By Judy Bass
CANTON - If students at Blue Hills Regional Technical School thought that smoking, vaping and JUULING were just harmless pastimes, they got quite a wake-up call on January 27 from guest speaker Dr. Lester Hartman, who made the potential health risks of such behavior very clear to them.
“I hope Dr. Hartman convinced at least one or more students not to start vaping,” said Blue Hills Superintendent Jill Rossetti. “In follow-up sessions in their programs, students and teachers were discussing things they learned about regarding the dangers of nicotine, vaping, and addiction. Education is key to understanding the health consequences associated with vaping better. We hope these conversations continue at home so our students make good choices moving forward.”
According to his biography, “Dr. Lester Hartman has been a pediatrician for 32 years and is currently the senior partner at Westwood-Mansfield Pediatric Associates. He is a Mass General Hospital researcher who has focused on youth and tobacco as well as advocacy work to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21 years old. He co-wrote a resolution on the age increase which is now endorsed by the 55,000 pediatricians of the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
You need look no further than his car to know that Dr. Hartman feels extremely strongly about this topic. His vehicle is adorned with large, neon-yellow signs that say, for example, “VAPE NOTHING!” and “Join JUUL, Become a Future Lab Rat,” a message accompanied by a picture of a menacing black rodent.
What he told the students that day can be encapsulated in a few words: “E-cigarettes are no safer than cigarettes. It is not even an alternative. Vaping and tobacco are no different.”
Dr. Hartman’s presentation featured dramatic video clips that underscored his point, such as one that showed executives from the major tobacco companies testifying on Capitol Hill and all firmly stating that in their opinion, nicotine is not addictive.
Smoking “is the most common cause of preventable death in America today,” Dr. Hartman told the audience. “Five hundred thousand people every year die of tobacco-related deaths.”
He noted that the manufacturers of smoking products stealthily target young people with their advertising pitches, eager to get them hooked while they are still at an impressionable age and the part of their brain that controls judgement – the prefrontal cortex - is still in its formative stages.
“You’re getting screwed,” Dr. Hartman admonished them, saying firmly, “You’re the lab rats. This is the time period when they want you. Statistically, one out of four of you is hooked.”
He added, “Nicotine is not harmless” because it can raise blood pressure, elevate your pulse, and possibly reduce your IQ. “Ninety-nine percent of what you use has nicotine in it.”
The list of health effects he mentioned that are directly traceable to smoking and e-cigarettes was sobering – damaged lungs, temporary night blindness, bladder cancer, heart attack, increased likelihood of delivering a premature baby, just to name a few harmful outcomes.
Dr. Hartman wanted the students to understand that they can get seriously addicted before they even realize it. As one young person said on a video Dr. Hartman played, “Now I don’t know the difference between breathing and JUULING.”
By Judy Bass
Imagine having the same boss for 26 years – and loving it. Matthew Hurley, the accomplished executive chef at CUT, a restaurant located at the Palazzo Las Vegas that food critic and commentator John Curtas lauded as “one of the world’s greatest steakhouses…one of the best restaurants in America,” has had the enviable opportunity to work for renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck for more than two and a half decades, and still rhapsodizes about him.
That connection, plus Hurley’s expertise and innovative flair, has catapulted him to the lofty pinnacle of the food establishment in America’s capital of glamour and glitz.
You might think that Hurley’s next logical professional step would be to operate his own restaurant, but that’s not really one of his aspirations.
“I have the ideal situation already with everything I want,” he declares emphatically, noting that Chef Puck gives him the prized freedom to be creative. “I’ve achieved 99% of my goals.”
Hurley, 44, of Randolph, graduated from Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton in 1993. After learning his way around a kitchen while majoring in Culinary Arts there, Hurley attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., graduating in 1995.
From there it was on to Vegas, which Hurley considers his home base to such a degree that he estimates he has come back to Massachusetts just six times in 26 years. (Hurley’s parents relocated to Las Vegas, so they are handily nearby. Whenever they do get to return to Massachusetts, Hurley said they always try to grab a bite at the outstanding student-run restaurant at Blue Hills, the Chateau de Bleu, as does his brother, who still lives in Randolph.)
Hurley attributes his success at least in part to the solid training he got at Blue Hills, where now-retired Culinary Arts instructors like Richard Andrea, also a Culinary Institute of America grad, and Sue Carter recognized Hurley’s potential and passion and helped him cultivate them. “They pushed me to be better,” Hurley says gratefully.
Looking back, he recalls the fierce work ethic which motivates him to preside over a top-notch eatery that serves 400 to 500 meals a night, with five chefs working under him. He says he is not only their mentor but their peer, working and learning alongside them every step of the way. The real stars at CUT are the dishes served there, from steak to chicken and fish, all the very best.
A typical day for Hurley starts at 10 a.m. when he arrives at work, followed by meetings with staff to review the menu, invoices and purchasing, then dinner service begins at 5 p.m. and lasts until 11 p.m., and he’s out the door by 11:30 p.m. A hectic pace to be sure, but it’s all to Hurley’s immense liking. He emphasizes staffing correctly, planning ahead, delegating appropriately, and making each customer’s dining experience superb, with subtle – and flawless - attention to every detail.
Hurley’s attitude during his student days at Blue Hills is the same now. “I’m going to put my heart and soul into it,” he vowed then, and his single-minded focus has evidently paid off big-time. At the highly-competitive CIA, for example, Hurley recalls he “had an advantage over some people” because he had a “better knowledge base” to work from, thanks to his comprehensive preparation at Blue Hills.
The advice Hurley would give to a current Culinary Arts student at his former high school is simple – “Keep your head down and focus. If this is what you want to do, give it 100%.”
