this committee because my child attends Belmont High School and a racism incident occurred and I would like to join the committee to be a part of the solution to this issue. I have a background in accounting and want to share my experiences and talents.”

Foxx Telfort: “I worked as an RN for 15 years and currently stay home with 2 children who now attended the Wellington. After many years of nursing and being a mother and homemaker, multitasking, organization, planning, and caring about our community have become a major part of my life.”

Fremont-Smith: “In a time of elevated emotions and uncertainty I believe the School Committee needs people who are experienced, rational and empirical thinkers. Emotion can drive too much of the public discourse today and that can lead to distraction, or worse. In my HR & Talent Acquisition consulting business I have juggled and moderated a wide spectrum of issues serving many varied constituencies over the past several decades. I have developed a specific approach to problem solving over the years that is based on empiricism. I follow a simple MO; Calmly listen, calmly question/consider and then calmly proceed with what needs to get done.”

Jones: “As a former member of the School Committee, I can start immediately. This appointment comes at the start of the budget process for 2021-2022. My 25 years in elected and appointed positions in Belmont Town Government create a unique perspective on how to obtain the best school budget. Equally important is my experience in collective bargaining. During my nine years on the School Committee, I served on the bargaining teams for BEA Units A and B and AFSCME. Prior to my election to the School Committee in 1995, I conducted research for 12 years on the development of legal frameworks for municipal labor relations. I also worked as an apprentice arbitrator and mediator, developing skills in conflict resolution.”

Labudovic: “I believe I can provide leadership and help my community during these difficult times. I am particularly interested in helping with Special Education and Covid related activities. I believe in diversity and I challenge the status quo. I currently lead an organization of 1,000 people and I know how to get things done.”

Leighton: “I have over 20 years of experience in project and program management where I have learned to excel at managing large-scale processes and performing complex problem solving. I foster strong relationships within all levels of an organization, as well as with external vendors and clients. I am incredibly organized, detail- oriented and have strong communication skills.”

Liberty: “The Belmont Public Schools are at an important crossroads, and the Belmont School Committee faces many complex challenges and opportunities. I would like to put my nearly 30 years of experience in education at the service of the Town and the school system that our two children attend. I have broad, national expertise in a number of the areas that the School Committee oversees, and I have good working relationships with a number of the current Committee members as well as good insight into networks of students and families in town as a result of my volunteer activities over the years.”

Miglio: “Navigating modern day challenges requires curiosity, patience, kindness, and a steady hand. These are staples of my day-to-day life both as a manager at work and as a parent of two Belmont school kids.”

Robertelli: “20+ years running and leading life science organizations in the USA and overseas including invasive and non-invasive sensor technologies and diagnostics. Experience dealing directly with the FDA and regulatory authorities in Europe and other regions. Understanding of data and extensive experience presenting said data in front of live audiences and stakeholders including physicians, nurses and hospital executives. Senior Advisor to Metryx and its CEO, Shawn Rubin. Co-author of ‘Pathways to a Personalization: A Framework for School Change,’ in helping this educational startup maximize teacher efficiency and student achievement by increasing the frequency and accuracy of formative assessment in schools using tablet technology.”

West: “I’ve grown up and live around education. My mother was an elementary school literacy specialist, serving children who had fallen behind in literacy education. In the past, I have volunteered my time with the Maize Foundation and other tutoring groups, helping at-risk youth reach their peer goals in academic achievement. Beyond my passion for education, I am a risk management and security professional. This gives me experience in helping organizations implement applicable governance and policy requirements. Likewise, my professional technical and financial background will enable me to understand the budgeting process and drive the board’s decision-making.”

Yueh: “I have previously had the pleasure of working to help the Belmont school system. I served as the Butler PTA treasurer for 2 years and served on the Elementary School Advisory Committee on Hybrid Learning in 2020. When I worked as a pension and health actuary, I calculated the value of benefits in support of my corporate clients in union negotiations. I understand benefit terms, and how they potentially translate to current and future cashflow.
As a trained mediator, I was taught to look for creative solutions to reach consensus. It is often helpful to have someone who can listen to all sides and be able to play the role of a devil’s advocate in order to reach a thoughtful agreement.”

Zuccarello: “I was motivated to apply for this position because I am the right person to fill the open spot. I have more than twenty years of professional experience in a wide array of financial and legal matters which is directly relevant to the work of the School Committee. I work with clients to develop and negotiate budgets, often when substantial cost savings are required. I regularly work with different groups to bring people together to achieve a common goal. These skills will be valuable to the Committee in its work on the school budget and in negotiating with the teachers’ union, as and when needed.

