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Video: Historians celebrate Evacuation Day in Roxbury

March 18, 2014 12:43 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2014)


In Video: Elected officials discuss Evacuation Day.


As the sound of muskets broke the calm of the chilly spring air historians, elected officials, and local residents celebrated Evacuation Day in Roxbury Monday.

The annual event, dubbed the Evacuation Day Knox Trail Remembrance Caravan, for the past four years has toured South Boston, Roxbury, and Dorchester, highlighting places significant to the retreat of British solders from Boston during the Revolutionary War.

“It’s very important that we understand the history of any community we are in,” explained Representative Byron Rushing, who represents portions of Roxbury and the South End and is also the president of the Roxbury Historical Society. “If we don’t understand our history, we can’t really make judgments about our future. It is one of the resources that we need to figure out what we should be doing next.”

Under a blue sky, reenactors and historians shared with the small crowd gathered at the top of Fort Hill, the story of Evacuation Day and the significance of the area and its towering fortification. The Roxbury space was one of a number of fortifications in the city of Boston that not only provided American soldiers with the high ground, but was also a site utilized by Henry Knox, one of the heroes of the Revolution.

“We’re one of the most historic and landmarked sites during the period of the Revolution, so we’re very proud to be the third on a tour of all the sites that helped to keep the British out,” said Representative Gloria Fox, who represents portions of Roxbury and the Fenway. “People need to know how they came to live in a free and open society; it’s based on everybody’s blood, sweat, and tears.”

The tour did not just concentrate on Roxbury, but also swung by the Dorchester Heights Monument and St. Augustine Chapel in South Boston and the Shirley Eustis House in Dorchester. Although history was at the forefront Monday, the event also provided an opportunity to connect neighborhoods that at times have been at odds.

“It’s important to remember the people that came before us, but it’s also important to talk about our shared history,” explained Representative Nick Collins, who represents South Boston. “Because of some of the ups and downs over the last several decades, we get lot in the stuff that divides us and this is a great way to remind people why we need to be unified and why we are unified.”


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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

Roger Clap Innovation School principal to leave post

March 17, 2014 01:12 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)


After challenging his students to read as many books as they could, Justin Vernon had to dress up like Lady Gaga to settle a bet with the students.


Justin Vernon, the principal of the Roger Clap Innovation School in Dorchester, will be stepping down from his position, he announced in a letter to parents last week.

Vernon was brought on in 2010-2011, as the school developed its Innovation Plan. Innovation schools, which are public, allow for greater flexibility in budgeting, curriculum, scheduling, and staffing. While innovation schools are overseen by the local school district, a governing board made up of staff, parents, and community members helps guide decisions.

The Clap, which is located on Harvest Street, was the first Innovation School in Boston. There are a number of Innovation Schools across the Commonwealth, with eight, including the Clap, now located in the city.

“The big thing for me, was the life and work balance,” explained Vernon, who will be leaving at the end of the school year. “I have a young family and I need to see my kids. I’ll be pursuing opportunities that will help me create that balance.”

Vernon, along with the school’s parents and staff, is credited with boosting student test scores and performance.

The school, which in 2010 was slated to be closed by Boston Public Schools, was on the lower end of school performance. When Vernon came on it was a Level 3 school, with Level 5 representing the lowest performing schools in the state. The school has since rebounded and is now a Level 1 school.

"Justin is a tremendously talented educator and we will miss him greatly. In 2010 we asked him to take on a challenge that no one in Boston had ever attempted,” said John McDonough, interim-superintendent of BPS. “He built partnerships with parents, teachers and the community and turned a school that had been slated for closure into the first Innovation school in the city.”

“Thanks to his leadership and an extraordinary team of talented teachers, today students at the Roger Clap Innovation School are demonstrating some of the best academic progress anywhere in Massachusetts,” McDonough added.

Vernon credited the school’s success to its Innovation Plan and the dedication of parents.

“We’ve worked very hard to have an academic culture here,” said Vernon. "I think we’ve done an excellent job carrying on the work that needs to be done; there’s a good foundation here.”

