UPDATED: Q&A With District 9 School Committee Candidate Richard Baritz

Editor’s Note: All School Committee candidates received a Q&A from SOURCE last week. Each race had different questions. If an answer is left blank, the candidate chose not to answer the questions. SOURCE gave the candidates a word limit, so some answers may be shorter than what candidates submitted.

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FRAMINGHAM – Former Town Meeting member Richard Baritz is one of two candidates seeking the District 9 School Committee seat. The current District 9 representative chose not to run for re-election to the School Committee but instead run for City Council.

Election day is Tuesday, November 5. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters will elect 9 School Committee members, by districts, for a 2-year term.

There are three contested races in Districts 3, 8, and 9.

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RICHARD BARITZ

Age: 67

Occupation: Retired IRS Field Agent.

Years lived in Framingham: 38

Family (optional): Widowed with 2 children who graduated from the public schools in Framingham.

Elected Experience: Over 10 years as an elected Town Meeting member serving on the pubic works and/or the public safety committees, until Framingham became a city. Appointed by the Mayor to serve on the Community Development Committee for fiscal year 2019.

Volunteerism: I have just added to my resume this year being a volunteer for Jewish Family Services in 2 positions. I am currently a Patient Navigator for them, which entails picking up seniors and driving them to and from their doctor’s office while going and staying with the senior into the appointment to take notes. Also, I help a blind person by going to his home as needed, to help with various computer tasks and other issues.

Why did you decide to run for School Committee (250 words or less): 

To manage rising costs to allow the school system to be able to give each student the opportunity for a quality education while not overburdening the taxpayer. I have financial expertise and have been on a local condo board for over 12 years, as treasurer, with an annual 2019 budget of over $1.4 million, and have contained cost thru efficiencies and outsourcing, resulting in no maintenance fee increases for the last 4 years, without reducing services. I will strive for the goal that the city creates all schools with effectively indistinguishable levels of quality. The need of school choice will then be greatly diminished resulting in savings of tens of thousands of dollars in busing costs while also easing the traffic congestion in the city.

Also as an initial step, I will research the feasibility of combining the duplicated administrative positions in both the school and city operations to help reduce the budget in total for the whole city. I believe having a quality school system along with a reasonable tax rate will result in keeping Framingham a city of choice as an affordable and desirable place to live.

Website or Facebook page: email address – rbaritz2@comcast.net

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SHORT QUESTIONS
Candidates were asked to submit one word or one sentence answers to a series of questions.

The best thing about the Framingham Public School District is educational.
What letter grade would you give Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay? B

Would you have voted for a 6-year contract for the Superintendent of Schools? (yes or no)  Undecided

Do you support the new Unit A teachers contract? Undecided

What letter grade would you give the busing system for Framingham Public Schools? D

What was the last Framingham Public School event you attended: Animal Farm by George Orwell performed at the High School in 2019.

Favorite Children’s Book – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.Should the school year start after Labor Day? (yes or no) Yes

Should February vacation be eliminated from the calendar? (yes or no) Undecided

Should there be recess at the middle school level (yes or no) Yes

Do you support free preschool for all 4 year olds? (yes or no) Undecided

Should there even be homework at the elementary school level? (yes or no) Yes

Should there be metal detectors at Framingham High School? (yes or no) Undecided

Would you support virtual classes at Framingham High on snow days? (yes or no) No

Do you support a restorative justice system for the middle and high schools? (yes or no) Yes

Framingham teachers are devoted to their occupation.

I would never cut money from this department in the budget –  To ever say never is irresponsible, nobody can see changes in the future, so I decline to answer.

The Framingham Public School System needs to give all students the opportunity for a quality education while taking any and all opportunities to not overburden the taxpayer.

I would bring greater financial expertise to the School Committee.I would want to serve on the finance subcommittee. 

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IN-DEPTH QUESTIONS
(Editor’s Note: Candidates were told they could have 350 words to answer. Longer answers will be cut at the sentence closest to 350 words.)

