Candidate for School Committee, Ward 2
Margaret Albright, school committee member from Ward 2, is running for her 4th term and just recently was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Mass. Associaton of School Committees for her service. Professionally she is a philanthropy consultant to Boston area non-profits.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: Discuss an experience where you made a decision that you now regret.
I’ve learned through 6 years of being on the school committee that hindsight is 20/20. I regret the decision that was made to pause the Cabot design process to look at alternatives. It was a waste of time and money, was disrespectful to the design professionals and caused a great deal of conflict and hard feelings.
Question 2: If you’re elected, what would be your first priority and how would you go about addressing it?
I’ve served on the school committee for six years and am running for re-election. Anyone who has watched a school committee meeting or attended one will know that I am focused on student outcomes and measuring those outcomes. Too often we go through a list of all the actions and strategies we will be undertaking without first asking, what we are trying to achieve – what is the outcome? So I am going to remain focused on outcomes – teaching and learning, curriculum and programs that provide our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in school and in life.
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?
While Massachusetts has the highest achieving schools in the nation, we also experience the largest achievement gaps. The school committee has consistently made addressing both achievement and opportunity gaps a priority in systemwide goals. However, we need to be absolutely transparent about where gaps exist and why. The school committee must encourage proven strategies for narrowing the gaps including data informed differentiated instruction, student-centered learning, culturally responsive practices and addressing the social and emotional barriers to success in school.
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.
NPS uses many planning tools including enrollment projections, annual goals and financial forecasts. These specifics are all outlined in the annual budget book which contains 170 pages of charts and analysis. These are the tools the school committee uses to ensure that our schools remain financially sound. 86% of school expenses are salary and benefits. 83% of school revenue is from the city budget and only 17% coming from state aid, other revenue and federal aid. There is no magic bullet or secret formula here, just hard work to balance the annual trade-offs we must make.
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?
After 6 years on the school committee, I’ve learned that tight budget years always mean cuts. A school system has many obligations under both federal and state law and those obligations and mandates must be met, tight budget or not. There is no simple answer to this question. Every school district in the country struggles with these decisions and Newton will continue to do so as well. I know the importance of the arts, guidance and libraries and value them highly. The job of the school committee is to work with the superintendent to minimize the impact of tight budgets on our students.