Although the school has made significant progress and its close to 170 students in grades K through fifth, continue to grow, Vernon said the small school still faces a number of challenges including a dilapidated school yard, shrinking budget, and a want to expand.

“There are facility concerns and in addition to that we’ve been working to improve our schoolyard,” said Vernon. “We’re also always interested in involving more parents and more people from the community.”

The school’s governing board, in partnership with BPS, will now begin the process of selecting a new principal.

“The Innovation Plan calls for the personnel subcommittee of the governing board to review candidates and make a recommendation. In a way we are very fortunate, because a lot of the times you are handed your principal,” explained Gene Gorman, a parent representative on the governing board.

Gorman said any new principal will need to meet several criteria, in addition to being able to build upon the Innovation Plan and work with the diverse population the school serves.

“It’s a tough, but really rewarding job,” said Gorman, who has two children at the school. “We’re looking for a principal who is going to be a collaborator not just with the faculty and the staff, but with the parents and the greater neighborhood.”

Gorman said that Vernon has left his mark on the school and will be missed.

“I think his tenure in a way was like a basketball coach brought on to turnaround a team,” Gorman said. “He took a school that was just OK academically and made it a high performing school in a short time and set us on the road to success.”

Although a lot has happened at the school during Vernon’s leadership, Vernon said he can easily name some his favorite moments, including visits by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick, as well as his students successfully completion of the school’s reading challenge and the subsequent celebration.

“There has been a lot of fun stuff and we have been able to do a lot of great things together,” said Vernon. “For me it’s really about the kids and spending as much time with them as I can. It was great to see them think critically, challenge each other, and ask great questions.”

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

Video: South Boston students learn about Evacuation Day

March 14, 2014 02:34 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2014)


In Video: Reenactors visit the Condon School in South Boston


South Boston students recently received a lesson in local history, after the South Boston Historical Society stopped by various schools in the neighborhood Friday morning to discuss Evacuation Day.

Dressed in period clothing, reenactors were at the Condon School bright and early Friday, to share with the school’s fifth-grade students the history in their own backyard.

Celebrated on March 17 and often overshadowed by St. Patrick’s Day, Evacuation Day remembers when the British Army was forced out of Boston during the Revolutionary War.

The day holds special meaning in South Boston, because American soldiers defended Boston from the top of Dorchester Heights, located in the center of the neighborhood.

“It’s a way to bring history to life for the kids,” explained Bob Allison, president of the South Boston Historical Society. “They’re the future and they need to understand their history and how we became a country and who we are. Hopefully they will then pass it down to their children.”

The reenactors toured five schools Friday, including the South Boston Catholic Academy, Cathedral High School, and Excel High School.

“It’s great for the students,” said Ann Garofalo, principal of the Condon. “When they can see the history acted out it makes it that much realer and easier for them to remember.”

As a fife and a drum provided the sounds of the time period, reenactors dressed as Henry Knox, Phillis Wheatley, Prince Hall, and John Rowe told their stories.

“It makes it so much easier for the students to connect to the past,” said Ben Monteiro, a fifth-grade teacher at the Condon. “They’re able to interact with the actors, ask questions, and learn. Fun learning is the best and it’s not always a luxury we have.”

Sponsored by Mt. Washington Bank, the event has grown in popularity, with close to 150 students participating at the Condon.

“It’s fun and it’s a great way to get them excited about history,” Allison added.


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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

Senator Linda Dorcena Forry dishes on St. Patrick's Day Breakfast

March 14, 2014 01:31 PM

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast on Sunday is one of the year's biggest political events in Boston and an opportunity for politicians to poke fun at their colleagues and themselves. State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry will host the event for the first time this year. Boston.com caught up with the senator to ask what she’s excited for and what the audience can expect at this year’s breakfast.

(To read more about Dorcena Forry's plans for the breakfast, click here.)


Q. When did you start preparing for the breakfast?

A. We started in earnest back in November, but really, as soon as I was elected we started thinking about it. The last month or so has been getting increasingly intense.

