Questions for School Committee Candidates: Timothy Flood

Editor’s Note: Next week the town will go to vote on a number of issues including two seats on Belmont’s School Committee. Earlier this month, Blogging Belmont sent questionnaires to the five candidates for those two positions with a number of questions that we felt were important for voters to understand candidates’ positions on before they vote. This week, we’ll be publishing the responses we received, highlighting one candidate each day and posting their responses as received.

Our first response is from School Committee Candidate Tim Flood. Tim is a Belmont resident, business owner and dad. He’s a Town Meeting member from Precinct 5 and sits on the Special Education Parent Advisory Council and the Age Friendly Belmont Advisory Council. His campaign website is here.


Click on the links below to jump to the question.

Tim Flood is a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 5 and a candidate for School Committee.

Many parents are unhappy with the Belmont schools this year because of Covid-19. What would you say to them? 

There is no perfect way to reopen schools during a pandemic. The current school committee failed to take thoughtful action in a timely manner and their decision making was crippled by what they argue as a lack of information and guidance from the CDC, the Commonwealth, and DESE.  Though, we have data from other countries, as well as school districts in the US, that have successfully reopened schools.  This is a challenging position to be in, but I believe not making decisions was worse, and continuing to change previous decisions with limited information only caused more confusion and frustration.  If elected, I would improve communication to with parents by making them part of the process to reopening.  I believe parents are some of the districts most important local resources but have not been provided reasonable guidance on expectations and transition or how to constructively support homeschooling during remote and hybrid models.

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What can be done to improve things in BPS in the remainder of this year? How about next year?

I support every effort to safely return to in-person learning this fall, with the proper investments in both equipment and technology to keep students, families, and employees safe.

We need to plan the work now to develop Belmont specific guidelines for each school which need to be clear, consistent, and transparent. These safety measures, like personal protective equipment, must be based upon CDC and health professionals’ recommendations, including current social distancing guidelines and mandatory mask wearing which is proven to work. When fully reopen, we can work the plan to prevent and, if necessary, respond to future COVID-19 cases and transition in school buildings.

Lastly, we also need ensure equal access to one-to-one technology (including equipment, broadband, and technology platforms) for students and staff to ensure learning is continuous, whether schools are fully open in a new normal or must close to keep our community safe and healthy.

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Some say – rightly or wrongly – that the School Committee doesn’t know how to work with the Belmont Education Association (BEA) to improve schooling during the pandemic. How would you work with the BEA?

Although I am running as an individual, I will lead as a member of a team. I will work on building strong relationships that facilitate collaboration among our educators/union and focus on teaching quality and educational improvement for students.

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Many children are experiencing setbacks in their education this year and the learning deficits could be long lasting. What should the School Committee do?

While I don’t believe this has been a completely lost year for some of our students, I know that there are many students who have fallen behind and need enhanced services. This could be through a robust summer program, extended school hours, tutoring, after-school enrichment programs or all the above. Regardless of what it looks like we need to invest heavily in whatever it takes to make up some of the loss that occurred.

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On a per pupil basis, Belmont ranks near the bottom in the state for spending on our schools and for numbers of teachers. Do you consider that a problem that needs to be addressed? If not, why? If so, how do you plan to fix it?

While money alone will not ensure success in Belmont Public Schools, reducing the school budget could impact the education outcomes of our students especially for ELL, Special education, and other disadvantaged students. Belmont has historically placed a high priority on education as we know the importance of preparing our children for their future and our town’s future. Whether the override passes or not in April, the school budget should continue to be evaluated for long term sustainability with a planned moderate % increase yearly. When evaluating necessary budget cuts or reallocations we need to ensure equitably distributed resources.  I believe keeping money in the classrooms by focusing on teacher support and education, making curriculum accessible to all students, and managing class sizes should be core values of the budget review process.

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How much control does the School Committee have over the budget and what would you do to improve school funding?

The school committee’s role is to review and approve a budget for education in the district according to a process and timeline developed with the superintendent.  I would work to advocate that necessary funds are appropriated for the district and that a balance is maintained between needs and resources in the distribution of available monies.

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As one of six School Committee members, what is your plan for exercising leadership or making a difference on the School Committee?

Although I am running as an individual, I will lead as a member of a team. I will work on building strong relationships that facilitate collaboration among our educators/union and focus on teaching quality and educational improvement for students.

More specifically, I would invite the teachers and their unions to the table whenever possible. I would listen to them with respect. I would make sure to understand where they may need support to improve outcomes for students. And I would advocate to make sure those supports were implemented whenever it was feasible. I believe through mutual respect we could grow a more positive relationship moving forward and more easily navigate fair and equitable teachers’ contracts.  

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What should we do to improve how our schools respond to children with special needs?

All students deserve the right to attend high-quality public schools that prepare them for success. But, delivering effective special education services presents significant challenges to school districts and there remains much room for improvement in Belmont. This is evidenced by special education students’ relatively low graduation rates as compared to neurotypical students and more importantly limited postgraduation opportunities.

High-quality instruction in the general education environment is the first and most critical element of ensuring that students with disabilities achieve at high levels, but many students with disabilities also need high-quality and highly individualized special education and related services. This requires new thinking that challenges assumptions deeply established among many educators. Specifically, it requires moving away from explanations of educational failure that blame characteristics of individual students and move towards an understanding of the barriers to participation and learning. 

We also need to investigate a creation of teaching that can reach out to all learners within a class. Why not take a page from the town fire department. Hire only special needs certified educators for all our classrooms.

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In your opinion, do Belmont schools have a problem when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity? What should our schools be doing differently in hiring, curriculum, school climate, and working to improve outcomes for children of color?

If we did not have a problem, we wouldn’t be discussing it. I would say, follow the money. Where we are spending our money and time is where the school system puts its values. So, we need to be intentional about what happens moving forward. If we want to hire diverse educators, we need to seek them out the same way a college recruits a football player. If we want to add an understanding of diversity in the classroom and curriculum, we can start with always teaching as if every school is already multicultural by adding literature set in different cultures. And if we want to gauge School Climate, we simply need to listen to our students-they know the climate better than all of us.

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Many parents are upset at the ending of the accelerated math options in 6th and 7th grades at the Chenery.* Should our schools have different math offerings for children of varying ability levels? Or does that cause some children to get left behind?

We should absolutely keep the Math Acceleration Program at Chenery and similar advanced learning options for our students.  Just as we support our special needs students with appropriate accommodations to allow them to access the curriculum, we need to support our brightest students to achieve their best.  

(*) Editor’s note: School Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich informs me that Belmont will be maintaining an accelerated math program based on Somerville’s MX2 Geometry program, which will be implemented in time for the start of the new school year. Superintendent Phelan will be presenting the administration’s plans at a forthcoming School Committee Curriculum Subcommittee meeting.

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Do you plan to vote in support of the Proposition 2 1/2 Override? Please explain your decision to vote YES or NO on the override. 

“Money alone does not guarantee success any more than a lack of it guarantees failure, often, the difference is how you spent the extra money.” — Paul Reville

I support a NO Vote. Amidst a pandemic is not the right time to put this question on the ballot and I am surprised that our town manager and selectman would move forward with this now. Belmont is not thriving financially. Mismanagement has led us effectively to millions in deficit where the apparent plan is to attempt to raise taxes every 3 years, if you use the average override seen on ballots for the last twenty years. I support a no vote to force our leaders to understand that how we spend matters even more than how much we spend.

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