Tag Archives: Debates

Contested Races Candidates Debate on HCAM 5/10


Candidates from 6 contested races in the Hopkinton Town Election will be asked questions for debate. The debate will air live on HCAM (Comcast Channel 8, Verizon Channel 30) or feel free to join the studio audience. The event will be Tuesday May 10 at 7:00-9:00pm.

Panelists Include: Tom Nappi (HCAM News), Michelle Murdock (Hopkinton Independent), Amy Ritterbusch (eHop)

Candiates Include: Board of Selectmen, Town Moderator, Constable, Board of Health, Parks & Recreation, Town Clerk

School Committee Candidate Q and A


Educate Hopkinton posed the following ten questions to our School Committee Candidates and we are posting their responses here exactly as submitted. We thank them for their time and for their commitment to Hopkinton. Educate Hopkinton as an organization does not specifically endorse any of the candidates, click to read our policy for more infoIn addition we recommend voters watch the Women’s Club Meet the Candidates Night, which is available on the hcam.tv website.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE, For 3 years, Vote for 2

QUESTION 1: Describe how your background and career skills will translate to the role of a School Committee member?

Kelly J Knight: A School Committee member must be organized, thoughtful, open-minded and dedicated. Personally I am all of these things, and professionally I have over 15 years as a high tech professional in roles that have ranged from financial analyst to business analyst and now project and program manager. Every day I interact and collaborate with all levels of organizations to reach consensus. I’m a research-driven problem solver. I manage tight timelines, oversee vendor contracts and budgets, coordinate critical initiatives, and create and continually improve processes.

Lori M Nickerson: I am a corporate attorney with over twelve years of experience working directly with business partners at multiple public companies. The skills I have gained during my career include negotiating contracts, evaluating complicated issues, analyzing budgets, reviewing resource constraints and sustainability of projects as well as experience in policy drafting, which makes me uniquely qualified to serve as a School Committee member. Each of these skills easily translates to the School Committee role where members often negotiate with the other members of the Committee, the Superintendent and other town departments. Similarly, the evaluation of complicated issues requires a member to ask tough questions to extrapolate the facts, analyze the school budget and make informed decisions regarding resource constraints and a program’s sustainability. Furthermore, the School Committee is responsible for policy making and interpreting such policies; all of which are skills I use on a daily basis.

Frank E Sivo: Throughout my career as an engineer, general manager, management consultant, and continuous improvement executive, I have accumulated many skills that will help me be effective as a School Committee member. In particular I believe, my skills in strategic planning, executive coaching, operational/financial analysis, problem solving, team facilitation, and communication planning, will serve me well. I do also feel it is important for the School Committee to have members with different backgrounds. If elected, I will be the only person on the committee who has an engineering background. I believe my background will help us to make better decisions about the role of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in our children’s education.

QUESTION 2: Describe one activity, committee or volunteer organization you’ve been involved with. How did it help prepare you for the role of School Committee member?

Kelly J Knight: I have served on Hopkinton’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) since September, 2010. In this time I have gained first-hand knowledge of what it means to serve on a town board that must weigh the needs of landowners against the zoning bylaws that govern our town’s best interests. The decisions we make are not always clear cut. They require research, careful analysis and attention to detail. On the School Committee this foundation will serve me well when considering the needs of the school district while keeping in mind our taxpayers.

Lori M Nickerson: As a Boston College alum, volunteerism is not a line item on a resume, but truly a mission known as “Men and Women for Others.” I continuously live my life by this mission in my volunteer work for organizations such as the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, the Juvenile Justice Center and locally through the HPTA. Each of these volunteer programs presented many opportunities to serve others for the betterment of the whole group rather than my individual interests. The ability to remove my interests from the evaluation of a problem while working towards a solution has certainly prepared me for tackling complex issues within the School Committee. In addition, my campaign activity has absolutely prepared me for the School Committee role in terms of effectively communicating to the citizens my message, building consensus and working collaboratively within a team towards a common goal.

Frank E Sivo: I am currently the Appropriations Committee liaison for the School Committee. In this role, I have been in every budget review conversation for our schools and town departments. This has given me deep knowledge of our school and town department budgets and priorities. This experience has also given me many ideas to improve the budgeting process, and the manner in which the School Committee interacts with other committees and town-level leadership on both financial and non-financial matters.

QUESTION 3:  Most prospective School Committee members have several areas in which they are particularly interested and for which they have some ideas for improvement. What are yours?

Kelly J Knight: I have a few specific areas of interest around budgeting. I want us to have a public, transparent, long-range plan so that surprises are minimized in the community. Specifically we need to do a better job of reporting back to the public on past budget initiatives that were instituted based on a promised return on investment and not be afraid to make changes if necessary. I also feel we need a Revolving Accounts policy and would push for one to be created. When I wanted to learn about how we operate those accounts I made an appointment to go in and speak to our Finance Director. Having a published policy would allow anyone to get the same information I did in my 1:1 meeting while ensuring that operating those accounts was always done in a consistent way.

Lori M Nickerson: An area of particular interest to me is improving and expanding communication methods in order to improve relations between the School Committee and the citizens, the students and other town departments. I also would like to see the budget process become more transparent to the taxpayer with the addition of descriptive explanations of the assumptions behind the numbers, as well as direct correlation to the approved Strategic Plan. Furthermore, I would like to see the School Committee work closely with the School Administration on succession planning for the leadership positions within the district to enable more stability and strength in the depth of experience housed within the district.

Frank E Sivo: The biggest area for improvement in the district is better planning; making the right investments, at the right time, to produce the desired result, with a budget we can afford. We urgently need a long-range planning process that is focused on educational outcomes, financial sustainability, and effective communication with the community.

QUESTION 4: The School Committee has various defined roles and liaison duties. What School Committee roles are you most interested in and why?

Kelly J Knight: I am interested in the Elementary School Building Committee because the process is very programmatic in nature and I believe my skills are directly applicable to following the required timelines and processes. This is a key initiative ahead of us and I want to be directly involved. I would also like to engage with the Budget Sub-committee because one of my key areas of interest is around how we craft the budget. I’d like to see a zero-based budget next year with an emphasis on multi-year planning and to be most effective I would want to engage with that committee directly.

Lori M Nickerson: I believe the policy and strategic plan roles would be the most interesting and the areas where I would add the most value. My desire to be involved in policy drafting, revising and implementation is something I’m passionate about in my career and it would be an easy transition for School Committee purposes. I would also like to improve the communication policy to ensure citizens are being provided transparent and effective information regarding School Committee activities and decisions. In addition, I see a robust Strategic Plan as the foundation to a sound and value-driven budget. I would like the opportunity to be involved in finalizing the Strategic Plan and ensuring it is updated and shared with the community on a regular basis.

Frank E Sivo: As a new School Committee member, I would be eager to work with all committees and sub-committees across Hopkinton. That said, there are a few committees I feel I can add unique value. As a member of the Strategic Planning sub-committee, I would be in a position to bring best practices from the corporate section and help create long-range plans that best serve our children and our town. As a member of the Budget sub-committee, I would bring my deep experience with our budgets, our budget process, and corporate best practices for zero-based budgeting, trade-off analysis, and cost management. As a member of the ESBC, I would bring deep experience of the Center School project (as a member of the Criteria Working Group) as well as experience in engineering, capital project analysis, and construction management. As a liaison to the Planning Board, I would be able to gain unique perspective on our town’s growth projections and help drive better student population forecasts to feed the long-range operating and capital planning processes.

QUESTION 5: As a School Committee member, you will have to make some budgetary decisions. How do you define your priorities knowing that next year’s budget will likely be very conservative?

Kelly J Knight: We need to always look for efficiencies in any budget. I don’t think next year’s is any different in that regard. On the heels of this year’s 4.91% increase the public will be paying even closer attention next year, which is why a long-range plan is so important. Also a zero-based budgeting approach should provide an greater level of transparency into how the budget is crafted, so that the community can appreciate what a large percentage of the increase is non-discretionary. Priorities will be set in the updated Strategic Plan, which was crafted this year by the Strategic Plan sub-committee, school administration, and public forum input. Once finalized, the School Committee’s role throughout the budgeting process is to ensure that every initiative, technologies spend, or budget item can be directly tied back and eventually reported on.

Lori M Nickerson: My decision-making will always remain objective and focused on facts such as the justification for the proposed spend on the initiative and the value to the students and the district as a whole. In addition, the response of ‘We’ve always done it this way” will not be a sufficient justification for budget spend.

Frank E Sivo: The spending decisions must be informed by the School Strategic Plan and the town financial model. The town financial model assumes school operating school budget increases of 4% annually for the next several years. This is a much lower increase than we have had in the past two years (4.4% and 4.9%). This will be a classic management challenge for our next School Committee. Given we do not yet have a Strategic Plan that will serve us next year, at this point, I would (currently) prioritize spending in the following manner: safety, early grade literacy/numeracy, RTI in Grades 1-12 (remediation and enrichment), building maintenance, STEM… When we have a new strategic plan, the district-wide priorities will be self-evident.

QUESTION 6: Two upcoming forums have been announced on the new HPS Strategic Plan. What are some priority items you would like to see included in the new plan? How will you help facilitate the success of the revised plan once it is voted on by the School Committee? How will you get increased public buy-in and awareness of the new Strategic Plan?

Kelly J Knight: In general we need to be sure that the plan is detailed enough to provide distinct measurements. It cannot be so high level that the interpretation is always called into question. Public input is crucial, and while the two sessions currently on the calendar for June are a good start, I don’t believe they will be enough to truly gather the input required. The last time this plan was presented at a School Committee meeting was in March so by June it will have undergone significant re-work. Over the next few months I would like to see a message board set up similar to the town-wide Mind Mixer so that people can submit their feedback or questions online. Frequent FAQs based on submitted feedback would benefit the whole community and cut down on duplicate questions and provide first-hand answers. Above all else, pushing the information out the community is key, because relying on people to find it within the district website is not effective and those without children are probably not subscribed to the district’s web content update email list.

Lori M Nickerson: If the district is to continue to grow, thrive and provide forward-thinking educational opportunities that will prepare our students for the future, we need to ensure that we continue to provide challenging opportunities for all students, including those who may be struggling, in addition to those students with accelerated learning. It is imperative we continue to look at how we are differentiating and enriching students at all grade levels and abilities. Similarly, I believe we need to take a closer look at our foreign language offerings and pursue programs that will bring foreign language opportunities to more grade levels. Multi-lingual candidates are in high demand no matter the profession and we would provide our students a considerable advantage during their college years and future careers if we were to prioritize foreign language.
I will help facilitate the success of the Strategic Plan by referencing the Plan during the budget process as well as during evaluations of new educational initiatives and maintain a regular interval of review of the Plan to ensure it remains current with the district’s needs. 
It is absolutely imperative to build awareness and participation by the citizens of Hopkinton in the Strategic Plan discussion and one method would be to send out a survey to taxpayers asking for feedback on what initiatives they deem to be most important. Also, the public forums must be advertised on multiple media types by the School Committee, the School Administration and other relevant groups, such as Educate Hopkinton. I would strongly suggest that the current draft of the Strategic Plan be made accessible prior to the forums for a more in depth and fruitful community discussion

Frank E Sivo: I would like to see multi-year goals and plans for the following areas: Buildings/Roads, RTI (continuous improvement), High-Needs-Learners performance improvement, STEM initiatives, Technology, Foreign Language, cost reduction efforts, district/building performance management, and planning/budget process improvement. Getting public buy-in is the most critical step. A five-year plan needs to be actively vetted with all stakeholders including parents, senior citizens, local business, etc. through a series on interactive forums, surveys, and 1:1 discussions. In the vetting process, the School Committee must play a leadership role to make sure people understand the costs and the benefits associated with the execution of the plan. All steps in the process must be proactively communicated. I would encourage the use of all communication modes to keep stakeholders informed, including HCAM productions, websites, listserv updates, Web 2.0 (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

QUESTION 7: It is often stated that our schools are nationally ranked.  How will we maintain this high level of education?

