Dudley-Charlton Regional School Committee Candidate: Elaine Rabbitt

Elaine Rabbitt

Candidate for Dudley-Charlton Regional School Committee

In advance of Saturday’s annual town election, The Citizen Chronicle has reached out to the candidates in any and all contested races on the ballot. In Charlton, the lone officially contested race is that for a seat on the Dudley-Charlton Regional School Committee. For the second year in a row, Kenny Laferriere is seeking a seat on the school board. The incumbent is Elaine Rabbitt, a longtime committee member.

The Citizen Chronicle has provided a series of questions and will run the returned copies in their entirety and in the context provided therein.

What is your relevant experience? I have been serving on the school committee since being elected in 2011. During the past eight years I have been an active member of the school committee. My participation includes four years on the Budget & Finance subcommittee (two as Chair), Policy subcommittee 2012 & 2019, Strategic Plan committee 2012 & 2016, Interim Superintendent Search Committee 2018, and Chair of the Superintendent Search Committee 2018/2019.

On the state level, I am a member of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Regional Schools subcommittee since 2011. I am an active participant in the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools. I have attended the MASC Day on the Hill to advocate for legislation and funding for education.

I have worked as a consultant/trainer to families and disability organizations on various special education topics throughout Central Massachusetts.

Steven Lamarche has been chosen as the next Superintendent of Schools. What are your thoughts about Mr. Lamarche coming aboard?We look forward to Mr. Lamarche beginning his tenure as the next Superintendent of School on July 1. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Lamarche on two occasions and doing a site visit to the Bourne Public School District. Superintendent Lamarche is a very experienced, well rounded professional with roots in the area. He is well acquainted with the history and traditions of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District. While Superintendent Lamarche has not worked in a regional school district he is the epitome of a lifelong learner. He has been studying the district and is aware of the funding challenges we face. I know he will do whatever is necessary to get up to speed on the regional school budgeting process.

I believe that Superintendent Lamarche will be a great champion for excellence and equity for all learners. During my site visit to Bourne, I met a panel of students at the high school who were very articulate on the impact he has had on their education. I heard many good things from his current administrative staff on how he has helped them advance their skills to be better leaders.

I know the school committee is excited to have him join us in July. We all look forward to working with him.

If elected, what goals and objectives would you like to set for Mr. Lamarche?Superintendent Lamarche is a forward thinker. It is common practice for any new administrator to set a 100-day entry plan. In conjunction with learning about the staff, students, buildings and meeting our community officials, I would be looking for our new Superintendent to be setting goals regarding several items that have begun or have been studied and are awaiting action. These include the MARS organizational study for the Central office; the Capital Plan Facilities study; the reorganization in Special Education including the introduction of a co-teaching model and beginning a strategy for the FY21 budget.

What do you view the role of a School Committee member to be? A school committee member has three main responsibilities. First is the employment of the Superintendent including hiring, evaluating and termination. Second is approving all policies for the district. Third is the approval of the budget. For the budget, a school committee member is acting as the fiscal agent of the town they represent. Two of the three main responsibilities are interwoven. Policy drives how the district operates and the operation of the district determines the budget. I feel that it is my responsibility to ensure that the taxpayer’s money is being used wisely. We should be analyzing our budget to ensure that the money spent provides the desired outcome which is a great education for our students. The school committee as a whole should be looking ahead and working with the Superintendent, staff and community to create a vision for the future of education in the district. Working together the school committee, Superintendent and Finance Director set short-term and long-term budget goals to address the strategic plan.

What are the greatest strengths of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District? The greatest strength of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District is the talent and dedication of our staff of educators, administrators and support staff. Our Interim Superintendent, Dr. Nash, was so impressed when she joined us last summer that over 60 percent of the district staff have been here anywhere from 15-40 years. Dedication and commitment exist at all levels within the district.  We are also fortunate to have two communities that value education and take great pride in their schools.

What are your greatest concerns facing the district going forward? Funding will always be one of the major concerns going forward. The $3 million override in the spring of 2018 only provided a two-year solution to the district’s budget constraints. The town of Charlton contracted with Mark Abrahms, CPA, to study the district’s finances. A five-year projection of revenues and expenditures was presented at a Joint Financial meeting of Charlton, Dudley and DCRSD officials. FY 21 will be a challenging year. Additionally, there are priority capital needs including the roof at Charlton Middle School.

There has been a great deal of talk and debate across the Commonwealth on the formula used to determine State money for public schools. Is the current formula broken? Is it sufficient? How would you like to see the formula altered? The Foundation Formula is antiquated. It is predicated on how students were educated 20 years ago. While the formula was intended to be revised along the way the legislature has never taken action on it. I did attend hearings to speak on behalf of the district and specific areas of need while the Foundation Budget Review Commission was traveling across the state. The difficulty for Dudley-Charlton is that most of the recommended changes being phased in will have minor effect on our funding. The district is in a state called Hold Harmless which is when the state back fills your funding. Until we are out of Hold Harmless, we will only receive the Chapter 70 Per Pupil bump determined by the Legislators. Currently at $30 per pupil in the budget proposed by the House. This nets us $81,000 for FY 20 if the number doesn’t change.

Along with the MASC Regional Schools committee and the Support Massachusetts Regional Schools group, I have been advocating for a commission to be established by the legislature to study the funding issues specific to regional school districts. Currently the split is 51 percent of funding from the towns and 49 percent from the state. A bill has been filed to phase changes in the split of funding to 52 percent/48 percent and further. Even a 1 percent change would provide relief for all regional school districts. While Charlton is experiencing some economic growth that is helping our town, Dudley has limited ability to improve their new growth revenue. I would like the formula to address the funding issues specific to regional schools. 

Why should the average Charltonian vote for you on May 4? I believe the voters of Charlton should select me as the three-year candidate for the school committee. During the last eight years I have shown my dedication and commitment to the district by investing my time and energy into learning about budget, policy and the needs of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District. I have participated in strategic planning for the future and use that knowledge to research and seek out information and resources to benefit the district. Asking questions, doing research, advocating at a local and state level are all attributes that I have used to champion the needs of the district. I am proud to represent the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District. I would like to continue to work on behalf of the district and the community of Charlton. Your vote would be appreciated. Thank you!


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