Asked on Natick Talks on 2/21/23:
As a working parent with two young kids, cost and availability of child care is something I am regularly stressed about. GBH had a great segment about it today, which led me to the linked article.
My understanding is that Natick is considering changing the elementary schedule to have half days every Wednesday, similar to some other districts in the area, to provide elementary teachers with planning time.
If allowed by the Mods, I would very much like to understand School Committee candidates' perspective on this issue.
Apologies for being late to chime in. There is nothing like working from home during school vacation week to drive home the challenges faced by working parents. I echo many of the sentiments here, but here are my thoughts.
I would like to see our town support our young families with expanded childcare options. I hesitate to advocate expansion of ASAP (although I imagine that is part of the solution) simply because I would like to remain open to other options. Lack of affordable child care is a problem that extends beyond our schools and affects our town. Alternative models I’ve seen suggested here and elsewhere include expanding rec programs, creating HS internship programs and incentivizing creation of new private ventures. All are worthy of consideration as we move forward.
In terms of teacher planning, if the evidence suggests additional planning time during the school day improves both teacher morale/retention (huge priority) and student outcomes, I will certainly support proposals to make it happen but will advocate for a balanced approach that avoids placing the entire cost burden onto our families.
I think it is risky to rely heavily on survey data as I'm concerned the data being used are not representative. We need to ensure we're elevating the voices of those most impacted by these proposed changes. What are alternative ways we can survey parents? Creating focus groups? Asking teachers to include links to surveys in their communication and emphasizing the importance of participation?
In general, I would advocate for better family-school collaboration, but as a tech exec who has built digital engagement platforms, I can appreciate that this is a very complex and multi-faceted problem.
Beyond any of this, however, it is important to acknowledge one key point. As an engaged observer, I have seen incredibly contentious budget debates over the last several years. Given that dynamic, I can understand why proposing an option that reduces the NPS budget and shifts costs to families is tempting. Therefore, as a School Committee member, I would like to shift the narrative from “spend less” to “spend thoughtfully.” I would like our administration to feel empowered to propose creative solutions that support teachers, students and families, but I'd like the solutions to also be clear on the "how" and the "how much."