Breaking News: Cunningham Resigns From School Committee

Belmont School Committee member Kevin Cunningham, known for his loquacious manner and attention to detail, is resigning from the committee effective when a replacement is found or by Nov. 15.

In a letter [see Cunningham’s statement below] to Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, Cunningham said while he had hoped to complete his three-year term ending in April 2017, “I find that financial and family issues, long held in abeyance in favor of contributing to the schools, must now take priority.”

Cunningham and his wife, Lisa Gibalerio, are parents of three children in the Belmont schools.

Cunningham won re-election to the committee in April’s Town Election, receiving 3,501 votes as he and fellow incumbent Laurie Graham ran unopposed for the two open seats.

Cunningham won his seat when he topped the field of three with 2,101 votes as he and Graham beat out School Committee chair Ann Rittenburg for places on the committee. The year before, he finished a distant third with two seats available.

During his tenure on the committee, Cunningham directed most of his energy on budget and financial matters, work he won praise from colleagues and town officials for bringing an analytical, forward thinking approach to the school budget, using realistic, unemotional assumptions on revenue and spending.

He is also one of the architects of “One Town, One Budget,” a process Selectman Andy Rojas described at this year’s Town Meeting as creating a realistic budget “we all could support” through a collaborative effort between the school district and town government.

“I appreciate the movement of the School Department, and the Town generally, toward long-term financial planning, and I am so glad that all of us representing the public have worked together with respect and without rancor on the core issues of the district and town,” wrote Cunningham in his letter.

Cunningham also brought a natural inquisitive nature to the committee, which, at times, resulted in sometimes verbose “stream of consciousness” questioning that could approach Proustian lengths.

Yet each one of his questions brought to the fore important details to relative issues, from broad budgetary concepts to querying the need to send school trips overseas “when there’s just as much to see in Chicago.”

Cunningham’s replacement – to be selected by a joint committee of the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee – will fill the seat only until the Town Election in April 2015. Then the appointed replace, and any other registered voter can seek to fill the two-years remaining in Cunningham’s term.

With Cunningham’s resignation, three of the six seats on the committee will be open with incumbents Anne Lougee and Lisa Fiore expected to run.

Kevin Cunningham’s letter to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman dated Oct. 6. 

Dear Ellen:

I am writing today to formally resign from the elected position of School Committee Member, effective either when another qualified candidate is appointed jointly by the School Committee and Board of Selectmen, or by November 15, whichever comes first.

I am deeply grateful to my fellow citizens for having afforded me the opportunity to contribute to the Town of Belmont and our outstanding school system in this capacity for over three and a half years. It has been a privilege to work alongside so many people who are so skilled at – and devoted to – promoting excellent outcomes for all the students in town. I appreciate the movement of the School Department, and the Town generally, toward long-term financial planning, and I am so glad that all of us representing the public have worked together with respect and without rancor on the core issues of the district and town. I have been especially fortunate to serve along so many skilled School Committee members, current and past, and such highly qualified professionals throughout the school system.

I would truly prefer to continue to serve our town in my current capacity as School Committee member – I feel I still have much to offer, and serving feeds my soul. But I find that financial and family issues, long held in abeyance in favor of contributing to the schools, must now take priority.

And so I withdraw myself from my elected role. To the extent that I can still help the schools in a more limited way, I have informed the Chair of my availability.


Kevin Cunningham

Lougee, Fiore Set to Run for Re-election to Belmont School Committee

Incumbents Anne Lougee and Lisa Fiore indicated that they are preparing to defend their seats on the Belmont School Committee at Town Election in April 2015.

“I don’t see why not,” Lougee told the Belmontonian after the Belmont School Committee meeting last night, Tuesday, Sept. 23. Fiore also said she expects to run to return to the six-member board.

Both Lougee and Fiore will be seeking full three-year terms to the board.

Lougee, a Warwick Road resident whose daughter is a Belmont High School graduate, was appointed to the Committee in October 2011 to fill the reminder of the term formerly held by Karen Parmett who resigned. She won a full term in the Town Election in April 2012.

Like Lougee, Fiore – a Lesley University faculty dean with children in district schools – was appointed to the committee, in September 2013, to serve the term of Pascha Griffiths who also resigned. In the 2014 Town Election, Fiore was elected to fill the one year remaining on Griffiths’ term.

