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Somerville Skillshare offers free classes by local artists this Sunday

February 26, 2014 03:18 PM


Have you ever wanted to try your hand at parkour, juggling, imaginary map-making, investing, or bee keeping? Get ready to try all that and more at no cost this Sunday afternoon at the Center for Arts at the Armory.

Somerville Skillshare invites the community to partake in a day of free classes led by area artists and entrepreneurs for their inaugural “skill sharing” event. The organization, run by a team of volunteers, seeks to connect talented residents across the city by providing a platform for free collaboration and education.

John Massie, the founder and director of Somerville Skillshare, said this is the first event of its kind in Somerville. He said that Somerville is one of the most talented artist communities in the country, and that he is excited to offer residents the opportunity to learn and connect in a way that encourages individuals to branch out and join the artist conversation.

“If you can make [education] free and open it up to as many people as possible, it’s an exciting thing," Massie said. "By definition, you’re hopefully attracting a very wide group and helping contribute to building community.”

Massie said that he and some of the other volunteers for Somerville Skillshare got the idea from similar events hosted in other cities, such as skillshares in Brooklyn and Boston. While these events have been going on for a few years, Massie said it has been exciting to see the overwhelming response to Somerville inaugurating its own event. More than 800 people have already registered for this free event, proving the city’s interest and demand for an educational platform.

“[You are learning] in a space that’s very informal, a fun setting, free, and you’re doing it with friends and other people in the same boat,” Massie said. “It’s making it as easy and accessible as possible to try new stuff.”

Class spaces will be set up throughout the Armory, Massie said, with about seven classes running simultaneously for 50-minute blocks. A small break will occur between each block, giving attendees time to continue their conversations and find their way to another class of interest. Massie said there will also be space available in the Armory’s café—and later in the performance hall—for individuals to continue discussions they may have started in the classes.

“In the spirit of trying to build and support community around education, we are giving people the space and time regimented during the day to help keep those conversations going,” Massie said.

MaMassie said that he hopes many people will take advantage of this opportunity, whether it is only for one class or for the entire afternoon. He said it’s the perfect invitation to try something new with talented teachers who can answer questions and share their own experiences.

“It is a chance to get a dose or small glimpse into the interesting and diverse things that Somerville residents are doing,” Massie said. “[We want people to walk] away feeling inspired by a class they took or a conversation they had, and to maybe jumpstart a brand new hobby.”

The first Somerville Skillshare will take place on Sunday, March 2, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information on classes that will be offered, the organization, or to RSVP, visit the event’s website.


Lexington school superintendent is retiring in 2015

February 26, 2014 11:12 AM

Lexington school Superintendent Paul Ash announced at Tuesday's School Committee meeting that he will retire on June 30, 2015.

Ash, who has served as superintendent for nearly nine years, said in a prepared statement that he is stepping down from his role to take a new position at a large national educational consulting company. He said he announced his retirement now to ensure that the School Committee has time to find a new candidate for superintendent.

Ash's announcement comes as School Committeee members were negotiating a contract extension for Ash beyond the 2014- 2015 school year.

The committee voted 3 to 2 in December 2013 to enter into contract negotiations with Ash, whose contract ran through June 2015.

School Committee Chair Margaret Coppe said the committee had had several negotiation sessions, and that she had met with Ash on behalf of the committee, but that her team had not reached any conclusions before Ash announced his retirement.

Coppe called Ash a superb leader and said that he turned around the school system’s finances, which were in a tenuous place nine years ago.

“We have one of the best school systems in the state, if not the country. A lot of that has to do with his leadership. He will be missed,” Coppe said. “Our responsibility as a School Committee now is to make sure we continue to keep up the high standards of our students and schools and to find someone who can continue with the leadership
standards that he practiced.”

Ash’s tenure as superintendent was marked with both accomplishment and controversy, with some Lexington residents and officials lauding him for steering the district through the worst years of the recession and for his willingness to discuss issues with members of the public, and others criticizing him for perceived problems with transparency and teacher morale.