Kelly J Knight: While I’m a huge fan of US News & World Reports, and carried a copy around during my college searching, we need to be careful that we don’t view the high school equivalent of these rankings as the end-all-be-all of our district. When we were ‘unranked’ this year many people feared that meant something was really wrong with our district. From speaking with Dr. MacLeod, the calculation around these metrics is complex and requires that a district show continuous improvement across their entire school district. We need to do a better job of ensuring that the entire student population is having their needs met and the way we do that is to have buy-in for the Strategic Plan and hold all parties accountable to meet their measurable goals.

Lori M Nickerson: I believe that a School Committee member’s role in helping to maintain our district’s high level of education is to ensure that the Strategic Plan is specific enough to address the current areas needing improvement within the district, as well as continuing to support those programs that contribute to the strength and success of our schools. Although the various ranking systems tend to be tied directly to the performance of our high school students, we as a Committee cannot forget the elementary and middle school foundation our high school students rely on as part of their success. Moreover, a great school district does not exist without strong leadership and teachers. As a member of the School Committee, it would be imperative to maintain a strong relationship with the district’s administration, leadership team, as well as staying in touch with teacher evaluation and development plans.

Frank E Sivo: Hard work. Our schools are very good and have been ranked nationally in years past at the High School level. Unfortunately, our performance on some keys measures of success (SAT, MCAS, and AP scores) have recently declined. Further, the Commonwealth DESE has placed Elmwood, Hopkins, and HMS at a Level II (at risk). As best as I can tell, we have neither curriculum nor personnel challenges. What I think we need is better execution in the classroom using the programs we have already introduced: curriculum-based assessments, differentiated instruction, targeted interventions, professional leaning communities, and performance transparency. The School Committee must also establish ambitious goals for the district and support these critical continuous improvement programs; driving achievement higher.

QUESTION 8: All candidates stress the importance of improved communication and greater transparency on the part of the School Committee. Please give one specific example of something new you would do to improve communication or increase transparency.

Kelly J Knight: As I alluded to in a previous question, we need a greater Social Media presence to keep the community engaged in this digital age. This could take the form of an online public forum (similar to the town-wide Mind Mixer), a running list of FAQs around anything out for review with the public (such as the Strategic Plan), or perhaps similar to “Meet the Candidates Night” or “Know Your Vote” the public could be given the option of submiting questions beforehand that could be answered during School Committee Public Comment on given days. I also feel there is real value in the School Committee office hours and a commitment to open dialogue by our School Committee members by concerned citizens.

Lori M Nickerson: Communication methods need to be updated and expanded in order for any information provided by the School Committee to be viewed as strong and transparent. I believe there needs to be allotted time in periodic School Committee meetings for both questions and answers for the citizens. The public comment portion of School Committee meetings does not afford the citizens a dialogue and therefore is ineffective as a communication tool. One way to easily expand the communication methods utilized by the School Committee would be through social media. Social media instantaneously informs its audience and neither the School Committee nor the School Administration takes advantage of this inexpensive communication tool. Although social media presents its own risks, those risks are not insurmountable and I have extensive experience in mitigating those risks through responsible social media policies.
In terms of transparency, I believe bridging the communication gaps outlined above will certainly address many transparency issues of the past, but there also needs to be a concerted effort to provide as much detail as possible when dealing with controversial issues and budget decisions. In addition, I believe audit results should be given more time and in depth discussion in order for the citizens to understand the various checks and balances that are currently in place to protect how their tax dollars are allocated by the School Committee and spent by the School Administration.

Frank E Sivo: The School Committee needs to change its behavior on information disclosure. Current practice seems focused on the question, “Do we need to share this?”. I would encourage this government body to instead ask the following question, “What do we need to do in order to share this?”. As a member for the School Committee, I would first work to change this behavior. Next, I would make sure that communications happen in a timely manner (e.g. SC Meeting Minutes to be published within one week). The modes of communications will and should include 1:1, office-hours, HCAM, listserv, website, and Facebook/Twitter (… other Web 2.0 programs?).

QUESTION 9: All candidates claim they will be “fiscally responsible” if elected. Please explain what fiscal responsibility by the School Committee means to you.

Kelly J Knight: There have been quite a few budget-related questions so I won’t re-state everything, but in general I want to focus on zero-based, long-range budgeting. The entire school district should be constantly looking for budget efficiencies, and it is the School Committee’s job to ask the tough questions and push hard to be sure this is being done every year.

Lori M Nickerson: Fiscal responsibility is one of, if not the most important responsibility, a School Committee member has as a fiduciary to the taxpayers. This great responsibility requires in depth analysis of spend and the supporting justification, understanding of past successes and failures, clear initiatives and implementation plans, as well as sustainability and succession planning.

Frank E Sivo: Fiscally responsible means spending our taxpayer money wisely. In education, this means getting best educational outcomes for best cost. As a School Committee member, I will scrutinize every aspect of spending and always assess the practicality of lower cost alternatives as well as exhaustively explore funding supplements. In short, I will constantly assess the value created by any action, project, or initiative to guide my decision-making process.

QUESTION 10: Typically a few controversial issues come before the School Committee every year. How will you balance listening to the concerns of all of your constituents, yet still having to make a decision that may not please everyone?

Kelly J Knight: I pride myself on being an open-minded person. I am always willing to hear all sides of an issue, but I also rely on my own research before coming to a decision. A School Committee member cannot be swayed by allegiances. They must each make up their mind through honest dialogue and do what they believe is best. This will not always directly line up with what every person in the community wants, because once elected I would say that every taxpayer qualifies as a constituent, so they must also have a thick skin and be able to explain their decisions so their thought process is clearly understood. I can only say I take this very seriously and will do my best in this regard.

Lori M Nickerson: My training and experience as an attorney provides me daily opportunities to manage the delicate balance of listening and understanding all sides of an issue while also making sound decisions despite potentially competing interests. My ability to evaluate the potential value, associated risks and predict unexpected outcomes would provide me the confidence and certainty that my decision-making is sound despite the disappointment and often critical opinions of those who do not share my opinion.

Frank E Sivo: Controversy comes from change. In my role of Vice President of Operational Excellence, I lead many projects that require disruptive change. With change comes anxiety, resistance, and a host of other challenges to overcome. Leading change means often means creating a “case for change” which includes trade-off analysis, communication plans, training plans, transition plans, etc. When these activities are done proactively and communicated frequently and openly, anxiety and resistance often dissipates quickly. As a School Committee member, I would work very hard to create and communicate the case for change and the rationale for any decision we make. I will also make myself available to constituents to discuss my perspectives and the committee’s decisions in groups and on a 1:1 basis.

School Committee Candidate Q and A

Educate Hopkinton posed the following nine questions to our School Commiteee Candidates, including why are you running (question #1), skills and experience (#2), ideas for improvements (#3), your experience on town committees (#4), what are your budget priorities (#5), working with the Selectmen on the budget (#6), the Center School challenge (#7), the next elementary school building committee (#8) and thoughts on improving communication with other committees (#9). We thank them for their responses and for their commitment to Hopkinton. In addition we recommend voters watch the HCAM News Candidate Debate and the Women’s Club Candidates Night, both available on the hcam.tv website.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE, For 3 years, Vote for 2
Jean Bertschmann, Incumbent http://jeanforsc.com/
Frank D’Urso, Democrat facebook.com/CandidateDUrso
Frank Sivo, Republican http://sivoforsc.org/
Jon Graziano facebook.com/JonGrazianoForSchoolCommittee

QUESTION 1: Why are you running for School Committee?

Jean Bertschmann
For the past 15 years, I have volunteered in our schools, often on a daily basis. I have served on multiple school projects and committees, and held dozens of roles in the HPTA, including three years as its President. I have a deep understanding of how our system works – its strengths, weaknesses, and potential. I have been a constant contributor to the tremendous growth and success the district has experienced during those 15 years, and am committed to continuing that same level of engagement by running for a second term on the School Committee. Our state and national rankings continue to rise, as does our student performance on state and national testing metrics, as well as in co-curricular activities such as athletics, music, art and performing arts. My primary goals for my second term on the Committee would be:

  • to continue to strengthen our district by engaging the community in a refresh of our Strategic Plan;
  • to continue to work with other town leaders and residents to identify a non-districted solution to the educational and operational constraints of Center School; and
  • to continue to monitor all expenses to keep increases to the operating budget and requests for capital projects at a reasonable rate for the taxpayers.

Frank D’Urso
I am running for School Committee because of the situation with the Fruit Street School project last year. That project was brought forward with maximum tunnelvision and willful ignorance of feedback from constituents. I think that we can do a better job as a town to address the needs of our public schools, and I bring a unique combination of skills that can help us further deliver on our promise of excellence. I know that even as 72% of the town agreed with my position on Districting and the Fruit Street School, many of the Educate Hopkinton members disagreed. I have always thought that open and honest discussion can help people move forward from difficulties. Thanks for providing this forum. I met with Educate Hopkinton last year, at Jon Graziano’s house, and spoke with you in the aftermath of the Fruit Street School project and I think we found some common ground, let’s see how we are situated this year.

Frank Sivo
I am running for School Committee because I believe a great education is the most important responsibility of a community to its children. I believe I have the objectivity, the 21st Century skills and experience to help our community make the right choices to continuously improve educational outcomes through prioritized investment.

Jon Graziano
When my wife and I moved to Hopkinton two years ago the schools were one of the main reasons why we chose the town. I have 3 young children ages 6, 4, and 1 so I have a vested interest in the continued success of the schools. While the performance of the schools has been strong, I want to be a member of the School Committee to help Hopkinton continue to have top performing schools. I have a passion for education. I’m the son of an elementary school teacher and my wife was an elementary school teacher for 7 years until the birth of our daughter. When I think about volunteering my time for the betterment of the town, I think that helping ensure the best education for Hopkinton’s students is the best way I can do that.

QUESTION 2: What skills/experiences do you have that you feel makes you qualified to serve on Hopkinton’s School Committee?

Jean Bertschmann
I am informed, experienced, pro-active, and responsive. In addition to my 15 years volunteering in the schools through several support organizations, I have served on the School Committee for three years. I have held several roles on the Committee: Chair; Vice Chair; ADA Committee Liaison; Youth Commission Liaison; TEC Liaison and Clerk; 300th Anniversary Celebration Liaison; Budget Advisory Group Liaison; Appropriations Committee Liaison; Board of Selectmen Liaison; Legislative Liaison; and Communications Co-Chair. The opportunity to fill these various roles has given me a solid understanding of how the school and town budgets are developed, and how the schools and the town can work collaboratively for the benefit of the residents and taxpayers. My extensive work in the schools has allowed me to develop strong relationships with faculty, staff and administrators, and I have worked hard to be involved in and support the tremendous strides forward taken in our district over the past 15 years. In all my volunteer roles, I have been dedicated to working hard, listening to others, setting priorities, and embracing feedback.

Frank D’Urso
I represent Hopkinton on the Keefe Regional Technical High School Committee. In May 2011 I was sponsored by Michelle Gates to be her replacement on the Keefe Tech School Committee, and I was nominated by Brian Herr and appointed unanimously by the Board of Selectmen. I’ve helped bring new energy to Keefe Tech School Committee meetings, where I am the next youngest member among many who have served together for decades. We kept our budget increase this year to 3.03%, and this was unanimously approved by the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting, (thank you.) I have gotten Keefe students involved with the North Mill Park renovation project, as well as the upcoming outdoor classrooms project in the courtyard of the Hopkinton Middle School. I believe that students should be a vital and active part of our community. Do you know that Keefe students are currently building a house in Hopkinton? I have a Master’s degree in Management and over 25 years of professional experience, from small technology start ups to some of the largest companies in the world, I have seen and learned much that can be applied to our school system.

