Worcester teachers union wins PCB battle, will begin testing at Burncoat and Doherty

[Updated 4:57 p.m., April 1]

The Educational Association of Worcester has prevailed in its long and hard-fought quest to investigate the presence of potentially cancer-causing PCBs in the air at Burncoat and Doherty Memorial high schools, the union president said.

The tests are set to begin 3 p.m. Monday at Burncoat, and April 24 at Doherty (time to be determined).

Roger Nugent, EAW president, first confirmed to the Sun Friday, March 31, that the School Committee’s ongoing appeal before the Commonwealth Employee Relations Board (CERB) was denied late Thursday, paving the way for window-caulk testing for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, at the two schools in the district where the concern — and potential danger — has been highest.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this happen and making sure those buildings are safe for kids and adults,” he said.

Nugent said Saturday morning that while the School Committee has not yet committed to halting further legal action, the two sides are “moving in the right direction for a binding agreement” and that union officials were reviewing a draft of such an agreement this weekend.

Worcester Weekly: Holy Cross basketball + 5 more things to do, Nov. 13-20

Road trip!

Sunday, Nov. 13 — Passing Shadows: The Love and Fate of a Generation, 2-5 p.m., Museum of Russian Icons, 203 Union St., Clinton  For those of you still feeling the sting of election defeat, maybe put down the torches and pitchforks, and make a pilgrimage to a place that will definitely help you forget all your troubles: Clinton. The sleepy former mill town, known mostly these days for the picturesque Wachusett Dam, would actually make a decent hiding spot for Hillary (too obvious!) — if it weren’t for this pesky Museum of Russian Icons constantly drawing more and more attention.

Open since 2006, the museum was founded by business leader Gordon B. Lankton, a WPI trustee. His private collection has grown to more than 1,000 icons and artifacts. It is the largest of its kind in North America, according to the museum, and among the most substantial in the world. And now this poetry and music event, which also features newly crowned Mrs. Massachusetts Anna Svetchnikov, will bring even more culture-seekers to town and benefit the upcoming Matryoshka Festival. Tickets are $40, $25 for students with ID.

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"Dracula" is coming to downtown Worcester.

By Rejean Brandt / Courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Music Worcester

“Dracula” is coming to downtown Worcester.

Tuesday, Nov. 15 — Music Worcester presents Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s “Dracula,” 7:30-10 p.m., Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, 2 Southbridge St.  We could make a sucking the blood out of downtown joke right here, but you deserve better than that. And, frankly, they’ve all been done. So onto the fertile ground of Canadians and pirouettes, eh!? Or, we could just skip all the funny jokes and get down to the “Dracula” business at hand: “With opulent sets and costumes, [Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s] dark fantasy is faithful to Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, brimming with passion and fearful suspense.”

Ray Mariano, a Worcester conversation

“When you leave, you should just leave.” It’s easy to believe him, too. At first. But Mariano, famously a product of the Great Brook Valley housing complex with degrees from Worcester State and Clark, is about as quintessential a public servant as this city has ever seen. The longtime mayor, city councilor and school board member seems to have more he wants to accomplish. We sat down for a few questions, and a few more stories with the “retiring” Worcester Housing Authority director.

Ray Mariano, a Worcester conversation

Ray Mariano is sure about many things. Except what’s next.

He understands you can’t plan for everything. Something will change, get in the way, go terribly wrong. It could be uninspiring leadership, or cross words from a skeptical father to a teenage boy from the wrong part of town. A sudden job opening. Or the spark of a candle in an abandoned warehouse on a cool December evening.

It could be a funny story from one of your two grandchildren. Or the look of a troublemaker standing back to revel in the mayhem he helped cause. Each ensuing moment has the potential to be a turning point, an opportunity.

Ray Mariano will leave the Worcester Housing Authority after 13 years June 30.

Fred Hurlbrink Jr. / Worcester Sun

Ray Mariano will leave the Worcester Housing Authority after 13 years June 30.

Raymond V. Mariano, 64, the longtime mayor who will step down as executive director of Worcester Housing Authority Thursday, June 30, after 13 years at the helm, may not know what his tomorrow holds but he is certain to have an answer for whatever the next sunrise brings.

One thing’s for sure: He’ll be neither wallflower nor gadfly.

“When I left City Hall, I didn’t go back into the building for one year. And the only reason I went back at the end of a year, was to get a dog license,” Mariano said recently from behind his desk in the housing authority’s Belmont Street headquarters. “Other than that I wasn’t going back into the building. When the mayor leaves, he should leave. You won’t see my portrait, ever, at City Hall. Not gonna get it. Not interested, don’t care. I mean it’s nice — my kids don’t like the idea that I won’t get it.

