Monday, October 3, 2011

LSC 2011 Q & A: Rick Starbard

Lifelong Lynn resident and Lynn Tech graduate Rick Starbard currently serves on the Lynn School Committee after first being elected in 2009 and is now seeking re-election. After graduating from high school, Starbard founded Rick's Auto Collision, Inc. in Revere and was also a collision repair teacher at Tech from 1996 - 2010. Please see below for the answers to a few questions posed to Rick Starbard regarding his candidacy for Lynn School Committee.

What skills or qualifications do you think you would bring to the school committee?

I believe that I bring the unique perspective of being the only person either on the Lynn School Committee or in Lynn School administration that possesses experience in vocational education. At no time was this void more evident than in 2009, when the School Committee approved the Superintendent’s plan to close vital programs at LVTI. While area regional vocational schools all have a school committee and superintendent totally focused on voc-ed and those schools, I feel that it is absolutely vital that we have at least one person with voc-ed experience serving on the Lynn School Committee.

I possess recent experience of working with Lynn students having taught at Lynn Tech from 1996-2010. I understand the challenges that both our teachers and students face daily, as we attempt to provide the best education possible for our students.

I am presently the only member of the Lynn School Committee with a child enrolled in the Lynn school system. Both of my children have been K-12 Lynn Public School students. This experience has afforded me the opportunity to visit Lynn schools on every level and see firsthand, the opportunities available to our children. 

I am the only candidate with business experience, having owned my own business for the past 28 years. During this time, I have employed many Lynn youth as well as regularly find employment for many of Lynn’s youth. My business experience allows me to think about things differently as far as how we spend money as well as exploring unique income alternatives to help offset the costs of some of our programs.

I am both a locally and nationally recognized industry leader. In these roles I typically find myself in situations where I am forced to work with those that are well known adversaries of my industry. I must draw on my leadership skills and experience to work together so that we can reach our mutual goals in a manner that is fair to all. This experience has helped me greatly as a member of the Lynn School Committee, when working with others that may not always agree on how to reach a goal, even though we all share the same common goal.

I draw on all of my experience every day to help guide my decisions, so that I am best representing the needs of the Lynn Public School system, its staff and most importantly, our kids.

What do you think are the top 3 issues that school committee needs to address? Do you have any thoughts/solutions to these issues?

My top 3 concerns are:

  • The condition of our schools. I think that we have done a poor job of replacing our aging school buildings. I can’t believe how little we have done to replace and upgrade our facilities in the span of time of the late 70s when we built Breed through the late 90s when we replaced Classical and upgraded English and Tech. When we did receive state money for projects, I think that we managed those funds poorly. We all know about the Classical fiasco, we closed the Fallon School after investing both local and state funding and we moved our administrative offices into the Tech annex building after using school building funds to construct it. I believe that the Mass. School Building Authority holds this against us, and rightfully so. Now that we are on our way to replacing Marshall Middle School, we must make sure that we make the best decisions possible, explore all plausible options and show that we are responsible stewards of the money appropriated for this project. We must then move as quickly as possible to replace Pickering Middle School. I would like to explore how cities like Revere consistently find ways to replace their schools and follow suit with an explicit plan and set of goals for replacing and upgrading our other schools.
  • Providing diverse educational choices for our students. We must move away from a “one size fits all” educational system. Coming from a vocational background, I have always been an advocate offering choices to our kids. Not all children learn the in the same manner and we must develop schools and programs that meet their needs and interests. While we do offer the choice of vocational education and charter school choices for our kids and we are planning on opening an innovation elementary school next year, I would like to see Lynn open a science-tech heavy middle school, possibly housed in the Tech Annex space currently being used by Lynn School administration. I would like to see Lynn School administration embrace the programs and community school concept in place at the Ford School. I would also like to see LPS become more proactive in exploring the possibilities of opening a Horace-Mann charter school before the DESE finally allows another charter school to open in Lynn that we would have no influence over. We have been successful over the past two years in holding off an additional charter school, but I am afraid that we will lose this battle eventually
  • Early Childhood education. We need to do all in our power to provide Pre-K to all 4 year oldsPre-K to 3 year olds when we are not providing Pre-K to all 4 year olds. This system places the 5 year olds, whose parents could not afford private Pre-K at a huge disadvantage when they enter a kindergarten class with kids that have had either one or two years of Pre-K before Kindergarten. This is also frustrating to teachers who have students that are at three different levels at one of the most vital ages for education.

