School Committee candidates discuss the district’s course offerings and the impact of covid-19
Of the four individuals vying for the two open seats on the School Committee, three participated in the candidate night: incumbent Apryl Rossi, Geoff Swett and Brennan McKiernan.
When introducing herself, Rossi said she was a substitute within the district and that her son — now a sophomore — has been a Wareham Public Schools student since the first grade. She said she served two years on the committee already and hoped to remain a “voice for the community” in a second term.
McKiernan’s microphone cut out during introductions. But in a short note on a whiteboard, he wrote that he hoped to give back to the town he loved by running for School Committee. He wrote that the district has the “tools to succeed,” as long as the community can work together.
Swett introduced himself by first saying he’d been a Wareham resident since 1996, and highlighted his time working as a mentor for young people through the Big Brother/Big Sister Association. If elected, Swett said he would serve on the committee with integrity, transparency and dedication.
When asked what in-school or after-school programs they would like to see promoted or added, the candidates all had different approaches.
“I think we do offer a lot of amazing programs for our advanced student population,” said Rossi, before also mentioning the literacy-focused early intervention program at Decas Elementary. “I would love to see options offered to those middle-of-the-road students — stuff that will get them more engaged and try to use their student voice a little bit more.”
She said pin-pointing why students aren’t involved in things like extracurricular activities is an important part of helping students “take control of their own education.”
Swett said that while he thought Wareham Public Schools was doing well with what it offers its students, he was “particularly supportive” of adding more vocational programs at the high school.
“As of now, too many students who want to learn a trade are denied access to Upper Cape [Cod Regional Techincal School] — especially those who do not want to take advantage of the AP and IB classes that, frankly, make the high school a remarkable pre-college experience,” Swett said.
He said the decision to focus on vocational courses or advanced pre-college courses is “part of the individualization that needs to take place to make school a rewarding place for every student.”
McKiernan said he thought it would be worthwhile to promote the High School’s International Baccalaureate program, which sometimes sets students up to be ahead in terms of credits once they get to college. In addition, he said he thought adding or more actively pushing a life skills class would be a good idea.
He said the life skills class would be “one where you can learn the basics of how to balance a checkbook [...] where you can learn to cook, where you can learn to run a household, where you can learn to run a business — where you can learn some of these functioning adult skills that have fallen by the wayside.”
He said he would like to give students more freedom to “create their own” curriculum and educational approach.
Troupe also asked candidates how they felt education during the pandemic was handled and whether or not they would have done things differently if they could have made the decisions themselves. The candidates all acknowledged the difficulties of educating students in the covid-19 era.
Rossi said the district was quick to transition to remote learning and was ahead of the game when it came to having the technology to make remote learning possible.
“I know it was not ideal for every student. I know there were challenges,” she said. “I know that not every student did well — my son included. My son was not a student that performed well without that continuity and that structure of being in a classroom setting.”
For that reason, Rossi said she understood many parents’ frustrations with remote learning. She said after talking to people in other districts she thought Wareham did a great job navigating the pandemic.
“I don’t know that I would have changed anything, but I certainly do not envy anyone in a position to have had to make those decisions,” Rossi said.
McKiernan echoed that sentiment, saying he was “very glad I wasn’t the person having to make those decisions” before praising what the administration was able to do under unprecedented circumstances.
But, in hindsight, he said he thought communication with students and parents was one area for potential improvement.
“Perhaps organizing a centralized resource — instead of people getting information from this page on Facebook, or through this site,” McKiernan suggested.
Swett said there were things he would have wanted the district to do differently, however, if only it had had the financial resources to do so.
Swett described one plan a wealthier school district followed, which would have meant Wareham students could have seen their teachers every day as they learned essential curriculum. But while administrators in the district were enthusiastic about the idea, the costs of transportation would have been too high, Swett said.
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s something that we could have done if we’d had the resources. And I dislike intensely that a rich district was able to do something that we were unable to do.”
The seats on the School Committee have three-year terms. Ronald Besse is also running for School Committee but did not participate in the Candidate Night.
To see the full discussion, go to www.youtube.com/warehamtv