School Committee replaces 3 members

By Jesse Zhang
Published: November 2009

Three new candidates and all three incumbents won the School Committee elections on November 3. Six of the eight seats, which are open once every two years, were contested during this year’s School Committee election.

Incumbent Claire Sokoloff beat Olivia Matthews 9,112 votes to 6,659 votes in Ward 6; incumbent Reenie Murphy came ahead of Margaret Albright at 8,523 votes to 6,118 votes in Ward 2; incumbent Jonathan Yeo defeated Dan Proskauer 8,590 votes to 6,163 votes in Ward 4. 

Margie Ross Decter beat Tom Mountain 11,964 votes to 4,719 votes in Ward 8; Matt Hills defeated Susan Flicop 8,301 votes to 6,543 votes in Ward 7; and Susan Rosenbaum defeated Steven Siegel 7,487 votes to 6,935 votes in Ward 5.

Ross Decter, Hills, and Rosenbaum will replace outgoing School Committee members Dori Zaleznik, Marc Laredo, and Susan Heyman, respectively. v
Incumbents Geoff Epstein of Ward 1 and Kurt Kusiak of Ward 3 had no opponents and won their seats by default.

The newly elected members chose Sokoloff as Chair and Murphy the new Vice Chair on November 16.
Laredo and Zaleznik’s seats could not run again because they had each served for four terms, the maximum allowed for School Committee members. Heyman had served for eight years, left for two years, and then came back for six years before this election.

According to Murphy, the outgoing members provided the committee with a lot of experience. “They have all worked very hard, Murphy said, “but I have every reason to believe that the new members will work hard [as well].

“There’s mixed feelings, Yeo said. “You lose a lot of experience and dedication and knowledge about how the school system works. The good side is that you’re bringing in new blood, new energy. 

Despite the loss of experienced members, Yeo feels that the three new members’ backgrounds will be valuable to the School Committee. Rosenbaum has a Ph. D. in biology; Hills has a finance background; and, unlike the other members of the committee, Ross Dector has young children in the Newton Public School system. 

“All of those skills are definitely needed and welcomed, Murphy said. 

Under the old School Committee chaired by Marc Laredo, the group completed the Strategic plan, maintained a strong school system in light of budget cuts, and has moved into hiring a new superintendent. 

In the upcoming school year, the committee will focus on hiring a new superintendent. Although a superintendent search committee consisting of teacher, parent, and student representatives will search nationwide for candidates, the School Committee will make the final decision. 

Sokoloff, currently the Vice Chair of the School Committee, believes that because the budget is so tight, the next School Committee members will have to make the most out of their resources. 

“We don’t have the same financial resources, Murphy said. “We have to figure out how to deliver the same amount of service.

The School Committee is also increasing cooperation with local universities, such as Boston University and Northeastern University, in terms of bringing interns and graduate students into the school system.  

According to Yeo, the committee is also examining the possibility of implementing a new food system that would use interns or a private contractor. The food system lost about $1,000,000 last year. 

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