Candidate Q & A: Brian Ota, School Committee

The following represents the candidate’s responses to the Current’s School Committee-specific questions. Jump back to Election Guide

Years in Marblehead: 12 years

Occupation/education: Retired principal

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: None. 

What are the three reasons/issues motivating your decision to run for election? 

After retiring as a special education teacher and a principal, I wanted to continue working in the field of education using my experience to help address and resolve the problems facing our schools today.

Is the general override for the $2.5 million supplemental budget going to pass? If it doesn’t, how should the School Committee respond? 

If the override does not pass, we must do two things to address the override failure. First, we must address and confirm and/or update the impact planning already done by the administration and the School Committee (released at the Town Meeting). Secondly, we must do a deep analysis with the voters to understand the exact reasons why the voters rejected the override. This would include town meetings with the voters and surveys (either phone or email). In the past, we always said overrides are not successful and accepted it as a fact. This is no longer an acceptable position and we must understand the true reasons if and why this override fails. If we are to continue to have an excellent school system, we must be able to address and overcome these issues.

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? 

Marblehead Public Schools is an excellent school system. We have excellent staff and provide a warm, safe and inviting environment for our students to grow and excel in. All of our buildings are either fully renovated or new constructions. We offer students rigorous and excellent academic and socio/emotional programs. We have state-of- the-art technology in all schools. In our elementary schools, we have always fought for small class sizes which are affected by budget and small class sizes are a big draw for private schools. We must look at student population trends to be able to balance the schools and programs to make sure they remain the viable excellent schools and programs they are. 

Many Massachusetts public school districts are doing more to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Is this an important issue in Marblehead? Why has funding for a DEI coordinator and DEI programming been so controversial?

At this time, when we are looking at an override and adding an administrational level diversity coordinator seems unnecessary. When I was the principal at the Glover School, we focused a great deal of time developing and implementing a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support Program (PBIS) that stresses acceptance of others and personal responsibility to do so. It is an excellent program that is worked on daily. If we want a district level diversity coordinator to oversee the district, funding should come from grants and not the operational budget, otherwise this role should be assumed by an existing district administrator.

There’s a perception in town that there are “factions” on the School Committee. Is this accurate and, if it is, what can be done to make the SC more harmonious and effective?

All forms of government offices are facing complex and difficult problems to resolve. Sadly, there is a climate of distrust that is growing between voters and their elected officers. There is a great deal of polarization within government officials that must be recognized and resolved. The key is to foster open, civil discussions on the issues. The School Committee must continue the work they are doing to make their process open and collaborative. My goal if elected to continue to build this collaborative work environment.

Marblehead Current staff
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