Framingham District 1 School Committee Candidate Beverly Hugo

District 1 School Committee candidate Beverly Hugo

District 1 is Precincts 1 and 2.

Age: 62

Occupation: Full-time School Committee member

Years lived in Framingham: 33

Family (optional): Husband Michael, Children-Carly, Mark and Matt

Volunteerism:   Garden in the Woods-Children’s Guide,  Woodrow Wilson School-Mentor, Potter Road School-Coach of the Brainstormers’ Club for 25 years, Impact Framingham-Board of Directors, Democratic Town Committee-Chair, Hemenway School Council, Potter Road School Council, Framingham High PTBO-former Pres.

Ma. Assoc. of School Committees-President-Elect, Chair of Policy And Resolutions Committee, Member, Legislative Committee, Past Chair, Investment Committee, National School Boards Association, State Delegate, Policy Committee, representing ME, NH, MA, VT, CT, RI, NY, NJ, PA, MD, DC and US Virgin Islands

Framingham School Committee: Chair for 4 years, Vice-Chair for 2, Finance Subcommittee – Convener, Negotiator for Collective Bargaining

Website or Facebook page link www.facebook.com/bevforframingham

 

Editor’s Note: Candidates were asked to provide one-word answers only. If there is no answer the candidate did not submit a response.
  • Framingham Public Schools are: Supportive
  • What was your favorite subject in school?  Math
  • Should Framingham Public Schools Provide free universal preschool? Ideally.
  • Wi-Fi access at the middle school and Framingham High is Erratic.
  • At this time, what letter grade would you give Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay? A+
  • Should the $100 athletic fee be eliminated? Ideally
  • Favorite children’s book: I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
  • What was the last Framingham Public School event you attended: FHS Football Game
  • What letter grade would you give yourself as a School Committee member? A+
  • What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one):  Home

 

Editor’s Note: As there have been no forums for School Committee candidates, thus far, Source decided to ask far more questions of these candidates than of the mayor and city council candidates so voters could understand where they stand on issues. Candidates were given up to 350 words to answer each question. If the candidates went over 400 words, they were cut at the closest sentence to 400. Answers to the questions are copied and pasted below.

1) You are the longest serving member of the Framingham School Committee? Why should voters elect you to the new Framingham School Committee?

I have been honored to serve on the Framingham School Committee for four terms! I have ten years of institutional knowledge and professional expertise in writing educational policy, approving and advocating for budgets and signing warrants and lobbying on a state and federal level for more monies and favorable legislation for Framingham. As a former certified Kindergarten-8th grade teacher in the Boston and Brookline Public Schools and as a mother of three children educated in the Framingham Public Schools, I know what good teaching, learning and excellent school districts look like. I have a nearly perfect attendance record during the past ten years and show up prepared and ready with probing questions that satisfy the committee’s duties of checks and balances to ensure continuous improvement in student achievement. I have the time, the availability and the commitment to our district. I have established excellent working relationships with our legislators and our city’s leaders to get favorable results for our schools. I am the only experienced negotiator currently serving on the Committee during this bargaining year. Should I not be returned to the School Committee the new committee would not have a single member who has ever bargained with Framingham’s bargaining units!  I am extensively trained in performing our legal and fiduciary duties in order to avoid expensive and unnecessary mishaps such as leaked, confidential settlement agreements.

2) In your opinion what is the biggest issue facing the Framingham Public Schools? How will you work to fix it?

 Although many students are thriving in our schools, some groups of children are not making adequate yearly progress. Although over half of our students are classified as high needs due to poverty, trauma, homelessness, mobility, English learners, special needs etc., we see growth but not enough to raise our district’s accountability level.

I would immediately advocate for a multi-stakeholder curriculum oversight committee and bring back the “academic data dashboard” to track progress. This vital tool for objective data mining has been recently disbanded by the current leadership of the Committee, and we are left with no means to evaluate our position, forecast results, and make mid-course corrections as we spot deficiencies.  The lack of this tool has become self-evident by the fact that our achievement is simply not meeting optimal milestones.  I would advocate for a budgetary and performance audit of all supports – such as coaches, directors, vendors, programs etc. to determine efficiencies and effectiveness. I will advocate at DESE to ensure that our children with special needs are allowed supports that are in their IEP’s when taking standardized tests. This is one example of where my MASC Presidency can be brought home to benefit our students directly!  Our middle school math curriculum needs to be audited for consistency throughout the district.