Ash said in his statement that he is proud of Lexington’s high SAT and MCAS scores, and he said during his tenure the achievement gap has closed significantly.

He also pointed to the schools’ strong financial situation and the good condition of its facilities.

Coppe said she and her fellow School Committee members found out about Ash’s planned retirement yesterday, so they have not devised a process for finding a new superintendent. But she said the committee has already received offers of help from two prior School Committee members who hired Ash, and that it will soon start setting dates for the hiring process.

Brooklyn Boulders Somerville hosting tryouts for youth climbing team

February 25, 2014 10:00 AM


Brooklyn Boulders Somerville will be holding tryouts for the SomerVillains, their inaugural youth climbing team, this Saturday. The rock-climbing team invites climbers ages 8 to 18 of all levels to come show what they’ve got on the rocks.

Dan Braun, the instruction manager at BKBS, said this will be Somerville’s first youth climbing team. The Brooklyn location has boasted a youth team for four years, and some of their climbers are already competing at the national tournament in Colorado, Braun said. He is excited to bring that opportunity to Somerville.

“Anyone can climb,” Braun said. “There is no obligation if you come and try out, plus you might find a passion you never had . . . It is great to start in your youth, because you have everything in front of you, and you can become a strong climber very quickly.”

Braun said there will be tryouts for two teams: a competitive team and a non-competitive team. The tryouts will compose of multiple stations where youth will traverse, climb, play games, and complete other activities that will help the coaches gauge climbing ability and how well youth work with instruction.

“We will be evaluating the kids on how focused they are, how well they take direction, and how strong of a climber they are. You can be on the competitive team and be a weak climber. If you’re very determined and take direction well, there’s no reason you can’t be on the team,” Braun said.

The season begins the week following tryouts and will last about 12 weeks. The second season will start in the fall, when tryouts will be held again, giving youth the opportunity to change teams.

Throughout the season, parents and climbers will carpool to weekend competitions that are held across New England. They will be participating in the USA Climbing's Sport Climbing Series this spring and the American Bouldering Series in the fall.

Braun said that it is always interesting for new gyms to start teams. He said typically a lot of younger kids will try out, but it does not take long for them to develop and improve their climbing abilities.

“Generally there will be a lot of younger kids ages 8 to 12, but they stick with it through the years. Then, you see 14- and 15-year-olds who have become very strong climbers and competitors,” Braun said.

Regardless of experience level, Braun said parents should consider bringing their children to the tryouts. He said rock climbing is something that can be done all over the world and the teams give kids a good foundation for a future in the sport.

“Rock climbing is great physical skill to have, but it’s also very mentally challenging: It’s a physical puzzle,” Braun said. “It’s a great combination of camaraderie and competition . . . They’ll develop as strong climbers, and the climbing community is a great one to be part of.”

Tryouts for the SomerVillains youth climbing teams will take place on Saturday, March 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tryouts and gear rental are free. The price to participate on the noncompetitive team is $400 for the season, and the price to participate on the competitive team is $800 for the season. For more information or to register, visit their website.


Man dies after being jailed for alleged assault in Arlington

February 21, 2014 02:40 PM

A Medford man jailed after he was charged with indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Arlington last week died this morning after being sent to the hospital for emergency care.

Patrick Barry, 21, died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center this morning after medical personnel at the Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica determined he needed emergency care, according to Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian’s office in a statement Friday.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately release information about why Barry was in need of medical care, but said the inmate was first transported to Lowell General Hospital before he was transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office is investigating the death and the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death, said Stephanie Guyotte, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. Guyotte said the district attorney’s office does not suspect foul play in Barry’s death.

Barry was taken to the jail on Feb. 14 after he pleaded not guilty in Cambridge District Court to a charge of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 years or older. He was being held on $1 million cash bail.

According to Koutoujian’s office, after Barry arrived at the jail, he underwent a routine medical screening.

Barry was arrested after he allegedly approached a 14-year-old girl in the area of Summer and Mill streets at about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 11 and touched her inappropriately, police said.

