Sunday, April 25, 2010

School Committee Endorsements

With four candidates seeking two seats we certainly have a spectrum of choices for the school committee. The school committee post is challenging. Complex problems of education, finance, management and personnel continually confront anyone who takes on the challenge. I’m supporting the two candidates who I believe offer the best skills and temperament for the job. I’m endorsing Glenn Pavlicek and Denis Keohane.

Both Glenn and Denis are staunch supporters of the French Immersion program. While all of the candidates responded “no” to a question at the League of Women voters debate about whether they would ever agree to do away with the program, that is not in my view a commitment to safeguard it from misguided political pressures that could affect the program without eliminating it. Let’s understand that the value of this program accrues not just to the students in it, but to the entire school system and town as a symbol of educational excellence and innovation.

Glenn Pavlicek

Glenn is an extremely valuable member of the School Committee, bringing a wide range of skills and knowledge to a multi-faceted and complex role. He is not a single issue candidate seeking office to advance a specific cause. He has always worked to improve every aspect of the system to serve every student in the system.

As Chair of the Warrant Committee and member of the School Building Committee Glenn has had a key role in the construction of our new schools. He was a member of the citizens’ group “Fair Funding for Milton” that helped secure over $500,000 a year in Payments In Lieu of Taxes for the town. His work on Special Education includes working with the Department of Education on compliance issues, and supporting changes in instruction and curriculum that permitted a 20% reduction in out-of-district placements. These students are now educated in their home town, as they should be, and the system saves money doing so.

Three years ago Glenn pledged during his campaign to improve the level of communication and the openness of the school system. Today we have a stellar team of administrators running our schools. They work tirelessly to inform, educate and explain what’s happening with education in Milton.

The current economic crisis presents a serious challenge to educational excellence. Federal Stimulus money will cushion the blow somewhat for the coming fiscal year, but beginning the following year deep cuts are in the cards.

As an educator with long experience in town finance, Glenn is uniquely qualified to meet this challenge. He recognizes there are no easy solutions of the kind that make for great political slogans. He will do what he has always done, work quietly and effectively to get the job done.
Please support Glenn Pavlicek with one of your two votes for School Committee on April 27th.

Denis Keohane

Denis is a successful, self-made businessman. I was first struck by his obvious commitment to education, exhibited by his own decision to attend college as an adult and while building his business- not an easy thing. He “wanted to lead my children by example” he has said.

He has announced his intention to focus on the business side of the committee’s activities-- budgeting, management and negotiating. Not only is this his expertise, but he understands that educational strategy and policy are the province of the Superintendent, with committee input.

We’ve all heard business executives who’ve claimed that if government or education were run like businesses we’d be better off. Of course businesses and government are entirely different undertakings and skepticism of such remarks is warranted. But Denis is not saying that. He is saying that to have a member with his perspective on the committee improves it by adding skills while not losing sight of the uniqueness of an educational mission.

I know some people have expressed concern with the strength of some statements Denis made at the Milton League of Women Voters debate. He is a political novice after all, and I think he was simply trying to distinguish himself and emphasize his areas of expertise.

We have a very experienced committee membership at the moment. It’s a good time for someone with a deep passion for the power of education and a different professional background to come on board. Denis Keohane is offering his service to the town and I think we should accept his offer.

I hope you’ll give your second School Committee vote to Denis Keohane.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I will agree with you, Phil, that Glenn Pavlicek deserves our vote and our thanks for years of service, I do not think you know the other candidates well enough to make an endorsement for the second seat. I realize there are those who believe Denis Keohane's pro-French Immersion stance is worth a vote. I would argue that Denis does not know enough about the issue nor the workings of the School Committee to ensure that he can deliver on the promise of saving the program.

French Immersion has been a great program in our schools and deserves to be preserved. But the growth of the program must be managed in order to preserve the entire system. If, for example, 70% or more of our parents choose French Immersion for their children, we will be hard pressed to meet the needs of our Special Education students and the non-French students. Our administrators would tell you that there simply are not enough French teachers to teach that many French students, among other issues. I have yet to hear Denis acknowledge that there are limits to the French program.

And you are right to say that Denis made some statements in the debates/forums that were not well-considerecd. Given the cost and complexity of the Special Education mandates, he should have been able to say more when asked about Special Education than (and I'm paraphrasing here, sorry), "My wife and I are grateful that our children do not have special needs."

Denis may be a great School Committee member some day. But he needs to spend more time getting to know the issues facing our schools and he needs to spend more time in the schools. Our challenges are great and we need someone who can get on board quickly and understand the issues, both budgetary and programmatic.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

I'm afraid we'll just have to disagree on Denis.

I've heard no administrator say that shortage of French Immersion teachers is a problem, but if it is, then obviously that would be a limiting factor. Nor do I have any reason to think that Denis would oppose limits to the program based on justified educational reasons.

I disagree that every candidate for this position needs to be quite well versed in the issues coming in. Some of the best people who have served in this office have been those who grew in the job while bringing certain skills and educational committment to the task.

As for the other candidates, I think I know them more than well enough to form a pretty good opinion.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I cannot recall a time that I disagreed with you Phil but here goes. I plan to vote for Glenn as he understands the complexities of education and budgets and he is willing to listen to all points of view. My second vote for school committee is for Margaret Eberhardt. I have known Margaret for 12 years. She has been an active, tireless volunteer for the town. Margaret has been the face of youth soccer for many years. She volunteers at our schools with a drive, energy and compassion that I admire. She knows our schools, our teachers and our administrative team better than most parents. Most importantly, Margaret knows children and understands education. Margaret has strong opinions driven by her passion for children and their education. Margaret is not anti French. We have had many conversations about this and I know she wants the best for all of the programs of the Milton Public Schools. Margaret is a strong advocate for bringing back music, art and more physical education to the elementary level. I do not know Dennnis but I listened to the debates and did not feel he understands the role of the warrent committee and I felt he was disrespectful to the teachers referring to the teacher's union as pitbulls. Margaret will be an active and effective member of the Milton School Committee from day one. Please join me in voting for Glenn and Margaret for the school committee. Betty White Town Meeting Member Prec. 2

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


While you have in the past done some good homework on candidates, I think that you have seriously missed this one. You clearly have not done your homework on Margaret Eberhardt. I doubt you have even spoken with her because you would not have made the statements that you did. You clearly are the "one issue" voter that you critique, because of your concerns about the French program, but worse, you demonstrate no knowledge of this candidate. I think you should apologize, spend some time with Margaret, and then determine if your endorsements are right for the children of Milton.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

Hi Betty,

I wouldn't think you're the interesting and passionate advocate you are if you always agreed with me.

We don't lack for committee members who know kids and education. Nor for people who know the schools, teachers and administrators. Most really learn that after becoming a member of the committee, although not all. I'm not sure it's always good to come to the committee with too many connections, with too much of an insiders knowledge and perspective. From time to time it's good to have fresh perspectives from people who know from day one they have a lot to learn. They often contribute the most original.

All of this presupposes the person is truly dedicated to education, and is not a candidate with an agenda only.

Just as you believe Margaret Eberhart is not anti-French Immersion, I do not believe Denis Keohane is anti-teacher. He may have different views about unions than you or I do, but he will he run up against hard reality on the job and I think he is the type to learn from the experience.

Yes, as you say, passion about education and children can lead to strong opinions. I think that applies to Denis as well.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


How do you know I haven't done my homework on all the candidates, and exactly what statement of mine are you referring to? Because I didn't support the candidate you wish?

Being in favor of French Immmersion doesn't make me a one issue voter. But it is an important issue for this school system.

Margaret Eberhardt would make a fine member of the committee. I just happen to think that at this time, and given the makeup of the committee, Denis Keohane would be a better choice.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The administration HAS spoken about the difficulty in finding qualified French teachers and about sustaining the program.
I think everyone - the administration and the candidates for SC are committed to the French program. The key is finding a way to keep it and sustain a quality education for all of Milton's students.
To state that no administrator has spoken about the challenges the program faces is simply not true.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...

The discussion was about finding such teachers in a short period of time when enrollment was unexpectedly high. As I said, if that proves a limiting factor, so be it. No one is advocating expanding the program beyond the ability to find qualified teachers to teach in it. It's really not an issue.

I'm not sure everyone has the same level of committment to the program.

I'm not sure where you think I said the French Immersion program doesn't face challenges. All programs in the school face challenges.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Rob Savage said...

Hi Phil:
For years, I’ve found your opinion on town politics informed and refreshingly progressive. However, I have to admit to being deeply disappointed by your endorsement of Denis Keohane for School Committee. The real progressives running for School Committee have many years of experience in education both as volunteers and in their professional lives. They are not novices in need of 'on the job training' who have only recently found and interest in the schools. For over a decade I’ve watched Margaret Eberhardt serve as a tireless advocate for all of the children in the Milton Public Schools, volunteering countless hours to support teachers and students both inside and outside of the classroom. As a proud parent of two children who have thrived in the French Immersion Program, I know it as a wonderful asset to the Milton Public Schools. I also know Margaret appreciates the value of the French Program but also understands the many complex issues confronting our schools today. The suggestion that she is somehow ‘soft’ on French is simply wrong. I would never support a candidate that was not fully committed to the French Immersion Program. Margaret possesses the talent, energy and commitment to serve the town as a dedicated and informed public servant. Although I agree with your endorsement of Glenn Pavlicek, I am convinced the School Committee would be greatly enhanced by the election of Margaret Eberhardt.

Rob Savage
Precinct 10

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Robin Coyne said...

Phil notes that "Denis understands that educational strategy and policy are the province of the Superintendent with Committee input." This is simply not the case. It is the job of the School Committee to develop policy and set performance standards and long-term goals.

The Milton School Committee Policy Manual states “The Committee, which represents the state and local community, develops policies after careful deliberation, and the school administration implements them through specific regulations and procedures. “ “The Milton School Committee sets performance standards and long-term goals for the Milton Public Schools.”

The Milton Public Schools are facing a number of complicated issues and we need School Committee members who can hit the ground running. Margaret has a deep understanding of education policy, curriculum, assessment, budgeting and strategic planning. She has shown she can work collaboratively with parents, teachers and administrators. She will work towards improving education for all students.

I hope you will join me in voting for Margaret (and Glenn) on Tuesday.

Robin Coyne (one of many parents of students in French Immersion who are supporting Margaret)

9:39 AM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


Sorry you're disappointed by my endorsement of Denis Keohane.

I'm not quite sure where the requirement of years of work in the schools came to be a requirement for serving, or where learning on the job was a detriment. It certainly didn't hurt Beirne Lovely, who I think is one of the best committee members in my time in Milton. His particular professional perspective added greatly to the deliberations and his sheer appetite for work and study of the issues made the final products of committee work better. I think the committee would benefit from Denis' perspective and skills.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Philip Mathews said...


I should have said educational strategy and administration.

In any event, it doesn't much change the issues. Any good school committee will give great deference to the Superintendent on policy matters that deal with educational issues.

3:41 PM  

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