2014 Voters’ Guide Candidate Statements

2014 LWV Westford Voters’ Guide

Board of Selectmen – James Jarvie

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I have spent my 20 year career in business, helping companies grow and spend their money more effectively and efficiently. Currently I am the head of procurement at Constant Contact, a publicly traded technology company with over 1,200 employees and 2013 revenue of $285 million.

In my spare time, I serve on the Energy Committee and am actively involved in youth sports, community projects and fundraisers. My civil service background includes serving in the military as well as volunteering as an Auxiliary Police Officer. I believe my professional experience, combined with my civil service and public safety experience bring a unique and broad perspective and will enable me to be a highly effective and contributing member of the Board of Selectmen.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

If I am elected, I will focus on the following:

  1. I will work with and encourage the board to request a FREE Financial Management Review from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue Division of Local Services. A financial management review can help identify areas and opportunities to operate more efficiently and effectively. Many municipalities in Massachusetts have benefited tremendously from this free offering by the state.
  2. Improve transparency by working with the selectmen to establish transparency principles in an effort to improve public access to information.
  3. Continue our steadfast commitment to providing our children with a quality education.
  4. Encourage constructing more affordable housing in an effort to meet the state mandate requiring communities to maintain a minimum affordable housing stock of 10%. Currently Westford is below that 10% threshold, which means a developer can bypass local zoning by-laws.

What strategic issues do you see the Town facing over the next 5 (five) years?

  1. Budget – Expenses continue to put pressure on the budget and are increasing at a faster rate than revenue. We can’t always depend on tax revenue from large commercial and residential development projects to offset the budget. We must do a better job of controlling expenses and identifying efficiencies and cost savings opportunities.
  2. 40B Development – We need to encourage the construction of more affordable housing units. Complying with the states 10% affordable housing mandate is our best defense against Chapter 40B.
  3. Aging Infrastructure – Buildings, roads and bridges are in need of repair and maintenance. I also believe the lack of sidewalks will become an even bigger public safety issue as the town continues to grow and motor vehicle traffic increases.
  4. State Aid – State aid, the second largest source of revenue for our town, has remained virtually flat over the past five years and that trend will continue.

Board of Selectmen – Kelly J. Ross

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I am currently completing my sixth year on the Board of Selectmen, including two years as chairman. Prior to that, I served on the Finance Committee for six years, including three years as chairman.

As a Selectman, I have served on a variety of related committees and task forces. I am currently active on the Capital Planning Committee, the Hunting Policy Committee, Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, and the Westford Community Access Television Board of Directors. I have participated in union negotiations and search committees, and I have represented the Selectmen at countless forums, meetings, ceremonies, and events.

I have a detailed knowledge of the workings of town government and the issues we are facing. I also understand the importance of collaboration among the Selectmen, town boards, town employees, and citizens.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

I am committed to advocating for sound fiscal practices. This past year I authored the Budget Policy Directive that was adopted by the Selectmen and Finance Committee. It provided a framework for fiscal discipline, smart choices, and a sustainable budget.

I am committed to focusing on retaining and attracting quality staff. A major reason why Westford survived recent economic difficulties was the willingness of our employees to forego cost-of-living raises for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. I recognize that sacrifice.

I am committed to preserving the things that make Westford a unique and special town. We have a high-performing school system, excellent town departments, and hundreds of acres of open space. We respect our seniors and veterans. And we are fortunate to have many dedicated volunteers who provide countless hours of professional-caliber service to Westford.

What strategic issues do you see the Town facing over the next 5 (five) years?

First and foremost, having a sound, sustainable operating budget is critical for the next five years and beyond. It’s hard to do anything else if you don’t get the budget right.

In the next five years, we will have infrastructure issues to finance. We already know that the Center Fire Station is in poor condition and is inadequate for today’s Fire Department. And we will soon receive a report on the condition of Town buildings. We will need to prioritize the list of identified problems and implement a multi-year plan to fund corrective action.

