YES! for NATICK

YES! for NATICK (YFN) is a Political Action Committee comprised of Natick residents who strive to make information about municipal elections and major town initiatives easily available to everyone via our website and our YES! for NATICK Facebook Page

Click here for the endorsement letter for the 2017 town election.

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YES! for NATICK

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Who is YES! for NATICK?

YES! For NATICK
Leadership

Chairman: Katie Joyce

Treasurer: Kim Schmid

YES! For NATICK
Endorsement Committee

Jay Ball

Jim Connolly

Amy Flynn

Carol Gloff

Glynn Hawley

Katie Joyce

Kim Schmid

Greg Vitarelli

Bruce Weisberg

Maeghan Welford

Linda Wollschlager

Yes! For NATICK
Supporters

Jay Ball

Ricky Ball

Dennis Barr

Anne Blanchard

Carolyn Boyce

Brian Boyle

Jane Boyle

Sean Boyle

Stacy Bradford

Tom Campbell

Dirk Coburn

Tim Dooling

Beth Doyle Bean

Jim Everett

Leah Phillips Falzone

Lauren Fishman

Diane Floyd

Amy Foley

Debbie Forte

Karen Adelman Foster

Lucia Frenkel

Matthew Gardner

Todd Gillenwater

Annie Glater

Glen Glater

Carol Gloff

Kelly Guagenty

Glynn Hawley

Carol Holtz

Paul Joseph

Scott Joseph

Katie Joyce

Joseph Keefe

Amy Keith

Jeanine Kelly-Coburn

Karen Leese

Heather Levinson

Janet Levesque

Scott Marshall

David Margil

Michele Marotta

Amy Mistrot

Mike Mistrot

Julie McCormack

Paul McKinley

Elaine Ostroff

Josh Ostroff

Bill Proia

Firkins Reed

Kim Schmid

Marilu Schoeing

Debbie Shooshanian

Tracy Sockalosky

Lisa Tabenkin

Wendy Tulman

Terri Wallace

Thomas Weierman

Laura Weierman

Maeghan Welford

Jeanne Williamson Ostroff

Linda Wollschlager

Anne Zernicke

Paul Zernicke

Aileen Zogby

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Upcoming Events

Picture of Natick Town Hall

Find out about upcoming events in town here.

YES! for NATICK Candidate Forum

When: Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 @ 7pm

Where: Natick Community-Senior Center

Have questions for the candidates? Email them to YesForNatick@gmail.com.

Local Government 101: How can YOU make a difference

What: A panel for citizen to ask questions and learn about how to get involved in local government.

Where: Morse Institute Library, Lower Level, Lebowitz Room, 14 East Central Street, Natick

When: Sunday, January 8, 2017, 3:00 PM

Who: All are welcome | Speakers include:
Frank Foss, Town Moderator
Diane Packer, Town Clerk
Amy Mistrot, Natick School Committee Chair
Carol Gloff
Josh Ostroff, former Selectmen
Town Meeting members

Children welcome. Please email YesForNatick@gmail.com with questions.

Documents:
Local Government 101 Agenda
Town Meeting Resources
How to Run for Elected Office
Natick Boards and Committees

Board of Selectmen

Picture of Natick High School

YOUR VOTE matters.

The candidates chosen to serve in this election will have a dynamic influence on Natick's future.

Do the candidates represent the majority of the community and its vision for the future?
Do they seek to move the town forward with innovative thinking?
Will they foster collaboration with local and state leaders?


Because so many of us have work and family obligations that prevent us from directly engaging in town government, it is imperative to elect like-minded representatives. These municipal leaders make decisions on your behalf. Make sure that the candidates you vote for represent your vision and your priorities for Natick.

Board in Selectmen Candidates | Two Seats Available

Amy Mistrot

Picture of Amy Mistrot

On election day, Tuesday, 3/28, my husband and I will have owned a home in Natick for twenty years – to the day! We have raised two children in Natick during that tenure. Our daughter graduated from Natick High School two years ago, and our son will graduate this year. We could not be prouder of their hard work and accomplishments and are grateful for the educational foundation that they received in the Natick schools.

My professional background is in retail as a buyer for Lord & Taylor and Filenes before being able to be a stay-at-home mom after our son was born for eleven years. I was busy volunteering during that time with PTOs, cultural arts, school council, town-wide campaigns and fundraisers, and School Committee. In 2010, I returned to work as a school secretary in a neighboring town, where I have also served as a union co-president for the last five years.

We don’t know where the years have gone, but as I have been told, “the days are long, but the years are fast.” However during that time, we are grateful to have made our home in Natick and been able to engage in a way to help support making this town the great place it is to live.

Amy's campaign website can be found here

Mike Hickey

Picture of Mike Hickey

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful wife, Lisa, and two great kids in Natick High School and Wilson Middle School, James and Katie. We’ve made Natick our home and couldn’t be happier about it.

I have a solid and extensive background in the public and private sectors. I'll add value on the Board of Selectmen by bringing a wide range of experience and skills that I believe are uniquely suited to the issues we, as a Town, are facing.

- Commercial real estate and public utilities
- Land use and zoning
- Transportation (roads, bridges and rail)
- Economic development
- Open space and preservation


For the past 8 years, I've worked for a large public (electric and gas) utility, where I've negotiated with major corporations, other utilities, railroads, and residential property owners. I've worked for major law firms, where I represented developers, land preservation and ecosystem restoration partnerships, state housing agencies, state transportation agencies and businesses, large and small.

In addition to my 10 years as a Member of the ZBA, I've worked closely with cities and towns in various capacities for over 20 years on matters ranging from expanded commuter rail service between Framingham and Worcester to land sales to cities and towns for conservation and economic redevelopment purposes.

As a Member of the ZBA (where I served as Chair for three years), I co-authored improvements to the Zoning Bylaw to make it easier for homeowners to make certain modest additions to their homes without the need for ZBA approval.

Most importantly, I've earned a reputation for fairness and for treating people with respect – even when we disagree – and I've stood up for neighborhood concerns by opposing proposals that would have a negative impact. I've been a problem-solver and a consensus builder and I've worked well with all Members – past and present.

Mike's campaign website can be found here

Board of Selectmen Candidate Responses

Please visit this site on your computer to view the Candidate Responses

Did you support funding for the Master Plan under Article 29 at Fall 2015 Town Meeting?

Amy:

Yes. The common theme of these questions is opportunity. I see investing in a Master Plan for Natick as the opportunity for citizens to actively engage in creating the vision of and mission for the town in which they live. From that engagement, we should be able to develop and follow a blueprint that is based on broad consensus versus the ideas of only a few.