How do you think the school committee could be more transparent as far as meeting times, agendas, etc.?

I have always been an advocate for improved transparency and openness. I think that we have seen a marked improvement over the past eighteen months but there is always room for improvement. While we have finally become like other communities by televising our meetings on local access television, I would like to see all sub-committee meetings televised and believe that the public should have access to these meetings either on LynnCam or LPS’s websites. I think that we have also come a long way by placing meeting agendas, the budget and the LPS Policy Manual on-line.  If anyone has any ideas on how they would like to see any enhancements, I would be happy to bring these ideas forward.

Lynn residents look to the School Committee to address problems such as low MCAS scores and the dropout rate; do you think there is a limit to what the school committee in itself can do?

There are limits to what the School Committee can do to address MCAS scores as far as instruction go. We can however do all in our power to make sure that our teachers have access to all of the resources and professional development that they need to properly perform their jobs. We also need to make sure that we continue to provide prep classes to our students, so that they too have access to the resources that they need to be successful.

Dropout rates are a serious concern. Again we need to make sure that we approve and provide the necessary tools and policies that keep our kids in school. I believe that the Credit Recovery program is a good example of providing these at risk students an opportunity to recover missed credits that they can use towards gaining their diploma versus dropping out of school. While this program is available to all of our high school students, it is housed out of the Fecteau-Leary school, which has the highest dropout rate of our high schools. Lynn is also fortunate that we have alternatives for at risk kids that aren’t making it in Classical, English and Tech. I have always been impressed while attending the graduation exercises at the Fecteau-Leary High School. Even though they may only be graduating 35 or so students, all of these kids have a higher ed., employment or military plan upon graduation. I believe, if not for the choice of attending this school, this would be another 35 students that which may not otherwise have graduated. We must explore creating a better system to monitor those students that are beginning to exhibit chronic attendance problems. In my experience at Tech, many times I found that just one bad quarter of attendance, would be all that it takes for a student to begin a downward spiral that would eventually lead to failure and cause a student to drop out.

Success in school doesn’t always have to come entirely from school. As the saying goes, “it takes a village”. We as a community of residents and elected officials must become involved in community efforts that promote growth, success and health to Lynn’s youth. It is the responsibility of all of us to put both our time and money where our mouths are in order to promote the youth of Lynn and help drive them to succeed.

 Anything else you would like to add about yourself?

Being a lifelong Lynn resident, I love this city. I owe all that I have to those at Lynn Tech that helped provide to me a foundation of skills that enabled me start my own business at 19 years old. I have also been dependent on Lynn Tech students to provide me a future workforce. During my 14 years spent teaching at LVTI, I had the privilege of working with some of the nicest kids and dedicated staff that you would ever want to meet. I initially ran for School Committee for them. Now that I have almost one complete term under my belt, I have gained much knowledge regarding the segments of Lynn Public Schools that I had little experience in. I have been involved in the process of passing two of the most difficult budgets in recent times and felt that I have always made decisions that best serve our students and teachers in the classroom. I have attended events at schools all over the city, read to elementary classes, and met many more of Lynn school’s students and dedicated staff. I have met and spoken to many parents. I have heard some of their frustrations and have always followed up on their concerns. I have also gotten to know, sponsor and participate with many of our community efforts, such as the ELCA, Highlands Coalition, LYSOA, SPIN and many more. I have enjoyed every minute of it. I feel that I have earned the respect of my colleagues on the Lynn School Committee and in turn, respect each of them and am appreciative of what I have learned from them. Once again, I love this city, I love Lynn kids and I love this job. I hope that you feel that my body of work and efforts are worthy of me being re-elected to serve a second term on the Lynn School Committee.

*For more information:
*For another Q & A with Rick Starbard: - School Committee 2011 - Rick Starbard 

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