The Road Ahead for Shrewsbury Schools

I’m a product of Shrewsbury Public Schools K-12, and I want to fight to make sure they continue to offer Shrewsbury’s kids the tools they need to succeed, and to open lines of communication with residents of all ages, neighborhoods, and backgrounds.

Supporting Shrewsbury schools inspired my original passion for public service over a decade ago, as a Shrewsbury High School student experiencing budget cuts all around me. In my long involvement in government and human services since, I have come to appreciate even more the impact that strong public schools can have on a community: enhancing property values, spurring economic growth, supporting our residents through student community engagement, and celebrating our diversity. Most importantly, strong public schools can be the tools through which children go on to achieve the American dream: inspired to a career, a field of study, or a cause, kids from Shrewsbury Public Schools are changing the world. I was fortunate to receive a great education in Shrewsbury schools, and I feel a continuing responsibility to make sure today’s kids have the same chances afforded to me.

However, the continued success of Shrewsbury Public Schools is not guaranteed, and a number of significant challenges will need to be addressed in the coming years. Our schools currently face a structural deficit projected to get worse in the coming years, with fixed costs, over which the district has little control, increasing faster than revenues. While the district has made great progress in turning investments in our classrooms into cost-savings, including more intensive early interventions and supports to keep more kids in the classroom, oftentimes the funding for early investments must give way to more urgent needs. And in the next session, the Legislature will take up major changes to the state’s Foundation Budget formula, which determines local aid to schools; we must make our voices heard to ensure that the new formula acknowledges and addresses the major increases in employee health insurance and special education costs.

I’ll be an advocate for our schools, as well as a two-way conduit to enable residents to express their hopes and concerns about the direction of SPS, and to communicate back the many successes our district creates for students and residents. I’ll use my experience in advocacy and state government to make sure our voice is heard at the state level as key decisions are made in the coming years that will drastically impact the level of state support our schools receive. I am committed to addressing our structural deficit before it becomes a crisis like that one that preceded our 2014 operational override. And I am committed to finding solutions other than repeated staffing reductions and increasing class sizes.

During my three years on the School Committee, from 2012 to 2015, I worked actively with my colleagues on communications and advocacy, ultimately helping to achieve additional financial resources that had become desperately needed. I was an active member of the Policy and Fiscal Priorities subcommittees, and represented the School Committee on the town’s 2013 Fiscal Study Committee. Now a new set of challenges faces our schools, and I’m stepping back up to the plate to be a part of facing those challenges head-on.

In the coming years, Shrewsbury schools will be at another crossroads. We will need to speak up to ensure that revisions to the state’s Chapter 70 formula adequately address the growing costs of employee health care and special education, and to ensure that formula adjustments don’t disadvantage suburban districts. We will need to continue to introduce technology into the classroom to better prepare kids to learn and work in the 21st Century. We will need to continue to innovate in ways that not only improve our district’s programming, but save money in the long term by keeping more Shrewsbury kids in Shrewsbury schools.