There are many other critical issues facing the town, including maintaining excellent schools and town services, managing growth and development, preserving open space, and attracting and keeping quality businesses and jobs. I am committed to addressing these issues in a manner that upholds Westford’s character and values.

Board of Selectmen – Donald Siriani

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

As a Legislative Director and Chief of Staff for Republican and Democrat Senators at the State House, I’ve been the primary aide to the Chairman of the following Committees; Local Affairs and Municipalities, Energy, Education, and Public Health. You and your family are supported by laws that I have conceived, written or helped pass.

I served on the School Committee and am a volunteer with Boy Scout Troop 159. As President of the Kiwanis, I have worked with town departments, schools, and many community groups while helping organize the Apple Blossom Festival. We give student scholarships, support Scouting projects, youth music programs, senior citizens needs, and Winter Fest.

My wife, Debi’s (Jewett) family have been Westfordians since the 1700’s. Members have; owned Westford businesses, been volunteer firefighters, been Selectmen, helped found the Apple Blossom Festival, and more. I’m honored to be part of this family, and serve as they have.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My priorities include; sensible and sustainable budgeting, including advocacy for our fair share of state Local Aid, vigorous support for our senior citizens, maintaining open and transparent processes throughout Board deliberations, public safety enhancements, pursuing inter-municipal agreements to enhance efficiencies and foster regional economic competitiveness, and maintaining excellence in our schools and town departments. I support preserving Westford’s character by enhancing our historic, natural, and cultural resources.

My State House experiences involve problem solving over a wide spectrum of policy areas; this has allowed me to work with many stakeholders. I’ve learned to engage and encourage others to participate in civic affairs. Listening, learning and leading are hallmarks of my decades of professional constituent service delivery. I strive to be a responsive and responsible public servant.

We must focus efforts to attract and retain business because revenue from growth, along with enhanced Local Aid will lessen pressures on property taxes.

What strategic issues do you see the Town facing over the next 5 (five) years?

We must continue to reevaluate our infrastructure including; public safety buildings and apparatus, roads, school buildings and potential consolidation, and long-term library capabilities. Having watched Federal and state budget issues repeatedly cause impacts on municipalities, I advocate for strong cash reserves, a full financial review, and steps that will enhance our bond rating.

News accounts note that civic participation has been waning. I want to encourage residents to engage by creating regular Board sessions specifically for public input. Active citizen volunteers serving on boards and committees add tremendous value to Westford and the quality of our lives.

15 % of Westford’s seniors have less than $20,000 in annual income, to promote healthy aging and sustainable living, we must keep taxes stable and promote the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit. This law, which I helped write, saves $300,000 for Westford seniors annually; helping them afford to stay benefits us all.

Board of Health Zac Cataldo

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I am currently running for my 6th term on the Westford Board of Health having been a member since 1999 and I have been serving as the Chairman for the past 10 years.  I am an active Town Meeting member for the past 20 years and have recently served on the Registered Marijuana Dispensary Bylaw Committee and the Stony Brook Middle School Principal Advisory Committee.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

The Board has re-written the Hazardous Materials Storage Bylaw which was recently passed by Town Meeting.  This Bylaw now has an inspectional component that will allow the town to better protect our drinking water from potential spills and to better inform first responders when fighting fires.  One of my priorities is to work with the Board to ensure that regulations are crafted to allow our staff to enforce this Bylaw as efficiently and effectively as possible.  I am proud that in the past year, the Board has made the sale of tobacco in pharmacies in town illegal and raised the age that residents can buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.  The Health Department has also raised funds to help provide our elderly in town with free shingles vaccinations. These are the kinds of public health initiatives and services that I will continue to support in my next term.

What can the Board of Health do to address the issue of ticks and Lyme disease in Westford?

