The six candidates vying for the three open School Committee seats debated during the forum hosted by the Watertown Education Foundation Thursday night.
They tackled a variety of issues. Here are some of the highlights, and information on the candidates:
David Stokes – Has a child at Lowell School, works as an information security manager for the MWRA and teaches at Boston University.
Stokes said he wants to stop the system where the district lays off many younger teachers in April in case the budget cannot be met and rehires those who haven’t found new jobs over the summer. His experience also includes organizing a townwide parent meeting to discuss school cuts in 2011 and co-chaired the district Goals Measurement Subcommittee this year.
Elizabeth Yusem – Has two children at Hosmer School, earned a masters degree in architecture at Harvard University.
Teachers need time to teach critical thinking and problem solving along with the subjects on the MCAS, Yusem said. As an architect, she said she looks forward to the town’s Comprehensive Plan and including designing schools for the future.
Andrew Swan – Has two children at Lowell School, teaches in the Newton Public Schools.
Swan said he could bring a perspective of a teacher to the board, including what works in the classroom, a perspective on curriculum and what’s happening in education today. He added he thinks the district needs to do a better job publicizing what they do because many parents do not know the successes.
John Portz - School Committee member, with two children in the town schools, and teaches at Northeastern University.
The district’s schools are old, and need to be improved. He hopes to see a couple new schools built in the next 10-15 years. He also favors tailoring lessons to kids depending on their ability, but not the old tracking system.
Dmitry Lev – Has two children, including one at Hosmer School, works as an attorney and previously as a financial administrator for schools.
Lev said he has built school budgets from the ground up for charter and private schools. He has studied the teachers contract and noted that money is not the only item of dispute, adding that some surrounding districts pay much more than Watertown.
Guido Guidotti – Parent of a student at Lowell School and works as a health care strategist.
Guidotti works on budgets for his job and said balancing the budge by cutting expenses is easier than finding more revenues. He recommends the district hiring a full-time grant writer. As Watertown schools get more crowded, he sees turning the Phillips Building (now the administrative offices) back into a school is a “no brainer.”