District 1 School Committee candidate Jim Kelly
District 1 is Precincts 1 and 2.
Occupation: National Director, Client Solution at Carnegie Communications
Years lived in Framingham: 11
Family (optional): Wife Marion, son Chris age 15 (Freshmen at FHS), Matt age 12 (6th grade at Cameron)
Volunteerism: Coach for Framingham Youth Baseball for 9 years, Coach for Temple Beth Am Basketball for 4 years
Website or Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/jk4fram/
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: great.
- What was your favorite subject in school? Psychology
- Should Framingham Public Schools Provide free universal preschool? Yes
- Wi-Fi access at the middle school and Framingham High is spotty.
- At this time, what letter grade would you give Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay? A-
- Should the $100 athletic fee be eliminated? Yes
- Favorite children’s book: The Little Engine That Could
- What was the last Framingham Public School event you attended: Framingham Public Schools employee appreciation night at the football game on Friday night
- What letter grade would you give yourself as a School Committee member? B+
- What is your favorite place in Framingham? (just one): Youth Baseball Complex
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.
- You are currently serving on the Framingham School Committee, elected town-wide. Why should voters in District 1 elect you to the new Framingham School Committee?
I am the better choice for District One because I have developed a strong working relationship with the Senior Leadership team and have grown to a level of mutual respect for all team members. I am a firm believer in setting high expectations for results and then getting out of the way so the team can be as effective as possible.
Over the past 18 months the Committee has worked diligently to correct the issues that arose from our former Superintendent being in charge and our previous School Committee Chair lacking proper leadership qualities. During these tumultuous times, I was careful to gather the facts, did my research and was not afraid to make tough decisions.
I am a person who believes we should not hide our votes or the decisions we make. I will continue to make the tough decisions as necessary and will be transparent with not only how I handled a situation, but why I voted the way I did whenever possible.
2) In your opinion what is the biggest issue facing the Framingham Public Schools? How will you work to fix it?
Our biggest current problem is the growing enrollment and the capacity of the buildings. Our high school is currently at capacity and enrollment is projected to grow over the next several years by more than 350 students. Not only do we have a space issue, many of the buildings are aged and in need of major renovations. Our Buildings & Grounds team does a fantastic job keeping them clean and safe however significant investments need to be made to upgrade the schools. I will work closely with the Superintendent, City Council and Mayor to develop a strategy that will provide the resources needed to do the work but also in a way that offers the biggest cost savings to the taxpayers. One plan that I put forward added more than 2200 seats in the district and would ultimately save tens of millions of dollars without displacing any students during the project.
Many would say that the biggest issue with our schools is that we are a level 3 district, and while that is definitely a concern, I have confidence in the plan that our Superintendent is working on with support from the State to bring these schools to a level 2 and eventually to level 1. We will never take our eyes off improving the achievement of our students, however we do need to give this new plan a chance to be enacted and optimized.
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?
A pilot cannot fly without a license. A surgeon cannot operate without a license. A bus driver cannot transport without a license. An attorney cannot litigate without a license. I took the stance that a Superintendent could not lead a district without a license and very decidedly voted for immediate termination.
I do not exactly how the license issue was uncovered however I can tell you that it was just a matter of days after we did our reorganization of the Executive Board of the Committee and the new Chair immediately called for an emergency meeting where it was brought to the full Committee’s attention.
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?
Communication was poor under the former Superintendent, our new Superintendent Dr. Tremblay has improved communication across the district and will continue to make progress with informing families and taxpayers alike. In consultation with Dr. Tremblay it has been decided that with the new districts being formed, we would hold information meetings out in the community.
The communications taskforce worked very hard to develop specific action items and the district is finally starting to implement them. Meetings are being held in the community, our district website has been updated, the FPS is much more active on social media. Communication continues to improve under our new leadership and I am confident that this will continue.
5) Should Framingham Public Schools return to neighborhoods schools? Why or why not?
Ideally, yes however with very few schools on the south side of town, it would be impossible without the construction of multiple new schools to create a true neighborhood possibility. In District 1 alone there are 4 schools, Cameron, Stapleton, Potter Rd and Hemenway. The leaves 10 schools in the 8 remaining Districts. I don’t see the City of Framingham being able to allocate the resources to fund the creation of enough schools to move to neighborhood schools.
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?
I would move to eliminate the athletic fee for student athletes. Participating in sports supports the social and emotional wellbeing of the student and provides numerous benefits to each participant. We do not charge a fee for drama, music or any other club so signaling out athletics and charging them a fee is wrong.
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 years service on the School Committee? Be specific.
