6 potential candidates now vying for 2 School Committee seats

A. Matthew PallettPallett

Jeff ThielmanThielman

Newcomer joins Thielman, who seeks relection

The race for two seats on the School Committee in the April town election now has six potential candidates. A. Matthew Pallett, who has children at Peirce and Ottoson, and Jeffrey D. Thielman, who is seeking reelection to a fourth term, have taken out papers.

Pallett of 127 Winchester Road took out nomination papers on Dec. 27. Thielman of 37 Coolidge Road took out papers two days later.

Pallett responds to questions

Asked why he wants to run for the School Committee, Pallett wrote Thursday, Jan. 5:

"... [A]s I feel that while the Arlington Schools are good, they need to be great. I have special-needs children, and I have seen the issues and frustrations parents go through with the district. I feel that the changes to our system need to come from the top, which is the School Committee and hopefully with the 'right' committee we can transition Arlington into a 'great' school system.

Asked about his background to serve, he wrote: "My number one qualification is that I am a concerned parent with children in the district. I feel that with my education and my life experience, I am qualified to help make the best decisions for the district. I would bring a fresh set of eyes to the committee.

Asked what challenges he sees ahead for the board, he wrote: "I think that the main challenges would be coming up to speed with the current processes and procedures. As with every new group of people there are always personality challenges, but I am ready for this challenge. I am prepared to dive in, come up to speed, and try to make Arlington the best district in the state."

Pallett, 40, has a mechanical engineering degree from Boston University and a MBA from University of New Haven.

He spent about five years in the defense industry when I moved back to Massachusetts into the telecom field. For eight years, he was the director engineering/operations for a competitive local exchange carrier based in Quincy, where he made the transition to his current job at AboveNet, as a senior sales engineer supporting the East Coast sales team for large financial Institutions, large enterprise, broadcast television stations and large legal firms.

He and his wife, LeeAnna, bought their home in Arlington in May 2008. His wife lived in Arlington for several years before their marriage, and her family has lived here for roughly 20 years.

Seats to be contested are those held by Committee Chair Cindy Starks, who has pulled papers, and Thielman, on the committee since 2003. Joseph Curro Jr. remains on the committee while seeking a seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Thielman explains his run

Thielman, who turns 49 at the end of this month and who has been a town resident since Jan. 1, 2001, explained why he is running again on Wednesday, Jan. 4:

"I want Arlington to continue to be a high-performing school district, a place where teaching and learning is always improving. There are several issues that are motivating me to continue serving on the committee:

"1) Over the next 2-3 years Arlington, like all public school districts, will be transitioning from the Massachusetts State Standards to the Common Core, a national set of standards that incorporate some of what we've had in Massachusetts for many years now. Ensuring that the curriculum is aligned with the common core will be critical to our success. I understand the challenges and benefits of this transition and want to ensure that we provide support to our educators as this transition takes place.

"2) I want to see Arlington become a model district in terms of services for students with special needs and in the professional development we offer ALL teachers around how support all of our learners – both 'regular' education students and students with learning differences.

"The teachers I speak with in Arlington and elsewhere tell me universally that they want more professional development around how best to serve all students, including students with learning differences. The truth is that quality professional development in this area improves teaching and learning for all students and in the long run helps to contain special education costs.

"This effort begins, in my opinion, with the hiring of a top-notch Director of Special Education and an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, the person in the district generally responsible for professional development.

"3) I want to ensure that our teachers receive training in all of the new technologies available in education, and I want to be sure our district has the technology appropriate for a 21st-century school system. We’ve made great strides in recent years, but there is more to do.

"4) I’ve learned a great deal about the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) process as the School Committee’s representative to the Thompson School Building Committee for the past three years, and I want to help the district address infrastructure needs at the Stratton, Ottoson, and Arlington High School.

"I see us drafting 'Statements of Interest' with the MSBA for all three buildings in the next several years. The library and kitchen at the Stratton are inadequate; my sense is that the Stratton is going to need some renovation or an addition.

"The Ottoson is very crowded right now, and I would like to see us discuss an addition, and the high school needs serious reconfigurations, the science labs are around 200 square feet smaller than they should be, and the flooring is in need of repair. The MSBA process starts with a feasibility study, and I would like to see us begin feasibility studies for these buildings during the next several years.

"5) The redistricting process needs to be transparent and involve rigorous input from all stakeholders. This is an opportunity to engage and involve many parents and residents in our system. We need to work to ensure that this is a positive experience, one in which there is a good exchange of ideas and a greater understanding of our district by all stakeholders.

"6) I want to continue to see the School Committee act in a professional manner. The committee’s process and approach is critical to attracting quality teachers and administrators to Arlington. The entire School Committee has signed on to a process that begins later this month with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees on how to be a better board. I look forward to learning from the upcoming training, which is designed to help the committee focus on teaching and learning."

Asked what qualifies him to serve, Thielman answered:

"I’ve been in the field of education for 17 years as a teacher, foundation director, and administrator. I currently serve as the headmaster of a private school, Cristo Rey Boston High School (www.cristoreyboston.org), which serves 300 low-income students in Boston.

"My whole career has been about advocating for children and families, particularly those in great need, and I see my service on the School Committee as an extension of this commitment.

"During my nine years on the School Committee, I’ve served on and chaired every subcommittee, served as Chair of the School Committee, cochaired an override campaign, served as a School Committee representative to the Five-Year Planning Committee, Town Government Reorganization Committee, Permanent Town Building Committee, and Thompson School Building Committee. My service in Arlington and my professional work give me a unique perspective that has been and I hope will continue to be helpful to the School Committee."

Asked what challenges he sees ahead for the board, he referred to his answers outlining why he seeks reelection. He summarized them: "Continued improvement of teaching and learning for all learners, infrastructure challenges, the transition to the common core, a need for continuous technology upgrades, and the challenge of living within a limited budget are the key challenges the committee will face over the next three years."

Asked what high points he has seen during his current tenure, he noted his service on the Thompson School Building Committee. "We worked very hard to win MSBA approval and gain unanimous support for the project from Town Meeting," he wrote. "Now we’re focused on ensuring that the building is built right."

Asked what his low points were and how he has addressed them, he wrote:

"The low point was the $1.5 million operating deficit in FY ’10. I addressed it by drafting the scope of work to do an audit of all our accounting and budget processes in the district. The scope of work document led to the selection of the Massachusetts School Business Officers (MASBO) doing a very effective report that made numerous suggestions on how to improve our internal operations. And the Scope of Work was the framework for the MASBO report."

Other potential candidates

Also considering a run for the committee is Sean Harrington, a 2011 graduate of Arlington High School, who rose to national attention for asking officials to reinstate the Pledge of Allegiance at the school; James J. Flanagan and Gregory D. Brogan.

Nomination papers for town and school offices may be taken out until 5 p.m. Feb. 16. Papers must have 50 certified signatures.

 2012 Town Election information 

This story was first published Thursday, Jan. 5, 2011.

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