“When you leave, you should just leave.”

Sun Sampler: A healthy portion of our freshest good stuff

With in-depth reporting, intricate storytelling and thoughtful perspectives we have striven to create a menu that accentuates the best of Worcester and its surrounding communities. Something you didn’t know yesterday that makes you think about tomorrow. The places you’ll want to go. Real folks with incredible stories, who we think you’d want to meet.

City Clerk David Rushford on elections, public service and making gay marriage history

David J. Rushford is a proud and earnest public servant.

That’s as easy to see from briefly talking with him in his little-used office on a blustery Friday afternoon in February as it surely would have been when the longtime city clerk walked through the heavy wooden City Hall doors for his first shift in the mayor’s office on a day with some other kind of weather back in 1979 — we forgot to ask, but rest assured Rushford would’ve remembered.

Indeed, the 36-years-married father of two grown children and four-time grandfather remembered quickly and fondly the names of Gary Chalmers and Richard Linnell, and the number of couples, 21, who followed the pioneering men up the receding marble steps to the second-floor clerk’s office window May 17, 2004, for applications. Later that day they would be among the first legally married same-sex couples in the country.

He recalled the night he was swiftly elected by the City Council to replace his predecessor, Robert J. O’Keefe, as city clerk in 1998, and holding a separate swearing-in ceremony in 2002 for Juan Gomez, who had become the first Latino elected to the City Council. There was more, of course — he even remembered my dad, a retired, 30-plus-year city employee, who never worked in City Hall — but he had to get back to work.

Speaking of work, though, he’s toiled for 51 city councilors, 10 mayors and five city managers. Just ask him.

David J. Rushford, city clerk, takes the term public service quite seriously.

Fred Hurlbrink Jr. / Worcester Sun

David J. Rushford, city clerk, takes the term public service quite seriously.

Worcester Weekly: Six (-ish) things to do, Jan. 31-Feb. 6

The One (-ish) | Schools

Melinda J. Boone

Worcester Public Schools

Melinda J. Boone

Worcester Public Schools Superintendent search public hearings and meeting You may have heard, the schools are on the lookout for a new boss, what with their last one leaping off the hot seat Wile E. Coyote fast on the way back to her hometown in Virginia [see video from a December interview with Melinda J. Boone]. Well, the School Committee has strapped itself to the Acme rocket, so it’s time for parents and voters to pay attention.

There are two community forums and a regular school board meeting planned this week that should have a significant impact on the fortunes of frontrunners South Principal Maureen F. Binienda and interim Superintendent Marco C. Rodrigues, or a less-heralded internal candidate. Both of the Community Involvement Committee’s public hearings begin at 7 p.m. in the school auditoriums below.

Q&A: Parlee Jones, Abby’s House shelter advocate

Parlee Jones accounts for much of the slightly unexpected calm found at Abby’s House. Because, she’s on it. Visitors and colleagues take turns hanging from her door frame. There’s always someone who needs help in her office. And few, if any, leave disappointed. The women of Abby’s House are far from the only set benefiting from Jones’ devotion to public service. Find out more about one of the city’s true driving forces.

Q&A: Diane Gould, Advocates president and CEO

Some people are simply born to do what they do. The lucky ones know early on. Whether it’s a matter of talent, circumstance or destiny, they see their path clearly and walk tall toward their future.

Others struggle, a sense of direction or purpose conspicuously missing. Or something more. Challenges of infinite shapes and sizes can swallow the fortunes of the best of us and spit out lives of inimitable difficulty.

What is so often misunderstood is how much that second set needs the first; and how rare it is for these groups to come together in meaningful and constructive ways. Diane E. Gould seems to have had a pretty good idea about that for a while now. The Worcester native is president and CEO of Framingham-based Advocates, a large nonprofit social service agency.

Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates, is a native of Worcester who grew up in the Burncoat neighborhood.

Courtesy Advocates / Ball Consulting Group

Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates, is a native of Worcester who grew up in the Burncoat neighborhood.

Under Gould’s guidance the last two years — she’s been with Advocates for 30 years, and was chief operating officer several years before her appointment as CEO in 2013 — the agency has sharpened its focus on the future of care for people dealing with autism spectrum disorders; broadened the scope of its community justice work; and expanded its brain injury rehabilitation program, including a new Worcester location.

Sun Shine: Seven Hills jobs program up and running

How easy it can be to take employment for granted — even today — and to minimize all those things we forget we take home with us for the weekend besides the paycheck, like a sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and an evolving skill set. We know where you might find a few people who have a very different idea about what it means to have a job.