Helping Repair A Place in Belmont History

Nineteen-year-old Army Private James Paul White – known by his friends as “Whitey” – had seen his share of war in just the month he spent on the front lines in 1944.

White – a member of Co. G, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, “The Big Red One,” – had fought as part of the US Army’s advance into the Huertgen Forest, “a miserable and treacherous affair” that lasted until the first week of December, recalled White’s unit commander, 1st Lt. August T. ‘Mac’ McColgan, in 2004.

It must have been a hard time for the replacement to a battle-hardened company

“All of the battles in the past were just rehearsals for what was yet to come” on Dec. 16, said McColgan, when some 24 German divisions, 10 of them armored, launched a massive counterattack in the Ardennes region of Belgium that began what was to be called the Battle of the Bulge. The 26th, known as the “Blue Spaders,” would fight on the northern edge of the enemy’s advance, near the small Belgium hamlet of Don Bütgenbach.

“The Battalion Commander finished his attack order with the statement, ‘Gentlemen we fight and die here.’ Many did die there, friend and foe alike,” wrote McColgan in 2000.

We established our defensive position astride the Bütgenbach/Büllingen Road. We, G Co., 26th Infantry established the “Hot Corner,” said McColgan in his war memoir, “The Battle of the Bulge – Part III – Hell at Bütgenbach.”

On Dec. 20, White – who was a veteran member of the outstanding 1942 baseball team of Belmont High School where he graduated in 1943 – would face with his fellow soldiers the might of the German Wehrmacht. Enemy tanks launched an attack on their position on “a dark, damp and foreboding morning,” many which succeeding in penetrating parts of the US line. Only through close-range combat was the attack propelled back.

Following a night and early morning which White and his comrades were subjected to an artillery barrage that was “by far the worse the defenders of Dom Bütgenbach had experience in the whole war,” a final all-out push with an ever greater armored force began at dawn on a foggy Thursday, Dec. 21.

Once again, the 26th successfully beat back the enemy’s attack in which infantry drove back the Germans. For his actions during that battle, the 26th’s Cpl. Henry Warner would be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumous.  

And in the snow and bitter cold of a field in Belgium on the day before winter, White laid dead, one of 19,000 Americans killed in the 10-day battle.

In May 1948, a year after White’s body was sent from Europe for burial in the US, Belmont honored White by naming the athletic field house on Concord Avenue for him.

A bronze plaque reads that White was “[a]n athlete trained on the Belmont playgrounds” who was “representative of the youth of Belmont who served their country in World War II.”

“Freedom lives and through it he lives.”

The memorial, which hangs just inside the front door of the 82-year-old structure, is more than simply an aging tablet to the long dead. It became one of the reasons inspiring Woodfall Road resident Frederick Jones to move towards “refurbishing” the interior of Belmont High School’s athletic facility used by numerous teams which play on Harris Field or the Viglirolo Skating Rink during the school year.

“The plaque is quite moving,” Jones told the Belmontonian before attending the Belmont School Committee’s meeting on Tuesday, June 24. “It’s well worth reading by every resident.”

Jones said the structure is a state-recognized historic building – that is owned by the School District – that “we all drive by every day on Concord Avenue which also has an interesting architectural history.”

“But it’s also a historic memorial for a town figure. It makes you feel that there should be something better to continue this memorial to this hero and to all veterans,” said Jones, whose son plays football and was a finalist in the 200 meter dash in the All-State meet earlier this month.

Yet for anyone who has entered the field house can observe, the interior – which has four locker rooms – hasn’t changed much since the day it was renamed more than 65 years ago. The lockers are circa 1940s, “old, battered and far too small and narrow for modern equipment,” said Jones, forcing hockey and football players to leave large bags and personal items on the floor or on top of the lockers. The paint is old, the emergency lights don’t work and the communal showers harken back to the YMCAs of a bygone age.

“It is quite remarkable the conditions inside the field house,” Jones lamented.

“We know how hard the athletes work … and it seems right to give them a better facility,” said Jones.

Yet years of delayed maintenance has taken its toll on the structure as capital spending is limited and greater priorities for the Capital Budget Committee arise on an annual basis.

Knowing the challenges facing any facility needing long-term funding in Belmont, “our idea was to step in and do some simple things that will refresh it,” said Jones.

The result of many brainstorming sessions by Jones and a core committee he set up resulted in raising nearly $40,000 in outside pledges of the $50,000 they are seeking to raise along with contacting contractors who can do the job.