Editor’s Note: In two of the questions, SOURCE sent to the District 9 candidates, it mentioned second term as opposed to first term. To be fair to both candidates both questions which were published for a few hours, have been deleted. The news outlet believes that voters can still understand where the District 9 candidates stand on school issues based on the published 13 questions below as opposed to 15 questions.

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1) Specific criteria is used to measure a Superintendent. Criteria is used to evaluate a teacher. How should you as a School Committee member be evaluated? What three things should voters hold you accountable for after your 2-year term?

I am running as a Competent, Caring and Committed individual and I believe this is how my term as a school committee member should be evaluated. A competent person that knows or ascertains the best way to move our school system forward by providing a continuing opportunity for a quality education for every student. A caring person who understands that its not all about tests but also about children and their experiences.

I want each child to get up in the morning and be excited that it is a school day. In fact, I would like that experience and sense of excitement to be echoed by the teachers. A committed person who understands that things just don’t happen. Like when I obtained at age 44, my Bachelor of Science at Northeastern graduating summa cum laude, and then my MBA from Bentley, going to both schools at night, 4 seasons a year, while working a full time job. I will put in that type of effort as a school committee member to obtain the aforementioned objectives. 

2) The School Committee is responsible for the budget. Do you support a level-funded, level service, or an increase in the Framingham Public Schools budget for the 2020-2021 school year? Why?  

I support level-funded, level service, however, I would try to determine ways in which to increase service without increasing funding by researching ways to be more efficient so that the same level of dollars might be able to support increased services.

At the present the schools total budget including pensions for non-teachers and health care amongst other items that are not in the “school budget” is a total of $178,658,483 (including the “school budget” of $138,484,986) or 60.8% of the total expense by the city according to the CFO’s office. This can’t keep going up, for that would be unsustainable. The school committee along with the school administration have to work together to not only stop the increase but hopefully be more efficient with the dollars spent so that budget increases can be avoided and the level budget can support increased services. I just would like to point out that in the fall of 2017, there was a not needed $700,000 of funds found in the school department budget.

I went, as a Town Meeting member, to the 10/16/17, School Committee meeting to speak out and urge the School Committee to give those funds to the town in order to ease the taxpayer’s burden. The School Committee did give the funds to the town.

However, my opponent, who also was a Town Meeting member, did not add his voice at that School Committee meeting to help ease the burden of the taxpayers.

3) The Superintendent just received a 6-year contract. Accountability is important. What three things will you hold him accountable for over the next two years?

At this point, I would follow the same procedure that was used for his 2018-2019 evaluation report, in which he had three progress goals in which he was rated. In two, which are the Student Learning Goal and the District Improvement Goal, the Superintendent was rated as Met/Significant Progress with a score in each of a 3.89 out of 5. In the third, named the Professional Practice Goal, the Superintendent was rated Significant Progress/Met with a score of 3.56 out of 5. I would expect that these scores would improve by a healthy margin in the next round of evaluation. 


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) The Framingham Elementary Schools are racially imbalanced today. It was this issue that brought about school choice years ago. Should Framingham Public Schools be redistricted to 9 district schools as opposed to school choice? why or why not? 

I believe and have stated earlier that I will strive for the goal that the city creates all schools with effectively indistinguishable levels of quality, diminishing the need for school choice. Moving in that direction, means the aforementioned question will lose its significance. I would like to point out again, that in the summer of 2016 there was a move by the District to have a teacher’s position cut in social studies at the Fuller Middle School in which I went, as a Town Meeting member, to the 7/12/16, School Committee meeting to speak out and urge the School Committee not to cut the position, which they didn’t. This action would have lead to inequality for a portion of the students at The Fuller Middle School which is fed by the students of precincts 16 & 17 amongst others. However, my opponent, who also was a Town Meeting member representing these students, did not add his voice at that School Committee meeting to stop that inequality to those students.


5) The state now has MCAS 2.0 to evaluate students and schools? But in your opinion, how a student or a school be evaluated in Framingham?  How will you know Framingham students are achieving? Be specific.

