Monday, October 12, 2015

Franklin Candidate for Town Clerk - Beth Simon

Beth Simon, one of the candidates for Town Clerk, met with me recently at Panera Bread. This is the summary of our conversation.

FM - What is your Franklin story?

Beth Simon - When I mentioned to my husband, that I was thinking of running for Town Clerk, he said “You’re very efficient and highly organized. I can’t think of a better position to use what you can bring to this position.”

When I arrived 26 years ago I was new to town and had few friends at the time. My first volunteer position was with All Night Party. Some asked “Why are you here, you don’t have any children?” I thought this was a great way to keep children safe. So I have been volunteering for them ever since. The friends I met through the All Night Party had children around the same time and we kept in touch. Volunteering became a very integral part of my life. It came full circle with the Ladybug Project last year. So many of the folks I have met, I had worked with before.

I quickly became an active volunteer when I arrived in Franklin, so my passion with Franklin has been from the beginning. I currently work in the Franklin Public School system where I get to help people on a daily basis. With the Town Clerk, I could do the same on a grander scale. Help them find answers and solutions to their problems.

FM - What do you see as a challenge for the position of Town Clerk?

Beth Simon – I see a great need for the office hours to reflect what the residents of Franklin need in order to conduct business. Currently working in the school system, I have seen some of our parents struggle with proof of residence. They have to coordinate their hours with the hours of the school department to get the necessary paperwork in order. I see a lot of people stress out trying to get that done. The Town Clerk should have extended hours and should work with the School Department as well as other departments to service the town’s people better than we are doing now.

Part of my background is with marketing and promotion, so while Franklin Matters does a great job keeping people informed, we can do more and communicate effectively. The Town lacks in that. Maybe a coffee hour at a local business to meet with the people and business; maybe go to a different places, every Thursday or whatever works, tweet it out, let people know. To meet with folks, make it easier and get feedback from the residents. I see part of this role as a PR person.  
Years ago we had an issue with trees resting on utility wires and I was unsure who to call. I contacted the Town Clerk’s office and they directed me to the correct department. People may not know who to contact and the Town Clerk’s office is generally the first department people have contact with. It is where you will go to get a marriage, birth or death certificate plus register a dog or business. Most of the normal life events require interaction with the Town Clerk. 
I was on the recent charter commission which gave me great insights into how the town worked. It was a great commission to be on. I became much more informed about what was going on in the town. I told Jim Dacey, hey I could get in as Treasurer and jokingly said to him, I can’t balance a check book. Is that good? That helped to start the move to bring the change to have that position appointed and approved by the Town Council. As for the Town Clerk, my position was that the residents of Franklin should maintain their right to vote for Town Clerk.

FM - What do you bring to the position that would set you apart from the other candidates?

Beth Simon – I have worked in both the private and public arena. One of the private sector jobs I did was I managed expo events all over the country. My expo events were attended by 300 to 500 people from all over the country. So the coordination of doing an event on that large scale would be similar to handling an election. Managing the details of the events is one of my strengths.

I also have a great knowledge of social media. I tweet a lot and get some of the local parents to follow to get updates on what’s going on at our school and what changes there are. I am highly organized. I believe that every inquiry should be answered within two business days.

If you have any follow up questions for Beth, you can contact her via

You can also visit her Facebook page:

Noteworthy: This information is intended to help the Franklin voters when we all head to the ballot box on November 3rd. The interview candidates have had an opportunity to review the text before publishing to ensure the accuracy of our discussion.

FHS girls soccer ties Chelmsford 1-1

From Hockomock Sports we find and share the following result from Sunday's action.
FHS Panthers
FHS Panthers

Field Hockey

Franklin, 1 vs. Chelmsford, 1 – Final 
– Senior Jill Sirignano scored off of a rebound for the Panthers. Senior goalie Samantha Jones had seven saves to help preserve the tie. Franklin head coach Lisa Cropper said senior Kenzi Pleshaw and sophomore Christina Quinn both also had strong games for the Panthers.