The girl told police that her attacker was a white man in his early 20s, with gelled hair and mirrored glasses. This description matched Barry, who was on probation and was being monitored by GPS, police said. Officers used Barry’s GPS log to place him at the location of the assault at the reported time, police said. He was arrested on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in his home.

His bail was then revoked in open cases out of Suffolk County, according to the Middlesex District Attorney’s office. He had been indicted on two counts of assault with intent to rape in July after he allegedly attacked two women near Northeastern University.

Jasper White's Summer Shack revamps old Cambridge digs, but it's still a shack

February 21, 2014 12:23 PM


Jasper White, a founder and managing partner of Summer Shack, stands behind the new bar in the restaurant's original location in Cambridge, which just re-opened after renovations. Photo courtesy Summer Shack.

It’s still a shack, but celebrity chef Jasper White says his flagship Summer Shack restaurant in Cambridge is a bit more refined after its first major renovation in 14 years.

The restaurant that seats more than 300 and is known for its lobster, oysters and immense menu reopened last week after closing for two weeks to renovate the space.

Since the Summer Shack opened at 149 Alewife Brook Parkway in May of 2000, the restaurant has opened additional locations in Boston, Dedham and at Mohegan Sun, but White said the flagship restaurant has only undergone minor changes over the years.

To keep up with changes in the neighborhood around the Alewife T stop, White said Summer Shack has now tripled the size of its oyster bar, put in new floors and furniture, along with new lighting, ceiling fans and a new color scheme.

“Originally, our concept was kind of a fisherman bought a Chinese restaurant, that’s kind of what it looked like,” said White. “But over time things have changed and the neighborhood has changed and we have a lot more business guests, so we kind of needed to tone down the shack side of it. It’s still a shack, but it has a different feel to it.”

summershack2.jpgThe restaurant serves more than 3,000 oysters per week and its new 30-seat, zinc-topped oyster bar also includes space for up to three guests using wheelchairs. The bar also has a new draft beer system with 20 beers on tap.

White said there are more renovations to come. By the beginning of April, the restaurant is going to convert a back bar into a function room able to accommodate more than 120 guests.

The back bar had originally been used as smoking space before Cambridge banned smoking in restaurants, and has since been used as a sports bar, said White.

Now, as more businesses have opened around the T station, White said his restaurant gets more and more requests corporate meetings space and clam bakes.

White said the renovations are also a way of thanking regular guests who keep coming back to the restaurant.

“I think you owe that to your customers—to keep it fresh over time," he said. "Otherwise, they will go other places.”

Arlington's Ed Burns passes away at 93

February 9, 2014 05:25 PM

Hockey lost one of its heroes Sunday with the news that longtime Arlington coach Ed Burns died. He was 93.

“It’s a sad in Arlington for sure,” said current Spy Ponders coach John Messuri, who played for Burns and graduated from Arlington in 1985. “He has a special place in everyone’s heart and not just in Arlington. It was an annual event to go see Ed and his teams at the Garden. It was almost part of the fabric of New England."

Burns's list of honors could fill a book.

He was inducted into the Boston College Hall of Fame (1987), the United States Hockey Hall of Fame (1976), the Massachusetts Football Hall of Fame (1979), the Boston Garden 60th Anniversary Celebration (1988), American Hockey Coaches Association John Mariucci Award (1989), Hartford Whalers Outstanding Service Award (1990), first-ever Arlington High School Hall of Fame (1991), National High School Sports Hall of Fame (1992), and the MIAA Distinguished Service Award (1992).

Burns was born in Lexington on Nov. 20, 1920. His family moved to Arlington where he became a three-sport star at Arlington High School. He was the only sophomore on the 1937 Arlington varsity football team and was the team’s captain his senior year. He also played three years of varsity ice hockey. In the spring he split his time between baseball and swimming.

After graduation he attended Prep school before enrolling at Boston College. He played three sports at the Heights and in 1987 was inducted into the BC Hall of Fame. His college success was such that he was drafted by both the Pittsburgh Steelers in football and Philadelphia Phillies in baseball.

