UPDATED:Mayoral Candidates Discuss Their Role and Vision For Framingham Schools

Editor’s note: On any given day, Framingham Source emails the Framingham Town Manager or the Framingham Superintendent for statements on news happening or for a quote for a report to publish shortly. Source expects the leaders of the municipal side or the school side to respond to the media in a timely fashion – sometimes within the hour and other times with 24 hours. For that reason, Source will be sending the seven mayoral candidates, a question a few times before the preliminary election on Sept. 26, expecting an answer that same day. The question will come in the morning and each candidate for Mayor will have until 11:59 p.m. to answer. Life is not always planned and this request came unplanned for all 7 mayoral candidates. Source also sent each mayoral candidate a questionnaire to fill out. The questions will include one word answers as well as short responses and will publish next week.

On Wednesday at 7 a.m., the seven mayoral candidates were asked:

“Yesterday was a big step in the process to build a new school in Framingham. An architect was chosen for the proposed new Fuller School. However, this new school of more than 600 students may not be enough to deal with the overcrowding the school system is facing. What steps will you take as mayor to get the proposed Fuller school constructed and open. What steps will you take to deal with the growing enrollment within the Framingham Public Schools? The newly-elected Mayor would sit on the Framingham School Committee. Describe how you see your role on that School Committee. Will you attend every meeting? And finally, what is your overall vision for the Framingham Public Schools? How will you work with the Superintendent of Schools?”

The candidate’s answers (each were allowed up to 750 words), are posted below, as they were received by the deadline of 11:59 p.m.

Six of the seven mayoral candidates responded.

The responses are posted in the order of when they were received by Source.

Candidate Dhruba Sen was the first to submit a response at  11:49 a.m.

The next response did not arrive until after 9 p.m.

UPDATE: Candidate Mark Tilden did not submit a response until 9:39 a.m. on Sept. 14, almost 4 hours after Source published this report. Tilden did not give any reason for why he was late with his answer by more than 9 hours, so Source did not publish the response

Joshua Horrigan said he had a family emergency and submitted late, after 2 a.m., but Source made the choice to publish his response, so readers can read his answer but wanted to note he missed the deadline.

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Dhruba Sen

Dhruba Sen

Upfront, as we know, the Mayor is an ex-officio member of the School Committee and votes only to break a tie. The role of Mayor is thus limited to leading by influence when it comes to school committee.

I had been a member of the Standing Committee on Education and am an ardent supporter of District Public Schools. I have pledged to donate 60% of my Mayoral salary to the PTOs of District Public Schools and other organizations supporting women, children, veterans, homeless, the handicapped, LGBTQ, immigrants and people of color.
Now to the specifics –
[1] What steps will you take …..constructed and open …..
I will have a Project Management Office [PMO] staffed with qualified project / program managers – preferably certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute. The construction job is  a team effort and many stakeholders will be involved. I will ensure that a Project Status report is submitted on a regular basis, and if the status is Red or Yellow, a path to green is specified.  I will ensure a robust Risk Management Plan which will ensure a risk is addressed before it becomes an issue. I will implement lean principles for faster, better and cheaper results. FYI – I am a Certified PMP with decades of experience managing multi-million $$ budgets and a span-of-control of several hundred in both private and public settings.
[2] Growing enrollment
I will work with the community, the School Committee and the Council to elicit innovative ideas. Many initiatives have an “Ideation” phase which is the basis of innovation. This issue needs innovative solution. My role will be to create an environment of openness, innovation, collaboration and team work. I will reach out to other communities to learn how they addressed growing enrollment. Together, we will come up with the best solution.
[3] Role on School Committee
I addressed this partly in my upfront comments. Barring emergencies and super urgent meetings elsewhere , I will attend all School Committee meetings. I will not support cutting school budget.
[4] Over all vision
Framingham public school system  will be recognized as one of the the top 5 schools of the country – to the extent that families all over will love to raise families in Framingham.
Top national and international universities will seek out Framingham school graduates for admission with full scholarship.
The public school system will help create a culture when children will emulate a 5th grade girl who wrote an APP for mobile devices, sold it for $0.99 per download, got 50,000 downloads in the first 3 months there by netting approx $50,000 in the first 3 months. She has now enough funds to finance her college education.  This will fit in with the over all City Vision – Smart City Framingham.
The public school system will help create a culture of by stander intervention – when community members are Upstanders – and speak up against racial and social injustice – in order to deescalate unwelcome situations.
I will work with the School Superintendent for a better and smarter school systems, providing support as and when needed.