That is precisely what Hurley did himself, laying the groundwork for a career that is rewarding, exciting, and put him on top of the heap. Ask him how he feels about what he does, and his response is terse, quick and unwavering – “I love it.”
In photo, left to right - Adult Basic Education Site Coordinator Tammy MacDonald, Director Susan Haberstroh, Supt. Jill Rossetti, and District School Committee Vice Chair Eric Erskine of Braintree celebrate grant from Dedham Savings Community Foundation. Photo by Judy Bass
By Judy Bass
The Adult Basic Education (ABE) program administered by Blue Hills Regional Technical School has been awarded an $11,750 grant from the Dedham Savings Community Foundation. The grant was presented to administrators from the program and the school on January 9 at the former Capen School at 322 Sprague Street in Dedham where the program now holds classes.
The money will be used for an ABE sign for the building, new shades for classrooms and offices, and document readers for the classrooms.
Blue Hills Superintendent Jill Rossetti expressed her sincere gratitude to Dedham Savings for its generosity. “Thank you to the Trustees of the Dedham Savings Community Foundation for the grant. The Blue Hills Adult Education Program provides high school equivalency classes and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes. We appreciate your support of this important work which allows many community members to build better lives for themselves and their families.”
Dedham Savings Executive Vice President & CFO/COO Mark Ingalls explained why Blue Hills’ ABE program was awarded the grant and emphasized ABE’s tremendous value to the students ‘The Dedham Savings Community Foundation is honored to partner with the Blue Hills ABE program in support of their mission and passion for providing English as Second Language (ESOL) and other adult education at their beautiful new location at the former Capen Elementary School. The energy and enthusiasm from the students, teachers and administrators makes us very excited for the future of the students, many of whom are immigrants, and for this program which meets a tremendous need in Dedham and our surrounding communities.’
Attending the grant presentation were Supt. Rossetti, Mr. Ingalls, Dedham Savings Senior Vice President / Senior Marketing Officer Liz Bissell, Dedham Savings Marketing Technology Specialist Hugh O’Connell, ABE Director Susan Haberstroh, ABE Site Coordinator Tammy MacDonald, and standing in for Blue Hills Regional District School Committee Chair Thomas R. Polito, Jr. of Dedham was Vice Chair Eric C. Erskine of Braintree.
The ABE program encompasses free high school equivalency classes to prepare students for taking the HiSET test and free ESOL classes. Students learning is enhanced by field trips, guest speakers, community activities, computer training, career fairs, resume writing workshops and mock interviews, educational and career advising, and practice with doing everyday tasks like calling teachers, doctor’s offices and businesses.
For more information about the ABE program, please visit www.bluehills.org and go to Adult Basic Education under the Community tab on the home page.
In photo, DSC Chair Thomas R. Polito, Jr., of Dedham presents Immediate Past DSC Chair Marybeth Nearen of Randolph with a plaque at the Dec. 3, 2019 meeting.
By Judy Bass
CANTON – Marybeth Nearen of Randolph was recognized for her distinguished service to the Blue Hills Regional District School Committee (DSC) as its chair for two consecutive school years at its meeting on December 3, 2019.
Chair Thomas R. Polito, Jr. of Dedham presented her with a handsome plaque adored with a gavel.
Mrs. Nearen was DSC chair during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. She was only the third woman to be on the DSC in Blue Hills Regional’s fifty-plus-year history, and she was just the second female chair.
She brought considerable experience to her role, including being the Randolph School Committee’s Chair of Policy, Vice Chair and Chair, all between 2006 and 2012. Mrs. Nearen was first elected to the Blue Hills Regional District School Committee in 2012, and served on the School Committees of both Randolph and Blue Hills Regional for one year until December 31, 2013. She was formerly Secretary and then Vice Chair of the Blue Hills Regional DSC. Her DSC colleagues elected her to be chair on July 11, 2017.
Significant changes took place at the school during Mrs. Nearen’s tenure at the top, especially the start of a major renovation project that began in June 2018 and is presently nearing its conclusion, and the selection of a new superintendent. Blue Hills Principal Jill Rossetti was appointed to the position in June 2019.
Mrs. Nearen and her husband, Paul, are former Blue Hills Regional parents. They have three adult daughters who graduated from the school - Melissa, Kathleen and Christine all continued their education beyond high school and are now successful professionals in their respective fields.
“I’m happy about the work that we do [on the DSC],” Mrs. Nearen reflected. In addition to the building renovation, which was green-lighted by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and then approved by the school’s nine member towns (Avon, Braintree, Canton, Dedham, Holbrook, Milton, Norwood, Randolph and Westwood) which she terms “a huge accomplishment,” she cited other milestones the DSC achieved such as revisions to the Blue Hills Regional policy book that took two years to complete (“That’s our bible”), the 2019 superintendent search, and the creation of new policies.
Above all, Mrs. Nearen did her job with humility (she calls herself “a servant of the assembly”), an abiding sense of purpose, a spirit of collaboration, and an intense desire to always do what was in the students’ best interest.
In describing her role on the DSC as chair, Mrs. Nearen said, “You have to be a facilitator and be neutral,” key advice that she said she gave to Mr. Polito when he took over as DSC chair last summer.
She passed along other helpful suggestions to him that came out of her own experience, like the importance of being aware of the most effective ways to communicate with the DSC members (some prefer phone calls rather than emails), choosing DSC members with background in certain areas to serve on subcommittees, and obeying the provisions of the Open Meeting law and Robert’s Rules of Order to consistently maintain transparency and decorum.
In reviewing her years at the helm, Mrs. Nearen said she felt “proud I was able to create the inclusion of the staff” in the DSC’s decision-making process when possible, a trend she hopes continues.
What was her primary takeaway from the time she spent as DSC chair? ‘To listen more and understand where people are coming from.”