Meet the Candidates: Ward 5 School Committee

On August 28, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

handshakkeThe candidates for the primary election on September 24 for School Committee for Ward 5 were each asked four questions and invited to describe themselves and their vision for how best to serve their ward as School Committee members. Their responses are presented here in alphabetical order, based on their last names.

 

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Laura Pitone

Question #1 – What do you see as the role of the School Committee Member representing their ward?

School Committee Members must seek out and understand the concerns and ideas of residents throughout each ward and represent them at School Committee.  Members must also work together in making citywide school plans and funding priorities to best support all students.

Question #2 – What is your opinion on all the developments across the city do you think they will have any effect on the nearby schools in any way?

Rising home prices and development focused primarily on smaller units are driving growing families out of the city.  The result of such development could be fewer school-aged children in the city and therefore fewer students in the schools as families outgrow their homes.

Question #3 – What is the most pressing school related issue now facing your ward?

Going door-to-door, I’m hearing about the desire for higher and more consistent expectations across the schools and different grades.  Providing teachers contracted planning time within and across schools to share best practices and encourage creativity will help.

Question#4 – What is your opinion of the present administration and how it responds to residents’ concerns?

The present administration has approved school budget increases in last two years for requested foreign language instruction in the middle grades, high school guidance and efforts to increase family involvement. Leadership also acknowledges there is more to do.  We must include the voice of residents when setting priorities.

Bio:

For the past six years, I have worked with parents, teachers and administrators on real educational issues, tutored students and helped teachers in their classrooms.  As a member of the Healey School Improvement Council for the past three years, I helped lead the effort to unify two different programs into a single design for the school.  As co-leader of a parent-teacher organization, I worked on improving communications, fundraising and keeping people motivated during the redesign process.  I currently serve on the city’s Children and Youth Study Team.

I am married to Tom Cole and the mother of 2nd grader Avery and 6th grader Ethan.  Professionally, I have worked as a manufacturing engineer and, more recently, as a business and information technology consultant. For more information, go to www.laurapitone.com.

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Ross Richmond

Question #1 – What do you see as the role of the School Committee Member representing their ward?

As a School Committee member I will reach out to everyone in Somerville to hear their ideas and hopes for our community’s schools. I will also advocate for strong local schools as a cornerstone for a vibrant neighborhood here in Ward 5.

Question #2 – What is your opinion on all the developments across the city do you think they will have any effect on the nearby schools in any way?

Development has already had a major effect on our community and our schools. Right now, 80% of households don’t have kids in our schools and to have a strong Somerville we must make sure everyone is invested in our schools. I believe what we need now, is a focus on putting schools at the center of everything we do in our city.

Question #3 – What is the most pressing school related issue now facing your ward?

I have many of the pressing policy issues facing our schools at www.rossrichmond.org. However, with so much changing in Somerville, schools are off to the side for many folks. I have been working hard reaching out to residents about the need to make sure that everyone is invested in our schools.

Question#4 – What is your opinion of the present administration and how it responds to residents’ concerns?

The current administration has done well, but there is an opportunity to do more. As a School Committee member, I will work as hard as possible to be accessible to parents and residents. I will push our district to communicate better with prospective and new parents and bring in all the voices of our diverse population of parents.

Bio:

I grew up in a family deeply committed to public education. My mother was a teacher and is now a principal at the Kenny School in Boston. I attended DePaul University, and I currently work for the Higher Education Committee at the State House working education policy statewide. I write and review education policy, as well as advocate on behalf of students and parents across the state for more funding, better and smarter accountably, and stronger connections with parents and residents. My experience in statewide advocacy and education policy, my commitment to volunteering at the Kennedy School, and the relationships I have built with parents and residents in Somerville will inform the decisions that I will make on School Committee.

I am running for School Committee to put schools at the center of our vision for Somerville. A strong community is built around great schools and with Somerville rapidly changing it is more important than ever to get everyone invested in education. As a School Committee member I specifically want to advocate for parents of students with disabilities, ensure that all of Somerville’s neighborhood schools are strong, and guarantee that all of our children have access to a free, high quality pre-kindergarten education. I will continue to actively reach out to all residents, both parents and non-parents, regarding the need for our community to be built on strong schools.

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Caroline Shea Rosas

Question #1 – What do you see as the role of the School Committee Member representing their ward?

I see the role as being a voice for the families in our district and more specifically the families in their Ward.  I also envision the role as being hands on and one that has a presence at their Ward school where every family knows who their rep is and is then able to approach them throughout the year to discuss anything from accomplishments to concerns.

Question #2 – What is your opinion on all the developments across the city do you think they will have any effect on the nearby schools in any way?

I think development across the city is great! It means that the city is expanding and creating jobs for thousands of people where at the same time money will hopefully go back to the city and our schools.  I hope that the effect on our schools will only be positive – with more companies coming into the city that could lead to more partnerships with our schools and for our students. Opening up doors and creating opportunities for all of our students are very positive things that can come from development. Perhaps new construction and renovation may cause commuting headaches but I think with any growth there is bound to be headaches but the future is what we need to look to.

Question #3 – What is the most pressing school related issue now facing your ward?

The most pressing school related issue is keeping families in our school, especially in the middle school grades.  We need to bring the level of our education up so that we are teaching to all students on all levels. We need to increase our resources so that teachers are not overworked but are able to teach to all levels of learning and introduce tools that our students can benefit from.  If we do this then perhaps we may not lose middle school families. Our numbers start to decline at these grades and a lot of it has do with families feel that their children are not receiving the level of education that they should be getting.  We can fix this, I am positive about that.

Question#4 – What is your opinion of the present administration and how it responds to residents’ concerns?

I feel that our present administration reacts well and responds well to residents concern. There is not one administration out there that is going to please every single person but I think it is a very positive thing that our administration focused greatly on our education; our students are our next generation.  The administration has more meetings for community members to attend then any towns or cities that my friends reside in, I think that is extremely positive.

Bio:

For the past nine years my husband, Lee and I have made Somerville our home.  It is where we have decided to raise and educate our two boys, ages four and seven.  One son will be entering second grade at the John F. Kennedy School in Ward Five and the other will be at the Capuano. My beliefs in our schools and our community combined with the education of my own children are some of the factors in deciding to run for school committee.  I graduated from Assumption College in Worcester, MA in 1998 and since then I have been active and worked in the education space. I have served on the board of both the Capuano PTA and the Kennedy PTA where I am currently the treasurer.  I have also served for the past two years as secretary on the citywide PTA.  Besides being very active in our schools I work full time as a Director of Client Operations for Blackboard, Inc., an education software company. I want to continue to work to improve our schools and ensure that our children receive the best possible education, given the resources available. I will advocate for every school to have the resources it needs for all students to excel.

 

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