Candidates Meet For Final Forum Before Election
Cast your ballots Monday, April 9 at Lynnfield High School between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Editor's Note: Links to previous interviews with all of these candidates are attached.
A few days from now, Lynnfield residents will select new members of the school committee and board of selectmen, among other town offices. On Wednesday evening, voters had another chance to check out these candidates for themselves at a forum presented by the Huckleberry Hill School PTO.
For school committee, three candidates - Sal Cammarata, Chris Barrett and Jim Dillon - are running for the two open seats left vacant by Michael Craffey and Tim Doyle. "You have three educators here... And you can't go wrong with any two of us," Cammarata told the audience.
The candidates provided rundowns on their experience and visions for serving in local elected office. In more than three decades as an education professional, Cammarata has been a coach, teacher, principal and administrator, while also coaching for Lynnfield youth sports. Throughout his campaign, he has indicated that if elected, he would be particularly interested in helping the school committee with its technology plans, teacher evaluation protocol, and also with improving the district's current STEM (science, technology, education, math) offerings to help students qualify for current jobs.
Christopher Barrett is a teacher in the Everett district who spent a number of years working for Mitt Romney during his time as Massachusetts Governor. Wednesday night, he cited this experience, plus his recent MBA, focus on fiscal responsibility and strong support for the Lynnfield School system, as further reasons he would be a good fit on the committee.
Jim Dillon was actually a Lynnfield School Committee member until 2010, having served 15 years in that capacity. He is also a longtime 8th grade science teacher. Dillon has emphasized the importance of maintaining high standards throughout the district during his campaign. On Wednesday night, he said that town schools have shown considerable improvement in recent years, although he is also concerned about MCAS math scores at the middle school. "I did not accept mediocrity in Lynnfield... We have to maintain high standards and be very aggressive," Dillon told the gathering.
MCAS Scores A Concern
The middle school's MCAS math scores have been a matter of concern for town educators for months, and the candidates had the opportunity to discuss this in the context of how in general would they work to improve the school district. Dillon noted that in the last 15 Lynnfield town meetings he has attended, somebody has stood up during the vast majority of them to suggest cutting the school budget. With that in mind, he urged parents to be involved, including at town meeting time, since this is when voters have the chance to approve or reject needs like new teachers for specific grades.
Cammarata noted that in Revere, teachers are now required to be certified as math specialists, and he suggested that changes like that could be on the horizon for many other districts, including Lynnfield. He also floated the possibility that math could even become a 90-minute period, but warned that if this happened, something else would have to go. "We need to take a long hard look - not out the window but through the mirror," said Cammarata.
Barrett noted that he has three young children in the district (all of the candidates have children of various ages attending or who attended Lynnfield schools), adding that his desire to see them do well will keep him asking questions and holding administrators, including the superintendent, accountable. "I won't just go to meetings to sit there," said Barrett, adding that there should be a continuous, healthy discussion on the school committee as well as further mechanisms to help prevent a repeat of the current MCAS concerns at the middle school.
Selectman Candidates Speak
At the selectman level, candidate Dave Nelson cited his extensive background in management, budget and regulatory matters from his 35 year career with Southern California Edison. In Lynnfield, he has served a term on the finance committee and is on the board of assessors now. "I contributed a lot to these two positions but I also learned a lot," said Nelson. He is also a member of the Summer Street School Committee and cited his previous involvement with the town's superintendent search committee and 9/11 memorial committee.
In his campaign, Nelson has emphasized the importance of working with all groups of town residents, from its youth to its senior citizens and all in between. He noted that he regularly attends selectmen and school committee meetings to stay as informed as possible on local issues, and noted that the town boards he has served on provide a strong insight on the town's financial workings. He also emphasized the need for fiscal responsibility, pointing to his desire to bring in new revenue streams for the town while keeping taxes level. But, "Lynnfield is very committed to the fact that we have certain services we provide," he added.
Terranova told the gathering that even as a youngster "I aspired to come to this community," recalling how back then his family would drive up from East Boston to visit an aunt and uncle who lived on Summer Street for 50 years. Terranova is a CPA who serves as co-chair of the Recreation Commission and who has been a leader in the town's youth sports programs in recent years. One of Terranova's campaign themes has been transparency in town government, such as getting all budgets online and having department heads be more responsive to citizen questions about budget matters. He pointed out that as somebody who makes his living providing advice on matters like management and being cost effective, he could be very useful to the town as a selectman. "I am feeling all of your pain as I watch my real estate taxes go up," he said, citing the possibility that the town could explore more opportunities from grants and other alternative revenue sources. On the Market Street at Lynnfied project, Terranova said he is "cautiously optimistic," but repeated his warning from Tuesday night's library forum that towns often wind up with more mall-related financial hassles than they originally envisioned.
At one point, an audience member asked Terranova why he has voted once in the past 13 town elections. The candidate replied that "tax time is my livelihood and my clients are my priority, as are all the committees that I serve on."
Another issue the selectmen discussed was the effort to build a recreation center in town, which is a separate matter from the proposal to build a fields complex near the Bostik plant in Middleton using land currently owned by the Lynnfield Center Water District.
Nelson noted that the idea of a community center is not a new one in Lynnfield. In fact, he supports building one in town, he said, but noted that at a past town meeting, residents rejected the idea. He added that as a selectman, he would work closely with groups like the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Suburban Coalition to identify grants and other opportunities to meet the town's needs without a heavy taxpayer burden.
Terranova noted that "we are competing with other towns" in areas like schools and quality of life, adding that some people he's encountered talk about moving out of town. One family he knows apparently travels 40 minutes to use the community center in another town. He added that a community center would bring renewed coomunity pride while also allowing the town's different age groups to mingle more frequently. "We have this separation," said Terranova. "Everybody has their own facility." He also noted that a new community center would depend heavily on fundraising rather than presenting a new burden for taxpayers. At least one such private fundraising effort is already underway, with the Stacee L. Monkiewicz Memorial Foundation having held its inaugural event around Christmastime.