Ticks and Lyme disease continue to be a big challenge for residents of Westford.  In 2006, one of my daughters contracted Lyme disease from a tick and I have learned first hand how wide spread the disease is in our community.  Education is our most effective line of defense.  Last year the Health Department received a grant to provide educational kiosks about mosquito and tick- borne illness in and around our fields, camps and walking trails. We sponsored an informational seminar which was open to all town residents presented by experts in tick reduction and Lyme disease.  Additionally, working with local vendors and town departments, we transformed Nab School playground into a model demonstration project on how to reduce ticks exposure in a yard, using environmental tick reduction methods. While we have deer and mice in town, we will have ticks and so I urge all residents to get educated.

Board of Health – Michele Pitoniak Crawford

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

My occupation is that of an Environmental Health and Safety Consultant.  I received my Master of Public Health / Environmental Health degree from Boston University and I am professionally licensed as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager. I have been a member of the Board of Health since 2010. Recently, I was called upon to advise Superintendent Bill Olsen when PCBs were detected in window caulking during the early planning phase of the Robinson School window replacement project and to participate in an informational session for parents. I am a new participant in the Town meeting process having attended for the past 2 years. I am seeking a second term on the Board and an opportunity to work with such a great team of people with varied talents and perspectives on assuring that the public health needs of Westford are met.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

An immediate priority will be to assist the Health Department in writing a regulation to enforce the recently enacted Hazardous Materials Storage Bylaw. I can use my expertise as a hazardous materials manager to assist them in developing inspection checklists tailored to the requirements for safe chemical storage and the management of hazardous wastes. I can also volunteer time to provide training and participate in the first few inspections. Development of educational materials will be an important part of this process. I will continue to support Westford’s participation in the Central Mass Mosquito control Project to ensure that we have effective surveillance and control of these vectors that carry WNV and EEE. Proper communication of findings and advance notice to the residents of planned treatment will remain a key part of the program.

What can the Board of Health do to address the issue of ticks and Lyme disease in Westford?

Ticks that carry Lyme and many other diseases are pervasive in our environment. Two of my children have been treated for Lyme disease so I am acutely aware of the challenges we face in this area. The Health Department currently has a vigorous program focusing on educating residents on preventing tick exposure, and identifying early warning signs of the disease to allow for more effective treatment. Residents should refer to the Health Department web page for more information. As a Board, we will continue to research the latest developments in environmental tick reduction methods and share those updates with the community.

Housing Authority – Muriel Drake

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

Long-time resident of Westford. Real Estate for 20 years. Member of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners for years. Over these years, the housing authority has been involved in the development of a number of projects to provide affordable rental housing in Westford for low to moderate income seniors, families and special needs populations.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

A review of the 2010 census numbers indicates a growing number of Westford residents over the age of 60. These families will be looking to down-size from their larger homes and move to smaller, more manageable homes once they are on a fixed income. My priority for the coming five years would be to help identify additional land on which to develop more elderly housing.

What are the challenges or issues facing the Housing Authority and what are your plans to address them?

The process and procedures to develop affordable rental housing has changed greatly over the years. What used to be an easily attainable goal is now challenged by a lack of State and Federal funding as well as a very competitive funding acquisition process that typically takes years to navigate. The most imminent challenge for the housing authority over the next five years will be to identify land, funding sources and a path forward to develop more senior housing resources in Westford.

Housing Authority –  Diane Holmes

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I am a life-long resident of Westford, having been born, married, and raised a family here.  I am also a real estate appraiser and, as such, have seen many changes in the housing market in Westford.   Because of economic trends, I have also seen how difficult it can be for many of our long-term residents to be able to stay in the town which they have called home for so many years.  Affordability so often becomes a serious problem for some of our residents.  I have served on the Affordable Housing Committee as well as the Affordable Housing Trust, both of which strive to promote, create, and maintain housing for lower income households, as well as for our elderly population.  I see the Housing Authority as a continuation of this very important work. We need to maintain a healthy balance in terms of housing for all residents.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

Granted the real estate market has improved in Westford.  However, there are still economic conditions which are affecting certain segments of our housing stock, such as housing for our elderly and special needs population.  We currently have approximately 48 residential units in place on Tadmuck Road, 31 units at the Sargent complex in Graniteville, 15 family units at Stony Brook, 5 units at Hawk Ridge, etc.  However, these numbers serve only a small segment of our residents who are in need of such housing.  The waiting list for elderly housing can be up to five years long; many of our special needs residents are actually housed miles away from family and support systems because of the lack of that type of housing in Westford.  I believe our greatest priority should be to find ways to provide more housing units for this segment of our population.