Frank Sivo
I have four children who all have attended Hopkinton schools since pre-K. I already have 26 school-years of experience, and have another 30 school-years to go. This gives me a deep experience base with our schools and the opportunity to benefit from wise choices we make moving forward.
As a professional, I have 25+ years of experience helping organizations large and small find ways to drive continuous improvement within acceptable fiscal constraints. I currently lead strategic planning processes and the Global Operations Excellence program at Genzyme, a global biotechnology company. I routinely do business across the globe (Europe, Asia, Latin America), and recently lived a year in Japan. Additionally, I have worked my career in knowledge-centric areas such as advanced materials, software development, management consulting, and biotechnology. I am very knowledgeable on technology matters, having been a Director of Product Operations at Oracle and a member of an eBusiness start-up. I am an entrepreneur, patented inventor, and published author. On a daily business, I live the 21st Century Skills we are teaching our children.

Jon Graziano
As a member of the Appropriation Committee I serve as the liaison to the School Committee. For the past year I have been intimately involved in all of the discussions in the formation of the FY13 school budget. This role educated me on the overall school budget process as well as the challenges of balancing the increased costs of educational initiatives with the need to maintain a fiscally responsible budget. I have seen firsthand the difficult decisions that must be made and I have participated in the process of making them.
In my professional role I run the Productivity and Innovation department for New York Life Retirement Solutions. In this role I have experience in reviewing and improving processes and products as well as bringing unique solutions, whether they be new technology or ideas from outside my industry, to challenges my company faces. I think that both of these skills would serve me well as a member of the School Committee.

QUESTION 3: Most prospective School Committee members have several areas in which they are particularly interested and for which they have some ideas for improvement. What are yours?

Jean Bertschmann
In the Hopkinton Public Schools, we have much to celebrate. We have a strong faculty and administration, a curriculum database used as a model by other districts, and tremendous student achievement. We were just recognized by Newsweek Magazine as the #3 high school in the state, and the top public high school for the second year in a row. The vision and dedication that brought us to our current level of success will continue to lead us forward and enhance the educational program we offer our students. In addition to the goals I listed in Question 1 above, I feel we need to:

  • find creative, cost effective ways to broaden our world language and culture offerings;
  • continue to explore the use of technology as a tool for supporting instruction, and strengthening relationships between staff and students; and
  • finalize work on our Facilities Use Policy and Procedures, to streamline and support community use of school facilities.

Frank D’Urso

  1. Parking the bus fleet in Hopkinton would, according to business manager Ralph Dumas, save us over $100,000 a year on fuel costs and excise taxes. As a member of HopGreen I have submitted several ideas that the administration is considering. This is something that we can do for immediate impact. We have 25 buses parked in Ashland, driving at least 8 extra miles everyday (some of the buses go back and forth 4 times), and we pay for all that extra fuel 180 school days a year.
  2. HopGreen has recently earned Hopkinton a Solarize Massachusetts grant, with this we can add further Solar panels to our schools, the Solar panels that we currently have save us money every day that the sun shines (at no additional cost to our town!). This program is also available for our homes and businesses, see hopgreen.com for details.
  3. Hopkinton Schools generate 6.5 Million copies per year, that’s over 1900 copies per student per year, this is a cost that can be examined and reduced. I’d like to see us lower this amount by 50% by 2013. (The administration pays a set cost per copy.)
  4. Win , lose or draw, I will work with the Conservation Commission to help find ways to make Loop Road a public way, and qualify for state funding for road repair.
  5. I will work to increase recycling efforts in our schools, our students are willing, we just need to provide better and clearer methods for them to participate. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  6. I support the Outdoor classroom initiative of Middle School Vice Principle Maryellen Grady. Her group has raised private funds of almost $9000 towards a brand new external double door to the Interior courtyard at the Middle School. This under-utilized resource will get a beautiful restoration and be a wonderful asset to the Middle School. I applaud this type of creativity and positive thinking from our educators.

Frank Sivo
My number one priority is to support the building and execution support for the continuous improvement system for education in Hopkinton. The continuous improvement system includes several critical components. First the curriculum (Common Core) needs to be broken-down into assessments that provide teachers, students, parents, and administrators direct information on the learning progression of every child. Next, truly collaborative professional learning communities (PLCs) must be fully supported so that teachers can learn from peer-mentors how to adapt and tailor teaching practices to improve learning. Next, we must have well-designed interventions to support improvement and enrichment. These topics are all part of the structure called Pyramid Response to Intervention. Last, I would support building an educators and administration performance management system that reinforces this approach. Though the district has started down this path, it is critical to provide structure, support, and change management to the roll-out of this transformative approach to education.
Finally, I think it is incredibly important that students and parents have full transparency on assessment performance and a student’s response to the applied interventions/enrichments. The common focus of students, parents, and educators on expected academic outcomes will create a shared responsibility, coordinated set of actions and, ultimately, a shared sense of reward.
I have a large amount of experience helping organizations plan, execute and support transformative programs like this.

Jon Graziano
My top priority is addressing the increasing challenges facing the operating budget. We are facing the increasing cost of supplies and equipment. In order to comply with the state mandate to align with the Common Core Curriculum, our teachers will need new textbooks and specialists to help them with the transition. Necessary advances in classroom technology bring additional costs. These are necessary and worthy advances, but they come at a cost, and it’s important that we ensure maximum value for our tax money. As technology evolves, we need to be mining every possible way of making it work for us – from an educational standpoint as well as an economic one.
Budget-tightening also shouldn’t force us to lose sight of what’s important to our children’s education. This year’s budget discussion initially proposed cutting the Middle School Drama program. An outpouring of public support not only saved that program, it served as a reminder of what we’re really trying to do here. Programs that enrich and broaden our children’s education should be preserved and expanded where possible, not treated as frivolous fat to be trimmed. The argument is that some of these programs are too expensive given the level of interest in them, but there are ways to continue offering these valuable opportunities in spite of that. We can leverage some of our collaboratives that offer online enrichment programs for students curious about different learning opportunities. We have begun this with the TEC collaborative, but expanding it would offer another way of delivering better education in a cost-effective manner.
Another priority is the creation of a long term facilities plan. We have many short term needs including a solution to Center School and some much needed repairs at Elmwood but we need a long term plan showing the upcoming capital needs of all of the buildings as well as an expected replacement or renovation schedule. This should be done in conjunction with all town assets so that the town can make priority decisions based on all of this information. I know that this work has begun but it needs to remain a priority.

QUESTION 4: Describe one activity, committee or subcommittee you’ve been involved with within the school or town. What it meant to you? How it shaped town/school? Impact on schools/town?

Jean Bertschmann
I have learned a great deal from all of my liaison roles and work on the School Committee. One role that I think is critical, and which I feel has strongly benefited the town, is our new role of Communications Co-chairs. The School Committee has always worked hard to communicate with the community, but this year we have identified Communications Co-chairs to focus our efforts to enhance our community wide communications. We have created and executed a School Committee Communications Plan, which will be reviewed and revised annually. We have conducted two community wide surveys – one to learn how best to communicate with all sectors of the community; and the other to learn more about community priorities for a potential Elementary School Building Project. The School Committee is most effective when it is well informed about community priorities, and we are working hard to strengthen those lines of communication across the entire community.

Frank D’Urso
As a member of HopGreen I had an important role in earning the “Green Communities” Designation for our town. That has allowed HopGreen (through the excellent work of Aubrey Doyle and John Keane, among others) to apply for and receive grants of over $140,000. This money was directly applied to energy conservation measures that have reportedly saved the schools over $200,000 dollars already. I am the only candidate who has saved the school system money, and I am the only candidate to actually have been a teacher.

Frank Sivo
Several years ago, I attended a SPEAC (Special Education Advisory Council) wherein the performance of Hopkinton’s special education sub-group was discussed. In the presentation, there were some indications that the year to year performance of this group (~14% of the total enrollment in Hopkinton schools) had gone down. Concerned by the performance drop, I performed some analysis. My analysis indicated that the SPED literacy performance trend in early elementary grades in Hopkinton had been declining for several years. I shared my analysis with most building principals, Dir. of Student Services, Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, SPEAC, and ultimately the School Committee. I later became a Board member of SPEAC to advance this discussion and find ways to help our children needing specialized services in responsible ways.
Ultimately, I was able to convince all involved that there was an issue with early SPED literacy. Further, I offered evidence that if we did not improve the situation, not only would it underserve our commitment to these children, but it would prove extremely expensive; as “playing catch-up” in later grades is very expensive and can increase the number of costly out-of-district placements.
Since then, the district has taken on the Reading A-Z program to increase SPED literacy through Dr. Ilda King. So, while it may be premature to claim victory, there was a strong improvement in early education literacy for the SPED population, 2010-2011. I cannot take credit for this program, but I do know my advocacy helped to justify a commitment to a seemingly successful program.
This experience helped me to understand that citizens and committees can make a big difference in the education of our children. Sometimes, making a difference starts with just being curious. Finally, it reinforces to me that educational performance and budget need not be thought of in a trade-off manner. In this case, by introducing a programmatic solution to address a very high-leverage problem, the long-term costs (compared to status quo) are likely to be substantially reduced.

Jon Graziano
I have been a part of the Appropriation Committee this year. I have really enjoyed the experience. The role of the Appropriations Committee is to recommend to the town a budget, including capital articles, that creates a healthy financial plan for the town. As a member of the committee it is my responsibility to ask questions of all town departments on their budget and capital proposals to understand the need and priority of all proposals. My work on the committee has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the town budget needs and process and help educate the town on the priorities of the town’s budget to allow citizens to make informed decisions at town meeting.

QUESTION 5: As a School Committee member, you will have to make some budgetary decisions. How do you define your priorities?

Jean Bertschmann
The Strategic Plan really guides our budget priorities, and supports our focus on the primacy of learning. Built upon community input, the Strategic Plan is our roadmap for the next several years. Currently, we are in year 3 of a 5 year Strategic Plan. Many of our goals have been met, and some have had to be re-thought in light of the economic constraints of the last several years. We are currently engaged in the process of refreshing our Strategic Plan goals so that we can gather community feedback and make additional revisions as necessary. We have made great strides in the areas of curriculum, assessment, communications, and Full Day Kindergarten. Budget constraints have slowed the progress toward our goals in the area of foreign language, and we need to completely revise the goal related to the Elementary School Building Project to reflect the preference stated by the town in our recent survey for a non-districted configuration for our elementary schools. We continue to protect class size, and the needs of our students remain at the forefront of our decision making.

Frank D’Urso
Teachers drive classroom decisions, Principles manage their schools and the Superintendent leads the show. I rely on our professional educators to tell us what their needs are, and my business knowledge to find ways to accomplish these things. If there is not enough money in the budget, we can find other ways, through grants, and proper planning and saving in advance so that the budget isn’t always expanding in leaps.

Frank Sivo

  • Making schools safe for all students
  • Driving academic excellence for all students
  • Better maintaining existing educational assets
  • Deliberatively and objectively investing in new educational assets

Jon Graziano
In making budget decisions, my priority would be to make sure that we are getting the best value for the tax money paid by the citizens of Hopkinton. With the current approach to our budget process, we will struggle to meet state mandates, advance our strategic goals, and maintain a reasonable tax and fee impact. We need to think differently about how we approach our expenses and how we deliver education to our students and my top priority will be to find new ways to approach expenses to ensure that we can meet all of these goals.

QUESTION 6: In recent years the Selectmen have requested the School Committee reduce its budget after submission to the Town Manager. What proactive steps would you take to keep communication lines open with the Board of Selectmen to prevent these surprise budget cuts?