I will work with our new superintendent to address our concerns and ask the right and tough questions until progress is made. Through my state and national work, I will bring back best practices that could work for Framingham. Finally, I will continue to work with our legislators to bring more monies to Framingham to adequately fund education and to relieve the burden of high property taxes on our constituents.

 

3) Former Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott served the district without a license for almost an entire school year. Were you ever notified that he did not have a license by another school district? Five of the seven School Committee member were required to terminate Scott, according to his contract. He was never terminated despite a clause in his contract that required him to have a valid, active license. Did you vote to terminate him once the license issue became public. Why or Why not?

M.G.L. c 30A §13, and the DESE regulations, provide that if a superintendent applies for renewal license, that license is considered valid and active until the applicant has a hearing.  According to DESE, firing a superintendent under those circumstances would be indefensible grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. I was the one who asked to see his license and persisted until I saw it. I called DESE and was told we had no grounds for termination. It is our job to protect the district from lawsuits. If anyone claims that he would vote to fire anyone because of the license, that person would be putting the district in in legal jeopardy. Simply stated, according to DESE, the license was never invalid!

As committee members, we must act prudently, weigh the facts, separate emotions, and heed the advice of our lawyers, and regulatory bodies before we make important decisions. Although frustrating that we could not speak as the Chair is the spokesperson for the Committee and for personnel matters, we are bound by the rules of confidentiality of Executive Session and in this context the Chair decided to go silent.  The public was justifiably upset about the extended payments, and a simple statement could have been released by the Chair allaying the rancor.  

Many times there is much more than meets the eye such as confidentiality agreements with heavy penalties for disclosure and personnel protections. There must be respect for Executive Session, even though the public could be rightfully curious and upset about only seeing scant details and innuendoes in the media and on blogs.

In order to completely answer this question, I would have to violate the law. Although I wish to be transparent with the public, my legal and fiduciary duties to protect the district and avoid costly lawsuits override answering this question further. Unlike my opponent who recently leaked far too much information, I will not gamble with our taxpayers’ money. Hypothetically, if a school attorney told the Committee that there WILL be a lawsuit that will result in large damages, and if a member votes against that advice, then that member would put the school system in jeopardy.

I put the job as a School Committee in the Framingham School District first, above my personal aspirations and opinions, and obey the rules and responsibilities of being a member.  

 

4) The district has been criticized for not communicating to staff, parents, and students. What can the School Committee do to improve communication to all stakeholders? What specific steps have you taken since the recommendations of the Communications and Public Relations Task Force?

When I served as Chair, I constituted the Communications and Public Relations Task Force and was proud of the professional document that was produced by the amazing multi-stakeholder team. This task force consisted of various citizens with impressive backgrounds including publicists, writers, CEO’s and educators, among others.  Upon the rendering of the task force report, I then formed the Communications Subcommittee to oversee its implementation. During the last election cycle, much was made of the plans to continue to improve communications even further.  However, once there was a new School Committee leadership, my opponent – a national communications director for an educational services vendor – was named as the convener of that subcommittee.  The subcommittee never had a single meeting under his leadership, and unfortunately was disbanded and the document was abandoned.  Once the current leadership team is replaced in the upcoming reorganized Committee, I would immediately push to reinstitute this committee, work with the new Superintendent to use the relevant suggestions, and implement the hard work of that blue ribbon task force.   

I would urge that we elect a Chair who has had – or is willing to undergo – MASC professional development in communicating  with the public, especially in crisis situations where the public is rightfully eager and awaiting communication. We would coordinate with the Superintendent and work as a team to address issues publically. I would return to using surveys as a quick and easy way to get the pulse of the community, as our regular communications and meet-ups.

 

5) Should Framingham Public Schools return to neighborhoods schools? Why or why not?

Theoretically, yes! To save busing costs, but more importantly, to bring back that comfortable feel that we all had as youngsters. However, with the majority of kids on the southern side of the city and the majority of schools on the northern side, a full implementation would be impossible unless more schools were built on the southern side, near the population of students.

