Wednesday, October 13, 2021

School Committee candidate Jen D'Angelo responds to questions

For the following you can read FM = Steve Sherlock and JD as Jen D'Angelo, candidate for School Committee. The answers were provided by Jen via email in response to the offer made to all the candidates for the Franklin Election Nov 2, 2021. 

Publication of the answers or interview responses does not constitute an endorsement of the candidate. This is my public service effort to enable informed voters for the election Nov 2, 2021.

FM = Briefly, what is your ‘Franklin story’? Tell us briefly about your life here.

JD = As a lifelong resident and a proud graduate of the Franklin Public Schools, it is my privilege to run for reelection. I have strong connections to the community and a vested interest in supporting the growth and development of our resources including our schools. I have had many opportunities to participate in town organizations including volunteering with a variety of groups beginning in high school. Some of those opportunities include delivering food baskets to those in need during the holidays, teaching religious education at St. Mary’s Church and fundraising to support a number of other local organizations. Most recently, I have had the privilege and honor of serving on the Franklin School Committee. Though this was my first time holding a public office, I found my knowledge of the community to be invaluable in our work.

FM = Participating in elections is one of the key freedoms of American life and voting is one of the primary responsibilities of citizens. While the law does not require citizens to vote, voting is a very important part of any democracy. What can you tell us about your own voting record? And if you have not been an active voter, please tell us why? And how important is it that we elect people who are active participants in the election process?

JD = Voting, considered by many as the most basic right of citizenship, is an opportunity for individuals to voice their opinions on leadership, public issues and legislation. I have been an active participant in the election process for many years voting in both local and national elections. The United States has a long history of voting milestones which eliminated barriers to voting and in essence promoted an equal voice for all citizens. Though I exercise my right to vote, I have not seen any evidence that would suggest a strong correlation between the voting history of elected officials and their ability to positively contribute to their communities.

FM = Have you been vaccinated for COVID-19? Do you think there should be a mask mandate in Franklin? Finally, what measures should the government take to protect the public from the virus, and how should these efforts be delineated between the local, State, and Federal governments?

JD = I feel medical information and the sharing of that information is a personal choice. Though I have been vaccinated, I do not feel it is appropriate to dictate what others should and should not do medically. People have unique health situations and I believe healthcare decisions should be made by individuals. With access to current data as well as expertise in the healthcare field, I believe the Department of Public Health should be making the decision on mask mandates in Franklin. Our government, both state and federal, have taken appropriate measures to provide information, recommendations and treatments to ensure the public's safety. We cannot expect elected officials to make perfect decisions all the time especially when information and situations are constantly changing. Collectively, we have to make decisions that best meet the needs of our personal situations.

FM = What are the 3 most important actions you believe are needed to move Franklin forward?

JD = It is difficult to identify three important actions when so many of our opportunities for growth and development are connected. Below are the three fundamental areas we should consider to ensure our actions as a committee and a community support our visions:

A. A collective effort to build respectful and collaborative relationships among our community members, elected officials, boards and committees. Over the past several months, the amount of hateful rhetoric has been overwhelming. In order for our town to identify and address our areas of growth and move forward to expand opportunities for all residents, we must be able to engage with one another in a respectful way.

B. A commitment to engage the community in our work as a school committee. Though engagement is different for each person, creating meaningful ways to contribute is essential. Some community members are eager to attend coffee chats while others are content to receive email newsletters and discuss topics that are important to them with their peers. I feel it is the duty of the School Committee to find ways to create opportunities for those who would like to engage in issues relative to not only the school community but also our town as a whole. Another piece of engagement is feeling your opinions are respected even when they differ from others. From community members I have had the opportunity to speak with, this was one area they felt could have been better and something the elected committee should continue to build upon in the coming years.

C. A deeper dive into the current culture of our district. While financial resources can make a difference in improving educational outcomes, there are other variables that are just as, if not more, important. For example, competitive teacher salaries improve the quality of candidates and increase retention, lower teacher to student ratios allow for more personalized learning and a structured system of supports for all students are known factors to minimize achievement gaps and create meaningful educational opportunities. Changes in district and school culture can happen independent of and be more impactful than spending. This should also include maintaining high expectations for staff, students and families and focusing on doing what works while eliminating what doesn’t. A strategic reallocation of resources is a more sensible and realistic approach and creating a long-term strategic plan will be an important step in establishing sustainable change in the district.

FM = What experience or background will help you to serve in this role? Or what do you bring to the table that helps to set you apart from the others?

JD = Education is a collaborative effort among teachers, administrators, families, community members and elected officials. As an elected committee member, my major focus has been and will continue to be those issues and concerns that are a priority to the parents, students, and teachers I represent on the committee. It is important to be open to the opinions and views of all in order to make thoughtful decisions in the best interest of our students. As our schools face some challenging decisions in the coming years, I am confident I can continue to be an impartial committee member who can make well-informed decisions based on the needs of our community. With over seventeen years of experience in public education, I am well versed in a variety of areas including school finance, curriculum and state and federal regulations. In addition to my work experience, I also hold a Master of Business Administration from Suffolk University and Master of Education from Bridgewater State University. I feel my unique skill set is invaluable as a member of the Franklin School Committee.

FM = With the Franklin Public School District managing the largest portion of Franklin's budget, what are your ideas to help solve the structural deficit in the operating budget?

JD = I wholeheartedly believe you cannot solve a problem until you have identified the root of the problem. Financial strain in Franklin is not new nor is the narrative that we (the school district) are underfunded. If you look up the term “structural deficit” the definition would read “a budget deficit that results from a fundamental imbalance in government receipts and expenditures”. In simpler terms, we spend more than we generate. So how do you solve this issue when you do not know the root of the problem? Is spending the problem or is it the lack of funds generated or is it a combination of the two? The first step in creating a solution is to examine our current situation through an operational and efficiency study done by an external review. The review would examine the adequacy of the educational and non-educational services delivered and the efficiency with which they are delivered. It will also help to identify short- and long- term costs that should be incurred and savings, if any, that could be gained through the implementation of best practices. Potential opportunities to collaborate with our municipal departments may also be considered similar to the transfer of the maintenance responsibility of school facilities to the town facilities department which took place in FY09.

School Committee candidate Jen D'Angelo responds to questions
School Committee candidate Jen D'Angelo responds to questions

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