Santa’s Coming For Belmont’s Tree Lighting, Thursday, Dec. 2

Photo: Yup, Santa and Mrs. Claus will make their return to Belmont

After being cancelled in 2020, Belmont’s traditional start of the holiday season returns to Belmont Center as Santa and Mrs. Claus will lead the annual tree lighting ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 2 starting at 5:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The event, which will include closing Leonard Street to allow for caroling, food and merchants stalls, and the arrival of the Claus’ on top of a Belmont Fire engine, is sponsored by the Belmont Center Business Association.

Thank You, Power Ranking: Three Belmont Teams Make Their State Tourneys Under New System

Photo: Belmont High Girls’ Volleyball starts tourney play on Nov. 4

Jen Couture, Belmont High Volleyball head coach, was joking – a bit – when discussing her team as it wrapped up the 2021 fall season last week.

“Best 7-11 team ever, huh?” she said.

In fact, Belmont IS the best 7-11 volleyball team, at least, in the context that the Marauders will be taking its below .500 record into the MIAA Division 1 state tournament. Just two years ago, a similar “losing” season would have seen the team packing their uniforms early. But in 2021, Volleyball is joining Field Hockey (6-10-0) and Boys’ Soccer (6-9-3) into the playoff brackets with a more defeats than victories to their names.

What gives?

The reason a trio of Belmont squads have a chance make some post season noise is the new process instituted this year by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. For the first time, teams are not judged by their win/loss records but ranked under a formula that considers how strong each opponents’ schedule is and the team’s average margin of victory. Under this system, playing well against top ranked teams is rewarded even if your team suffers losses during the season while defeating weak squads by a small margin could see you tumble in the rankings.

The Division 1 tournament for Belmont’s fall teams starts on Thursday, Nov. 4 with Volleyball at 10th seed Lincoln-Sudbury Regional (14-6) at 4:30 p.m. and then the 28th ranked Boys Soccer (6-9-3) hosting Peabody (8-8-1) at 7 p.m. Field Hockey (30th ranked at 6-10) ventures up Route 2 to meet its traditional pre-season opponent third-seed Concord-Carlisle (16-1-1) on Friday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m.

The overall ranking decides if a team is one of the 32 teams that make the playoffs and their seeding in the tournament. A team’s win/loss record only comes into the mix if a squad is outside the top 32 but has a winning – above .500 – record. And then they are required to meet one of the lowest seeds, starting with the 32nd ranked team in a play-in match.

If the MIAA had followed the playoff criteria from previous years based on a team’s victories and defeats, every Belmont’s fall team – boys’ golf and girls’ swimming state championships are determined at single event meets and matches – would have failed to make the tournament.

Belmont’s teams benefited from being in a very competitive conference, the Middlesex League, with a number of strong teams. For example, Field Hockey faced three of the top 12 teams in the state twice during the season. Because the three top teams have very high ratings, just playing them is important in making the tournament. In their second games against Winchester and Arlington, Belmont kept the margin of victory of their opponents to less than the three – which is the maximum amount the ranking will count for or against a team – which prevented the Marauders from slipping out of the tournament as they placed 30th.

For volleyball, the new system doesn’t punish the team ending the season on one of the most brutal seven match losing streaks in team history, five of those losses going the distance, 3 sets to 2. But due to the tough schedule it faced, Belmont is ranked 23rd, one place higher than Natick High (10-4), three better than Wellesley (11-6) and five notches greater than Bridgewater-Raynham which finished the year at 12-5.

Boys soccer also found itself on the wrong end of an early season seven game bad beat, which in previous seasons would have been fatal to its chances making the playoffs. But a win against Winchester and two memorable ties vs top-ranked Melrose and Arlington saw the Marauders slide in seeded 28th with a play in game to come.

Yet losing to underrated teams or playing a slew of weak squads has dashed the fortunes of Girls Soccer (5-6-5) and Belmont High Football. Belmont’s Hall of Fame Girls Soccer Head Coach Paul Graham lamented his team’s losses to “small schools” Wakefield and Stoneham – those in the Middlesex League Freedom division – which the Marauders would traditionally skim by. A 1-1 tie against three-win Watertown, which hadn’t scored a goal against Belmont in 30 years, and a 5-0 home defeat against Arlington in the season finale was just enough to place the Marauders 34th in Division 1, the first team that missed the tournament as the 33rd placed squad had a better than .500 record and is in a play-in game.

