This is the first installment of three sets of candidate profiles for Waltham's School Committee, City Council At-Large, and Mayoral races in 2007. Today we examine the five School Committee candidates who are seeking three seats on the committee, which they will hold for one two-year term.
Each candidate's profile is followed by a short sound bite from the School Committee Candidate Forum held on Oct. 11.
Since 2001, the Waltham Schools have hired 40-50 new teachers each year mostly to replace retirees, according to a September interview with Waltham Assistant Superintendent Emile Rosenberg. Nationwide, districts face difficulties finding enough foreign language, math, science and special education teachers.
Listen to each candidate describe why they think teacher shortages are becoming more common, and what they think should be done to recruit and retain more qualified teachers.
Harold "Jerry" Walker
Age: Will be 61 on Nov. 2
Family: Wife, Judith, and two adult daughters who attended Waltham Schools
Neighborhood: North Waltham
Education: Bachelor's degree in History from University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Master's degree in Education from Boston University
Occupation: Waltham High School history and social science teacher from 1968-2003, now retired.
Experience: School Committee member since 2003; founding member of Youth Opposed to Using (YOU), a student anti-drug and drinking group; Waltham Park and Recreation Board member since 2003; member of Waltham High School Evaluation Steering Committee for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation, 1973-75, 1983-85, 1993-95; Reagle Players Featured Performer appearing in more than 30 productions.
Key issues: Walker said he wants to find ways to encourage and enable teachers in Waltham to work through the ranks and become administrators. He thinks professional development offered to teachers should have more of a practical emphasis, and that successful master teachers within the district should be encouraged to share their methods. He also wants to make the School Department website a better tool for communicating policy, achievements and information about the schools.
What distinguishes him: "I think I wear a number of hats. Besides being a former educator, besides being a community person involved in things like the Park and Rec Board, and a parent and a grandparent... I am a stage performer, so that helps with interpersonal skills a great deal." He said his years as a teacher who created courses like AP History and Foreign Policy gave him insight into what makes an effective curriculum, and his experience as an evaluator of other school systems with NEASC helps him to better evaluate Waltham's schools.
-- Stephanie Siek
Family: married to husband Thomas, they have two daughters, 8-year-old Sophia and 6-year-old Ava. They attend Henry Whittemore Elementary School.
Neighborhood: South Side
Education: After graduating from Waltham High, she attended the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for two years, studying child psychology.
Occupation: Merchandise specialist for the TJX Companies in Framingham
Experience: Co-president of Whittemore Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization since 2004, cofounder and board member of the Waltham Education and Beyond Foundation
Key issues: "My priorities this go around would be the MCAS [several] schools haven't met Adequate Yearly Progress, and that's really concerning to me. I know it's a tough test, and I know it's state mandated, but we really need to stop making excuses and put our department heads on notice and start making some hard changes, and not accept mediocrity." Limonciello said she also wants to make sure the committee finds ways to mitigate large class sizes before the start of the school year, by adding teachers, aides, or volunteers. She is emphatic for the need for a better School department website that provides information for parents and touts the district's achievements.
What distinguishes her: Her corporate background and ability to put efficiency and effectiveness over politics, she says. "Some of our school committee members want to play nice in the sand with everybody. but it's about running a business and doing right by the students, and not about who you used to work with, or who you were friends with. That's not important to me. My children and their education are what's important."
-- Stephanie Siek
Susan R. Burstein
Family: husband Richard Scales, 5-year-old daughter, Abigail, who attends James FitzGerald Elementary School
Education: Waltham High School, bachelor's degree in Public Administration from New York University
Occupation: Chief Budget Officer for City of Newton
Experience: Waltham School Committee member since 1999 and current vice chair, former Ward 7 City Councilor from 1992-1993. Before her current job, she was a budget director for the state Department of Transitional Assistance.
Key issues: "We've had, and I think will continue to have, turnover of some leaders and educators. and finding qualified people who understand the really diverse nature of the community has been and will continue to be important," she said. She also said that the need to improve MCAS and SAT scores is important, but that the city should not have to sacrifice its advanced arts and performing arts programs to do so. She wants to better communicate the district's achievements and improve the School Department website.