What are the challenges or issues facing the Housing Authority and what are your plans to address them?

I believe that our greatest challenge is simply that we must meet this need for additional housing and services while at the same time staying within certain budget constraints.  How are we going to secure funding to increase the elderly and special needs housing supply?   State and federal funding opportunities are very limited, and this is creating an extremely competitive environment. Consequently, a project that might be shovel-ready might need to wait three to five years for funding; this could result in a total wait of seven to nine years before occupancy.  However, there are private organizations out there which can come into a community, purchase property (vacant or otherwise) and convert that property to housing for special needs residents. I might suggest the possibility of partnering with such an organization as one means of increasing this very much needed housing in Westford.

Housing Authority – Bernard Meyler

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I have a strong background in the management and operations of a housing authority. I am currently employed by the Lawrence Housing Authority as their Chief Financial Officer.

On a personal level, I have had several opportunities over the past 23 years in Westford to participate as a parent and coach of youth soccer, baseball and pop warner football. I currently find myself supporting Westford Academy sports, including: basketball, field hockey and football. I have also enjoyed volunteering at past Career Exploration Breakfasts at Westford Academy. I enjoyed answering student inquiries and introducing them to financial career opportunities as a CPA and opportunities in the fields of accounting and finance.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My priority, if elected, will be to understand and embrace any and all the issues that are challenging the Housing Authority. I would like to contribute my experience and knowledge of Housing Authority operations and programs to help settle them.

What are the challenges or issues facing the Housing Authority and what are your plans to address them?

I am aware of the many challenges that Housing Authorities across the State and Country are facing while providing safe and affordable housing with fewer and fewer dollars. I would like to provide my support to the Westford Housing Authority helping them continue with their core housing goals and meaningful endeavors.

I am looking forward to this important civic opportunity and would appreciate your vote.

Housing Authority –  Corinne Ryan

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I have been actively serving on the Westford Housing Authority as an appointed member since 2013.  I have a background in engineering and am comfortable using analytical and problem solving skills and am not intimidated by the numbers and budgets the WHA reviews each month.

I enjoy serving the community and have been a land steward at Grassy Pond for almost 15 years, served on the East Boston Camps name survey committee, and am currently on the Hunting Policy committee.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My priorities on the WHA would align with current priorities set forth by Chris Pude, the Executive Director of the WHA. One main focus is to look into senior housing.  Each town has a goal of 10% affordable housing and if this is not met, it opens the doors to what some consider undesirable Chapter 40B developments.  My personal preference is to have housing that Westford has a say in and that fits with the character of Westford.

What are the challenges or issues facing the Housing Authority and what are your plans to address them?

As mentioned in the previous answer, there is a growing need for affordable homes for seniors.  It is not a simple task that occurs overnight; it involves locating the land or property and then applying for the same funding that every other town is applying for in which to build it. That is just the beginning of the story, but as I am the newest member of the team, I am also learning from others what possibilities are available. I am looking forward to working on these challenges with the WHA and learning more about affordable housing. Because I was appointed to an empty seat on the WHA last year and am running unopposed this year, I would like to get others interested in the Westford Housing Authority for the future.

Library Trustees – Hajo Koester

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

Town of Westford elected & appointed positions: Member & Treasurer JV Fletcher Library Board of Trustees; Election Officer; Member, Vice Chairman & Chairman NVTSD School Committee; Member & Chairman, Cable Advisory Committee; Member & Vice Chairman, Westford School Committee.

