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Curro to keep school seat while seeking selectman to represent parent interests

Joe Curro

Joseph Curro Jr., hours after taking out papers to become a candidate for selectmen, said he will not resign his School Committee seat but "defer to the voters as to whether they wish me to continue in my present position" on the School Committee "or to apply my experience as a member of the Board of Selectmen."

Curro, 46, who has been on the School Committee since 2008 and was reelected last April, wrote in an email Dec. 7 that the selectmen "should represent a broad range of voices and perspectives. The board is about to lose the only member, who has children currently enrolled in the public schools. Such families make up 20 to 25 percent of Arlington's population, and they deserve a voice in decisions and discussions of Town issues that impact them and their lives."

He is referring to Annie LaCourt, who is serving a one-year term for the seat vacated by Jack Hurd and has said she would not seek reelection. She confirmed that in an email Dec. 8.

The other seat up for reelection is that of Clarissa Rowe.

In his statement to YourArlington, Curro continued: "The last four years have shown me how important the relationship between the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and other Town boards is, whether this be in the conduct of long-range budget planning, the consideration of relevant warrant articles, or matters of public health and safety.

"To that end, I think that it is very healthy to cross-pollinate our boards and commissions with experience from other committees. For many years, the Board of Selectmen included one or more veterans of the School Committee. This past year, we saw the election of a former Finance Committee member [Dan Dunn].

"I would hope that my own experience with the School Committee, Human Rights Commission, and Symmes Neighborhood Advisory Committee, all of which I chaired, as well as my many years on Town Meeting, would be valuable in this regard.

Consider run for selectmen last year

"I considered making a run last year, but I was concerned that -- on the tail end of a tumultuous year -- further turnover on the School Committee would be destabilizing. This year, we have continued to grapple with some very serious issues.

"In the face of this, though, this committee has become an effective working team. Agree or disagree with some of our decisions, but I think we have reached a level of professionalism that allows me to consider again the possibility of service across the Avenue.

"As I see it, the voters have a clear choice. If they would truly prefer that I continue to serve where I am, I will happily accept this judgment and continue to work as hard as I have during the past four years. On the other hand, if it is the voters' judgment that my experience can be effectively applied
on the Board of Selectmen, I stand ready for the challenge."

In an email to the School Committee Dec. 7, Cindy Starks wrote: "I think this is a great opportunity for Joe and support him 100% in his decision to run. We will, of course, miss him terribly on the SC."

Curro cites high points, challenges

As to his service since 2008, Curro wrote:

"I am proud of my service on the School Committee. During this time, I have worked hard to provide opportunities for public participation, to make incremental improvements in labor relations, and to focus on the needs of our students.

In particular, I feel I can justifiably point to the following personal accomplishments:

-- Served as Budget Subcommittee chair during the onset of the fiscal meltdown, organizing a major simulation exercise involving over 100 residents, working to facilitate a public survey of education budget priorities, and speaking at numerous large forums to hear concerns and to describe our budget situation.

-- Initiated and led a process that resulted in the first change in the School Committee's labor counsel in nearly 40 years.

-- Invited representatives of our administrators and educators associations to sit at the table at School Committee meetings and to participate fully in our discussions.

-- Worked with Selectmen, Finance Committee members, and key managerial and financial staff and officials on the development of the current multiyear financial plan.

-- Advocated for the broad participation of special education parents in discussions of the organization and leadership of our special education programs.

-- Introduced and gained approval for numerous policy proposals relating to governance reform and equity in student assignments.

-- Led School Committee activity around the disposal of capital assets as a means of partially funding the Thompson Elementary School rebuild.

-- Helped to shape School Committee commitments in conjunction with the wildly successful Bridge the Gap fundraising campaign.

Asked to provide low points during his tenure, Curro noted:

-- Fiscal 2010 revenue shortfall. In response to this situation, I initiated action leading to a thorough process audit by the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials and consequent reforms to school business, financial, and budgetary operations.

-- Impact of fee increases. Following the adoption of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, it soon became apparent that the magnitude of athletic fee increases had become unsustainable for some families. To better understand and address the issue, I proposed the creation of an athletics advisory committee, and I have a current proposal pending to create a similar body as a standing advisory committee. I supported the application of $100,000 of revenue from the override and other measures to reduce and restructure fees.

-- Pledge of Allegiance controversy. Following a deadlocked Committee vote and subsequent widespread attention and upset, I proposed a policy route to eventual compromise, which preserved a valued tradition, while protecting the free speech rights of students and staff.

Curro has lived in Arlington for 21 years, with the exception of a brief interlude to attend graduate school and a postgraduate fellowship program, and has two children at Stratton.

How successor is chosen

Starks asked Town Counsel Juliana Rice about electing a replacement, and Starks reported Rice's comments Dec. 7:

"The remaining School Committee members would elect a replacement to serve only until the next annual Town election, not for the remainder of Joe’s term," which would be until April 2014.

Rice said that Section 5 of the Town Manager Act provides that, if a vacancy occurs on the School Committee, the remaining six Committee members elect someone to fill that seat until the next annual election. So, if Joe Curro were elected selectmen in April 10, he would need to resign his School Committee position and the remaining members of the School Committee, including any elected April 10 to fill other seats, would choose a replacement member by ballot.

Four votes would be necessary to elect a replacement. The replacement would serve until the 2013 annual town election, when the seat would be open for an election to finish the remainder of Curro's term.

Others who have taken out papers for School Committee are James J. Flanagan and Gregory D. Brogan

Two School Committee seats are to be contested, those of Cindy Starks, the current committee chair, and Jeffrey Thielman. Both say they plan to seek reelection. Thielman was elected to the committee in 2003, and Starks was elected in 2009.

LaCourt's plans

Asked about poltiical future in Arlington, LaCourt wrote in an email Dec. 8:

"I do not plan to run for Selectman again this spring. I do not have any plans to run for another office at this time.

"I am focused on getting Elizabeth Warren elected and the president reelected.

"I will continue to sit on Town Meeting if the voters will have me, and I hope to continue to use my skills to help the town shape its financial future - but not as an elected official."

This story was first published Thursday, Dec. 8, after Patch published the first story the day before.


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