The project is divided into several “discrete modules” that were ranked in order of importance with the lockers being the most pressing need. Next will be replacing the electrical system and updating the lighting fixtures and emergency lighting system, performing a top-to-bottom cleaning, repaint the inside and then place partitions in the showers for privacy.

And work is currently underway inside the field house with material begin stacked up in the ground floor entry way.

Jones and his group will be working with the town’s Facilities Manager, Gerry Boyle, and the school’s Athletic Director James Davis as well as the Brendan Grant Foundation which will allow anyone donating to the effort to receive a tax deduction for their contribution.

“The support we have receive has been very encouraging and has helped our fundraising,” said Jones.

Yet what this one group of parents and supporters has done is expose the inability of the town to sufficiently fund what is required from either the school or capital budgets, said the School Committee’s Kevin Cunningham.

“I’m not sure what the moral of that is except that an additional amount of effort is not coming from the core fund but from volunteers and donations,” said Cunningham.


Belmont Schools, Teachers Union Sign Three-Year Deal

Limitations to Belmont’s financial future and job security trumped demands for big pay increases as the Belmont School Committee and Andy Rojas, chair of the Belmont Board of Selectmen, approved three-year labor agreements with the four bargaining units represented by the Belmont Education Association on Tuesday, June 24.

“There’s been a relationship of honest communication and trust established that we can build upon,” BEA President John Sullivan told the Belmontonian after the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting held at the Chenery Middle School.

“We hope that the process producing these agreements has helped deepen relationships based on trust and mutual understanding that will support teaching and learning through the life of these contracts,” said a press release dated Wednesday, June 25 that was signed by Belmont School Committee chair Laurie Slap and Sullivan.

After a year-long negotiation, the union and the committee reached the tentative agreements on Thursday, June 12 with the BEA units approving the four respective agreements on Wednesday, June 18.

The four units comprise teachers (Unit A), directors and assistant principals (Unit B), clerical employees (Unit C) and paraprofessionals (Unit D).

On the salary front for teachers – that makes up the largest BEA unit with approximately 300 members – most of the increases over the next three years will be going to the most senior of the teachers. Those with 14 or more years of service, known as “top spots,” will receive the bulk of increase:

  • Year one, only the “top” educators will receive a 1 percent increase,
  • Year two a 2 percent increase for the top educators while those with 13 years or less will receive a 1 percent increase, and
  • Year three, top step educators will get a 2.5 percent with the less-senior educators receiving 1 percent again.

Yet those increases have been tampered down by the effective dates of the jump in salaries; increases in the first year will not begin showing up in pay packages until the 113th day of the year, with similar delays in the subsequent years; 109 days in year two and 121 days in year three.

“So the one percent increase in the first year is really about 80 cents to the dollar,” said Sullivan, a teacher at Belmont High School who led the union’s 10-member negotiating team.

“We believe the compensation picture has stayed within the projected available revenue that will be coming to the school department over the next three fiscal years,” said Belmont District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston who participated in his final committee meeting before department from his three year “interim” position on June 30.

While the contract’s pay compensation increase is sparse for most teachers – two percent over two years – the membership approved the union’s package overwhelmingly, said Sullivan.

“We had a lot of questions on salaries in our meeting last week,” said Sullivan, having met with his membership for an hour before the votes was taken last week.

Modest increase in salary

“There was faith in the team and trusted the work that we had done with the school committee. … [the] compensation package allows Belmont to say competitive in retain and attract highly-qualified teachers,” said Sullivan.

In a recent Boston Business Journal report, Belmont teachers ranked 30th in state according to salary information from 2011 with an average teacher’s salary of just lower than $80,000.

“We remain on that upper level of compensation with other towns so we are competitive,” said Sullivan.

The relatively modest pay increases for Belmont teachers in this contract is based on the acceptance by both sides that the town is unlikely to see any appreciable increase in available revenue for the foreseeable future.

The realization Belmont relies heavily on residential property taxes – whose increases are limited to 2 1/2 percent annually – while lacking the capacity to generate tax revenue from new growth such as commercial real estate or fees restricted what the union could ask for and the town to give.

“The agreements provide for compensation in line with projected annual School Department revenues for fiscal years 2015, 2016, and 2017,” said the School Committee press release.