Mike:

Yes. I’m not a Town Meeting member and did not have the opportunity to vote on this Article, but I was one of the early proponents of a comprehensive review and phased rewrite of Natick’s Zoning Bylaws. As a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for the past decade, I know that the Bylaws are outdated, disorganized and lacking some of the tools necessary to promote the types of growth and development we want and need.

Of course, a thoughtful and forward-looking Master Plan forms the basis for developing these tools. So, I’m following the Master Plan initiative with great interest. I’ve made my thoughts known through the online survey and look forward to participating in the process as it continues. We are focused on the right things – housing, pace of growth, services, historic preservation, economic development, preserving our character. It’s great to see that there’s a basic consensus in terms of the key priorities and goals early in the process. It seems we all want to see a Natick that retains its special character and unique identity. I’m optimistic that the Master Plan initiative will bring into focus where we want to be and how we get there together. And with my experience and a new Master Plan, I will help implement its recommendations along with other town volunteers and staff.

Do you support creating additional affordable housing?

Amy:

Yes. Creating additional affordable housing and expanding programs to provide financial assistance to lower-income residents addresses an opportunity to maintain the broad socioeconomic demographic of Natick that is a part of our identity that we don’t want to lose. As Natick’s housing market continues to support higher home prices and as real estate taxes increase annually, Natick can become too expensive for some. These two measures would create the opportunity for more people to remain in their community when feeling financial pressure.

Mike:

Yes. Housing costs in the Boston area are a challenge for many people, so more affordable housing is important to keep Natick attainable for people of different incomes. I have relevant experience that will be an asset to the Board of Selectmen as we work on this issue.

I’ve been a practicing real estate attorney for the past 15 years. In my first few years out of law school, I worked extensively on so-called “affordable housing” development – mostly in urban areas. And on the ZBA, I’ve dealt with multi-family housing proposals and developments of all shapes and sizes – some that we’ve been pleased to support and some that we’ve resisted for various reasons.

From this experience, I’ve learned that the term “affordable housing” needs to be used carefully, because it can mean different things to different people. I generally support new, creative, aesthetically-pleasing, and varied living options that meet today’s changing needs. I’d like to see Bylaw changes that would promote construction of some smaller-scale single-family homes on smaller lots within certain areas of Town – homes that would be more affordable than those on the market today. I’d like to see more and better options for older/long-time residents who would like to downsize in Natick – perhaps within walking distance of their place of worship, a grocery store, the Community/Senior Center, the library, public transportation and other Town amenities.

I’ve also had the privilege of speaking with Natick seniors who have lived in, and loved this Town since before I was born. They raised their children here, they’re proud to call Natick their home and they couldn’t imagine ever leaving. At the same time, many of them have concluded that their homes are no longer suited to their current living needs – perhaps because they’re simply too big now that the nest is empty, or because they need single-floor living, or because their property tax bill increases each year at a rate that far outpaces their cost of living adjustments, or because they’re no longer able to safely do all the maintenance and upkeep work that their home needs.

Regardless of the reasons, many would like to find a new living arrangement that’s better suited to their needs. Most that I’ve spoken with paint different pictures of their ideal living arrangement. There’s only one, universal, non-negotiable requirement – it has be in Natick!

These older neighbors of ours are dedicated to the Town and to maintaining the social connections they’ve spent decades building. We need to work together to make sure that they have options when it comes to downsizing! So I’d like to see a more flexible bylaw that allows for experimentation with ideas such as “tiny houses,” and better tools to enable preservation of historic, charming housing stock and fewer “tear-downs” due to outmoded land use provisions which drive up the cost to buy land and, in turn, incentivize developers to maximize lot coverage. And, of course, I’d like to promote more mixed-use development in and around Natick Center so there are more lights on in the evening (year-round!) and so we can ensure that downtown businesses grow and flourish. And, I want to see us stay ahead of the curve in terms of our obligations to ensure that enough of our housing stock meets the State’s affordability guidelines so that we can maintain a healthy level of local control over what ultimately gets built here in Natick.

Did you support the FY 2018 School Budget?

Amy:

Yes. I enthusiastically support the FY18 school budget. As the current Chair of School Committee, I helped develop and vet this budget so feel fully confident that the funding is necessary to support the education of the 5500+ students for the 2017-18 school year. With the average state per-pupil expenditure at $14,900 and Natick’s per-pupil expenditure at $13,700, Natick students and staff are doing so much on a lean budget. Appropriate funding is necessary to ensure that our students are afforded the opportunities that come with a strong education.

Mike:

Yes. As a Selectman, I would strongly support education while always being mindful of the need to ensure that all Town budgets are appropriately funded and that our spending is balanced against the ability of our residents to fund the budget. We’re facing budget challenges and our ability to set and balance priorities will be critical. To help meet the demands on the horizon, I’ll advocate as strongly as possible for state aid for education, including Chapter 70, and work to support smart economic development initiatives that will grow our commercial tax base.

Would you support putting a debt exclusion question on the ballot for Kennedy Middle School?

Amy:

Yes. By putting a debt exclusion on the ballot for the Kennedy Middle School project, an opportunity is created for the taxpayers to determine the value they place on a new school building, approximately half of which would be funded by the state. I believe that a debt exclusion is a taxpayer right to be able to evaluate the project and determine if the project presented is a priority they are willing to support with an additional tax increase.

Mike:

Yes. As a Selectman, I would support putting a debt exclusion question on the ballot only after I am confident – after doing my homework – that doing so (1) is necessary to address a clear and compelling need, and (2) would ultimately benefit the Town as a whole. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with numerous parents whose children attend (or did attend) KMS, members of the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee (past and present), appointed members of the KMS Building Committee, current and former leaders from the Natick Education Foundation, disinterested building professionals and residents from all corners of Town.

The overwhelming consensus is that that KMS has reached the end of its useful life and must be replaced. Further repairs, renovations or modifications would be financially imprudent and don’t make sense given the condition and configuration of the building. So, I believe that the first requirement is met.

As to the second requirement, I believe that construction of a new KMS will ultimately be in the best interest of the Town as a whole. A great school system benefits all of us in some way. For most of us, our homes are our biggest investment, and our strong values here in Natick are based in no small part on the quality of our school system. On a personal level, I’m aware that my children have been able to attend a state of the art middle school – Wilson – because of the decision by the voters to support a debt exclusion for that purpose in 2000. So, I believe the second requirement is met as well.

I would never take lightly the decision to put a debt exclusion question on the ballot. In the case of KMS, I wouldn’t stand in the way of allowing Natick residents to decide.

Do you support public investment in the Natick Center Cultural District (NCCD)?

