Here is a link to the Candidate’s Night debate. The School Committee debate starts around the 54th minute.
Here is a link to the YourArlington Summary:
From an Interview Questionnaire for YourArlington:
What do you see as the greatest challenges ahead for our public schools?
One of the biggest challenges will continue to be financial. Given insufficient state aid, and Arlington’s heavy reliance on our residential tax base, we are unlikely to have the money to do everything we would like to do.
Another challenge we face, and we are not alone, is meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners. Arlington is a high achieving school district, but it is clear that we need to do better at educating all of our children. The fact that we have not had a permanent special education director has been really difficult for Arlington. (New: The position has just been filled by Alison Elmer. I have high hopes for her).
A further challenge for Arlington is our growing enrollment. On the one hand this is a good problem to have, as it is evidence of our success. On the other hand, it will continue to strain both our infrastructure and our budgets.
And, finally, we need to help teachers navigate the recent state initiatives that have come to them all at once (the new teacher evaluation, Common Core, and the training programs to help English language learners). We need to do this while also making sure that we support their professional development generally.
How would you address those challenges?
I won’t sugar coat this. These challenges are real and persistent. For our financial challenge we can do a better job at prioritizing, going after grants, lobbying our legislators, and harnessing volunteer efforts, but it is likely that we will be working within the current constraints for some time. Arlington’s long-range financial plan ensures fiscal stability until 2018.
For our special education students, low-income students, and English language learners we need to make sure that we are fulfilling our moral and legal obligations while creating a nurturing environment for their growth. It is important that the parents in this community feel listened to and respected.
For teachers, limited time (and money) are always going to be issues, but we must take every opportunity we can to create opportunities for them to grow as educators. One of the best ways to do this is through the types of collaborations and peer observations that are already happening in Arlington.
On the challenge of a growing enrollment we do have some excess capacity at the elementary level (though not much), we can add rooms to the Ottoson by subdividing some of the larger rooms, and a new larger High School would help a lot. Recently the School Committee lobbied for extra money to help with the financial strain that that recent increases in enrollment has had. Town Meeting will vote on this proposal in the Spring.
Thinking big picture and strategically need not take a lot of money. In fact, we need to think strategically if we want to ensure that we are spending money on the right things. Now is the time to do this. Our schools are doing well, but we can’t afford to be complacent. This period of relative calm, and the chance to rebuild the High School, offers us the opportunity to be visionaries.
Here is the link to the YourArlington interview: