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The Gloves Are Off in Holden’s Annual Town Election

Friday, April 06, 2012

 

Candidates in Holden's upcoming annual town election are loaded for bear as they stake out their positions regarding town management, finances and the school department's iPad initiative.  The May 14 election has races for both the board of selectmen and for school committee.  

The race for selectmen has four candidates for two seats, pitting the two incumbents, Anthony Renzoni and Kenneth O’Brien against a former selectman (Mark Ferguson) and political newcomer Jeremy Kurtz.

There are four candidates for three seats on the Wachusett Regional School Committee, which will have at least one new member from town, since current committee member Dawn Torres-Gale did not seek re-election to her seat. On the ballot are: incumbent Steven Hammond, Deidre Kosky, Richard McWaters and Erik Scheinfeldt.

Selectmen’s Race

Ferguson, who has never shied away from controversy and was a polarizing force on the board during his first stint, said his goal is to become chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

“There’s totally a lack of leadership up there,” Ferguson said, referring to Town Hall. “The town manager has shown that she is all about increasing taxes and sewer rates and exorbitant fees, and she’s abandoned economic development in the town.

“I won’t tolerate it. She will be replaced,” Ferguson said.  

 Kurtz , who has lived in town for four years, said he was running for Selectman because he was tired of the same old, same old, and he was concerned about the town’s finances.

“We have incredible sewer fees and electric rates, and now it turns out that the Recreation Department wants to double some of their programs, I think that shows a lot of mismanagement.”

Renzoni, who was first elected to the board in 2009, said he was running for re-election to represent the good people of Holden.

“I’m not running against anything or anyone,” Renzoni said. “I’m not against technology, and my position on the school budget hasn’t changed.

“The town cannot support the 9 percent increase that the school department is asking for, but I’m optimistic that there is a willingness on both sides to work it out.”

O’Brien, who was re-elected to a one year seat on the board last year, after giving up his seat to run for State Representative. He did not return calls seeking comment.  

School Committee

Kosky who was appointed to the school committee in February following the resignation of Kristine Goodwin, is firing off against challenger McWaters.

“He said he’s opposed to the iPads in the schools, and he said that they will replace teachers,” Kosky said. “They’re not going to replace teachers; they’re going to enhance the educational experience. I was against the iPads too, until I went to the meeting about it.

“If you’re going to get involved, then you need to do the research,” she said.

McWaters, who thinks that a quality education can be affordable, said that he would prefer to have teachers in the classroom over electronics.  

"Teaching is looking into kids' eyes and seeing that they get it, not the number of problems they did on a computer," he said.  "The school is not flush with money this year, and the towns are not flush with money.  Initiatives like iPads for everyone would better be put on hold."  

Scheinfeldt, who also sought appointment to the school committee back in February, said he was shocked that the district was second lowest in the state in terms of per pupil spending.  

"In my opinion, the budget problems are partially a result of a general lack of public awareness," he said.  "I’m a product of the system, and I have a 16 month old daughter and I want to be sure she has the same education I had.

McWaters disagreed, noting that while the per pupil expenditure was low, the district's MCAS scores were in the top 20 percent of all school districts of similar sizes.  

Incumbent Steven Hammond, who is seeking re-election for a third term, said he not only favored the iPad initiative, budgeted at $81,000, but the entire 21st Century Skills initiative.  

“The district has fallen pretty far behind ,” Hammond said.  "I'm the head of engineering for a social networking company, and we can't find people with the skills the superintendent is talking about.  In terms of spending, it's hard to find the money, but this is an investment that we need to make."
 

 

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Comments:

Bonnie Johnson

This is exciting -- contested races by people who care. Holden voters you have a choice - get informed and get out and vote.

Erik Scheinfeldt

In my opinion, the iPad initiative should be a non-issue for this election. The amount of money we are talking about for this program is not going to make our break the budget. Even if the program is cut from the budget, the district will still have to deal with a significant lack of funding and unacceptable class sizes.

According to this article, Mr. McWaters cites the district's MCAS scores to support his apparent position that the per pupil expenditure is not a problem. I respectfully disagree with this logic, as I do not feel that standardized test scores are necessarily reflective of a proper education. Nor do I feel that the ability to do well on a standardized test translates into the ability to become a productive citizen in society. I do not oppose the MCAS testing system. However, I view it as just one of many ways to measure the quality of our education system.

Regardless of how this election turns out, it is very refreshing to see an increased interest (and debate) with respect to these important issues. I wish the best to all of my opponents in this election! It seems that the one thing we can all hopefully agree on is that our childrens' education is not an expense upon which we should be willing to economize. I hope all Holden voters get out there on May 14 and VOTE! Equally important, I hope all Holden citizens attend this year's Town Meeting!

Deidre Kosky

Erik,
I do agree that standardized testing such as the MCAS is not a true relection of the education our children receive. There is much time spent on the children diligently practicing throughout the year in order to succeed on this test. I believe there is a hyper-focus placed on MCAS testing and it's importance. A truly great educational experience encompasses all of an individuals needs. Music, art, physical education, extracurricular activities, foreign languages, and access to current technology are all things I will strongly argue for.
I believe that the iPad initiative is a very important issue in this election. Voters need to know what the elected officials want for the future of the schools. I want voters to know that I am here to represent the children of the Wachusett Regional School District. I want them to have the best education possible, as I feel they deserve it. Current and up to date technology is what is needed to succeed in the future, whether people want to spend money on it or not, that is the reality.

Deidre Kosky

Please excuse my spelling error in the first line "relection" was meant to say reflection.




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