Amy:

Yes. By all measures, the citizens of Natick enjoy the small-town feel of our intimate downtown. While there is handy access to major retail outlets on route 9, it is Natick’s downtown that helps maintain our character as a town. Limited use of tax dollars to support the Natick Center Cultural District in ways that are meaningful and responsive to the taxpayers supports the opportunity for our downtown to remain vibrant, which is a priority for so many in Natick.

Mike:

Yes. Investment in the Natick Center Cultural District. Some context here is helpful. The Town helps to support the operations of the NCCD, which achieved a state designation about five years ago – among the first in the State. I think this is a prudent use of limited public funds, and it is consistent with the Natick Center Associates public-private partnership. Town government has oversight, and the community as a whole highly values the programs and events that result. Along with an approach to Town government that values all our neighborhoods, I am on board with partially funding the Cultural District.

Do you support additional economic development efforts in Natick?

Amy:

Yes. Economic development is crucial for Natick. We are fortunate that about 25% of our tax base is supported by businesses, which lessens the tax burden on our homeowners. Should Natick lose even part of the commercial tax base from retail stores and large businesses such as Mathworks and Cognex, the tax burden would shift to residential taxpayers or we would need to cut services, both of which would be hard on our citizens. By actively engaging in economic development, we can create opportunities to maintain or increase the commercial tax base, which is beneficial to our residents.

Mike:

Yes. We must support additional economic development efforts in Natick. Growing our commercial tax base is and will remain a most critical component to addressing our urgent need to generate the revenue to support the high-quality Town services we want and need, while supporting high quality jobs for Natick residents and leveraging the existing business community, which also includes the Natick Soldier Systems Center.

We cannot take good fortune for granted. We need to be aggressive and creative in attracting the types of economic development that furthers the Town’s Master Plan vision, and carry out the recent Economic Development study recommendations, while not imposing burdensome new demands on Town services.

Do you support expanding programs to provide financial assistance to lower-income residents?

Amy:

Yes

Mike:

Yes

Do you support the acquisition of open space to protect land from development?

Amy:

Yes. As Natick continues to be developed, remaining available space is in jeopardy. There are limited tracts of larger, undeveloped land. As housing prices escalate, developers are more willing to invest in trickier pieces of land to build out as the development costs can be absorbed into the purchase price. We could lose the opportunity to act upon open space options if we do not actively engage before they get developed.

Mike:

Yes. I do believe that it’s appropriate to support the acquisition and preservation of open space “to protect land from development” in certain instances. We currently have limited funds for this purpose, so we must be strategic and leverage the work of the Open Space Advisory Committee.

In my 15 years as a practicing commercial real estate attorney, I’ve been directly involved in many successful efforts to preserve open space, protect environmentally-sensitive, historically-significant land parcels, and restore large tracts of depleted farming and timber lands to their natural, historic state. I’ve worked with cities and towns in Massachusetts and beyond to accomplish these goals in numerous contexts, and I’m well-versed in the various tools available to preserve open space.

The important thing to appreciate, however, is that land is inherently unique. No two parcels are the same. So, this question is somewhat abstract and doesn’t easily lend itself to a “yes” or “no” answer. As indicated by the handouts from a recent Master Plan meeting, publicly accessible open space accounts for over 15% of the Town, and recreational land increased by 410% over the past 45 years. At the same time, there seems to be a strong consensus that the Town needs to encourage development of smaller-scale living options, such as so-called “transit-oriented” development in a mixed-use setting, as well as more and better options for aging residents (i.e., those who wish to “downsize” in Natick).

Taking a strategic approach, and with the right information to assess individual opportunities, I’m confident that my experience would enable me to balance the competing alternatives and take us in the right direction.

Please rate economic development as a priority for you on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest)?

Amy:

5

Mike:

5

What is your philosophy on free cash (example: should it all be put in a “rainy day fund,” should some be spent, and if so on what—capital, operations, etc.):

Amy:

Free cash is a necessary and responsible part of municipal finance. If the certified free cash is a reasonable number – 3-5% of the annual town budget per the MA Department of Revenue- much of the monies should be spent to fund capital expenditures and placed in reserve funds to support the financial integrity of the town.

In the last two years, Natick has had free cash numbers of $9.2 (6.6%) and $12.1 (8.7%) million dollars, which requires different thinking. The significant certification of unused monies at the end of a fiscal year requires a higher level of scrutiny on budget preparation, particularly when we are unable to fund legitimate and viable priorities of the town. When we are experiencing free cash numbers higher than the financially responsible target range, we either need to refine the preliminary budgeting to be able to better leverage unfunded opportunities or we need to limit the tax increase on the homeowner to avoid unnecessary taxation.

Mike:

Town Meeting has a track record of appropriating a portion of free cash for important Town needs and I’m open to supporting the continuation of that practice on a case-by-case basis. I also believe that a portion should be put in stabilization funds that are set aside for long-term needs and anticipated liabilities. As a general matter, I agree with the Town Administrator’s recent budget message on this point – i.e., that we must resist the temptation to utilize a greater amount of free cash to support our operating budget and that it instead should be supported by reliable, recurring funds.

Other than enrollment and budgetary challenges, what do you see as the 3 biggest challenges facing the Natick Public Schools?

Amy:

Given that I am running for the Board of Selectmen, I am going to focus my response on the challenges of the general government side of this question. The challenges that I would like to see the town address are reflected in the goals I articulate on my website. Although they do not address specific problems, such as crowded roadways and limited downtown parking, they address higher-level challenges that will help address the day-to-day challenges we face.

1. Plan the transition for and hire a new Town Administrator who can both manage and lead Natick.

2. Focus on both short and longer-term budgetary and strategic planning so that we are actively managing how we address our challenges versus being forced into short –term reactions.

3. Ensure “responsible stewardship” for Natick in the form of clear, measurable, accountable, town-wide goals and then transparent evaluation of those goals. We need to have clear expectations for administration and then be able to share what worked, what didn’t work and why, and how that assessment informs our next steps.

Mike:

Successful completion of the Master Plan initiative so that we can update and modernize our planning and zoning tools and better position us to manage the pace of growth; identifying and attracting the types of economic development that will generate new revenue without placing an undue burden on Town services; maintaining excellent public schools while navigating the growth in enrollment and also maintaining the core Town services we rely upon while ensuring that the men and women who educate our children and provide our Town services have continued access to quality benefits.

What are your views on transportation and what, if anything, Natick can do to improve our transportation issues?

Amy:

If by transportation the question speaks to traffic volume, we are in some ways limited given that while our own town traffic is significant, we are also a flow-through town for many drivers who live in surrounding towns. The cars are not going to go away, which means that efficiencies are needed in roadway improvements, increased public transportation options, and by drivers hopefully opting for car-sharing whenever possible.

