Voter's Guide to the Newton Municipal Election: Ward Alderman Candidates


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Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Polls open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Questions for the School Committee Candidates

Biographical Information (including why you are seeking this office). (50 words maximum)

Question 1. How do you draw the line between publicly supported services versus those paid for by user fees? (75 Words Maximum)

Question 2. What responsibility does the school system have to inform parents when controversial topics will be taught in the classroom? Define these topics. (75 Words Maximum)

School Committee/Ward 1

Gail Glick

Biographical Information:

15-year Newton resident; married; son attends Bigelow. Practicing attorney, 15 years, labor law; Teacher, 12 years, Cambridge Public Schools; Faculty Adjunct, Wellesley College; Educational Researcher; Curriculum Developer; Lincoln-Eliot School Council parent rep; 2-year incumbent Newton School Committee member, Ward 1; Chair, Contract Negotiation Team; Equity Committee member.

1. In an ideal fiscal world, the school system would not need to impose user fees. However, since the present fiscal reality requires a choice between charging a fee for some services and program participation or eliminating those programs/services, my preference is to favor the former alternative - bearing in mind that preserving core academic programs and retaining reasonable class size are chief priorities. User fees, nevertheless, must be carefully monitored and adjusted as needed.

2. The range of topics that could fairly be described as "controversial" is as broad or as narrow as the proponents or opponents make them. Common sense and experience tell us that children benefit from being introduced to "controversial topics" when such issues are presented in an age-appropriate manner that is also intellectually honest. The skilled, dedicated teachers in the Newton schools have utilized such a common-sense approach and retain my full confidence in this regard.

School Committee, Ward 2

Zygmunt P. Choroszy Jr.

No response received by deadline

Reenie Murphy

Biographical Information:

My husband Jay and I have three children. I'm a Cabot and Day parent and former city-wide PTO Council President. Prior to becoming active in the schools, I worked as a budget/financial analyst. I care deeply about our schools and am committed to maintaining excellent public education here in Newton.

1. Newton has the opportunity this year to carefully review user fees and decide on their place in future school budgets. The more input parents give on this topic, the better the decision will be. Bus fees should be evaluated separately from athletic and activity fees as there is more choice involved in the latter two. Many cities/towns in Massachusetts and across the country are grappling with this issue in the face of tight budgets.

2. The school system should give parents the opportunity to have their children opt out of classes deemed controversial when the material content of the class is known and planned. Classes on human sexuality are one example of this. It is important to recognize that controversy differs in the eye of the beholder and it is therefore difficult for the schools to predict all cases when controversial subjects may come up in classroom discussions.

School Committee, Ward 3

Joseph Amatucci

Biographical Information:

As the father of four children who will be educated in the Newton schools, I have a great interest in the quality of that education. Responsible fiscal policies are essential for maintaining this high quality while protecting Newton's seniors and middle class from onerous taxes.

1. Public education is by its very nature a publicly supported service. To require certain citizens to pay a user's fee for some extra services which they utilize, such as bus transport or athletic facilities is completely inconsistent with a collective endeavor such as this. The schools should strive to keep as many services as possible free to all. Once user's fees are instituted, there is no telling how pervasive they might become.

2. The primary function of school systems is to teach our children literacy, math, science etc. The teaching of morality, social mores, and cultural values is a family matter and as such, naturally is a responsibility of parents. The schools have every responsibility to inform parents when a topic to be discussed, or a view to be advanced in class might conflict with a family's values.

Anne M. Larner

Biographical Information:

I've been active in Newton for 30 years. My three children went to Newton schools. I'm in my sixth term on the Committee. Education is the most important service the City provides. My professional training in public management and finance helps me address key issues before the committee.

1. Public dollars should fund basic costs for instruction and administration of schools: salaries, materials, equipment, support services, facilities, facility maintenance. State/federal dollars should fund state/federal mandates. Normally, fees are acceptable if students have non-fee options or the service is a family responsibility (lunch, field trips). When short local, state or federal dollars put ancillary activities/services at risk, instituting fees to retain important, non-mandated services is acceptable, though not ideal.

2. Schools must obey parental notification statutes. Schools should encourage parents to be knowledgeable about their children's curricula and programs. Openness, good school to home communication, and respect for varying beliefs and values is critical. Principals should exercise common sense in balancing parental rights to keep children from material they find offensive and the teacher need to manage the classroom and subject material. Parents determine what's controversial; principals determine appropriate response beyond obeying the law.

School Committee/Ward 4

Nancy M. Levine

Biographical Information:

23-year resident; active in Newton Public Schools for 12 years. School Committee incumbent, I have served as Chair, Use of School Buildings and Fee Monitoring sub-committees, budget guidelines & graduation requirements sub-committees, SC liaison to SPED PAC, and SC representative to Massachusetts Association of School Committees annual meetings.

