Bristol Warren school committee hopefuls speak out

Four Warren hopefuls competing for two spots on regional school committee

By Ted Hayes
Posted 10/14/20

Four Warren residents are running for two open seats on the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee. Starting this week and running through the last week before the Tuesday, Nov. 3 general election, …

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Bristol Warren school committee hopefuls speak out

Four Warren hopefuls competing for two spots on regional school committee


Four Warren residents are running for two open seats on the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee. Starting this week and running through the last week before the Tuesday, Nov. 3 general election, we will ask the candidates — Daryl Gould, Dave Matheson, Nicky Piper and Tara Thibaudeau — a policy question as a service to readers. This week's question:
If you were voted onto the school committee, what would be your highest priority for the next two years?

Daryl Gould
First, the number one priority is the immediate need to get a handle on what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong as far as educating students given the pandemic.

There are certainly some overall long term goals more related to transparency. I think that's one area where our district falls short and our school committee falls short.

There needs to be a lot more work done reaching out to people in the community, not just from the district. One of the things that got us in a little trouble (as the pandemic grew) was there was certainly a lack of reaching out very early in this process to get the points of view of all the different people in the district. I want to look at and consider personal circumstances of everyone, but if it's outside of your sphere of vision you're going to miss things. There are a lot of people who had good points and contributions that would have saved us from at least some of the mess that we're in right now.

And I think secondly there really needs to be a focus on career pathways. Fortunately we've already started talking about it. There needs to be focused placed on kids making sure that regardless of what pathways they use, that they have an equal opportunity to pursue their career path; the dearth (here) being the case of vocational studies. The Parents' Advocacy group has proposed some creative solutions to try to get that going.

Finally, a priority would be getting more insight and control over the finances of the district. If you follow the budget meetings, it's very easy to see that the school committee isn't currently being given all of the things that are necessary to make informed decisions about what's in the district's best interest. We spend a lot of money on our students, and we need to make sure we see where that money's going and that it goes to where it should be.

Dave Matheson
My priority for the first two years is about finding tools that are going to help kids, teachers and parents manage in our current environment. I think it's going to continue well into 2021.

I've been out there canvassing and talking to people, and I've heard a lot of teachers say that it's really hard to manage virtual and in person learning, especially teachers that have to do it simultaneously.

I know from my own kids, when they're distance learning it can be frustrating for them to try to figure out everything that they have to keep on top of, and it's hard for parents to help them manage that load.

I think I have a unique opportunity given my technology background. I'd really like to dive in and figure out what we need to be doing and what we could do better. For parents, it's a lot about having a single point of reference; with teachers, figuring out ways of helping them if they continue doing the in person/distance learning at the same time. From my own experience on video conferencing in the corporate environment, there's a lot of technology to help them do that. So I'd really like to focus on teachers, kids and parents; all three. There are things that we could be doing better in all of those three groups.

We also need to ensure that there's digital equity. We're really leaving behind our kids who maybe have 504s or IEPs, or other special educational needs. We could be considering them more when it comes to our remote learning.

Overall, we could put a greater focus on tools that help us. In our current situation, we'll be in the Covid universe for at least some time into 2021. But even beyond that, if God willing we have a vaccine or better therapeutics, once we get beyond this I think those tools would still be really useful — software and hardware, and different approaches to distance learning, I think, is going to help us in the long run.

For me, my priority will be diving in and figuring out what I need to do. There are going to be things that I'll want to do, and really soaking in everything I need to learn. So a lot of it will be my own learning curve and observation of other committee members. There's a lot to absorb from a budget perspective, from a facilities perspective and things like that. But as far as what I want to push, priority A1 would definitely be helping teachers, kids and parents with remote learning.

Nicky Piper
I've been thinking a lot about this (and) in the end the answer is simple: my main focus would be the students. They have to be front and center of everything that every school committee member does, specifically giving them the best education we can because that's the job of the school committee and it's what they deserve.

I realize that hand in hand with that is making sure they are happy and that they feel safe in the classroom. One can't happen without the other.

The pandemic has drastically changed how we educate our children, and the challenges around health and safety. I don't think that's going to change quickly, unfortunately. It's changed the challenges that we face.

A huge priority will be reflecting on how we responded to this crisis. I think we have a lot to learn about what we did right and what we did wrong, how we were able to reopen our schools and how we could have better served our kids. But I also think we did some things very well.

There are some opportunities that have come out of the sudden need to move to distance learning; perhaps having more flexible schedules for the high school students would give them time for internships or apprenticeships. This is all analysis work that we need to find time to prioritize over the next couple of years.

Another is our buildings and facilities, and making sure they're sound and safe. We need to build a culture of trust in our buildings between the adults, and between the students and then between the students and adults. It's only with this culture of trust that all our students can feel safe and happy and empowered to learn, and grow into the well-rounded citizens we all need them to be.

All our children should have choice after graduation, as to what their future holds. As a district we need to develop our CTE (career and technical education) and career pathways. There are huge opportunities to partner with local manufacturers and corporations, as seen by the success of the existing partnership with Raytheon. The beauty about pathways also is that they also bring out-of-district students to Bristol Warren schools, which also brings in funding.

There's a huge financial upside to this (and) potentially reinvesting some of that funding into developing strong apprenticeship and workforce development programs. If we can get extra funding for our CTEs programs, it would make a lot of sense to put that into the workforce development areas. It would go a long way.

Tara Thibaudeau
My main priority for my first two years would be to create measurable, obtainable goals and priorities as a school committee board for the Superintendent to implement. We, as a body, need to all get on the same page. If you do that, then you can make it clear to the superintendent what the board's vision is, and you have a clear view of what you are evaluating him on each year. Have you obtained those goals? Where are you falling short?

My biggest goal in getting on the committee would be the trades and post-graduate employment opportunities. Considering that only about half of Bristol Warren students actually graduate from college, what are we doing for that other 50 percent? We need to expose them to trade opportunities. Having three children that have gone into the trades, I know how important it is. The need for electricians, plumbers, welders, operators, CDL workers, is very high. But in Bristol Warren, the kids aren't being exposed to those things — they're pushed to go to college in our district. I would like to see equity.

I've been a school committee member before and I'm realistic. I know the role of the school committee is oversight, we represent the communities and their needs. We clearly define the goals for the community and school district to the superintendent and it's his responsibility to carry those out. We don't micromanage what the district administration does; we can only guide and provide policy and financial oversight to get that job done.

You can't have too many priorities because it really takes two years to get acclimated to the committee and learn the ropes. My goals are attainable.

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