Q. How many breakfasts have you attended?

A. I've been to the breakfast many times prior to my election in 2005 and I’ve attended ever since.

Q. What are you most nervous about?

A. I'm nervous, but very excited. I guess I am most focused on making sure we get to all of the dignitaries who need mic time. We have a great line-up and 1-2 special surprise guests planned, so it's a tight program.

Q. What will be different this year, how will we know this is a LDF event?

A. I don't think anyone will confuse me with Bill Linehan— or any other previous host for that matter! But, I think in some ways they will recognize key elements— songs, local references and the focus, of course, on Irish and Irish-American culture.

Q. What are some jokes you have planned for the audience this year? Who has the best jokes?

A. I'm the host, so of course, I have the best jokes. If anyone tells you otherwise, let me know and I'll find them a choice seat — on the sidewalk.

Q. How do you plan to bridge the gap between generations and cultures in the audience?

A. That comes naturally to this event— everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day and my hosting is just the next step in that concept. I think younger folks will relate because we'll have some components that are new both visually and using social media. #stpatricksbreakfast

Q. Who are your favorite performers at the breakfast?

A. The Dropkick Murphys will be amazing— they have a great performance planned.

Q. What's the most unusual thing you've seen happen at one of these?

A. Whatever Bill Weld was doing last year —um, that was pretty unusual.

Q. What’s your favorite menu item at the breakfast?

A. Bill Linehan. No wait: Charlie Baker.

Q. What’s your favorite part about St. Patrick’s Day?

A. When it's over. (Laughing.) I really do love the songs and I love when everyone in the hall sings along. We'll have the lyrics printed and on the screen and I want to hear them singing at home too.

Q. What Irish traits/traditions have you picked up/learned since you married an Irish-America?

A. The Irish know how to have a good time — even in difficult moments. Wakes, funerals, political roasts. Never easy, but it's easier when you can try to focus on the good times. The Irish are experts are that. But, really, in most ways us Haitians and Irish have a lot in common: Both are countries that were once colonized/enslaved; both freed themselves through revolutions; both have Catholicism as their main religion. And the people— they are both great people who've made giant contributions to this country. I think it's a natural pairing.

Q. Over the years has the St. Patrick’s Day crowd changed?

A. Yes, the breakfast crowd has become more diverse. Jack Hart and Steve Lynch made great strides over the last decade-and-a-half by opening up the venue — and bringing in folks from surrounding neighborhoods. There's people from all walks of life at the breakfast.

Q. Did you attend the parade and breakfast growing up?

A. I never went until I was "in politics" in the 1990s. But I was aware of it. My pastor growing up in Dorchester was a South Boston native with a great sense of humor. My husband, Bill, grew up going to the breakfast. His father and his family would go to it as far back as the 1960s.

Q. Could a breakfast like this happen anywhere but South Boston?

A. Sure, but it would be lame. This event has the benefit of a regional audience and 70 years of tradition. It's the marquee event of its kind.

Q. What is it like to have a room full of South Boston/Dorchester residents getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day?

A. Yeah, well, we try not to mix those two groups up too much. Just kidding! It’s going to be nice to have the entire district represented, let’s not forget Mattapan and Hyde Park.

Q. Recommended St. Patrick’s Day beverages?

Sam Adams is one of our sponsors, so definitely a cold Sam Adams lager is on my dance card. My husband sticks to the Guinness.

Q. Anyone you want to thank?

A. I want to thank all of the amazing volunteers— there's more than 100 of them so far— who'll be there on March 16 to help run the event. I created a foundation— the First Suffolk Partnership— to raise funds to pay for the breakfast. It's a huge undertaking. My father-in-law Ed Forry and Jean-Robert Durocher, my brother-in-law, have been awesome in helping to navigate through the details. Finally, I want to thank Sean Pierce from my office and my whole team Tracey Ragland-Kelley, Marie Gay, Janice Blemur and Maggie Scott.


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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

Video: A look at the Local 17 Sheet Metal Workers’ 'tin men' and their St. Patrick's Day Parade plans

March 13, 2014 03:03 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2014)


In Video: A look at the Local 17 Sheet Metal Workers’ “tin men”.


