, Newburyport, MA

October 30, 2013

Technology, SPED among priorities for School Committee candidates

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing coverage of the Nov. 5 general election, we asked the candidates for School Committee to answer a questionnaire and provide a synopsis of his or her platform and reason for running.

Today, we share the responses of Cheryl Sweeney and Raymond Matthews.

Five candidates are running for three open seats on the School Committee. School Committee members serve a four-year term, and there are seven members on the board. The mayor is the chairperson of the committee.

School Committee members receive an annual stipend of $2,500.


Candidate’s statement:

I am running for re-election to the Newburyport School Committee to work toward the best quality education for the students of our city. I have been an educator for 40 years and believe I can make a difference. For the last two years I have been elected vice chairwoman of the School Committee by my colleagues because of my background in education and the contributions I make. Our students, teachers and citizens deserve the very best, and if re-elected, I will work diligently to ensure the kind of school system that will make Newburyport proud. I promise to be fiscally responsible in determining an appropriate budget, balancing what I know to be best for our students while keeping in mind the constraints of the city budget.

Thanks to the voters, we are building a new elementary school that will bring together our K-3 students and I will work with the administration and staff on a smooth transition for all to the new site. We need to work diligently in planning the administrative model for the school itself, as well as developing a culture that will promote collegiality and collaboration.

I support partnerships with colleges so that our high school students will be given more opportunities to challenge themselves by taking courses we are unable to offer. I want to sustain family/community/business/higher education partnerships. I will continue to monitor our special education costs and programming and I strongly believe that we should provide all students with the best instruction in the least restrictive environment, keeping our students in district by providing appropriate programs.

We need a long-term technology plan for integration in all subject areas. We need to continue our good work on adopting the Common Core and instituting the new state evaluation program for all teaching and administrative personnel.

If re-elected I will devote my time to making the Newburyport Public Schools the best they can be. I believe I can make a positive difference, and hope you will give me your vote on Nov. 5.

Age: 63

Years in Newburyport: 36

Family: two children, Ann and Matthew

Education: BA, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; M.Ed in reading, Salem State University

Employment: Retired from position of K-5 teacher and reading specialist at Hamilton-Wenham school district for 30 years. Former graduate school instructor at the University of New Hampshire and Endicott College

Public service experience: Four-year term on the Newburyport School Committee, two years as vice chairwoman; chair of Newburyport Superintendent Search Committee that successfully hired Susan Viccaro; Board of Directors of Newburyport Education Foundation


Candidate’s statement:

The purpose of the School Committee should not be to “micromanage” the operations of the schools within Newburyport. We have teachers, principals, school councils and a superintendent that are charged with this mission and are responsible to the committee in a variety of ways.

Rather, the committee’s job should be creating a framework for focusing on what is best for each student and the community at large. We must provide our students with the opportunity to achieve success, academically and personally, in order to build a generation of productive and responsible citizens. Furthermore, we must meet the diverse needs of our community, extend the opportunity for traditional and alternative education, and provide a safe, caring environment for every student.

Since more than 50 percent of our city budget is dedicated to ensuring the success of this community mission, are there areas in our current process that would benefit from increased emphasis? To that question I would respond with a resounding “YES.”

While balance in creating and delivering our menu of school programs is important, the following seem to me to be deserving of more attention:

Technology, as a particularly important piece of our STEM initiative; identifying and addressing “special needs” students at the earliest possible time in a child’s academic life; aggressively connecting school safety and prevention of bullying as defined responsibilities across the entire school community.

Also, we need to emphasize vertical and horizontal Common Core efforts equally; provide a sufficient budget for both athletic and team sports, as well as performing and fine arts; place greater emphasis on language arts and early introduction of Spanish, and be certain that every dollar of our educational budget is both important and spent wisely in order to avoid unnecessarily increasing our community tax burden.

Age: 68

Years in Newburyport: 10

Family: wife, Martha; 2 children, Colby and Courtney

Education: Bowdoin College, B.A.; University of Hartford, M.S.

Current employment: retired

Past employment: managing partner, Merrimac River Partners, LLC; chief executive officer, Crowe Paradis Holding Company, LLC; principal, IBM; director, Accenture