Dear Newton Neighbors,
I am seeking to serve on the School Committee in the Ward 3 seat, and I’m asking for your vote on November 7. I will bring a strong record of community involvement, experience working collaboratively with the NPS administration and the School Committee, and analytical and financial skills to the position.
The School Committee reflects the importance of excellence in education throughout Newton. It establishes the educational goals, policies and procedures for the school system, and selects and supervises the Superintendent. It has the critical role of reviewing and approving the school budget, currently over $210 million (more than half of Newton’s citywide budget). The School Committee has 9 voting members, including representatives from Newton’s 8 wards and the Mayor. Therefore, being able to work together to solve problems in an environment of mutual respect and collaboration is incredibly important to its success.
I have lived in West Newton for 23 years with my husband Larry, and all of our five kids have attended Newton Public Schools. I first became involved in community service projects with the building of the Davis Playground in 1997, when my oldest kids attended preschool at the Newton Community Service Center (now Family Access). I’ve been an active volunteer in all of our children’s schools (Franklin, Day, Brown, and Newton North High School). I’ve also volunteered at the John M. Barry Boys and Girls Club.
I became involved in the Parent Advisory Council for Special Education (Newton SEPAC) when my children were in elementary school, and I served for 8 years on the board, and for 4 years as chairperson of the organization. The SEPAC is mandated by state law to advise the School Committee on special education, and also serves as an educational and support group for parents of children with special needs. In my role as chairperson, I worked collaboratively with the NPS administration and the School Committee on a number of issues, including the revised policy on restraint and time-out and access to after-school and community education programs for students with special needs.
In my professional life, I work at the Tufts Medical Center as a health economist. I received my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago, my MBA from Boston University and my PhD in Health Policy from Harvard. The relevance of my education and professional experience to the school committee is that I am very comfortable with financial information and budgets, and I understand the trade-offs that must inevitably be made in the school budget process.
- My first priority will always be to continue and strengthen the excellent quality of the education we provide in the Newton Public Schools for all of our diverse students. In order to achieve this in difficult budgetary times, we must support the quality of our teaching and maintain class sizes at effective levels.
- We want our students to not only be excellent learners, but well-rounded citizens who are able to communicate effectively and work collaboratively. To accomplish this, we need to continue our support of the Social and Emotional Learning initiatives at all levels, and increase our support of mental health initiatives, particularly at the middle and high school levels.
- I support full day kindergarten, and improving access to quality preschool and after-school options for our students
- Special Education students make up about 20% of our 13,037 students, and these services account for close to 30% of our school budget. We must focus first and foremost on finding the best, most effective outcomes for our students while maximizing efficiency. This includes considering in-district, sub-separate classroom programming where appropriate. I believe that the School Committee should request a strategic review of our programs to better guide where new programming might be most beneficial for students and cost-effective for the district.
- Our school facilities continue to be a high priority. The new Zervas school is set to open this September, and the 2 year renovation of the Cabot School has begun. We have other aging facilities, particularly the Lincoln-Eliot elementary school. We must continue to collaborate with the city to plan and fund this important work and to ensure that all of our students can learn in safe, well- functioning environments.
- We faced a difficult budget year in 2017, and this is likely to continue. Therefore, we must work strategically to find ways to improve the efficiency of our programs and bring in outside grant support where possible. I have spoken with many voters with different concerns, who have asked me what I would cut- music, sports, arts, library- and the answer is, I don’t have a quick fix. What I will bring to the School Committee is thoughtful, careful consideration of all of the financial trade-offs. I believe that a strategic, long-term approach to increasing the cost-effectiveness of our programming will take us much further than short term cuts in valuable programs and services.
I would be glad to hear your thoughts and concerns about our schools. I can be reached via email at [email protected], or by phone at (617) 319-2739.
Please check out my website at www.eileensandberg.org!
I look forward to hearing from you!