Meet the Candidate: School Committee, Ward 1

Learn more about School Committee candidate Geoff Epstein before the Newton Municipal Election on Nov. 8

A note for voters: Each ward has one School Committee representative, which is an at-large position, meaning it is voted on by everyone in the city.

This year, the Ward 1 School Committee race has just one candidate: Geoff Epstein.

Newton Patch posed six questions to all 38 candidates running in this year's election, regardless of whether the race was contested. Check out our story here on the Ward 1 aldermen candidates. 

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8. 

Geoff Epstein

Running for: Ward 1 School Committee seat (incumbent)

Q: Why are you running for re-election? 

I’m running for re-election because after a year of recovery under Jim Marini as superintendent and a year of restructuring and team building under David Fleishman as superintendent, we are positioned to make great progress on digital education, STEM, short and long term facilities issues, information management, fund raising and alumni information management. I want to exert every effort I can to make that happen by serving another term.

Q: What is your background in local government or community involvement and how will it help you in this seat? Do you have other experiences that will help you in the position?

I have almost four years experience now on the school committee fighting rear guard efforts to support math, science, technology in education and recently even Latin. I have extensive experience as a physicist, engineer, college teacher and parent of two Newton students which serves me well in this effort to improve education in Newton. I have strong connections to the Newton community, having lived here since 1990. Most of all I can see very clearly the benefit of adding new members to the School Committee to help take it in new directions. I will be encouraging the election of capable new members such as Steve Siegel, Margaret Albright and Josh Krintzman, as they have skills which the current school committee simply does not have and needs urgently.

Q: With Newton facing several tough budget seasons in the recent past -- and likely several in the future -- what do you feel needs to be cut, added or changed in the budget to keep the city's finances balanced?

A: I am sure that with sustainable collective bargaining contracts and a Massachusetts economy which appears to be progressing reasonably, the financial problems are being brought under control. But we need to solve the chronic problem of digital education infrastructure underfunding: $1.5 million each year, and we need to make the case for handling the big facilities problems we have with the poor state of Cabot and Angier (Elementary) and the continuing capacity problems we have in the face of a surging student population. We have to budget for adequate recurring technology funds and argue the case for debt exclusions for big capital facility projects. New developments in the city of Newton have to include planning for the additional students those developments bring into the schools and the taxes we gain from those developments have to offset the increased school side costs.

Q: What is the most important issue Newton faces today?

A: The most important issue in Newton today is to recognize that the only way we’ll be able to deliver a great education is to have great people in every part of our operation. We are doing well on the teacher, principal, central administration and superintendent fronts, but we have to reshape the School Committee to take us to the next level. We must not accept more of the same. We have to insist on  new ideas and new approaches and for the school committee, that means electing as many new people as possible. We have a unique opportunity to accelerate our progress to make this school system great. We need to have the nerve to do make that happen.

Q: If elected, what is something you are going to focus on in your position for the next two years?  

A: There are several key things to focus on: digital education, math & science, facilities, information management so we can track how well we are doing and make corrections, fund raising and managing alumni assets much better than we have.

Q: Name one thing the residents of Newton may not know about you.

A: My family comes from English and Polish roots. One grandfather was a wagon way man in the Yorkshire coal mines in England and emigrated with his family to Australia when my mother was 12. The other grandfather was Polish and fled Poland to the United States with his brothers after the Russians conscripted his father. My great grand father was never seen again. His name was Moses.

My Polish grand father had a falling out with his brothers, travelled back to England and then emigrated to Australia where he and his Polish wife raised 7 children. Four boys and three girls. My father became a physician and was the first one in the family to go to college.

So I have a double dose of immigrant grandparents, which might explain why I ended up far from my birthplace in Sydney, to form the next wave of immigration in my family: back to the US where I have been resident since 1975 and a citizen since 1988.


Interested in the other School Committee candidates? Check out our profiles:

  • Ward 6: Claire Sokoloff (Note: Sokoloff declined Patch's questionnaire so there is no Q&A for Ward 6)

Want to learn more about this year's Board of Aldermen candidates?

Greg Smith October 26, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Geoff, Do you have any comments about Newton's implementation of Response to Intervention for identifying, measuring and tracking students who learn differently (AKA are falling behind)? Do you think RtI is a good strategy and it's being implemented well? Are parents aware of it (e.g. will they be told if their child is receiving "intervention") and included in the process?


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