Transparent and Open Process

A fundamental bedrock of democracy is open and transparent processes.

I pledge to push for an open and transparent process for making policy for our schools. We should involve teachers, parents, administrators and the community as a whole.

South Hadley Public Schools is the largest department in the town and takes more than half the town’s annual budget. It’s important that governance, budgeting and ongoing operations be an open and public process.

Mosier School

Based on currently available public data, I don’t believe it makes sense to replace Mosier School with a new $40 million building.

Mosier School needs as much as $3 million in repairs and capital projects. In particular, the portable classrooms are in terrible condition.

For several years the school system has deferred many of the needed projects for Mosier School, while trying to determine whether a new school was a reasonable option.

Those projects–such as a replacement boiler for the school–have been piling up for years. It may take several years to complete them.

Spending more than a third of the value of the school in a givden time-period can trigger expensive new state requirements. Many of the needed repairs can be partially-funded through MSBA grants.

The town should repair and upgrade the existing building, while exploring a permanent addition to replace the portable classrooms.

I support the latest developments of the joint planning committee which has been examining the issue.

Building Bridges

As a school committee member, I commit to reaching out to teachers, parents and other stakeholders in the community.

In particular, I strongly believe that the voices of teachers must be heard. Teachers are on the front lines every day with our kids—and often know more about what’s going on than anyone else. The school committee should have an open process where they regularly check in with and listen to our teachers.

Better Data

As a concerned citizen and parent, I’ve asked hard questions of the school system, and I haven’t always been satisfied with the answers I’ve received.

For example, we don’t track whether schools are providing services required under IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). That’s the the sort of thing which is simple to report, but we don’t track it at a system-wide level.

How can we make informed decisions if we aren’t tracking essential data?

I will push for the schools to publish transparent, regular reports showing IEP compliance and other data which will help guide us in making essential decisions.

Social Media

Let’s face it. For parents, teen use of social media can be a nightmare. Kids bully each other online, send each other inappropriate photos and make plans to sneak around, all on the high tech devices their parents pay for. Every parent of a teen I’ve spoken to struggles with the same frustrations.

And it’s actually worse than that. Research shows that early use of smart phones and social media is linked to depression, anxiety and lower achievement in school.

This is a new and dangerous era we’ve entered, but the answer isn’t to turn our backs on it and wish it hadn’t happened. Nor is it to give our kid unfettered access to all the internet has to offer.

As a school committee candidate, I believe it is essential that we step up and take a leadership role. Instead of waiting for events to get ahead of us, we need to be working to find the best practices in school systems across the country to make sure we guide our children early on what is and what isn’t appropriate behavior online and how best to leverage the benefits of our electronic age and to minimize the drawbacks.

Security and School Violence

It’s important that the school system take a leadership role in protecting our children. This includes both physical security (such as physical access to the buildings) and prevention (such as working to reduce social isolation and bullying in our schools).  This is a complex issue. Some of the things I believe we should explore are listed in my proposal to address school violence.