Charlie Sandler, Eliot School Super, Retires
Charlie Sandler, who for 46 years has set the tone at the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts, is retiring. His corny jokes, thrifty ways, affectionate banter, salt-of-the-earth personality, old-fashioned generosity and new-fangled inclusiveness have defined the community art center in Jamaica Plain, with its thriving wood, sewing, art and School Partnership programs. Sandler turns 80 in September. The school plans to name its renowned wood shop for him at a birthday and retirement party in the fall.
Sandler joined the school as a woodworking teacher in 1966, after stints as a Korean War soldier, shipyard worker and cabinet-maker. He continued his day job as a vocational teacher in the Boston Public Schools, earning a Masters degree in the field, but fell in love with the Eliot, showing up in early mornings to straighten up the wood shop, then returning to teach after school and evenings. For years he ran the school, fixing machines, hiring teachers, meeting with the board, and weathering ups and downs in the neighborhood. His wife and young children helped mail out course catalogs, and he brought in friends from vocational education programs and the Cabinetmakers Union who populated the school as skilled teachers of craftsmanship. Children taught by Sandler return now with grey hair and memories of building wooden boats, clocks and stools.
With characteristic earnestness and charm, Sandler avows, “The Eliot School has been my life.” His daughter, Lisa, continues family tradition as Acting Director of Career/Vocational Technical Education for the state’s Dept. of Elementary & Secondary Education.
Stepping in to Sandler’s shoes is Julio Fuentes, 43, of Roslindale, assuming a new title as Facilities Coordinator. As Sandler did, Fuentes will maintain the school’s 19th century building. He already teaches both adults and children there, and plays a key role in the Eliot’s woodworking classes at partnering public schools in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Dorchester, South Boston and the South End. Fuentes takes on his new role May 1.
A graduate of North Bennet Street School’s Preservation Carpentry program, Fuentes renovated high-end homes for fifteen years for The Classic Group, based in Lexington. He has led the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury for nine of those years. For almost as long, he has also led workshops for new homeowners for the city’s Dept. of Neighborhood Development.