I am not an expert or fairly well briefed in this issue so I would not offer an opinion at this time. However, if elected to the School Committee, in my tenure, I will familiarize myself to become well briefed so that I can make an intelligent and educated decision about the evaluation of the students and schools in Framingham.

6) There are significant achievement gaps in the Framingham Public Schools. Name three things you can do as a School Committee member to help close those gaps by 2022.

As a school committee member, I would research these achievement gaps and get a grasp as to why these gaps happen and set in motion, working with the administration and other members of the school committee, corrective measures to limit and lessen these gaps with the ultimate goal to stop them from occurring in the future. 

7) Framingham middle and high school students are stressed. The MetroWest Health Foundation studied also showed an alarming rate of suicide attempts. What can the school system and the school committee do to help the mental health of students? Identify 3 specific steps.

Again, I must state my area of expertise or even extensive knowledge does not include mental health knowledge to provide to others. I believe we should speak to the board of health and the nursing staff of the school system initially to try to get a handle on this disturbing situation and for suggestions where to go for additional resources if needed. 


8)  What is the biggest issue facing District 9 in the School System? What can you do to address the issue? Be specific.

I believe this question is essentially the same as question 12 so I will not answer this question and give all my attention to answering question 12 thus providing the voters my thoughts without superfluous duplication of information.

9) Attendance is an issue in the district for many students. What can you do as be a School Committee member to make classes a priority for students and families?

Other than making sure the buses run on time, I believe this issue is the School Administration’s responsibility. However, I would suggest that a task force be set up representing the administration, school committee, teachers,  parents and student council to offer their views of the root of this problem and then to determine practical ways to increase the level of attendance.

10) In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing Wilson Elementary School, in your district? And how does that impact the feeder school? What can you do to fix the problem?  

I think my goal which I have previously stated that all the schools in the city need to have effectively indistinguishable levels of quality, will help in the long term to correct this problem. I went on line and checked out 3 sites Zillow, Niche and Great Schools of which all 3 sites listed the Wilson School as tying for the lowest score of all the elementary schools in Framingham.  I don’t believe that is the last word but there is something that can’t be denied if all 3 sites agreed. I would give a huge effort to understand why this is the situation and how the school department and school committee can immediately begin to start to reverse this problem. As far as how this affects the feeder school, I will have to learn about specifics of the feeder school system before i make any comments about the feeder school impact.


11) City voters approved a new Framingham Middle School, but that is just the beginning of the school district’s needs. Tell voters your priorities for the district in regards to facilities over the next 5 to 10 years? Be specific.

I really would defer to the experts as to the current school needs now or in the short term, meaning over the next decade. My priorities would be to make sure the school system has facilities that are sufficient to meet all the needs required to provide each student an opportunity for a quality education but also provided with as much efficiently as possible for the taxpayers.

12) A parent comes to you and complains about their child’s teacher being ethnically-biased.  A parent says the principal is not following your child’s IEP. A teacher complains to you about the principal or central office. What steps do you take?

In the parent’s case, I would ask the administration to perform, as procedures demand, an investigation on behalf of the child concerned and personally follow up to make sure the complaint if accurate is being addressed.

If it is a teacher’s complaint about the principal, I would proceed as previously outlined.  If the teacher’s complaint deals with the central office, I would ascertain the specifics, as to whom, from the teacher and speak to the alleged offenders superior to determine that the correct procedure is followed and as previously stated I would personally followup.

13) Do you think students are safe in the Framingham Public Schools? Why or Why Not?

Cite ways to improve safety in the schools. After researching this question, I feel the public schools are doing their part to make sure that our students are safe. The Framingham Public Schools Strategic Plan for 2017-2020 embarked in their Strategy: 4.0.1 of that plan to “Create a Culture of Safety and Security Throughout the District” in the 3 years of the plan. This included from the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE) training/implementation plan to the creation of a Safety and Security Director position. This director was hired in November 2018 and is Scott Penrod. According to the Strategy: 4.0.1, the safety and security plan will be fully implemented in the 2019-2020 school year

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

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

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