I (Alicia) have been asked repeatedly to please share what I know about the School Committee Candidates. Here is information on the School Committee Candidates. Because of the nature of school committee and just one person giving opinions, there is less information about their viewpoints and more on their backgrounds. This information will also be added to our website.
Our information on the Mayor and City Council candidates was sourced from a group of people providing input. We have not had the same opportunity to source information on the School Committee candidates. It is also much harder to determine which of the School Committee candidates are “progressive”, sometimes “good experience” is just as important when choosing members of your school committee.
John Amirault – 2nd year teaching; Substituted in Medford schools during college, grew up in Medford.
Ann Marie Cugno – incumbent. Just finished tenure as President of the MA Association of School Committees; represented Massachusetts at the national level, lobbies in Boston and Washington D.C. for Medford and MA schools. Youngest son is seniors at Medford High.
Erin DiBenedetto – Incumbent. 4 years on SC. Ran against Sharon Guzik & Christine Barber for State Rep. Grew up in Somerville, raised family in Medford. Works as a Special Education coordinator.
Kathy Kreatz – grew up in Medford; son goes to Medford Vocational School, husband went to Medford Voc; ran an in home daycare, worked for MA Teachers Retirement System.
David McKillop – Graduated from Medford Public Schools 4 years ago, wants to bring student perspective to School Committee;
Christopher Murphy – 3rd generation Medford; went to the public schools. Lists the issues he wants to work on on his website.
Mea Quinn Mustone – 6 children ages 2-12 in Medford Public Schools. Very active in Roberts PTO and volunteers in the schools
Robert E. Skerry, Jr. – incumbent; recently retired from State Auditor position
Paulette Van der Kloot – incumbent; supervises high school volunteers at Winchester Hospital; Very active in regional and state level MA Association of School Committees.
Jane Wright – Lived in Medford 19 years, 4 children in Medford Public Schools; teacher for 22 years in Malden Public Schools; has been a teacher union representative; teacher mentor and supervised student teachers;
School Committee incumbents (Cugno, DiBennedetto, Skerry, Van der Kloot): http://medford.wickedlocal.com/article/20150916/NEWS/150915279
Email from Bruce Kulik:
I wanted to share the following information about 3 candidates whom I have been in touch with regarding school issues. I asked a handful of questions and received responses. Two by email, and one candidate called to speak with me. I did not ask all of the candidates these questions, as there were some whom I have already decided to vote for and other who I have already decided not to vote for. These three are all challengers whom I had not yet made up my mind about. After getting responses, I have come away deciding to vote for two and not for the third.
PLEASE NOTE: This is my personal opinion, and not an endorsement from Medford for MA.
1. How would you describe your political leanings in general?
2. If we don’t use standardized tests, how should we evaluate the success or failure of our programs?
3. What techniques do you envision to accommodate the broad difference in learning styles and abilities at the different grade levels (elementary, MS, HS)?
4. Describe the role that you think schools should take regarding human sexuality?
5. To what degree should we accommodate religious differences in our schools?
6. What should we do to help parent feel comfortable about Medford Schools rather than choosing a private or charter school out of fear or concern that they are not the best match for their child?
7. If you could change 3 things about Medford School what would they be?
Mea Quinn Mustone: Replied by phone very quickly. We had about an hour long conversation in which she described herself as Catholic and middle of the road politically, but strongly tolerant of different beliefs and backgrounds. She is passionate, articulate and pleasant to deal with. Although there were some areas where we disagree about the degree to which schools should or shouldn’t be involved, I got the sense that she has thought well about what would be best for our students. I think she would be a good asset to the committee.
Jane Wright wrote back fairly quickly but was a bit timid in answering the questions, and in one case did not respond at all as she didn’t know exactly what I was asking. This leads me to believe that she has not really come up to speed on some of the issues I asked about. As a result, I cannot support her in this election. Her full responses are below.
I had almost discounted David McKillop, even though I knew him from when my daughter was at Medford High. He wrote back this morning with his answers, and other than the general political leaning question, it is clear that he has put some thought into what the issues are. I’ve decided to support him. His responses also below.
I also would like to express my support for incumbent Paulette Van der Kloot who has been on the committee for a number of years and is still very well versed in the issues surrounding the schools.
I hope this is helpful to those on this list.
Jane Wright responds:
I consider myself an independent in regards to politics. I do not vote for someone because he/she is a republican or democrat, but rather by how qualified they are and what they have to offer.
I am not against standardized testing, I am against excessive standardized testing. Having a common test taken by students throughout the state/country is helpful in evaluating the schools, students and subgroups within the schools.
I think teachers should differentiate their lessons to accommodate the different learning styles in their classrooms. I also think there should be interventions, or support, for students who need extra services in one area (ex. math, reading, writing, etc) but who may not qualify for special education services. There should also be services available for students who are above grade level and need challenging work at a higher grade level than they are.
I am unsure about your question regarding human sexuality. Are you asking if it should be taught?