What distinguishes her from the other candidates: Burstein said it's her experience in the public sector that sets her apart - as a Newton budget official, a former city councilor, and a former state official - and as one of only two candidates with children currently in the schools. "I think it gives you, albeit somewhat anecdotal, experience and knowledge of what's going on on a daily basis; how information is being communicated to parents. It gives a unique opportunity to communicate with other parents and find out what their experiences are, because obviously experiences are not uniform. "
Robert J. Waddick, who is running unopposed for the Ward 6 City Council seat he had previously occupied during the 1990s, has announced that he will resign from his post as one of Waltham's assistant city solicitors.
Waddick said his last day in the office will be July 27. His resignation will take effect on Aug. 10. He said his departure is not related to his city council bid, and that he was ethically permitted to hold both jobs.
"I made a decision to run for the Ward 6 seat only after I determined that I could serve as a city councilor and a municipal employee at the same time. The state law permits it," Waddick said.
Waddick's new job will be as assistant city solicitor for the city of Newton, an opportunity he said became available after he had decided to run for office.
Waddick has held his current position since 2006. Prior to that, he worked as an attorney for the city's Board of Assessors and Treasurer/Collector's Department for two years. He also served as David Gately's deputy mayor from 2000 to 2004, and as Ward 6 councilor from 1992 to 2000. He served on Waltham's school committee from 1986 to 1991.
"I'm looking forward to a new challenge in the city of Newton and looking forward to continued service to the city of Waltham on City Council," said Waddick. "This is my home, and this is where I'm going to stay and remain active in local affairs."
-- Stephanie V. Siek
Congressmen from the area are good at raising money, a Worcester Telegram and Gazette report notes today.
In the 2006 midterm elections, Rep. Barney Frank outpaced his fellow Massachusetts congressmen in raising $1.8 million, according to FEC reports.
In terms of war chests, Rep. Ed Markey ranks second in the nation among congressmen with $2.4 million, behind only colleague Rep. Martin Meehan, who has amassed $5.1 million.
Many of the well-heeled congressmen gave money to other candidates for office, helping them win election.
-- Adam Sell
Sarah Dion gave a thumbs-up sign to passing motorists as she held a sign urging people to "Vote No on Question One," in front of the Horace Mann School in Newton today. (Globe Staff Photo by Bill Polo)
Campaign volunteers stuffed their pockets with stickers bearing the names of their candidates for Framingham's 6th Middlesex House seat this morning and fanned out to the town's precincts where voters are choosing a successor to deceased state Representative Deborah D. Blumer.
Blumer's death, of a heart attack last month, set up a six-way write-in race for the Democrat's seat. Although the Democratic and Republican committees in the town each selected preferred candidates, four others hopefuls also are staging aggressive campaigns for the seat in a race that has focused on illegal immigration, social services and taxes.
"Most people got stickers in the mail and brought them with them," said Evelyn Reilly, a volunteer for the campaign of Nicholas Sanchez, who has been endorsed by local Republicans.
She stood outside the Hemenway School in Framingham alongside about a dozen other volunteers for legislative and gubernatorial candidates. "It's a free-for-all," she said of the month-long campaign for the seat.
Campaign volunteers there and poll worker William Toll said turnout had been steady and appeared high. About 640 people had cast votes there by 11:30 this morning.
"There's been incredible voter turnout," said Pam Richardson, the Democratic-endorsed candidate for the seat, who went to the Hemenway School to greet voters. "I'm surprised at how quickly people have come to understand the process."
The Town Clerk's office has provided additional training for poll workers who will be reading and counting thousands of hand-written votes in the race tonight.
In addition to hot button political topics, the race has focused on who could best continue the legacy of Blumer, considered a progressive liberal who advocated for government benefits for immigrants and gay rights among other stands.
Dawn Harkness, an attorney and Town Meeting member, joined the race after the Democratic party selected Richardson.
"I feel (Harkness) is the most qualified out of the six candidates, and the most progressive," said Lee Mason, who held signs outside the Hemenway School supporting Harkness.
Also running are Republican Jim Rizoli, a staunch anti-illegal immigration activist, Republican Tom Tierney, an actuary, and independent Gerald Bloomfield, a retired engineer.
The Newton Election Commission has announced that the last day to register to vote for the November 7th State Election is tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 18.
The Election Commission will have extended hours tomorrow until 8 p.m. For more information, call the commission at 617-796-1350.
Remember the rules: if you don't vote, you can't complain afterward.
-- Connie Paige
The voters will have their say.
A referendum on the controversial site plan for a new Newton North High School will go to a ballot after the Board of Aldermen voted 16 to 8 last night against rescinding their earlier vote to approve it.
A special election on the site plan could come by Jan. 23.
