Candidates want more trades and career programing for students

Bristol candidates for School Committee name their top goals for the future of the district

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/24/20

Bristol candidates for three open seats on the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee include Jamie Brooks, William O’Dell, Marjorie McBride, Brian Bradshaw, Andrew Benn, Corrie Daluz, Karen …

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Candidates want more trades and career programing for students

Bristol candidates for School Committee name their top goals for the future of the district


Bristol candidates for three open seats on the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee include Jamie Brooks, William O’Dell, Marjorie McBride, Brian Bradshaw, Andrew Benn, Corrie Daluz, Karen Cabral and Sarah Bullard. With this many candidates, there’s no shortage of great ideas — and plenty of shared ones. Here’s what they say they would be their priorities, if elected.

Marjorie McBride

No stranger to this process, Ms. McBride is a 20-year veteran of the School Committee who joined at a time of great upheaval when a large population of students were coming to the high school unprepared, and many of them were failing. Accordingly, continuing the work of achieving equity — among both students and schools — is a key goal.

“We have finally reached a point where we have a dedicated group of people who believe every child can succeed,” she said. “And we have a real sense of academic rigor. It’s taken a long time and we’re almost there.” Ms. McBride also mentioned the challenges of virtual learning and the importance of the committee respecting and listening to each other’s opinions as they formulate goals during this exceptionally challenging time in history.

Andrew Benn

A longtime educator, Mr. Benn is a history teacher at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, and until the future of the program was cast into doubt by the pandemic, he was the principal of the Providence Evening Diploma program. He feels that career technical education is something that the local school district needs to expand.

“We want all students to be prepared, whether for a skilled trade or college,” he said. “An expansion of CTE (Career Technical Education) programs, federally funded by Perkins grants, should be a goal.”

He is also interested in raising student achievement across the board. “Portsmouth and Barrington are both top districts in the state, and Bristol Warren should not be this valley between them — especially since we spend more money per student,” he said.

Jamie Brooks

A health care professional with students in the district, Ms. Brooks sees managing the COVID crisis as the top immediate concern. “There has been a lot of confusion and disappointment with the start of the new school year,” she said. “The district is facing challenges we have never faced before, and first we need to minimize risks to safety while we maximize learning.”

Another concern for Ms. Brooks is diversity and inclusion, not just among students of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, but between students who may be at different points on their educational paths. “Years ago the district stepped away from vocational education toward a college prep path, which is fine for some students,” she said. “But we should not have to send students that are looking for training in the trades to another school or town. They need mentorship and successful programs; I would work to be sure our kids are supported and that the district is meeting the needs of all students.”

Brian Bradshaw

Mr. Bradshaw, an engineer, has been serving on the School Committee for four years now, and as treasurer for the past two. “Absolutely, our response to COVID, and getting students back in the classroom as soon as possible, in buildings that are as safe as possible, is our top priority right now,” he said. “As treasurer for the past two years, I understand the importance of being good stewards of the budget.”

As a sitting committee member, Mr. Bradshaw knows well that the district is going through an important period of change. He believes in the direction they are headed but says they aren’t there yet. “I would like to continue to work towards making Bristol Warren the best it can be, and tops in the state,” he said.

Sarah Bullard

A mother with four students, two of whom have been through the district, while two remain, Ms. Bullard says there has long been a learning curve when it comes to families accessing student support services — something she witnessed first hand when working for the district as a Parents as Teachers facilitator.

“The process is not as transparent as it could be,” she said. “We could make things easier on these parents, who already have challenges they’re facing.”

She is excited about the department’s new focus on social/emotional learning, and recognizing the struggles students face when depression and anxiety are combined with adolescence and associated transitions. “There’s so much we can do to increase awareness around mental health issues,” she said, adding that as a good team player, she’s looking forward to working towards these goals in a proactive, non-adversarial manner.

Corrie Daluz

A dental hygienist and mother of a 2020 graduate and a third-grader, in recent years Ms. Daluz has heard fellow parents’ concerns about administrative transparency across several schools and grade levels. “Some progress has been made recently, but we can do better,” she said. “Parents need to be made more aware of what is going on.”

Reflecting a common concern among candidates, Ms. Daluz agrees the district needs more focus on the trades. “Parents wish there were more classes; the ones we do have are maxed to capacity.”

If elected, she will commit herself to equity and efficiency, both in terms of making sure there is more uniformity of opportunity across the various schools, but also that there is uniformity of opportunity across the student body, whether a student is needing educational support services, or is very academically motivated. “The district needs to serve all students, equitably,” she said.

Bill O’Dell

A longtime letter carrier with two decades of School Committee service under his belt, Mr. O’Dell has a unique take on how the district should be looking at the COVID crisis. “This is going to end, eventually,” he said. “I’m concerned that some students may have fallen behind during this time. What condition, academically, will they be in?”

Educationally, he thinks one of the most important goals for the department is to promote the teaching of critical thinking skills. “We need students to think for themselves, and express themselves civilly and respectfully,” he said. He believes that so many other concerns from the past, like bullying, would resolve if civility were emphasized.

Mr. O’Dell also believes teacher support should be a priority. “Teaching is challenging enough without everything that’s going on right now,” he said.

Finally, though the budget is always a concern, he feels the district needs to maintain funding for the arts. “The arts are always the first to go in a tight budget, but I hate to see that take the hit,” he said. “Without arts, we lose a little bit of our humanity.”

Karen Cabral

A nurse of 25 years in both school and hospital settings, Ms. Cabral believes medical professionals will always bring something important to the table — especially during COVID. But as a nurse, her professional experience has long been advocating for her patients — and she feels that advocating for students is an important part of the School Committee’s role.

Her nursing background also informs her focus on at-risk students, their social/emotional issues, as well as their physical health and nutrition. And, like so many other candidates, she would like to see more vocational opportunities for students who would like to go into the trades.

“It’s a juggling act,” she said. “While the budget is always on everyone’s agenda, we need to work hard to keep it balanced while doing what’s best for the kids.”

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