The groundwork for the updating of a student placement plan has just been completed. This would be a major undertaking that could produce some desirable results. Because particular enhancement programs are placed in certain schools, it will be difficult, but not impossible, to begin a modified plan. This could be in the form of choice within geographical zones. In surveys, however, people were very happy with school choice. This would have to  be a community decision of all stakeholders. 

 

6) One of the major roles of the School Committee is to set policy. If elected to be the School Committee member from District 1, what policy change would you recommend? Why?

As convener of our state’s policy committee and as a newly elected member of the National School Board Association’s Policy Committee, I will be bringing back a wealth of ideas to the Framingham School District.  Working with my fellow members and the School Department via the Superintendent, I would gather facts and work hard to advocate for the proposal for a new policy.

If I were to propose one new policy at this moment, I would say that the entire school committee must attend a mandatory annual workshop where our attorney, the office of Campaign and Political Finance and the Ethics and Open Meeting Law experts will give all members a refresher on laws and regulations that govern us.   

The recent events surrounding the leak of highly confidential information and what should have been redacted minutes, by my opponent, have potentially subjected the new City of Framingham to its first major piece of litigation!  Unfortunately, this same member of the school committee has refused to attend multiple workshops.  His inexperience and lack of attendance at various professional development sessions has placed our city in a precarious position. Being on a school committee means you put the needs of the city above one’s self.

 

 

7) Framingham has four level 3 schools. Even some of its level 2 school have significant achievement gaps. What have you done as a School Committee member to decrease these gaps and to help improve the underperforming schools in your last 3 years? Be specific.

Most recently I learned that the same trouble shooting team from the Massachusetts District and School Assistance Centers (DSAC) has been working with administration in trying to help our schools get out of Level 3 status for seven years. When the team was brought to the school Committee in our October meeting, I asked probing and tough questions which revealed that the team has made virtually no progress in its 7 years in Framingham!

As a result of their weak responses to my questions, I have asked for a full review of our district math program.  Since stepping down as Chair, I have repeatedly asked the Chair to place items on the agenda that would bring performance to the forefront and allow the School Committee to do its job in determining if our policies are focused correctly.  Extremely little has been brought forward as a result of my repeated requests, and the appearance by DSAC was truly a shock that we should have been kept apprised of over the past year.  

I have already discussed the Academic Data Dashboard which was started during my tenure on the committee by Andy Limeri, Carol Phelan and me, to track how we are doing as a district.  The elimination of this tool by the current leadership has had irrefutably poor repercussions.  

I have been relentless in advocating for changing leadership throughout the district, but all I hear is the sound of my voice echoing.

 

8) Do you support a level funded, level service, or an increase in the Framingham Public Schools budget for the 2018-19 school year? Why?

As of his writing, we have 170 additional students this year so far.  With a level funded budget, we would actually end up being less than level funding.

Without a review of last year’s budget, it is impossible to predict if I would advocate for a level service or an increase. We need data. We need to look at revenue efficiencies and enhancements such as grants. We need to look at state and federal funding and predict what we are going to receive. We need to work with the Superintendent and the district to formulate goals that should be aligned to resources. We need to continue our advocacy work with our legislators to support the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to gradually add to school budgets so that public education will be properly funded and the property tax burden in Framingham will be alleviated.

Why?  We are morally and ethically responsible to properly educate our students so that they will have more successful lives, Framingham will flourish and our economy will improve. This is our next generation who needs to be prepared for higher education and future careers. This is what a responsible society does. I will advocate for what we need to be a successful district.

The method of forming the budget will be different this year. If the current leadership allows the Finance Subcommittee to continue its work – which several members have indicated their opposition to – I will work with my fellow committee members, our new Superintendent, our new Mayor and city councilors to produce and advocate for a fair and adequate school budget.  However, as this is being written on October 5th, the Chair and three members (including my opponent) have indicated that they wish to disband the that subcommittee!

 

 

9) If you could spend $100,000 in the Framingham Public Schools, where would the money go? why?

In reality, it would be a collaborative decision with the Superintendent, staff, School Committee etc. Based on what I am currently seeing, I would want it to go to the coordination of the math curriculum in the middle schools, to keep the Framingham High School library open more after hours for homework support and research, a Director for the SAGE department, extracurricular activities at all schools, especially STEAM, and an after-hours call-in program for students to ask homework questions.

