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School Committee Candidate Spotlight: Inna Belenky

What is your name?

Inna Belenky

Which School Committee term are you running for? 

Three-year

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

I have been in the field of education for the past 16 years. After attending Sharon High School, I went to Simmons College and majored in Sociology and Elementary Education. I completed my M.ED in Elementary Education from Simmons College. Upon graduation, I started my career as an Educational Assistant/Behavior Therapist in Newton Public Schools working with students on the Autism Spectrum. I had never had any formal experience working with students with special needs but loved my experience so much, I decided to go back to school to learn more. As a result, I enrolled in another Master’s program at Boston University and earned an ED.M in Special Education – Mild/Moderate disabilities. 

While at BU I secured my own classroom at the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School where I taught in the substantially separate K0-K2 classroom. From the Renaissance, I moved onto Lexington Public Schools where I served as the second grade Special Education Liaison. I loved working in Special Education so much that I knew I wanted to continue my education and make a larger impact. I wanted to ensure that all students have a voice and get what they need. As such, I enrolled in the CAGS program at BU in Administration and Leadership with a concentration of Special Education. 

My family then moved to Sharon and I moved districts for the last time to Canton, my current professional home. In Canton, I have served as a 4th grade Special Education Teacher and then moved into an administrative role as the Out of District Coordinator, then High School Special Education Team Chair Administrator. Recently after the birth of my third child, I moved back into the classroom and started our districts Post Secondary Program. I have loved every single position that I have held and am so thankful to the experiences that have shaped the professional I am today.

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

As a parent and fellow educator, a “good school district” is measured not solely based upon quantitative data but also qualitative and anecdotal data. To most at first glance, a good school district is measured upon graduation rates, MCAS, AP scores, college entrance numbers, and many many other statistics; however as you and I both know there is much much more to a student than a test score. 

A good school district is one in which identifies each child as an individual and supports them to achieve his/her/their individual potential. It means providing entry points into instruction so every child can be successful in their path of learning. It means having the appropriate amount of support (faculty, staff, related services) to ensure that all our students get what they need. It also means that our teachers have everything they need to ensure that they are continuing to develop professionally alongside our children and have the best instructional resources to teach our kids. 

A good school district is one in which fosters a sense of community between children, teachers, administrators and community members. A good school district is one in which identifies its areas of strengths and relative weaknesses and works together professionally and productively to grow in a positive direction. 

As a parent, I measure if the school district that I live in is good by seeing my children’s spark when they wake up in the morning ready to run into the school building to start their day, see their teachers and friends. It’s that parent teacher conference where my child’s teacher knows all about my kid and tells me how they are accessing the curriculum and if they are being a good friend (good or bad). It’s the sense of community and belonging that we feel attending school events. It’s knowing that my children are accepted for who they are by their teachers and peers. It’s knowing that our teachers and administrators are working together to provide the best possible academic and social emotional education to help them become lifelong learners. It’s knowing that we are dedicated to working together to support each other and our children.

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

In my opinion, the School Committee provides a means of checks and balances to the greater school district. It is the responsibility of the school committee to approve a fiscally responsible budget and ensure that the various operating and capital budget needs are met year to year. Together with the faculty, staff and administration, the School Committee works to ensure that our educators have everything they need in order to provide our students with the best possible education across all academic and non academic disciplines. The School Committee is also tasked with hiring and firing the Superintendent, working as a representative to select leaders that will help move our district forward. Finally, it is the responsibility to work with members of the Administration to create, review and revise district policies and procedures, ensuring that all students, faculty and staff work in an environment that is safe and supportive.

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

In order to be an effective leader, one must come to the table with input from all impacted stakeholders. I am a believer that regardless of the age/level of student, they must also have a voice at the table. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we create an environment where student voice is fostered, encouraged and supported. Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum, however at the end of the day, we must trust our professionals.

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.

As an educator, like you, my job is to ensure that all students get what they need, or provide equity. Equity is ensuring that every student has an on ramp to their learning that is unique to their individual need(s). It means working as a team to ensure that there are multi-tiered systems of support in place to support all students’ path to learning. Equity is identifying that every student may need something a little different in order to meet the desired outcome. 

Equality on the other hand is assuming all students have the same access, resources, prior experiences and opportunities, to which we know not all students do. It is treating all students the same and not identifying the barriers that may preclude a student from succeeding to the best of their ability. In a diverse public school system, equality would be holding all students to the same standards, regardless of their individual needs.

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?

As a potential new member of the School Committee, I understand that I am entering a role that has a lot of history. If elected, I understand the importance of listening and working to understand how and why we got to where we are today and start the necessary work to move forward together in a positive manner. We as a collective must be willing to make child centered decisions and put our own agendas aside. This relationship will not be repaired in a day, month or quite frankly in a year. What I can promise is that I will listen, support and work collaboratively with all stakeholders in order to do what’s right by our children.

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

First off, I would like to say thank you for your dedication to our children and town. You are very much appreciated. Why did you choose to teach in Sharon? How can the school committee work together with you to support the important work that you do? At a recent school committee meeting we heard about school climate? How could the school committee and administration start working to improve that?

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