Today, The Bedford Citizen begins a series of profiles on candidates running for Select Board, School Committee, and Planning Board. Although none of the seats for this year’s Town Election on Saturday, March 11 are contested, we feel it is important for residents to know where the candidates on three high-profile boards stand on issues.
For a complete list of the candidates, visit https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2023/01/town-election-2023-candidates.
And for information on voting, check https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2023/01/updated-2023-bedford-town-election-schedule-and-information.
Today, the focus is on the Bedford School Committee.
As the incoming new member of the Bedford School Committee, Sarah McGinley feels she has had the best possible foundation – as the committee’s non-voting representative of military families for the past year.
“It was a wonderfully unique opportunity to serve. It allowed me to weigh in on issues affecting the community at large and develop collaborative relationships with fellow members and administrators,” she said. “And as an active participant at meetings, so many community members know what’s important to me. I’ve closely watched my colleagues and moving into the voting role is a natural next step.”
McGinley said her experience also sensitizes her to listening to residents who don’t have children in the schools. She said she will make sure they are aware of all avenues available, websites, public comment at meetings, and formal opportunities to engage.
Some residents are former parents, or alumni, she pointed out. “Just because you don’t have children in the schools doesn’t mean you are not invested. Their voices will be represented.”
“Many people choose Bedford for school. For a small town, we offer wonderful opportunities and diverse experiences,” McGinley said. She said she hopes incoming School Superintendent Cliff Chuang will “dive in and seek opportunities, go to sports events, visit Hanscom Air Force Base, and build relationships with parents and the School Committee.”
Asked about prioritizing student mental health as the pandemic recedes, McGinley said, “We are lucky to have excellent teachers, counselors and building leaders, and an invested community. There is always room for improved practices, especially post-Covid.”
McGinley also is familiar with the details of a recent state law expanding mental health access that includes important sections affecting local education.
Sarah Scoville is about to begin her third three-year term – working with her third superintendent of schools.
“I don’t think there needs to be a lot of change. We’re taking steps we’ve already started and moving forward,” she said.
Scoville was specifically referring to “fitting diversity, equity, and inclusion and social-emotional learning together with academic excellence. It’s a balance, and I’m really eager to talk to people about how to do that.”
“I’m an art educator and I thought I knew what I needed to know. But I certainly have learned a lot over the last six years,” Scoville said. “And I learned quite quickly — about finances, about how everything worked. I really liked assisting in meeting our needs in the community.”
“And then the world shut down.”
Scoville said that as School Committee chair in 2021-22, “I learned more than I learned in the five previous years,” including the impact of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which she noted set much of the policy on face coverings and Covid testing.
Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad also began his career as an art teacher and “we are kindred spirits,” Scoville said. “He was kind, diplomatic, and knowledgeable.”
Scoville, in answer to a question about post-pandemic mental health concerns, said the schools are well grounded to be proactive.
“The counseling program is outstanding, well-resourced, and supported,” she said. The high school advisory connects every student with an adult.
Even before the pandemic, she pointed out, the high school launched the Challenge Success program in response to unnecessary student stress. “So, we came into the pandemic already thinking a lot about these issues.”
Asked about the value of school rankings that are featured in some publications, Scoville commented, “I don’t ever want to rely on them fully because there is way more to the story.” Standardized test scores often bolster those rankings, but “we don’t want teachers teaching to the test. A more interesting thing to look at are the post-graduate journeys,” she said.