Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Franklin Candidate Interview: Joanna Lussier

This interview with Joanna Lussier, 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. JL represents Joanna'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?
JL = Volunteering is something I want my kids to want to do. Most of my volunteer work gear towards school activities – field trips, field days, classroom support. I enjoy volunteering as a family. Most of the volunteer opportunities we sign up for allow kids at a young age – Cradle to Crayons, Christmas in the City. 

Within the Town of Franklin, we have volunteered at the Recreation Department’s Earth Day clean up. It is one of the few volunteer opportunities available to my young kids. My oldest, James, has always had a passion for recycling and our environment. It was a great opportunity to align his passion with a volunteer opportunity. The volunteers assigned us to the Helen Keller School. We had three bags of trash just walking around the school property, even the playground had sport drink bottles. It was a great teaching moment for my kids to learn to be respectful of our planet and school property. 

In addition, I volunteered to be the Den Leader for James’ Tiger Den. My husband Mark grew up doing cub scouts and boy scouts. It was something James was interested in. As a pack, for Earth Day, we cleaned up Dacey’s Field. It was a great bonding experience for the boys.

FM = Where do you get your news about Franklin?
JL = Primarily, I get my news about Franklin on social media – Franklin Matters, Milford Daily News Online, Wicked Local, and various Facebook groups. Recently, I signed up to receive all the postings on the Town’s website. This has been helpful to see things posted in real time. Lastly, I also talk to local friends. We all focus on different topics of interest, so it is nice to be able to hear what other people know.

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?
JL = If you ask me if I supported the proposed time as presented, I say no. However, I understand the research the School Start Time Advisory Board presented. I do support further research into the topic. We need to more awareness and engage key stakeholders – parents, students, teachers, surrounding towns, local businesses. There were many questions and concerns that were brought up. Some were addressed, but not all. I think the next term of the School Committee needs to move the project to Phase 2 – community engagement and outreach. I believe the community knows it’s a potential change in the near future and will be willing to be part of the process

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?
JL =  I will admit I never went to the coffee chats. I did enjoy the email newsletters. I understand the newsletter was probably designed to be brief updates with links back to the Town’s website. Perhaps it can be revised to include an executive summary/update on key topics. When reviewing some of the past newsletters, I did not get a sense of urgency on budget issues and school start times. Maybe in the newsletter we can set timelines for key items. 

For instance, if the School Committee is to vet out the school start times and Davis Thayer closing, they can estimate the school year it’ll take into effect (2023-2024). This way it is on the parents’ radar, and they are further motivated to understand what the School Committee is doing.
  • Social media – The School Committee can have a greater presence on social media. Links to the newsletter and regular updates can keep the community engaged.
  • Technology – I understand the busy life of parents and adulthood. Perhaps we can steam the meetings via WebEx (or something similar). Having virtual meet and greets.
  • Sporting Events – If the community is open to it, I am always available to engage parents at sporting events. I understand it’s a fine balance between paying attention to your kid playing and having an adult conversation about various topics.
  • Meet and Greets – This is always a great option. The timing never worked for me to meet the SC. I think sending a Survey Monkey out to the community to learn how they want us to engage them is a great starting point. 

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?
JL = If we have to make a decision today, I do not support it. I fully support vetting the idea and understand the implications – emotional and financial. There are many factors, decisions, and questions that need to be answered. We need to thoroughly research the different possibilities – renovating, building new, relocating, or closing. Recently, the Town Council approved money to go towards consulting fees. We should leverage the previous study and community engagement with the new study that will be happening. 

As a citizen, I have questions I want answered before a decision is made: Currently, enrollment is low. What about the current, potential, and future development. If we closed DT, how would the increase in population impact the other schools who will absorb the students? How will redistricting impact the students emotionally? How much money are we really saving by closing the school? I want a real number. If elected, I will ensure we engage the community throughout the process with regular updates.
FM = Why should I vote for you?
JL =  I am working mom looking to preserve and improve our schools for our students and community. With two young children in the school system, I have a vested interest in the quality of the school system for our current and future students. I want to work collaboratively with the key stakeholders to come up with solutions with the difficult decisions that are coming up. I believe my professional background will bring a different type of skillset to help the school committee come up with some long term plans.

Find the election and candidate information gathered in one place on the Election Collection 

No comments:

Post a Comment