World War II interrupted his playing career but it couldn't stop his coaching career. His first job was as a football assistant at Taunton High in 1947, but within three weeks he took a similar position at Niagara University. When Burns received word that Charlie Downs was stepping down as hockey coach at Arlington, he immediately applied and got the job for the 1947-48 season. His first win came Dec. 16, 1947, a 7-0 victory over Rindge.

Burns became an assistant football coach at Arlington in 1949 and then head coach in 1954. When Burns finally retired in 1997, he had coached 1,108 games and won 805 of them. Of the win total, 695 came on the ice. In 50 seasons of coaching hockey, he had just one losing season and won five state titles.

Originally published on the blog The High School Sports Blog.

Dance extravaganza coming to Copley Square, dancers needed

January 29, 2014 12:21 PM

Celebrity Series of Boston, the same group that brought the city Street Pianos, is looking for over 150 dancers to participate in a unique dance extravaganza. The enthusiastic, contemporary line dance will descend on Copley Square this May. Information meetings will be held Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.

Volunteer dancers will participate in a series of 20 rehearsals to learn and perform Le Grand Continental, a co-production by Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard Danse and the Festival TransAmeriques. Produced in partnership with the Celebrity Series of Boston, the performances promise to be an explosive, grand finale to cap off the organization’s 75th anniversary season.

Gary Dunning, the executive director of Celebrity Series of Boston, said the performance runs about 30 minutes, with multiple styles of music and dance. He said they are looking for as many dancers that Copley Square can hold, and that no prior dance experience is needed. This way, the performance becomes just as much about community as it does about performance art.

“We look for passion, energy, and the desire to do this, while we take on the responsibility for training. We’ll take all the applicants and work with them,” Dunning said. “In a sense, it’s as much about creating community as it is about celebrating community.”

Dunning said that he is excited to offer this energetic, professional dance experience to the city. He was amazed by the success of Street Pianos Boston and felt the city craved more opportunities to participate in and develop community around performance art. He said that kicking off the season with Street Pianos reflected Celebrity Series of Boston’s mission, and that it is only fitting to end the season with another event that reflects performance art’s “spirit of adventure.”

“There’s a pent up demand for good, fun, public performance art projects, and the city hasn’t had very many of them. The response to Street Pianos and the early response that I’m getting to this is that Boston will embrace it, both as an audience and as performers,” Dunning said. “Our goal is to have a project every year of some kind or another that celebrates how much Boston loves performing arts.”

Le Grand Continental requires no previous dance experience. Dunning said that the piece relies on energy, passion, and a desire to participate within a large community. He said all ages are welcome, and that the current ages already range from young teenagers to those in their 70s. He hopes potential participants will recognize what an amazing, unique opportunity this event presents.

“You can take on a new adventure, try something, and learn something new in a supportive and professional environment,” Dunning said. “You make new friends and experience something you never thought you could, which is performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It’ll be great to be part of such a cool community project and to connect with people across the city.”

Le Grand Continental will be performed in Copley Square three times throughout May 16-18. Dancers will attend 20 rehearsals before then, learning choreography in small groups leading up to show day. Information sessions will be held on the following days at the following times:

Info sessions:
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information or to sign up for an information session, visit the event’s website.

Schools closed, parking ban in effect in Arlington

January 2, 2014 05:42 PM
Nor'easter forecast closes public schools, spurs parking ban (via Your Arlington)

A forecast of a Nor'easter with up to 14 inches of snow for the Boston region has led to the closing of the Arlington public schools for two days and the town has set a parking ban. The Town of Arlington has declared a snow emergency and parking ban…

Nearly a dozen Massachusetts towns raise age for cigarette sales

December 26, 2013 06:43 PM

Nearly a dozen communities across the state within the past year have raised the age for tobacco sales higher than 18 years old, evidence of a slow-spreading movement that activists say will reduce cigarette use among teens.

Most states, including Massachusetts, allow 18-year-olds to buy tobacco products. Alaska, Alabama, Utah and New Jersey are the exceptions, all of which have pushed the legal age to 19.

