The Town of Natick depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Natick voters will on or before March 30, 2021 cast their ballots for candidates running for School Committee, a contested race.
The Natick School Committee is an elected town-wide board. Among other things, it approves Natick’s school budget, appoints the Superintendent, and establishes educational goals and policies for Natick’s schools as a whole.
There are three candidates running for two open 3-year seats on the School Committee—Matt Brand, Shai Fuxman, and Catherine Brunell.
Natick Report invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Natick. Below is Catherine Brunell’s Q & A. Here is a link to Matt Brand’s and to Shai Fuxman’s.
Catherine Brunell, candidate for School Committee
Natick Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Catherine Brunell: I am a former teacher, a coach and a mom to 5 kids. I co-founded Protect Natick’s Future last spring and
demonstrated my abilities as a community organizer and as a leader who will respond to difficult topics with information for our residents. Running a household with clear procedures and negotiating who needs what and when is my daily life. Practical life skills like listening, relating, asking for more information, advocating, and prioritizing, are where I excel.
Our family has been in the school system for over a decade, we have gone through every level with different learners and different experiences for each of our kids. I know this community, both how to listen to it and how to strengthen it. In a time of COVID recovery, having a close ear to the community is essential. I will serve with a practical, relational emphasis.
NR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish on the School Committee during the upcoming 3-year term?
Brunell: 1) I will advocate to help students and families, within the policy and the budget objectives of the School Committee, to grapple with, persist through, and ultimately show progress in COVID.
2) With the other committee members, I would like to prioritize setting specific, known to the public, yearly goals for our own School Committee to support the district wide goals. This is a national best practice for effective boards who are focused on student achievement. (see www.nsba.org – Eight Characteristics of Effective Boards.)
3) Increase the amount of clear, two-way communication for our constituents. For example, I will host regular “Coffee and conversation” events and will communicate before and after the meetings about items on our agenda. I will do this carefully so as not to overstep the open-meeting law or committee policy, and I will stay grounded in our mission to engage and represent the public.
4) Establish or reestablish best practices for working with and across our Town Government administration and committees. With a structural deficit in town and a new Town Administrator, how our School Committee sees these relationships with new eyes will be critical.
NR: Going forward, what are the top challenges you see facing Natick Public Schools from the pandemic?
Brunell: Rejuvenating our kids, teachers, administration and families from the impacts of COVID in lots of different ways. As we continue forward, a bit weary and hopefully more aware of our resilience than ever, we need to evaluate carefully HOW all of our populations and individuals have been impacted and what we have learned as a district. Then, the School Committee needs to empower our school leaders through policy and budget to come up with a plan that incorporates the lessons learned and influences the places of need with the most impact. Social Emotional, yes! Academic recovery, for sure! Special education adjustments! And more understanding of equity as a benefit for all.
NR: Other area schools have hired a Directory of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Given that promoting equity and inclusion for all students is a top priority in Natick schools, would Natick benefit from such a hire? Why or why not?
Brunell: As a parent and as a community member my response is that this position is necessary, but not alone sufficient for the long, hard and good road that our district needs to travel with diversity, equity and inclusion. As a School Committee Member, my job will be to ask our leadership about what their plan is around equity and inclusion, to vet that plan through community feedback and research and then to figure out how we can prioritize the final decision in the budget. This is an example of a School Committee goal we could have in the 2021-2022 school year (see answer above.) As for this specific position, I cannot wade into a specific hire but I can and will give the administration feedback from our constituents and drill down on if we are achieving equity and inclusion best practices in our schools with the plan we have put in place. Policy, budget, follow through, those are levers I will have to impact our schools and this initiative.
NR: Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?
Brunell: When I am sitting in a public seat, a seat to which I have been elected, I do not see my name on the table. I see the word “community.” That is, I sit in that seat representing a diverse group of Natick residents—in age, experience, race, ethnicity and gender, from those with children in school to those without. I am sitting there to ask my questions and more importantly, your questions. My job is to build the community’s confidence that every decision we make is the best of all of the data-informed options that we have considered for our students, within the competing priorities that we have to navigate. At times, reasonable people will disagree with the votes I cast, but I will always be transparent and back up the decisions I come to with best practices, data and with our students at the center. Additionally, I have a personal goal to communicate to you how we use the funds that the town and the state provide, through your taxes, to ensure a maximized student experience.
NR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?