School Committee candidate Q&A: Where would you cut 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 specific cut or reform would you support to eliminate waste or duplication in Westfield schools?

Timothy O’Connor: I will continue to support the Franklin Avenue School project, which will allow for the consolidation of Abner Gibbs and Franklin Avenue elementary schools, and result in over $500,000 annual cost savings. New building systems will also help to reduce maintenance and operational costs. In addition to cost savings, this new elementary school would be more of a community neighborhood resource, open beyond the school day to help accommodate other community events.

Heather Sullivan: At this point we are running our schools so trim, we don’t have waste.

Martha Breton: The specific reform I would add in next year’s budget would be to make us a fiscally conservative committee. I am a fiscally conservative mom. My primary goal is that our schools prepare our children to read, write, correctly solve arithmetic problems and to be critical thinkers. This means they are taught how to research issues (not only with computers), listen to all sides of an issue then make and defend their decision.

Jeffrey Gosselin: One area I would like to reform would be the out-of-district costs by creating a new Pathways or Alternative School program, similar to the former Park Avenue Academy program we used to have for students at risk. Also, continue to work on an improved transportation costs for the district.

Kathleen Hillman: At the present time, I do not see a place where there could be a specific cut or reform. As I serve on the School Committee, if I see a possible cut, I will try to work with other School Committee members, the superintendent and the chair of the School Committee to resolve and help eliminate waste in the city of Westfield.

Tom Lewis: We have a professional development staff of educators and administrators whose role it is to identify and eliminate waste. I would expect they are doing it. I am not running with a specific predetermined budgetary agenda. That being said, I have a background in business and finance, and am always concerned with squandered resources. My focus is on maximizing our investment in our facilities, resources and programs aimed at building successes and improving academic performance.

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

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