Tuesday, October 12, 2021

School Committee candidate Mark Bisson responds to questions

For the following you can read FM = Steve Sherlock and MB as Mark Bisson, candidate for School Committee. The answers were provided by Mark 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 nor an attestation that the statements are true. 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.

MB = My wife, Lindsay, convinced me to move to Franklin eight years ago because she said that “Franklin has everything!” She started teaching first grade here in town in 2004 and insisted that our future children attend Franklin’s fabulous school system. We now have 3 children. Our son is five and attends kindergarten, our daughter is four and attends our public preschool, and our youngest daughter is two-years-old. We love our franklin community, and of course my wife was correct, Franklin does have everything. We believe that it is important to play an active role to help continue to support our community at every level. Lindsay is active in our community as the secretary of the PCC at ECDC and as the Vice President of the non-profit organization the MOMS Club of Franklin, MA, which is a support group for Franklin moms with young children. I have played a supportive role within the MOMS Club helping with events and setting up. Our family really believes in the MOMS club, and has been an instrumental group for not only our family, but so many other wonderful families here in the Franklin community, and I have always been really inspired by what this group of moms have been able to accomplish. So now it is now my turn to become an active leader within in our community, and I know that I can play a positive and constructive role within the school committee.

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?

MB = I agree, voting is a fundamental right and responsibility of every American citizen. I believe we all have a responsibility to participate in the election process, and a duty as citizens to be well informed on the candidates and policies we vote on. My past voting record mostly consisted of major elections as opposed to local elections. But as I have gotten older and now have children of my own, I believe I have an obligation to play a more active role in the process. I tend to vote for the individuals who have the best ideas and policies, and not based on which party they belong to.

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

MB = I believe in an individual’s right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their health. Much like voting, I believe that individuals have a responsibility to be well educated/informed on the issue and do a risk assessment based on all available facts and data, because ultimately these decisions will affect them, and their families for the rest of their lives, and they should not be taken lightly.

The government should play a vital role in identifying, educating, and combating any threat to our country and its citizens. The state and local governments have to play a vital role in their regions to provide sound/fact-based information, coordination, and effective guidance. I believe a balanced approach has always been required whenever dealing with an unknown, like the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, we have not seen this type of approach and instead we have seen contradicting standards, mandates that are not based in science, or even commonsense, and misleading and coercive measures to get individuals to respond a certain way, which inevitable lead to mistrust and hesitation.

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

MB =  1.  An important action to move Franklin forward is for the school committee to communicate better with the community. The members of the school committee have an obligation to clearly articulate what they are doing, and most importantly why they are doing it. Since the decisions and policies that are being voted on by school committee members impact teachers, I feel that the school committee also needs to be communicating with our Franklin teachers. Communicating via different platforms and not just social media should be utilized to ensure we are reaching as many members of our community as possible. School committee newsletters could be created and sent out via emails to all the Franklin Public schools families and staff and published on the school committee website. The newsletters could be published in the Franklin Town News newspaper, their website (www.franklintownnews.com), on Facebook, etc. I believe we can also accomplish this by openly communicating with the teachers, parents, and community through open forums with the school committee to brainstorm wants, needs and best practices.

2. Another important action to move Franklin forward is to redistrict the schools. Now that the Davis Thayer school is closed, I believe students should be properly redistricted to schools more evenly and closest to their homes.

3. Finally, I believe leadership and a balanced approach are very important actions needed to move Franklin forward. The stripping of the parents right to choose the best course of action for their children has been a real eye opener for me as a parent, and as a tax paying resident of Franklin. I believe that the school committee had an opportunity to show leadership and stand up for the parents right to choose, and trust to that they would make the right decisions for the health and safety of their children and our community. But ultimately, they were subjugated by DESE, and as a result they relinquished their authority, which not only silenced the members of the school committee, but all of the parents of Franklin as well.

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?

MB = I believe I bring a commonsense approach to problem solving.

I believe I am able to communicate effectively with the public we serve, but I will be able to encourage the public to get involved with the decisions we are facing.

My career and background is in the commercial construction/building industry. I have built some very large projects, including the largest Buddhist Temple built outside of Thailand in the world (which is located in Raynham, Ma). I know how to manage a budget, a schedule, to communicate effectively, and to maintain the highest-level of safety.

One example where school committee did not demonstrate effective problem solving and planning was the process of closing Davis Thayer. It was a disaster. I feel bad for the families of the Davis Thayer and Helen Keller school communities. I believe that the School Committee failed all those children and their families, as well as, the teachers. They had no plan and ultimately just shoved them all in at Keller… To me that is completely inappropriate.

Being the spouse of a former Franklin teacher sets me apart from the other candidates. I have heard my wife discuss many of the districts’ strengths and those areas of growth that we as a school district can work to improve on. For example, there should be more support in the younger grades where the children have limited attention spans and there is a range in ability levels. If the teachers and students receive more support in kindergarten and first grade, they most likely won’t need as much support going forward. Also, I am sure that people aren’t aware of the fact that teachers are generally handed the materials and provided professional development for new programs the day before being expected to teach that new program…. That clearly doesn’t give teachers adequate time to prepare. I think we can do better.

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?

MB = My platform for the school committee is “Back to the basics Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic” so I believe we should do a full audit, with the town council, of the district’s spending and in doing so ensure all programs we have within the curriculum are effective. By putting the primary focus back on the fundamentals of education, we could see a real potential for savings. I find it disappointing that we wasted money on the Envisions math program about 5 years ago in the Elementary schools and are already onto a new math program. After the first year, many teachers were either not using the program or were heavily supplementing it with materials from other programs. This tells me that it wasn’t piloted properly or by enough teachers and spending money on this program was clearly a waste of our money.

I would look to create a subcommittee to review other districts that are having success while maintaining a healthy operating budget. This can help us identify best practices to emulate into our own district.

I would look to establish an intern program with Franklin’s own Dean College, and to continue to build on our relationship with Tri-county high school to bring in students to assist the teachers and students in the classroom. The utilization of interns in the private sector has been very beneficial in terms of staffing, reducing payroll cost, and providing an opportunity for invaluable real-world experience in the teaching/education profession to students.

  • For additional election information in preparation to vote on or before Nov 2, 2021

School Committee candidate Mark Bisson responds to questions
School Committee candidate Mark Bisson responds to questions

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