While the football team (4-4) has had a great start to the season, the four wins came against opponents with a combined record of 3-28, which put the Marauders behind the eight ball early. And while Belmont finished the regular season with a one-point loss to 6-1 Woburn, they lost big to middle-of-the-road Wakefield (4-3) and Arlington (3-4) which saw them fall to 25th where the first 16 in Division 2 made the post season.

Register Now! Town Sponsored Covid-19 Vaccinations For Kids, 5-11, Set For Friday, Nov. 12 At Beth El Temple

Photo: Pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be distributed at the clinic on Nov. 12 (credit: Pfizer)

The Belmont Health Department is sponsoring Belmont’s first pediatric vaccination clinic on Friday, Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Beth El Temple Center, 2 Concord Ave. The follow-up second dose clinic will be held on Friday, Dec.
3.

This age group was authorized by the CDC on Tuesday, Nov. 2 to receive the pediatric dosage of Pfizer vaccine, in the two-dose timeline 21 days apart.

Please register for an appointment at the link below:
https://www.appointmentquest.com/scheduler/2180061935?schedule=belmontvaccineclinic

This clinic is specifically for Belmont residents and students who attend school in Belmont. If you register and are not a part of one of those groups, your appointment will be cancelled.

Belmont To Commemorate Veterans Day With Breakfast, Clay Pit Pond Events

Photo:

Belmont will be honoring all veterans of the US armed services at three events commemorating Veterans Day.

Wednesday Nov. 10

Belmont’s 7th annual Veterans Breakfast at 10 a.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St., sponsored by East Cambridge Savings Bank. Free to all Veterans.

As a thank you to our local Veterans, the Belmont Council on Aging hosts its seventh annual Veterans’ Breakfast, free for Veterans, spouses, and families. Enjoy a hot breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns provided by our friend from the Diner at 11 North Beacon in Watertown. Belmont Hill School’s B-Flats will provide us with entertainment. A special thank you to East Cambridge Savings for once again sponsoring this special event. Please call 617-993-2976 to register.

Thursday, Nov. 11

At 10 a.m., there will be a short Veterans Dedication Ceremony held at the Open Door Baptist Church on Pleasant Street with Pastor Bob Butler presenting.

At noon, a Veteran’s Day gathering will take place at the Belmont Veteran’s Memorial at Clay Pit Pond. Bob Upton, Belmont’s Veterans Agent, will make some brief remarks. There is no Belmont schools Veterans Day Program this year and the VFW does not have an event scheduled.

Updated Design Presentation Of Community Path Set For Thursday, Nov. 4

Photo: The location of the design presentation of the Belmont Community Path

The Belmont Community Path Project Committee invites residents and the public to join the Town of Belmont’s design consultant Nitsch Engineering for a public presentation (via Zoom webinar) of the 25 percent design plans for the Phase 1 of the Belmont Community Path on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m

Phase 1 of the Community Path will extend from the end of the existing Fitchburg Cutoff Path at Brighton Street on the Cambridge line through Belmont Center Station and to the existing Clark Street Pedestrian Bridge at Pleasant Street, and will include a spur at Alexander Avenue connecting the Winn Brook neighborhood to the Belmont High School and Middle School and Concord Avenue via a tunnel under the MBTA Fitchburg Line. 

Phase 1 of the Belmont Community Path has been determined by the state to be eligible for Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funding for construction and the submission of the 25 percent design plans to MassDOT (which occurred on Nov. 3) is an important milestone towards securing TIP funding and generally moving the project toward completion. 

During the presentation, the design consultant will walk through the 25 percent design plans, discuss updates to the plans since the draft set of plans were presented in July 2020, discuss next steps for the project (including further opportunities for public input), and answer questions and take comments and feedback on the plans. 

The 25 percent design plans are posted for review at https://belmontcommunitypath.com/2021/11/25-submission-public-information-meeting/. For those who wish to watch the presentation again or for the first time, the event will be recorded by the Belmont Media Center.

As Communities Reconsider Masks, Belmont Stands Pat On Coverings Indoors, In Schools

Photo: Hopkinton is the first Massachusetts school district to end mask mandates at its high school (Credit: Hopkinson High School website)

As the first town in Massachusetts has ended a mask mandate at its high school on Monday, Nov. 1, Belmont will be standing pat with requiring coverings for students and public indoor activities.

