Saturday, April 15, 2006

School Committee Election

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) says the following about the role of School Committees.

“A school committee must be responsive to its constituencies in governance, sensitive to the diverse needs of all learners, an advocate for students and learning before the people of the community and, as such, a vigorous ambassador for public education before all citizens.”

With respect to school finance the MASC says:

“Work to ensure that necessary funds are appropriated for the district and that a balance is maintained between needs and resources in the distribution of available monies.”

For me an “advocate for students”, a “vigorous ambassador for education before all citizens” who “ensure(s) that necessary funds are appropriated” represent the basic criteria for consideration as a member of a school committee.

This year’s election has three candidates running for two seats—incumbents Glenn Pavlicek and Mary Kelly, and challenger Lynda-Lee Sheridan.

I’ve known Glenn Pavlicek for some years now. We worked together on the Warrant Committee--during two years he was the Chair. I’ve never worked with anyone quite like Glenn. It doesn’t take long to figure out how intelligent he is. But unlike most people equally blessed, Glenn prefers to bring his considerable talents to bear on issues in a quiet, unostentatious way. For this reason, he is not a great politician. He hasn’t developed the knack for spending more time claiming credit for solutions than in actually developing them.

But develop them he has. Glenn doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in the contribution he has made to the soon to be completed school buildings our youngsters attend. He has worked tirelessly on three different committees on the financing, educational specifications and construction supervision of every one of these schools. When construction inflation threatened the building of the Collicot and Cunningham Schools, he was a vocal advocate of “Safe and Equal” schools. And when further inflation threatened the completion of the Collicot school as originally planned he not only supported more money to complete the job, he worked with the School Building Assistance folks and the Department of Revenue to make sure the added funds could be legally authorized under the levy limit. This eliminated the need for another override election.

Glenn is an educator by profession. He understands the importance of properly funding our schools. He also knows that money is tight. As a member of “Fair Funding for Milton” he helped the town secure a new stream of revenue, $500,000 per year, as PILOT money for the state owned Blue Hills land. Intelligence, a passion for education, a rare problem solver, and an advocate for our children—the reasons I’ll be voting for Glenn Pavlicek on April 25th.

I first meet Lynda-Lee Sheridan during election season some years ago when we were both running for Town Meeting member in Precinct 9. We both attended the same election night get- together (there was probably a school override vote on the ballot) and waited anxiously for the election returns. When the final tallies were announced, I was lucky enough to have won the final slot, one vote ahead of Lynda-Lee. I remember being struck by how gracious she was. And of course, she won a seat the next year, and her distinctive voice has been a welcome addition to town meeting.

Lynda-Lee is also an educator by profession. She has been a Special Education teacher in the Boston Public Schools for over 20 years. This expertise would be valuable in a school system striving to solve past problems in Special Education. She would be an asset as we seek to bring SPED students back into the Milton schools and integrate them into classrooms using Inclusionary Models.

She’s long been involved in education in Milton, as a long time member of the PTO and the School Site Council. She’s also rightly proud of her advocacy for every school building override. The school children of Milton will have no better advocate for their interests than someone whose caring and concern for young people is so palpable. That is why I will vote for Lynda-Lee Sheridan on April 25th.

Mary Kelly has served for three years on the school committee. As I thought about each of the candidates, there were two things about Ms. Kelly’s tenure that I just couldn’t reconcile with someone I could support for the Milton School Committee. The first was a statement she made at the League of Women Voters debate. She described herself as “the taxpayers voice” on the school committee. That struck me as odd. Shouldn’t a school committee member be the “children’s voice”? Aren’t there enough voices for the taxpayer, including every taxpayer, not to mention the elected Town Meeting members? Was the key point here “taxes”?

The other issue which concerned me was Ms. Kelly’s opposition to the “Safe and Equal Schools” override of $14 million to permit the reconstruction of the Collicot and Cunningham Schools. I find it unconscionable to have advocated for a no vote that would have conferred second class status on the Cunningham and Collicot school communities. Not only would they have been forced to attend schools significantly inferior to other elementary school students in Milton, but in the case of Collicot, a school rapidly approaching an unsafe condition.

Glenn Pavlicek and Lynda-Lee Sheridan are vigorous advocates for the education of children. They are educators. They will make the case for the financial needs of the school system, knowing that the taxpayers of Milton have the ability to make their own decisions on increasing taxes. Please join me in supporting Glenn and Lynda-Lee on April 25th.


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