Meet the Carlisle School Committee—dedicated to quality education

by Cynthia Sorn


Carlisle School Committee members are (seated, left to right) David Model, Chair Melissa McMorrow, Mary Storrs, (and standing) Bill Fink and Josh Kablotsky. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn) 

The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) is an all-volunteer board comprised of five dedicated members who help oversee the Carlisle School District. Responsibilities include: hiring and reviewing the Superintendent and the Carlisle School Business Manager, developing and approving the budgets, as well as setting goals and policies for the schools. Two members also represent Carlisle on the Regional School Committee (RSC) responsible for the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS).

CSC member Josh Kablotsky summed up what the committee does: “We provide direction, mostly through the questions we ask, to the overall operation of the school, without inserting ourselves into the day-to-day [operations].” CSC member David Model adds, “The school is blessed with talented and dedicated administrative and teaching staff who understand that the responsibility of teaching our children is one of the highest calling. The School Committee is there to gently steer the ship, both in overall direction and to avoid hitting rocks, but the educational mission belongs to the staff.”

The five members of the CSC are Chair Melissa McMorrow, Model, Mary Storrs, Bill Fink and Kablotsky. Two open positions will be on the ballot. Incumbents Kablotsky and Storrs are running for re-election; at press time no other residents have indicated they are running for the open positions. 

The committee meets once a month, usually on the first Wednesday. They work closely with the Superintendent and the Business Manager, developing the school budget, which is projected to be approximately $10.6 million in FY17. 

Pressing issues: two Superintendent searches, one Principal search

Asked what the members see as the main issues in the next few years, McMorrow replied that the Carlisle School will be hiring a new Superintendent next year to replace Superintendent Joan Wickman, who has given her notice, effective June 30. The process for hiring a new Superintendent is in the interview stage. Fink said that the regional district is also in the process of a Superintendent search to replace outgoing Superintendent Diana Rigby, who leaves her post in 2017. Fink has volunteered to be the CSC representative on the search committee for the regional Superintendent. Storrs pointed out that, in addition to hiring two Superintendents, the regional representatives will be involved in some fashion in the hiring process for the new CCHS Principal, replacing current Principal Peter Badalament, who gave notice effective June 30. 

Although the Carlisle School has high-achieving students, Model pointed out that, “There is more than money to keeping a school on top. The committee needs to be aware of and conversant in issues such as special education, health and wellness of students, physical safety and security, standardized testing standards and methods, federal and state curricula requirements and trends, teacher and administrator evaluation standards and methods.”

Other concerns include improving the transition process for Carlisle eighth graders to the high school, teacher contract negotiations at the region, staffing Carlisle’s all-day kindergarten and getting both districts’ budgets passed at the Carlisle Town Meeting. 

High school connection

Storrs and Fink serve on RSC, which has similar duties to the CSC—the RSC hires the regional Superintendent and develops the budget for the high school, which in FY17 will be approximately $31.6 million. Fink is vice chair of the RSC. He explains, “I also act as a liaison from the RSC to CCatPlay for the [athletic] fields project. I have helped develop new policies such as the Naming Rights policy for the naming of buildings and fields.” Other subcommittees that Fink serves on include a new group researching the high school start time. “This is a very active topic across the state and the country, as new studies around this topic have made strong recommendations for later start times for high-school-aged students.” Storrs serves on the RSC Policy Subcommittee and is the liaison to Concord-Carlisle Adult and Community Education.

Other boards and committees

All CSC members also serve as representatives on other town or district committees. For instance, Kablotsky sits on the Carlisle Long-Term Capital Requirements Committee. Fink is a liaison to the Selectmen and Carlisle Finance Committee (FinCom). Model, a former FinCom member, works along with McMorrow with the school’s Superintendent and Business Manager on developing the budget. This year he served on the Superintendent search committee and adds that he “managed the process from the School Committee side for helping the town successfully vote to leave the Minuteman Vocational High School District.” Storrs said that she is also involved with Carlisle School contract negotiations. She added, “Additional commitments come and go.” 

Making “a positive difference” 

The CSC members were asked what they get out of the many volunteer hours they put in. McMorrow explained, “I was raised to be a positive contributor to the community of which I am a part. Carlisle is governed by volunteers and serving on the School Committee is a way for me to contribute. For four years, I have felt fortunate to serve with deeply committed committee members and to collaborate with dedicated members of other boards.” 

Fink agreed. “Working with a very dedicated group of people, both within the schools and the people on the various committees, is most enjoyable. Gaining an understanding of our schools and learning what makes them so high performing is another source of satisfaction. Achieving a general sense of community and feeling as though I can make a positive difference in our community is also rewarding.” 

Model said, “First of all, I love town government. The American ‘one person, one vote’ is a motto, but New England is unique in that every interested taxpayer can directly engage in and vote on critical items at Annual Town Meeting. Smaller towns such as Carlisle go a step further in that the government is largely run by citizen volunteers; there are very few opportunities, even in a democracy, where an individual can meaningfully impact the direction of issues that are important to our daily lives. Secondly, even among small New England towns, Carlisle stands out for its high degree of volunteer participation, hard work, commitment and passion of its volunteers. I am honored to have served the Town for nine years on its Finance Committee and now two on the School Committee.” 

Kablotsky said he is proud to be involved in a school district “which is providing a great education and experience for our children,” He continued, “To build and continually improve a great district takes hard work by many, from our talented faculty and administration, to our many parent volunteers, to the overwhelming support of our community. I enjoy being part of something that is greater than its individual pieces, especially as it furthers the growth and education of children.”

Communication skills, passion 

for education needed

What skills are helpful on the committee? Fink said, “I believe we have a diverse set of skills on both committees. Between Carlisle and the Region we have volunteers with experience in finance, budgets, legal areas, business management, technology management, personnel management, education and business development.” Storrs said that no specific skills are required, “just a willingness to listen and learn—but it helps to have experience with budgeting—we all have very different backgrounds and complement each other well.”

Advice for future candidates

The current members strongly suggested attending School Committee meetings as the best way to learn about the scope of the committee’s work. McMorrow said, “It is a long-term commitment to serve the best interest of all students in the district, which involves being engaged in many topics.” Fink suggests, “New perspectives are always helpful, but we have been given a great responsibility and sound judgment comes with comprehensive knowledge.” Storrs agreed. “Don’t come to the post with a personal agenda. Be open-minded and respectful. And always remember that the students come first. We have a terrific school system that needs to be cared for, and can always be improved, but it doesn’t need to be fixed.” 

Fink said, “In general, the skills anyone joining a School Committee would need to bring are collaboration skills. Communication skills, patience, tolerance and a true desire to understand other points of view.” Kablotsky said, “If our schools are important to you, please find some way to get involved.” ∆