Candidate for School Committee, Ward 6
Campaign Website: http://www.ruth4newtonschools.com
NPS graduate, current parent, environment and youth causes. Elected in 2013; serve as Chair. Priorities: every child thrives, modernize school buildings, attract high quality teachers. Endorsed by Progressive Newton, Newton Teachers Association and Newton and Massachusetts Custodial Associations.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: Discuss an experience where you made a decision that you now regret.
I regret the lack of process in the decision to move the Horace Mann school to Nevada street. The community was included early on in the decision making process but there was limited parent and teacher involvement in the move planning process over the past year. This has led to a lot of pain for the community which could have been averted. In retrospect, the School Committee and Newton Public Schools needed to follow what we know to be true: that providing good planning support and assistance ensures a much smoother transition and a positive experience for teachers and families. Change is difficult and support is essential.
Question 2: If you’re elected, what would be your first priority and how would you go about addressing it?
Going into my 4th term, my priorities as Chair will be to provide a smooth on-boarding process for new colleagues and ensure everyone is prepared and up to speed for budget season. As lead on the negotiating team, my top priority is settling the contract with the NTA. Once this is accomplished other issues include adequate staffing at the increasingly crowded high and middle schools, planning for the next round of building renovations and short term projects such as Horace Mann updates and the addition at Oak Hill. Beyond these items, we need to focus on planning for special education programs and ongoing work to close the achievement gap.
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?
We can ensure it remains a top priority in budget and topic discussions at School Committee meetings. We need to continue to ask questions and request data on school connectedness, performance of Black and Brown students on assessments, staff diversity, professional development, disproportionality in special education and trainings for students on issues such as micro-aggressions. Our role is to keep these items top of mind. We can also work with FORJ and do our own outreach to families to better understand the experience of families of color in the district. The Family Conference and NPS Race and Achievement conference are key events too.
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.
As enrollment shifts from elementary to middle and high schools, we will need to move resources to follow students. We also see on-going changes in the needs of students for more social emotional and mental health supports, specific programming for special education students to provide high quality in-district programming and our supports to close the achievement gap. At the same time we want to ensure a 21st century program for all learners with state of the art curriculum and educational materials. Professional development undergirds all these efforts. And competitive teacher salaries ensure we hire high quality talented staff.
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?
Adequate budgets are essential for high quality schools. With proposition 2.5 in place, this becomes challenging without debt exclusion and/or operating overrides especially with rising enrollment which Newton has experienced over the past 15 years. At times, cuts and adjustments to programming can be hard to avoid. Newton has worked hard to keep breadth of programming in all areas and to expand and initiate new kinds of programs that in many cases do not require more resources, other than initial investments in curriculum and teacher professional development. Libraries, guidance, art and music are all essential core programs in Newton.