 

10)  Framingham is dealing with a significant increase in student enrollment over the last decade. As soon as November 2018, voters may be asked to spend between $30 and $50 million for a new Fuller Middle School. How will you enlist support for bond issues or public school spending from conservative voters or taxpayers with no children in the public schools?

I would become schooled in all creative ways to fund any future major and necessary project that would have the least impact to all Framingham taxpayers. The Fuller Project is a town-wide committee that is working with the State Treasurer’s office to find financially responsible and creative ways to fund school building projects.

 

11) Will the new Fuller Middle School be enough to deal with the space crunch? What are the 3 biggest capital issues facing the Framingham Public Schools beyond Fuller over the next 5 years?

Temporarily it will, however, Framingham High School is our next concern. With 2,200 students enrolled this year and with NSDAQ’s future prediction of overcrowding in the next several years, we are of the understanding that we may need to expand or build another high school.

Hemenway School is the next school to be facing the most amount of expensive renovation work.  The Farley School, with its abandoned pool, its roof with a tree embedded in it, and its outdated configurations of classrooms will most likely have to be our third project.

 

 12)  One of the complaints about the district is that there is inequity among the three middle schools. There is a reason that more than 50% of the students at the McAuliffe Charter School hail from Framingham. Superintendent Tremblay said he noticed the differences first hand during his residence program. During your tenure as a School Committee member, what steps did you take to make sure all students received an equal education in grades 6-7-8? 

I attended regular meetings at the Fuller School and with the Superintendent to address issues of equity, discipline and curriculum rigor. As a result, changes were made with leadership, additional programs were added, and parents felt that their voices were finally being heard. Although we are not responsible for the day-to-day operations, we do hold the Superintendent responsible for the action steps. Change did take place, albeit slowly, but the work is on-going. Positive behavioral reinforcement techniques were instituted by the new leadership that has resulted in more engaged children and less behavioral issues. A version of Resiliency for Life has been established this year.

When School Improvement Plans are brought to the School Committee, I spend hours before the meetings  to analyze the data and compare it to the year before. I always ask tough and probing questions. I compare the results to other schools and ask how we can support increased achievement through budget and policy.

I aggregate the data to see what we can do to support all students. To determine why people leave our system, I have recently asked our Superintendent to have an updated study and exit interview of our students to see why they are leaving.

 

13) School bus rides are long

I would fix it by: bringing parent concerns to the attention of the Superintendent and asking him to find ways to remedy the situation.  In the long haul, building a school on the south side, rearranging where programs are located and having a limited school choice would alleviate many long bus rides. This is an administrative issue that is in the purview of the Superintendent and our transportation department – and NOT in the purview of the School Committee . We can follow-up with the Superintendent.   We would always direct the parent with the issue to the transportation department, the principal, Dr. Gotgart and/or the Superintendent.

 

14) You will represent a specific part of the city. How will you balance the needs of your constituents with the needs of the overall school district? Be specific in your answer.

Although I will be elected to represent District One, as a committee member, I would still use my best judgment to make the best decisions for all students in the Framingham Public Schools. The students in District One may attend schools in other parts of town. Students in other districts are attending schools in our district. As for balancing the needs of my constituents in District One, the majority do not have children in our schools. I would balance their needs by helping to maintain a quality school system so that property values will increase and to use each dollar wisely and efficiently so that the balance of the city’s budget can still provide for excellent services and amenities such as police, fire, sanitation, plowing, senior services, recreation and open space etc.

I will always be available to my District One constituents (and others!) by meeting people for coffee, going to senior housing to communicate with many of our senior residents, meeting constituents at the McAuliffe Library, frequenting in-district business and restaurant establishments and sharing events on social media sites.

I plan to be on the student councils and attend events in my district schools.

 

15) What do you do when a parent complaint to you about a teacher? What do you do when a teacher complains about a principal?

I listen respectfully and then recommend that he/she go directly to the teacher. If the issue is not resolved, I explain about going up chain of command-maybe the department head or vice principal followed by the principal.  If it is not resolved at that level, I recommend going through Central administration, followed by the Superintendent. If it is not resolved there, I ask the parent to call the School Committee office and go through our Chair. If it is a pervasive concern, I tell the Chair. When I was the Chair for four years, I would tell the Superintendent in our weekly meetings about any systemic concerns.