1. I oppose supplementing public services with private money. As a school committee member who has wrestled with the excruciating decisions of what to fund with shrinking resources, fees have become a necessity. Funding curriculum initiatives, faculty to maintain small class size, and instructional materials comes before sports and transportation. With shortfalls in those areas, I reluctantly supported the expansion of a fee structure, in order to maintain services and activities that enrich children's lives.

2. The school system has a legal responsibility (Ch.71Sec32A) to notify parents when "curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality" will be presented. Parent authorized student exemption is the law of the Commonwealth. "Controversial" is a subjective word, and beyond the legal requirements, can conflict with 1st amendment rights. Open communication between home and school should encourage teachers to notify parents of discussion content that may have fallen outside an expectable academic...

Donna Mazzola

Biographical Information:

Born and raised in Auburndale Donna Rondina. Husband, son and I are Graduates of NNHS. One son is a Junior at NNHS. Strong Community involvement in Newton. I believe many changes need to occur to truly benefit the children and citizens of Newton and want to work in the process.

1. There should be no line drawn. I believe that certain "use fees" do not need to be publicly supported or paid for by the user. It is not a matter of penalizing one group of citizens or another. The key is curbing spending, finding ways to save money and stop over-hiring so that the finance problems are curtailed which would have prevented the recent additional fees to parents and students.

2. "Controversial Topic" is defined differently by each person, however I assume the question refers to Social issues. My answer would be 100% responsibility. We attend Back to School night because the teachers explain in detail the year's curriculum for OUR children. Obviously much discussion in the classroom is spontaneous and impossible to predict, but everything planned should be relayed to the parents. Of note: Most "Controversial Topics" are usually presented by the Administration in assembly.

School Committee/Ward 5

Susan R. Heyman

Biographical Information:

As a former school committee member (1994-2002), Angier, Newton South and City-wide PTO Council President, and Chair of a 22 community education collaborative, I seek re-election to ensure that our schools maintain high quality by supporting teachers, keeping class sizes small, successfully renovating Newton North, and managing money wisely.

1. Public education should be publicly funded. I believe this with all my heart. User fees have become an unwelcome addition nation-wide as schools struggle with maintaining classroom services in the face of state and federal cutbacks. I will work to remove or mitigate fees wherever possible, particularly the bus fee. However, at times the choice between cutting back educational services to children vs. a fee requires a reluctant but necessary decision.

2. Parents need timely information and clearly explained options about school programs that require parental notification by statute. The system needs to foster a stronger partnership between home and school with better opportunities for parents to learn about and understand their children's curriculum in every grade. This dialogue, open and respectful of the diversity in Newton, will enable teachers and parents to help children deal with the many issues that arise in a rapidly changing world.

Brenda Loew

Biographical Information:

Former tenured public school speech-language therapist. Graduate, NSHS, BU, Brown, Northeastern. Two adult children. Paralegal. Member, Assistant Producer, NEW-TV. Recipient, VFW Patriotic Citizen Award. Graduate, Newton Civilian Police Academy. Newton needs leadership not beholden to past history or special interests to improve the schools and monitor the budget.

1. The current school committee has established a subcommittee on User Fees. Why? User Fees are inappropriate in public education. Period. Public education by definition guarantees equal opportunity for all. User Fees on sports, music, art, drama, computers, basic supplies (paper, pens, pencils, etc.) are another tax, an unfair tax, a slippery slope. Those who can't afford to pay are excluded - unless they reveal they are poor or a hardship case. This is unacceptable.

2. I support the definition of "controversial issues/curricular areas" (i.e. birth control, abortion, homosexuality, national defense, nuclear weapons, cloning, genetic engineering) in ERIC Clearinghouse Digest No. 14: Controversial Issues: Concerns for Policy Makers (1-800-LET-ERIC) and full compliance with General Laws Ch. 71, Sec. 32A, the Parental Notification Law regarding "curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues." Informed parents may choose to opt their children out sex education classes without punishment.

School Committee/Ward 6

Donna S. Cohen

Biographical Information:

Married with two children in Newton Public Schools. Graduated NYU. Works with special needs children in the Weston Public Schools; published researcher, pediatric HIV. Community service: educator, AIDS Network; advocate for special needs and HIV-infected children; School Committee Representative, Angier PTO; School Committee member and PTA President, Congregation Mishkan Tefila.

