Years in Marblehead: I had the honor of growing up herein Marblehead from 1 day old on (too young to be born here!). I have had the pleasure of living in a multitude of other cities, states, islands, and countries. Marblehead will always be home.
Occupation/education: Senior Manager of Customer Success, Civil Engineer – BS Syracuse University.
Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Does Marblehead High School yearbook copy editor count?!
What are three reasons/issues as to why you’re running for election?
Having a young child in the school system I consider it part of my job as a mom to be informed and pay attention to what’s happening in our schools and with our School Committee. Over the last two years I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with what I was seeing. There is a lot of distaste and a lack of professionalism and respect within the committee as well as towards the community. I know that we can do better. As a committee we should be setting the example for how to have productive conversations with our counterparts and the community we serve, while showing them respect – even when we disagree. I also feel that there are hard discussions that we need to be having. These would not be an attempt to cause discourse, but rather to ensure we are making the very best decisions for our children. Each of us sees things through a different lens and understanding or asking about that is exactly how we learn. Finally, ensuring that we are properly addressing the learning loss that has occurred for so many of our students the past two years is critical. The children are our future.
What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to?
In my opinion, transparency is the biggest area that we need to give more attention – the word is on my signs. A big goal of mine would be to improve that transparency. Whether it is helping parents to understand what curriculums are being taught to our children, explaining the resources that our amazing teachers will or will not be receiving, or gaining the trust of our community by explaining where every bit of their hard year money will be going year after year. Agendas and supplemental documentation all need to be provided to our community with ample time for them to be able to digest, understand, and formulate questions. We need to be allowing for more open forum, discussion-based meetings where we can talk about critically important topics. Providing that transparency in all facets of what we do (whenever possible) is what is going to help get us back to square and develop the trust that I’m confident we all want.
What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake?
The coronavirus pandemic caused tremendous loss to our community in so many ways. From a School Committee perspective, learning loss was one of the biggest. The education of our children is my passion. We can say 1000 times over that Marblehead provides an exemplary education, but that will not make it true. Educating our youth is paramount. We have phenomenal educators and staff in Marblehead. We need to better empower them to enable our students to meet their full potential. Ensuring that each of our children receive the education they deserve from the place (level) they are at (particularly after a grueling two years) with the resources that they so desperately need and deserve is what will make them (and us) successful. We need to provide a setting that will ultimately set all our children up for a life-long love of learning. We should all want that for all our children.
Is the general override for the $3 million supplemental school budget going to pass? If it doesn’t, how should the School Committee respond?
Most members of the community look at a permanent override and gasp. It’s a lot of money. My mother is retired and still lives in the home I grew up in here in town. I understand how much money this is to families. A parent with a child in the school system might add – but my child’s education is worth everything. There is a lot of hesitation that comes along with this override. The community wants to ensure that the monies are going to be spent where they are so very desperately needed. For example, we should be spending some on our most precious resource – our educators – who have made constant sacrifices for our children over the past two years. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, wanting to see back-up, and reviewing details that brought us to these numbers. Should it not pass, then some real work needs to begin. Digging in to determine from within the existing budget where and how we can cover the bare necessities would be critical. Finally, I believe with the needed transparency next year, we would be in a much better place.
On a scale of A to F, how would you grade the superintendent’s job performance? Why?
There is no question that Dr. Buckey came into his first year as a superintendent during an unprecedented time. With the craziness of the past two years, it’s hard to properly evaluate – which is one of the key responsibilities of the School Committee. I have read his reviews online however, and while it notes that the pandemic did affect his ability to meet his goals – he still received multiple exemplary ratings. Anyone in their first year of a new role in a new location generally has a lot to learn. I would have expected this to be better reflected with our Superintendent as well. In my opinion, this is another example of where hard discussions are needed. We can be respectful and professional, while noting that there are areas that require growth. It seems impossible that the tumultuous circumstances caused by the pandemic over the past two years would not have caused more areas that need improvement.
Again, on a scale of A to F, how would you grade the current Marblehead School Committee’s performance and level of teamwork? Why?
Over the past year or two it’s gotten a bit painful to watch our School Committee meetings. Respectful communication is a critical piece of a strong foundation. Without it, things start to erode. This becomes even more evident within a small committee in a small town. Members are ignored or dismissed, requests for information from the community have gone unanswered, and blind faith/loyalty are the go forward strategy. This is understandably concerning for teachers, parents, and the community alike. Difficult discussions can be had without accusatory tones or snarky responses. We should be leading by example on how to have conversations while maintaining respect for others who see things differently. As we (hopefully) turn the page and grow from the last two years of stress and added pressure, I’m confident we can do better.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to test schools here, across the country and indeed all over the world. What lessons do you hope school leaders have learned over the past two-plus years? How will you ensure that the value of these lessons becomes a permanent part of how education is provided in Marblehead?
Our children were at the forefront of the biggest losses from this pandemic – both academic as well as social. The focus needs to be on getting them back to square on both fronts. The learning loss for some was tremendous and our priority should be ensuring that this does not happen again. We need to provide our amazing educators with the proper tools to be able to continue educating our children, should another disaster occur. Things like online curriculum access as well as proper electronics and communication tools come to mind. We also need to ensure that we have resources available and work hand in hand with parents to help our children overcome the social and emotional anxieties that so many still feel today.
What is your understanding of recent trends with respect to parents sending their children to private schools instead of keeping them in Marblehead? If you see this as a problem, how will you address it on the School Committee?
The drop in enrollment is undeniable. While I could give you my best guess or presumption on why this problem continues, it wouldn’t necessarily be the truth. I think as a committee we should be working with the community to understand the facts around why this is happening. This is another area where (respectfully) asking the hard questions and being transparent to everyone about the answers would be most helpful. With those details, we can then look to identify areas where we can make positive changes. From there we can ultimately do a better job of providing a school system and an education that people flock to, not from.
We have just witnessed in Texas another horrifying school shooting, the type of event that everyone hopes will never happen in their community, until it does. How can you as a School Committee member help ensure that our school buildings are secure and – perhaps
as importantly – that our students, teachers, and staff feel safe and comfortable in them?
One of the most important things that the School Committee could do to keep our schools safe is to ensure that we have properly budgeted for all possible safety requirements. This is something, when shared with the community, that I feel will garner a lot of support. Doing an in-depth dive into what precautions are currently available at each of our schools from cameras to door locks, to resource safety officers, would be the first step. Then, investigating additional security measures and options along with associated costs by location would be key for planning the next year’s budget. If elected, I can promise that school security would be a subject that I will not hesitate to prioritize.