When my children attended the Cunniff School, we as parents faced what a lot of parents are facing today — over crowded classrooms, band practice in the hallways while students are trying to learn in the classrooms. I remember when I asked the principal during a PTO meeting what could be done to create more space, he looked at me and said, “I know; I will assign you to be the chairman of the space finding committee.” He was as frustrated as we were.
He was right; you cannot create space when all of the available space is being used. So, I began helping people get elected to the school committee. People like Meg Crawford, Kelley MacDonald, John Madden, Jack Bartley and others including my friend, Bob Shay.
The new school superintendent at the time knew something had to be done to improve the facility problems. So she started the process of rebuilding our schools. At that point I decided to run for School Committee myself; and as the saying goes, “Put my money where my mouth is.”
Parents, teachers, school committee members and many others worked hard and passed Watertowns first and only prop 2 1/2 debt exclusion override. As the “Building The Future Committee” educated the people of Watertown 25 years ago about the need to fix the space problem, I remember talking to seniors in the town who would say, “My children are grown and I can’t afford it.” I remember saying to them, “When you were young and starting a family, seniors’ taxes paid for your children’s education, now it’s your turn.” I’m 67 now and though I don’t feel old, the person waiting on me at Randy Plante’s Dunkin’ Donuts always pushes the 5% senior discount button every morning when I get my coffee.
My point is this: We have to prioritize when it comes to raising taxes over and above the 2.5% allowed by law. I can tell you nothing is more important in town government than giving our children a good education, and I know it takes more than new buildings. Let’s not create excuses. The problem is here, and it needs to be fixed – the school age population in this town is growing.
Now, I’m not totally opposed to the CPA, but we need to prioritize. For this reason I’m standing with people like Alyson Morales, Elodia Thomas and all of the “Watertown Strong Schools” members, with one and only one goal in mind: To help give our children the best education possible. They are committed to solving this space problem.
So, I say to the “Progressives” in this town, be what the word really means, progressive. Now is the time for you to wake up and join the effort with us. The voters are not going to vote for two tax increases. Put the CPA off until we have solved the school crisis. I’m not saying the CPA is not important. I’m just saying that the town’s children are more important.
Former Watertown School Committee Member (1994 to 2005)