Jean Bertschmann
Frequent communication is essential as the town and school budgets are developed. For many years, there has been a Budget Advisory Group facilitated by the Town Manager which allows for budget priorities and challenges for all town departments to be communicated in a timely manner. No town department should operate in a vacuum; it is essential to understand the priorities of all departments in order to collaboratively build a budget that reflects the needs and priorities of all members of our community. I think it is imperative to strengthen this process and continue to work collaboratively with all department heads across the town.

Frank D’Urso
“Surprise budget cuts” = poor planning. There has to be scenario planning involved in budget decisions so that the town isn’t presented with an “All or nothing” approach to budgets as this question seems to indicate. Meanwhile concerning “communication lines” I have pretty good rapport with the current Board of Selectmen, one of the best that we have elected. I served with John Mosher as founding members of Hopkinton Sustainable Green Committee (HopGreen). My children are classmates with Todd Cestari’s and Brian Herr’s children. I get along well with Ben Pallieko. I am a huge fan of Michelle Gates and all that she has done for our town. I think I would closely follow the model of Troy Mick, who was always open to a conversation and in contact with everyone in such a positive manner. (It’s a true loss to our town that Troy decided not to run this year.)

Frank Sivo
I have significant experience dealing with budgeting processes. In fact, I once led the reengineering effort for the US Army (Pentagon) process. This budget encompassed greater than $200 Billion and covered a 7 year process cycle. I have also managed and improved budget processes for many other organizations.
Fundamentally, budgeting processes described in the question are likely to have some of the following problems:

  1. Budgetary targets are not well established (by governing bodies)
  2. Priorities are not clearly established (by those seeking funds)
  3. Since targets and priorities are not clearly established, funding requests will exceed acceptable levels.
  4. Conflict/distrust between those seeking funds and governing body begins to develop.
  5. Governing bodies makes cuts that those seeking funds find irrational or draconian.

In order to avoid some of these pitfalls in the school system, I suggest several things. Budgetary targets must be set by Town Management (TM) and Board of Selectmen (BoS), with some accommodation for truly unpredictable circumstances. The SC must then establish and use a prioritization process that is often drawn from a Strategic Plan or other prioritization tool. Those who come to the SC seeking fiscal support must clearly appreciate the priorities set forth by the SC. SC must show that it is willing to make objective decisions based on a prioritized plan. Budget conflict and organizational distrust will start to wane as proposed budgets get closer to targets. Trust will develop, in the process fewer cuts will be made at the TM/BoS layer.
Building trust in the budgeting process is what it is all about. In my experience, this can take a few cycles for all parties to start acting differently.

Jon Graziano
Through my work on the Appropriations Committee I have formed a strong working relationship with the Town Manager. I would ensure that throughout the school budget creation process that there was regular communication with the Town Manager to understand not only the overall budget message but also what other town department needs are that may impact the amount available to the schools. This would include inviting the Town Manager to all budget discussions and, if he is not available, making sure that regular meetings occur through the school budget process.

QUESTION 7: Based on the recent survey results, how do you suggest the town to move forward with the Center School challenge? What process would you suggest to gain consensus among community members seeing as none of the hypothetical solutions in the survey had support from the required 2/3rds majority?

Jean Bertschmann
At this point, it would be premature to identify a solution to the challenges presented by Center or Elmwood Schools. There are many more steps to the process which need to be accomplished, and vetted with the community. With my School Committee colleagues, I have developed a project timeline for a potential Center School project (available on the district website) which outlines the entire process with the MSBA, and identifies ongoing work to ensure that we are ‘MSBA ready’ when we receive an invitation to re-enter their project pipeline. The timeline identifies all of the steps in each of the eight MSBA project modules, and identifies the community communications process the School Committee will undertake for each step along that path. Using feedback data from the community forums, community survey, and results of the Criteria Working Group, the School Committee will have a more firm understanding of the community priorities for this project.

Frank D’Urso
I think, in regards to Center School, we have put the cart before the horse. That building should have been maintained no matter what plan was being followed for future school buildings. We have a responsibility to those students and families to keep up with repairs and proper maintenance. Meanwhile WHAT are the questions we are trying to solve? In the long term a new school building is a good idea, but we need to approach that on our own schedule, many people think that it is not yet time (for many different reasons.)
I think the core argument for more space came with the Full Day Kindergarten Pilot, that year showed that there is great interest in a tuition based program. I have heard that we’d need to have 2 or 3 more classrooms in order to accommodate demand. My suggestion is to bring in Modern Modular construction that is solid, energy efficient and can be accomplished swiftly and paid for by slight increases in the FDK tuition over a ten year span. Harvard University uses EXACTLY this type of building for their daycare center in Cambridge.
I think the question should be “What do we NEED for our schools?” instead of “How can we get a NEW school?”
There eventually will be consensus, the best answer for our town will form, and we will move forward.

Frank Sivo
In my personal research and as a member of the Criteria Working Group, the fundamental problem is trust. Many members of the community feel that the School Committee did not approach the elementary school challenge in an objective manner. Many people feel the districted solution proposed by the School Committee was born out of a very narrow objective with which most people in the town do not agree. Absent, in many people’s opinion, was transparency to the process by which the proposed solution was picked. Once picked, the rationale for picking the solution was not well communicated. In the process, many people have referenced arrogance of professional staff and the School Committee. Many feel they were told the staff and SC “knew best”, and the community should not question the proposal, its impact to home owners/students/parents or the high building cost and its impact on tax payers. Finally, a majority of the town is very concerned about cost, including costs associated with potentially “leaving behind” a school building.
In order to learn from our past, and get 2/3rds of the town to support a new proposal, the following must be done:

  • School Committee and Administration must show willingness to not only “listen to the community”, but also “act on what they hear”.
  • A fully transparent and objective process for (separately) remediating concerns at Center, and subsequently, Elmwood should be conducted.
  • The process must include evaluation of renovation options, in addition to, new building options.
  • The process should avoid dogmatism associated with districting and longer grade spans.
  • Criteria Working Group (CWG), of which I am a member, must provide objective, actionable criteria.
  • The School Committee and Administration should accept the recommendations of the CWG.
  • A full set of options should be explored by a Building Committee against the established criteria.
  • Feasibility studies for these options should be conducted on 2-3 options.
  • The best value option should be selected
  • A “road show” communication plan should be established to inform all facets of the community on the process, outcomes of the process, and projected benefits of the solution to the students and to the town.

Jon Graziano
One thing that has frustrated me is the lack of progress on this project since the vote in March of 2011. While the town did not agree on the solution, Center School continues to be a challenge to the talented staff that educate our youngest students. The survey results show that the town does not have a strong sense of what the available options are. What I would propose is a very public process that outlines all considered options and specific reasons why they were or were not pursued. I was struck in the last process that some straightforward answers to questions were not available like why renovating was not an option. The next proposal needs to be able to provide answers to all questions about alternative solutions. The survey results made it clear that there are options that the town will not support. Clearly any solution that involves a change to a districted school model should are not options at all. While no option got the 2/3 in the survey it’s because all of the hypothetical options were available. As we eliminate the less feasible options, we can create a consensus.

QUESTION 8: What are your thoughts on the implementation and timeline of the next Elementary School Building Committee and Working Group?

Jean Bertschmann
The School Committee has appointed a Criteria Working Group to propose the next set of criteria to be used to evaluate the merits of alternatives developed through the next Feasibility Study. The results of that work are slated to be presented to the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and community on June 7. At that time, the School Committee will also discuss with the Board of Selectmen the timing and membership for the next Elementary School Building Committee. The membership on this committee is mandated in large part by the MSBA, but the School Committee has worked hard to creatively suggest qualifications for community membership which would strengthen the work of the Elementary School Building Committee, along with identifying the tasks and responsibilities of that committee.

Frank D’Urso
I think that we have some great people involved with these ideas, (and we had great people involved before), it’s important to remember that ALL the community needs to be included in decision making at this scale, and we should come up with real answers to real questions.

Frank Sivo
As long as it takes to execute the deliberate, objective and process outlined in question 7. In the meantime, all required maintenance repairs that impede safety or would avoid additional building deterioration at Center and Elmwood, should be addressed quickly.

Jon Graziano
The use of the Criteria Working Group seems beneficial to creating a consensus among the town for how the town should select the preferred option to solve the Center School challenge. It appears that the process outlined will allow the amount of transparency that the town is seeking. I think this is a great first step to ensure a thoughtful, thorough and inclusive process.

QUESTION 9: What can the school committee do to better collaborate and communicate with other committees?

Jean Bertschmann
Communication and a willingness to compromise are the keys to collaboration. As Chair of the School Committee, I have created agendas which included presentations to the School Committee from several other town departments, so that we could understand their perspective and benefit from their wisdom on matters pertaining to the schools. Additionally, I have scheduled reports from all School Committee liaison roles, to keep the Committee and the community informed about the important work of other committees and boards. I have been proactive about reaching out to other town departments, and attended many additional meetings to learn more about the work being done across the town. As a result, I have several suggestions for improving communications and collaboration across all town committees, boards, and departments:

  • I believe that it is essential to develop a volunteer training for new community volunteers to help them understand what all of the departments in town are responsible for, and how they are interrelated. Understanding the broader scope of how our town operates strengthens our ability to make connections and work collaboratively with other town departments, which ultimately will improve the ability of all elected town leaders to present budgets and capital articles that meet the needs of all residents in a responsible, cost effective way.
  • I also feel that it is critical to develop a volunteer training for newly elected volunteers to explain the intricacies of municipal finance, so that budget and capital requests which are moved forward can be comprehensively and collaboratively built by informed committees.
  • Finally, I think an annual, post-Town Meeting de-brief session to reflect upon the budget and capital process and develop positive suggestions to strengthen that process for the following budget cycle would strengthen the process for all committees, and improve the Town Meeting experience for all residents.

As we approach the ten-year review date for the Town Charter, many of these suggestions will be relevant for the committee which undertakes that work. These are simple but concrete steps which would enhance communications and collaboration among all town boards and committees.

Frank D’Urso
Liaisons to other committees should continue, and the School Committee should remember that just because they have a meeting about something, they should be careful to consider the feedback. As a member of the Conservation Commission and HopGreen I participated in Fruit Street School discussions, and it was so frustrating that feedback was not taken to heart. Even after last year’s STM and election, watching SC meetings would be so frustrating because there seemed to be a lack of acceptance among some members of the results. I think that the SC has made some progress since then, and I think that I can work with the current SC and whoever gets elected to improve this situation.

Frank Sivo
It appears through liaison processes; the School Committee already puts a great deal of hours into working with other committees. Perhaps areas for improvement is to develop some join goals that can cross-pollenate into each other’s strategic plans, and would turn participation into action with benefits.

Jon Graziano
More than other departments, the schools seem to be on their own island when it comes to budgets and building improvements. The process of developing the school budget is thorough and open, but while the schools make up 53% of the town’s operating budget I think that it would benefit the schools as well as the town overall for the school’s budget and capital needs to be developed in conjunction with those of other town departments. This would involve more constant communication with the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager. I also think that the School Committee should more closely involve town resources such as the Permanent Building Committee in their assessment of building needs and large scale replacement or renovation projects like the Center School project.

Don’t Forget To Vote Monday, May 21!
Polls are open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM in the Middle School Gym, 88 Hayden Rowe St (enter by Grove Street). There are two contested races: School Committee and Library Trustee as well as ten ballot questions. Click to read the 10 Ballot Questions. Click to read the List of All Candidates.

Debate Tonight – School Committee Candidates

In response to requests from its viewers and readers, HCAM News will be conducting a School Committee Candidate Debate TONIGHT, Monday, May 14 at 7:00pm in the HCAM Studio. The debate will be broadcast LIVE on Comcast 8 and Verizon 30, will stream live on the HCAM website, and limited seating will be available in the HCAM Studio, 77 Main Street, Lower Level.

Panel members for the debate will include Michelle Murdock and Chuck Joseph. The debate is scheduled to last for one-hour, but may be extended if the panel feels there are still issues to be covered. All four candidates, Jean Bertschmann, Frank D’Urso, Jon Graziano and Frank Sivo have agreed to participate. Watch live or set your DVR.