The biggest contribution I have made in assisting these schools is to hire a Superintendent whose strength is curriculum and provided him the support he needs in making changes to the equity in our schools. I support the inclusion of DESAC into our turnaround plan and will continue to advocate for the necessary resources that our underperforming schools need without sacrificing the needs of our level one schools.
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 we work through the 2018-19 budget there is significant opportunity to review every line item in the budget and require each department to defend what they are asking for. There are opportunities for the FPS to streamline certain departments and reallocate budget to the areas of challenge therefore reducing the need to grow the budget at the same rate it has in recent years. I believe we can deliver exceptional services to our students without a major lift in the overall budget.
9) If you could spend $100,000 in the Framingham Public Schools, where would the money go? why?
I would put the money towards our District Wellness plan and expand our newly created home visit program. Framingham has a large population of high needs students and making a connection with students and families both at school and in the home can provide more support for the student and get parents / caregivers more engaged in the child’s education.
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?
Living in a community with strong public schools should not matter to only households with school age children. Communities that have strong schools help to raise property values for all. Communities that have strong schools attract more families who will contribute to the economic system of the city. This is not just about spending money on a new building, it is about investing in your community.
As we lead up to the vote on appropriating the money to fund the construction of the Fuller Middle School, providing ample opportunity to engage with the taxpayers is essential. We must meet with residents and do a good job listening to their concerns and make sure that we are as tight with our spending as we possibly can be.
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?
Rebuilding Fuller will help with our capacity issues but certainly will not solve them. I had put forward a plan to address the space issue had we been able to acquire the Bethany Rd property and do so by saving tens of millions of dollars over the next 15 years. This plan would have added 2200 seats to the district overall and not displaced any of the students during construction. I suggested we build a new high school on Bethany Rd (south side of town) that can accommodate the projected number of students we will soon have at the high school, make the existing high school on A street a middle school and move the students from Fuller and Cameron into that building. Combining these two schools would allow for shared resources and improved service delivery. We could then move the students from Hemenway into Cameron and avoid the next major renovation project which is scheduled to be Hemenway and would run 30-45 million dollars.
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?
During my 2 years on the committee I have been the liaison to Cameron Middle School. I have met regularly with Principal Melick and been an advocate for the services they need. Dr. Tremblay and other members of the FPS Leadership Team are beginning to meet with the leaders of McAuliffe, Keefe Tech, Saint Bridget’s, Marion High School, Mass Bay CC and Framingham State to review the curriculum that is being taught at all schools and to see where improvements can be made. We have appointed new Curriculum Directors to oversee the middle and high schools and are working with Dr. Tremblay on addressing these imbalances.
Our role as School Committee Members by law is to manage the Superintendent, set the overall budget and write policy. It is not in our purview to direct curriculum. One major change that we have made to the function of the School Committee is to focus on our roles and not impede the work of our staff and teachers. We have studied other districts and worked with both MASC as well as our own consultant regarding effective School Committee’s and have revised our structure to be more in line with best practices.
13) School bus rides are ____________. I would fix it by: _________________________.
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.
Representing a District gives the residents a specific person to direct their concerns to however serving on the School Committee requires consideration of the entire city, not just the district you represent.
I will continue to make myself available to all residents and will work directly with the other District Representatives to make sure all students receive the proper education and services regardless of what District they reside. Four of the fourteen schools in Framingham are in District One, and with students attending from all over town, representation and advocacy cannot only focus on one District.
15) What do you do when a parent complains to you about a teacher? If a parent complains about a teacher I would listen to their concerns and encourage them to address this with the building principal. What do you do when a teacher complains about a principal to you? I would encourage them to address their concerns with the Superintendent.
16) Name three things you have specifically done to improve education in Framingham. It does not have to be School Committee related.
I have been an advocate for the expansion of the RFL program to be implemented across all three middle schools as well as improved at the high school as a way of supporting our most vulnerable population both academically and emotionally.
A few years before I began serving on the School Committee I was part of the School Council at Potter Rd. Together we collaborated with the Principal and faculty liaisons to create the School Improvement plan and set goals for the elementary school.
In my professional life I work with colleges and universities on student recruitment and their enrollment strategies. I have opportunity to visit more than100 campuses each year and engage with higher-education professionals on a regular basis. The meetings that I have around the constantly changing issues in higher education get relayed back to our district and can be shared with our faculty and counselors as they work with students on the next phase of their academic journey.
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?
Our voting record should be heavily scrutinized. How we interact with and support our leadership team should be put under a microscope. Our accessibility to our constituents and the follow up we do on these issues is greatly important.