Brian O’Donnell: Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Committee

March 5, 2024
Brian O’Donnell is a candidate for reelection to the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Committee.

Brian O’Donnell cites empirical evidence that his first three-year term on the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Committee was productive.

Together with fellow Bedford representative Nancy Asbedian, O’Donnell advocated and negotiated for the entire eighth grade at John Glenn Middle School to have the opportunity to spend part of a day at the Billerica school. 

That may have been one factor in a big increase in enrollment applications, he said, thanking the Shawsheen and Bedford school leadership for cooperating. 

O’Donnell, a Bedford High School graduate, has a long resume of volunteer service from the Bedford School Committee to the Arbor Resources and Bicycle Advisory committees. His term on the Shawsheen Tech committee “has been the most enjoyable and rewarding,” he said. 

The 10-member committee from the five Shawsheen Tech towns is “very cooperative. Going through the process of picking a new superintendent brought a lot of cohesion to the board.

“When the opportunity came up three years ago to run, more than anything I wanted to see Bedford take better advantage. We were sending six-to-eight kids a year. Now we are in the 16-to-20 range.”

He had some exposure to vocational education. For one thing, his wife Renee taught at Minuteman Technical High School for almost 30 years and their two daughters attended preschool there. 

“I would occasionally help over there, and I had a general interest in and appreciation of their vocational education,” O’Donnell said. Now, “I’ve tried to learn as much about Shawsheen as I can.”

A former staff member in the inspector general’s office and assistant attorney general, O’Donnell also was director of labor relations for Associated General Contractors. 

“I had a lot of exposure to the construction industry, and I saw how valuable it can be to have that kind of training for great jobs.

“In their own way, vocational schools are the comprehensive schools of our time,” O’Donnell observed, with students focusing on not only specific trades but also academics “and all the other things people associate with high school life,” including sports, clubs, and other activities. “It’s broad based, a well-rounded experience.”

Many Bedford residents are still unfamiliar with Shawsheen Tech, he said; some even think the town is part of the Minuteman Tech district because it is closer. 

“I think it has been helpful when people have learned about college acceptances.” Shawsheen seniors, he said, enroll in “a lot of the same places BHS kids are going.”

O’Donnell said over his next term, he expects the committee will be working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on state assistance for major renovations or perhaps a new building. 

“It looks great,” he said of the school facility, but it is about 50 years old and “basic infrastructure needs work.”

O’Donnell has been visible alongside Shawsheen students volunteering in Bedford on election Day and Bedford Day.

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