Leonard KardonKardon

Leonard J. Kardon, unopposed in seeking one of two School Committee seats, knows a "monster" of a challenge lies ahead -- a June vote to rebuild the high school.

The 51-year-old, who aims to work hard for a yes vote, says he has the background. The attorney is the vice present and associate general counsel of Monster.com, the online job-search company. More directly relevant to the steep climb toward a debt-exclusion vote is his financial expertise and vow to push one.

"While the School Committee has no formal role in these votes," he wrote in response to questions from YourArlington, "individual members of the committee, including me, will be working hard to educate voters about the need for these tax increases.

Looking down the road

"Beyond the June vote, we need to ensure implementation of the items included in the five-year budget plan (as funding permits) and we need to continue to improve our strategic planning and execution of strategic initiatives."

Kardon has devised the schools' five-year budget plan, likely the first in School Committee history. Recently serving as chair of the budget subcommittee, he says he worked closely with the administration to develop a plan that is driven by needs rather than a set funding formula.

Asked why he wants to seek reelection to a second three-year term on the School Committee, he responded:

"We have accomplished much in the last three years. We have added six new classrooms to the Thompson and Hardy schools, opened the Gibbs sixth-grade school, completed the renovation of Stratton, completed the schematic design for a new high school, and added teachers and support staff across all of our schools to address rapid enrollment growth."

5-year plan

If reelected, he wrote that he seeks to continue to secure a solid financial footing for the school district, improve the strategic focus of the district and assure full implementation of the strategic initiatives included in the five-year plan.

The League of Women voters also asked Kardon for its annual election guide whether he plans to actively support the override for the town's general operating budget. His response:

"Yes, I will be actively involved in securing the passage of both. We need a new high school to accommodate increasing enrollment and address a deteriorating building that no longer meets educational needs. The town will receive over $80 million in state funding for the project.

"We also need to address a growing mismatch between town revenue and town spending. Arlington’s operating costs increase faster than revenue can increase under the state restriction known as Proposition 2½, particularly as Arlington’s student enrollment has surged.

"Since the last tax override, we have added almost 1,200 students, a 24-percent increase, and we expect to add 600 more over the next five years. This year, we are spending close to $3 million from reserves to cover our current budget needs. If we don’t pass an override, we will quickly exhaust our remaining reserves and will have to cut planned funding.

"We won’t be able to add enough teachers to meet our enrollment growth or continue with the current level of town services."

Elected in 2016

When Kardon was first elected, in 2016, he received 3,006 votes. Kirsi Allison-Ampe, the other current School Committee member seeking reelection this year, got 3,175 voted. Failing to be elected in 20916 was James F. Doherty, who received 1,382 votes.

In 2012, Kardon applied for the one-year School Committee seat vacated by Joseph Curro Jr., and Paul Schlichtman was subsequently elected. In a statement, Kardon said: "I have been following school committee matters very closely for the last few years since the budget crises first started emerging three years ago. I became a leader with FYArlington and the override campaign [in 2011] to ensure that our great schools in Arlington would be preserved.

"I have appeared before you several times and communicated with many of you on specific topics frequently. Although not directly affected by any of the redistricting proposals, I have been attending the redistricting committee meetings out of concern for the disruption to our school communities that could have been caused ....

"Stepping in to fill this seat for the next 11 months would be a natural progression of my involvement with the Arlington Public Schools. In addition to my service with FYArlington and the override, I have been ... on the board of the Special Education Parents Advisory Council. I have two children at Dallin and a third at Menotomy Preschool at the High School ...."

Kardon has been a member of Town Meeting since 2011, and continues to serve. He was a member of the town Finance Committee from 2013 to 2015.

He has worked for Monster.com for the last 11 years.

Feb. 22, 2019: FY '20 prelim budget up 6%; enrollment tops Bodie's funded priorities

This news feature was published Saturday, March 16, 2019.