Please keep an eye out for the Educate Hopkinton will present a School Committee Candidates Q and A on May 17. Here are some additional links for more info:

SCHOOL COMMITTEE, For 3 years, Vote for 2

Jean B. Bertschmann, Incumbent 

Francis J. D’Urso, Democrat 

Frank E. Sivo, Republican 

Jonathan E. Graziano

School Committee Candidates Blog Debate – Eight Questions and Responses

Similar to what we did with Selectmen candidates last week, Educate Hopkinton posed the following eight questions to our School Commiteee Candidates, including why are you running (question #1), skills and experience (#2), ideas for improvements (#3), your experience on town committees (#4), what are your budget priorities (#5), the Center School challenge (#6), longer grade spans (#7) and thoughts on improving communication with other committees (#8). We thank them for their responses and for their commitment to Hopkinton. In addition we recommend voters watch the HCAM News Candidate Focus on the HCAM.tv website.

School Committee Candidates – For three years – Vote for TWO
NANCY ALVAREZ BURDICK (Candidate for Re-election, Republican Caucus), 58 Greenwood Road, http://www.nancyburdick.com/, nancy@nancyburdick.com, H508.435.0926
RICHARD P. DEMONT (Candidate for Re-election, Democratic Caucus), 77 North Mill Street, rdemont@demontlaw.com, H508.893.9988
SCOTT AGHABABIAN (Republican Caucus), 12 Breakneck Hill Road, saghababian@comcast.net, H508.544.1699

QUESTION 1: Why are you running for School Committee?

Nancy Burdick:
I have learned a great deal throughout my 6 years on the committee. I have been an integral part of the process − the successes and the consensus-building within and among committees and boards. I am proud of my role in keeping our schools strong during a period of great financial challenges. I want to be elected to the School Committee so that I can work to make the leadership of the schools more inclusive. By courting and using input from across the community we will be best positioned to make decisions that benefit the students with the support of the community as opposed to at the expense of the community. There can be a balance and we must work to achieve that.

Richard de Mont:
The Hopkinton School District is in a period of transition and there is much to be done to keep Hopkinton on track as one of the best districts in the state. We have a new Superintendent coming on board and School Committee negotiations with the HTA to complete, on whose Subcommittee I serve on. We also are just beginning to start the process to reach town wide consensus on the Center School project, as well as looking at other capital projects, particularly at Elmwood. I am actively involved in these various projects and would like to see them through to completion. Each year, the district gets its own report card in the form of our graduating Seniors and each year these students display extraordinary achievement in academics, the arts, sports and public service. 46% of our Seniors have been admitted to Barron’s Highest Rated Colleges, up from 28% in 2000. We have come along way and we have a long way to go, but to the extent my service on the Committee has facilitated a culture of learning and achievement in the schools, I couldn’t be more proud.

Scott Aghababian:
I decided to run for the School Committee this year as I watched the issue of the new Fruit Street school unfold. I believe education is one of the most important functions of the town along with public safety, however, I was not comfortable with the direction we were going through the Fruit St. school proposal. First, I am against the districting of our schools. The town is too small and too tightly knit for multiple school districts. Second, I believe the project was too expensive in the current economy, despite the state grant. Third, I believe the process did not include enough input from the people of the town. The majority votes at the Special Town Meeting and Special Town Election bore these positions out. It became clear then that a new voice was needed on the School Committee.

QUESTION 2: What skills/experiences do you have that you feel makes you qualified to serve on Hopkinton’s School Committee?

Nancy Burdick:
Since moving to Massachusetts 9-years ago, I have been active supporting the schools. I have served as a classroom volunteer, an HPTA President, HPTA Hospitality Co-Chair and Grant Writer and as an elected School Committee member. My academic background is in the field of educational psychology which is why I look to the schools to volunteer. At the University of Pennsylvania, I completed a Master’s of Science in Education, achieved a Certificate in School Psychology and completed seven years of doctoral study (all but dissertation) concentrating in parent involvement in the education of students. I worked for 4 years as a school psychologist in the Abington Pennsylvania public schools and worked as a therapist with children, families and schools at the Children’s Seashore House/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I currently hold a Massachusetts School Psychologist Educator’s license for all levels. My relevant volunteer roles coupled with my professional experience uniquely position me to be both an advocate for the students in our schools and an experienced manager and leader for the school department.

Richard de Mont:
I am an attorney by profession and much of what we do on the School Committee is controlled by state or federal law. In developing a policy or interpreting the application of a law or regulation, my legal training is an asset in interpreting the relevant law and applying it to the facts. I have also been involved in public service since moving to Hopkinton, having served on the Board of Health for three plus terms and pride myself in working collegially with a diverse group to achieve group goals, while bringing an independent perspective and voice to process. On occasion, taking an unpopular stance or minority position simply because it is the right thing to do.

Scott Aghababian:
I am a parent whose children attend Hopkinton schools and a taxpayer who supports said schools.

QUESTION 3: Most prospective School Committee members have several areas in which they are particularly interested and for which they have some ideas for improvement. What are yours?

Nancy Burdick:
Improve Communication with the Community – The leadership of the schools should to be more inclusive. More effective and efficient communication needs to take place.
Balance the needs of the students with the needs of the community – Advocating for the appropriate financial resources to support the needs of all students is important. Demonstrating to the community how that support for the schools directly relates to student success will be paramount to restoring the School Committee’s credibility which will in turn lead to greater support for committee initiatives and decisions.
Demonstrate a cost effective budget – The Committee must do everything it can to ensure that the community is getting the most cost-effective quality services for the investment. The Committee should continue to plan for and execute budgets responsibly and realistically, considering not only the current year but the long term as well.

Richard de Mont:
Two important areas, which are of particular interest to me and where my legal and analytical skills add value to the Committee are serving as liaison to SPEAC, the parent support group for special education, and also the labor negotiation subcommittee presently working on a new contract with the HTA. Having a child who had special needs and having had a negative initial experience with the District’s Special Education department, I researched the applicable law and was able to successfully advocate for my child. However, I was angry that it took the skills of an attorney to establish our rights under the law and decided then and there, that I would work to see that all families would receive the most appropriate and effective services without needing to retain a lawyer. I am happy to say that the District has come a long way in this area and is now a very highly regarded program and constantly seeking to improve the delivery of services at the most economical cost. This turnaround would not have been possible unless we had the help and collaboration of SPEAC and the Special Education department. It more common that special education advocacy groups and special education administrators be at loggerheads, but in a typically unique Hopkinton way, these two groups work continue to work closely toward the common goal of delivering the most appropriate services to our children at the most economical manner.
I have also enjoyed my service on the HTA labor negotiation subcommittee, though it is a very challenging job. I am humbled by the enormous responsibility of representing the taxpayers of Hopkinton in negotiating a fair contract with our most valuable asset, our teachers. In order to be successful in such a task, one must fully understand and respect the position of the other side and must avoid letting ones personal agenda out of the process. To this end, my legal skills and training are have served me well in analyzing data and forming fair and equitable positions based on the facts. Our mutual interests are dependant on finding the balance of compensating the teachers in a fair and equitable manner and which reflect the realities of current economic conditions. I am happy to report that current negotiations continue in a positive climate and I fully expect an agreement in the near future.

Scott Aghababian:
Blank – Please see Scott’s responses to the other questions, which he feels address question 3.

QUESTION 4: Describe one activity, committee or subcommittee you’ve been involved with within the school or town. What it meant to you? How it shaped town/school? Impact on schools/town?

Nancy Burdick:
Throughout my two terms with the School Committee, I have most enjoyed working as an appointed member of the American with Disabilities (ADA) Compliance Committee. The charge of that committee is to advocate and plan for how Hopkinton will make its municipal buildings and spaces accessible to all citizens. We have successfully put forward a project and spending plan for accessibility compliance that has been successfully supported by the annual Town Meeting for the past 5 years. Collaborating with the schools and other town and state departments has been educational and reinforcing. Our most recent success was bringing the needed assistive listening technology devices to the Middle School for students to use during school but also for the members of Town Meeting to benefit from. Helping people participate most fully in any process is what I have been able to do as a member of that committee.

Richard de Mont:
As stated in the previous question, being on the School Committee’s labor subcommittee and dealing with the HTA is one of the most important and rewarding tasks as I have on the Committee. In order to be successful in such a task, one must fully understand and respect the position of the other side and must avoid letting ones personal agenda out of the process. To this end, my legal skills and training are have served me well in analyzing data and forming fair and equitable positions based on the facts. Another consideration in this process is in the long term, as well as the immediate impacts to the town. To this end, the School Committee and the HTA have and will continue to look at different ways we can deliver excellent educational services at lower costs. For example, we are in the forefront of many innovative programs which leverage the explosion in technology to develop online curriculum, which enable students to access a wide variety of courses previously unavailable to them.

Scott Aghababian:
I’ve spent the last 14 years educating my three children. I care deeply about their education and that of the other children in Hopkinton. I strongly and publicly disagreed with the School Committee with regard to the districting and expense associated with the proposed new school, and therefore felt it my civic duty to run and represent this viewpoint, which was shared by the majority of Hopkinton voters in March. The other committee I served on was the Hopkinton Planning Board when I was elected in 2003.

QUESTION 5: As a School Committee member, you will have to make some budgetary decisions. How do you define your priorities?

Nancy Burdick:
My budget priorities are focused on improving the classroom experience for all students. Providing students with access to content is the primary goal. That, in my opinion, starts with quality teachers – the most experienced and resourceful content deliverers we have. Technology and continued professional development are tools that must be provided to our teachers so that they can continue to stay confident and enthusiastic about teaching our children how to complete tasks and solve problems. Continuing to provide this type of excellent education for our children is my goal as a School Committee member. The guidebook for how we pursue this goal is the School Committee’s Strategic Plan. It is time to review and update that Plan to make sure that the initiatives that are pursued are balanced across the schools and grades preK-12. Soliciting input throughout the transparent drafting of the revision regarding the rational, costs and expected benefits of strategic educational initiatives will increase understanding of and support for the Plan.

Richard de Mont:
When making budgetary decisions, you must start with the premise that you are dealing with a limited amount of money and for whatever budget request you approve, another deserving request must be denied. No one ever leaves the budget process completely satisfied, but we need to balance priorities and also evaluate both short and long term effects of any budget decisions we make. I believe that during my term, we have delivered relatively flat budgets which have maintained services without overburdening the taxpayer. In fact, Hopkinton’s per student cost per year is approximately $1,500.00 lower than the state average, while being amongst the highest performing districts in the state. But we must always be looking for ways to do things more efficiently.
My personal priorities in approaching the budget are, First, to preserve those programs we have in place, which are consistent with 21st Century learning and our strategic plan. This means maintaining class size and breadth and scope of curriculum. Next would be, when possible, is to invest in programs that will enhance the educational experience of our children such as adding a critical language such Mandarin Chinese. In this case, through the initiative of the administration, Hopkinton is pleased that we have received a grant for a second year, covering the expenses of a visiting Chinese teacher. When we do absorb the expense into our budget, we will have had two years into a program that has established roots in our community.
I also look at the maintenance of building and grounds as a priority. Again, there is never enough money available in any town department in to do what is believed is necessary. We continue to do more with less and have done a good job of maintaining our buildings and grounds.
In the area of Special Education, services are mandated to a certain level, but we have been very innovative in achieving economies of scale in reducing out-of-district placements by developing in-district that on one hand saves the District money, but more importantly, enhances the educational experience of our students. Accordingly, our investment in services, especially early intervention services, achieve savings when we are able to help a child achieve his or her maximum academic and social potential.

Scott Aghababian:
The primary responsibility of the Town, after providing for public safety, is to provide a high quality education to Hopkinton’s students in a fiscally responsible manner. Proficiency in the core disciplines of English, math, science and history will do much to enable our students to compete on the state, country and international stage.

