Paul Schlichtman Candidate Questionnaire 2017

1. What are the biggest challenges to the success of our ongoing school building and renovation projects, and are these projects effectively addressing our enrollment growth?

At this point, the opening of the Gibbs School, and additional classrooms at the Hardy and Thompson schools, will meet the short term enrollment needs projected by our demographer. If our projections are correct, the expanded infrastructure should provide enough space to accommodate the peak enrollment within the next decade. We should monitor future enrollment trends to stay ahead of any variance with our projections.

The biggest challenge comes with the design of our new high school. Generally, if we make a mistake in policy or budget, it can be corrected in the short term. We are planning for a high school that will stand through this century, so we need a design that will meet the needs of future generations. We need a school that will adapt easily to new technology, that will support a more collaborative learning style, that will honor our excellent performing arts programs. We need a school that will meet the needs of our entire community, supporting community programs and will allow us to expand our excellent  adult education offerings.

2.  For FY18 there were a number of requests from teachers and administrators that were not funded because of budget constraints. Which unfunded request do you consider the most critical, and how should we address the resulting issues and any future issues?

We budgeted on the edge this year. I joined my colleagues in advocating for taking an additional $300,000 from the circuit breaker reserves, intended to be spent in Fiscal 2019, to be used next year. I think we are wise to keep money in reserve for unexpected increases in enrollment, wither for additional teachers or teaching assistants. I also know that leadership counts, and we need to recruit and retain the best principals and curriculum leaders. As enrollment has increased, the workload for principals has increased proportionately, often with less administrative support. It is unusual for teachers to bring forth a budget priority of additional administrators; it happened this year, and we should take that request seriously.

3. Which curriculum improvement has had the most meaningful effect on our students during your time as a School Committee member, and if you could introduce one innovation into the curriculum at any level, what would it be?

During my first term, we experienced a failed override and a 20% reduction in state aid. As the committee was making cuts, we reduced the number of academic tracks at Arlington High School. The one decision I pushed for was to dismantle the strict prerequisites to enter upper level classes. When we welcomed all students, we found that almost all students who aspired to advanced classes were successful, even those who would have failed to meet the previous admission requirements. 

As an innovation, I would like to see a restructuring of the school day. I would like a longer school day, with individual teachers spending fewer minutes teaching and more minutes collaborating with colleagues. I would like to see the extended day as an opportunity to expand instructions in fine and performing arts, sports, and other electives that capture the hearts of our students. 

4. According to the state’s diversity report, released in October, 75% of Arlington’s students are white and 84% of the staff is white. What steps do you plan to take in your next term toward closing this gap?

While our teaching staff is less diverse than our students, we are more successful at recruiting and retaining a diverse staff when compared to the state averages. The teaching pool in New England is overwhelmingly white and female, so it is difficult to hire a diverse teaching staff when the applicants are not very diverse.

There are some specific actions we can take to build a more diverse teaching staff. First, we need to work every day to make our schools a warm and welcoming place for our diverse families. We need to build loyalty to Arlington, so our diverse graduates will aspire to return to work in our schools. 

When I worked as an elementary prinicipal, I faced the same challenges in attracting a diverse teaching staff. However, I was able to attract a diverse group of paraprofessionals (teaching assistants). Many were immigrants with bachelor degrees, but they lacked Massachusetts teaching credentials. With a program to support teaching assistants who aspire to be classroom teachers, we can develop a group of excellent, diverse students.

We can also continue to provide students with opportunities to travel abroad, and for our teachers to work in other countries as part of an exchange program. Having students and teachers with experiences in other countries provides for diverse cultural viewpoints, that enhance their ability to succeed in a global economy.

5. Is there anything else you would like us to know? Please include a Facebook page or website that you have for your campaign.

I am honored to serve with my six colleagues on the school committee, and I look forward to working collaboratively with them through my next term. We succeed as a team, because we honor our colleagues strengths and expertise. We welcome community participation in our work and I hope we can effectively communicate with each other in the future.

Please visit my website:
and my Facebook page: