An excellent education for every Newton student

Implementing Full Day Kindergarten will ensure that Newton keeps pace with other districts in Massachusetts. Our kindergartners now have one of the shortest days among our neighboring districts giving teachers little time to teach, students little time to learn and grow, and causing enormous hardship for working families. More than 90% of districts in Massachusetts offer full day kindergarten. It’s time for Newton to join them.

As a school committee member I spearheaded ensuring that full day kindergarten be part of planning beginning in the summer of 2017. I am also working with school administration to find ways to increase the capacity of our after school programs so that every elementary student who needs one has a quality after school experience.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended later school start times for adolescents. Newton is now seriously planning a school day for our high school students that not only starts later, but dismisses by 3 PM ensuring students have time for the extracurricular and sports activities that are vital for a well rounded high school experience.   The schedule s of both high schools will also be aligned to allow for cross registration in Career & Technical Ed and advanced classes. As a school committee member I will work to ensure that this process stays on track and that there is reasonable and attainable plan for implementation.

Solving our long-term budget issues

This year’s budget was the first in many years that necessitated staffing cuts.  This is not a one-year blip. Rising costs of benefits, transportation and other expenses far outstrip the 2.5% increase in our tax levy.  In addition, Newton’s enrollment continues to grow adding to budget pressures.  At the same time school districts across the country are seeing cuts in federal education funding – cuts that affect both local school districts and our state department of education’s programs and grants.  The challenge for our school committee is to make sure we continue to make progress like adopting full day kindergarten while also addressing the realities of the budget.  I bring a deep understanding of state and federal education policy and programs, 25 years of non-profit management experience and an education that includes an MBA to this task.

Embarking on the next stage of long-range planning for our buildings and facilities

By the fall of 2019 three new or newly renovated elementary schools will be open. In addition, the city awaits word from the Massachusetts School Building Authority about funds to renovate the Aquinas Campus buildings for elementary and pre-school space. This represents significant progress in addressing our school facilities – long overlooked in Newton. While these projects offer a good measure of relief to our school crowding, too many schools continue to be overcrowded, in poor condition, or both.

Through the student assignment working group we will be looking at how we can ease the crowding in schools on the north side where school population growth has been most rapid. We also need to look at our middle school capacity as our district continues to grow, as well as how we can provide appropriate space for our special programs.

We also cannot lose sight of what the future may bring. The short-sighted sale of schools in the 1980’s has left us precious little space for the expansion now needed 30 years later. Our long range plans need to anticipate our future needs not just our current program. That means planning ahead for the vision of Newton Schools in the future, not just the Newton Schools of today.

A vision and purpose for our district that emphasizes continuous improvement

Genuine two-way communications with students, parents, teachers, the City Council, the Mayor’s office and the community at large are critical to moving Newton Public Schools along a path of continuous improvement. Every parent wants to see their child do well and parents should be our partners in educating students.

As a school committee member I’ve championed the use of surveys to collect family, student and teacher input. I’ve encouraged the superintendent to hire a part-time communications specialist to help keep the website up-to-date and begin to use other communication channels with families including better messaging through social media. Next steps in communication include a regular school district newsletter and better use of student information systems.

A vision for the future also includes revisiting our strategic plan.  Newton now operates from multi-year system-wide goals.  This is a great start for a plan which looks ahead and incorporates the financial and enrollment realities we face – something that was not part of the last planning process.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee and the superintendent and his staff is setting a long-term vision for the future.