I've learned what's important to Somerville by being involved in my children’s school, and more recently as a candidate, by listening to residents as I go door to door.  As a volunteer and leader in the schools, I seek out teachers and parents for their opinions on priorities and in decision-making -- this is how I will operate as a Ward 5 School Committee DSC_0856.jpgMember. 

Based on my family’s experiences and feedback from residents, I want to focus on:

Collaboration – parents, staff and community members working together to define priorities and make things happen

Smart investment – efficient use of current resources, careful long-term investment and creative exploration of revenue sources and community support

Early identification and support – more effective intervention for students with learning challenges to reduce the achievement gap and free up resources for all students.

Collaboration is key.  I would like to invest in more common planning time for teachers within and across schools and in targeted objectives, such as creating hands-on cross-subject projects or addressing the needs of at risk students.  In the middle grades, I would like to see collaboration taken one step further, possibly creating a department model to establish leadership across the six schools, as we do in the high school.  Staff working together promotes creativity and excellence.

Collaboration depends on successful parent outreach and involvement to all families including those for whom English is not their first language.  Students whose families are engaged in their schools do better.  The creation last year of part-time parent liaisons is a step in the right direction.  Outreach must also be initiated by classroom teachers and parents or guardians, with support from the administration.  Community events are a great way to bring families into the schools and lead to a stronger home-school connection that benefits all students.

Smart investment means using the resources we have wisely, as well as making thoughtful, evidence-based decisions about new investment. For example, expanding access to early childhood education may not be as simple as opening more preschool classrooms.  Program improvements may include some combination of increasing availability, providing more after-school slots or full-day programming (subsidized or for-fee), and partnering with private providers to better meet the needs of our families and prepare students for elementary school.  No matter what the approach, all groups involved – parents, early childhood educators and others -- should participate in the discussion. 

I am excited by plans to expand guidance services at Somerville High School.  This is another example of smart investment because it creates and sustains high expectations for all students and better prepares students for success after high school.  Additionally, it is a final step in promoting a culture in which college is an option for all students from the day they enter kindergarten.  

Smart investment also means pursing new education models or approaches. The state-sponsored Innovation Schools program provides a catalyst for creating educational options that may meet the needs and desires of a greater range of families. This process requires collaboration between staff and parents, and I've seen the energy and creativity it generates.  The district can promote these initiatives with existing resources, cross-school communication and maybe new grants.

Early identification and support will help meet the school district's primary goal of providing all children what they need to reach their academic, social and emotional potential.  The earlier we identify and provide support to students, the more successful they will be and the more resources we will have available for all students.  I will advocate for the teacher training and support needed to make early identification and student assistance a reality and to foster a culture of inclusion.    

 Our diverse student body includes (but is not limited to) children who have:

  • special needs that require appropriate services and support as well as successful inclusion in mainstream classrooms
  • English as their second language
  • exceeded expectations and need differentiated instruction to go beyond material they have mastered
  • social, emotional or behavioral challenges that require direct instruction to develop lagging skills and positive reinforcement versus a dependence on punitive measures.

The district must continue to fund sustainable approaches for identifying and meeting these diverse needs.  The flexible X-block teaching period is an example of a sustainable structure for providing both enrichment and additional support.  But follow-through investment -- collaboration, increased volunteer recruitment and more funding for training – is also necessary.

These are the issues that I know and hear the most about.  There are many others.  Please contact me about issues that are important to you at [email protected].



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Laura Pitone for Ward 5 School Committee
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