Roadway improvements have made the Route 9/Oak Street and the Route 9/Overbrook Drive interchange more functional, which keeps traffic moving more effectively. For anyone who travels close to downtown Natick, can any of us wait for the Marion Street bridge to open next year after being closed since 2012??? That one replaced access point to cross town will improve traffic flow tremendously. Another efficiency will be realized after the roadway improvements from the Route 27 and 9 interchange project are completed, which begins in 2019.

We are fortunate to have two commuter railway stations in Natick, but parking access at both stations is limited. Additional parking from a downtown parking garage would allow for increased use of that public transportation option if/when developed and completed.

The quickest option to reduce traffic volume is to reduce the number of cars on the road through car-sharing/carpooling, which is also probably the least well-liked option by most of us. I, as much as the next person, likes the flexibility to come and go on my own schedule without having to coordinate with others; however, if we could double up with just one other person, imagine the ripple effect felt on our roadways.

Mike:

I have a solid background in State government, where I played an active role in the successful expansion of MBTA commuter rail service along the Framingham-Worcester line, and later served as Chief of Staff at the Massachusetts Highway Department (now MassDOT). In my earlier years as a practicing commercial real estate attorney for a major Boston law firm, I gained extensive experience representing state transportation agencies – including work on “air rights” development and traditional development along the MassPike, and also on post-“Big Dig” redevelopment in and around Downtown Boston. For the past eight years, I’ve worked for a major public utility where I’ve worked on countless transactions involving public infrastructure. I know how to work with state and local officials on transportation issues and I know how successful coordination with public utilities is critical to the success of a transportation project. I believe my background expertise will enable me to add real value on the Board of Selectmen in terms of tackling issues such as development of parking infrastructure, promoting transit-oriented development, working with the MBTA on the Natick Center Station redesign, advocating for state support, and working with our public utilities to ensure that our local road and bridge projects are proceeding in a timely and efficient manner.

What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the Board of Selectmen or School Committee? (please share direct experience with either)

Amy:

I have been volunteering in Natick since my daughter entered kindergarten in 2002. On my website (www.mistrotforselectmen.org), I share a list of the different organizations and boards on which I have served during those 15 years.

The work that I have enjoyed the most is group projects to support the town – the 2008 operational override campaign, the 2009 and 2013 Taste for Technology, the 2010 Now! For Natick High campaign, the last eight years on School Committee, and most specifically the last three years as Chair of School Committee. It is during my time as chair that I was able to work closely with School Committee, NPS administration, and through other boards to create enhanced communication and collaboration to support the continued excellence of the schools and to learn more about town governance as whole.

During this time, I have also served on the multi-board Financial Planning Committee, where I have learned a lot about the town’s financial and managerial challenges. There is tremendous opportunity in Natick. I would like to share with the other members of the Board of Selectmen the best practices that I experienced and/or developed on School Committee so that as a productive, working committee, we can develop a clear and measurable action plan for our town.

Mike:

Early in my career, I gained extensive experience in State government where I had a hand in several regional economic development success stories, and where I learned the importance of being responsive, working collaboratively and seeking balanced, responsible results.

My extensive legal experience has been focused on several areas of law that are well-aligned with the important issues facing Natick – commercial real estate development, public utilities, transportation, land use and zoning – and I’ve worked extensively with state and local government agencies throughout Massachusetts and beyond.

I’ve been a Member of the Natick ZBA for about 10 years, including 3 as Chairman, and I’ve worked collaboratively and successfully with my fellow Board members, as well as members of numerous other Town Boards, Committees and Departments. During this time, I’ve seen Natick go through different growth periods and I’ve advocated for some of the initiatives that are now underway.

We lived in several different neighborhoods across Town before we settled in our current home 8 years ago. I’ve come to meet many people of all ages and backgrounds. I believe I’ve proven that I’ll seek out and listen to all voices, keep an open mind, do my homework and ultimately make decisions that I feel are in the Town’s best interest. I have two children in public schools and I’m committed to supporting excellence in public education – today and in the future.

Please comment on how you think various town committees (BOS, SC, Planning and Zoning) should work together to manage growth, allocate funding, and respond to the will of Natick residents?

Amy:

Working together across boards is essential; communication, collaboration, consensus is the best pathway to strong outcomes. Last spring, I requested that the Financial Planning Committee (FPC) – a committee made up of members from town and school administration, the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, and School Committee – expand the review of budget forecasting to also include capital planning after learning about the $22 million in recommendations from the recent town-wide parks and fields study. Bringing broader perspective to the town’s capital needs, including these new recommendations, to identify where there is shared support and to discuss funding options with multi-board insight could lead to multiple possible outcomes. Broader board member input equates to broader resident input.

Last December, I also requested that the Planning Board Chair and the Director of Economic and Community Development attend these FPC meetings to begin to discuss ways to facilitate communication on pending and potential future developments relative to enrollment increases for the schools, which needs to be a shared conversation with each of the represented boards. We can be more strategic in how we address the impact of increased enrollment – as a town - if we know about new development sooner and multiple boards can work together to analyze the options.

Mike:

It starts with communication. I believe the various Town Boards and Committees generally work well with each other and share the same goals. There have, of course, been times when we could have done a better job at communicating and coordinating with each other, but generally I believe we’ve improved over the past 10+ years. I think we’re working more collaboratively and effectively to make sure we’re well positioned to manage increasing growth and allocate funding in a manner that’s responsive to the will of Natick’s residents. The Master Plan initiative is a great example of what can happen when our elected and appointed officials talk with each other about shared concerns, identify tomorrow’s challenges and take steps in the right direction together.

Before the Master Plan was initiated, there was a recommendation that Town boards and committees pursue greater collaboration. I would like to formalize that and I think the Selectmen should take a leading role in this process. If elected, I would like to work with other Selectmen to better coordinate the efforts of Town Government.

Do you believe that an active citizenry is critical to local government and if so, how would you help increase participation on town government?

Amy:

I think active citizenry is essential to local government. The greater awareness for the challenges a town faces, the better engagement that we can generate from a broad coalition of citizens, the better net result for Natick. Great things happen when people work together for a common goal.

On the Board of Selectmen, I would like to do something that is small but would reap huge rewards for community engagement, which is to help coordinate the meetings to be more productive and, in doing so, enhance participation. The meetings can be planned and managed to run an average of three hours, which is still a long time for a citizen to sit in the meeting room or watch from home. If we want people to watch the meetings so they are aware of what is happening in their local government, we have to make the meetings shorter than the Academy Awards. To start a meeting at 7:00 that continues past 10:00 is more than we can realistically ask citizens to stay with and is definitely more than we should be asking of either citizens or staff who may be presenting.

