Reminder Publishing sent all six candidates for Westfield School Committee identical questionnaires covering several topics of interest to voters. Today we are presenting the final question. Answers are in the candidates’ own words and have not been edited, except for spelling and punctuation. Responses are listed in the order that candidates will be listed in the ballot: incumbents first, then challengers, in alphabetical order.
Today’s question: What makes you a better choice for School Committee than your opponents?
Timothy O’Connor: I have a boundless compassion for education, which stems from my parents making education a priority in their lives, and mine. Being a three-term member of the Westfield School Committee has allowed me to give back to public education. My background in finance has been valuable in helping to navigate through the WPS system’s financial statements, as well as helping to develop the school budget. I am a product of the WPS system and believe that we need to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers/administrators. I believe that we have to continue to move ahead without losing focus of our goal of successfully advancing each student. We also must continue to encourage parents to be partners in their children’s educational pursuits. With my experience, leadership, and commitment to education, I believe I can provide the balance and guidance that is necessary for continued success.
Heather Sullivan: Initially I had the experience as a parent and volunteer in the Westfield Public Schools. I then ran and served on the School Committee for eight years. After my second term ended, I made a career change and worked as reading interventionist at Highland for six years. It was at Highland School I had the opportunity to adopt a child who had learning needs that were very different from the needs of my older children. Despite the fact that I was working in the school system, I felt as though I was in uncharted territory, trying to be an advocate for my son. I was inspired to rejoin the committee to serve as a voice for other parents who were trying to be advocates for their children.
Martha Breton: What makes me, Martha Breton, the best choice for School Committee? I am very concerned about what is happening in our schools, and what is happening at School Committee meetings. As a mother of two adult children, who just retired in 2020 after 30 years, I have the knowledge, experience, and the willingness to work collaboratively with anyone who is willing to stand up with me and to help save our children’s educational freedoms.
Jeffrey Gosselin: I have been involved with advocating for more equitable funding for Westfield schools at both local and state levels of government. My interest in serving on the School Committee is to improve student achievement for all our youth. I have served in many areas: the Westfield Historical Commission, former member (Westfield School Committee), and the Commission for Citizens with Disabilities, for which I presently serve as secretary. I am a vocal leader of universal early education. I have long ties to the education community from an elementary teacher in Springfield schools, to serving on the Head Start policy council, serving as an adjunct faculty member at Westfield State University, working as an admissions assistant at Western New England University, and a supervisor/counselor at the Carson Center, where I oversaw the day-to-day delivery of the PLUS internship program and supervised a staff of over 30 interns. I developed and implemented an overall plan for the PLUS program and acted as a liaison with families and all related state and local agencies involved.
Kathleen Hillman: I bring to the School Committee position a wide range of experience and expertise. I have been a teacher for 32 years, from preschool to middle school. The most valuable part of my experience was advocating for all levels of learners. In addition to teaching, I was president of the West Springfield Education Association for 14 years, representing teachers and paraprofessionals. I negotiated four interest-based bargaining contracts. During negotiation, I worked with different personalities to create a team. In my leadership role, I collaborated with administrators, city officials, teachers and paraprofessionals to achieve district goals via the process of a productive, efficient team. If a conflict arose, my leadership skills allowed me to resolve conflict amicably. Collaboration is my middle name.
With collaboration in mind, I have attended in person and on Zoom all School Committee meetings. I have also had meetings with the superintendent, special ed director and the principal of the high school. I will be a strong advocate for students, teachers, and parents.
Tom Lewis: My educational background and professional experiences makes me an extremely strong candidate. I hold an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Connecticut, a master’s in business adminstration from Northeastern University, a master’s in education from Westfield State University, and 45 additional master’s credits in education and history. I spent 14 years with the IBM Corporation in customer service, management and financial planning roles. I recently retired from teaching, having spent 25 years in Westfield Public Schools, at both North Middle School and Westfield High School. I have volunteered to run a number of extra-curricular activities in each school. And, I have been the head coach of the high school swim team for the past 22 years. I have spent the better part of my professional life supporting the children of our community. I believe I can continue to be their best advocate as part of the School Committee.
To read all of our questions and answers with School Committee candidates, visit thewestfieldnews.com/tag/election-2021.