Ward 4: TAB Endorses Josh Krintzman
We'll begin with Ward 4, this year's win/win election. Both Josh Krintzman and Diana Fisher Gomberg would make excellent School Committee members. Both are bright, articulate and committed. Both have devoted many hours to their communities. Fisher Gomberg has experience in public health program planning, monitoring and evaluation. Krintzman is an attorney for the Massachusetts Senate.
Gomberg's experience and philosophy lends itself to advocacy. She's great at it, too. She successfully lobbied for a modular at her children's elementary school, worked with Stand for Children in its push for state funding, and is a regular in front of the microphone at School Committee meetings.
While Gomberg's activism is valued and necessary, it's not as useful in a board of directors approach.
Krintzman, on the other hand, understands the tradeoffs that are necessary when building a budget. He'd be the only member actually educated in the Newton schools, and as the parent of very young children, he'd bring a needed new and fresh perspective â€“ one without biases. His connections to and understanding of Beacon Hill could prove useful for a School Committee with several capital projects ahead of it. He's also a strategic thinker who knows what it takes to be effective.
Krintzman served as president of the Lower Falls Improvement Association for five years and co-founded the Riverside Station Neighborhood Coalition. While neither of these organizations is school-related, members of both attest to his leadership skills. For these reasons, we encourage you to vote for Josh Krintzman on Nov. 8.
Epstein Supports Krintzman
Josh Krintzman is an outstanding candidate for School Committee.
Anyone who has met with Josh, and listened to his ideas, has to be impressed at the fresh perspective he brings and the knowledge base he already has of issues affecting the schools, including facilities needs, the importance of digital education and breadth of program, fiscal sustainability, developing new revenue streams and public/private partnerships, and so on.
He understands the problems we face and he has sound ideas for generating good solutions.
His strength on school issues is complemented by his engagement with the broader community, as President of the Lower Falls Improvement Association, and as co-founder of the Riverside Station Neighborhood Coalition. In the next few years, facility planning in the schools and new development planning for the city must be integrated in a manner which serves all parties and Josh is ideally situated to help build the relationships necessary for that to succeed.
Josh also brings great value to the School Committee through his experience at the state level. He serves as assistant counsel in the office of the Senate counsel, reviewing and shaping the very state rules which influence our school system. With significant state legislation likely in the next year or so, affecting teacher evaluations and licensing, kindergarten and pre-K programs, Josh will be an invaluable source of information and analysis to inform School Committee decision making.
Josh has deep family roots in Newton and, with three small children, the eldest in kindergarten, we can be assured of his continued close contact with the daily realities of our school system for the next 18 years.
With that perspective, we can look forward to good, long term solutions from Josh.
For many more details, visit Josh's website at: www.joshkrintzman.com and please vote for Josh Krintzman on November 8th.
School Committee Member, Ward 1
Ward 5: TAB Endorses Steve Siegel
We endorsed Steve Siegel over Susan Rosenbaum two years ago and we are doing so again.
Rosenbaum, a biochemist, is obviously a smart woman. It's difficult, though, to know what her contributions to the School Committee have been, given that she seldom speaks in committee meetings.Â Make no mistake, we appreciate politicians who don't talk to hear themselves talk, but, she's facing a challenger who would be much more likely to further the discussion.
A structural engineer, Siegel likes to tout his profession as a major selling point, especially at a time when the mayor is about to unveil a long-term plan to repair or replace many of the city's dilapidated schools. We agree that it would be valuable to have someone on the School Committee with his expertise, but we don't think it's what matters most.
Rather, it's Siegel's analytical skills he brings to his job that we admire most.
A smart man, Siegel doesn't rush to judgment. He likes data. He asks good questions. He listens. And he provides thoughtful and honest answers. He is an independent thinker who has spent the time since his loss to Rosenbaum two years ago talking to the players and trying to understand what works and what doesn't work on the School Committee.
We believe Steve Siegel's analytical thinking, listening skills and dedication would contribute greatly to the School Committee and we urge Newton residents to cast their ballots for him.
