LETTER: Former School Committee Member Opposes the CPA


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.


Steve Messina
Former Watertown School Committee Member (1994 to 2005)

12 thoughts on “LETTER: Former School Committee Member Opposes the CPA

  1. Thank you for your perspective and support Steve. Common sense is so refreshing and seems to be a rare commodity these days.

  2. Great letter…good history, realistic view of what residents can afford and the real priorities of renovating our schools. I’ll vote NO on #5.

  3. I honor your commitment and passion, but I believe that it is not necessary to choose one or the other. The cost to join CPA is nominal, and it means tax dollars we are already pays by to the state can come back to Watertown. There is no doubt people see the need to support the schools, and when a plan is in place and we know what kind of override is necessary at that point, it will surely pass. As a parent of 2 in public school, I am very invested in the schools. I also see the need for green space, affordable houses by and the town’s history to stay intact so that we continue to attract and keep young families in the schools in the first place!

  4. As Steve indicates, he and I go back a long way. In fact he managed my successful campaign for School Committee. We both also both worked hard together on the town’s last successful debt exclusion override, and although we are both a bit older now, I look forward to working side by side with him on the next one. As he says, ” nothing is more important in town government than giving our children a good education.”

    We only differ on whether now is the time to pass the Community Preservation Act. I believe both things are important to the town and that we as a community are strong enough to do both and do the Community Preservation Act now. And, as I have said before, I am saddened to see Watertown Strong Schools take the position they have that divides the community.

  5. Steve, I agree with your sentiments. The well is only so deep. We need to prioritize and educating our children is priority one.

  6. Steve,

    Thanks for service on the school committee all those years. I have a couple of questions though regarding the overcrowding and conditions of our schools.

    1)In 1994, when you started and said there was overcrowding in the elementary schools , we had 1418 children in our elementary schools. You said that through renovations, you were able to reduce the overcrowding. As of October, we had 1262 students in our elementary schools (11%) less. So, if we have less students than when you started, and you claimed to have fixed the existing space problem, how can we still be overcrowded? Perhaps we should be managing our space a little better?

    2)Upon your retirement in 2005, your friend and colleague Tony Paollilo said your
    “work with the school buildings is the reason we are sitting in this beautiful lecture hall
    and the reason WE HAVE SOME OF THE BEST FACILITIES IN THE AREA.(“http://www.watertown.k12.ma.us/news/archived/committee/minutes/dec_2005.pdf). Yet, now with the potential of passing the CPA, Watertown Strong Schools members are saying ALL 5 schools are in urgent and desperate need for renovation and repair.

    I have students that have attended are attending 3 of the 5 schools and don’t find them crumbling or in a desperate need for repair. They are old, but well maintained. My kids have currently have small class sizes as well.

    Let’s pass the CPA, and then look at REASONABLE school renovations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *