Editor’s note: Reminder Publishing sent all six candidates for Westfield School Committee identical questionnaires covering several topics of interest to voters. The first two answers appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of The Pennysaver. Additional questions and answers will appear starting today in The Westfield News. 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 specific vote in the past four years do you wish the School Committee had decided differently, and why?
Timothy O’Connor: Voting to increase technology funding beyond what was proposed would have been more favorable. As a line item, we must continue to find ways to increase technology in the budget, with a focus on professional development costs, software costs, replacement costs, connectivity costs and retrofitting costs. We have made great strides to become a 1:1 device community, and future votes to add to a revolving account will continue to keep us current and competitive.
Heather Sullivan: I am going to stand by my record and have no regrets on the decisions and votes I have taken. I did my best to vote with integrity and with what I thought was best for all of our students and staff.
Martha Breton: The specific vote by the School Committee in the last four years that I wish had been decided differently is the vote allowing mask mandates and vaccine clinics in our high schools. I believe parents, not the School Committee, not the state government, not the federal government, should make the health care decisions for their own children.
Jeffrey Gosselin: The most important vote I wish was decided differently was the school budget, fiscal 2021. In May 2020, the School Committee proposal included $3 million in cuts, 33 positions. New proposals from school leadership could have avoided this. I would have reviewed the expense side of the budget, or suggested implementation of job analysis/needs assessments. For years, the Ashley Street School was a central office building, in our downtown area, creating great savings, increasing downtown foot traffic, and keeping costs down while delivering quality services.
Kathleen Hillman: These past two years have been very challenging for the Westfield schools, because of the pandemic. I do not want to criticize any of the School Committee’s decisions, because it has been an unprecedented time. The School Committee did the best they could with the information they possessed.
I do wish that Fort Meadow could be a separate program in their own building. I believe that a preschool environment should be separated from the elementary.
Tom Lewis: Many unprecedented and tough votes were made in the last two years. The committee was forced to make choices in a low-information, time-constrained environment. It is “not the critic that counts” but those “in the arena.” Since I was not present for the full debate, I am reluctant to second-guess those that were. If elected, my votes will be based on what is best for student safety and improving district academic achievement.
Additional questions and answers with the School Committee candidates will appear on Oct. 25, 27, 29 and 30.