FOR SCHOOL COMMITTEE: Reece Dahlberg

Years in Marblehead: Four years

Occupation/education: I was raised in Swampscott and Waterville Valley, N.H. I graduated from Holderness School in 1996 and in 2000 graduated from Wheaton College in Norton. While in college, I participated in Boston University’s Sydney Internship program where I worked on a local Australian election. During my time in college, I participated in the White House Internship Program in Washington DC where I was assigned to White House Counsel. After college, I worked as a paralegal for a residential and commercial real estate law firm in Boston.

With the birth of my first child, I became a stay-at-home mom. I have spent the past nine years focused on being an active participant in the work of improving schools and my community. I believe that my experience of being an involved parent and community member makes me an asset to the Marblehead School Committee.

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: I am the current Village School PTO President and a member of the Veterans Middle School Student Advisory Council. I am a current member of the Marblehead Selectboard Task Force Against Discrimination.

What are three reasons/issues as to why you’re running for election?

I have been a proactive positive change maker for the last 9 years and I am passionate about our town and our schools. I prioritize a school budget that provides the necessary funding so that each student receives an exemplary education and a concrete pathway to success that aligns with the district strategic plan.

I prioritize Communication and Community connection – Covid forced us all to “socially distance” and it is time to close that gap and be more accessible to the parents and community of Marblehead by attending meetings that directly and indirectly affect our school population and support school related events.
I prioritize putting the time and attention into our METCO Program and Student Services/Special Education that they deserve.

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to?

I believe that the school budget needs attention and proper funding. The Marblehead Public School Budget has been level funded for far too long. Facility needs have been pushed off and ignored, students have been given outdated resources and the safety mechanisms at some schools are lacking. We are one of the lone holdout communities in the state that continues to ask for tuition for full day Kindergarten. Operating a school district in this manner makes it nearly impossible to meet the demands of educating our students the way Marblehead expects and frankly, the way our students deserve.

What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake?

I think the unintended theme of “Social distancing” over the past few years and the resulting lack of connection has left us all at a social emotional disadvantage. We see anxiety levels rising inside our schools as well as out. The need for social emotional learning and true connection, reminders on how to interact in order to move forward as the wonderful community Marblehead truly is.

Is the general override for the $3 million supplemental school budget going to pass? If it doesn’t, how should the School Committee respond?

I am hopeful it will. As an involved parent, I believe in the robust process which led to the override request. The school leadership team was charged with identifying what they need to provide the children of Marblehead with the education they deserve. These results were presented to the School Committee before the new year by the leadership team, then refined during community listening sessions and while working with FinCom and town leaders. A public hearing during the spring saw the budget evolve even further which resulted in the current budget – which holds the support of the Finance Committee and Town Meeting. In the end, I have confidence in the budget process and I have confidence that our community will agree to invest in our children as they deserve. After June 21, regardless of the outcome, the School Committee will pick up the work of evaluating the budget needs presented to them for another year. If elected, I will tirelessly work to advocate for our schools to receive the funding that Marblehead students deserve.

On a scale of A to F, how would you grade the superintendent’s job performance? Why?

Dr. Buckey assumed his role as Superintendent in a school district that was still reeling from major shake ups and during a global pandemic. These issues alone presented significant challenges. As someone who believes in connection, I have appreciated that Dr Buckey has been consistent in his availability to the parents and community at large. I do think it is important to note that even though I believe the superintendent has done a good job, we should still expect to be able to engage in a thoughtful and constructive way during times of disagreement. The leadership should always set an example for our students of welcoming opportunities to do better and evolve. As an involved parent and as Village PTO president I have found myself at times disagreeing with a certain decision but Dr. Buckey has always been willing to engage and listen. I appreciate his regular communication and opportunities for feedback.

Again on a scale of A to F, how would you grade the current Marblehead School Committee’s performance and level of teamwork? Why?

I believe that the current School Committee has strived to do their best for the children of Marblehead during unprecedented times. I recognize that the School Committee and educators were under an enormous amount of pressure during the last three years. While I understand that circumstances made community connection difficult, I believe that all committee members should have a working relationship (including regular meetings) with the Superintendent. I believe that maintaining strong relationships is especially important when inevitably dealing with areas of disagreement. Members should always attend their subcommittee and liaison meetings. Finally, I appreciate the amount of time and scrutiny that was put into the budget process this year and I applaud that the Committee listened to our dedicated educational professionals when they said that the time is now and moved forward with the general override

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to test schools here, across the country and indeed all over the world. What lessons do you hope school leaders have learned over the past two-plus years? How will you ensure that the value of these lessons becomes a permanent part of how education is provided in Marblehead? The pandemic has resulted in a huge uptick in anxiety and stress in our student and staff population, as seen in the recent Special Education Parents Advisory Council Survey. Social distancing and the resulting difficulty in maintaining social and emotional connections over the past few years have had a major impact not just within our schools, but on our community as a whole. As PTO President at Village, I have witnessed the staff doing great work in focusing on the whole student to ensure that they are supported and prepared to learn. I believe that this process of identifying social and emotional issues that can hinder student learning should continue to be a permanent part of how education is provided in Marblehead.

What is your understanding of recent trends with respect to parents sending their children to private schools instead of keeping them in Marblehead? If you see this as a problem, how will you address it on the School Committee?

The parents in our community expect their children to receive an excellent educational experience. I believe that the role of the School Committee is to ensure that this expectation is met. I believe that this begins with adequately funding our schools to address the impacts of level-funding of our schools for too long, such as outdated resources and facilities not being maintained.

We have just witnessed in Texas another horrifying school shooting, the type of event that everyone hopes will never happen in their community, until it does. How can you as a School Committee member help ensure that our school buildings are secure and — perhaps as importantly — that our students, teachers and staff feel safe and comfortable in them?

What happened in Texas is truly every parent’s nightmare. Here at home, safety upgrades have been pushed off over the years and the $584,00 in security upgrades included in the proposal is yet another reason that I support the budget override. While we should continue to improve the security within our schools, I also believe we should work on the roots of why these events happen. I believe the Diversity Equity and Inclusion director is a key ingredient to school safety and health of our students and staff as a whole. It will ensure that our school community is proactive in making sure that all members of the Marblehead school community feel welcomed, recognized and celebrated within the walls of our schools. This role would also provide much needed social emotional learning coaching for staff to address these issues. All of this ensure that systems are in place to create an environment that allows all students to be successful.

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