What it all means, however, is far from clear, city officials said. City Solicitor Daniel Funk, for example, said that even if voters give a thumbs down to the site plan, the aldermen could then meet and simply approve exactly the same drawing again.
Ward 2 Alderman Stephen Linsky questioned whether the Law Department’s interpretation was correct.
“I’m not so sure I agree with they conclusions they came up with,” said Linsky, who is an attorney.
Supporters of the original site plan last night pledged to market its merits during the three months leading up to the election. They argued that pushing for a positive vote at the polls was the quickest way to get the project back on track.
“I will work as hard as humanly possible to convince the citizens we have made the right decision in their behalf,” said Sydra Schnipper, alderman at large from Ward 7.
Linsky and other board members also said it would be difficult to know how to read the tea leaves of the election, even after the results are in. Voters could say no for any number of reasons, they said, including the overall cost of the project, estimated at from $140 million to $165 million.
Paul Coletti, alderman at large from Ward 5, predicted that the ballot question on the site plan could be followed by another specifically referendum addressing the price tag and what he sees as the mayor’s faulty plan to pay for it. Mayor David B. Cohen has called for a financing plan that would use revenue from new growth, instead of a tax override or debt exclusion.
“Wait until you see the delay that’s going to happen in the future,” Coletti said.
A firm date for the election has not yet been set.
-- Connie Paige
Have an opinion on the Newton North project? Let your neighbors hear it in the Globe West Message Boards.
Opponents of the current site plan for a new Newton North High School want a citywide vote to determine what the building should look like, how much it should cost, and how to pay for it.
The opponents voiced their view this week after apparently collecting enough signatures from voters to force aldermen to reconsider their approval of the plan, which outlines how the new buildings and fields would be placed on the existing site.
If the aldermen do not reconsider their vote, a citywide referendum would then be held where citizens could vote to overturn or endorse the site plan. But opponents of the current $140 million to $165 million plan say they want residents to be able to express their desires in more detail, rather than simply voting "yes" or "no" on the current site plan.
“Before the city embarks on the most expensive project we’ve ever undertaken, I think we should vote about what we want,” said Laura Naylor of Citizens for a Better Newton North, which participated in the signature drive.
Whether the idea will fly is up to aldermen. Their vote on whether to reconsider their approval of the site plan could come as early as this Tuesday, board president Lisle Baker said.
Ward 6 Alderman-at-Large Kenneth Parker said he would back a referendum that allowed voters to state their preferences among several options. Parker said he does not believe a majority of his colleagues would support the idea, however.
“I’m not sure that’s going to get a lot of traction,” Parker said.
-- Connie Paige
While the candidates for governor met for their first debate on Monday, Lieutenant Governor candidate and Worcester Mayor Tim Murray went for a run. He ran the city's annual 3.1 mile "Mayor's Run/Walk" in just under 30 minutes alongside more than 80 other runners and walkers.
The run meanders through some of the city's toughest neighborhoods and draws about a dozen dedicated runners each week. The mayor joins once a year.
On Monday night, they came from throughout the suburbs and as far away as New Hampshire to hit the course. Marathon running legend Bill Rodgers, who lives in Boxboro, was there and finished with a time of 26:44. Worcester State Representative Bob Spellane finished in just over 22 minutes and Worcester City Councilor Rick Rushton finished in about 25 minutes.
Veteran Worcester City Councilor Gary Rosen walked the course. For a complete list, visit :
Next week's race starts at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at 226A Chandler St. (in front of John & Son II deli).
-- Meg Woolhouse
Deval L. Patrick scored a convincing win in Needham with 54 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for governor, surpassing his statewide result of 50 percent.
In total, 3,413 voters opted for Patrick; 1,824 for Christopher Gabrieli; and 1050 for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, according to figures from the Town Clerk’s office.
Overall voter turnout came to 36.42 percent of the town’s 18,553 active voters.
-- Lauren K. Meade
It’s an annual event, but one that has taken on particular significance in light of the current hostilities between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants.
Members of the Newton area’s Jewish community will gather tonight at the Newton War Memorial on the grounds of City Hall for a “Community Vigil for Israeli Victims of Terror.”
The 6 p.m. event -- which is sponsored by the Boston Israel Action Committee; the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston; Congregation Beth El – Atereth Israel, Congregation Shaarei Tefillah and Temple Emanuel of Newton; The David Project; Young Israel of Brookline; and the South Area Israel Action Team – is expected to draw a larger crowd that usual due to the current fighting.
