Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why I am running for School Committee

Equity, Excellence & Accountability

Why I am running for School Committee:

I am running for School Committee because I believe every child in this town deserves the BEST education we can offer them, regardless of class, culture, or a parents’ level of education; whether they are a child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), ELL student or a child who benefits from having extra assignments. The BEST education to me means that children are challenged and encouraged to hold on to their love of learning; holding teachers and administrators to high standards and evaluating regularly to continue teaching for a 21st century world; keeping art, music and instruments in our schools; to increase the communication between teachers and parents. We need to challenge the whole child continually on whichever level they achieve, from preschool all the way through high school graduation. That is what I want our School Committee to achieve and what I will work hard for.

Who I am:

I am a product of the Amherst public school system, having attended the Middle School and eventually graduating from Amherst Regional High School. I have 3 children; this coming fall two will be in elementary school and one in the Middle School. This gives me the unique perspective of knowing the Amherst schools as a student and as a parent. Additionally, I am a parent of one child who requests extra work on a regular basis, and understand the challenges of getting him every thing he needs to perform to his full potential. I also have another child in the SPED system and I work hard with his teachers to reach the goals we have set and to fully integrate him into the regular classroom curriculum and perform at the same level as his peers.

My husband Paul and I have a bi-racial family. Paul was born in Puerto Rico, so we understand and relate to many other families in Amherst who are raising children from different cultures while sending our kids to Amherst's diverse schools. I also live with an extended family member, my dad, Rick. Having the support of my family is very important in this endeavor as a public official. My lifestyle offers me the ability to commit as much time and energy as needed to this elected position.

I have been a very active parent in the schools, one who has been consistently involved in the Parent Guardian Group at Mark’s Meadow, which I currently Co-Chair, I also serve on the School Governance Council, the Diversity Committee and I participated in the Diversity Study Circle at Mark’s Meadow in 2007. Moreover, I have also been a member of the Amherst Schools Organization Committee, organized by our former superintendent, Jere Hochman, to address the issues ahead with redistricting our Elementary schools for equity.

Drawing this picture of my family and my volunteerism to you, the community is my way of saying that I have diverse experience as a mom, a community member and a leader in my children’s school and in the district. I also have had the good fortune of listening and participating in a dialogue that addresses, equity, excellence and diversity issues.

Some solutions:

We are surrounded by extraordinary resources, our 5 Colleges, which, it seems, are underutilized in our public schools. I will work with our Superintendent to reach out to these higher education institutions and encourage them to bring grant-making opportunities to the District, and work on new innovative creative programs, which will directly end up in our classrooms; programs where we can generate better results for our children for less money expended.

We also need to look at ways to use technology to become more of a up to date school system; update our schools websites; make communication easier between families and the schools; look at other districts to find ways that work to improve our own district; use the colleges around us to develop new ideas that help to bring our schools into a productive future.

With any program our District offers I will ask for a new level of accountability. We cannot operate without a strategic plan. A plan with ongoing accountability structures built into it. These structures, once set up, will help our administrators and our Town Manager achieve better transparency with little effort. We should be able to ask for updated results and receive them. We should have a plan where we continually evaluate how these programs are performing, such that we can make adjustments far in advance of any crisis. This is what I will be working towards, for our town.

There is also more that individual schools can do to help. Recently, the four Parent Groups from Crocker Farm, Fort River, Mark’s Meadow and Wildwood, worked on a game called Amherstopoly, which is expected to raise $25,000 for the benefit of all the Amherst Elementary Schools. This project could be the beginning wherein all school parent groups are collaborating to provide ideas, enrichment activities, after school clubs, fine arts performances, and much, much more. This is an example of the collaboration I know is possible between our schools, here in Amherst

We all know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” and it is very true. Amherst, as a community, can do what is right for our kids, by fostering an educational experience that helps create a well prepared 21st century adult that the Town of Amherst can be proud of.

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