School Committee candidate Q&A: What should be added to the budget?

Reminder Publishing sent all six candidates for Westfield School Committee identical questionnaires covering several topics of interest to voters. 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 new program or service would you like to see included in next year’s school budget, and how would it benefit Westfield?

Timothy O’Connor: I would support establishing technical career and evening training programs at WTA and WHS for community members to help address the skills gap and workforce shortages in the Westfield area. Tapping into nontraditional and increasingly diverse talent pools could help workforce shortages in the schools and the Westfield business community. In conjunction with the Westfield Education to Business Alliance, programs could be established to support older workers, individuals with disabilities, veterans and others.

Heather Sullivan: I would like to budget money to ensure that we are putting the most qualified support staff needed in our schools. I would the like the budget to reflect the importance of the people who are working tirelessly on the front line with our students.

Martha Breton: The new program I would like to see added to next year’s school budget would be a hands-on gardening course. I believe this course would have a minimal monetary increase effect on the budget but would give our elementary children hands-on experience in the design process of creating a garden. Drawing, building, preparing, planting, harvesting their produce, and then students present their reflection report.

Jeffrey Gosselin: I would like to see included in next year’s school budget a more comprehensive plan for the maintenance and renovation projects in our school buildings. I hope some of the COVID-19 CARES Act money would go towards making our schools safe, healthy, and well maintained. We have a lot of work to do, especially with 12 schools in our district in rough condition, but I am hopeful that we can solve some of our building issues.

Kathleen Hillman: In Westfield, students are fortunate to have many after-school activities. Unfortunately, some students are at a disadvantage because they do not have after-school transportation. Many parents are working and cannot pick up their child. I would like to work on providing buses a couple of days a week to facilitate students being able to stay after school for extra help, participate in clubs, or sports.

Tom Lewis: One of the topics discussed at many professional development sessions over the past 10 years is the notion that students learn at different rates. This is very true for our elementary school students. To begin to address the MCAS issues in our district, I would like to see remediation programs in reading and math beginning as early as the third grade, instead of passing students on and beginning remediation at the high school level.

Additional questions and answers with the School Committee candidates will appear on Oct. 27, 29 and 30. For previous questions and answers, visit thewestfieldnews.com/tag/election-2021.

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