We asked the three candidates for School Committee the same five questions to give voters a look into why they are running and what they would hope to achieve if elected.
Here we have the answers from candidate Jeremy Brooks:
1: Why are you seeking to be elected or re-elected to this position?
A: I grew up in Burlington attended K-12 in the Burlington school system. I left Burlington during my tour of service and decided to retire back in the town I grew up in and love. After my 24 years of military service, I still answer the call to serve this time at the community level. When I surveyed the positions where I believed my experience and energy were best utilized, becoming a school committee member was a natural fit. This position would also provide me with a more prominent voice in shaping policy and procedure that directly impact my daughter’s education and the good of all students in the Burlington school system.
2: What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?
A: The experiences I possess that make me an excellent candidate are 24 years as an Air Force Special Warfare member leading small and large multi-service and multinational organizations. First, as an organizational leader, I have championed building and infrastructure installation projects. Furthermore, I was selected to write joint military doctrine and author training programs that guide training for approximately 1,200 personnel. Second, as an operations manager, I played an instrumental role in providing for the daily needs of all personnel assigned to my units, forecasting and managing the units’ multi-million dollar operations and maintenance budgets. Lastly, I have a proven project management track record of delivering projects on time and within budget. I am comfortable managing all aspects of a project from inception to closeout. Some of the skills gained as a project manager are federal appropriations law training, contracting officer technical representative, and professional managers certification.
3: What character traits/strengths do you possess that makes you a good candidate?
A: The character strengths I possess that make me the best candidate for the school committee were instilled in me long ago when I learned the Air Force core values of Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do. As a young Airman, I was taught to never walk past a problem because as a leader, if I walk past the problem and do not correct it, it is no longer a problem it’s the norm. I am also not deterred by a significant problem or complex challenge; I will face any obstacle in the pathway to success and work with the team assembled to find the best solutions possible.
4: What issues do you think are the most pressing facing the board/committee you are running for and what do you think should be done to address them?
A: The school committee’s most pressing concerns are teacher contract negotiations, renovation projects, their associated budget and community impact, and enhancing committee transparency with the community.
To address the stated issues. First, increased emphasis on completing the negation process is paramount. Having the teachers in the system left without a working contract will only lead to further friction between the BEA and the school committee.
Regarding school renovation projects and their impacts, a more upfront complete characterization of what the project entails, the timeline of the project, and the actual cost of these efforts need to be captured and presented to the community. Based on conversations with the operations manager and members of the capital budget committee coupled with figures briefed during the committee meeting. There is approximately a $60-$80 million funding gap in the funds earmarked in the debt schedule for the next ten years and the actual cost of replacing Fox Hill and rectifying the HVAC situation at the High School. This funding gap also does not consider other life cycle costs for the system’s buildings and infrastructure over the same period. Which has cascading budget effects leaving the school system with a series of emergency funding requirements.
A simple solution to address the first two issues I have raised would help align all stakeholders in the process and provide visibility on school committee priorities of work. Enhanced clarity can be accomplished by producing a long-range calendar that captures ten to twenty years of high-level budget drivers such as major renovations, tech refreshes, and significant maintenance costs. The first two years of that calendar should capture a more granular account of cost drivers, decision points, and milestone events to keep negotiations on track and on time. Additionally, this calendar would provide visibility to program budget needs before buildings and facilities reach the end of life.
To enhance transparency and communication with the community, the school committee needs to make a better effort to encourage more community interaction during meetings. The committee needs to do a better job of updating informational pages on the BPS website and providing a 30,60, and 90-day outlook on topics for upcoming meetings to allow the community ample lead time to attend meetings about an issue they wish to participate.
5: Candidate’s Own Question and Answer: What long is a long term goal for my tenure on the school committee?
A: I would like to see additional investment into computer sciences with the emphasis being in coding, networking, cyber security, and front and back end web development. Allowing students to follow a technical path could lead to a skill bridge opportunity with local industry. It provides a way for students who are not looking to take a traditional approach to college, trade, or the military an avenue to garner industry-recognized certifications that give immediate credibility to the individual as a knowledgeable purveyor of their craft. Furthermore, the skills previously mentioned will only help set Burlington students apart as well-rounded candidates with technical expertise on university applications.