Both the committee and Sullivan said the most important issue facing the sides was that the district “remains committed to attract and retain a highly qualified staff that meets the needs of our students,” according the committee’s press release.

The other major agreement achieved in the contract is job protection for paraprofessional such as teacher’s aides. The new contract states that at the end of the 2015-16 school year, no [paraprofessional] who has successfully completed five years of service can only be dismissed with “good cause.” In addition, a new evaluation system will be jointly negotiated during the upcoming school year.

“We have a highly-dedicated group of professional aides that does a great job supporting students. It’s a sign of respect and [they] feel better with their position within the district,” said Sullivan.

In addition to the job protections for the aides, the agreements also provides the standardization of clerical personnel job classifications and pay-for-performance benefits to directors and assistant principals, said the press release.

The agreement continues the “step and lane” salary schedule in which teachers receive pay for years of service and education level they achieve.

Kingston said while he continues to believe “step and lane” compensation is “unsustainable,” he said this contracts mitigates the formula by acknowledging the limits on revenue growth.

Both sides agreed that employing in part the principles of interest-based bargaining – in which both sides expressed their underlying interests for each request – greatly assisted the negotiation process.

The committee and the town will also be created a Joint Labor-Management Committee to “continue addressing district-wide issues of mutual concern,” said the press release.

“It’s building on the relationships we’ve established so we won’t have as many items in three years with the next contract,” said Sullivan.

“We don’t want to put everything on hold for three years,” said Slap.

The specific details of the agreements are available on the Belmont School Department’s website under the School Committee tab in the next few days.

School Committee, Teachers Set to Sign Three-Year Contract Tuesday

After nearly a year of weekly negotiations and late-night meetings, the Belmont School Committee and the Belmont Education Association, the agent for Belmont’s classroom instructors, will sign a new three-year memoranda of agreement at the committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The contact will be signed by BEA President John Sullivan. The BEA represents the district’s school teachers, assistant principals, coordinators, teacher aides/instructional support staff and campus monitors.

Sources contacted by the Belmontonian would not go into detail on the specifics in the contract including the percentage salary increase or whether the two sides have agreed to continue the “steps and lanes” salary schedule. Steps refer to how many years a teacher has been teaching, and lanes refer to how much education the teacher has.

Under the current three-year contract, set to expire on Aug. 31, first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree received $46,546 in fiscal year 2014 while a first year educator with a PhD would earn $55,788. At the top end, a PhD with 15 years of work experience makes just under $100,000.

Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston – who is leaving his position on June 30 – has been publicly critical of the steps and lanes schedules as pay increases are automatically given to educators without consideration for performance. Other critics contend an across-the-board pay increase would be a fair substitute of the current structure.

Supporters of the current pay schedule say that it provides transparency as they are based on easily quantifiable measures ensuring equitable salaries without biases towards teachers and allows those educators to plan for the future by giving them a reasonable assurance of their yearly income.

Honoring Six Who Served In Belmont’s Schools

They taught, administered, kept the snow off outside stairs and brought the always interesting Belmont School Committee meetings to the public.

For six members of the greater Belmont Schools family, their long service for or to the district were honored by the Belmont School Committee on Tuesday, June 10 at the annual ceremony saluting their careers at their retirement with salutations and cake.

(from left) Paul Carey, Meg Hamilton, Gwen Irish and Robert McCorkle at the Belmont School Committee's annual reception for educators, staff and the public retiring from working for the public schools.

(from left) Paul Carey, Meg Hamilton, Gwen Irish and Robert McCorkle at the Belmont School Committee’s annual reception for educators, staff and the public retiring from working for the public schools.

The first person honored was a non-educator who brought the schools and the committee to the greater community. Paul Carey, who was the government and community producer at the Belmont Media Center, was faithfully behind the camera at nearly every School Committee meeting. Carey, who had a long career in media and advertising before becoming a producer, will be best known for his booming voice requesting both committee members and the public “to speak clearly into the microphone.”

Steven Chung Hau Wongassistant custodian at the Burbank Elementary for 12 years, will best be remembered for clearing snow from the back stairs leading to Gale Road. He was noticeably pleased when the stair were condemned a few years ago. 

