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Meet the Candidates: School Committee, Ward 2

Meet the School Committee candidates from Ward 2: Jonathan Yeo and Margaret Albright.

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 2 School Committee race has two candidates: Jonathan Yeo and Margaret Albright.

Newton Patch posed six questions to all 38 candidates running in this year's election, regardless of whether the race was contested. We will be running the profiles by Ward each day, starting Oct. 26.

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8. 


Jonathan Yeo

Running for: Ward 2 School Committee seat (incumbent)

Q: Why are you running for re-election?

A: I am running for re-election to the School Committee because I am passionate about excellence in Newton Public Schools and feel that my experience, skills and energy can help build a stronger system. The strength and reputation of our school system plays such a vital role for our city. I want to continue working to keep up our strengths, deal with weaknesses, and focus on great teaching and learning in our classrooms for all types of students.

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?

A: My experience on the School Committee for six years tackling a wide range of challenges and moving a school system forward in tight fiscal times will greatly help me in a fourth and final term. I also have been involved in many community organizations in Newton and was a PTO co-president for two years, helping a school community support in-school activities. As Director of the state’s 180-person Division of Water Supply Protection, I have direct experience in leading a complex public sector organization and working under tight budget constraints.

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: As chairman of the Union Negotiations Committee, it is clear to me that the most important change needed is the settlement of new union contracts for the school system that are both fair and affordable for years to come. Part of this settlement will be reforms to health insurance that reduce the costs to the schools while continuing to provide high quality health care to employees. Salary and benefits represent a very large percentage of the overall school budget and yearly increases.

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

A: The biggest issue is how the city can provide high quality services and education while facing the challenging budgetary constraints. Besides this obvious budget challenge common to most towns, we face a great need to rehabilitate old and inadequate elementary schools and address overcrowding in a number of buildings.

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

A: I plan to continue my focus on leading the School Committee in union negotiations for fair and affordable contracts.  I will also work to address our elementary school building renovation needs and find new ways to fund classroom technology that supports student achievement and creativity. I will continue my efforts to help parents and others get involved and address their school system-wide and school-specific issues and concerns.

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

A: I have been a member of a book club here in Newton for over a decade which has a delightful source of relaxation.

 

Margaret Albright

Running for: Ward 2 School Committee seat

Q: Why are you running for this seat?

A: I believe that I have the skills, knowledge and leadership ability to ensure Newton public schools offers every student an excellent education. We need to embrace a new kind of future for our schools – one that is innovative, serves our students better and gets the most value from our education dollars in tough financial times. I will bring a sense of urgency to all I do because there are no do-overs in the life of a child.

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?

A: I own my own company and work with schools, nonprofits and other organizations around the state to secure state, federal and private grant funding and support – a background that no other School Committee member has. I have worked with educators and non-profit leaders throughout our state and have first-knowledge of innovative and promising practices that cost less. I know we can do better.

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: As a city we must look at how we can share resources between the city and schools. We need to reach out to our neighboring communities to plan how we can share resources and reduceduplication of services, and we should capitalize on statewide initiatives that match our school district's goals. We must get control of our benefit costs and stop the double digit escalation that costs both the city and our employees each year.

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

A: For years we’ve put off spending on maintenance and repair of our buildings - especially our elementary schools - and have used temporary fixes to get us through year to year. We have a long range plan with the emphasis on the word long – 36 years to solve our school buildings problems. We need to be practical about this and find solutions that will address our problems now.

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

A: I strongly believe that we must strengthen our early learning, and full day Kindergarten is one of my goals. I plan to work with our superintendent to implement true full-day kindergarten and ensure that we have the resources and programs we need to make sure all our children are getting off to a good start in the early grades.

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

A: I grew up in Central Indiana where my parents were both musicians and teachers, and I have a music background too. I was a music major as an undergraduate and play the harp – when time permits.

 

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?

Emily Norton October 27, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Terrific job on presenting a balanced view of both candidates in this race Melanie, many thanks for helping voters sort it all out. I will be voting for Margaret Albright bc I think she represents the fresh approach our schools need if we are to solve our longstanding problems (fiscal, buildings, and academic in terms of achievement gap as well as achievement in the younger grades). I very much appreciate Jonathan Yeo's many years of service to our school system and our community. Serving on the School Committee is an often thankless task taking many hours and we should be grateful when anyone steps up to the plate.
Melanie Graham (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 05:59 PM
Thanks for your comment, Emily. I'm happy to be able to help out the Newton voters!

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