May 31 2020

School Committee Q&A: Candidate Katherine Bond



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 Katherine Bond: 


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


ANSWER: I see the School Committee as a group of leaders who have a great deal of knowledge about our community and especially our schools who are trying to keep advancing our district. In many areas Burlington Schools are a model for other communities. Our schools attract families to buy homes here, and our property values are high as a result. Over my years living in Burlington and experiencing our schools as a parent, I have gained that type of knowledge. I understand the difficulties and the joys faced by students, parents and taxpayers. When Ms. Russo decided not to run for re-election, I decided to take the leap. My goal is to be an effective leader to continue what others have built.


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


ANSWER: I'm a professional with 30+ years experience as a logistics specialist. I have experience reviewing RFP’s, RFI’s and negotiating contracts with major corporations. This experience will be invaluable as we face the need to update or replace facilities and with the unprecedented and rapidly changing challenges presented by our current situation.  


I have served the community as a leader volunteering in many organizations. I volunteered for the BHS Council for over 4 years, BHSA Director of Fundraising, BSTC- V.P, WFSC (Burlington Ice Palace) - Treasurer since 2010, Coach Pop Warner Cheer- head coach 4 years and team sponsor for the BHS Varsity Figure Skating Team. These positions each require strong organization, time management, problem solving, and communication skills, most carry significant responsibility for the well-being of other people's children. 


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


ANSWER: Beyond COVID-19, the School Committee will need to complete the master plan for schools, which still has three major projects to be done. Renovating BHS is a top priority. We have been turned down 8 years for funding by the School Building Authority.  We were turned down in part because the building was too well maintained to fit in a critical category. The committee, with the selectmen and town administrator, will have to fund these renovations. This planning is already underway.


Two elementary schools, Pine Glen and Fox Hill need to be replaced or rehabbed.  I am a firm supporter of keeping both of these schools, because the neighborhood school concept is best for our school community.  Plans have begun for these projects. 


I would also put "in district programs" for students with special needs as a priority for the near future.  Very successful programs are already in place, and I want to see them grow throughout the grades.  These programs serve our students in their home community and save money.


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: Short term we need to continue to keep the lines of communication open among parents, teachers and students to keep improving on the remote learning situation. I am aware that there are inconsistencies among grade levels with the amount of online teaching time, so I contacted the School Committee requesting that time be set aside for parents, teachers and students to share their thoughts and ideas on how to remedy this.


An immediate priority is dealing with what the classrooms will look like in the fall. The Department of Health will set guidelines for the physical classes and DESE will set guidelines for curriculum. Dr. Conti expects to receive these mid-June. The School Committee will likely need to increase the usual number of summer meetings in order to prepare for the new normal when classes resume. My understanding is that two nurses may need to be available in the fall, one in a clean room and one to handle the day to day nursing activities of skinned knees, etc. The budget will need to be carefully monitored to cover any added expenses for staff requirements, cleaning supplies, bus changes, and other unexpected expenses caused by the pandemic. If elected, I will work to support the safety of our students and staff by supporting the Committee in implementing all guidelines and by listening to all parties.  


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


ANSWER: My experience has been that the School Committee is always there to listen, if you seek them out.  Parents can be fearful, or shy, and hesitate to call or email members.  It is certainly understandable that many parents do not wish to speak in public, televised committee meetings.  It is also true that parents don’t generally seek out committee members unless they have an issue to raise.  When there is an issue affecting many families there is a good deal of communication.

My philosophy is that it is very important to be accessible to families, as an individual.  I want to be seen as a safe, comfortable person to approach and talk to when something is wrong. Part of the role of a school committee member is to breach the gap between a parent and the superintendent when something needs attention. Some committee members receive most of the calls, and I want to be part of that group.  No-one should ever be nervous or uncomfortable reaching out to me.  Part of my role as a committee member will be to solve problems that may arise.


6. Ask a question of yourself and answer it. What does being an advocate mean to you?


ANSWER: Being an advocate means stepping into roles you never expected to because there was a need. It’s listening to parents and students and reacting to support them when they have questions or concerns. Over the years I have been an advocate for our students, whether it was to get better fitting uniforms for cheerleaders or to negotiate with the BHS Hockey team for ice times when the schools went to a later start schedule, an equitable solution was found through cooperation. Having lived in town since 1996, I have made many connections. I discovered a simple phone call to the right officials in town enabled me to resolve many of my and other parents concerns. My broad endorsement from residents and leaders throughout the community speaks to my experience working with others in both a professional and personal capacity to negotiate, compromise, and reach common consensus. It would be an honor to be able to serve.


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