They won’t be clad in green, but rather dressed in metal, and for anyone who has watched the St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day Parade in South Boston, they’ve probably seen the Local 17 Sheet Metal Workers and their unique costumes.

Every year volunteers from the Dorchester-based union, dress in 30-pound suits of metal and walk the parade route, throwing candy to kids and high-fiving spectators along the way.

“It’s about involvement and letting the neighbors and the community know who we are and what we do,” explained Jonathan Marks, president of Local 17. “We’re not just about installing HVAC, but we’re also trying to help out where ever we can.”

The six men who will be marching, in addition to those who will be supporting them and manning the union’s float, will be up bright and early Sunday, adding the finishing touches to their suits as they prepare for the long and sometimes cold trek through South Boston.

“The hardest part is putting on the suits,” said Michael Howard, 48, a six-year veteran of the parade. “You can’t really bend over too well in the suit, so it’s hard to hand out candy, but the kids love it.”

The union and its “tin men,” have been marching in the parade since at least 1998, according to Marks. Each suit is handmade and takes close to three days to complete.

“It’s great to be out there. Being of Irish heritage there’s a lot of pride for me and seeing the kids smile and throwing them beads is a great thing,” said Michael Burns, 36, who will march in the parade for his third time this year.

Although it’s an opportunity for the union and its members to introduce parade goers to what they do, Marks said it’s a pretty fun time as well.

“It’s a great feeling being out there and having people cheer for the ‘tin men,’” said Marks. “They may not know what we do, but it’s a great feeling.”

Anthony Franceschini, 41, who has marched in the parade the past two years, said it’s the only way to go.

“It’s a great time…the best way to be at the parade, is to be in the parade,” he said.

For more about the South Boston St. Patrick's Day/Evacuation Day Parade, Click here. For more about the St. Patrick's Day Peace Parade, click here.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

South Boston’s Murphy Rink to be renovated, expanded

March 13, 2014 02:21 PM

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(Image courtesy DCR)


A rendering of the planned expansion and renovations.


The Murphy Memorial Rink in South Boston will soon receive a much need face lift and expansion.

Department of Conservation and Recreation officials joined South Boston residents and elected officials Thursday afternoon to announce the $1.8 million investment.

The money, which will come from DCR’s Capital Budget, will support renovations to the Day Boulevard building’s lobby space, locker rooms, and concession area. The funds will also support a facility expansion of close to 3,000 square-feet, providing more space for additional locker rooms, team rooms, an expanded pro shop and concession space, and expanded viewing areas.

The larger concession space will also include an outdoor window, allowing the rink to sell concessions to beachgoers and youth sport teams year-round.

“The kids in this generation are facing a lot of challenges,” Murray said. “Having an attractive, well-managed, safe recreation facility will hopefully get them out and off their cell phones and laptops.”

Murphy was constructed in 1961. Barring the enclosure of the rink and other small repairs and renovations, the building has been left largely untouched as it served countless generations of South Boston residents and youth sports teams that use the adjacent field.

“It’s a very important day for the community,” said state Representative Nick Collins, who first found himself on the Murphy’s ice in 1992. “I know what this did for my childhood and what it does for kids today.”

Many credited Collins with securing the funds for the rink, money he has sought since he was an aide in Senator Jack Hart’s office.

“We first approached Rep. Collins about the improvements when he was an aide with Hart,” explained Tom McGrath, president of the South Boston Youth Hockey League. “He’s carried the ball for us and it’s great to see it happen.”

One thing that wasn’t lost on the audience Thursday, was the importance of the rink to the neighborhood’s youth, especially its young women, who are currently swelling the ranks of South Boston Youth Hockey.

“There’s a growing demand of young girls who play hockey,” said Raul Silva, deputy chief engineer for DCR. “That’s a great problem to have and we want to help support that demographic.”

Work, which will also help the facility comply with ADA and FEMA standards, is scheduled to begin by May 1, with it expected to be completed by December 2014. Plans call for the building to be expanded south, towards Day Boulevard and the Farragut Statue. A contractor has not been selected for the project.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.