Additionally, if the thought of watching an extended meeting from home is too much, the thought of engaging someone as a future board member is going to be way too much participation to hope for. By simply managing the meetings more actively, we can encourage greater community engagement in the short and potentially long term.

Mike:

Absolutely! Natick is full of caring, engaged and talented people of all backgrounds. The success of our local government depends on the willingness of our great volunteers – whether those who volunteer to serve on Town Boards or Committees, or those who are active in some other way – such as through recreational trail clean-up efforts, coaching a school sport, being a Scout Troop parent, participation in PTO/school groups, local non-profits and religious groups, charitable organizations, and countless other engaged and active citizens working in groups, by themselves or both.

At the same time, it’s true that voter turnout is typically quite low – particularly in Town elections. I’d like to see those numbers increase. I think we should each make an effort to increase participation in Town government in a way that feels right to each of us as individuals. For example, we might invite a neighbor to a community meeting, or let them know of an opportunity to get involved. Even small efforts make a big difference and if we’re successful in getting even one of our neighbors to “tune in” to Town government, that’s a great thing.

And, on a larger scale, Town officials might beef up efforts to advise Town residents of opportunities to get involved, and to better communicate with the public.

My message is “balanced leadership” – to me, that means a few things – open, transparent, inclusive and collaborative approach where we welcome different viewpoints and perspectives and treat people with respect. If people feel as though their voices are being heard and their opinion matters, they’ll be much more likely to get engaged and stay engaged.

Some people have suggested to me that Natick feels somewhat “divided” – I like to think we’re not nearly as divided as some might say. I believe that when we talk with each other and listen, we find that most of us tend to agree on where we’d like Natick to be in 5 or 10 years, though we may have different ideas about how to get there. I think our Town leaders should continue to welcome different ideas and perspectives and do their part to ensure that we’re all keeping the lines of communication as open as possible – I believe our leaders ultimately make better decisions when the people they represent are engaged and communicating. And when our leaders demonstrate that they’re listening, people will be more likely to get and stay engaged.

School Committee

Picture of John J. Lane Park

The accessibility and relative affordability of Natick, along with great services and a strong school system have created challenges for the town that require strong municipal leadership and collaboration across boards.

The School Committee, in collaboration with its municipal partners, will need to address the challenges that stem from continued enrollment that put pressure on the town finances to support both the operational and building/space needs of the schools while maintaining the appropriate focus on supporting and enhancing student achievement.

School Committee | 2 Seats Available

Jeffrey Alderson

Picture of Jeffrey Alderson

Jeff Alderson has spent his entire career working on technology that empowers students, families, guidance counselors and educators to make informed decisions about education - specifically college and career transitions for all students - including those with special needs. Jeff has over 15 years experience in developing technology solutions for education and government, as well as five years service as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. Mr. Alderson received his B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from WPI in Worcester, Massachusetts. A published author covering the education technology industry, Jeff currently lives in Natick with his wife, Sara, and is employed at MathWorks in their online learning for higher education group. He also signs with and is the temporary conductor for the Voices of MetroWest, and is the Chair of the Board of Directors for Waypoint Adventure - a not-for-profit that provides outdoor adventure and learning opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Jeffrey's campaign website can be found here

Donna McKenzie

Picture of Donna McKenzie

I own a home on a dead end street that abuts MA state conservation land where I live with Lucy, Mollie and Nellie, my three Boston Terriers. My home was the model for a post-World War II development that used to be a farm. Wild asparagus still grows in one of my neighbor’s yards. I learned from my father that almost anything can be fixed so I have skills in plumbing, plastering, refinishing woodwork, landscaping, etc. I am a creative, smart and fun person with a professional life as a scholar, writer and teacher in the field of ethics, more specifically health care ethics and social ethics. In addition to a Ph.D., I have a Master of Divinity degree and an A.B. degree in molecular biology. I grew up in Natick and graduated from the Natick Public Schools, but I am anything but parochial. I have studied and worked in many cities throughout the country including New Haven, CT, Detroit, MI, Berkeley, CA, Ithaca, NY and NY, NY. Social justice is my life’s focus; I hope to leave the world better and kinder. I have taught at Cornell and Fordham Universities, as well as most recently at Boston College High School, a one to one laptop school like Natick High. I was named a Woman of the Year by Glamour Magazine and have been recognized and honored for my teaching and scholarship numerous times. I am hard at work on a book on justice in health care and look forward to helping Natick kids achieve their fullest potential.

Donna's campaign website can be found here

Hayley Sonneborn

Picture of Hayley Soneborn

I am excited to be a candidate for the Natick School Committee given my experience and passion for education. I have been entrenched in public school education since receiving my Masters in Education from Boston College in 2001. In addition to having nine years of experience in the Westwood Public Schools as a High School English Teacher, I sought out various leadership roles within Natick Public Schools and within the greater Natick community. I have first-hand experience with the schools through my two terms on the School Council at Bennett-Hemenway, and through my 3nd grader at Bennett-Hemenway and my 6th grader at Wilson Middle School.

On the School Council, I worked closely with the principal, assistant principal, teachers, and other elected parent representatives to evaluate the school improvement plan, the budget and all aspects of the school community.

As an English teacher at Westwood High School, I had the opportunity to work on the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation committee, and helped organize a team that examined current standards and benchmarks within the school. During my tenure as a teacher, I also enjoyed coaching a Varsity Ski Team. I was a founding coach and member of the Ski East Board of Governors during this time as well.

I developed and facilitated programs at Family Resources of Natick with the goal of engaging parents of young children in the community, connecting them with resources within the greater community and connecting them with other community members. Programs were developed around Massachusetts Department of Education literacy and STEM Standards.

I know what great schools mean to our lives. I am excited about the excellent education Natick provides its students, and also aware of the current struggles and limitations given Natick’s unprecedented growth and finite budget. My diverse experiences as educator, council member, community program facilitator and parent give me an appreciation of the challenges that will require creative thinking and collaborative problem-solving. I am would be honored to bring my experiences and ideas to the Natick School Committee.

Hayley's campaign website can be found here

School Committee Candidate Responses

Please visit this site on your computer to view the Candidate Responses

Did you support funding for the Master Plan under Article 29 at Fall 2015 Town Meeting?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes

Hayley:

Yes

Do you support creating additional affordable housing?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes

Hayley:

Yes

Did you support the FY 2018 School Budget?

Jeff:

Yes. While the FY2018 School Budget was presented to the school committee and public at the meeting on Feb. 13th, it was done so without complete information also being available about projected town revenues for the same period. I support the budget as presented at that meeting, however additional discussion and reconciliation must be done considering the actual revenue picture when delivered by the town administrator/finance committee.