This was the only action across the Hockomock League on Sunday

Franklin DPW updated snow information to prepare for Winter 2015

Snow, in October? It has happened. Not too long a go it fell on Halloween. In advance of winter's arrival, the DPW has updated their snow information to share. And share we will.

Settle into a comfy location, perhaps with a favorite beverage and enjoy!

For additional information on the DPW snow and ice removal efforts, visit their webpage

Franklin DPW webpage header photo
Franklin DPW webpage header photo

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Franklin Candidate for School Committee - Vanessa Bilello

Vanessa Bilello, one of the candidates for School Committee, met with me recently at Panera Bread. This is the summary of our conversation.

FM - Tell me the story about how you ended up here in Franklin?
Vanessa Bilello – I was raised on Mercer Island, in the state of Washington. I came to MA to attend Wellesley College, where I graduated as Poly Sci major in 1997. I intended on being a lawyer with a focus on education. Before my senior year, I spent a summer in an internship at the Dept. of Ed in Washington, DC. 
There I realized how critical it was that people making educational policy decisions have real experience in schools - as teachers. Even at that time, there was a big disconnect with reality for some of the policy makers, so I returned to Wellesley where I did student teaching to get my elementary teaching license. I spent the next two years completing a Masters in Special Education at Boston College while teaching 3rd-6th graders in the Brookline Public Schools. 
My husband took a job transfer from Boston to San Francisco, so I spent four years as the only Special Educator in a K-5 building in the Palo Alto School District. When my husband got an opportunity to transfer back to New England, we initially settled in North Attleboro. I began substitute teaching and was impressed with the caliber of the schools and the strong community here in Franklin. 
I spent several years as a stay-at-home mom for our young family. I was active in the community, serving as the President of the North Attleboro MOMS Club for several years. However, when a friend from Boston College asked me to apply for her maternity leave, I was thrilled at the prospect of returning to the classroom. That led me to Oak St, where I spent much of the 2008-2009 school year as a 4th and 5th grade Special Education Teacher. 
The positive experience at Oak St. and our desire to be part of this community led my family to relocate to Franklin that summer. I got hired on for a Special Education position and spent five years teaching 7th and 8th grade at the Annie Sullivan Middle School. During my last year there I also completed an administrative internship. After being in the elementary setting in Brookline and Palo Alto, teaching and serving as a principal intern at the middle level opened my eyes quite a bit. 
I went on to get my second Masters of Education in 2014, this one in Organizational Management. The degree is from Endicott College, but the program is a collaboration of Endicott, MSSAA and Teachers 21 (an educational consulting group). That led to my current job in educational administration.
FM – So from teaching special education to administration and now running for the School Committee?
Vanessa Bilello - It was not an easy decision, but I left ASMS to become Assistant Principal at the Hopkins School in Hopkinton. The Hopkins School is the combined 4th-5th grade school for Hopkinton Public Schools with just over 500 students. This will be my second year there and it has been a great transition. I love working at Hopkins, but miss my involvement in Franklin Public Schools. While no longer teaching here, I try to stay knowledgeable about district policy by reading School Committee minutes and attending informational nights at the schools my children attend. 
Franklin is a great place to raise a family! When my husband and I chose to settle and raise our children here, it was because we believed in Franklin and its schools. I have two daughters- one is currently a 4th grader at Keller and one is a 6th grader at Annie Sullivan. 
While working here in Franklin, it wasn’t possible for me to get involved in district policy-making as a parent, though I did participate in a number of leadership roles as teacher - such as School Council and as a mentor teacher. Having had the professional separation for a year now, I think the timing is right for me to do something more for our community. This is another way that I can share my knowledge about teaching and education policy, because as a parent and community member I want to get involved and give back to Franklin.
FM – What will you bring to the School Committee?
Vanessa Bilello - We are at such a crossroads in public education. If you look at the history and development of public education over the years, it is always additive. There has been tremendous change and pressures placed on educators… and also our students. 
The mandates on public schools are so immense, particularly in the past ten to twenty years. This is why we need to have a clear, coherent vision with strategic planning for our district. We need to bring all community members together- stakeholders and educators- to talk about what that education looks like, with the understanding that continual improvement is critical. 
