Monday, November 2, 2015

Franklin candidate for School Committee - John Jewell

John Jewell and I met recently at Panera to talk about his campaign for School Committee. This is the summary of our discussion.

FM - What is your Franklin story?

Jewell – My grandkids are keeping me busy. One of the things that makes me different is that I am involved with my 10 grandkids and they’re in schools all around, I get to see the good and the bad of the various school systems. I am not like most of the people who were born, raised, and never left Franklin. I can bring the best that I have observed tp Franklin. 
I retired from the Army in 1993 as a full Colonel. I am a PhD. organic chemist, a toxicologist by the Army training, and now I am an immunochemist because that is what is needed in New England. I ran the drug detection program for the Army and assisted President Reagan in implementing the civilian drug testing program. What I didn’t want to be was a commodity person and take another drug lab and run it. 
I found this company up here in New England that had a new instrument for doing medical lab testing and my people in the military lab at Walter Reed told me, this could be the best thing on the market if you could get this thing to continuously run. That was the kind of challenge I was looking for as I wanted to improve health care in America. So that is what brought me to New England. 
When it came to finding a place to live, Franklin was the community that I could afford, had a good school system (so my property values would not go down) and I would get more house for the value than most of the other communities. 
I negotiated the last teacher’s contract. I think that is important to have that carryover. It was a win-win contract for both the teachers and the town. We have to meet the teacher’s issues and most of their issues were not financial. It was a fair contract on all sides. 
To become part of the Franklin community I joined the 225th Anniversary Committee, which Debbie Pellegri headed and so I got involved with the history of the town. From there I just became involved in the Town activities. I was a co-chair. I ran for the School Committee and I won. This will be my third term, if elected.

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

Jewell – The challenges of the job will be to get into the nitty gritty of it. When they present to us as to what is going on, it is always good, it is a showcase. I need to know a little more behind the presentation. What are the problems? What are we doing about them? 
We need to have places where the parents can come in and talk with the teachers. We need to set the expectations of the parents as to what can be done at , how it is done at home to help. It is not as simple as some parents think it is to assist the teachers educate their children. Children today have to learn to reason at a very early age and not just memorize. 
Common core is causing the kids teach kids. I observed a teacher putting a math problem on the board and then the small groups of kids began working it out. That is a fantastic way to teach. If you want to argue about Federal Government interfering with local schools, that is a two edged sword. You can’t tell me that kids going to school in Western MA are going get the same education as those in Eastern MA. The Federal needs to stay out and the State needs to come in and say there is a minimum you need to do. With either standardized testing or with standardized teacher evaluations, you need to bring up all the schools. 
The schools are part of the town but the schools seem to be part of the town only for those who have kids in school.. I am disappointed that the schools don’t march in the 4th of July parade. Sure some folks will be away but those who are around should have an opportunity to march.

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

Jewell – I have been in most of the large city's on the east coast. I have had my kids in other school systems and in international schools. And now my grandkids have been in different school systems. I have seen different ways of teaching. I also taught at West Point (USMA). I pretty much know what it takes to educate a student to be successful. 
I also believe in being a player in new systems. So when it came to vote for PARCC, I thought that if PARCC testing is the way to go, let’s try it. Let’s not sit back and then let someone else tell us what we’re going to get. People who are fighting this evaluation are fighting it for some reason, fear, or is it taking money from someone else, I haven’t been able to follow the money trail yet. I haven’t seen anyone really say the testing technology itself is wrong. The objections to PARCC seems to be political.
We’re spending less money and getting a better education in the Franklin School System, so I keep asking Maureen (Superintendent Sabolinkski) what are we doing that’s right? Maybe it’s the time we’re spending on training. Whatever it is, let’s start sharing what we’re doing with the other districts. 
I have this experience of multiple states, some of my grandkids are in RI, some in Georgia, some in good schools, some in not so good schools. I see folks come into my company that can’t write well. I also see where we are not fully utilizing our Franklin summer program. We should double the size of kids attending. We are growing but we are not reaching all we can with continuing education. The program lets the kids and parents do something they don’t get a chance to do. 
The Worcester sheriff talked to our Republic Committee the other night. He gets his inmates out working. He is amazed at the number of them who have been in gangs, etc. and are feeling good about doing something productive. Here they are in jail and this is the first time that they have a job, they want to get up in the morning, and are feeling good with accomplishing something. We need political leaders that create jobs and we need to train our students for those jobs. They cannot be governmental created jobs that are gone with the next administration. 
The difference between public schools and charter schools (and I am a supporter of charter schools) is that the charter schools don't have any problem children. That is a big difference, but we need to equip ourselves to do whatever it takes to educate all the children with a total child education.
If you have any follow up questions for John, you can contact him via email at

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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