Two seats open in Hudson School Committee race


Two seats open in Hudson School Committee raceFour candidates are vying for two seats on the Hudson School Committee this spring. Here, in their own words, are their bios and thoughts on four issues –

George J. Calnan, Jr. – Have been involved in education all my life as a student, parent, teacher, and principal. Hold a Masters Degree in Educational Administration. Retired in June 2007 after 42 years in Hudson Public Schools. Returned as interim principal of Kennedy Middle School in September 2009 while search for new principal was conducted. Live in Hudson with my wife Karen and stepdaughter Kristen.

Michael J. DiBona – I grew up in Belmont, MA. My wife and I bought our home in Hudson in 2004. I's a 1991 grad of Framingham State University with a BA in Psych. I have worked in Management and IT Staffing. I currently work with unemployed candidates to teach them effective networking and interviewing techniques.

Lorraine Michela- Nelson (Lollie) – lives in Hudson, MA with her husband and daughter. She has earned a B.S in Nursing from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York and a MPA in Finance from Suffolk University in Boston, MA. She is currently employed at a large pharmaceutical company working on clinical research studies for investigational drugs.

Jennifer L. O”Brien – Mrs. O”Brien has a BSBA with concentration in Marketing from Nichols College. She has worked for TMP Worldwide 18+ years and is currently a Sr. Project Manager. She and her husband Ken have two sons, Kristopher and Jackson, and

is VP of the School and Parent Association.

What specific career or personal experience in your past do you feel prepares you for this position and why?

Calnan – I have been an educator in the Hudson Public Schools for forty-three years. During this time I feel that I have acquired an acute insight into the needs of the children of Hudson and our community. I have worked as a teacher and administrator at both the elementary and middle school levels and as a coach at the high school level several years ago. I have also served as a mentor for administrators embarking on their first principalship.

DiBona – The recession of 2008-9. I saw that most recently displaced candidates did not have the current skills and education to obtain a new position in this newly competitive market. I want to

be sure that students still have the ability to obtain as wellrounded an education as possible with the funds available.

Nelson – In my career, I have had the opportunity to work with various individuals, groups and departments to establish and successfully reach complex goals. I have managed and worked within budgets and have cut wasteful spending. These experiences along with my educational experiences have provided me with skills to prepare me for this position.

O”Brien- My personal experience is having been Vice President of the School and Parents Association at the Joseph L. Mulready Elementary School for 3 years. This role assists the President and board with budget formation as well as events and fundraising. The skills utilized in this role can be applied in the School Committee role. My career experience would be working as a Project Manager. Working in this role, I bring to the School Committee position the needed skill sets to work with many groups and individuals to keep things on task and done efficiently.

What is the biggest challenge you see facing the school district in the near future? What do you think can be done to address that issue?

Calnan – The biggest challenge that our schools face today is the same as that of many families throughout this coun- try, doing the best that we can with dwindling resources. A significant piece of the School Department budget is devoted to unfunded state mandates. It is incumbent upon our state legislators to bring this issue to the forefront to assist cities and town in providing the best possible services for their citizens. Space issues, that have been major in the past, should be alleviated with the building of the new Kennedy Middle School.

DiBona – I see the biggest challenge being the budget. I consider myself fiscally conservative, yet I am realistic. In a time when lay-offs are rampant, every dollar counts. I would explore ideas such as business sponsorships and donations to supplement school budgets. To me, electives such as music, cooking and Unified Arts are essential. They build character and exposed kids to other areas of learning.

Nelson – The biggest challenge facing the school district are budget cuts, tax increases and/deficits, with the need to maintain high standards. As a district, we need to find ways to save money, and offset expenditures but maintain the quality of our education. I will work with the other members of the school committee in these areas.

O”Brien – Today's world is smaller and moves much faster for our kids with the advancements in technology. We have to make sure our schools are equipped with the appropriate technology and that our teachers/staff have the resources/training needed to keep pace with them. While traditional methods and program areas are still critical, we have to recognize and embrace the fact that our kids are learning differently and through different channels.

In many towns, the school budget is 50% or more of the overall budget. What ideas do you have that will help ensure equity, so that the needs of the schools as well as the town will be met?

Calnan – Our Town Administrator, the Selectmen, and Finance Committee members are all vigilant regarding the importance of each department budget that comes before them. As a School Committee member, I would advocate for the children of our schools while being mindful of the importance of a solid infrastructure, the need for adequate public safety, and the pursuit of exciting recreational opportunities. During my tenure in Hudson, grant money became an important supplement to the school budget. It will be important to continue to seek those opportunities that will be beneficial to our schools.

DiBona – I would like to see more townspeople take an active interest in the school system, and budget decisions overall, whether or not they have children (in the system). The School System affects most members of a town, either directly or through perceived value to the town. More residents, bringing specific skill sets to the table, will create more diverse and well rounded ideas and answers.

Nelson – Our priorities should continue to be focused on the district goals as well as smart fiscal decisions for the town. Solutions should not always mean higher tax bills. Working smarter to make school and town programs more efficient and finding ways to reduce overhead costs in both areas will help ensure equity. High achieving programs for all children, sustainable school and town spending, efficient use of resources and effective use of technology are necessary at the school and town level.

O”Brien – With the approval of the new Middle School, Hudson residents have continued to demonstrate the ability to come together as a community to determine the needs of the community as a whole. Continued state aid cutbacks and reduced local funds continue to tighten budgets, but if we continue to develop strategies that are guided by broadly held town vision then we ensure equity for our schools as well as the town.

What is it regarding your personal history that makes you so passionate about public education?

Calnan – Having attended public schools all my life, I recognize the opportunity that they provide for all children. When I was in the fifth grade, I had a teacher who, through his creativeness and love of his vocation, made all of his students eager to come to school. For some it was a safe haven, for others, a challenging opportunity. For all, however, it was a happy place.

Public education needs to strive for these same goals. A school should be a welcoming place for parents, a friendly collegial place for staff, and an exciting, safe, and challenging place for students.

DiBona – I am a product of a public education. I was exposed to many different activities and electives throughout my schooling that has impacted my life today. I'se seen classmates that took cooking classes go on to open their own restaurants and many of the values instilled in me during my time in sports, which began in gym class, stays with me today. I want to offer these same opportunities to students today.

Nelson – I am passionate about education because I have had a wonderful career due to my public education. As a nurse, I have compassion, as a mom I have the understanding, and with my educational background, I have the financial knowledge to understand the issues. It is my honor to run for the school committee in Hudson. If the community will have me, I will strive to make decisions that benefit the district, use funds responsibly, support the district goals and work as a team member with fellow school committee members.

O”Brien – My mom had worked in the public school system as a teacher for many years in Connecticut and is currently still on the Board of Education. But I would say raising my own kids has made me passionate about it. Being on the School Committee would give me an opportunity to work with the individuals that are responsible for their development over the years. I want what is best for my kids and I know them better than anyone else. I need to be their advocate and that is what makes me passionate about public education.