We have just begun to untangle the web of inequity the pandemic has created. Our educators, principals, teachers, and support staff have worked tirelessly over the past year to address the unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes inequitable digital access, diminished learning opportunities, growing food insecurity, and numerous impacts to our students’ and educators’ well-being. I believe it is essential to continue to direct resources to effectively manage this crisis with cost-efficient strategies. As the research suggests, programs will need to continually go beyond typical remediation or enrichment opportunities accommodated by existing after-school or summer school programs. I plan to fully support these programs to help close the achievement gaps and social emotional concerns caused by COVID-19. It is not enough to simply get our students physically back to school. We must support them as whole students; academically, socially, and emotionally.
As a representative of the public, I want to effectively communicate the needs of our students and the constraints of the board to maintain an open channel of discussion. Positive communication requires dialog and as a voice for our community I intend to add to that process. I want to build a coalition to bring positive change for our students in the district while being fiscally responsible. My focus will be on reducing or removing the barriers so that we can prepare our students for the future while using data, research, and cost analysis in making fiscally responsible decisions.
Our strengths are in our faculty, quality of education we offer, and commitment to our students. Our teachers, administrators and support staff have made impressive strides in providing change with the times, including advances with technology all while dealing with a pandemic. For many students in Stamford Public Schools, this past year has been marked by many challenges, from facing illness or death of a loved one, to experiencing abrupt school shutdowns, and to feeling fear, grief, and anxiety as the virus spread. In addition, COVID-19 had an impact on several groups of students: students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students.
The Stamford Public School District faculty showed tremendous strengths in their dedication in their efforts to support the disparities that arose from the pandemic. Administrators provided extensive ongoing professional development for teachers, including opportunities for collaboration through common planning time, instructional coaching, and professional learning communities. While students were temporarily unable to attend school in-person, teachers held frequent live interactions between students and their peers. This helped to support students’ well-being and maintain strong school communities and relationships. Mental health staff implemented strategies that explicitly addressed students' social, emotional, and mental health needs. This included addressing the disproportionate impact of social isolation on communities including LGBTQ+ students and students experiencing homelessness. The strength of Stamford Public School’s faculty has been admirable in building a great community.
By City Charter and code, and by statute, the city owns the buildings and the Board of Education manages them. School renovations may be triggered by program changes, failing building systems such as roofs or HVAC, or by health and safety deficiencies. Changes such as these will help community members decide if and when renovating an existing school building will enhance the productivity of the building and positively impact the school community.
Renovations on existing school buildings can be difficult. Multiple issues need to be considered when renovating an existing school facility. Issues such as funding, safety, usage of space, technology, and current facility features with value are all important considerations. Structural considerations must be evaluated such as whether the existing building, and its system, be improved to offer additional years of service, and whether the building serves more than an educational function within the community. Most importantly, what knowledge has been gained from the site assessments can help us understand potential threats and risks of the school building.
Working collaboratively, I will help coordinate priorities by building an effective governance team. We would provide fiscal oversight of District expenditures, particularly management of the school construction and renovation projects and public reporting of finances. Giving support for the district's strategic plan, including the continuous professional development of all employees, high-quality instructional practices, and implementation of appropriate assessment systems to improve custodial staff knowledge of working systems would give transparency and confidence in our decision making.