A teacher in Belmont since 1981, Robert McCorkle, whose last position in the district was teaching third graders at the Winn Brook, brought poetry into the classroom and made it a regular ritual while being the school’s grammarian, a math whiz and history buff. He will end this years as in the past, leading a play in which “children behave as children; singing, giggling and assuming the identity of folk tale characters and occasionally forgetting a line … as Bob sings along.”

Gwen Irish has held just one position in her 42 years serving the Belmont School District: second-grade teacher at Wellington Elementary. There is no one who has as much tacit history about the schools or the town as Irish. Her knowledge in teaching and how to teach has been an ongoing asset to the children she taught and to the countless colleagues she has helped over the years. “She has always been willing to go the extra mile … and after 42 years that still rings true.”

Carol Cormier had two swings of the bat with the district, first as an office manager, then, after raising her family, coming back in 1994 first as a financial clerk where she processed the weekly accounts payable warrant entering $15 million of invoices over the year. She also lead the way in installing and using new financial software systems. 

Preschool Coordinator Marguerite “Meg” Hamilton began her service in the district in 1989 working part-time before becoming a preschool teacher for a decade. She then became a inclusion specialist, helping to create and implement the elementary autism inclusion program. In 2006, Hamilton became the early childhood coordinator working tirelessly to instruct educators and the public on the issues facing students.

“Most of all, Peg has represented what is truly best about special education; efforts to intervene early, efforts to include all children into the educational process regardless of challenges … and consummate dedication and professionalism working not only with some of our most vulnerable students but also their families.”

Belmont’s Fiscal ’15 School Budget Gets Committee OK

The Belmont School Committee voted unanimously to approve the fiscal 2015 school district budget at last night’s, Tuesday, May 13, meeting, even if everyone in attendance – about 25 residents, educators and committee members in the small community room at the Chenery Middle School – admits that the financial blueprint for the 2014-15 school year is barely enough to keep the district from slipping off its high educational perch.

Despite being designated as a top-flight Level 1 District in Massachusetts – “a very rare destinction,” said Belmont Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston – and recently rated as the third “best” High School in the state (and 151st in the US) behind two examination-entry schools by US News & World Report, the growing number of “unpredictables” facing the district in the near and long term will place ever increasing financial pressures on the committee, said Kingston in his review of the $46,156,000 fiscal ’15 budget, an increase of 4.1 percent, or $1,806,900, of the previous fiscal year.

The greatest uncertainty – and the largest cost driver in the budget – is the spike in pupil enrollment, noted Kingston, as the district has seen 143 new students enter the district during the 12 months ending May 1. The district is currently educates 4,301 children between kindergarten and 12th grade. Next year, an additional 115 students are expected to “move into” the system.

And the latest predictions show that Belmont could see between 360 to 600 new pupils entering the system in the next five years.

According to Kingston, a large portion of the $1.8 million increase – which he deemed a “substantial” amount – is being used to keep 18 full-time positions added to the district last year to accommodate the rocketing enrollment numbers.

The immediate result is overcrowding classrooms as the available budget can not contend with rush of new students. Next fiscal year, each classroom can expect an additional student, many now passing the district’s own limits of students per classroom.

Add to that what Kingston calls the town’s “income issue” of relatively flat residential tax revenues and a limited ability to create new commercial property, “there isn’t more money out there” to do what the district should be in meeting its stated goal of supporting “continuous improvement and overall programmatic and fiscal stability by engaging administrators, teachers, students, and community stakeholders in generally accepted practices of long-term strategic planning.”

While, as several committee members noted that the budget will not result in staff reductions as in years past, next year’s fiscal blueprint doesn’t reflect the ever increasing needs facing the district.

According to a group of educators including principals and curriculum leaders as well as staff, the system should have an additional dozen full-time educators with the priorities being in English Language Learners and at the Chenery Middle School. But that will only occur if additional funds are available soon, said Kingston.

Operational override suggested

“This is one of the biggest arguments for an operational override,” said Kingston, noting that it will be up to the Belmont Board of Selectmen to ask for a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote to be placed on the ballot.

It is expected that the town’s newly-formed Financial Task Force will likely make a recommendation on whether Belmont should request an override (possibly in April 2015) at the Special Town Meeting expected to convene this fall.

Kingston’s report – accompanied by a set of presentation slides – was little different then his initial budgetary talk in February. The approved budget will go before the Warrant Committee, the financial watchdog for the Town Meeting, which will make a recommendation either to accept or reject the budget assumptions.

