Categories
Uncategorized

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?

Categories
Uncategorized

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?

Categories
Uncategorized

School Committee Candidate Spotlight: Aviron Shemtov

What is your name?

Aviron Shemtov

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?

My personal experience with k-12 education is limited to having been a student, now being a parent of two students (k and 2), having an elementary teacher as my wife, and having taught a limited number of programs in a Boston Public School.

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

To me the two measures of a great school district are how much opportunity every single student is given to reach their full potential and how empowered every educator is to educate every single child in whatever way that child needs to be reached.

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

The School Committee functions on a 30,000 foot level. The role of a school committee is to approve the school budget and drive policy. Ultimately it is the role of our administration to manage the daily operations of our schools and the role of our educators to adapt or create curriculum and educate our children.

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

I see the role of School Committee as an air traffic controller directing parents concerns or ideals to administration and supporting administration through the solving of any issues that arise. Our educators ultimately are the only experts on many important things a school committee navigates and I believe fundamentally in a functional working relationship between our school committee and our educators that supports and empowers our educators always.

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.

To me equality suggests that every students receive the same thing. Equity is about providing every students with the opportunity to reach their highest performance- not specifically academically but entirely. We have an extremely diverse community- not just religiously or ethnically or racially, which are all very important diversities, but economically and learning style. Every student is owed by our district a full, complete, and equitable education. It is our responsibility as school committee members, administrators, and educators to work towards ensuring that happens. Any student’s inequitable education is a failure on all of our parts.

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?

To be frank, new voices are needed at the table to first build and then maintain a healthy relationship between all stakeholders holders. We have to first understand that administrators, educators, families and school committee members all want what is best for students. We need to also understand that for administrators and educators this is also their profession abs the way they provide foe their families. Our educators should never be put in a position where they have to sacrifice their livelihood or safe working environment in order to educate our children. Educators must also never be put in a position where they have to sacrifice their professional and personal goals of educating our children to the best of their abilities in order to maintain a safe working environment or livelihood. We need to commit to both, always. We can do that. We simply need to start new and build bridges where others have broken.

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

If we could fix 3 things in our district in year 1, what would they be and how would we do that? If we can be a more perfect school district over 3 years, what steps would we need to take and how would we achieve them?

Categories
Uncategorized

School Committee Canditate Spotlight: Kathleen Currul-Dykeman

What is your name?

Kathleen (Katie) Currul-Dykeman

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 on the school committee for 9 years. I have a son, Colin, who has Autism he is 17 years old, a son, Patrick, who is a freshman in High School he is 14 years old, and a daughter, Sabrina, at Heights Elementary – third grade – she is 9 years old. I am a tenured professor at Stonehill College in North Easton, MA. I am also the Director of the Martin Institute of Law & Society.

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

A good school district is one where administration leads through consensus not conflict. Where teachers are happy to work for the town and feel supported and respected for their hard work. Where parents are viewed as important partners in education who should offer to support their children by supporting the teachers. I measure a good school district mainly through attitudinal data. Evidence of collaborative decisions making and mutual respect can be seen almost everywhere qualitatively.

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

It’s time that the School Committee remembers that they are parents volunteers. They are not employees of the district. They are not being paid to lead it. Their voices should represent the thoughts of their constituents. Their constituents include parents and teachers.

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

I do not think good decisions can be made without this input.

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.

Where equality strives to treat students the same regardless of outcome – equity seeks to offer different opportunities so that students have the chance to realize similar outcomes. 

Is the goal that everyone have the same chance to be recommended for certain classes? Or is the goal that we use data to help inform us of which students may need different early assistance or even supports later on in order to enjoy the same classes and experiences?

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?

It would take honesty. It would take mutual respect. It would take a commitment to transparency and hard work. 

For the school committee, it will take a fresh start which we are beginning to realize. But we have to be careful not to build a committee with the same problems. It would be best to have 7 consensus building, collaborative, teacher loving, non-demanding citizens.

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

How can we best support you next year? What are you worried about for Fall 2021?

Categories
Uncategorized

School Committee Candidate Spotlight: Veronica Wiseman

What is your name?

Veronica Anastasio Wiseman

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 am a speech language pathologist with Title IX certification and over the past 30 years I have had experience working in and consulting to K-12 schools. I am a parent/step-parent to 5 children who all attended public schools, three of them here in Sharon. I have been involved in parent leadership at every level, following my kids as they progressed, raising funds through grants and donations for additional programming and to revitalize school buildings and to support students and faculty. While my kids were at Heights, the PTO rebuilt two playgrounds and, through those projects, inspired a core group of dedicated parents to step up, show up and volunteer. I have a deep respect for the work of teachers, school staff and administrators, and I consider that parent partnerships are essential to the growth and academic success of the kids.

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

A good school district starts with a strong and supportive school culture. A good school district nurtures and supports students, and creates a rich learning environment that is stimulating, safe, equitable and inclusive. A good school district values and supports teachers, and ensures that they are central to the process of building and shaping curriculum. A good school district is supported by a community of parents who are involved in creating a strategic plan that the administration believes in and can commit to.

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

The School Committee’s role is to create and approve policies for the district, hire and evaluate the Superintendent and approve a budget designed by administration that adheres to the goals in the strategic plan. The boundaries between the school committee and the administration need to be clearly defined. The school committee should be led by a chair who respects those boundaries, and models a respectful, productive and professional relationship with the superintendent.

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

The importance of valuing stakeholder input is paramount to a healthy school culture. It is a critical factor that ensures that all partners feel safe sharing their ideas and concerns, and that builds trust. This is hard work. The very least the school committee can do is ensure that all stakeholders can participate safely in a transparent process without fear or favor.

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.

Not all children are the same. We value them all equally, but they present with unique gifts, skills and talents. To provide them with an equitable learning environment, educators need to support them as individuals. The great challenge is providing that individual programming while serving all the students equitably.

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?

Respect. Leading by example. Remembering that while we will never agree on all things, we must lead with gratitude, understanding and compassion. The school committee must model those values that we are asking our teachers and staff to inculcate into our kids. We must walk our talk.

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

What can the school committee do to improve the climate and culture in the SPS? What would our educators prioritize as the primary places where we can improve what we are doing? We speak about equity in relation to our kids. What about equity for our educators? What does that look like from your perspective? What would it take for you to allow us to leave our past missteps behind and start fresh?