Candidate Q & A: Jenn Schaeffner, 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: 40 years

Occupation/education: Graduated Wheaton College in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics/economics. Twenty-three years financial services professional (Fidelity Investments, Bank of America). Fourteen years real estate business owner on the North Shore: residential investor, developer and property manager.

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: 

Elected Marblehead School Committee: 2016-2020. Served on Budget, Facilities, Policy and Wellness sub-committees. Co-chaired Selection Committees for Student Services director, interim superintendent, permanent superintendent and assistant superintendent. Governor-appointed Commissioner Marblehead Housing Authority: 2022-present.

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

I am running for Marblehead School Committee (1) to bring more focus to a rigorous budget process, (2) to provide more transparency for parents and community members regarding the financial and educational administration of the school district and (3) to help maximize student achievement so our children are prepared for the demands of today’s higher education, military and vocational careers.

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

On the campaign trail, I have spoken to many voters who are concerned about fiscal mismanagement and disarray in the finance department. People are reluctant to permanently increase taxes when there is disorganization and a lack of accountability from town leaders. The school district has been more transparent in reporting budget stressors and priorities and is thus receiving greater support from the people I talk to, but the override request unites school and town needs. If Question 1 does not pass, and I am elected to the School Committee, I will advocate revisiting the school budget presented at Town Meeting. The proposed cuts are almost all student facing staff. We need to revise to focus on non-academic and non-student facing budget items. I will advocate for immediately reviewing the entire budget line by line, taking into account existing student enrollment and focusing on the resources necessary to ensure academic achievement.

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 families have always had many options beyond the public schools, including a public charter school and many private schools both in Marblehead and throughout the North Shore. Yet the public schools have seen a significant drop in student enrollment, particularly in the last six years. Some of this can be attributed to demographic changes, but we also must consider the fact that families are opting for alternatives because our public schools are not meeting their children’s needs. Statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show that comparable districts such as Belmont, Hingham, Needham and Andover are outperforming Marblehead in academic results. Marblehead must offer a superior academic education with strong co-curricular activities that together offer an all-around high-quality education. It is only in this way that we can fulfill our responsibilities to students and families and attract more of them to stay in town and attend Marblehead Public Schools.

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?

We have many pressing needs and interests in our school district competing for a finite budget. Parents have prioritized the need to recover from extensive learning loss since the COVID pandemic. Marblehead school staff have already and will continue to emphasize the importance of treating everyone fairly, being kind and listening with respect to those who have different viewpoints. The staff, administration and School Committee must also model the behavior we expect from our children to continue to promote a culture of acceptance and thoughtfulness.

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? 

I have spent my career collaborating, interfacing, and contributing with team members to successfully reach goals. It requires patience, understanding, professionalism and self-regulation on the part of all members. I will be focused on the tasks and goals while working to connect on a personal level. That is a sentiment I live by and have found to be fruitful in my personal and professional life.

Marblehead Current staff
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