Position paper: Paul Desmond

Seat: School Committee – 3 year term

(vote for 2 candidates)

Why I am running for office:

Like many residents, one of the main reasons my wife and I moved to Southborough about 10 years ago was the quality and reputation of its schools. Our two kids (grades 5 and 3) have now been in the school system for a number of years and we are quite happy with that decision. Simply put, I’m running for re-election to the School Committee because I want to do all I can to maintain the quality of Southborough schools and ensure all of our kids get the best possible education at a price the town can afford.

Why I am the right candidate for the position:

Having served on the committee for 3 years now, I have learned a good deal about how the school committee and the school system functions, what is feasible and what isn’t, and the role state and federal governments play (or fail to play). Experience matters in this position and I have dedicated significant time and effort to gain that experience.

All school committee members have ample opportunity to get involved in various projects. I have chosen to be involved in numerous efforts over the past 3 years, including:

  • The Northborough-Southborough Technology Advisory Committee
  • 2011 negotiations with secretaries and aides (and, soon, 2014 negotiations)
  • 2011-12 student population/school building research
  • The Neary 1:1 Initiative Committee
  • 2014-15 Calendar Study Group
  • 2014 Neary Principal Search

I’ve also served on several subcommittees including:

  • Legislative ad hoc group
  • Collective Bargaining
  • Curriculum Advisory
  • Liaison for technology

Like all School Committee members, I was also involved in the recent search for a new superintendent and the 2014 teacher contract negotiations.

From each of these efforts I’ve gained experience that I hope to carry with me to a second term and share with other school committee members. Some, like the 1:1 initiative, remain works in progress. I hope to continue to make progress and apply lessons learned from our early efforts such that we can see such projects through. Lessons learned around issues such as communication can also be applied to future endeavors.

Other efforts I’ve been involved with will take more time to cultivate, such as pushing for legislation at the State House. I have taken a special interest in this area because I believe some of the budget pressure we feel every year is due to a lack of appropriate funding from state and federal government, as well as implementation of unfunded mandates that take precious resources away from our teachers, administrators and staff.

During my 3 years on the committee I have cultivated relationships with Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Sen. Jamie Eldridge in order to ensure they understand the issues that are important to our school district and to gain their support for legislation that can help our cause. I’m happy to say they have been quite receptive, although change is slow to come given the current fiscal climate and the nature of state government.

A classic example is inclusion of special education transportation costs in the state circuit breaker formula, which reimburses cities and towns for special education (SPED) expenses. SPED transportation gets no such reimbursement, even though the annual expense is about the same as for all other transportation costs. Rep. Dykema and Sen. Eldridge are well aware of our desire to remedy this issue (thanks in no small part to Dr. Charles Gobron’s efforts over the year) and have supported legislation which would do just that, legislation that got further this year than any previous year but has so far still fallen short of passage. As with just about anything that involves state government, this is an issue that requires perseverance – which I hope to help provide.

Another reason I believe I’m well suited for this position is my background in journalism. Many times being an effective school committee member comes down to asking good questions. I’ve interviewed countless people over the course of my career in the IT trade press and have learned how to ask simple but effective questions. One example: at one meeting we were presented with pricing for some wireless network infrastructure we needed to upgrade our schools. I asked whether the price was for a bulk purchase or more of a one by one approach. It was the latter. Long story short, our technology director found a good deal on a bulk purchase, administrators and finance folks found creative ways to get the money to make it happen and we were able to get our schools prepared for a 1:1 technology initiative far ahead of what was planned at the time – while saving thousands of dollars.

My priorities/Key issues:

It should be no surprise that my key priorities map closely to those the full School Committee adopted for fiscal 2015 (the list is included in the Jan. 8, 2014 meeting materials; PDF is available here.) They are:

  • Implementing technology in classrooms to support 21st century teaching and learning, one of the four areas of strategic focus in “Vision 2020,” the district’s recently adopted strategic plan (see PDF here).
  • Challenging each student to reach his or her maximum potential, no matter where on the learning spectrum that student may fall. Crucial to this is meeting our goals around appropriate student-to-teacher ratios to ensure teachers can provide individualized attention.
  • Ensuring we continue to educate the whole child, offering a diverse set of experiences and opportunities including art, music, sports and drama.
  • Continuing to work legislative avenues to correct problems in our funding structure to ease the cost burden on cities and towns. Specific issues include:
    • Addressing the SPED reimbursement structure through support of bills such as: H.511 – An Act relative to special education reimbursements; and H.493 – An Act relative to special education transportation costs
    • Providing relief from unfunded mandates. Passage of a bill such as H.3722, which would establish an educational mandate task force, would be a good start.
  • Ensuring adequate funding to maintain our school buildings, which is becoming more challenging now that our newer buildings are starting to age.
  • Continue to listen and respond to the concerns of parents and citizens of Southborough with respect to our schools.

Additional Comments:

As mentioned above, being a member of the school committee can be quite time-consuming, especially if you choose to get involved in various efforts, as I have. Fortunately, I am self-employed and have a good deal of flexibility in my schedule, not to mention a supportive wife for whom I am eternally grateful.

At the end of the day, though, it’s really all about the kids. They underscore all School Committee work and I hope to continue my efforts to provide them the best possible education.

To contact me to help support my candidacy:

Email: paul@pdedit.com

(Contributed photo)

[Editor’s Note: If you would like to endorse this candidate, you can comment below. This section is a mud-free, shenanigan-free zone!  So, endorsements must include your name and street name. And no criticisms or questions are to be posted on this page. You can include your reason for endorsement as long as it’s not slinging mud at other candidates.]

One thought on “Position paper: Paul Desmond

  1. I whole-heartedly endorse Paul for the school committee. He has done a great job and I think he deserves the opportunity to continue his work. Thanks for all you do, Paul!

    PS – I do not want to leave my street address online. If that prevents my comment from being posted, I understand.

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