John Stefanini

As your mayor, I will do everything in my power to ensure that our schools are ready for our kids and our kids are ready for our schools. We have good schools, but with four underperforming schools, growing student population and impending construction projects, we still have our work to do to provide a first class education to each and every one of our children.

As a parent and former teacher at Framingham South High School, I know the value and critical importance of high quality education in helping to prepare for the future success of all of our children.

It is the role of the School Committee and Superintendent to set policy, establish curriculum, and hire and manage staff. As an ex-officio member of the School Committee, it is the Mayor’s job to ensure that the financial resources are available to support our schools. We need to grow available revenue to be used for our children in our schools by filling our vacant shopping centers, stimulating growth in our commercial centers, working to grow local businesses and commerce, and seeking additional state and federal funding.

I will attend every meeting of the School Committee.

This fall we have the opportunity to elect members to the School Committee from every neighborhood in our community. For the first time, all voices will be at the table. As mayor, I will listen to these voices and respect the role of the School Committee as they debate, make decisions and recommendations.

An important and significant component of my proposal to create a ten-year strategic master plan for Framingham 2027 is to carefully identify and plan for the growth in our student population to increase the quality and positive outcomes for our schools.  While the School Committee and Administration have the lead in this area, it is essential that all voices and views be heard in this process.  I will work collaboratively with all involved.

The selection of an architect for a new Fuller School is a step in the right direction.  I will work with the School Committee and Administration, who have the lead in designing and constructing this new school, to ensure the community has input into the process and that we secure sufficient resources to pay for it.

As Mayor, I pledge to provide early childhood education to every child by making high-quality pre-K available for all our families. Too many of our children start out behind and consequently, too many never catch up.  Investing in high-quality early childhood education gives kids the start they need to succeed.  With early childhood education, our children will be better prepared for success.

Children need to learn to read at an early age to be ready to read to learn in school. We need to ensure that all our children are prepared to learn when they start school.

Likewise, we need to ensure that after school enrichment programs, including tutors, mentors and internships, are available to students throughout Framingham. As mayor, I would work to expand learning opportunities in our schools by partnering with local businesses and organizations to provide new financial resources, volunteer tutors and mentors, internships and sponsorships to provide after school enrichment to students of all ages.

As a Selectman and State Representative, I was proud to:

  • co-sponsored the landmark universal kindergarten law;

  • supported the creation of the School Building Authority;

  • founded the Framingham Boys and Girls Club;

  • supported the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act increasing funding and resources to Framingham Schools; and,

  • helped secure funding for three new Framingham schools.

I am a graduate of Framingham public schools, taught social studies at Framingham South High School and served as an adjunct professor at Suffolk Law School.  My wife Cecilia and I have two daughters, Kristina and Julia, who both attended Framingham public schools, and live on Bethany Road.

As Mayor, I will work collaboratively with the School Committee and Administration, parents and teachers, students and taxpayers, to tackle these challenging issues with the goal of providing a high quality education for all of our children.

Ben Neves-Grigg

The design and architectural process of building a new school is, as you say, “a big step”.  However, it is not the final step of a construction project.  The plans will need to be reviewed with more detail as to capacity and growth potential versus value for the money budgeted for the project.  Regarding the concern that this plan may not fulfil the needs of our expected student population, well then, we need to look at that very closely.  That does not make sense to me.  I understand that cost and budget are a factor in any project but I also know that planning for something that is not going to meet the objective in the beginning is not wise.  Those kinds of decisions which are made to satisfy a short-term agenda but leave the real goal lacking are going to wind up costing the tax payers more.  What to do at this point, is to allow the architect to continue with his plans as laid out and see what comes back.  Take those plans and apply them to the actual need of our future student population and modify the design to meet that need.  If we can create a completed plan, even though, it may raise the price a bit, it will still be far more cost effective than approving a project that will only meet half the projected goal and leave a mess for the incoming administration to fix.

About our growing student population, we need to develop and study schematics that project the most probable student demographics affecting Framingham Schools’ future.  With that, my administration will work with the Superintendent of Schools, School Committee, Planning Board and Finance Office to identify avenues that will meet the expected demand.   All-in-all, the focus of my administration will be on the city’s preparedness to maintain the highest educational opportunities and standards for students through education, wherever that leads.

