Monday, April 29, 2013

School Committee Endorsements

The School Committee race presents us with three options for two open seats – with candidates Mike Zullas, Becky Padera, and Bob Hiss offering to serve the town.

During my 30 years in Milton, I’ve watched the continued improvement of our public school system.  From French Immersion to English/STEM, we offer a rigorous curriculum that challenges students at every level, in every school. We now offer full day kindergarten. Our children attend world class facilities. The central administration and school level managers work with exceptional competence and dedication.  And our expenditures on education are now nearer what they should be for a town like ours.

A great many people, with the help of the taxpayers of Milton, worked very hard for many years to bring this about. Maintaining our progress, and indeed continuing to improve, places special importance on our selection of a new generation of elected leaders in public education.  I find two candidates who understand what it takes, and of equal importance, can be trusted to advocate for the necessary resources.

Mike Zullas

I met Mike a couple of years ago, though I knew of him earlier through his work on the Warrant Committee. For the last two months while working on his campaign I’ve gotten to know him. Mike is a true believer in the power of public school education.  A product of the Brockton public schools, he went on to attend Williams College and then Vanderbilt Law School where he served as the Law Review Editor-In-Chief.

Mike and his wife Marianne moved to Milton about 8 years ago in large part because of the quality of our public schools. After a few years he volunteered for some of the committee work that is so crucial to the ongoing success of Town Meeting government in Milton.  He served for 3 years on the Warrant Committee, including time on the Sub-Committee for Schools.  He’s also been a member of the Town Capital Committee. Currently he’s a member of the Milton High School Site Council, as well as a Town Meeting member.

I think it’s a testament to Mike’s concern for the town and its public school system that he’s put in this time even before his own children enter school.  Next September his oldest daughter will begin Kindergarten.  He will have children in our elementary schools for the next 7 years.

So Mike would bring a good knowledge of school issues and a detailed understanding of its budget. He also brings fresh thinking.  Mindful of the need to stretch a dollar, he’s proposing the consolidation of certain redundant business office functions in the schools with those already being performed at Town Hall.  He’s eager to continue the effort to close achievement gaps, and believes a strategic plan will help us focus our goals with our budget.

Becky Padera

Becky Padera is an interim member of the School Committee serving out the remainder of Denis Keohane’s term.  Padera was selected from a large pool of impressive residents for the interim spot. She’s a former public school guidance counselor and has two children in our Elementary Schools. 

During her year of service she’s taken the time to visit each of our schools to get to know the staff and students.  Through her participation on the Finance sub-committee she’s become knowledgeable about the budget and has met with parents in many venues to inform them on the school system’s finances.  

As a competitive triathlete, Padera has focused on children‘s health by co-writing a grant request to the American Heart Association to better structure recess time.  As a STEM supporter she organized a tour of the MIT Space Laboratory for School Leaders, and is working on a number of initiatives to enrich this program. 

Bob Hiss

Bob Hiss is a business executive with extensive experience in the software industry.  He has one child in the school system and currently represents Precinct 3 at Town Meeting. He’s also the Chairman of the Milton Town Republican Committee and sometime host of the Town Republican Committee’s television show on local access cable. These last two items have been missing from his campaign communication.

As an activist Republican, leading a town committee dedicated to “limited taxation” and “limited government”, I was curious how these tenets would manifest themselves in the race for School Committee. During the second debate, sponsored by, Candidate Zullas indicated  his concern about the high fees for athletic participation. Mr. Hiss offered as a solution limiting raises for school department employees.  This is similar to his argument against the CPA, during which he claimed we could have all the things the CPA might pay for in the future, simply by reducing the future compensation of town employees. He’s voiced similar views at town meeting.

Aside from the basic unfairness of the idea, as a possible solution it suffers from a lack of understanding of the town’s financial situation.  Milton suffers from a systemic financial problem in that our annual revenue growth lags many other communities, including the state average as a whole.  In the last 20 years, the towns of Hingham and Needham have seen their revenue grow about 78%, while Milton’s has grown about 63%, as measured by the Department of Revenue in their Municipal Revenue Growth Factor. Imagine what the 15% spread between Milton and those towns would have been without numerous overrides during the time?

So a curtailment of our town employees’ compensation would have to be ongoing- essentially permanent – to deal with the systemic problem.  In very short order we would find ourselves non-competitive in our ability to hire employees. Imagine our schools attempting to hire French teachers with native or near native fluency, or top notch math and science teachers for the STEM program, with a compensation structure that is simply not competitive.

It’s not enough to say you’re a supporter of public education. If you’re not willing to advocate for the resources that make high quality education possible, it’s just an empty phrase.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting Mike Zullas and Becky Padera for School Committee.


“Milton Mews” 40B Project

The Neponset River Watershed Association is collecting signatures for a petition opposing the 40B development targeted for the Fowl Meadow area of Milton. If you’d like to sign the petition, go here:


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