Candidate for School Committee, Ward 5
Campaign Website: http://www.emilyprenner.com
Emily has been a passionate advocate for public education for 16 years, and a PTO President at the elementary, secondary and city-wide levels, which has given her a deep knowledge of Newton Public Schools. Emily studied chemistry and theatre at MIT and has been an IT consultant and program manager.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: Discuss an experience where you made a decision that you now regret.
When I first started out as an IT consultant, I assumed I already had the answers to my client’s problems before fully understanding what their problem actually was. This led to misunderstandings on both my part and the part of the client. I learned very quickly to listen to my clients first before trying to come up with solutions. Over the years I’ve learned the best way to come to consensus is to listen and understand everyone’s perspective before acting.
Question 2: If you’re elected, what would be your first priority and how would you go about addressing it?
There are so many components that make up a strong school system, that it is difficult to pick one priority. I would like to ensure teachers are paid competitively, reasonable class sizes are maintained, depth and breadth of program are protected, all learners are supported, building updates are continued, stress is reduced in the secondary schools, and tax dollars are spent wisely.
Question 3: The achievement gap remains a persistent problem in the NPS, despite best efforts. What role do you think the school committee can play in addressing this issue?
The achievement gap is not just a persistent problem in Newton Public Schools, but across the country as well. As a School Committee member, I would support and expand the programs that are currently working, as well as encourage the district to look at peer districts in Massachusetts and across the country to see if there are any best practices which could be implemented here in Newton. I am also looking forward to seeing the impact the new culturally responsive teaching model will have on closing the achievement gap.
Question 4: Discuss the resources needed by the schools each year to provide reasonable class sizes, breadth of programming at the high schools, and competitive salaries for teachers and staff. Please be specific in terms of budget numbers and other resources.
I have been following every School Committee budget season for the last 12 years. The budget is informed by the Mayor’s allocation and the high-level system-wide goals and priorities set by the School Committee. With any budget, there are competing priorities and tradeoffs. It’s difficult to assign a specific number at this time. However, it is always important to know what a ‘maintenance of effort’ budget would look like in a given year, which gives a baseline number of what it would take to fund exactly the same program as the year before, including the contractual obligations.
Question 5: In tight budget years, art, music, guidance, and libraries suffer in our schools. What realistic ideas do you have to avoid cuts in these areas?
In lean financial times, school budgets seek to protect core academics, but this is often at the expense of other things that are extremely important to our kids. I will do everything I can as a School Committee member to maintain art, music, guidance and library programs. The School Committee should continue to look for as many efficiencies as possible in the proposed budget.