And the demands of the district do not end at the classroom door. Many of the residents who attended the meeting sought assurances that the school department and committee did not forgo the need for adequately-funding extra curricular activities and athletics moving forward.

Ann Reynolds of Fairview Avenue said the issue of creating a better community was an important issue during Town Meeting discussions held the night before.

“Sports … offers the structures these kids need; guidance … coaches and role models, mentors and peers … [all] that are very positive,” said Reynolds.

“We really want this to happen,” she noted. “Winning team, happy town, happy High School. If we are number three in the state but our sports teams stink, then there is something wrong. We all need to work together to win this … for our kids,” she said.

School Committee Chair Laurie Slap said in the near future, the district and the committee are willing to work in a private/public model – which will allow for a football program for eighth graders at the Chenery Middle School in the fall – to allow for outside sources to fund the additional sports teams and activities.

Farnham Street’s Ann Rittenburg, who is a former school committee member and chair, expressed “great frustration” with the committee’s inaction to move forward with past initiatives that would garner alternative funding sources for a budget “that clearly falls short of meeting student’s needs.”

“I was hoping to hear more about concrete actions that were taken in order to address those critical issues we know we need  to address … and it’s incredibly frustrating to see you form subcommittees to study issues and make recommendations that you then shelve in favor of forming more subcommittees … . How many more years do we have to go before we actually take action?” she asked.

Rittenburg questioned why the district has not hired a full-time professional development employee to uncover additional revenue that will help not just sustain but allow additional capacity for athletic participation.
“That recommendation was made four years ago,” she said, noting that as enrollment increases, the number of spaces for existing sport teams will also rise.
School Committee member Anne Lougee noted that while the district is aware of growing demands by student who want to participate in sports, “I think we already have a pretty rich program.”

Power Off: Wellington Solar Panel Project Goes Dark

The sun set on plans to place solar panels on the roof of the Wellington Elementary School as the Belmont School Committee voted last night, Tuesday, April 8, to support Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston’s recommendation to rescind the contract associated with Boston-based contractor Broadway Electric, the solar installer which decided to close its business earlier this year.

“So it’s time to fish or cut bait and I’m suggesting we cut bait,” said Kingston.

Despite attempts to find another solar installer that would take over the current contract – which is considered a very small project by industry standards – the earliest that it would come before town officials for another round of approvals  would be in three months after studying the job.

“We need to stop protracting this,” said Kingston.

Kingston, who said the committee and the town remain strong supporters of using solar power, said it would be best for the new superintendent, John Phelan, who will begin his tenure on July 1, to take charge in leading the committee in finding a new vendor.

Kingston suggested that it would be advantageous for the town and schools to revisit the Wellington solar plan when a new High School is constructed, pairing it up with a larger project that could also include other municipal building such as the town’s fire stations.

“The bigger the project, the more attractive the job will become,” said Kingston.

Yet it is not known when that project will come on line; the school committee today submits its statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the renovation of the current High School, a process that can take several years.

Nor is there any certainty that solar-power tax credits, which allows contractors to install panels for no cost to the town or school committee, will remain at the current level or be around when the High School project begins.

Changing Lauries: Slap Selected School Committee’s New Leader

In a changing of the guard but not first names, Laurie replaced Laurie as chair of the Belmont School Committee last night Tuesday, April 8.

That would be Laurie Slap, who is known for her stellar, thoughtful work on budgets and financial matters, was installed as the new chair of the six-member board replacing Laurie Graham who has held the position for the past several years.

(It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it was Lauries switching seats; the name – the “pet” form of Laura, derived from the Latin “laurus,” the evergreen shrub or tree whose leaves were woven into wreaths by the ancient Greeks to crown victors in various contests, according to – reached its popularity as a girl’s name from the 1950s to the 1970s (in the top 50 list of names) before plunging off the charts today.

The Long Avenue homeowner, who has been a Belmont resident since 1993 with her husband and three children, said she sees no reason to change the committee’s course.

“I think the team has been working well together, so if we follow in [Graham’s] footsteps we’ll be in really good shape. I am looking for continued continuity,” said Slap.

Slap, who won her seat on the committee in 2010 and was re-elected comfortably in 2013, is an economist by trade matriculating at Colby College earning a BA in Economics/Mathematics and earned a MA in Management from the MIT’s Sloan School with a concentration in finance/corporate strategy.