May 31 2020

School Committee Q&A: Candidate Adam Senesi

By: BNEWS

 

In the lead-up to Burlington’s 2020 Town Election on Saturday, June 6 we asked the four candidates for School Committee five questions and gave them the option of posing their own question to themselves to ensure they are able to hit on any point they feel is important for voters to understand. Here are the answers from Candidate Adam Senesi:

 

1. Why did you decide to run for School Committee? 

ANSWER: I decided to run for School Committee as my experience as a Town Meeting member, Vice-Chair of the Capital Budget Committee and roles on various building committees including Fire Station 2, positioned me well to address the various infrastructure needs the schools face in the next few years. My record of service is one of competency and tangible results. Education has long been a passion as it's the greatest survival tool we can leave to the generations behind us. I pursued a Master's in education at UMass Boston prior to life's turns leading me to a career in the business world. This is an itch I've longed to scratch. My status as a parent with children in the system, including a child with special needs, presented a vantage point that none of the committee members will have following Kristin Russo's retirement. This current School Committee is riddled with blind-spots and lapses in competency that deserve addressing.

2. What in your background/experience do you believe makes you a strong candidate for the position? 

ANSWER: I'll cite my experience in town government, my academic background and status as parent, but my business background is a key differentiator as I've been involved in building and managing budgets. This is an area where the School Committee has had some compliance issues in recent years. I've also been party to contract and labor negotiations that will position me to negotiate on behalf of Burlington with no conflicts of interest preventing me from participating on account of family working in the system.

3. What do you think should be the main priorities of the School Committee in the next couple of years? 

ANSWER: Priority #1 and #2 are married at this point; get the student population back into their classrooms safely, while preparing a more adequate distance learning curriculum that can be utilized at any point during the next academic year or beyond if needed. The existing distance learning program is too disjointed, lacks structure and clear learning objectives while burning teachers, students and families out. It’s barely been acceptable for this academic year. The program relies far too much on screen time, while neglecting the special needs community almost entirely.

It remains important to simultaneously pursue the vision of new and renovated schools, that led me into the School Committee race. The process should be slow-walked so that we’re capable of managing increasingly limited revenue streams through an economic downturn. Nevertheless, it remains a good time to get an infrastructure framework plan on paper so that Burlington is positioned to create a bonding schedule and hire a project manager at advantageous rates, as the economy comes out of recession.  

4. What do you see as the role of the School Committee in the short/medium term to help address the school closure and the COVID-19 situation? 

ANSWER: The School Committee should be acting as crisis managers right now. Distance learning isn’t working in Burlington. We should’ve been in a position to lead in this realm with some of the best classroom teachers in the state, and an iPad program that’s existed for over a decade. This is a top-down crisis of leadership that the existing School Committee doesn’t look prepared to address. It’s time to pull the senior level professional administrators and department heads together to create a plan with measurable goals and expectations that can continuously be improved upon. This plan needs to start at the top and be managed down to the classroom level. The teachers are being asked to perform a role without leadership or guidance from above.

5. What is your philosophy to listening to residents and maintaining open lines of communication and transparency?  

ANSWER: I’ve returned every single constituent email and phone call within less than 24 hours as a Town Meeting member. Transparency has been a hallmark of my tenure on Town Meeting. It’s also something I’ve lobbied the School Committee for as votes continue to take place by their committee that defy the spirit of open meeting law. They’ve gotten better, but there remains tremendous room for improvement. My approach if elected will be to conduct a coffee hour once per month at the town’s various small businesses or virtually, if necessary. Some have indicated they’re intimidated showing up at School Committee meetings. Stakeholders should have the opportunity to meet in a more relaxed environment while discussing their concerns and providing feedback.

6. Ask yourself a question and answer it. Why is it important to have a parent on the School Committee?

ANSWER: Parents were the ones who first recognized the deficiencies in the distance learning program and have been more supportive of the teachers struggling with the lack of leadership by being vocal. The School Committee has been behind other districts here. It was parents who brought attention to a policy misfire by the School Committee that resulted in tuition garnishment for families participating in the Before and After School Programs. This misfire would’ve cost families who are under financial strain due to COVID hundreds of dollars for a service never rendered. The implications of the School Committee’s vote were lost on them almost entirely. Parents are more likely to be familiar with the types of technologies being used in modern classrooms. The types of policies adopted by the School Committee continue to evolve. Something as simple as the student snack policy is entirely different from what it had been just five years ago. Status as a parent should not be an individual’s top qualification, but parents deserve representation. Our School Committee brims with years of experience, and it’s time to look towards the future to cultivate a new generation of talent to serve. I’m prepared to meet that challenge while fostering a spirit of inclusion that will encourage me to foster the generation that comes behind me in this leadership role.


 

 
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