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Cabrera banks on his reputation at this polls this time around

Date: 2/28/2012

Feb. 27, 2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — East Longmeadow has become very familiar with Joseph Cabrera and his "never take no for an answer" style.

That attitude is one that he feels has served the School Committee and the town well and is the main reason why he is running for re-election.

"Some of the concerns I've raised, others have said they've had the same concerns but they fell on deaf ears," Cabrera said. "I pride myself on nothing ever falling on deaf ears when I'm involved. I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to tell you what I've done."

Cabrera pointed to the town's recent approval of the financing of the high school athletic complex lighting upgrade through town funds rather than the school district's budget as one area where his contrary style benefited the district.

"I feel that the money in the school budget should be dedicated to education," he said. "Eventually we were able to make sure that it wasn't taken out of the school budget."

Cabrera added that he values the diversity of backgrounds among members of the school committee and that it offers the opportunity for serious conversation, something he says is never a bad thing.

"The committee is a diverse group that brings a lot of different points of view to the table," he said. "I'm certainly the most vocal, but I think that sometimes that can lead to a lot more constructive conversations. Sometimes those exchanges can get heated, but at least there are exchanges."

While exchanges between members have been heated in the past, Cabrera feels very strongly about the good relationship the committee has forged with Superintendent Gordon Smith.

"I think our new superintendent is one of the best around," Cabrera said. "He's young, he's smart and his transition has gone very smoothly. He listens to everybody and we listen to him and respect what he has to say. As he's learned more and more, the committee has been more and more active."

Cabrera also believes that his experience as an attorney is a valuable asset to the committee.

"I've been on a lot of sub-committees where negotiation is a part of the job and I think my expertise has helped there," he said. "Also, there have been policy changes in the past that have been unconstitutional and I have been able to recognize that."

Ultimately, Cabrera sees himself as someone who is able to voice the opinions of the community at large because he is approachable.

"One of the things I am most proud of is that so many people feel like they can talk to me personally regarding issues because they feel comfortable," he said. "I may not be able to fix their concerns, but I am able to bring them in front of the people who can."

A number of "education and safety issues" lie ahead for the School Committee, according to Cabrera.

Transportation continues to be a problem, specifically in terms of safety for students who utilize busing to get to school, he said.

"The Transportation Taskforce subcommittee, which I was a part of, was a complete failure in my eyes," he said. "It was a failure primarily because it didn't address safety for our children at all."

Cabrera also cited poor conditions in the girls locker room at the high school as another safety concern for students.

He credited the district with embracing technology in the classroom, such as Mimio smartboard technology currently utilized in classrooms, but said more work in that area needs to be done.

"Mimio is a great example of what we have done, but we have to continue to move forward," he said, adding that he would like to see the inclusion of Kindles or other digital reading devices in classrooms with the hope eventually replacing hardcover textbooks entirely.

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