Until last year, Needham was the only community in the United States that prohibited sales to anyone under 21 years old – a change the town made in 2005, according to D.J. Wilson, the tobacco control director at the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Since then, a handful of other Bay State communities have followed behind. Brookline, Belmont, Sharon, Watertown, Westwood, Walpole and Sudbury have all outlawed the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21 within the past year, according to Wilson.

Canton, Ashland, Dedham and Arlington also changed their bylaws to prohibit sales of tobacco to anyone under 19, with Arlington planning to push its age restriction up to 21 years old over a three-year phase-in plan.

“In those towns we hope to see it is actually harder for kids to get their hands on tobacco products,” Wilson said, adding it is too soon to gather any data on smoking rates in those towns.

Other cities and towns across Massachusetts and the country are also looking to ban tobacco sales to young adults. This past spring, New York City became the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21. In Massachusetts, the board of health in Newburyport is currently debating a measure that would outlaw sales to anyone under 21. The move faces resistance from the city mayor and some retailers.

“It is interesting in that it kind of cascaded pretty quickly,” Wilson said about the age restriction for tobacco sales.

Critics argue local officials are overstepping their authority, and anyone over 18 is an adult capable of making their own decisions about whether to smoke.

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, called the moves “an overreach” by local governments. Anti-tobacco activists are attempting to take the path of least resistance by pushing age restrictions at the local level rather than face a more difficult battle to do it statewide, Hurst said.

“They try to pick off cities and towns here and there,” he said. “Local officials have to know that they are putting their own consumers and employers at a disadvantage.”

Activists credit Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Lester Hartman, a pediatrician in Westwood, with spearheading the change one community at a time.

Winickoff said a slow, steady approach will have a major public health impact statewide.

“I think community by community is what we are going to do for a while, and that’s the way to have this move forward,” Winickoff told the News Service.

Winickoff said he thinks part of the reason the change is spreading is because local town officials have seen the data from Needham. In the eight years since the age-restriction went into effect, the smoking rate for Needham high school students dropped precipitously, according to Winickoff.

The smoking rate for adults who live in Needham is 8 percent compared to 18.1 percent statewide, according to data collected by the Tobacco Control Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Deaths from lung cancer among men from Needham is 24 percent lower than the state average, while women from Needham die from lung cancer at a rate 33 percent lower than the statewide average for women, according to DPH data.

Approximately 90 percent of all smokers begin the habit before they are 21, according to Winickoff and other anti-tobacco activists.

Tami Gouveia, executive director of Tobacco Free Massachusetts, said she is not sure if age-restrictions will continue to catch on in other cities and towns as a way of reducing young people’s access to tobacco. “It is really at the beginning stages of folks starting to take a hard look at this,” she said.

Gouveia compared it to when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21.

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said she thinks increasing the legal age to buy tobacco is unnecessary and an inappropriate issue for the board of health to focus on.

“The legal age is 18. It is the age when you are an adult. You can fight in our wars. You have the right to vote. You can marry. And now we are going to tell you, ‘You can’t buy a pack of cigarettes if you want one,’” Holaday said.

Holaday said she will not dedicate any police resources to enforcing an age restriction on tobacco sales in Newburyport, leaving the question of how effective it might be in that city.

Increasing the legal age for cigarette sales will only hurt local retailers and send consumers to convenience stores in neighboring communities, Holaday said.

Hurst, from the Retailers Association, agreed. If cigarette sales are banned to anyone under 21 in one town, but legal in the next town, residents will buy them in the neighboring community, Hurst said. Secondly, he said, different rules on consumer products in the 351 cities and towns around the state will cause problems.

“I think our local officials have to be willing to stand up to these advocates who are pushing these agendas and tell them, ‘Go hop in your car and go to Boston to push a statewide agenda.’ It has no business being considered at the local level,” Hurst said.

Arlington High improvements get a close look from town

December 24, 2013 01:06 PM
Unprecedented process underway to reshape Arlington High (via Your Arlington)

In January, 100 years after construction of the original building at Arlington High School began, the school administration plans to seek state funds to pursue a project unprecedented here -- reshaping the Mass. Ave. landmark. "There has never been…

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