At its meeting on Monday, the Belmont Select Board heard from Health Department Director Wesley Chin who discussed Covid-19 in Belmont. Chin noted 74 total cases in October, compared to 71 in September with 35 the average age of those infected. Under CDC standards, Middlesex County “still sits in high risk for transmission and Belmont is still in substantial risk,” said Chin.

Chin agreed with Board member Mark Paolillo who said, despite a plateauing of cases nationwide, with Belmont remaining in the substantial risk level of transmission, “we’re not in the position at this point based on the statistics … to lift any mask mandate.”

But Chin did tell Paolillo he believes the town could return to the mandate after the first of the year.

“I think we’re in a sort of gray zone right now. We’re … cautiously watching and eager to see what the holidays bring us. Once we get past the New Year, we should reassess and see where things are,” said Chin.

Hopkinton lifted its mask mandate at its high school for the next three weeks on a trial basis after the school in the center Massachusetts town exceeded the 80 percent Covid-19 vaccination threshold for students and staff which Massachusetts Gov. Baker’s administration set in September to end requirements.

An Oct. 15 article in the Boston Globe found Belmont and 61 other Massachusetts school districts had reached the levels to end mandates. In fact, the Globe found Belmont far exceeding the state requirement: 90 percent of students between ages 12-15 and 89 percent 16-19 have been vaccinated.

When asked to comment on the findings, Belmont Superintendent John Phelan said the mandate “was voted on by the Belmont Board of Health and School Committee. The School Department respect the decision and are following this policy” with any discussion of ending the ban should go through the Board of Health.

But Phelan did leave the door a bit ajar on reconsidering the mandate.

“All issues are open to discussion and I am sure the decisions will be in the best interest of keeping our students, staff and community safe,” said Phelan.

Nominations For Open School Committee Seat Due On Nov. 8; Interviews Start Nov. 10

Photo: What’s up next for the school committee is selecting a new member (credit Belmont Media Center)

It is a voluntary position that demands hours of your time weekly, will add more stress to your life and goes largely unrewarded by the public.

If those attributes haven’t sent you heading for the door, then you’re just the person the Belmont School Committee is looking as its newest member!

At a joint meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Committee and Select Board finalized the process on how they will replace former chair Andrea Prestwich who resigned last week as she starts a new job at the NIS.

And the committee wants the temporary position – the appointee, if they choose, will need to run for election in April’s Town Election to continue on the committee – filled soon, “before Thanksgiving” is the hope of current Chair Amy Checkoway.

“This is a key leadership position” thus it will be important “filling this open seat,” said Checkoway. “This is a really big opportunity to make an impact and difference in Belmont.”

Committee member Mike Crowley said with the town’s fiscal challenges the committee will face in the coming years, it would be advantageous that candidates with budgetary and financial “acumen” would be looked on favorably by the eight members who will vote on the applicants

Deadline for School Committee applications

Monday, Nov. 8 at 5 p.m.

While several of the committee and board want someone with board or committee related experience, Committee member Jamal Saeh doesn’t wish to discourage anyone who has limited education or fiscal expertise from applying which could limit the diversity of possible members on the committee.

School Committee members have included parents, lawyers, those in business, scientists, educators, researchers, and a variety of other backgrounds. 

With a pre-turkey day deadline as its goal, the committee will likely need to whittle down the list of candidates before entering the time consuming one-on-one public interview process

“Last time we had a glut of really good people to choose from,” said Board Chair Adam Dash of last year’s process replacing Susan Burgess-Cox, but he wasn’t sure if the committee wants to take that much time to fill the seat.

Committee member Meg Moriarty advanced creating a hiring rubric, a scoring tool that defines the qualifications and expectations by which each candidate will be evaluated so the “process is a little less subjective and more objective in whittling down a first group of candidates,” said Moriarty.

Kate Bowen said the type of questions the board and committee puts out will demonstrate the skill set and experience being sought in a successful candidate that also provides a high level of transparency to the applicants and public. While she agrees that all candidates should have some “face-time” with the groups, if there is a large number of applicants, Bowen suggests allowIng all candidates to answer one question with a two-minute response before conducting a poll to cut the number moving forward with the full set of questions.

All in all, Dash said he expects a good field to apply for the seat.

The most difficult issue of the night was coming up with a date when to review the candidates. And they are ready to go. Questions will be discussed at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9 with initial interviews of applicants at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10. If a consensus candidate isn’t selected on Nov. 10, a second date will be determined at that time.

Who is qualified to run?