Officials said they are also watching for a possible increase in the number of counter-demonstrators, especially after an Israeli air strike on Sunday killed 54 civilians in the town of Qana, including 19 children. The Israeli government called the attack a “tragic mistake” and announced a 48-hour cessation of air strikes on suspected Hezbollah targets so it could investigate what happened.
Continue watching this space for a report from the vigil tonight…
-- Ralph Ranalli
Preliminary designs for the new Newton North High School call for a 2,000-seat, bowl-like football stadium depressed into the ground. Advocates like the design, saying the stadium can accommodate graduation ceremonies.
Foes, however, scoff, and are asking: "What happens when it rains?"
"A $5 million football stadium large enough to accommodate a once-a-year event -- and one that would have to be moved to Boston College in inclement weather -- is a luxury that Newton simply cannot afford," said resident Jane Frantz, who has been monitoring the planning for the new school.
-- Connie Paige
What would you do if you found half a million dollars under the couch cushions?
Newton Mayor David Cohen said this afternoon that the city would put 70 percent of the city's unexpected $500,000 state aid windfall into the upcoming year's school budget.
Newton's schools are facing another year of cuts in staff and programs because the 3 percent to 4 percent budget increases of the past few years have not kept pace with soaring energy, healthcare, and special education costs, city officials say. Cohen said it would be up the the School Committee and Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young to decide what to do with $350,000.
"The quality of Newton's schools is a source of pride for all of us," Cohen said at a 1:30 p.m. press conference in Newton Highlands.
Cohen said that another $80,000 of the aid boost would be put into the city's energy reserve fund, to help defray future hikes in the cost of gasoline, natural gas, heating oil and electricity.
The remaining money will go to restore a $70,000 cut to the Public Buildings Department, Cohen said, which was made this spring to help balance the city budget.
-- Ralph Ranalli
Just when they thought it was safe to lay out on that lawn chair...
In a move likely to send Waltham City Councilors scrambling back from vacation, Mayor Jeannette McCarthy has vetoed the creation of a controversial commercial zoning district near Totten Pond Road.
City Clerk Rosario "Russ" Malone said that he received the veto along with a related communication from the mayor to councilors on Monday, but that it had been signed June 30, just before the Independence Day holiday.
Councilor Robert G. Logan and other supporters of the ordinance, which narrowly passed June 26, will have to get an approval from two-thirds of the council's 14 members to override the veto, and they might need a special meeting to do it because they've adjourned for the summer.
Watch for more details in Sunday's Globe West.
-- Stephanie Siek
Bernice Neuhaus, the 83-year-old "mail girl" at Marlborough City Hall, has become something of a celebrity since she was featured in a Globe West story and slide show on June 25.
Her daughter, Carlene DiDonato of Northborough, writes in an e-mail that her mother has been deluged with fan mail from strangers who read the story and felt inspired by Neuhaus' spunk and determination. (The white-haired octagenarian walks up five flights of stairs multiple times each day to deliver mail and conversation.)
How does Neuhaus handle all the attention? According to her daugher, she walks up to friends and coworkers and says with a laugh, "Touch me, I'm a celebrity now!"
-- Megan Woolhouse
A young Newton man is making a splash in cyberspace. Dave Tutor, along with three of his friends, launched Beyondpartisan.org last Sept. 11, calling it "the editorial page for every American."
The four founders, who are all graduates of Wesleyan University, received help in raising money to start their website from Wesleyan president Douglas J. Bennet.
The website aims to encourage "spirited but civil debate" among people of differing political perspectives, the Globe reported Sunday.
Parents in Hudson are upset at Cobblestone magazine, designed for 9 -to -14-year-olds, for an issue that some feel was essentially a recruiting pitch for the Army.
The New Hampshire-based magazine, which is distributed to schools nationwide, dedicated its latest issue to the Army, and included articles on career opportunities in the Army and what it's like to go through boot camp.
The editors of the magazine told the Globe in a front-page story today that the idea for the issue was theirs alone.
Marlborough Mayor Nancy Stevens says she's amazed by Bernice Neuhaus, the unsung hero of mail delivery at city hall. For 16 years she has delivered the mail to and from offices on five floors. And at age 83, she shuns the elevator in favor of the stairs.
Meg Woolhouse wrote about Neuhaus in Sunday's Globe West, and there's a slide show, too, with more pictures and audio of Bernice.