Community Service:  Member, Board Member & Treasurer, Friends of the JV Fletcher Library; Money Manager, Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley; Board Member, Westford Education Foundation; Corporator, Emerson Hospital; Coach, Westford Youth Soccer.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

  1. Provide the excellent library services Westford residents have been accustomed to and do so within tight budget constraints.  Surveys after survey credit the Library’s staff for providing excellent level of service.  Additionally the Library is very fortunate to have the support of an outstanding Friends organization.  Thus it a top priority to keep this going.
  2. Continue to provide services to satisfy the rapidly increasing use of E-readers, tablets and on-line information services.
  3. The currently available building and parking space is not sufficient to not only satisfy current but more importantly the future needs/requests/demands for children, young adults and adult services.  Thus it is incumbent upon the Trustees make it a priority to: 1) understand Westford’s long term services and facility needs; and 2) develop and implement plans to satisfy these needs. Receiving funding approval for a feasibility study is an immediate priority.

If you had the ability and funding to introduce one new program or expand an existing program, what would it be and why?

Increase additional hours the Library is open.  This is a way to within current building space limitations, not only expand and build on such highly successful programs as the adult “Job Seekers Network” and the children’s “Mother Goose” programs, but also to better serve the public in general.

The Library’s has a relatively senior staff with a significant percentage nearing retirement.  Key to continuing to provide high quality of services and/or to expand services is to add and/or develop/train junior staff to assume increased levels of responsibility.  Additional funding for a professional development program would be very helpful

Library Trustees – Robert D. Price

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I’ve served on the Board of Library Trustees for the past 15 years, including three years as its chair.  Over those years, I’ve taken advantage of various seminars offered by the Massachusetts Library Trustees Association and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to become a better-educated Trustee.

Prior to becoming Trustee, I served for 11 years on the Executive Board of the Friends of the J. V. Fletcher Library.  I also served on the Representative Town Government Study Committee and the Public Works Initiative Committee.  Last year, I was appointed to the Community Preservation Committee.

I’m currently a Vice-President of the League of Women Voters of Westford and in that capacity I’ve been hosting the League’s Town Meeting Warrant Review programs on Westford CAT.  I also serve on the Board of Directors of the Westford Land Preservation Foundation.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

The 2013 Annual Town Meeting approved $20,000 to be used by the Library in a two-to-one state match for a planning and design grant to be awarded by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.  The Trustees subsequently approved an additional $5,000 from trust funds for a possible MBLC match of $50,000.

The Library submitted the grant application in January 2014 and expects an award announcement in June 2014.  If successful, the Library will advertise and contract for a professional feasibility study to assess the current and future needs of the Library and to determine the potential site and service options for the Library.

My number one priority will be to ensure that this study provides the maximum possible useful information for the Trustees so that the future users of the Library will be best served by the decisions made.

If you had the ability and funding to introduce one new program or expand an existing program, what would it be and why?

The biggest challenge our Library faces is lack of space; by every measurable standard, the Library is under-sized for our population.  There is just not enough room to meet current, let alone future needs.

To my mind, no Library program is in greater need than that of the young adult group.  The cramped YA area is tucked into a corner of the basement, wedged between a staff office, the Fine Arts desk, the Library cafe, and the foreign language collections with only a few chairs and a table and no sense of privacy.

The YA group is perhaps the most important in our community because it is at the age when library usage begins to fall off if it isn’t actively fostered.  If not encouraged and stimulated, YAs risk becoming college students and adults who have lost the interest and skills to use library resources.

Moderator – Ellen Harde

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

My degree is in Government, and I have been involved as a volunteer in Westford’s town government for over 40 years. For the past twenty-one years, I have been honored to serve as Moderator. Prior to that, I was elected to the board of Selectmen (1972), the first woman on the board in the town’s history; chair of the Personnel Board; co-founder of Roudenbush Community Center and member of the Roudenbush Committee for twenty years, and member of the Recycling Commission since it was established in 1988 (then the Solid Waste Advisory Committee).

