The League of Women Voters – Vision 2020 candidate debate is available on ACMi Video on Demand! Please take the time to watch it!
Here’s the text of my statements and answers at candidates night:
Opening statement (approximately 0:59):
Thank you, Margaret. Thanks to the League of Women Voters and Vision 2020 for hosting us, and thank you to ACMi TV for bringing this to the living rooms of everybody in Arlington and beyond on cable. I have 31 years in education, as both a teacher, a central office administrator, and a principal. I’ve been involved in Arlington town government since 1993 when I joined Town Meeting, and I’ve been involved ever since. I was appointed to the Minuteman School Committee in 1997, and elected to the Arlington School Committee in 2001 and 2004. I thought I was done in 2007, until Joe Curro became a selectman and I was asked to come onto the committee and fill his vacancy. And now I’m here looking to be re-elected to a three year term. One of the reasons for that, I serve with really remarkable people, and it’s an honor to serve with my six colleagues. And that’s really the prime reason why i want to be re-elected to the school committee, because it’s an honor to serve and solve problems with these folks.We keep getting better. We’re into continuous improvement Our schools get better every year.One thing I want you to know is that you’re not going to get a postcard from me this year. I did a calculation last year when I ran for the one year term, and the cost of a postcard to the good voters in Arlington is about the same cost as a field trip for my students in Lowell. I’d rather spend the money on a field trip. And we took our kids from the Rogers Early Learning Center in Lowell to the New England Aquarium last week. Kids went to Boston for the first time. They went to the Imax theater, and it was their first trip to a theater. This was amazing. This is important work we do as educators. That’s who I am. I’m an educator who is involved in public policy and interested in working with you for another three years. Thank you.
Paul Schlichtman, Principal
Rogers Early Learning Center
43 Highland Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Let’s be frank. Right now, our Minuteman assessment has gone up 61 percent over the past three years, that’s because our share of the school has gone up. We’re now about 38%. The cost to rebuild Minuteman is proportional to our member enrollment. We cannot afford to pay for 40% of Minuteman. We need structural change in the regional agreement at Minuteman in order to be able to afford the reconstruction of that school along with the high school in Arlington, which desperately needs to be rebuilt. So, our priority needs to be pushing forward on Arlington High School and negotiating a new regional agreement with Minuteman that puts our vote at a reasonable share based on our enrollment and our cost. The Minuteman School Committee recently voted to change the regional agreement proposal to us to weaken Arlington’s vote, and if the other towns want us to have a smaller share of the vote, the way to do that: increase their enrollment in the school.
That’s an easy one. The first, second, and probably third really needs to be in terms of the process of renovating and rebuilding Arlington High School. That said, the other things we really need to do is, we really need to manage our resources well, watch for the increases of enrollment, be proactive in terms of accommodating the increases we are seeing. We’re now over 5000 students. Our enrollment’s increased more than 10% over the past few years, so we have to watch that enrollment increase. And maintaing and improving our quality by maintaining our commitment to continuous improvement within the school system.
I’m a former gifted coordinator in a past life, so I have a little perspective in this from reality. In the last decade, in my prior school committee service, we found that 50% of the students at the Ottoson were in the ACE program. And that might be good on one level, but on another level you look at that as that could be a problem with rigor in the schools. I will tell you that we have a limited budget, we have to prioritize, so there’s no such thing as an unequivocal support for one program. We have to look at our priorities. We have to look at our needs. We have to look for the most efficient and best way to advance the needs of our students. We have to look for solutions to our problems, and not accept solutions in search of a problem. So, how do we best educate our kids? We will do it as effectively as we can with technology, with best practices, I’m not going to time myself to any one program.
Yes. When I worked in Boston I met many METCO grads and they are all remarkable people. I think its an important program but there’s a real underlying problem in the way the state deals with it. We’re spending 13, 14, 15 thousand dollars on students leaving Boston to charter schools, while we’re getting only a couple of thousand for the METCO students. School choice is at $5000. There’s no equity between the myriad ways to move inter-district within the state. The problems with METCO are a state problem. It needs to be solved, along with the issues of charter school funding and school choice, and other equity issues in terms of inter-district choice.
I think one of the critical issues here is we’ve have had to make some very difficult choices. Back in 2004, when Governor Romney proposed the budget that was enacted that cut our local aid by 20%, that’s when we laid off our elementary librarians. We have not recovered from that damage. There are some trends in education where, in elementary schools, we want to put books in classrooms so all the money out of Arlington’s public budget is going to classroom libraries and not putting books in the libraries, and we’ve been relying on volunteer funds to fund the library. Yes, we need more technology. Yes, it needs to be in our capital plan. Yes, as we move the nature of education, flipping classrooms based on technology, we need the technology to be available in the classroom. And we need to find innovative ways to both fund this and to use this to educate our kids.
Thank you, and it’s a pleasure to go after Mr. Hayner this time and agree with him. One of the reasons why we can agree is, on a regular basis, we come to the public and we talk about the issues of the town. We don’t always agree in the school committee room, but we debate and discuss with respect. I think you can be proud of this school committee. I feel proud to be with these folks on a regular basis. We work hard. We do it well. We try our best to come with reasonable solutions and to advance public education in the Town of Arlington. I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve. I want to thank the League of Women Voters, Vision 2020, ACMi TV, and the voters and you who have come out to watch this debate and to become educated about the election. The election is on Saturday, April 5th. I ask for your vote. Thank you very much.