1. The only line that matters is between supporting the children versus supporting a bloated and wasteful administrative-bureaucracy. We need to direct more of our valuable resources/money to the children and less to unnecessary administrative positions and activities. I believe that Newton's user fees as implemented are anti-children, anti-education and anti-equal-opportunity. I would work to abolish them. Students should have a free choice to participate in activities such as riding the bus or playing school sports.

2. Any topic could be considered "controversial" given the diversity of beliefs among parents. Setting policy using this criterion is problematic. Parents should be informed about the curriculum, have the opportunity and be encouraged to voice their opinions about it, and ask their kids about what is going on in school. Any topic that is harmful to children or creates a hostile environment is unacceptable. Nothing a teacher says or does should cause fear or injury.

Patricia L. Kellogg

Biographical Information:

I care deeply about children, education, and the future of our community. As a member of the School Committee, I'm: a Newton Childcare Commissioner; former member, Newton North Taskforce; on several sub-committees. I'm an active member of numerous community organizations; Executive Director, Hyde Community Center; and the mother of three.

1. The first line is a legal one. Core curriculum should be publicly funded. But Massachusetts law allows fees for certain services: transporting K-6 students, living less than two miles from school, transporting all grade 7-12 students, extra-curricular activities, athletics, lunches, field trips. The second line is arbitrary. The School Committee, during times of shrinking government funding, collects fees for non-core curriculum activities, to maintain the system's level of quality.

2. Massachusetts law states that schools must notify parents/guardians about curriculum (in-school instruction/instructional assemblies) involving human sexual issues ("human sexual education, biological mechanics of human reproduction, human reproduction, sexual development, human sexuality"), and permit them to exempt their children from that curriculum without penalty. Schools must make related instructional materials accessible to parents/guardians for perusal. Other controversial topics are probably best defined by parents or students as they arise, and handled on an individual basis.

School Committee/Ward 7

Oktay Joseph Demir

No response received by deadline.

Marc C. Laredo

Biographical Information:

Married with two children in Newton schools. Attorney, Laredo & Smith, LLP. Attended Cabot, Bigelow, and Newton North. Graduate of Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania Law School. Former Assistant Attorney General, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. I am running for re-election to preserve the high quality of our public schools.

1. Local government should support and pay for services and activities that our community believes are for the common good or for those in need. For example, government funds should pay for police and fire departments, libraries, public schools, school bus transportation, and assistance for elderly or disabled people of limited means. User fees are reasonable for student parking or school lunches, where individuals have other practical choices available to them.

2. Parents are entitled to know what will be included in the curriculum and should have ample opportunities to express their opinions to the School Committee and school administrators. We must listen to and be respectful of the concerns that individuals may have on certain topics. However, a teacher should not have to provide advance notice every time a topic that an individual parent may consider to be "controversial" is discussed.

School Committee/Ward 8

Mathew J. Bardin

Biographical Information:

Lifelong Newton resident, married father of one in Newton schools, business owner in electrical construction, school council member. I seek office because the school committee has failed us over the past few years in major areas, and is out of touch with and insensitive to parents and taxpayers of Newton.

1. I believe any user service related to child safety absolutely should be publicly funded in full, and not administered selectively. It is our city's responsibility to make our schools accessible to all. Since the school committee decides which schools to close, when and where to redistrict, and where students are assigned, they cannot then shift the burden of transportation cost to a select group of families. This school committee decision was ill conceived and irresponsible.

2. The state has legal guidelines requiring parental notification with respect to sexual topics offered in schools. I cannot think of other instances where notification would be necessary, but assume our schools would be prudent and use common sense to protect our children. However, there are many more important issues than this that the voters would like the candidates' views on such as; NNHS, budget, curriculum, honest building maintenance, and the nonexistent dialogue with the community.

Dori F. Zaleznik

Biographical Information:

I seek reelection for a second term to continue to support quality education and provide a thoughtful perspective in addressing issues. I have two sons in the Newton schools, am a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Medical School, and work as an Infectious Diseases physician and medical editor.

1. Public education should be free. In the ideal world, I oppose charging parents fees. As chair of the Budget Guidelines Subcommittee, I helped to direct efforts to stretch funds in the face of shrinking federal and state appropriations. I voted for bus fees for one year only as an alternative to increasing class sizes and decreasing curriculum offerings. I support reassessing fees and believe we must push even harder to create innovative solutions to budgeting.

2. As a physician dealing with HIV and sexually transmitted diseases among other infections, I think it is critical that students in our schools learn about sexuality and receive assistance in dealing with pressures to mature rapidly in our society. However, such teaching must be developmentally appropriate for the age of each child. I believe that parents should receive advance information about programs involving sex education with the ability to opt children out if they wish.

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Last updated: 21-Oct-2003