All Belmont residents age 18 and older are encouraged to apply via the Town’s website. The candidate must be a registered voter of Belmont.

To apply, go to “Volunteer Opportunities” on the Town of Belmont home page, click on the link for appointment to a Belmont Committee, and click yes to “Are you interested in specific committees.” Type “School Committee 2021” in the box labeled “Interested in a Committee not listed above?” You can then fill out the rest of the short form and upload a CV or resume. Please include a concise statement of interest in the text box.

Link to “Volunteer Opportunities” available here as well: https://www.belmont-ma.gov/home/pages/volunteer-opportunities

For further information, email the chair Amy Checkoway acheckoway@belmont.k12.ma.us or any member of the committee. Their contact information is available at https://www.belmont.k12.ma.us/bps/Committee.

Final Belmont Farmers Market Of Season Thursday

Photo: See you next June!

After a summer and fall of Thursdays, the Belmont Farmers Market has reached the last week of the season, Thursday, Oct. 28. The market will be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For the final time in 2021, the popular market will be filled with vendors, music, activities, story telling and community information. And fill out a comment card and a survey to let us know what you think about the market.

The market is located at the Town Center parking lot, 10 Claflin St.

This week’s vendors include:

PRODUCE

  • C&M Farm
  • Dick’s Market Garden
  • Giant Gorilla microgreens
  • Hutchins Farm
  • Nicewicz Family Farm
  • Joyberry Farm mushrooms

MEAT, DAIRY & FISH

  • Hooked (Red’s Best Seafood + Boston Smoked Fish)
  • Lilac Hedge Farm
  • Round Table Farm cheese

BREAD, PASTRY & SWEETS

  • Hearth Artisan Bread• Mariposa Bakery• Sweetheart Vegan Bakery

PREPARED MEALS

  • Del Sur empanadas
  • Mei Mei dumplings
  • Chef Cyrille/Papa’s Ravioli
  • Valicenti Pasta Farm

SPECIALTY VENDORS

  • Flores de Cafe coffee
  • Just Hummus

EVENTS TENT & COMMUNITY TABLE

Storytime: Belmont Books joins us to read stories from 4 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Performers: 2 p.m. A&W Ukulele Players

Community Table: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Community Organized for Solidarity; 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Foster Parent Recruiter, Department of Children and Families.

Racist, Homophobic, Anti-semitic Graffiti Continues To Be Found At Chenery Despite School-Wide Anti-bias Efforts

Photo: Chenery Middle School

“Kill gays.” “Kill N——rs.” Swastikas.

These are recent examples of hate graffiti found in the bathrooms of Chenery Middle School, all coming after the district school for the town’s 5th to 8th grade students held a school-wide effort to address hate symbols earlier in the month.

In a Tuesday, Oct. 26 email to students and parents, Chenery Principal Karla Koza said hate writing and symbols were found inside student restrooms in the past week, coming a fortnight after the staff and teachers held a school-wide observance to address hate graffiti in the school. These incidents come the same time a racist message was left in the Belmont High School library during an open house.

“Your teachers, our staff, our administration and I are deeply disappointed that this continues. I know most of you do not want this type of hate speech in our school either,” said Koza writing specifically to her students.

“Please remember that all students belong at Chenery. When we see terrible things on our walls, it makes us uncomfortable, makes us feel unsafe, and does not help us to feel connected as the great school we are,” said Koza.

Hate-filled graffiti has an unfortunate legacy at the Chenery. Three years ago, a bathroom was tagged with racist and homophobic language in an unprecedented attack of hate speech at the school. In response to the act, Chenery Principal Micheal McAllister conducted a school-wide activity to explain what happened and what students can do to begin the healing process.

“[W]e continue to see vulgarities and graffiti that erodes the sense of community and safety for our students,” said Koza addressing parents and guardians, adding “[t]hreatening racial and homophobic slurs have no place at Chenery Middle School and do not align with our core values to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students.”

Koza said she will address the matter at Wednesday’s morning announcements. Moving forward, school leaders “will continue to address this hateful graffiti by investigate the incidents and follow up with students and families as needed.”

The District School Resource Officer has been notified while Chon’tel Washington, the district’s newly-hired Director of Equity and Inclusivity and community liaisons including the Belmont Human Rights Commission will serve as resources to the greater Chenery community.

“We urge families to talk about these issues at home,” Kona asked parents. In addition, students may reach out to any trusted adult at our school for support or clarity while Belmont community members may also reach out to the Belmont Human Rights Commission for support.