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 Melissa Massardo:
1: Why are you seeking to be elected or re-elected to this position?
A: I am running for School Committee because I feel that it is time for my generation to step up to leadership positions and bring a fresh new perspective to this board. Parents need more representation in decision making as we navigate post-pandemic learning. Educational change has happened at a rapid pace, especially in the last two years, and we need to stay current with research and development. I feel well prepared to help the district navigate change while supporting our excellent teachers. I am inspired to use data to inform our policy decisions. Additionally, the education tax dollars we are so fortunate to have in Burlington deserve strict accountability with no room for error. I want taxpayers to have the utmost faith and confidence in our oversight of this budget.
2: What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?
A: I am a tech savvy, skilled project manager with 10+ years experience managing complex, high-stakes projects. I am an expert at managing multiple projects and ensuring their smooth execution. Myexperience planning short and long-term strategy solutions plus competence overseeing large budgets aligns well with the requirements for a role on our School Committee. I look forward to leveraging this expertise to drive execution of projects that the school district needs to undertake over the next decade as well as creating a strategy to support the growing and changing needs of the community.
I am the Co-President of an employee resource group consisting of working caregivers dedicated to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Athenahealth. I have spent 6 years advocating for the needs of ALL caregivers and was instrumental in securing additional parental leave, part-time and flexible working arrangements for all employees. I will utilize this experience to help the district make the best use of the Equity Audit results.
As a parent with children in the school system for the next 15 years, I bring modern day, forward looking, active experience to the School Committee. As a parent stakeholder myself, I will represent the parents of Burlington students, many of whom currently feel underrepresented. As a member of the School Committee I will work hard to ensure that we continue to maintain excellence and exceed expectations in Burlington schools.
3: What character traits/strengths do you possess that makes you a good candidate?
A: I am organized, efficient, tenacious, and analytical. I plan to be an advocate for our families and ensure that the district meets the needs of ALL students and families.I will show patience and respect for all perspectives. We have real opportunities to make effective changes to embrace new literacy research and schedule paradigms to move forward. I will be a valuable asset as the School Committee undertakes expensive building projects and needs to effectively plan, budget and communicate with the town.
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: We need better planning to ensure our children are getting the best education that our tax dollars fund. All of our children should be entitled to an equitable experience. For one example, Fox Hill Kindergarten classrooms all have 21 students each and IEP eligible students are receiving services in the hallways. Some K classrooms at other schools have 12 and 14 students and plenty of available service space. This is the result of not properly mapping out both our physical building/space needs and shifting enrollment. At this point, there is finally a start of a long term plan for Fox Hill with the process underway to secure funding for a new school to be built. What are the current short and medium term plans for the students who are now at Fox Hill? Why weren’t portable classrooms and potential redistricting needs addressed before 2022 when parents have raised these issues directly to the School Committee for several years? In addition,I’m concerned that we continually and unsuccessfully resubmit requests to the state’s MBSA for funding of Burlington High School, for which we are ineligible because we do not meet the overcrowding selection criteria. We have lots of long range work to do and I will be at the table to make the best decisions for our district.
5: Candidate’s Own Question and Answer: What are some opportunities for the School Committee that excite you?
A: First, I think we have a great opportunity as we recover from the pandemic to grow and improve the sense of community that our schools provide for our students and families. I am happy to hear of long-standing traditional programs, projects and events that are returning to schools like talent shows, field trips and live concerts. I plan to advocate for policies and procedures that encourage this and also provide transparency throughout the district so that all schools are able to offer commensurate experiences for their students. As part of this I want to work with the superintendent to help bring parents and families back into the schools as this is a vital piece of the district culture.
A second opportunity that I am passionate about is the Safe Routes to School program that I am working to help the district embrace. This program is designed to help improve the arrival and dismissal procedures for all students and encourage alternate, safe and healthy transportation when possible. One positive side-effect from the pandemic has been the increase in students walking to school and I think it’s important for us to support and build on this momentum in many ways but especially from an infrastructure perspective. The Safe Routes to School program can lead to increased state funding to the district for engineering, design and structural projects.