Many school systems in neighboring communities no longer have any religious holidays off for any religion. This is fair, I believe, because otherwise, we would have too many days off if we were to recognize other religions. If we do recognize other religions, which ones should get days off? I believe that students should learn about all religions and cultures represented in the classrooms–wouldn’t it be great to learn and celebrate each other’s differences?
All parents should feel comfortable walking into all schools in the city. Administration and staff should treat everyone with respect and take the time to answer parents’ questions about the school. Parents should feel confident that their child/children will receive appropriate services, if needed, and that the curriculum is challenging, regardless of the grade. The School Committee should also be available to talk with parents about concerns/problems and the School Committee member should follow-up with anything that needs to be addressed in the school(s).
If I could change 3 things about the schools I would have a gifted program for students. This could be located at one school, or perhaps a number of classes in all of the schools. Of course, every parent believes that his/her child is gifted so there needs to be a test or something to determine who qualifies for this program.
I would offer other programs in the Vocational School at the high school. Students should not have to go to another high school to take classes not offered to students in the city. In the past few years the Vocational school has brought back more programs in Medford, but there are still a number not offered in the city that students want.
I would also offer more programs (elementary-high school) in the arts–music, art, foreign language, etc. With these additional classes offered, many students may not be looking at private or charter schools.
David McKillop responds:
1. In regards to my political views, I think that what we are aiming for in this election is new faces, new ideas, and new visions. My personal political views are not important in what I am trying to accomplish. What I think is necessary is complete and total anonymity between all parties involved in the school system. Whatever political party enters the mayors office, I plan on working with them as hard as I can to make sure we accomplish great things for our students.
2. Standardized testing is something that needs to be reevaluated. In order to make sure all of our students are capable to follow the path they choose, we need to cater to their educational needs. The MCAS and PARCC tests are geared towards getting students prepared for college, but what about those students that are not on the path to college, but instead are seeking a trade, the armed forces, or joining the workforce. We need to make sure our students are prepared for whatever life they choose. We need to stop trying to push college on every student and realize it may not be a perfect fit for all students. Instead, we need to look at what each type of student needs in order to be successful after Medford Public Schools.
3. There are many different styles of teaching and many different learning abilities that are always circulating in our schools. I believe that in order to stay modern and in the times, we need to make sure that our technologies are kept up to date. My brother Anthony is taking a basic finance class right now and the class is basically all online. His homework is posted online, they utilize websites and tests and quizzes online, they even have a text system where the online class texts the students and reminds them of homework. This is how we can connect to our students now. This is the technology era, we need to make sure our students are excited to learn, and the Internet and online classes makes the interaction more modern.
4. When I was in high school, and I’m sure you remember since Katherine and I were in school together, the hay straight alliance was in its infancy as an organization. Back then, talking about human sexuality was beginning to become less and less taboo, making clubs such as the GSA very prominent. I think that in order to make our school systems amazing, we need to make sure our students are included and feel wanted. The GSA did that for many students that didn’t feel comfortable about talking about their sexuality. I think that the education of human sexuality through these clubs and organizations is essential to make sure we are accepting of every student. The high school just had spirit week and one of the days was “stop bullying day” which was to highlight support to victims of bullying. A majority of bullying comes from sexuality based attacks. I think that having this spirit day sends a message that Medford does not tolerate bully of any kind, and I think that we are a community that has and continues to support everyone, no matter what.
5. I always believe in the separation of church and state. We need to be mindful of everyone’s religion, and we need to avoid religious preferences. Having said that, I think the education of world religions is important in our students educations. My freshman year of high school I took a world history course and in the course we learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, and Taoism. In order to understand history, you need to understand religion. It is important to know about different religions in order to be respectful and understanding. This goes back to my mo tolerance to bullying. Religion can be a basis of bullying, and I think that education of these religions is important.
6. In order for parents to feel more comfortable about sending their children to our schools, we need to make sure our communication is free flowing. On community day, I talked to a mother who was sending her child to the Roberts but chose not to after listening to the curriculum speech. She said that she went there in order to understand what her child was learning about, but instead found herself annoyed and confused. There was no curriculum talk but instead a talk about head lice and fire safety. Although two important topics were discussed, the major topic of education wasn’t. We need to make sure our parents know what we are teaching our children. It is essential for parents to feel confident that the students are receiving the highest level of education, and when that is not communicated, then we lose our families. We need to communicate better.
7. I believe that first and foremost we need to change the way we communicate. In order to for the right decisions to be made, the communication between the school committee, parents, administrators, teachers, and students needs to be free flowing. A second change would be the upkeep in maintenance to our schools. Recently at the school committee forum, I was in the bathroom at the McGlynn and the the sink was running continuously. It was such a waste of money and water. It’s little issues like that need to be addressed. We need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to make sure our schools are top notch. Lastly, I would like to make sure we address everyone’s needs. I have heard that people have been sending emails, going to meetings, and sending concerns to the school committee that haven’t been addressed. We need to show everyone that we are in this together and we need everyone’s ideas and support. We need to make Medford Public Schools excel in what we do. It is important to acknowledge all ideas and concerns to make sure we are providing the education and experience to our students