Donna:

Yes. I have attended several presentations on the 2018 budget, as well as taken the time to study it carefully. I am convinced the 6.9 % increase in the School Department budget which includes the addition of 32.7 FTE additional teachers and staff is necessary to respond to the increased enrollment in our district and “catch up” with understaffing, especially at the high school where there are classes with 27 students and more. Some of the additional staff also is mandated by the state for our Special Education program. I am hoping that as a town we will be able to find the monies to fully fund this budget. This budget overall provides level staffing and I look forward to when increased funds allow us to enhance and expand our offerings.

Hayley:

Yes. The proposed 6.9% budget increase is essential to maintain academic standards and support services essential to Natick Public School’s success. Natick has done an outstanding job improving our schools while keeping the per pupil cost below the state average, and well below the per pupil cost of many of the surrounding communities. The proposed increase in faculty is a direct response to the growing enrollment of approximately 100 students per year, and to the state mandated requirements of special education. I fully support the proposed budget and believe that funding is required to continue to support the increased student success Natick has seen in the past several years.

Would you support putting a debt exclusion question on the ballot for Kennedy Middle School?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes. The Massachusetts Building Authority (MSBA) determined that the Kennedy Middle School is the school most in need of repair in the state. I have seen the areas where the roof is leaking and I know the heating system is inadequate. The building also lacks a sprinkler system. The law requires that we provide a safe environment in which our students can learn and presently we are not meeting that requirement. The MSBA has approved our project and the state will reimburse the town for 53% of the cost. I am hopeful that most residents recognize the need to replace Kennedy and will vote for a debt exclusion override.

Hayley:

Yes

Do you support public investment in the Natick Center Cultural District (NCCD)?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes

Hayley:

Yes

Do you support additional economic development efforts in Natick?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes

Hayley:

Yes

Do you support expanding programs to provide financial assistance to lower-income residents?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes. It has become the case that parents send their kids to public schools with their check books open to cover all of the additional fees. No student should be excluded from activities, sports, music and the arts, because their families are unable to afford it. School bus fees are unfortunate, and we should do everything possible to keep them affordable. Town Meeting funds a school bus subsidy for this purpose. We do provide some financial support, but we need to find ways to increase it, especially for families facing unexpected unemployment, disability or catastrophic loss. According to the state, approximately 11% or 621 of our students are economically disadvantaged. The state uses a new methodology which may underestimate the number of our kids who suffer from poverty.

Hayley:

Yes

Do you support the acquisition of open space to protect land from development?

Jeff:

Yes

Donna:

Yes

Hayley:

Yes

Please rate economic development as a priority for you on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest)?

Jeff:

4

Donna:

5

Hayley:

5. Natick must embrace the future. That is part of the school’s mission, and the larger community’s as well. It is essential that we promote beneficial, high-value business in Natick in order to support town services and public schools. A side benefit to enhancing Natick as a technology and innovation center is the potential for partnerships with the schools. And leading edge companies are naturally attracted to communities that value great schools, not least for the quality of the workforce.

What is your philosophy on free cash (example: should it all be put in a “rainy day fund,” should some be spent, and if so on what—capital, operations, etc.):

Jeff:

Free cash should be spent with a priority on capital expenditures first, and operations second. I do not believe that free cash should be used to fund salaried teaching positions, however, as the free cash amounts are difficult to forecast year to year and could result in having to pull back on teacher headcount if not approved for the regular budget process. Additionally, there are multiple technology modernization and investment projects that could be funded, including migration to a new student administrative system from the current iPass installation, as well as modernization of devices used in the 1:1 initiative.

Donna:

This is a great question in light of the over 12 million dollars we had in certified free cash this past year, an extraordinary amount when our average amount is between 3 and 4 million dollars. Certified free cash which results when revenue collections and unspent funds are higher than operating costs are unrestricted funds. They usually are used for appropriations after the budget is approved and the tax rate set, because the funds are not certified and available until after July 1st. The question you pose is essentially how much risk do we think is prudent. I do think “rainy day funds” are a priority, as well as our unfunded pension liability. But given the unusual amount of free cash that we have presently, I would support using it for capital expenses such as defraying the cost of a parking garage and/or the West Natick Fire Station. I cautiously support using some of it for operational expenses. A 2016 memo from the Dept. of Revenue states, “free cash should be restricted to paying one-time expenditures, funding capital projects, replenishing other reserves.” We do need to be careful. The Technical Bulletin suggests setting an acceptable percentage in the instances where the funds are used for operational expenses. I do not support using free cash for operational expenses in ordinary circumstances where the amount of free cash falls within the recommended 3% of the budget. The available amount of free cash affects our AAA bond rating, and we will not have these funds available to us every year. Free cash sounds great. Available funds which these technically are, not so much. Transparency, communication and accountability are essential in the disposition of these funds.

Hayley:

Right now Natick is in a relatively secure position with recurring free cash and healthy reserves. We should be prudent in the use of free cash to support operations, and look to historical trends to ensure that we only use sustainable revenue to support ongoing expenses. I would support use of these funds for one-time use or larger, non-recurring expenses such as major capital projects.

Other than enrollment and budgetary challenges, what do you see as the 3 biggest challenges facing the Natick Public Schools?

Jeff:

1. Opioid crisis: The health and safety of our students is paramount. Issues related to drug use and prevention programs will continue to require the school committee and administration to set policy and foster a culture of zero tolerance for drugs, combined with thoughtful intervention and prevention strategies, within the schools.

2. Tolerance, diversity and inclusion: Natick continues to struggle with issues of bullying, racially charged language, and related incidents, both within the schools and in online forums. Administrators need consistent policies and response plans at the district level to combat these issues, and to foster an environment of inclusion and tolerance.

3. Parity of Academic and Non-Academic Programming: Different schools offer different opportunities for students – take for example the academic and enrichment programs between Wilson and Kennedy middle schools – and the district must continue to look for ways to ensure equality in the curriculum so that students are not shortchanged simply due to districting lines. Additionally, as we increase support for special education, we are making conscious tradeoffs by limiting other programs for top performing students. Striking a balance will be difficult and require equal funding for all student opportunities.

Donna:

1. Inclusion and Diversity: This is an issue that our high school students themselves have identified as a problem. If students do not feel comfortable with themselves, they will fail to achieve their fullest potential. The School Committee has chosen achievement as it highest priority and we need to consider everything that contributes to achievement gaps. We need to take all steps necessary to improve our policies and practices so every child is respected regardless of their economic background, gender, sexual preference, religion, immigration status, intellectual and physical ability, family constellation. Our town and schools have experienced several incidences of hate. Offering our students the chance to learn another language beginning in kindergarten is one small way that we can increase appreciation for other cultures and the global society in which we live. Natick should investigate successful programs in districts such as Needham and Holliston and find room in the budget to make this possible. Our budger reflects our policies and values.

