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6 candidates apply for 1-year school seat

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The School Committee on Thursday, April 26, announced six candidates for the seat left vacant when four-year member Joseph A. Curro Jr. was elected as a selectman. They are, in alphabetical border:

Karen Bjorkman, 142 George St.; David Brecht, 55 Norfolk Road; James Flanagan, 49 Trowbridge St.; Len Kardon, 65 Tanager St.; Andrew O'Brien, 109 Hillside Ave.; and Paul Schlichtman, 47 Mystic St. A seventh person applied but was not a registered voter.

Flanagan and O'Brien are tecent town election candidates, Kardon is a parent activist and Schlichtman is a former School Committee member.

Schlichtman had earlier told YourArlington that he had not thought about applying, but he has changed his mind.

Committee secretary Karen Fitzgerald received applications until 4 p.m. April 26. The committee will interview all applying publicly at a special meeting from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, May 3, in the committee's room, sixth floor, Arlington High School.

Flanagan, who polled third in town election voting, wrote in response to an earlier query April 26:

"I have decided to apply for the open seat. Due to my strong desire to serve on the committee, the value I feel my professional background will bring to the committee, and the knowledge on issues and policy I've acquired in the last few years (especially leading up to the campaign this year) I feel I would be an ideal fit for the Arlington School Committee."

Kardon provided his application to YourArlington on April 26.

O'Brien said his application was received April 23. Two other recent candidate, A. Matthew Pallett and Ian Jackson, have decided not to apply for the appointed position. Pallett said he wants to leave open the option of running in the future.

In his application, Schlichtman explains why he seeks the seat:

"When I was a member of the school committee, we had a vacancy due to the resignation of Suzanne Owayda. The committee was fortunate that a former member, Katharine Fennelly, returned to the committee to fill the seat until the next election. I was grateful to have the benefit of a “new” colleague with considerable experience on the school committee.

"I hope to be able to contribute to the work of this school committee, in the same way we benefitted from Ms. Fennelly’s service during the 2006-07 school year.

"For ten years, I have served the Town of Arlington as a school committee member. I served on the Minuteman Regional School Committee from 1997-2001, and on the Arlington School Committee from 2001-2007.

"During my tenure as a school committee member, I was active on statewide issues of public policy as a member of the Board of Directors and an elected officer of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC). In 2003 I served as MASC President-Elect; in 2004 I served as MASC President; and in 2005 I served as MASC Immediate Past President. During that time, I also served on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Local Government."

At its April 12, meeting, a number of School Committee members said applicants should understand the time commitment involved and that they should be committed to improving Arlington's public schools.

Members did not see eye to eye about whether election involvement -- in the recent past and in the future -- should be a factor in who is chosen.

In 2006, member Jeff Thielman said, the committee chose former committee member Fennelly to replace departing Owayda in part because she was not interested in continuing after a year.

"I’d prefer someone who has not gone through the electoral process" and does not want to run for the seat," said member Cindy Starks, reelected Tuesday.

Members Leba Heigham, Judson Pierce and Thielman said they wanted to attract as many qualified applicants as possible.

Among former committee member, Fennelly and Barbara Goodman do not plan to apply.

For more information about the application process, call Fitzgerald at 781-316-3540. More information is expected soon on the town and school district websites.

The application is available online >>

It should be returned to Fitzgerald, School Committee secretary, Arlington High School, sixth floor, 869 Mass. Ave., Arlington, MA 02476.

This story was first published Wednesday, April 25, and updated the next day.

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