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? First, a candidate needs to have passion for our schools and I have plenty! I am a PROUD Shepherd Hill Regional High School graduate who can bring that valuable perspective to the table. Additionally, I will have a long-term, vested interest in the betterment of our school since my son Kameron, age 7, attends Charlton Elementary School, and my son Kaiden, age 3, will enter the schools in 2021. That being said, I also want to make clear that my candidacy for School Committee isn’t just about my children — it’s about ALL the students in both Charlton and Dudley. It’s about ensuring that we are doing all possible so each and every student receives the Quality education that they deserve.
I have been faithfully employed for 11-plus years at New England Donor Services, the non-profit agency tasked with the responsibility of coordinating organ and tissue donation here in New England and throughout the United States. My career has given me the ability to adapt to the ever-changing world we live in and in particular, the needs of the students of today. I have firsthand knowledge of the importance of building relationships and embody the ability to connect with people — a very important skill that is necessary to continue to move our district forward.
Steven Lamarche has been chosen as the next Superintendent of Schools. What are your thoughts about Mr. Lamarche coming aboard? I believe that the School Committee made the right decision in selecting Mr. Lamarche for the position. In reviewing all the interviews, I felt that he was the right fit for our district. He embodied a sense of passion for our towns and has a desire to move back to this area, where he was originally from. Additionally, I understand that he was instrumental in leading the Bourne Public Schools through a new building project — it is this leadership and experience we need for future capital projects here in Charlton and Dudley. I welcome him to our wonderful district and look forward to working with him!
If elected, what goals and objectives would you like to set for Mr. Lamarche? I would like to see Mr. Lamarche start by building relationships throughout all the areas of the district. This includes the school administration, faculty and staff. Additionally, it will be of importance for him to get to know community members in both towns — most especially the Board of Selectman and Finance Boards. The schools are an instrumental part of both communities so it is essential that Mr. Lamarche actively engage the community to gain their support, build trust and acknowledge the road ahead.
Continuing to work on the goals set in the district strategic plan should be a priority with planning for the next phase to prepare a DCRSD student for the world of tomorrow. Furthermore, I would like to see Mr. Lamarche work with both towns to find ways to streamline costs, help address the budget challenges we continue to face all while ensuring we are providing the highest quality education to the students of Charlton and Dudley.
What do you view the role of a School Committee member to be? To be part of a team of community members that act on the following:
- Hire a Superintendent and continue to monitor accomplishments with measurable performance reviews.
- Set a balanced budget that is in the best interests of ALL students in Charlton and Dudley while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of both towns.
- Set policy to provide direction and guidance on how we want to move the district forward.
I am a believer that School Committee members are there to represent the towns as a whole and provide district administration general direction as representatives of the people of both communities. Once decisions have been made, we as members need to step aside and let the Superintendent “manage” the district based on the requests of the School Committee.
What are the greatest strengths of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District? Passion and culture. Being an Alum of the schools, I know first hand about the “DCRSD culture” that is present in our schools. I recall, when I was a student at Shepherd Hill, the support I received from the entire Dudley-Charlton community after my illness, which required a heart transplant. It was an outstanding feeling to have not only the teachers and staff helping me through school, but that sense of “Pride and Unity” trickled down to each and every student. I will never forget the love I felt from our wonderful communities and I truly believe that, in part, I’m alive today because of the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District.
My son Kameron’s 1st Grade teacher is a perfect example of the “culture” of our district. In order to be more connected with her students, she made a point to attend extracurricular activities of her students. Whether that was their baseball, soccer or football games, she made a point to attend at least one game for each and every one of her students. It is this passion and culture that we have embedded throughout our district that makes us united as one, strong district.
What are your greatest concerns facing the district going forward? The budget continues to be an ongoing issue and concern for both of our member towns, our School Committee and district. Another area that needs to be addressed is the district’s capital needs. The buildings that house our children are in need of repair and/or upgrade and it is essential that we work together to plan for this. One of the areas that could be strengthened is the collaboration between the School Committee and Boards of Selectmen in both towns. These capital projects will need to be addressed so it would be in everyone’s best interest to start these conversations and have open and transparent discussion. That being said, I think of myself as an optimist and I know we will get through this together.
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? I do believe the current formula is broken. When education reform was passed in 1993, it included the addition of a “wealth” formula to be the determining factor for how much the towns would need to contribute towards their schools. This change ended up putting more responsibility for funding schools back on the local towns. While this may seem like a good idea to have local towns support their local schools, since 1993 it has increasingly put more burdens on middle-class and poorer communities. The wealthier communities in the State don’t usually feel the strain of this formula because they can afford to have their local taxpayers pay the difference.
It shouldn’t be an “accident of geography” as the determining factor on what educational opportunities a student shall receive — all students should have the right to the best education possible regardless of zip code. I would like to see the “wealth” piece of the formula removed from the calculation and reflect the educational needs of all students throughout the Commonwealth. Recalculating the “real” cost of educating today’s students should be a priority because it’s clear that the way students learn today is certainly different and more expensive than it was 26 years ago.
Why should the average Charltonian vote for you on May 4? I have passion and drive to advocate for all students of our district. I have a sense of pride instilled in me because I’m a graduate of our GREAT schools and I want the same Quality education provided to all our students. I embody the ability to make connections with the people – an essential trait necessary to engage the community in our quest for a better tomorrow.
I’m reminded of our district quote: “…to advance the knowledge and well being of our children and our community.” This is our mission. This is our goal. Please join me in educating the children of today, who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Polls are open 8am to 8pm at the Heritage School. I respectfully ask for your vote on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Thank you.