Last week I posted that School Committee candidates need to do their homework and in my opinion these questions needed to be answered.
A) How will you address the Teacher’s Contract issue and what is your stance on negotiating?
B) Will you commit to supporting the current Supt. of Schools?
C) Should the High School stay or move out of the Downtown?
D) How will you work with your fellow committee members to insure that the dysfunction and personal animosity among current members doesn’t exist in the next two years?
Challenger Chris Roux who will join us tomorrow morning at 8:30 on WCAP Saturday Morning Live w/ Warren Shaw responds to those questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the questions you posed last week. These are questions I have been addressing over the past few months while I have been out campaigning. Whether it’s been as I’m knocking on doors getting to know voters, doing interviews on the radio or for the newspaper, or at different public events. These are some of the major issues the City is dealing with and why I decided to run.
A) In regards to the Teacher’s contract and negotiating, I’m not privy to what conversations have already been had, but from the outside I can tell you they have not been very fruitful. From what I understand, they were hung up on negotiating how to negotiate. It seems to me that one/both sides were not very interested in making any real progress. I believe both sides should come to the table with an idea of what they want, what they can accept, and find a common ground that can satisfy both. Like you, I did my research on the current state of where Lowell Teachers ranks amongst the rest of the state and comparable cities. According to the DOE, as of 2012-13, with an average salary of $78,298, Lowell is slightly above the state average of $71,620, and similar to the Greater Lowell Vocational School that sits at $77,445. The UTL says the real average salary is $68,050. It doesn’t matter which figure you use, nothing jumped out at me either. It is my thought that both the School Committee and the Teacher’s Union should start with some goals and a timeline as to when they want this done and stick to them.
B) I have already gone on the record and said that Dr. Jay Lang would have been my choice for Superintendent. His knowledge of the inner workings of the operations and budget made him a great candidate combined with his experience going through the School System himself and now watching his own children progress through it. The person who was ultimately chosen, Dr. Khelfaoui is coming from a District in Winchendon where it is only 1/10 the size of Lowell’s. He is going to need a School Committee that is fully committed to him. Lowell is going on its 4th School Superintendent in the last 7 years. You cannot expect to make any real progress when you’re changing leaders every 2 years. We need Dr. Khelfaoui to succeed if the District is going to succeed. My hope is with his knowledge of the area, previously working in Billerica and now living in Chelmsford he has some idea of what he is coming into. And, with his own experience as an E.L.L. student, he will be able to relate to the students and the challenges they are dealing with. Also, with his background in I.T. I would assume he can really open some doors for us in regards to technology in the classroom. So, I 100% support Dr. Sal Khelfaoui.
C) Should the High School stay in the Downtown or should it be moved, and to where? Depending on who you talk to, a case can be made for both. I recently participated in the Lowell Walks Tour of the High School lead by Headmaster Martin. He made some really great points for keeping it Downtown. If you look at the guidelines for the MSBA, they don’t have a plan for a High School to hold more than around 2,000 students. That means we technically should have 2 High Schools.(I’m not in favor of that) But, it also comes with some other constraints like the size of the auditorium. We currently have a beautiful theater that seats over 1,000 people, but the largest the MSBA will build is for around 600. The other side of the argument says that it would be good for business/economic development for the City to move it and sell the land to a developer who can take advantage of the location. There is also a concern I have for the disruption it would cause the students if we were to renovate and rebuild. Also, do we want to push several successful businesses out of the Downtown to take their land through eminent domain? The MSBA would not reimburse us for that. That cost would be paid for directly by the residents of Lowell. These are just a few of the things that need to be factored into the decision of what to do with the High School. With the feasibility study not complete and Manager Murphy’s recommendations brought forward, I haven’t come down on either side yet.
D) The dysfunction and personal politics on display during decision making processes was one of the major reasons why I decided to run. It was frustrating to watch as Committee Members repeatedly put personal feelings ahead of the children. As a parent who has three children currently in the School System I want what’s best for them and their classmates. For the next few years I will have a child at every level of the School system. My youngest daughter is going into the 3rd grade, my middle daughter is going into the 7th, and my son is going to be a freshman at the High School. No other candidate can say they have as much in the game as I do. It is imperative that this new School Committee works together and supports each other as well as the new Administration. I don’ think it’s possible for all 7 Members to agree on everything all of the time, but if we treat each other respectfully and professionally we should be able to do what’s best for the students.