4 school candidates support rebuilding high school; some differences on Metco

The four candidates for School Committee seeking three three-year seats are incumbents Paul Schlichtman and William Hayner as well as second-time hopeful Michael Buckley and newcomer Jennifer Susse. Here are their answers to five questions asked at Candidates' Night on Thursday, March 20, covering Minuteman vs. Arlington High, goals, ACE, Metco and libraries:

William HaynerWilliam HaynerCampaign website Paul SchlichtmanPaul SchlichtmanCampaign website

Michael BuckleyMichael BuckleyCampaign website

 

Jennifer SusseJennifer R. SusseCampaign website

 

No. 1: How do you set priorities between revamping Arlington High School and Minuteman?

Buckley, who teaches at Minuteman, said both goals were important. Because he has two daughters in the public schools, he does not favor renovation but wants a full high school rebuild.

Schlichtman, a school administrator in Lowell who once served on the Minuteman board, noted that the tech school's assessment has risen 61 percent over the last three years and is now at 38 percent. "We can’t afford to pay for 40-percent of Minuteman," he said. He called for negotiating a new accord.

"I agree with everything he said. Thanks Paul," Hayner, a retired teacher, said with a smile, drawing laughs. "I want the best for our children."

Susse, who has taught philosophy on the university level, urged the public to tour AHS and see the state of the school for themselves. The focus should be on the high school, not Minuteman, she suggested.

No. 2: What are your top three goals for town schools?

Schlichtman made clear all three involved Arlington High. Enrollment is now over 5,000 students, he said.

"Mr. Schlichtman keeps giving me the time," Hayner said, indicating his agreement with the goals and the need to work together to achieve them.

Susse pointed to four chief aims. Besides rebuilding AHS, she cited improved learning, better professional development for teachers and communication.

For Hayner, it was the AHS rebuild, recruiting and retaining the best teachers and addressing enrollment growth via the budget.

No. 3: Should the ACE program be funded at all levels?

Hayner hesitated about answering, and Schlichtman, seated next to him, whispered that the letters refer to a gifted program the schools once had. Hayner expressed support, but noted that the Core Curriculum, instituted this school year, amounted to an unfunded mandate.

Susse said she backs ACE, but the issue "must be thought out carefully." She said administrators need to decide how to reduce class size -- all that calls for "a tradeoff ... a conversation."

Buckley said, "ACE is instrumental in this community. We spend so much on special education. Gifted need equal time."

Schlichtman had a different view. "There is no such thing as unequivocal support for one program," he said. "I'm not going to tie myself to any one program."

No. 4: Should Arlington public schools continue to maintain Metco?

Susse hesitated and then said: “Ah, the third rail." She noted that Arlington public schools have 71 such students. She said she favors diversity, that she chose to live in East Arlington because it is diverse, but that "everything’s on the table."

Buckley said the 71 students deserve support, and he fully supports them. Yet, given the new AHS project coming, "we have to give priority to what we have here .... It does break my heart" that such a choice has to be made.

Schlichtman noted that he has worked in Boston and met many Metco graduates. The issues with the program "are a state problem," he said.

Hayner said he grew up in Arlington -- until age 21, when he went into the Air Force and had his first experience with diversity. "I will support Metco to the end," he said.

No. 5: How should we support school libraries and new technology?

Buckley said to make sure technology is covered via allocations in town's capital budget. "I wasn't a great student by the way," he said, but noted the role the library has played in his life.

Schlichtman cited elementary librarians laid off in 2004, adding, "We have not recovered from that damage .... We need to fund [libraries] innovative ways."

Hayner said his daughter is a school librarian in Lexington, where she teaches research skills and is an integral part of educational system.

Susse noted that donations pay for book in Arlington's elementary libraries. "Librarians work for little money and do a fantastic job," she said.

In closing, Hayner said voters now need to do their jobs, and cast ballots April 5.

Schlichtman said: "We don’t always agree on the School Committee .... but I am proud to be with these people."

Buckley said: "Our children are our most important investments."

Susse said she would listen with respect and with an open mind. "We have an opportunity to think in visionary ways," she said.

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This story was published Sunday, March 23, 2014, and updated March 25.