In the case of an egregious concern, I pick up the phone and tell someone immediately.

If a teacher complains about a principal, I would ask the teacher to speak to her union first to assist in the remediation of the problem.

If I heard the same complaint from numerous sources, I would bring the issue to the attention of our Superintendent through our Chair.

 

16) Name three things you have specifically done to improve education in Framingham.

I worked with our state legislators, our town leaders and our school department to implement no-fee all-day Kindergarten. We found that there was inconsistency in our students’ readiness skills. There was a sizable amount of children that could not afford to attend pre-school. In order to help close the achievement gap before it could widen, I advocated for two years for the town to fund it. We realized that students who attended school full time were included in the Foundation Budget numbers the following year. Children who attended halftime were not included. If the town funded full-time Kindergarten for all students for one year, we would make the money back the following year by having those half day students included in the enrollment figures. The town was generous and our achievement gap has been narrowed within a large group of students. They all are able to have the benefit of a full-day education. They all now enter first grade with stronger readiness skills.

When Chair, I improved the school climate amongst the teachers and other units by bringing in a new method of Collective Bargaining-Interest Based Bargaining. Contracts were settled amicably and fairly in less time so that there was less distraction from teaching. Teachers still meet regularly with us during non-bargaining years so that they can discuss current issues and problems do not fester. This method takes away the distractions from teaching.

I worked with Senator Spilka, Representatives Chris Walsh and Tom Sannicandro, our town’s leaders, Dr. Gotgart, our former members and the Suburban Coalition to show that Framingham was being shortchanged with the outdated 1993 funding formula that was based on a community’s ability to pay education costs. We showed that Framingham was the most underfunded through the years than any other city or town in Massachusetts. This gave our delegation the data and anecdotal stories to getting approximately $6,000,000 extra for the Framingham Public Schools. These extra monies were used to supplement tight budgets and provide the extra supports for our children to improve education. Together with our work with MASC and State Auditor Bump, I wrote a resolution that became law to declare many mandates unfunded which brings in additional monies to Framingham to support education and relieve Framingham’s taxpayers.

 

17) There is criteria to measure a Superintendent. Criteria to evaluate a teacher. How should you as a School Committee member be evaluated? What three things should voters hold you accountable for? Why?

Attendance-I have a nearly 100% attendance rate for the last ten years at School Committee meetings. I am always prepared and offer valuable input.  I regularly attend professional development courses, workshops, seminars, conventions, public hearings for educational issues, school and neighborhood events. I show up, am accessible and am engaged in educational issues and family and community concerns. I bring back best practices to our work. By being able to volunteer and devote up to 60 hours per week in School Committee duties, I am able to represent the Committee full-time, including Collective Bargaining and representing the committee in helping with the accreditation of Framingham High School, as I did ten years ago, also, when I was the FHS PTBO President.

Policy-I have personally written several resolutions that have made it into legislation. One such one recently was the establishment of a commission that studies the true cost of educating a child. Although Town Meeting has been truly generous over the years, the cost of education in our state and in Framingham is unsustainable. Out- of -District Special Education costs alone will account for around 70% of our budget by 2027. This commission just reported that public education is underfunded by up to $1 Billion dollars per year in our state. I am now testifying and educating our legislators with anecdotal stories and data from Framingham to show the impact of underfunding public education. Senate Bill #223 significantly raises the amount of money school districts will receive over the next ten years. I need to complete my work by making sure that this bill passes. By writing policy and resolutions, following up with tireless advocacy, I have been directly responsible for improvements and extra funds to our city/town. As Convener of our State Policy Committee and as a member of our National School Boards’ Policy Committee, I am always thinking of how to use policy to improve education and increasing funding and  supports in Framingham.

Knowing and adhering to the fiduciary and legal duties, roles and responsibilities of a School Committee member. I have been fastidious in learning the laws and regulations that pertain to School Committee members. I was one of the authors of our  ”New School Committee Handbook” that gives new members guidance in what we do. This knowledge will greatly help our new members coming aboard in January. Because of my knowledge and experience in the work of a School Board member, I will become the President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees on November 1st.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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