My roll on the School Committee is, in my opinion, key to orchestrating this administration’s goals toward success that can be achieved for the residents of Framingham when it comes to addressing issues among the teachers, employees, parents, guardians and students of Framingham schools.  We must ensure we have adequate, properly equipped schools that provide a foundation for excellence.  I am looking forward to becoming a member of the School Committee where I can hear firsthand the issues that come up and how they are addressed.  I intend to attend every meeting of the School Committee, although, I am sure that there will be occasions that arise in four years that will conflict with that.  But, it is my intention to attend.

By all accounts, I believe the new Superintendent of Schools is doing a great job.  I have not had the opportunity to speak with him, but I have spoken with folks who are involved in the administration and on the Committee.  All I have heard are accolades for the progress thus far.  As to the Superintendent, as well as, all the departments under my administration, upon appointing the position, identifying the organizational structure, I do not intend to micro-manage their operations.  However, I will maintain very close relations with the appointees to ensure we are attentive to the needs of those who live and work in Framingham.  I do expect professionalism and dedication toward the employees and citizens of our great city and will monitor those matters when they arise.

Education is, as I believe most agree, of primary importance.  We must provide educational facilities that are state-of-the-art and offer not only current books, equipment and devices for learning hands on, but facilities that are top notch.  Educators that can bring curricula to life so that students can relate to the subject being taught is idea.

Yvonne Spicer

My administration will work collaboratively with the school department to make sure the new Fuller School is well constructed and meets our future needs. My administration will collaborate with the school building committee and Dr. Tremblay’s team to manage the project within budget and on time. We have outstanding professionals who are equipped to oversee this project. Their efforts will be fully supported by the expertise within my administration. I also have the advantage of prior experience serving in advisory roles for the renovation of Framingham’s Cameron Middle School, Framingham High School and design of Newton North High School.

I am confident that Superintendent Tremblay will be looking for ways to achieve equity and balance in school enrollment, class size and special programs. Elementary school enrollment in the district has grown. There’s a bubble of K-5 students coming through. We will monitor the trends and prepare for them. We also know that trends change so we have to be looking at them over longer periods of time to ensure our planning is proactive rather than reactive.

According to the city charter, the Mayor is ultimately responsible for crafting a budget that provides adequate funding for our schools to thrive. As an educational leader, I understand what is required, how to prioritize, and what is at stake. I will be the leader to set the tone on education and schools for both the School Committee and the City Council. Although as an ex-officio member of the school committee I will be able to vote only in the event to break a tie, however, I will work closely with the Superintendent and the School Committee. I will aim for fiscally responsible budgets for our schools and for the support our teachers need. I will be an engaged, active participant in shaping the direction of all our children’s education.

I believe we must never sacrifice quality education that includes a deep understanding of core content, but also supports social and emotional learning and encompasses music, the arts, and fitness. I believe in order for our students grow into well-rounded adults and we must give them every opportunity to find their passions and blaze their own paths. I believe we need to support all parents in meeting their children’s needs – whether it is affordable out-of- school child care, effective communication with the schools, or enrichment programs for children and parents. I will make it my mission to continue improving our schools and to prepare our students for the future.

Finally, my vision for Framingham Public Schools is that we continue offering excellent PK-12 education. I will engage with all levels of our education system to make sure we make critical investments in our teachers, professional staff, facilities, and instructional resources. In our new city the Mayor will shoulder balancing the school budget – our biggest annual investment by far – with all the other demands on the property taxpayers. I take this responsibility seriously.

Spending our dollars wisely and designing our programs so that they yield greater student access and achievement are only one part of the equation. I will support Superintendent Tremblay’s and the School Committee’s continued work in this respect in every way possible. 

I invite you to read my campaign platform at www.yvonnespicerformayor.com/platform and ask for your vote on 9/26/17 and 11/7/17.

 

Priscila Sousa

My overall vision for the Framingham Public Schools includes giving every child the opportunity to succeed as was given to me. I arrived in Framingham at the age of seven knowing less than a dozen isolated words in English and because of the foundation given to me by the Framingham Public Schools, I received my bachelor’s degree at the age of 20 and went on to begin my first year of law school as the class’ youngest member. Had it not been for that initial investment at Potter Road Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson Elementary School I would not be here today.

Every child deserves a chance to explore their full potential and the classroom is the ideal place for that exploration. It is my duty to make sure the investment made in me is paid forward and that we begin preparing the next generation of leaders of Framingham.