Ward 2: Geoff Epstein Endorses Margaret Albright
Let's say that the TAB School Committee endorsements in Wards 4 and 5 had plenty of meat on the bones for voters to consider. There was decent balance evident.
What's remarkable about the Ward 2 School Committee endorsement is the paucity of material for any voter to consider.
If you set aside the TAB comments on the residency issue, the remaining half of the endorsement focuses on the role of School Committee members and seems to argue that knowing something about education (rather than collective bargaining) is a disadvantage.
Given that the highest performing school boards actually focus on student achievement, having at least one board member focused in this election on student achievement should be viewed as a remarkable plus rather than being spun into a minus.
Here is some of the meat missing from the endorsement bones.
Margaret is a consultant specializing in grant program development and holds an MBA from Northeastern University. She regularly works on projects in education, social services and public health assisting her clients by helping them align their programs with best practices and to reach clear objectives in order to secure funding.
She comes from a family of educators, with her mother and father both music teachers - one at elementary school, the other at college - so she grew up steeped in education. She has deep knowledge of the educational scene in Newton and sees it through the prism of her even deeper knowledge of the state educational scene. Such a perspective is invaluable and has enabled her to see clearly what we can do to improve education in Newton.
Here are some of her contributions so far:
- We value innovation in special education and in particular the introduction of co-taught classes to improve student outcomes and use special education money more effectively. In that context, we owe thanks to Margaret who drew Jim Marini's attention to the great advantages of this approach and should share credit for the introduction of this innovation, well before being elected to serve.
- You might have noticed that hundreds of thousands of Medicaid reimbursement dollars were recently garnered from the state to bolster the FY12 budget. We should thank Margaret Albright, for drawing attention to the Medicaid reimbursement policy weaknesses which allowed reimbursement dollars to be much lower for Newton than for other communities in prior years.
- Full day kindergarten (FDK) is now a common issue talked about by candidates in this election, and we should thank Margaret Albright for making this an issue in this election. Newton was ready to introduce FDK in 1998 and we would have led the state in innovative education for our youngsters. In the last 13 years, 90% of state school systems have moved ahead of us in this domain. It's time we gave our youngest learners a much better start in their education and caught up to the rest of the state.
- If the community is interested in getting real value for their dollars in new school construction, you could hear from Margaret how pre-assembly off-site of school building sections and assembly on-site is a way to enormously reduce construction costs.
Four ideas from Margaret. None coming from current School Committee members. Two ideas focused on student achievement. Two on improving our fiscal picture as we move forward.
That's not micromanagement. That's bringing new and actionable information into the SC decision making process. That's what a good board member does. That is what Margaret Albright brings to the table.
As we look to the next two years, improving student achievement is a central part of the planning which is being done by the Superintendent's newly formed and impressive academic team. It is clear that we are on the cusp of real advances in education in Newton and that as those unfold, Margaret Albright's unique know how of educational best practices will be of great value as the School Committee collaborates with the school system staff to chart a course that will bring great benefits to all Newton students.
I have campaigned for Margaret Albright and continue to do so with energy and commitment. She remains one of the most capable, forthright and honest people I know.
It is a privilege and an honor to be counted among her supporters.
Please vote for her on November 8th.
The School System Collective Bargaining Agreements
The Newton school system now has in place sustainable collective bargaining agreements which will serve us well on the financial side for the next three years.
This positive progress was achieved due to a multiplicity of innovations coming from the state, the city administration and the school department. Most of these were touched on at the School Committee meeting on Monday, October 31st at which the School Committee approved the school side contracts.
They are as follows:
- The state changed the regulations governing negotiations so that real reform could take place in all health insurance aspects of contracts. This provided the city the option to join the state health insurance scheme, commonly referred to as the GIC, or make adjustments to its current scheme to achieve equivalent cost savings and option improvements. Newton, under the Mayor's guidance, successfully went the adjustment route.