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

The Moderator appoints the nine members of the Finance Committee, and the FinComm members’ terms run through June 30. My first priority after the May 6th elections will be to confer with the chair of the FinComm and with the members whose terms are expiring in 2014 to make my decision about appointments.

Is there anything the Moderator can do to encourage more voters to come to Town Meeting regularly?

Voters attend Town Meeting when they understand the impact that one voice and one vote can have. Since I was first elected Moderator in 1993, I have tried to impress this on the voters by writing a letter to the editor prior to each town meeting, and being available to every voter to explain the open town meeting process. The 2008 recommendations of the Town Meeting Study Committee are also important for the Moderator to keep in mind.

Planning Board – Michael Green

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I’ve had the opportunity to serve Westford on the Planning Board for 15 years.  I’ve also been involved in the Town’s Master Plan Committees.  As a representative of the Planning Board I’ve been involved in discussions with prospective companies looking to locate in Westford, and also involved in review of parcels for open space acquisition and preservation.  I’ve enjoyed serving on the Planning Board and look forward to further serving the Town.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

The Planning Board is supported by great Town Staff, who are instrumental in working with the Board on policies and priorities.   We continue to look at updates to our Subdivision Rules and Regulations regarding construction standards, road widths, and other standards.  With significant intersection and roadway infrastructure updates in progress, we continue to monitor these.  There are opportunities to update some of our commercial zoning related to setbacks, building footprints, and other requirements, to support more flexibility in site design.  We see an opportunity to update some site plan review criteria related to minor site plans, which can be managed more efficiently in the review process, and review some of our residential special permit regulations to further support mixed housing design.

What do you see as the most serious problems facing the Town as it continues to grow?

A key issue is infrastructure improvements, some in design and some in mid-construction, that are important to move to completion, along with other projects in initial review and prioritization.  As development continues we see more proposed development on what are more challenging parcels, with inherent site conditions such as slopes, wetlands, and ledge.   Continued review of the Town’s service capacity is necessary as we see growth in both the commercial and residential base.

School Committee – Avery Rockwell Adam

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I put helping others at the core of my work ethic. Throughout my professional life, I have worked for non-profit agencies and focused on health education. I have worked collaboratively with state agencies and advisory boards, have written grants, and “thought outside the box” to find solutions to budget problems.  These experiences will allow me to navigate the school budget process and discover creative ways to meet the needs of the district while staying within prudent budget parameters.

I am active in the Westford community.  Since moving to Westford eight years ago, I joined Westford Friends and Newcomers and later became President. I am personally involved in my daughters’ schools and activities. I have done everything from volunteering in the library to serving on the School Advisory Committee as a parent representative.  The personal contact with teachers, administrators and fellow parents is vital to a successful school community.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

I want to find a way to optimize the use of our available space to be fair to everyone. The unequal distribution of Westford’s student population is a big issue that impacts students.

Westford deserves full-day kindergarten and I hope to see the School Committee revisit the issue.

Future state and federal mandates around the Common Core Standards Initiatives will need to be carefully reviewed.  If Common Core is mandated, Westford needs to be ready.

Principal contracts will be negotiated during next year’s School Committee session. The School Committee will treat teachers and administrators equitably as contracts are negotiated.  While negotiations are sealed, prompt notification of the results will improve confidence in the administration.

Westford has limited resources and the school committee needs to look at all options when it comes to how those resources are spent, especially with the large number of regulations under which our schools must operate.

What would you do to strengthen communication among the School Committee, the community, the town boards, and town administration?

It is a difficult balance of meeting structure and community participation.  The Committee needs to conduct its responsibilities transparently, seeking comments from all stakeholder groups in its decision-making process.   I see School committee members as an extension of the administration, reaching into the community to understand the issues.

