FOR SCHOOL COMMITTEE: Sarah Fox

Years in Marblehead: 11

Occupation/education: Bachelor’s degree in interior design, Wentworth Institute of Technology

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: School Committee 2019-present, Brown School Building Committee 2016-present, Bell School Advisory Council 2015-2021, Brown School Advisory Council 2021 to present, Veterans School Advisory Council 2019-2020, Marblehead Public Schools Safety Committee 2021 to present, Marblehead Public Schools Budget Liaison 2019-2020, Marblehead Public Schools Facilities Committee (Chair) 2019- present, Aspire Early Intervention Parent representative.

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

I have a deep passion for effecting positive change in education. I am hoping to continue to bring my strong skill set in the areas of budget development and management as well as facilities to the Marblehead Public Schools. As the mom to 6 young children I have a vested interest in making sure the Marblehead Public Schools do the necessary work to ensure our students the best opportunities while being good financial stewards to tax payers. I also feel strongly that all of our students needs should be met in the least restrictive setting possible and have the appropriate curriculum presented to them to keep students engaged at their current learning level.

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

I think transparency and budget continue to be the largest hurdles for Marblehead. If the policies and procedures of town boards were demystified I believe more citizens would be likely to become civically involved. We are blessed with many talented professionals living in Marblehead; transparency would encourage them to bring their skills to the table thus benefitting our wonderful town. We also need to find more fiscally responsible revenue sources beyond our over reliance on free cash.
What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake?

While there are many issues brought on by the pandemic, I will answer this through the view of the Public Schools. Learning loss and regression need to be addressed in both he areas of education and social emotional health. A long term plan needs to be developed and clearly communicated to the community. This is a problem that will need to be addressed with short and long term action plans because our students unfortunately will be dealing with the effects of pandemic driven learning loss and regression for quite some time.

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 can not say if the override will pass, but I hope we see a huge voter turnout. As a current school committee member I can tell you that the schools have been underfunded for years and have placed a heavy reliance on private funding like PTO/PCOs, private grants to bridge the gap between students needs and what the operating budget covers. If the override does not pass the school committee will need to immediately decide how to restructure the current FY24 budget to cover items like safety improvements that can not be held off another year and would otherwise have been funded by the override. After that the School Committee will need to address the reasons the override did not pass and go back to the drawing board to prepare for FY25.

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

As a new superintendent, I believe Dr. Buckey continues to have areas of growth potential. I have had the opportunity to perform two yearly superintendent assessments for Dr. Buckey, another skill that I bring to the job of School Committee member. I approached this process with professionalism and integrity that I approach all aspects of being a sitting school committee member with. I encourage readers to view my assessments on the district’s website.

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

As a sitting School Committee member, I would give us a C-. We have fulfilled the obligations laid out for us by MGL however I do not feel we have made the community feel included or heard in the process. I also believe there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to be able to engage in constructive debate. I am hoping the School Committee can get to a place were questions and constructive debate are welcomed as pathways to improvement rather than labeled as destructive and confrontational.
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?

I think the major lesson is we need to be more prepared. When the pandemic hit there was a learning curve for every school across the country, however the pandemic really highlighted the effects of putting off necessary investments. We found ourselves thrust into a time were education relied on technology and we were not ready. We had to use the majority of our federal grant money to get our technology infrastructure to a place where we could deliver education to our students. Other districts around the country were able to use those funds in more innovative ways that really maximized students in person learning time and provided better outcomes. Moving forward I hope we learn that the continual deferment of needs can result in loss of student achievement.

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?

Marblehead has always had a history of a higher percentage of private school students in part due to our socio-economic make up however we have seen those number climb in recent years. I believe this in part due to the pandemic. Private schools were able to provide more in person learning and parents really wanted that prioritized. I also feel, as our funded became more insufficient through the years parents opted for schools that were able to invest more in their students. As a school committee member I will continue to ask questions and review data that can help evaluate what programs are working and which ones need more work. I also think performing exit surveys to parents and students opting out of district will yield valuable data that can help the district identify areas that need improvement.

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?

As the schools committee representative to the district safety committee that meets monthly with all public safety chiefs I have had the opportunity to talk about this a lot. As chair of the Facilities

committee I pushed for all needed safety improvements to be funded this year. I will continue to advocate for funding to address safety needs and prioritize those funds. Additionally, I think it is very important to invest in social emotional curriculum for our students. While we need to be prepared to respond to incidents it is vitally important to do all the work possible to prevent them from the start.

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