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School Committee Candidate Spotlight: Chethana (Rani) Naik

What is your name?

Chethana (Rani) Naik

Which School Committee term are you running for?

One-year

What is your personal experience or background with PreK-12th grade public education in Massachusetts?

We moved to Sharon in 2017 when my boys were in 4th and 2nd grade at East Elementary. I currently have one kid at East Elementary (5th) and one at SMS (7th). Personally I have enjoyed interacting with my kids’ educators and having open communication to make sure I help reinforce and support what they are learning in school. I believe in reaching out to my kids educators to make sure they have access to me as well in case they need to communicate anything I can help with. This also creates a communication channel for us to interact throughout the year as needed. When me and my husband connect with our kids regularly on how they enjoy school, the fact that my kids look forward to going to school to interact with their peers each year is a WIN. They occasionally are excited about a project/test/presentation and the enthusiasm with which they share this makes me happy to hear that they are proud of their work and achievement. Our overall experience with the school system, teachers and the quality of education has been great which is why we continue to value this town and it’s educators.

In your opinion, what are the hallmarks of a “good school district”? How do you measure if a school district is deemed “good”?

Having grown up in the suburbs of DC, I had the privilege of being exposed to cultural diversity and a huge spectrum of educational opportunities. Having had this exposure I can recognize that a good school district while it needs to perform with the expected metrics, needs to also focus on the whole kid as an individual. The academics while they play a significant part and are the fundamentals, it’s also important to ensure that we’re producing good humans as they grow. A good school district for me is one that performs not only just academically but does focus on the kid as a whole. This can be achieved only when there’s engagement from all stakeholders to collaborate and constantly enhance curriculums.

What do you view is the role of the School Committee in the way the district functions?

The primary responsibilities as I understand the roles of the SC is to ensure that the fiscal responsibilities are addressed and ensure policies and guidelines are established and adhered to. Having said that, I believe the best approach for this is to engage in open and transparent discussions with all parties involved as we all have our own parts to play.

Please describe your thoughts and feelings on input from various stakeholders (educators, parents, and students) on informing decisions.

When talking about stakeholders, these are all parties with a vested interest in the overall education system that we know needs to perform to standards established at a national level. While we are all interested in the same outcome, we all have our roles and responsibilities we must play. It’s important to have transparent discussions to make sure the lines of communications are open. This is extremely important when it comes to decisions as they have an impact for each of the entity. However at the same time, the decisions do not mean that all of the entities need to act on them. For some it’s just an awareness and for others it may be an action item. It’s important to ensure that all the stakeholders work together to trust each to perform the roles that we’ve been assigned and to do them well with a common focused goal which is the kids.

Sharon is home to a very diverse public school district. The district is working on moving past just the celebration of diversity and toward creating a culture of inclusivity and belonging for all students, families, and educators. In your words, please explain the difference between “equality” and “equity” in a diverse public school system.

One of the main reasons we moved to Sharon beyond it’s academic excellence was for it’s cultural diversity. When talking about a diverse public school district, this diversity goes beyond just the cultural and includes aspects such as resources, monetary or physical for example. Equality to me implies that we provide the same standard of education for all not taking into account each individual’s strengths or weakness. Equity to me demonstrates that we recognize the strengths and weakness at an individual level and develop programs to either challenge or support them respectively. Equity also in my opinion allows for the evaluation of an individual student to ensure they have the appropriate support beyond just the academics. The concept of equity allows each of these individuals the same chance at success by providing the necessary level of support.

In your opinion, what would it take to maintain a healthy relationship between the School Committee, Administration, the Sharon families and the Educators in the school?

Some of the fundamental principles I truly believe in are to ensure that our educators are empowered. They are an integral pillar of the education system and truly invested in the educational system. The school committee needs to ensure the appropriate tools and support systems are in place to enable the educators and act as a bridge to the community to ensure dissemination of information. The community should be the support system to ensure that they reinforce and support the educators. It’s important to periodically ensure we all know our roles and trust each other to perform them In my opinion in order to maintain a healthy relationship, it’s important to have transparent respectful discussions, listen to each other and trust each other to perform our duties. I believe in having transparent and open discussions to ensure there’s empathy and understanding for when there is a difference of viewpoints. As we emerge from this pandemic which was something truly unprecedented, I am hopeful that we continue with discussions in an open and transparent manner and stay focused on the goal of the kids and the education system.

What questions do you have for the educators in our district?

Few questions for the educators I have that I’m interested to know are: Do you feel you have access to the community to be able to share information to further educate the community especially when it comes to curriculum? Do you feel your voice was adequately represented during the pandemic? How can I as a potential SC candidate partner with you to help ensure that your needs are being addressed?

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