I want to improve the quality of conversations during School Committee meetings. As a parent, I have attended several School Committee meetings and have heard one-way communication from the School Committee to the public instead of a dialogue.

I want to encourage open discussions, allowing both sides to hear the advantages and disadvantages of an issue as well as the reasoning behind a decision.  A lack of information can lead to misunderstandings and the spreading of misinformation. I hope to be able to address these concerns.

School Committee – David A. Keele

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

As an Attorney, I have spent the last twenty four years working with clients, attempting to solve issues and problems for them, negotiating on their behalf’s, establishing plans for their futures and bringing people together for a common solution that works in the best interest of all parties.  This, in my mind, is the definition of the role of an effective School Committee member.  Over the last six years as a member of the board, I have worked tirelessly to advocate for appropriate school funding while recognizing the limitations on municipal budgets during this unprecedented economic period.  I currently have children attending the high school, middle school and elementary school.  I served four years on the Finance Committee, one year on the School Site Selection Committee.  I was active coaching both soccer and basketball for my children.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My first priority is, and will continue to be, as an advocate for  sufficient municipal funding of the school budget to not only maintain the excellent quality of the school system, but to also enhance the quality of the education we are providing our children.  I will be focused on how we can implement the use of new technologies to improve not only the classroom experience for our students, but also allow our teachers to be more efficient and effective in their classrooms.  Finally, we cannot fall short on our continuous goal to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our children in light of the tragic events which we have all witnessed in the past.

What would you do to strengthen communication among the School Committee, the community, the town boards, and town administration?

After six years of serving on the School Committee, I am comfortable stating that the communication between the School Committee, the community, town boards and town Administrators is healthy and strong.  While serving on the Committee, I continuously encourage members of the public to attend our meetings and stay involved.  The School system utilizes all available technology to keep the public informed and Town Boards informed.  In the event that new technologies emerge that will allow us to be more efficient in communicating with the public, I would advocate for its purchase and use.

School Committee – Birgit Erika Kohl

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

I’ve been an advocate for education for my entire adult life.  Even prior to having kids of my own I volunteered in a local school teaching students about the science of satellites and rockets. With kids of my own, I’ve again volunteered in our schools with one-day classes on science which I’ve supported with technology and information from “my day job” as an engineer.  Prior to joining the School Committee six years ago, I also supported our schools as a PTO coordinator and as President of the Westford Alliance for Education.  In a professional role, I previously managed an organization that provided mandatory Systems Engineering courses to hundreds of engineers.  As a School Committee member for the past six years I’ve been on negotiating teams with school unions, and I’ve also participated on the policy subcommittee; one year as a general member and two years as chair.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My priority will continue to be providing the oversight necessary to maintain the excellent level of service that our schools provide to our children.  I believe that the most effective way to do that is to both work with the administration to meet challenges facing our district, and to also hold the administration accountable to the school committee.  My feeling is that when we strive for efficient use of taxpayer dollars, it helps to ensure that adequate funds are available for district needs across the board.   This is important since numerous mandates continue to flow from the state, and the district will need to spend time, energy, and money in response.  Over the last six years I believe I’ve demonstrated that I research topics and question proposals in a way that allows a full understanding of items before the committee, and I hope to continue those efforts.

What would you do to strengthen communication among the School Committee, the community, the town boards, and town administration?

One of the impressions that I had of town governance when I first ran for school committee was that there is a great deal of friendly cooperation among boards.  Everything I’ve seen over the last six years has strengthened that impression.  As a School Committee member I support having SC members participate on other town boards to ensure a school perspective is reflected, and I’ll continue my participation in the Public Works Initiative Committee if requested.  I’ll also continue to attend school gatherings that facilitate discussions with parents such as the Superintendent’s Parent Roundtable discussions, public interviews of candidates for principals, celebrations of student artists, and invitations to speak at PTO meetings, to name a few.  I’m proud to be in a community that has such outstanding participation in our schools by parents and other citizens, and hope to continue supporting that interaction as a school committee member.