2. Student and Teacher Empowerment: We need to continue to try to create an excitement for learning in our students and set them up for lifetime achievement. Reducing the student-teacher ratio in the lower grades, especially kindergarten, should be one goal in our strategic plans. Class size makes a difference in student achievement in lower grades, especially for children who come from lower income brackets. We need a Math Coordinator at the elementary level to help educators implement proven strategies and research and improve overall student achievement in mathematics. ESSA regulations call for a well-rounded education. Art, music, and drama are now a requirement and we need to strengthen how they are integrated into the curriculum. Teachers are concerned about ongoing assessment tools that take away from their time with kids in their classrooms. We need to find ways to optimize the time that teachers spend with their students. Technology is never a substitute for face to face interaction between teachers and students and guidance counselors and students. Nurturing social relationships will ultimately empower students and teachers. Our kids will develop empathy as they learn to care for others and our community. This will reduce bullying and hate speech.

3. Health and Wellness: For the first time, the life expectancy of children born today is decreasing. The school district partners with many wonderful organizations like Natick Together for Youth (for drug and addiction issues) and Spark Kindness (for anti-bullying and self-esteem issues). Hey NHS is a recent depression prevention initiative which teaches our students about depression and suicide and offers brief one on one screenings. But we can never do enough to protect and promote the health and well-being of our students. Natick High School students continue to identify stress as a major issue for them and we know that stress can shorten lifespans, even kill. The School Committee must creatively explore ways in which we might reduce student stress in the district overall and integrate such approaches into the mainstream curriculum rather than as optional, add on programs. We need to continue to evaluate our homework policies, and high stake testing practices that lead to a “pressure cooker” environment. I would like the School Committee to reconsider a delayed start option for our high school students since parents and students continue to ask for this. Studies have shown that adolescents at this age require more sleep than they are getting. Some will achieve at a higher level if they begin school later. It will require additional resources like more buses, and great effort to make activities and sports available, but we can do this.

Hayley:

1. Tolerance, inclusion and diversity: Despite the strides we have made to prioritize tolerance, inclusion and diversity as goals not only in the schools, but in the greater community, there is clearly more work to be done with regard to these objectives. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is essential that good policy and planning that reflects these goals are in place within the schools. I would like to ensure that curriculum and programming that reflects the goal of teaching tolerance is in place consistently through grades k-12. Further, I would like to ensure that administrators are equipped with consistent proactive policies and ongoing support as they address these issues.

2. Alignment/parity of academic, non-academic programming: This issue is multifaceted and requires attention. Currently there are several offerings that are inconsistent throughout the district, especially at the middle school level. Exposure to certain disciplines and enrichment opportunities both within the school day and after school are varied, depending on which school students attend. It is important that all students in Natick have access to these opportunities irrespective of the school they attend or based on other support services they receive during the day. In some cases, students on IEPs have academic support services while their peers have enrichment or unified arts offerings. This inequity is a top priority.

3. A coordinated, district-wide health and wellness initiative: There have been several, excellent initiatives and supports that have been put into place with the goal of addressing the health and wellness of our students. However, a coordinated health and wellness district-wide initiative would enhance communication, empower further resources to be strategically put into place and delivered. I am pleased that the district has implemented programs to assess and address the mental wellness of our students. I think that a coordinated program, would enhance communication and involvement in these issues and allow for more growth of these initiatives throughout the district.

What are your views on transportation and what, if anything, Natick can do to improve our transportation issues?

Jeff:

Natick residents should use public transportation options more frequently, particularly for shorter work commutes to surrounding towns and the mall area. Awareness of existing bus routes and schedules should be increased, as well as having more diverse routes available. The accessibility of the Natick commuter rail station must be dramatically improved in partnership with MTA.

Donna:

I enjoy riding my bike and I often choose to take public transportation. But riding a bike in Natick has become dangerous and I would like designated bike lanes as there are in other towns. I often see our kids riding their bikes on the sidewalks, especially downtown. I understand why they do it, but this is not good for pedestrians and it is illegal. In spite of its astronomical price, I voted for the Rail Trail and I look forward to using it. I took the commuter rail to Boston last year when I was teaching at Boston College High for several months. I also voted to fund the study for an accessible downtown rail station so that everyone can ride the train. I know firsthand how essential accessibility is having taken care of my father for several years when he was confined to a wheelchair. Traffic is congested in Natick, especially during rush hour. We need to do our best to find ways of developing our town without increasing the congestion. Natick will lose some of its attractiveness if the traffic becomes unmanageable and less safe for pedestrians. Finding creative ways to discourage the use of automobiles is important. We are fortunate to have a Transportation Advisory Committee that already is working on these issues.

Hayley:

Transportation challenges are a townwide concern, and an important focus of Town government. We are slowly catching up, with initiatives to make our streets and sidewalks more safe, to improve accessibility at the Natick Center MBTA station, to supplement state funding for roadway maintenance, to provide more transportation options for seniors, and with trails and other initiatives such as state “Complete Streets” project funding.

As a School Committee member, I would support the District’s efforts to assure that our students and staff can get to school safely. More and better sidewalks that are well maintained and cleared of snow and ice are very important; parents should not be forced to drive their children to school out of concern for their safety. I would like Natick to participate in the Safe Routes to School program, for example.

I also will continue to support a subsidy for school bus transportation. I recognize that the Town is generous in helping to offset bus fees for families, and will continue to advocate for this service as well as ensure that we can waive fees in the case of hardship.

What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the Board of Selectmen or School Committee? (please share direct experience with either)

Jeff:

I currently serve as the board chair for Waypoint Adventure, a not-for-profit which is focused on outdoor experiential learning opportunities for persons with disabilities. I have also served as chair and treasurer for multiple boards for education-related non-profits over the past 15 years. I am an education researcher by profession, focused on how the use of technology impacts education, and I will start a new job at Mathworks, here in Natick, within the higher education online learning group later this month. In 2004, I helped start an education technology company to develop college, career and financial aid planning software that is still used by guidance counselors and students in Massachusetts schools today.

I have taken advantage of every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the issues facing Natick Public Schools. In 2015, shortly after moving to Natick, I volunteered to fill a school committee vacancy, but was not selected. Since that time, I took part in the Natick Citizens Leadership academy which afforded me direct access to town staff to learn more about budget and programming issues facing the schools, and I have served as community representative on the Wilson Middle School Council since August of 2015.

Donna:

I have been an elected Town Meeting member for 9 years. I have shared responsibility for approving the funds for the school department budget, considering how the school department budget serves our children and fits into the overall needs of our town. I attend School Committee meetings and this year attended the relevant Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee meetings. I belong to the listserv for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) and attended their workshop on budgets. I also subscribe to the Massachusetts Teacher Association (MTE) listserv. I participated in the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) workshop on basic rights to understand the experience of the more than 800 children in our district with Individual Education Plans (IEP) and 504 plans. I am a graduate of the Natick Public Schools where I acquired the foundation to achieve a high level of success in my life as a teacher, writer and researcher. My doctorate in ethics gives me the skills to analyze and plan how to make our budget, policies and practices capture our values.

Hayley:

I have been entrenched in public school education since receiving my Masters in Education from Boston College in 2001. In addition to having nine years of experience in the Westwood Public Schools as a High School English Teacher, I sought out various leadership roles within Natick Public Schools and within the greater Natick community. I have first-hand experience with the schools through my two terms on the School Council at Bennett-Hemenway, and through my 3nd grader at Bennett-Hemenway and my 6th grader at Wilson Middle School.

On the School Council, I worked closely with the principal, assistant principal, teachers, and other elected parent representatives to evaluate the school improvement plan, the budget and all aspects of the school community.

As an English teacher at Westwood High School, I had the opportunity to work on the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation committee, and helped organize a team that examined current standards and benchmarks within the school. During my tenure as a teacher, I also enjoyed coaching a Varsity Ski Team. I was a founding coach and member of the Ski East Board of Governors during this time as well.

I developed and facilitated programs at Family Resources of Natick with the goal of engaging parents of young children in the community, connecting them with resources within the greater community and connecting them with other community members. Programs were developed around Massachusetts Department of Education literacy and STEM Standards.

Please comment on how you think various town committees (BOS, SC, Planning and Zoning) should work together to manage growth, allocate funding, and respond to the will of Natick residents?

Jeff:

Transparent and structured communication between the various town committees, as well as with constituents, will be key. Multi-year forecasts of student enrollment growth should be part of all communications with stakeholders about school budget to ground all discussion and debate about services in facts. Individual members of the BOS and SC should be ready and willing to make compromises and touch choices, and not come to meetings predisposed to one side of an issue or another. Our committees require a true openness and a willingness to empathize with students, teachers, administrators and parents will be necessary for informed conversations.

Donna:

At Town Meeting and Committee meetings I’ve watched this process unfold, as cooperation grows into collaboration. It’s a difficult process and can’t be rushed: small incremental change is healthy. The Board of Selectmen and the School Department hold joint meetings; we’ve witnessed the consolidation of municipal and school building maintenance. The Sustainability Committee worked with various other committees in acquiring the land at Pegan Hill. Cross-department subcommittees allow members to truly listen to each other, allowing them to see the others’ perspective. Collaboration leads to increased transparency and trust. A continued effort is needed between more committees. These alliances are essential in making critical decisions which will impact Natick’s future. We have a single shared goal.

Hayley:

I believe in collaboration and communication, and would encourage the School committee and parents to work with other town boards and committees to ensure that we are well informed about issues and projects that affect the school district or have educational impacts. Whether we make this a standing agenda item, or participate in multi-board meetings, we will do the schools and students an important service by sharing information. In addition, it is important for the parents of students who advocate for more resources to better understand the needs of other town departments and of taxpayers and residents who do not have children in the Natick schools.

Do you believe that an active citizenry is critical to local government and if so, how would you help increase participation on town government?

Jeff:

Yes. The Natick Citizens Leadership academy should be expanded and made available to graduating high school students, and advertised to new homeowners and town residents. Natick also would benefit from more issue-centric forums to encourage sharing of facts around proposed by-law changes, budgets, and planning actions. Natick would also benefit from more active management of social media for a bidirectional exchange with residents – using forums to collect feedback on issues or policies – and not just as a broadcast medium. Committees should also use more surveys and polls to solicit feedback from residents prior to official meetings on more controversial topics.

Donna:

An active citizenry is the heart and soul of local government, especially a community like ours with a representative Town Meeting. Any resident has the opportunity to speak in front of Town Meeting and elected boards about issues that are important to them. We are the local government. Given the divisive state of our national politics, we need to do our best to model respect and collaboration on the local level. When there is a real threat to our Constitutional rights, no person is too young to get involved. We need to help our students realize that their voice matters and that they can make a difference. We have a Natick Citizen’s Academy of which I am a graduate, but we need to reclaim our schools as citizenship academies. This is why they were organized and publically funded even before the United States was established. Our civics instruction should include projects where our kids write to representatives, visit with representatives, engage in public awareness campaigns, conduct surveys on important issues and share the results and teach younger kids what they are learning. Having our children participate in government from an early age will benefit their future and ours.

Hayley:

I strongly believe in being an engaged and informed citizen, and always have been. Uniquely, the schools are in a position to promote civic participation through curricula and programs that develop civic knowledge, skills and disposition. From my educational background I know the value of interdisciplinary learning, and that civic values can be taught in an array of subjects, such as mathematics, history, the arts, language, and psychology, as well as a civics-oriented classes as would be found at the High School level. Modern civics instruction is most successful when it is student-centered, and fully engages young people in the world around them.

Because greater civic participation is so important - for example, with low turnout for municipal elections - I also hope that the civics programs in the Natick schools can be shared with the community as a whole.

Kennedy Middle School

picture of Kennedy Middle School

Natick was formally invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority's (MSBA) grant program to develop a building project to address educational, enrollment, and mechanical/building needs at Kennedy Middle School (KMS) on 1/27/16.

* A debt-exclusion vote is required to fund capital projects, which requires four of the five Selectmen to approve a debt-exclusion to be placed on a town voting ballot. Without Board of Selectman approval, the Kennedy question will NOT appear on the ballot. That means you may not be provided the opportunity to approve funding for a new Kennedy.

Make sure that the Board of Selectman candidates that you vote for in the March 29th, 2016 election are willing to support a debt-exclusion vote for KMS to be placed on a ballot for the taxpayers to determine their support.


The anticipated timeline for the KMS project is :

May - September 2016 | Complete eligibility requirements
October - May 2017 | Feasibility Study Phase
May- October 2017- Schematic Design Phase
Fall 2017 | Fund the project *
Fall 2017-October 2018 | Detailed Design and Construction Bids
November 2018 | Construction begins
Fall 2020 | Open new Kennedy Middle School

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Picture of Natick Center sign on Natick Common

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