What is our vision to move these discussions forward? Open and honest communication through respectful dialogue is crucial. As a new administrator, I believe that there are tools available to gather information from community members and to foster the needed conversation. 
The recent school calendar and school start-times survey is a good example of that. I am willing to sift through data; technology gives us an avenue that we have not had in the past. We need to do that to keep the conversation going. These conversations need to happen in ways that everyone feels they have a voice and can share opinions- not just at the soccer fields or in the local Starbucks. 
The more non-discussables there are in an organization, the harder it is to have positive and real change. It may be much easier to have a discussion on Facebook about something you don’t like, but it is not necessarily moving the issue into the open for problem solving. In my recent Master’s program, we talked a lot about the importance of building a culture of trust. 
Public school districts must do this while involving the many different stakeholders- teachers, administrators, taxpayers, parents and course, the students. We may be coming to the table with different opinions, but we all must come together in the interest of improving our students’ learning. Sometimes those difficult conversations, those different viewpoints, can get in the way of remembering that. I think that’s where listening and understanding play a critical role. 
As an assistant principal, I also recognize how big a role budget plays in public education- we must constantly find creative ways to make the best given budgetary constraints. Franklin faces challenges, especially since we do not have a budget available that is as large as other districts in the state. Since our per-pupil expenditure is lower than many and especially since we are still a Level 2 district, we need to be constantly evaluating our progress- at the student, classroom, building and district level- to find ways to improve our student outcomes. 
As an educator, I recognize the demands placed on teachers and schools through unfunded political mandates, community expectations and complex student needs. As a parent of elementary and middle school-aged children, I am committed to providing my children and the rest of the students here in Franklin the best education possible. This brings me full circle to the role I believe I can play on School Committee –as a dedicated educator and devoted parent.
FM – What is your view on standardized testing?
Vanessa Bilello – I have spent a lot of time learning about and implementing the 2011 MA Curriculum Frameworks for Math and ELA. Standards are a critical part of education and provide a necessary coherence and consistency across classrooms and districts. They allow parents and educators to have conversations about the essential skills students need to develop as they progress through the grades. I fear that sometimes the line gets blurred between standards and standardized testing. 
Obviously, the testing of these standards is a hot topic right now and conversations are ongoing at the state and national level- we are still waiting for MA DESE to decide between PARCC and MCAS. While Franklin moved to PARCC this past year, the Hopkinton District School Committee voted to stay with MCAS. More of my experience has been with MCAS, though I’ve been learning as much as I can about PARCC to prepare my staff in the case the state goes that route. 
Formative and summative assessment data is important- you can do analysis and act on it. Regardless, assessment should take a variety of forms and there should be transparency with parents about how this data is used by schools. 
As a Special Educator who spent many years administering these assessments and now as a parent, I also recognize that there is not an easy answer when it comes to standardized testing - assessment times are long and stressful for students, teachers and parents, regardless of which test we implement. While the data is important, we must always remember the learner is more than a number - these are children and performance on one assessment cannot possibly paint a full picture of them. 
This summer my daughter and I were talking about testing and she said to me “Mommy, it seems like sometimes schools are trying to suck the love of learning out of you.” As a life-long educator, that stabbed me in the heart. 
We need to explore ways to bring a love of learning to all our children and foster a growth mindset in our students by modeling it as adults. Schools should be a place where students are excited about learning since being a life-long learner is what it is all about. I firmly believe that “passionate learning is based upon a foundation of compassion.” This is the vision I will lead with as a Franklin School Committee member.

If you have questions for Vanessa, you can contact her via email at

You can find additional information on her campaign on her Facebook page

Noteworthy:  This information is intended to help the Franklin voters when we all head to the ballot box on November 3rd. The interview candidates have had an opportunity to review the text before publishing to ensure the accuracy of our discussion. 

