Meet candidates for new School Superintendent this week!

Just a note out to the B2 community that there’s an important opportunity (act now…it won’t last long!) to meet the four finalists for the incoming Belmont Schools Superintendent this week and next. According to a notice posted on the Town’s Web page, the four candidates will be available to answer questions in a public forum two days this week and two days next week. The schedule is as follows and all meetings are in the Belmont High School, Library between 6:30 – 8:00 pm.  

Thursday (tomorrow) Jan. 15th : Candidate Dr. James J. Kelleher

Friday Jan 16th: Candidate Marie H. Doyle

Wednesday, January 21st: Candidate Dr. Richard J. Hoffmann

Thursday January 22nd: Candidate Dr. George Entwistle 3rd

As we’ve written before, these are the final four candidates for the job and one of them will be taking over as Schools Superintendent next year — an incredibly important position in shaping school policy, driving academic achievement, fostering a top rate work environment for our teachers, and ensuring that Belmont’s students receive the best education possible. Criticisms are often made that the School Department is too insular, so here’s an opportunity to show up and put your question to the candidates for Superintendent yourself. I hope to see you there!

– Paul

Crazy ideas for 2009: Change a light campaign

Note: This is the fourth installment in a series of posts proposing unorthodox (that is “crazy”) ideas that Belmont might consider in 2009 to improve the quality of life in town. The first three posts can be found herehere and here

Our series on crazy ideas (that might work) for 2009 continues with a contribution from loyal B2 reader and Sustainable Belmont member Ian Todreas. As an environmental consultant and expert in areas such as energy efficiency, alternative transportation,  and sustainable development, Ian follows issues pertaining to the environment and sustainability very closely — and he’ll be the first to tell you that small changes in our collective behavior can translate into huge energy savings and environmental benefits. His “crazy idea” for 2009  is a great example of this. Here’s Ian’s proposal: 

A Townwide Outdoor Change-A-Light Campaign

The EPA has a national promotion for energy efficient fixtures and bulbs every October called ENERGY STAR Change a light, Change the world.  People are called upon to change one bulb or fixture to an ENERGY STAR labeled one. The Belmont spin could be that BMLD or some other entity  orchestrates a door to door campaign offering free bulbs to homeowners. Volunteers could help screw them into their outdoor fixtures ON THE SPOT (this is key–studies show that most bulbs given away don’t actually make it into a fixture, and if they do, they go into a fixture that isn’t used much, like a closet, and thus the environmental benefits are minimal).

Belmont Municipal Light Dept. (BMLD) already has bulbs that they give away. This would be a modest expansion of that: BMLD could “train” a cadre of precinct “captains” who could lead the charge. (Parents: I smell a great and college-application friendly community service opportunity.) It could be promoted as Three Cups of Tea was–a community-wide coming together for the common good. BMLD could also quantify energy savings to the homeowners and to the town. Homeowners who already have energy efficient bulbs outside (as do we) could take the freebie and use it somewhere inside.

This could also be the foundation for or the impetus to launch Belmont’s climate action plan and related activities. After three years of planning, Belmont DOESN’T HAVE A PLAN YET!  This is a small-scale plan that would actually put Belmont on the cutting edge. No other town has done this. EPA and ENERGY STAR would eat it up and the town could get some great/free publicity I am sure, especially if we could get some high visibility support from the Selectmen and other town leaders. 

Businesses could sponsor T shirts or caps, offering coupons or free coffee or something for volunteers. Volunteers could be formed from intergenerational teams, since Seniors would be key to the success. —  Ian

School Committee narrows Superintendent search to four

As reported in the Citizen Herald, the School Committee has narrowed its list of candidates to be Belmont’s next Schools Superintendent to four candidates. Longtime superintendent Peter Holland retired at the end of 2008. The SC submitted a list of the candidates at their Tuesday meeting. While all the finalists seem to be solid contendors, a couple stand out (at least on paper): 

Richard Hoffman, Superintendent of Schools in Ashland: Hoffman seems to have the most experience — 10 years at the helm in Ashland in addition to a stint in North Attleboro. He oversaw construction of a new High School there. For budgeting, he’s a fan of “transparency regarding what items are needed and then trim the items that are not immediately needed,” which would seem to speak to the top concern of the Belmont political establishment.
George Entwistle, who’s Super in the Falmouth, Maine public schools also seems like a contender, at least on paper, though his decision to pass up a position in Sharon to “stay in Maine” could be a red flag that his heart lies elsewhere. Belmont needs someone who’s in for the long term. Of interest with Entwistle, though, is his experience with regional consolidation in a bid to combine three different school districts, which Falmouth ultimately voted down. 
With a Ph.D from BC and a Master’s from NYU, Scituate Public Schools Super James Kelleher also looks good. The BCH focused, in its write-up, on his skepticism about the MCAS testing regime in state, pulled from an interview in the Canton Journal, but offered little else in terms of his experience at the helm in Scituate or his “big vision.” Griping about MCAS certainly wouldn’t score high on my list of qualities for a new Super, but its possible that BCH was taking one quote out of a much longer piece. 

What do you think the new Super’s top priorities should be?