Winthrop voters had a chance to view the four candidates who are vying for three seats on the Winthrop School Committee during the PTO sponsored forum last Wednesday night at the Ft. Banks School.Â The candidates included two incumbents, Melissa Polino and Mark Rotondo both of whom were chosen to fill two vacancies when School Committee members Gus Martucci and Pat Milano resigned in 2010 and political newcomers Maryalice Sharkey, a former local teacher and Gary Skomro.
The current 15.6M budget as well as the need to keep many diverse groups involved in the public school system were key points among all the candidates.
â€œTransparency in the budget is what we need and what we have,â€ Rotondo said referring to the current school budget that he had worked on with other school officials.
However all candidates echoed his concern for getting the most out of the budgetary dollars for the maximum benefit of the school population while keeping the budget process as open as possible.
â€œThe teachers realize that revenues are not there … but there needs to be a trusting relationship between the two sides.Â The school Committee gives what they have. not what they want to hold onto,â€ Sharkey said.
Skomro, a former human resource executive,echoed this point on trust between the two sides. â€œMoney is not the only thing that makes employees happy … appreciation goes a long way,â€ he said.
The issue of returning to neighborhood schools drew a variety of responses. The question was whether to make both the Cummings and Ft. Bank Schools K thru Grade 5 as opposed to the present setup of the Ft. Banks being a pre-k to Grade 2 and Cummings being Grades 3-5.
â€œThere are pros and cons and we need to study the issue,â€ Sharkey said.Â While Skomro said, â€œWe had divided Willis and Dalyrmple and do not need to bring it back.â€
On the need for getting educational grants, the views were similar.
â€œPTO looks for grants and I look for grants but we can not rely on grants to last forever,â€ Polino said.
On the current policy of hiring personnel with limited hours and no benefits, the views again differed.
â€œI do not agree on hiring people without benefits.Â We need to bring in other resources to help our programs,â€ Sharkey said pointing to businesses like Stop nâ€™ Shop and Beach Sales that have donated to the local school system.
â€œWe need to be more creative (about getting additional funds),â€ Polino said.
Skomro said that he favored that full-time personnel be given benefits and part-time personnel be offered benefits equal to the hours that they would work.
Longtime School Committee member Mary Lou Osborne had announced earlier in the year that she would not be a candidate.
Town historian Dave Hubbard moderated the forum.