Sunday, November 1, 2015

Franklin candidate for School Committee - Denise Schultz

Denise Schultz and I met recently on the Town Common to talk about her campaign for School Committee. This is the summary of our discussion.

FM - What is your Franklin story?

D Schultz – Our Franklin story seems like years ago. My husband and I met at Rutgers and moved up here 6 months after we got married. We wanted to start out our married life away from our family and figure out what we wanted to do. Jim had a job opportunity in Boston, we were excited about the location and found a great apartment in Canton. We rented there for a few years and loved it there. 
When we had our son Connor, our three-bedroom duplex that we were renting all of a sudden got very small. We decided it was time to purchase a home, and looked at several communities before finding and falling in love with Franklin. It was this great mix of how it looked, this Town Common, the Library and the Ben Franklin connection. The schools were highly rated. We found a house that we never thought we could afford. The taxes were low, coming from NJ where the taxes are very high, the taxes here were like a song. 
It is one of those bittersweet things. Our children have always been four hours away from the rest of the family but we couldn’t have afforded this house in NJ. Franklin would be the absolute perfect place in the universe if we had more family here. We have a great network of friends here and it has been a wonderful community to raise a family.

FM - What do you see as a challenge for a position on the School Committee?

D Schultz – Budgetary items are always a challenge. A few years back it seems that at the end of every academic year there were notices about pending teacher layoffs, but it seems to have gotten better. We still see that maybe we lose someone to another system so there are still challenges about that. But I never want us to go back to that era where we had some number of pink slips every year. It makes it very hard for the system to retain the talent. Teachers have an enormously difficult job. I have so much respect for them. 
I am a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), and I work in higher education. I have so much respect for the jobs that our teachers do every day, and I fully comprehend how hard that job is. We need to fully support our teachers, ensure our children are thriving as students, and keep the budget in line. That is a very fine balance, and I think my financial background and budgetary experience will come in handy addressing these challenges. 
Aside from the budget issues, there are some little quirky things. Like navigating the system when your child has learning difficulties. Our son has had to navigate the special education system within the school, and while he is doing extremely well now, we had our challenges getting him through some grades. I want to see if there is any way I can help advocate for that within the system. 
In the last year, I heard a lot of discussion about the inequalities within the dress code, perhaps that needs to be reviewed, with input from the parents, the administrators, the teachers and the students. I am open to hear about additional items of concern to all of those invested in our schools, and I am going to be looking at them from the parent’s lens. I also would love to learn more about the school start times and how we can make this more in line with what benefits our children’s learning and biological needs. I know it can be a scheduling nightmare but it is worth looking at further. 
My daughter has been doing well but was stressed to the nines with the implementation of the PARCC test last year. I am a supporter of Common Core but I question whether PARCC is the right assessment tool. I firmly believe we need assessments. We need to figure out how the kids are doing in order to make sure that they are thriving and learning and growing. In talking with others, including a recent graduate of Franklin High, the amount of anxiety students are experiencing due to their academic workload and pressures is an issue we need to address.. 
The number of breakdowns that students are having at the college level because they have so many years of anxiety was shocking to hear. As a parent, this makes me very concerned. If elected to the school committee, I definitely want to see how this is being addressed and what further efforts we can make to ensure our children are not stressed out to the point of dropping out of college because they can not handle it.

FM - What do you bring to the position that would set you apart from the other candidates?

D Schultz –Many of the School Committee candidates are incumbents so they have experience or they are retired educators, teachers, or administrators. The other new candidates are current or former administrator and teachers I am running as a concerned parent and a proud citizen of Franklin and I bring a wealth of financial experience (no pun intended). 
I have worked in many different financial operations jobs. I currently work at UMass Boston, at a nonprofit center in a higher education setting. I have four years of public financial management experience which I think is a good qualification for school committee which is about 55% of the town budget.

I did take a few years off to be a stay at home mom. I took the time finish my undergraduate degree. I have a graduate certificate in public policy and am working towards my Masters in Public Administration. I have public policy and government experience. Prior to being a stay at home mom, I worked in financial advisory services. 
I was a financial analyst at a brokerage firm in Boston for a number of years. Then I also worked for a financial advisor who specialized in retirement plans and high net worth individuals. In those roles I was responsible for analyzing retirement plans, expenses, and returns, among other duties. I also have HR and management skills that I think will be an asset to the committee as well. 
I am a proud to be the elected Chair of the Franklin Democrat Town Committee. This position requires a lot of organizational skills. I was elected after (State Rep.) Jeff Roy was elected to represent us at the State House. I was a member of the committee for a year, then became vice-chair before becoming chair. 
The other thing I have done and has been a great learning experience has been my work with the MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women. We were formed and appointed in January 2015. We just held our first hearing and it was a huge success. We are a brand new commission. It has gotten me involved with our community here on another level and with the other communities that make up the MetroWest Region. We will hold two hearings this year and report back to the state commission on what we hear about the issues from women and girls in our area. We had spoken testimony from about 15 individuals or organizations that ran the gamut of issues and it was heartwarming moving, and gut wrenching.

I had asked Erin (Lynch) from the Franklin Food Pantry to come and testify about her view of the impact of the food pantry on women and girls in franklin. She was not able to attend that night but she sent in written testimony. Her testimony was vital – as I did not realize that there is a great need for donations of feminine hygiene products at the food pantry. Clients are embarrassed to ask for them, and donations tend to not include them. This seems like a small issue, but it is very important and a great example of how the commission allows me to engage with community leaders about issues that are falling through the cracks.

My roles at the Franklin Democrats, the Commission, and now just this week I was appointed to the Board at the Franklin Food Pantry, they are all volunteer jobs. I am happy to serve my community in this way, and hope that the skills I have from my professional and volunteer positions will be valuable on the school committee. 
I have a wide network, and I listen. I try and raise visibility to issues that are not being addressed. I want to hear what concerns parents and guardians of the schools in the Franklin district. I also see School Committee as a great way to give back to one of my mentors, Jeff Roy. I had a question about the schools probably about 10 years ago and I reached out to him to ask. He was so supportive and responsive and we have formed a great relationship and work well together. He was patient with me as I learned to navigate the policy concerns on the local and state levels. I hope to repay that favor with a seat on the School Committee. 
I would appreciate your vote on November 3, 2015.

If you have any follow up questions for Denise, you can contact her via email at

You can also visit her Facebook page

Or her webpage

Noteworthy: This information is intended to help the Franklin voters when we all head to the ballot box on November 3rd. The interview candidates have had an opportunity to review the text before publishing to ensure the accuracy of our discussion.

The collection of all the information to prepare for the Nov 3rd election can be found here

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