QUESTION 6: How do you suggest the town to move forward with the Center School challenge? What process would you suggest to gain consensus among community members?

Nancy Burdick:
In my opinion, we need to move forward with any future solution to the facility challenges that the current Center School imposes on the educational program for our students, by engaging the Town in the following BIG process:

  1. Ask some questions.
  2. Listen.
  3. Repeat back some understanding of what was heard.
  4. Listen.
  5. Ask for brainstormed ideas (without critique) on another solution to the Center School facility – as well as thoughts on how this facility fits in with the context of the MS and Elmwood School.
  6. Listen.
  7. Develop solution priorities and criteria for alternatives to be measured against
  8. Report back to the community and collect feedback on those priorities and criteria
  9. Collect grant funding information for any and all building/renovation projects
  10. Prioritize the list of needed municipal building/repair/renovation initiatives
  11. Report back
  12. Plan to pursue prioritized projects through the use of state grants and Town appropriated funds

Richard de Mont:
I believe that in order to move forward, we need the direction of the townspeople. We have made a good start with the recent forum but have a long way to go. I believe we need all interested parties to get together to explore alternatives to the project that was recently voted down. Some voted against districting, some against the cost and many others for various reasons. I would be in favor of a town wide referendum on several alternatives that will come out of the anticipated process, so that those working on the project will be confident their efforts will have the support of the town. A referendum with the attendant information on the benefits and challenges of each proposal provided to the citizens before the vote would help the voters make the informed decision that was lacking in the recent vote.

Scott Aghababian:
The Center School will be needed for the next five years or more. The first order of business should be to address the repairs that are necessary to protect that asset and make it a serviceable learning environment for the kids and working environment for the teachers and staff.

QUESTION 7: What are your thoughts on a longer grade span model (districting)?

Nancy Burdick:
I believe that there are multiple educational and social benefits to be gained by students as a result of moving to a longer grade span model for our students.

Richard de Mont:
I do support longer grade spans, if possible, as I believe are they are more educationally beneficial to the children, especially those children with special needs and on IEP plans. Those children would particularly benefit from the continuity of having the same specialist over a longer period and avoid transitional down time for both the student and the specialists. The longer grade spans could also be achieved without districting in some configurations. However, what we end up doing will, in large part, be driven by what the people will support and I am committed to an open dialogue and finding the best solution for our children and the taxpayers. My own, uncompromising drivers in this process are value to the taxpayers and educational benefit to the students, in whatever form that takes place. I have every confidence that our teachers and administrators will, as always, make any configuration work in the best interests of the children.

Scott Aghababian:
I am not opposed to longer grade spans, but am absolutely against having separate school districts within the Town. Longer grade spans within the existing facilities may be necessary in the near term due to declining enrollment.

QUESTION 8: What can the school committee do to better collaborate and communicate with other committees?

Nancy Burdick:
It became apparent from the vote on the elementary school building project that our town leaders need to do a better job of communicating with the community. I am eager to do so. I will use my active listening and consensus-building skills to move the process forward with committee colleagues and citizens. I would also like to leverage the technology resources and volunteers in the community who work in the field of technology, communication and market research to help collect and share information and share information through electronic formats. We can do a better job of engaging people if we are mindful of tone and time. There are many more formats (e.g., surveys, blogs, cable television shows, webinars, etc.) that we could be using to engage citizens. I want to discuss these ideas and try some out sooner rather than later.

Richard de Mont:
Inter-committee relations are vital to the success of the town. I believe that we have had good communications with other boards, but that we can always do better. It is a two way street. All boards need to share information with others but sometimes there is a disconnect. I believe that liaisons to other boards need to do a better job of communicating the activities of those boards or committees that they are assigned to back to their own boards or committees. The information is more effectively received when communicated directly from a liaison back to his or her board or committee and follow-up requests for information are that more efficiently followed up on. In fairness to all who serve on the many committees and boards in Hopkinton, we are all extremely busy and benefit when information is timely, transparent and succinct. I believe that the recent experience displayed an instance where there was almost too much information, and the issues less than clearly defined, which made it very difficult for the voter to make an informed decision. We need to simplify the process and the information we disseminate must be clear and timely as to both process and substance. All interested parties are invested in the schools and the town as displayed by the passion of recent events, but just had differing views on how to best achieve our goals. Hopefully we can build on this common ground and come to a town wide consensus on how best to address our Center School needs. I supported the proposed Center School building project both on economical as well as educational grounds. However, inasmuch as this project did not receive the necessary support, I now look forward to working with all interested parties to find a solution that will receive town wide support. I would hope the divisiveness that this issue has generated be converted from personal enmity amongst those that differ in the direction we should take, to the energy and a spirit of cooperation and collaboration we need to arrive at a solution that is in the best interests of our town.

Scott Aghababian:
The School Committee may consider assigning liaisons to other Town committees, such as the Board of Selectmen, Permanent Building Committee, Planning Board, Appropriations Committee etc., as does the Board of Selectmen.

Don’t Forget To Vote Monday, May 16!
Polls are open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM in the Middle School Gym, 88 Hayden Rowe St (enter by Grove Street). There are several offices up for election including School Committee and Selectmen as well as one ballot question. Read the full ballot at 2011 Annual Town Election Ballot.

A Blog Debate – Eight Questions and Responses from the Board of Selectmen Candidates

Educate Hopkinton posed the following eight questions to our Selectman Candidates, including why are you running (question #1), your experience on town committees (#2), thoughts on 2 1/2% (#3), improving communication (#4), the Center School challenge (#5), library expansion (#6), DPW facility (#7) and tax exemptions for seniors (#8). We thank them for their responses and for their commitment to Hopkinton. In addition we recommend voters watch the HCAM News Candidate Focus on the HCAM.tv website. 

FRANCIS J. D’URSO, JR. (Democratic Caucus), 173 Saddle Hill Road, www.frankdurso4selectman.orgfdurso@comcast.net, H 508.435.1002, M 617.642.1173

BRIAN J. HERR (Republican Caucus), 31 Elizabeth Road, brian@brianherr.com

QUESTION 1: Why are you running for Selectman? (What are your skill sets and objectives? How do you define your budget priorities when tough decisions have to be made? What are your ideas for improvements on the board of Selectmen?)

Frank D’Urso: 

I am running for the board of selectmen because I believe that the board needs some balance. I know that I can bring a strong degree of fiscal responsibility. I have over 25 years of business experience, in small and large companies, I know what it means to have to live within a budget. I think that it is time to return a Democrat to the board, and I know that I can work well with the republican and independent selectmen. I would work to instill a stronger sense of fiscal discipline.
When tough decisions have to be made, they should not be made in a vacuum or in haste. I would work with the other selectmen to build consensus. In any group dynamic it is important to include all viewpoints when discussing an issue. I would also reach out to town workers as well as the citizens to get the full picture of what is needed. I will ask for people to bring solutions to the board as well as their problems.

Brian Herr:
Why are you running for Selectman?
I believe in community service and I believe we need to continue to lead Hopkinton into the future with a positive vision for the town. I am running to build on our efforts from 2007 through 2010. 
What are your skill sets and objectives? My skills are those that I demonstrated and used over the last many years on various boards and committees in town and in my professional life. I am an engineer by degree. I think sequentially and  follow decision trees to make decisions. I also have a master’s degree in government. I recognize the  inherit nature of “politics” in all aspects of life. I use my “6th sense” (empathy) to understand how individuals (and groups) think and feel about various issues and then politely guide those individuals to decisions that most are comfortable with in town. My objectives are to restore a healthy and productive debate in town on the issues we all face together, to maintain excellent services for the taxpayers by driving new efficiencies annually into all segments of town government, to balance the needs of a strong school system with the economic pressures many feel due to a continued weak economy, to develop a realistic plan with the SC to address the needs of Center School, to continue to press for further commercial development (tax revenue) in the South Street area of town now that the Milford WWTP deal is in place, to facilitate the revenue positive aspects of development at Legacy Farms and to enhance community life by working with the Parks and Recreation Department and a private youth organization to develop a hockey rink/skating center at no taxpayer expense. 
How do you define your budget priorities when tough decisions have to be made? Public education and public safety are tied for first place. 
What are your ideas for improvements on the board of Selectmen? Each year we elect one or two new members to the Board. This regular shifting of ideas and experience benefits the Board and the community as a whole. If elected, I believe my previous experience on the BoS, Planning Board, Zoning Advisory Committee, Personnel Committee and various building committees will bring additional depth and understanding of the overall governing process.

QUESTION 2: Describe one activity or (sub)committee you’ve been involved with within the town. What it meant to you? How it shaped and impacted the town?

Frank D’Urso: 

I am one of the founding members of the Hopkinton Sustainable Green Committee, chartered in 2008 by then selectman Matthew Zettek.  I think HopGreen has done a very good job of pulling together a large committee of people from various backgrounds who can get a lot done with little to no budget.  Our purpose is to investigate sustainable solutions for the town.  We have earned the “Green Committees Act” designation for Hopkinton, our application and process we undertook was most impressive, Governor Patrick chose to launch the Green Communities Act in Massachusetts in a speech he made in front of our Police Station last year.  Through this Act we have been granted over $130,000.00 in funds to help improve the schools and municipal buildings with energy conservation projects. 
I am quite proud of this team effort.  John Mosher, Aubrey Doyle and John Keane had done most of the brainwork, I helped cobble information together from the Town manager’s office (during a late night work session and a last minute afternoon group finalization effort) and I drove the completed application into Boston with less than an hour left before the deadline.  One of the reasons that we took so long is that we had asked for the maximum amount of grant money that we could. We applied for one million dollars, but the extra effort was worth it as we are prepared to apply for our second round of grants right now.  (Note: Green Communities money does not come from income taxes, it is collected from the energy industry as a fee to help offset pollution).
We are also in our third year of the ANNUAL SPRING GREEN UP, this year’s event will be Saturday May 7th and begins on the town common.  The idea is that citizens of Hopkinton form neighborhood groups to help clean our neighborhoods.
HopGreen also sponsors green projects in town, like the power purchase agreement that Rebecca Robak and Brian Mayne put together for the High and Middle Schools and Police and Fire stations.  John Mosher and I got to tour the High School roof and it really is very impressive when you see the size and amount of the PV arrays that we have up there.
We also run public forums, through the library.  I organized the Solar Forum last year that included Energy industry professionals, I also made sure that the $500 residential rebate (part of our Power Purchase agreement) was still in place after a merger of two Solar companies.

Brian Herr:
Describe one activity or (sub) committee you’ve been involved with within the town. BoS Chair. 
What it meant to you? Being Chair of the BOS is the most rewarding position in town government, but is also the most time consuming. While I was Chair, I spent 30 – 40 hours per week working with staff and residents to keep the ship headed in the right direction and to implement the will of Town Meeting. I enjoyed this role immensely but believe the position should ideally rotate amongst the members of the BOS. It is a privilege to serve the residents on the BOS and a special honor to serve as Chairman. 
How it shaped and impacted the town? We made significant progress in town on the Fruit Street site (fields and WWTP), implemented sound fiscal policy during unprecedented economic times, raised our Standard & Poor’s bond rating to AA+,completed the Milford WWTP Inter-Municipal Agreement, supported the Legacy Farms development, etc. AFTER everyone realized we were not going to return to the days of Ethics Complaints, media feuds and other non-productive political behavior. Positive, respectful leadership produces positive community results.

QUESTION 3: For the last two years the town has not taken the full 2 ½% tax increase allowed each year without an override. Do you support gradually taking back some of the excess levy reserve in the coming years? (i.e. to bring back some of the services that have been cut, purchases that have been put on hold, maintenance that has been deferred, etc.)

