The Andover Townsman posed three questions to the School Committee candidates. Read on to see my answers, which appear in this week’s edition of the paper along with the answers of candidates Susan McCready and Shishan Wang. The paper spelled my first name wrong, but at least the quotes are accurate!
Do you think the budget for the school district is sustainable? If you had to make cuts to the budget, where would you cut?
Some aspects of the budget are sustainable, and other aspects are not. The cost of health insurance continues to rise at a faster rate than any town can reasonably keep up, and is not sustainable. By negotiating a contract that requires newly hired teachers to contribute more to their health insurance, the district has taken significant steps to better manage this expense over the long term. We should look for similar opportunities wherever we can. As a town, Andover also should seek fresh revenue streams that are consistent with a thoughtful plan for additional development in our community. If cuts become necessary, I will listen carefully to the community to determine what its priorities are at that time, and look for areas to cut costs with minimal impact to those priorities and to our obligations to our kids.
Do you believe in guns in schools? What can the district do now to make students safer, and what can be done long term?
Guns have no place in our schools. As we saw in Parkland, Florida, having trained, armed law enforcement officers on campus was not enough to stop the shooter. It is neither reasonable nor realistic to place the burden of preventing school shootings on teachers. We should continue working in partnership with Andover Police to ensure the security of our schools and the safety of our children. We must follow best practices to support the emotional and social health of our children; to address and prevent all types of bullying, harassment and discrimination; to identify and assess potential threats; and to physically secure our buildings. Addressing the physical security issues at West Elementary and AHS should be a top priority for the town.
As School Committee oversees the Superintendent, please give specific examples of things Dr. Sheldon Berman has done well and things he could improve upon.
One of the first things Dr. Berman did was respond to long-standing parent concerns about the middle school math program, and to reinstate an accelerated math track in 7th and 8th grades. He successfully led the implementation of the new high school schedule, which has been well received by students, parents and teachers. Elementary class sizes were reduced from an average of 23 to 21. Under Dr. Berman’s leadership, the district has taken much-needed steps to address language-based learning disabilities through early identification and progress monitoring. Importantly, Dr. Berman helped to stabilize the district and put an end to the revolving door in the high school principal’s office, and has fostered a collaborative environment among his administrative team. As an area of growth, I would like to see Dr. Berman exercise greater care in his communications.