Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Susan Bell- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee

This post was submitted by Susan Bell- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee- Candidate for the 3 year vacancy.

My interest in serving on the Longmeadow School Committee stems from my experience as a public school educator for the last 17 years, most recently serving as the Superintendent of the Windsor Locks Public Schools from 2014-2018. As a result of my governance experience serving the Windsor Locks Board of Education, I have a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities that a school board faces. It is my intent to collaborate with students, parents, community, district faculty and administration and school committee stakeholders to support the great work already happening in our schools. My focus on the school committee is to attend to the key aspects of our role - to present a balanced and reasonable operating budget each school year, to promote and support the implementation and effectiveness of district improvement plans, and to consider and deliberate on policy decisions that impact the day to day work of our schools and learning of our children. 

In July of 2018, I transitioned to a new role as Director of Member Engagement for the Mastery Transcript Consortium, an international non-profit organization serving 280+ schools (mostly U.S. public and independent schools) that seeks to reinvent how schools prepare students for college, career, and life, by developing a transcript that demonstrates the unique achievements and profile of every single graduate. This position allows me to work remotely and spend more time with my family (my husband, David, and my children, ages nine and five), while at the same time promoting the educational changes so needed across the country and around the world.

Priorities for School Committee
While the Longmeadow Public Schools are certainly ranked among the best schools in the state and across the country, we are facing challenges that could potentially undermine that great reputation and our mission for student learning. Of primary concern is ensuring that our students have the most necessary skills needed to navigate the complex world in which we find ourselves. Skills such as innovation, collaboration, the ability to be agile and thoughtful in considering multiple avenues to solving problems, among other key interdisciplinary skills, must be at the forefront of learning and assessment in our schools. LHS is on its way to ensuring all students achieve those skills as they approach the New England Association of Schools and Colleges process, and it’s certainly my hope that we focus on these key skills across all grade levels – ensuring that students engage in authentic, real-world learning experiences at every level. Developing opportunities for learning beyond the walls of our brick-and-mortar schools and partnering with community organizations to fulfill this goal is an avenue worth pursuing for the deeper learning needs of our students.

Equally as important is focusing on our students’ physical and mental health with the same attention we pay to their academic success. This is a priority of the school district, but this point cannot be understated; in so many schools across the country, the incidences of anxiety and stress are considerable, the impact of social media and fast-paced technology advances seemingly insurmountable. These are large problems that must be tackled by partnering with the community to understand how we can create both home and learning environments that support students in being holistically successful, which includes feeling physically and emotionally well.

From an operations and financial perspective, we must also address the condition of our middle schools – a matter recently attended to by the School Committee and Select Board with the submission of another Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). While Longmeadow has not yet met with success in its mission to seek support and state funding from the state, we must continue to investigate any opportunities for improving the middle school educational environments.

We are likely all aware that, as a community, we face considerable fiscal challenges that will need to be addressed as we approach the tax ceiling. The members of the School Committee and the Select Board must work together with other town committees to find solutions that reduce costs but at the same time ensure that our students, in particular, experience optimal levels of learning to ensure their future success. 

Despite these challenges, the future of the Longmeadow Public Schools is certainly bright. Working together with the current school committee members, parents and the community, students, faculty, administration and staff, we can tackle the challenges ahead of us to ensure that all students of our public schools gain the skills, knowledge, attributes and dispositions they need to learn, grow, thrive, and contribute positively to our larger society. 

Doctor of Education, Educational Leadership
University of Hartford

Master of Education, School Counselor Education
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Susan Bell

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