Profiles – Candidates for Shrewsbury School Committee
Shrewsbury – Three candidates will be on the ballot for two seats on the Shrewsbury School Committee in the Tuesday, May 6 Annual Town Election. Here, in their own words, are the bios and answers to four questions from two of the candidates, both incumbents, Sandra Fryc and John Samia. The third candidate, John Martin, chose not to comment for this feature.
Sandra M. Fryc – is seeking re-election to the Shrewsbury School Committee. I have served as a school committee member since 2008, and I am currently the chair of the committee. I also served as chair in 2010. I received an MBA from Assumption College in 1993 and a BS in Business Management from Fitchburg State College in 1984. I am a Senior Dispute Resolution Consultant for Unum Insurance. I have been a town meeting member since 2003 and am also a member of the Shrewsbury Education Foundation; a volunteer group that provides funding for school enrichment grants. I have lived in Shrewsbury with my husband Bob since 1992. My children are proud graduates of the Shrewsbury Public Schools. My son Christian is a college senior and will graduate this May. My daughter Nicole is a college freshman.
John R. Samia – I am a long-time Shrewsbury resident and proud graduate of Shrewsbury High School. My son, Tommy, is a freshman at Shrewsbury High School and daughter, Catherine, is a 7th grader at Oak Middle School.
I graduated with a degree in Economics from UMASS – Amherst. After graduation, I worked for General Electric and graduated from its rigorous financial management program which included financial analyst positions and internal MBA level classes. After working for GE, I graduated from Boston University’s School of Law. For the past sixteen years, I have been a corporate lawyer and am currently General Counsel for American Superconductor Corporation.
What specific career or personal experience in your past do you feel prepares you for this position and why?
Fryc - My education, leadership skills, professional background in dispute resolution, and volunteer roles in the schools and in the community provide me with a solid foundation that allows me to evaluate the priorities of our schools and community. The past six years has given me the opportunity to analyze the school budget and work effectively with school personnel and community members, as well as elected officials in Shrewsbury and at the state level, to understand and respond to the challenges faced by our schools.
Samia – I believe that my school committee experience, strong finance background and legal experience prepare me for this position. I have gained valuable insight and budgeting experience during my school committee tenure. As a financial analyst and contract cost estimator for General Electric, I was responsible for preparing annual budgets and analyzing and projecting commercial contract cost performance. As a corporate lawyer, clients expect me to understand an issue quickly, identify solutions and advocate for the best course of action. I apply all of the foregoing to my school committee role so that I can quickly understand issues and advocate effectively for the right course of action.
If you could eliminate Proposition 2- ½ would you? Why or why not?
Fryc – Proposition 2 ½ was passed to limit property taxes and it curtailed double digit tax increases being experienced in some cities and towns. I would not eliminate Proposition 2 ½ as this law provides protection against unchecked tax increases. The issue with this law is that inflation has basically risen at a rate higher than 2.5 percent, which has resulted in less local spending ability. At the time Proposition 2- ½ became law in 1982; the Town of Shrewsbury was a well managed community and taxes collected provided adequate funding for town services. However, even extremely well managed towns such as Shrewsbury have difficulty providing the services taxpayers expect within the levy limit due to inflation, unfunded mandates and contractual obligations.
Samia – I would not eliminate the original principle under behind Proposition 2- ½, namely a fiscal check and balance over municipal government spending. But, when well-run communities such as Shrewsbury can’t fund basic operational needs without having to cannibalize one part of its budget to fund another, change is needed. I believe that, instead of 2- ½%, the annual rate of increase needs to be in line with the inflation rate (using CPI or other index) tied to the real costs of providing fundamental services (i.e., schools and public safety) and municipal operations (i.e., fuel, health care).
What do you think is the most significant problem facing your community? What do you think should be done short-term and long-term to change it?
Fryc - Sufficient revenue to provide town services that people expect is the most significant issue facing Shrewsbury. The town leaders have done a good job of providing significant value to taxpayers. Cost mitigation efforts including reductions, deferrals and eliminations in employees and services have been utilized for the past ten years. Further reductions would cause increased degradation of services to the community. If the town wishes to maintain services, additional revenue is needed. The Board of Selectman have voted to place a Proposition 2 ½ override before the voters. This will provide municipal services and the schools with revenue needed to meet existing service demands. If an override passes it will provide immediate revenue to the town to preserve services. In the long term, the town should continue to push back on unfunded mandates. Many mandates are well intentioned and serve to assist the community; however, lack of proper funding severely impacts our local budget.
Samia – Without additional resources, Shrewsbury will not be able to provide the level of services and high quality of education that the community expects. In its report, the 2013 Shrewsbury Fiscal Study Committee concluded that the town is operated efficiently and there are no realistic alternatives to reduce town expenditures without severely degrading services. In the short term, we have only one option for additional resources, an operational override. I fully support the $5.5 million operational override that the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to place on the ballot. In the long term, we need to work with our elected state and federal officials to adequately fund mandates.
What person in your life has had the most impact on you and why?
Fryc - My children have had the greatest impact on my life. Being a parent means putting the needs of your children first. My hope was that they would be healthy and happy individuals who tried their best no matter what the challenge. As we they moved through the Shrewsbury Public Schools, I learned a great deal about the challenges faced by students today compared to when I was in school. Educational expectations have increased significantly and it is vital that we provide children with the tools they need to be successful adults. My children’s experiences inspired me to become more active in my community. My children are now young adults and I am blessed that they both understand that hard work, determination and a sense of giving back to their community is vital to their well being. They continue to inspire me every day and I hope that I have been a good role model for them as well.
Samia - My dad, Roger Samia, has had the most impact on me. He is a dedicated father, husband, adviser and friend who taught me since I was young about the importance of family, education and community service. While I was growing up, despite working 60+ hours a week, he always made family first, and provided guidance and unconditional support. He always emphasized the importance of getting an education and the opportunities that an education could provide. Finally, with respect to community service, he did it under the radar, whether as a baseball coach, on the little league board or at church.
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