Frank D’Urso:
I am against taking ANY of the money that was not taxed in previous years.  While this move may be legal, it does not feel like it can be justified.  Proposition 2 ½  must be respected.  Ideally the town should RARELY have over-rides, with better management and fiscally responsible planning we should be able to cover our expenses every year for less than a 2.5% increase on property taxes.  We had almost $400,000.00 in “free money” in our accounts this fiscal year, and that money is already being appropriated for quite a few items (to be voted on at Annual Town Meeting).  The Problem that I have with this is that money should go back into our accounts and result in helping to keep the NEXT year’s taxes below 2.5% increase.  I know that there are some important purchases involved each year (like the new Firetruck requested) but if it wasn’t part of our spending plan last year, it should wait for next year and let Capitol Improvements line up which projects that we can afford to pay for instead of just throwing EVERY project up to the Selectmen and the Town Meeting every year.  There has to be more discipline on spending and better advanced planning.  We’re spending money that we don’t have.

Brian Herr:
Not unless a demonstrated need is presented to the BoS. I do not believe in raising taxes just because we have excess levy and/or because Prop 2 ½ says we can. I reject the position that we should automatically raise taxes 2 ½ % annually without a thorough review of our finances and a thorough review of the operating model for each department. The private sector does this annually, if not quarterly. We should do the same. I led the effort to hold taxes in check the last two fiscal years given the economy and our ability to restructure the organization and reduce our cost model. I believe in forcing all department heads to submit annual budgets that include looking under every rock for cost savings and efficiency ideas. I would expect the department heads to document what changes they can make/made annually to improve their operational efficiency. Once I am comfortable that the cost model is as tight as it can be, I am then open to looking at revenue needs to provide the best services possible to the community. For FY11 we added funds back into the SC overall budget after they presented all of their steps taken to run as efficiently as possible and they presented their demonstrated need for additional teaching positions at the elementary level. Furthermore, perceived automatic tax increases annually will result in automatic budget increases and automatic labor union assumptions on annual raises. The BoS sets the tone for how the community will see the finances at Town Meeting. If we automatically raise taxes 2 ½ % from the outset, with no review and critique of departmental costs, we are not managing the process but instead allowing it to manage us. All this said, Town Meeting is ultimate authority and if TM Members want to increase spending on a budget item, they have the right to make that amendment on the floor and have a vote up or down. If the BoS, Appropriations, CIC, etc do their work and gain a full understanding of the mood of the community through their combined empathy skills, the number of floor battles over major budget decisions at TM is limited.

QUESTION 4: Working within the State Open Meeting Law do you have suggestions for improving communication between town boards and residents? (i.e. scheduling of critical meetings, making sure accurate information is being communicated, rather than rumors) 

Frank D’Urso:
I was a founding member of the Civic Engagement Committee a decade ago.  We worked with the results of the Voices For Vision Forum, which was a scientific consensus building exercise that gathered @150 citizens together and we talked out all the important issues that faced the town back then.  To paraphrase former selectmen Eric Sennett, I’d wager that the issues that were important then are the same issues that are important now. 
Brian Herr:

This is symptomatic of the larger issue in town right now….there is no trust because the various boards
assumed they were in control of the critical decisions. As mentioned above, TM Members are the
ultimate authority. If the boards and committees understand and work within this reality, then the
communications would naturally improve as they did from 2007 – 2010. Recall in 2007 there were
serious trust issues at that time with the BoS in particular. Positive leadership and an understanding of
how town government works will correct this problem. The mechanics are there…in my opinion…now
we need to work on the approach and style of leadership across the community always remembering
the residents have the last say. Some believe political leadership is all about speeches. I believe
effective political leadership is all about listening and then responding appropriately.

QUESTION 5: How do you suggest the town to move forward with the Center School challenge? What process would you suggest to gain consensus among community members?

Frank D’Urso:
I have suggested to the board of selectmen that we create a similar citizens forum, with a wide range of the town’s citizens involved. Current Selectmen Chair Dourney seems to like this idea. I’d like the town to think outside of the box on this, and I’d like to see a standalone fullday Kindergarten program that can pay for a new building of it’s own. Further, I’d like to see the School Administration office move into the Woodville Firehouse, the upstairs could easily be converted to office space.

Brian Herr:
How do you suggest the town to move forward with the Center School challenge? The School Committee needs to take the lead with the Elem. Sch. Bldg. Cmte. and look at additional viable options. The SC needs to hear the concerns of the community and then come back to the community with some preliminary options for the town to ponder collectively. After a few months of dialogue, the SC should then limit the number of options and bring them to a STM or ATM and ask for a referendum vote to gauge community support for each.
What process would you suggest to gain consensus among community members? I do not believe in full consensus nor should we strive to achieve it. Full consensus in a town meeting form of democracy such as ours in Hopkinton is not possible or necessary. What is important is listening to all the ideas put forth in a responsible manner (blogs do not count) and then look to understand what the majority of the citizens will support. Too often we strive towards consensus and then get frustrated when it is not achieved. Understanding the general will (majority opinion) is the best we can hope for and is doable. There is an option out there that the majority of residents will support. We simply have not found it yet.

QUESTION 6: The Permanent Building Committee and Library Trustees are requesting approval of the preliminary design for an expanded library at its current site. Do you support this, and would you be in favor of the Town contributing 25-50% of the cost of the project in order to receive a state grant for the remaining 50%?

Frank D’Urso:
I support the library expansion, BUT would prefer a smaller footprint, and would ask that they leave the rental property intact and producing income for the Library’s budget (saving the town money). Parking and zoning can be worked out. I believe the town would only be asked to provide 25% of the funds needed, which would come from a debt exclusion, as opposed to a general over-ride to the town budget.

Brian Herr:
I support expanding at the current site. I support the 25% figure for the community to absorb. I would
not support any figure above that. The proposed plan in place for several years now has always
included a 25% investment from the taxpayers. Upward slippage on the taxpayer amount will derail the
effort in my opinion. I am concerned with the size however. I believe the building as designed today is
too large for the site and should be scaled back to a more reasonable size. We will not be able to get
the perfect library for Hopkinton downtown. We will need to compromise a bit to keep the project on
track and reasonable for many residents that live in the downtown section of town. I support the
concept of libraries and their positive impact on communities. I also support the fiscal model for this
plan as proposed. A 25% investment to get a 100% asset is an excellent investment for any
organization, public or private.

QUESTION 7: Do you support the new DPW facility? A vote for a $375K for the design is coming up at Town Meeting, with an estimated cost of $11million for the construction at a later date.

Frank D’Urso:
I think that a new DPW center should be put off for at least one year (if not longer). I understand that they are not in comfortable offices, but I would ask the DPW to bear with us on this issue and start examining it again next year.
When you talk about the insurance money, it should be used to repair the garage/shed that the winter storms knocked down. Insurance should pay for the full amount, or else we didn’t have the proper coverage.

Brian Herr:
Not at this time. The DPW does a good job for Hopkinton. I believe it can do a better job with
stronger management now in place. A new Director is on board. He needs to get the department and
its employees better organized and more efficient first and foremost. I do not want a new facility to
distract him or his team from these objectives. Moreover, our town “economy”, housing prices,
community activities, etc. all center on our schools. The DPW is vitally important for public safety and
many other factors, but a new facility does not impact our community in the same manner as our
schools. We need to table this project for several years in my opinion. That said, we do need some
immediate improvements to the current facilities for the DPW following the heavy snow damage this
past winter.

QUESTION 8: Would you support a “Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption” like Sudbury recently passed in conjunction with a school project in January.

Frank D’Urso:
I think that’s a wonderful solution for Sudbury, but in Hopkinton we have many families that cannot have even a small tax increase. As RJ Dourney pointed out, we already have a voluntary program in place.
My solution would be to work with the town (Civic Engagement Committee?) and work to publicize the voluntary tax relief fund, we could do a better job of letting people know about it and increasing the money that they collect for the elderly to have some property tax relief.
I’ve been working with Project Just Because (through our Cub Scout Troop 26) for the past two years, and they inform me that requests for help has risen dramatically this year, This is something that we should keep in mind when we consider tax increases.
I want to mention that Project Just Because has the STAMP OUT HUNGER FOOD DRIVE
on May 14th that I would like to alert your members to.

Brian Herr:
I would need to study this concept more and get input from the Board of Assessors and our
professionals in Town Hall before rendering a full opinion on this matter. I like the idea of helping our
seniors but we would need to understand all the ramifications first. If we annoy the businesses by
increasing the tax burden on them, and they end up leaving, then our seniors, along with the rest of us
will have to make up that lost revenue source. Certainly this tax relief idea and perhaps others for our
seniors are something to consider, but also something we need to get a better handle on before
presenting to the town for consideration.

Don’t Forget To Vote Monday, May 16!
Polls are open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM in the Middle School Gym, 88 Hayden Rowe St (enter by Grove Street). There are several offices up for election including School Committee and Selectmen as well as one ballot question. Read the full ballot at 2011 Annual Town Election Ballot.
Absentee ballots are due Friday, May 13 by 5:00 p.m. to the Town Clerk.

Don’t Forget To Vote Tomorrow! Monday, May 17

Polls are open 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM in the Middle School Gym, 88 Hayden Rowe St (enter by Grove Street. There are several Offices up for election including Selectmen and Planning Board. Read the full ballot at http://www.hopkinton.org/BallotATE2010.pdf. Here’s what’s going on:


Question #1 Elmwood School Boiler – Needs Repair
This ballot question pertains to “the repair, maintenance, renovation and improvement of the boiler and heating system at the Elmwood Elementary School.” The Elmwood School has two boilers; one is out of operation and the other is failing. The funds are needed to ensure proper heating for the students at the Elmwood School. Fortunately when the boiler was replaced at Center School, the project came in under budget. There is money remaining in the Center School account that should cover the cost of the Elmwood boiler replacement. However approval of ballot question #1 is needed to transfer these funds to the Elmwood Project. A yes vote on Question #1 simply allows the transfer of the funds to the appropriate account. There is no additional cost to the taxpayer. This transfer of $145,000 was recommended by both the Appropriations and the Capital Improvements Committees.

Question #2 Downtown Design – Gives the town state money to improve our downtown at minimal cost to us – town supported by a 2/3 majority at town meeting, but must also pass tomorrow at the polls. This ballot question pertains to the Downtown Revitalization Plan. If Hopkinton voters approve the $400,000 Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion, Hopkinton will qualify for up to $4 million in state construction grants, which will be used to beautify downtown, improve pedestrian access and safety, improve traffic flow and driver safety. The Plan applies to the stretch of Route 135 from Ash to Wood Street. The $400,000 loan will increase taxes by a maximum of $16/year, over five years and is supported by all Town Boards and the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce. Click to read a summary of this question by Peter LaGoy, Chairman, Downtown Revitalization Committee.

Hopkinton voters face property tax requests
By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

HCAM News Special
2010 Ballot Question #2, Downtown Revitalization with Town Manager Norman Khumalo and Downtown Revitalization Committee Chair Peter Lagoy.
Watch the Video

There are four running for two seats – choose wisely. Hopkinton will undergo more change in a matter of years than it has in decades. Your Board of Selectmen play a critical role in how our town develops. 
Todd S. Holbrook http://www.holbrookforselectman.com/ 508-435-3116
John M. Mosher http://johnmosher.net/ 
Joseph E. Nealon http://joenealon.com/ 508-435-2312
Benjamin L. Palleiko http://www.palleiko.com/ 617-548-1970

Hopkinton selectmen candidates tackle taxation issue
By Michael Morton/Daily News staff

HopNews Video
Four Hopkinton Selectmen Candidates Introduce Themselves & Andrew Sweeney Interviews Each Selectman candidate

Recap of Selectmen’s Debate
by Mark Collins, HCAM Staff Reporter
Read the Summary
Watch the Video

These are important positions. They make vital decisions that shape the buildings and infrastructure/zoning/resources of our town.

Planning Board, Department of Public Works candidates
By Michael Morton/staff writer GateHouse News Service

Women’s Club Candidates’ Night 2010
by Michelle Murdock, HCAM News Director
Read the Summary
Watch the Video

Hopkinton candidates: Balance town charm vs. growth
By Michael Morton/Daily News staff
Read the Article

A Blog Debate – Five Questions and Responses from the Four Board of Selectman Candidates

Educate Hopkinton posed the following five questions to our Selectman Candidates, covering school system funding (question #1), downtown revitalization (#2), Library expansion (#3), support for a “Green Community” (#4), and support for an override to fund a new elementary school (#5). We thank them for their responses and for their commitment to Hopkinton.

Todd S. Holbrook http://www.holbrookforselectman.com/ 508-435-3116, Republican Caucus Nominee
Benjamin L. Palleiko http://www.palleiko.com/ 617-548-1970, Republican Caucus Nominee
John M. Mosher http://johnmosher.net/
Joseph E. Nealon http://joenealon.com/ 508-435-2312

Here are their responses:

Question 1. The schools have lost a lot of ground over the last five years. Per pupil spending is 11.5% lower than the state average and lower than comparable districts; and class sizes have ballooned with the reduction of 34.7 staff members. When the Board of Selectmen set the budget message in the fall, should they ask the schools to cut costs, keep costs level, keep services level or increase costs in order to bring back some of the teaching positions and programs previously lost?

Todd Holbrook: Much depends on what happens with the larger economic picture over the coming months. Should we remain on course as coming out of the recession, which could mean an increase in (or at least leveling off of) state aid and a better job picture, then I would support increasing the school budget. I would welcome input from the School Committee and Appropriations Committee on whether to keep services level or increase funding to regain some lost ground. At the same time, we must be mindful of the increased strain that building a new school will put on town resources. And if the economy were to worsen (for example if the Greek crisis were to widen and cause a renewed recession), I would do my best to ensure at least level funding for the schools.

John Mosher: Bring back some of the lost teaching positions. Should they increase costs? That will likely happen to cover the increase in teaching positions but it can be offset somewhat by implementing energy saving measures. Some of these have already been proposed and can help add to the bottom line. The priority issue I keep hearing about is the number of teachers and I personally believe that the teacher student interaction is not only essential to teaching a child but also inspiring them. We all have teachers we remember that had a great influence on us.

Joe Nealon: I support our schools. I have four children currently attending the High School, Hopkins and Center School and continue to be amazed at the level of service, talent and commitment of our teachers and administrators. The school budgets are a priority to me and I can not see asking for a level budget without a loss of vital services. I will work with the Superintendant of the schools and the School Committee to make sure that we are continuing the level of service that has given us our reputation.

Ben Palleiko: As I have said all along, budgets for the past few years have been very tight and we need to begin to consider how to rebuild the level of services across town that have been in decline. That includes many departments, not just the schools. If elected, I would propose that the budget message that goes out in the fall would be along the lines of “responsible rebuilding”.
Rather than a top-down decision on overall budget size as has been the case for the past few years, I would recommend a bottoms-up approach where the Selectmen would ask each department to create a budget that begins to add back important elements that have been cut or eliminated in the past few years. That is the “rebuilding” part.
The “responsible” part refers to the fact that we must still keep close control over expenses and not create the expectation across departments that increased spending is assured in all cases. I would expect each person or group responsible for a budget to tie any proposed increased spending to their defined priorities (for the schools I expect that would be the strategic plan), rather than just recommend across-the-board increases or increases that aren’t tightly linked to improved or restored services. We don’t want to grow expenses simply because we can.
A final point is that the level at which we can pursue rebuilding will depend upon many factors that I can’t predict at this time, including the overall state of the economy and our future expectations on state aid. Budget holders may need to prioritize in cases where there are a number of unmet needs, but not all may be addressable at once. The Selectmen may also still need to adjust budgets to reflect areas of greatest need across departments. Rebuilding will likely be a several year process, not a one-shot set of increases. However, in most circumstances, I hope there will be much less need for the Selectmen to drive this process from the top down in the future.

Question 2. At Town Meeting, the Town voted by a 2/3 majority to support the $400,000 override for Redesigning Downtown Hopkinton, which could result in a $3-4 million state grant for Hopkinton. This override question will now go to Town Vote on the May 17 ballot. Do you support this initiative?

Todd Holbrook: Absolutely. A critical aspect of keeping Hopkinton’s budget balanced and taxes in check must be the attraction of new business to our community, in the right areas. A revitalized downtown district would help attract the types of businesses we need to generate additional revenue without overly burdening our schools and school budget.

John Mosher: Yes. We are gaining a significant increase in the value of each dollar we spend through the state assistance. Some of the $400,000 cost will be offset by current maintenance costs to repair what we have (this makes it an even better choice for Hopkinton). When this was presented it was stated that similar projects have brought 40+ jobs to the area that was revitalized.

Joe Nealon: I do. When was the last time you and your children walked the sidewalks of our downtown? I do so a number of times a week and I am frustrated at the dilapidated look of our town center. I want to see commercial growth in downtown and the sidewalks full of people walking, shopping and enjoying our town.
The $400,000.00 is the first step in obtaining the state grant and giving our town a face lift. Build it and they will come; maybe. Do nothing and they won’t come; certainly.
I would encourage everyone to vote in favor of the override.

Ben Palleiko: Yes. I have continually said that I favor projects and services that increase our quality of life in town, and the project to enhance downtown is clearly one of them. I also hope that a more attractive downtown would help bring additional businesses to that area, which would be a further benefit.
The state requires this expense be incurred in order to be eligible for the grant. The proponents of this article have represented that the grant is highly likely to be awarded following this project. As Selectman, I would do whatever I can to help the town obtain this grant.

Question 3. The Town will be seeking a state grant for expansion of the Library. Do you support an expanded library, and would you be in favor of the Town contributing 25% of the cost of the project in order to receive a state grant?

Todd Holbrook: Yes. Like other aspects of downtown revitalization, having a welcoming library within walking distance of downtown will assist in attracting new business while maintaining the town character which brought and keeps us all here. I am therefore in favor of the town participating in reasonable funding for an expanded library. I am also in favor of seeking private grants to assist with this cost in ways to minimize the burden on taxpayers.

John Mosher: Yes. Our community is clearly interested in promoting education. This culture of learning should be accessible to the entire community regardless of age or income. A library is a critical part of a vibrant town. This is another opportunity where the dollars the town spends are significantly supplemented by state aid, and, donations.

Joe Nealon: I do support the expansion of the library and in doing so also support the commitment to fund 25% of the construction costs in order to receive the grant money. Town meeting approved the transfer of the library property to the Town for just that purpose. As a user of the library I know that it has exhausted its life cycle. Hopkinton needs a new library to meet our needs.

Ben Palleiko: I have vigorously supported the Library and their expansion goals since my time on the Appropriation Committee from 2003-2007. The library is one of the few resources in town that can truly serve all the different age groups, and so it must be supported.
As I understand it, the town contributing 25% of the cost is a requirement to receive the grant. I consider this an important investment for the town to make. I would also help to whatever extent I can as the Library seeks to raise another 25% in private funding.

Question 4. Do you support Hopkinton’s application to become a “Green Community”? To receive this designation Hopkinton must meet five criteria and, once met, would become eligible for a portion of the annual $10 million state grant to energy conscious communities in the state.

Todd Holbrook: Yes. Earlier I did not support the Stretch Code solely on the basis of timing: While we are in, or just starting to come out of, the worst recession since the Great Depression, I question the need to impose little-understood costs on our current residents and detract from efforts to attract new business due to increased development costs. No one – including myself – could argue with the need to conserve resources and cut reliance on foreign energy. Now the people have spoken and adopted the Stretch Code, and I accept that decision. The remaining two prongs necessary to become a “Green Community,” adopting a policy for energy-efficient town vehicles and setting an energy conservation policy for town usages, are much more readily achievable and should impose minimal if any costs. Having passed the largest hurdle, we should move forward rapidly on these last two criteria and apply for grants to offset the costs we will incur under the Stretch Code. Additionally, upon receiving the “Green Community” designation, we should aggressively market Hopkinton with that designation to the types of low-impact businesses which would seek that designation and would benefit from our location.

John Mosher: Yes. This goes hand in hand with a town where open space, the environment, and education are important to the community. This is a program that supplements environmentally responsible programs with further savings. It also allows town government to demonstrate a commitment to the environment while reducing operating costs.

Joe Nealon: I voted no on the stretch code at town meeting not because I oppose a greener community, in fact I support it, but from a business standpoint we have put our town at a disadvantage to attracting new building.
If a company is looking for a community in which to build its new office building it has many options along 495. Each town has similar attributes and amenities. What a business owner is looking at is the bottom line. By requiring builders to now meet the 2012 code, their cost of construction rises considerably in Hopkinton as opposed to Westborough, Milford or Marlborough.

Ben Palleiko: The vote at town meeting makes it clear that Hopkinton is in favor of being more environmentally conscious, and so I would support reasonable efforts to achieve “Green Community” status. Based upon information provided at town meeting, it seems that Hopkinton is quite advanced in meeting the criteria to be eligible to apply for the grant. The materials state that the two major items remaining are: to establish the energy benchmark and reduction plan; and to purchase only fuel efficient vehicles.
However, I would want to spend at least as much effort on trying to use this status to attract commercial development to town as on applying for the grants. We need to develop a comprehensive plan for bringing appropriate commercial growth to town that emphasizes the town’s many positive attributes, including this status when it is achieved. The key issue from my perspective is to use this status to generate increased revenues, whether from grants or appropriate development.

5. The Elementary Building Committee is in full swing and on target to build a new school soon. They hope to bring a preferred option for the renovation or replacement of the Center School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) at their July 2010 meeting. Will you support an override to build a new elementary school to replace Center School?

Todd Holbrook: To answer this question requires clarification. If intended to ask if I support replacement rather than renovation, I would want to hear the Building Committee’s recommendations first. Proper renovations would require work during the school term, so logistics would be a problem facing renovations, but the central location of the present school is a good one. For these and many other reasons replacement versus renovation is a complex question which deserves consideration of the significant efforts being invested by the Building Committee. If instead the question is asking whether I would support an override for either replacement or renovation, the answer is easier: The largest expenditure of any town like Hopkinton must be for local education. If an override is necessary to fund a school needed for our children, I would support that override.

John Mosher: Yes. This is speculation but I am assuming that if it is the recommendation of the MSBA, the Center School Feasibility Study, and the School Committee, that the demand, population data, and finances support the need. It is my understanding that there are several different scenarios (possibly nine?) that are under review. Detailed studies have been completed that show an increase in the school age population (contrary to studies from several years ago). There would be significant state aid as well. This would also be a wonderful opportunity for Hopkinton to have a building to educate our children in that is energy efficient and healthy! LEED’s (http://www.usgbc.org/) rated buildings show higher productivity and health for workplace occupants, I would think the same would be true of children. We are all aware of the health problems some children incur in specific buildings, or other distractions (such as the overly warm temps at Center School). We need to keep in mind that a building can be more than just a space or a number.

Joe Nealon: Maybe……. Again I would be negligent to give you an answer. I have not seen the plan or the proposed costs. I can tell you I would support a renovation and potential expansion of Center School. We have a beautiful building in a central location. Before we undertake the expense of building an entirely new school on the outskirts of town (imagine the bus ride) I would explore the cost of renovating Center School.
I would need to look at all of the options available to the town in order to make an educated decision as to what would be best for our town.

Ben Palleiko: There is no question that the town needs to do something regarding Center School. I expect that I will support whatever recommendation is made by the Elementary Building Committee and I also expect that we will pay for this building the same way as we paid for all the others. However, in both cases I will certainly do the work to confirm that the recommendation makes sense and the payment mechanism remains the best option for the town and the taxpayers.