Bonnie's answers to the Question of the Week posed by the Lexington Minuteman. The questions and answers can also be viewed on the Lexington Minuteman web site.
BONNIE BRODNER: Transparency is critical. Families need to understand the decisions that affect their children, and the community needs to understand how its resources are being used. This is why the School Committee publicizes its agendas before meetings, why our chair describes our procedures at the beginning of our meetings, and why we post our meeting minutes and relevant documents to our website. We are accessible via email, regular mail, and telephone. Our meetings, except executive sessions, are open to the public and viewable on demand at LexMedia. Before the Committee votes on complicated issues, I try to explain the thinking behind my vote. We are, however, limited by law in what we can discuss publicly when it comes to bargaining and negotiations, personnel issues, and any issues that would compromise student confidentiality. Two-way open and honest dialog creates the most transparency possible. This is the type of dialog I engage in.
BONNIE BRODNER: Massachusetts State law actually says that the School Committee shall “evaluate,” not “supervise,” the superintendent. This is an important distinction because the School Committee is a group of five elected lay people who may or may not be educators, and may or may not have the technical expertise to run a school system. When we evaluate the superintendent, we are representing the values of our community. We are telling him (or her) how his performance compares to our expectations and how well his performance matches our goals. This ultimately is the best way to ensure student learning, because it is the superintendent and his staff who are the trained professionals. They have the skills and experience to teach children and run the schools, while the School Committee provides community oversight, ensures accountability to the community, and sets policies that determine what direction we want the schools to go in.
BONNIE BRODNER: Ideally, if money and time were no object, I would certainly make the offering of world languages in elementary school a top priority, but in actuality, this is a complicated issue. That’s why the School Committee has created a committee of various stakeholders to look at the possibility of reintroducing a world languages curriculum in the elementary schools. We expect its report in the spring. I will rely on this report and on input from the school department and the wider Lexington community to learn: 1) what we would have to give up in the school day to make time for world language instruction; 2) whether the program should be voluntary or mandatory; 3) how it would impact middle- and high school curricula; 4) how many and which languages would be offered; and, 5) how teachers, staff, administrators and students at all levels of the achievement spectrum would be affected.
BONNIE BRODNER: Redistricting is challenging. By its very nature, it can disrupt friendships, routines, and plans, often leaving families angry and frustrated. When we need to consider the serious task of redistricting, I would require accurate data on short- and long-term school enrollment projections, and clear and consistent methods for determining school-building capacity. If redistricting is in order, I would clarify with the community why, and establish, with community input, redistricting goals and guidelines, including fairness to families already affected by redistricting in recent years. I would advocate, and build public support, for solutions where we determine, as a community, what would work best for Lexington's schoolchildren. I would insist on formalized, respectful, and systematic community input to ensure that we reach the best solutions, and to minimize infighting and divisiveness. I would then advocate for programs to help parents and schools prepare students for smooth transitions to their new districts.
© Copyright 2014, Bonnie Brodner for School Committee | Jeanne Krieger, Treasurer