"What we know is there was a fire and explosion - we don't know its origin"

Two bodies were found in the wreckage of a condominium unit after an explosion rocked a local neighborhood Saturday morning. 
The Norfolk County District Attorney's Office said the bodies of Nancy and Richard Brown, both 66 years old, were recovered from the site of the blast, which took place at 58 Tuscany Drive shortly before 7 a.m. The cause of the incident, fire officials said, will be the subject of an investigation by the state fire marshal's office over the coming days. 
According to a Franklin Fire Department release, department personnel received calls at 6:48 a.m. that an explosion had taken place at The Villages at Oak Hill, a condominium complex off of Washington Street. Units responded and reported heavy fire on their arrival, and were able to contain the blaze by 8:15 a.m.
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

At mid-afternoon Saturday, firefighters were still putting water on the smoldering ruins of a condo at The Villages on Oak Hill in Franklin. Daily News Staff Photo/Ken McGagh
At mid-afternoon Saturday, firefighters were still putting water on the smoldering ruins of a condo at The Villages on Oak Hill in Franklin. Daily News Staff Photo/Ken McGagh

MassBudget: A $15 Minimum Wage - Effects and Historical Context

MassBudget  Information.
 Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center  Democracy.

A $15 Minimum Wage - Effects and Historical Context

After several decades in which economic growth and productivity gains have not translated into wage growth for large segments of the labor force, policy makers are looking for strategies that can expand opportunity and raise wages for working people. One proposal in Massachusetts would set a minimum wage of $15 an hour for workers in fast food and big box retail businesses that have more than 200 employees.

MassBudget's new report A $15 Minimum Wage - Effects and Historical Context looks at recent changes in wage and productivity growth and examines the current minimum wage in light of those trends. It also examines who would be affected by proposed increases for fast food workers.

To read the full report, please click HERE.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.

BOSTON, MA 02108

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center | 15 Court Square | Suite 700 | Boston | MA | 02108

Ford Hall Forum - Fall 2015 programs are here!

Digital Rights Management, Balancing Cyber Security and Privacy, Low Turnout in Municipal Elections.

All great topics for today! Too bad the low turnout for elections event is scheduled for After our Nov 3 election. Maybe we'll be able to provide an update on how an increased number of candidates seemed to engage the folks to get out and vote. That at least is my personal objective. To ensure that there is enough info to cast a good ballot and by doing so to entice as many folks as possible to get out and vote. 

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FHF logo, white on blue
FHF Tagline, white on blue

Cory Doctorow


With Digital Rights Management, are our computers controlling us?

Cory Doctorow (science fiction author and Co-Editor of Boing Boing tech blog) 

Rebecca Curtin (Assistant Professor of Law with a focus on copyrights, Suffolk Law School)

Benjamin Ngugi (Associate Professor, Information Systems & Operations Management, Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University)

Leonid Reyzin (Professor of Computer Science with a focus on cryptography, Boston University)

Tues., 10/13/2015, 6:30 p.m.

Co-presented with:

Michael Sulmeyer

Legislation hasn't kept pace with with technological developments, leaving some wondering if privacy as we know it is long dead.

Michael Sulmeyer (Director of Cyber Security Initiative at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government)

Thurs., 10/29/2015, 6:00 p.m.
Reception in lobby at 5:30 p.m. 

Co-presented with:

Elena Letona
Join us for a provocative and thoughtful discussion of the causes, consequences, and possible fixes for low turnout municipal elections.


Sarah Anzia (professor at University of California, Berkeley and author of Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups)

Zoltan Hajnal (professor at University of California, San Diego and author of America's Uneven Democracy: Turnout, Race, and Representation in City Politics)

Elena Letona (Executive Director, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts)

Moderator: TBA

Thurs., 11/5/2015, 6:30 p.m.

Co-presented with:
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