Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Franklin Candidate Interview: Ernest S Carruthers, Jr

This interview with Ernest S Carruthers, Jr, candidate for Franklin School Committee in 2019, was collaborated on via email. We reviewed the following questions, some of them were ‘crowd sourced.’ Some of you may remember the call for input solicited in August 2019 for this election. Thank you for your contributions.

Hopefully, the information provided here, and in the other interviews, will enable the Franklin voters to make a good choice among the candidates for each position.

For the following FM presents the question. ESC represents Ernest’s response.
FM =  There are and have been many opportunities to volunteer with community groups in Franklin. Have you taken advantage of any of these? Which ones, and why did you choose that/those?

ESC = I have volunteered with a few community groups in Franklin. Mainly the VFW, the Veteran’s Council, and Cub Scout Pack 126. I volunteer with the VFW and serve in many different capacities (Post 3402 Quartermaster, District 5 Commander, 2018-2019 National Aide-de-Camp to VFW National Commander in Chief B.J. Lawrence) because I feel a responsibility to serve my fellow veterans. I missed the camaraderie I experienced in the Navy and have found my service to the VFW to be a very rewarding experience. To me the VFW is not a smoke-filled bar room, but an organization that exists to serve our veterans, active military, and the communities we call home.

Once a month, a group meets with Franklin’s Veteran Service Officer Dale Kurtz to collaborate and discuss common goals and activities geared towards the veterans of Franklin. This group is made up of citizens, veterans, representatives of the American Legion, Franklin Elks, and Franklin VFW and one of our largest accomplishments is the Veterans Memorial Walkway at the Town Common. I am extremely proud of the small role I played in making that beautiful walkway a fantastic addition to the War Memorials. Each one of those granite posts along the walkway honors a Franklin resident who gave his life in service to our country during WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq Wars. As a committee we didn’t always agree on everything we discussed, but we were always respectful of each other. And once a decision was made, we all made sure it was executed as we had decided. I would approach the school committee in a similar manner if I were fortunate enough to be elected.

I also volunteer my time by serving as the Cub Master for Pack 126 because I wanted to continue giving back to the community. I enjoy planning our pack meetings so that we can make them as fun for the kids as possible. My hope is that my kids see me volunteering time at these worthwhile organizations and see the importance of giving back. They don’t just hear how important it is to give to others, but they see it in action.

FM = Where do you get your news about Franklin?

ESC = I get my news about Franklin in a variety of ways. I subscribe to the Franklin Matters newsletter that comes out each day, I scroll through the wicked local website, I check in on social media, and I talk with people who are active in the community. Many times these different methods all have the same source, but it’s important to get a different perspective.

FM =  The possibility of a change in school start times was a recent controversial topic taken up by the School Committee. Where do you stand on the issue of school start times in Franklin and what actions do you plan to take around this issue during the next term of the School Committee?

ESC = I agree that kids aren’t getting enough sleep. The surveys that have been conducted of students in Franklin and the surrounding communities show that the kids are reporting fewer hours of sleep. My concern is that shifting start times won’t allow them to get more sleep though, I’m concerned all we’ll be doing is pushing everything back an hour. School will start later so it will end later. Practices will now be later. After school jobs will be later. Homework will be done later. Bed time will be later. They’ll end up with about the same amount of sleep as they had before.

There are other issues that need to be considered as well including the impact this will have on working families. I’ve heard from many families that they’re concerned how this will impact childcare. Some families rely on their older kids to get the younger kids from school. If the high school is now getting out after the elementary school then this won’t be possible. That family now has an added cost of after school care. As any working family knows, child care is expensive. We need to take that into consideration when considering the impact of moving school start times.

FM =  While the current School Committee has attempted to reach the community through various forms of communication including coffee chats, email newsletters, attending events such as the farmers market, etc., they have been generally unsuccessful at increasing the engagement with important issues related to the schools. What actions will you take to increase citizen engagement with the School Committee?

ESC = It sounds like the current school committee is doing everything they can to increase community engagement and I think that’s wonderful.

There are so many different things going on in everyone’s life that makes engaging with their elected representatives difficult. Work, commuting to and from work, kids’ activities, time for self, housework, etc. It’s not always easy for a member of the community to find spare time to attend meetings or coffee chats or other events. But I don’t think that means those people aren’t engaged, it’s just that they only have so much time to give. Not everyone even has the time to read through a long newsletter.

I would suggest that at the top of the newsletter there be 4-5 bullet points highlighting the most important/critical items that someone should know. That allows them to see those most important items in a clear, concise way. Once they have a few minutes later in the day or over the weekend they can go back and read more about it. I think that now if you don’t have time to read the newsletter you’re probably not going back to it later in the day or week because you forgot all about it, but if you put out some highlights you might have a better chance of getting someone to come back to it.

The organizations I belong to, along with many other community organizations are also experiencing difficulties in getting people. It’s not because people don’t care, it’s because they have so many demands on their time and there’s only so many hours in the day. When I talk to eligible veterans about joining the VFW, they say they can’t make meetings because they have so many other things going on. Unfortunately, that’s true for a lot of the people in our community. People have a lot going on in their lives and everyone prioritizes what’s important to them. What’s important to them is different than what’s important to me and it’s different than what’s important to you. I don’t think that necessarily means they don’t care or aren’t engaged. They may be quietly paying attention and when they see something, they’re passionate about they’ll engage then and then return to what their focus is.

FM =  The Town Administrator has suggested that the School Committee investigate the possibility of closing Davis Thayer Elementary as a possible cost-saving mechanism for the town in these tight economic times. Where do you stand on this issue and what actions will you take to support your stance?

ESC = When I decided to run for the school committee, I was skeptical that this is the right decision. It’s very early in the process and I want to see what the enrollment projections are, what improvements does the current building need and are they critical, high, or nice to have. What are the costs associated with those improvements? What is the plan for the building if it’s no longer a school?

What I don’t want to see is Davis Thayer closed and the building put to other uses and then in 10 years a new elementary school is needed because the other 5 can’t handle the number of students. We need to make sure this study is done the right way. And if at the end of the day the School Committee decides that it is in the best interest of the students and the community for Davis Thayer to close then I will work hard to make sure we have as smooth a process as possible in accomplishing that task and redistricting the remaining 5 elementary schools.

FM =  Why should I vote for you?

ESC = If I am fortunate enough to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 5th you will be voting for someone who has experience working with people from many different backgrounds and understands the importance of working together as a team to accomplish a mission. I’m not going to agree with everyone I interact with as a member of the school committee, but I will treat everyone with the respect they deserve. I will listen to all who come before the committee and take their experiences and thoughts into consideration as I decide how I am going to vote on an issue. I’d welcome anyone who has any questions or comments for me to reach out to me at ernestcarruthersjr and that will be at Gmail. If you’re on Facebook you can also send me a message, I use my middle name on Facebook, so you’ll find me as Scott Carruthers on there.

Find the election and candidate information gathered in one place on the Election Collection https://www.franklinmatters.org/2019/07/franklin-election-collection-2019.html 

Franklin Candidate Interview: Ernest S Carruthers, Jr
Franklin Candidate Interview: Ernest S Carruthers, Jr

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