Overcrowded schools can pose a series of issues to the quality of education. A classroom of 30 students brings unimaginable pedagogical challenges. I have spoken to several teachers in our community and they are unanimous in their explanation that simply getting everyone to sit attentively is a monstrous task. Academically, there are also a myriad of challenges. Inevitably, 30 students are inclined to approach a lesson in 30 different ways. It is important to ensure adequate infrastructure for our children to be taught well and in an equitable manner.

The town has been putting money aside to offset part of the construction of the Fuller Middle School for the last two years. The remainder of the costs will be funded by a community supported debt exclusion. As mayor, I plan on supporting the building committee that has been established and working to encourage them to accelerate their work to get things done ahead of schedule. I plan on positioning myself as a resource for a smooth execution of major projects, especially this one.

While I am sympathetic to the overcrowding issue in our classrooms, there is nothing I can do to stop the growing enrollment in Framingham Public Schools. I plan on doing a full evaluation of our housing program to make sure that students are spread as equitably as possible. I will make sure that, going forward, we plan to have the appropriate capacity for new enrollment in our schools at every level.

I understand there is a great level of turnover in our student population that is very taxing to the system. Children come and go and we must ensure proper resources are in place so children are acclimated in a manner that will not slow down other students in the classroom.

I will also look into modular enhancements to our current schools while we are planning to create additional student housing for more immediate infrastructural relief.

As mayor, I will attend every Framingham School Committee meeting as part of my broader campaign promise to be on the ground. My role will not only be advisory, but also to absorb information from the Framingham School Department in order to make the best decisions for our children. I plan on being collaborative, collegial, and, more importantly, I plan on having an open door policy for every member of the school committee to share concerns regarding their district. I believe the School Committee should be the ones setting educational policy and I should only intervene if there is a serious disagreement between the community and what the School Committee has decided.

As a candidate with great admiration for Dr. Tremblay, I plan on working with the superintendent as closely as he will allow. Our school department is the future of our community and we need to work together to ensure the best future that we can.

These are only a few of many other ideas for the future of the Framingham Public Schools. No matter what is decided, we MUST keep the channels of communication open so everyone has their concerns, ideas, and voices heard. A Framingham that works for our children requires your input because your voice matters! Your voice will LEAD Framingham!

Joshua Horrigan

Joshua Horrigan

Let me first say it is a good sign to see us making progress towards a solution for our overcrowding issues. With that being said, our proposed solution speaks to a larger problem we seem to always find ourselves in. Creating a short lived solution when the situation calls for a more long term answer. This will leave us in need of yet another solution five years down the road and that is unacceptable for Framingham.

Reason is pointing towards even faster increases in the populations of our public schools. New residential developments seem to be getting approved daily. Our community is becoming more and more desirable to those being forced out of Boston because of rising living costs. What happens when we finally fill our blighted properties? When our communities become even more desirable to live and work in? When our population naturally starts heading towards 90,000+? Are we going to look back and wish that we prepared better now?

I think so.

Building a new elementary school that only has the capacity for 600 students, is a bet on our current transition not reaching its full potential. So though I’m glad we are making progress, for me it is not enough. We need to commit to being more proactive as a community going forward. We need to start making decisions with the next twenty years in mind. Instead of inefficient short-term solutions. No more band aids on broken legs.

I’m not sure those answers will come until this transition is completed. Until we know exactly who is at the table and what we have to work with. I do know we are capable of doing better though.

As far as the School Committee goes there is a reason the Mayor is given a seat, but not a vote.

It is to ensure communication and collaboration without creating a power monopoly. I intend to honor that relationship by attending most, if not all, of our School Committee meetings.

My vision for Framingham Public Schools? The same vision we should all have; A public school system that is celebrated for its diversity as much as it is for its scholastic achievements. A system with a reputation for being inclusive and socially safe. A system that produces both scholars and exemplary citizens. I would like to see our School Committee and school staff be commended for the miraculous jobs they do given the challenges they face. My vision for our Framingham Public Schools is that every student that walks our halls would carry a sense of pride for where they attended. That that pride would stick with them and shape them for their entire life.

Lastly, my relationship with Superintendent Robert Tremblay will be healthy and strong I hope. Considering I believe he is doing a phenomenal job already. He also seems to share my belief that Framingham has unmatched, yet unreached potential. Potential that we are now able to sprint towards as we work together in the coming years.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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