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Schlichtman's energy, sense of history aim to keep challenges in check

Paul Schlichtman, 2017

ELECTION'S EARLY LOOK: Brief profiles of those who have taken out nomination papers for major offices in the annual town election, set for Saturday, April 1.

"These are exciting times in our schools," writes Paul Schlichtman, who has served on the town School Committee for 11 years and is seeking three more.

Why exciting? "We are building a new Gibbs School, planning for a new Arlington High School, renovating the Stratton School, expanding the Thompson School and planning an addition to the Hardy School.

Deploying numbers, wit

"I am energized by the tasks ahead, and honored to be able to work with six fantastic School Committee colleagues as we meet the challenges we face in Arlington."

That upbeat look at the times ahead offers residents an attitude they may need, given the difficulties looming.

Schlichtman, who has lived in Arlington for the past 25 years, brings to the committee a deep appreciation of numbers as well as a quick wit. He uses the former to assess student testing and the latter to punctuate dry meetings.

The 64-year-old central office administrator for the Lowell public schools was asked the major three challenges that a candidate for this seat faces and how he would address each with an aim to improve Arlington. Schlichtman responded Feb. 1:

-- 1. Rebuilding Arlington High School. "We have made tremendous progress in the past two years, but we have significant work ahead of us. We were accepted into the core program of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and we are advancing to feasibility study module of the construction program.

"We brought our case to the voters last June, and the funding for the feasibility study was approved by a 3-to-1 margin. Our challenge going forward is to devise a plan for a school that serves our community well for the next several decades."

-- 2. Meeting the needs of a growing enrollment. "During the housing crash eight years ago, Arlington was one of a few communities that retained housing values through the crisis. When lenders started to make mortgages available again, Arlington became a popular destination for young families.

"We are in the middle of a demographic shift, and many young families are willing to trade space for the amenities of an urban community with reasonable commutes and enticing amenities. We are in the middle of an enrollment surge that has us repurposing the Gibbs School, adding six classrooms to the Thompson School and planning for an addition to the Hardy School.

"Our challenge is to continue to stay ahead of the demographic trends, and to rally community support for the funding required to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding enrollment."

-- 3. Maintaining momentum. "During my time on the School Committee, we have made steady progress in our schools. We now have a culture of continuous improvement, and our teachers are committed to the work of making things a little bit better every day. We need to support or teaching staff in their work, and provide them the encouragement and resources they need to do great things for our children.

"The connection among all three items, for the School Committee, is to build the community's understanding of our challenges, and gain support for our work."

Qualifications, service

Asked about his qualifications to continue on the committee, he cited his extensive school-related background:

-- Past president, Massachusetts Association of School Committees (president in 2004);

-- 15 years of School Committee service (four years on the Minuteman Regional School Committee, 11 years on the Arlington School Committee;

-- 21 years of service as a Town Meeting member (1993-2003 and 2006-present);

-- 34 years as a public school teacher and administrator; and

-- B.S., City University of New York; Ed.M., C.A.S., Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

The other two School Committee incumbents who have also taken out papers are Jennifer Susse and Bill Hayner.

In the 2014 town election, Schlichtman came in third among School Committee candidates, with 3,102 votes, close behind Hayner's 3,131. Susse came out on top with 3,646. Turnout that year was 20.08 percent.

In 2012, Schlichtman was appointed to the vacancy created when Joseph Curro Jr. was elected to the Board of Selectmen. In 2013, Schlichtman was elected to a one-year term, with 5,283 votes. He was unopposed. Turnout that year was 28.66 percent.

He served on the committee earlier, having won three-year terms in 2001 and 2004.

Campaign website:

2017 town election: YourArlington information

Read Sclichtman's comments in these news summaries:

Feb. 1, 2017: Bodie deals with $880K current shortfall; committee seeks way forward in new budget 
Dec. 15, 2016: 7 elementary principals seek assistants in new budget

This news summary was published Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017

Your comments about issues related to the 2017 town election are welcome.

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