- The city negotiated all of its non-school contracts, police, fire etc first, so a framework of settled contracts was created by the Mayor with which the school system contracts had to conform. This was the complete opposite of past practice where the school system contracts were negotiated first and the others followed. Great leadership by the Mayor!
- The teachers union, under the new leadship of Mike Zilles, engaged in negotiations in a much different manner than the past, which was more open and much more collaborative. The Mayor fostered this approach and much of the progress was made by the parties sitting around a table in the Mayor's office engaging in direct, productive conversations without lawyers present.
- In a dramatic show of collaboration and openness, the school system not only provided the School Committee tools to easily see the financial consequences of bargaining offers, but also created and provided to the Newton Teachers Association (NTA) a set of tools which allowed the NTA to see the consequences of those offers down to the individual teacher level. Mike Zilles affirmed the key role this played in fostering transparency and progress in the negotiations. As one experienced School Committee negotiator said after the Monday meeting: "If you'd told me we would be providing those tools to the union a year ago, I would have thought you were insane." Much praise must be heaped on those responsible for this innovation and I have to credit David Fleishman, whose staff provided those tools, for enabling a key advance to support successful negotiations.
In the past, I have emphasised the expertise which Matt Hills has brought to the School Committee negotiating team, but credit is also due to all of the team members, including Jonathan Yeo, as School Committee bargaining sub-committee chairman, and Claire Sokoloff for all of the hard work they put in to help achieve success.
Just as important is the leadership shown at all levels: state, city and school system, to enable a genuinely, sound, sustainable set of agreements to be achieved.
One further comment is in order and that is while these agreements serve us well in the financial areas, they have nothing new in educational practice areas.
In particular, although these were raised as important issues to discuss, in March of this year, none of the following were discussed at all until early October, when the negotiations were pretty much ended and so find no presence in the recent agreements:
- Online courses
- Teacher course loads
- Teacher performance and evaluations - use of student performance data, measures such as speed on grading tests, written work, consistency in offering make up tests when students are out sick etc
- Recognizing exceptional work
- Teacher professional development (this connects to early release days)
- Teacher obligations such as college recommendation letters
- Parent-teacher conference coverage
- Posting homework online
- Layoff policy shifting away from seniority approach
- Including student input
- Including parent input
Addressing these issues has been left for another day.
It is critical that as we approach upcoming changes in our educational practices, we have the right knowledge base in the school committee membership to make sure that we implement best practices and make the adjustments in the school system contracts, as needed, to support those best practices.
The Ward 2 Residency Ruckus
Here is my best take on the matter.
It is confirmed by multiple sources, and by the Election Commission hearing record on the matter, that Jonathan Yeo was under the impression that if he moved to Ward 2 before March 31st, 2011, that would trigger a special election in Ward 4 for his School Committee seat.
Although the charter clearly specified this was not the case and although seasoned activists in this city advised him that he could move to Ward 2 with no problem prior to March 31st, Jonathan did not heed that advice and did not move, nor change voter registration till after March 31st.
That is what caused all of the subsequent problems, triggering an apparent conflict with another part of the charter dealing with residency requirements.
Margaret Albright obviously had no part in her opponent's decision making process.
In the challenge that ensued, the principals were Peter Harrington, Dan Fahey and James Bueche.
If anyone should be 'blamed' for questioning how the Yeo Ward 2 candidacy conformed to the charter requirement and then pursuing a defense of the charter, it should be these three gentlemen. And especially, Peter Harrington.
If Ghandi had been running as Margaret Albright's opponent and the residency circumstances were identical, Peter Harrington would have still led the charge.
Peter Harrington would then have been 'blamed' for harassing Ghandi, in his defense of the charter.
Ultimately, this battle is Harrington v. Yeo and the community should separate this battle from the Ward 2 School Committee race.
We should also note that Peter Harrington is not some combative, harassing attorney, but a distinguished member of our community who lead the city's transition from republican control to democrat control several decades ago and who is personally responsible for getting term limits for SC members into the charter to our great current benefit.