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Worcester Telegram & Gazette
By Linda Bock


WORCESTER — Bad hours. Low pay. Work on Christmas.

Welcome to the team.

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis and U.S. Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Mass., welcomed and congratulated a group of the newest correction officers yesterday at their graduation at the Worcester Technical High School. The 26 men and three women, “The Mighty 36th,” made history yesterday as the first class of correction officers in 36 sessions to meet the department’s new hiring standards in a rigorous 12-week training program.

Mr. Evangelidis was sworn in in January, and he instituted the new standards this year. Mr. Evangelidis said there were doubters that he would be able to find enough qualified recruits. The new correction officers were required to have an associate degree or military service to be eligible, in addition to having to pass academic, mental, physical and psychological tests.

Mr. Evangelidis said there were more than 200 “extraordinary” applicants this summer. Of those, 37 recruits were chosen, and 29 successfully completed the 12-week program. Of the 29 new correction officers, 24 have college degrees and five have had military experience.

“I want to welcome you to our team,” Mr. Evangelidis said. “We need you. With you, without question, we are a better department.”

Mr. Brown met with all of the recruits to congratulate them and challenge them to “drop and give him 50 (push-ups)” before the ceremony.

In his address, Mr. Brown said he was proud to be a part of history.

“New class, new standards, new energy,” Mr. Brown said.

He said that in the morning he drove past the church where Firefighter Jon Davies Sr.’s funeral was held last week.

“Like Jon, you are now in a situation to help people,” Mr. Brown said. His advice to the new correction officers was to take care of themselves and their families, because, he said, their jobs will take a toll on them.

Assistant Deputy Superintendent Lawrence P. Sullivan of the Worcester County House of Correction said the recruits were put through their paces. At last count, the “push-up-o-meter” was at 52,501, he said.

“The most comprehensive training ever,” Mr. Sullivan said as they stepped up to the stage to receive graduation certificates.

Many of the new correction officers are already scheduled to work Christmas Eve or Christmas.

The new hires will bring staffing at the jail to about 400. Mr. Evangelidis’ intention is to increase staffing and decrease overtime costs.

The correction officers are:

Jonathan J. Berube, Westminster; Nicole J. Bevilacqua, Bourne; Shayn G. Black, Auburn; Wayne E. Blais, Townsend; Robert S. Camara, Barre; Trevis A. Coleman, Worcester; Mark E. Connolly, Leicester; Michael J. Connolly, Winthrop; Justin J. Courtney, Auburn; Nicholas M Curci, Paxton; Steven K. Delage, Southbridge; Zachary J. Devlin, North Attleboro; Michael J. Divirgilio, North Grafton; James J. Kelleher, Lowell; John M. Kelly, Leominster; Brandy M. Leblanc, Fitchburg; Michael J. McGowan, Worcester; James F. Mello, South Hadley; Michael J. Monfredo, Worcester; Samuel M. Perotto, Barre; Joseph G. Pizzigno, Amherst, N.H.; Nicholas J. Rauktis, Paxton; Adam P. Richard, Charlton; Andre R. Smith, Boston; William J. Stanhope, Lunenburg; Christopher M. Testa, Worcester; Anton Trubitsyn, Acton; Richard J. Vincuilla, Worcester; and Wanda M. Washington, Grafton.

Telegram & Gazette intern Brittany Legasey contributed to this report.