Fun facts about the St. Patrick's Day Breakfast

March 12, 2014 04:02 PM

Although the meal served at the St. Patrick's Day Breakfast may go down quickly, it takes hours and plenty of manpower to create. Here are some fun facts about Sunday's breakfast, provided by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority’s food and beverage provider, Levy Restaurants.

-- The standard St. Patrick’s Day breakfast contains close to 1,125 calories and includes three eggs, four-ounces of corned beef hash, three ounces of potatoes, two sausage links, half a roasted tomato, one glass of orange juice, one breakfast pastry, and two beers.

-- An average person would have to walk 11 miles to burn off the breakfast.

-- Close to 1,344 eggs, 85-pounds of potatoes, 18-gallons of orange juice, and 25-gallons of coffee are expected to be served Sunday.

-- Twelve cows will be used for the corned beef hash.

-- It will take six tomato plants to produce all the tomatoes served Sunday.

-- More than 20 servers will attend to the guests, which will be seated in 360 chairs as they use more than 60-pounds of silverware.

-- Close to 506 cups of flour will be used to prepare the pastries for Sunday’s breakfast. It takes close to 48 hours to produce the complete meal.

-- The convention center, built in 2004 and located along the South Boston waterfront, is Massachusetts’ second-largest public works project

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

Photos: I-93 light project gets in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit

March 10, 2014 02:29 PM

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(Image courtesy Dan Adams)


The light installation beneath the I-93 overpass between South Boston and the South End recently changed its design to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Led by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the project is part of a larger effort by the DOT to enliven, clean up, and monetize the space underneath the busy roadway.

To read more about the project, click here.


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(Image courtesy Dan Adams)


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(Image courtesy Dan Adams)


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(Image courtesy Dan Adams)


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Video: Tommy and Eddie Butler Senior Salute

March 10, 2014 01:42 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2014)


In Video: Tommy Butler talks about the Tommy and Eddie Butler Senior Salute.


With the smell of potatoes and corned beef wafting out of the St. Monica’s Church basement, South Boston’s seniors celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.

The annual dinner, dubbed the Tommy and Eddie Butler Senior Salute, seeks to provide the neighborhood’s elderly with a chance to feast on some quality Irish cooking and discuss their St. Patrick’s Day plans.

“For one it gets them out of where ever they are living, it gets them with their friends, and it reignites that South Boston pride they’ve had their whole life,” explained Tommy Butler, who helps organize the event. “This is the true identity of South Boston. We take care of or seniors and we take care of our kids, and that’s what South Boston is all about.”

Sponsored by the South Boston Citizens' Association and various other neighborhood groups, the event has become a favorite for both volunteers and participants.

“It’s one of our signature events,” said Tom McGrath, president of the South Boston Citizens’ Association. “They [the seniors] were there for us and it’s our turn to take care of them.”

It’s not quite clear when the first Senior Salute was held, but it’s been going strong since its founding, with hundreds turning out for a hot meal delivered by smiling volunteers.

“I just became a senior so this is my second year, but it’s great,” said Phyllis Corbitt, as she enjoyed her lunch. “You get to be with all your friends, your neighbors and the people you grew up with.”

As politicians sang, the seniors enjoyed their meals clad in green, occasionally stopping to sing along.

“The parade is definitely my favorite part of St. Patrick's Day,” Corbitt added. “It really just makes the day.”

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

St. Patrick’s Day 5k Road Race set for Sunday

March 7, 2014 10:48 AM

The South Boston Boys and Girls Club is gearing up for its annual St. Patrick’s Day 5k Road Race and needs both runners and volunteers.

The event, which has become a favorite among athletes from across the city, is set for Sunday, March 16 from 11 a.m. to approximately 12:30 p.m.

Registration costs $22.50 and the first 650 runner to sign-up will receive an official race shirt designed by the Dropkick Murphys.

To register, click here.

Those that would like to volunteer as course officials/leaders or course monitors are encouraged to contact Heather Robb at hrobb@BGCB.org or Seanne Falconer at seanne_falconer@yahoo.com.

All funds from the race benefit the South Boston Boys and Girls Club.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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