The Belmont School Committee is an unpaid six-member board. Members are elected to overlapping, three-year terms with two members elected each year. By state law (chap 71, State Law Chapter 71, the School Committee is the policy setting entity for the public schools. It also appoints the Superintendent, approves several other key positions, approves the budget, and negotiates with school unions.
The Warrant Committee recommends and, ultimately, Town Meeting appropriates, a yearly budget for the school system as a single line item. The School Committee has full control over how that money is spent.
Three year position (vote for two)
Three candidates’ names will appear on this year’s ballot. You can vote for two. Click on the link to view the candidate’s survey response.
Rachel Watson | 73 Hull Street
|Campaign website/Facebook page/ Etc. (optional)||https://www.watsonforbelmont.com/|
|I’m a candidate for:||School Committee|
|I am running as a:||First-time candidate|
|Volunteer & community activities? (optional)||Special Education Parent Advisory Council co-chair|
Superintendent Screening Committee Chair
|Candidate’s Statement||Having served as superintendent search committee chair and Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) co-chair this year, I am optimistic that we can turn our district’s challenges into opportunities. I also have specific ideas to achieve this. For example, with the opening of the new school, we have the space to move more special education programs in district, thereby increasing equity and creating significant budgetary efficiencies. We need good information on exactly what needs we cannot fulfill in district, and then we must develop programs to meet those needs, either on our own or with LABBB. I have been advocating for our students on multiple fronts well before initiating my campaign, and I know what our school community is looking for.|
|Supporting Belmont Public Schools||As a school committee member, I would prioritize budgeting that ensures robust long term fiscal health and quality education. For example, as I noted in my candidate statement, the best way to provide quality special education programs and control cost is by moving more of them in district. Currently, we have no in district programs for students who need to learn outside general education classrooms. The only programs physically located in Belmont are part of the LABBB collaborative, which is shared with Lexington, Arlington, Bedford and Burlington. The cost just to transport a student to an out of district program was $9600 per student per year in 2009. Moreover, this year, DESE approved a 14% increase to out of district tuition. This increase will cost at least an additional $794,000 over projected costs for next year. By bringing more programs in district or working with LABBB we can make our schools more inclusive and control costs.|
In addition to expanding in district special education, we must intensify efforts to screen our students and find the ones who do need greater support to access the curriculum as early as possible. We then must aggressively intervene. As SEPAC co-chair, many parents have come to me frustrated that they have observed that their child may need greater support, but they cannot get the district to evaluate them thoroughly. Others are seeking help because the district is seeking to reduce services their child needs, or the plan in place isn’t being implemented with fidelity. We must be move to a more proactive model so that needs are addressed early before more intensive and costly interventions are required, and before students become discouraged and unengaged. Continually focusing on cost cutting over prudent investment in key areas will only lead to continuous budget crises.
|Belmont Public Schools – non budget priorities||1. Improving the communication within the district and to the community from the district is top priority for me. Currently, we rely heavily on emails sent to families that have signed up for a listserv, or on postings on websites that stakeholders must proactively seek out. Families feel overwhelmed by the volume and length of emails and yet do not feel informed. The community outside of those with children in school feels disconnected and uninformed of what is happening the schools. Without a local newspaper, this will be challenging to address, but it’s vital to creating the sense of trust and community that was shattered in the pandemic.|
2. I will work to improve the school culture in grades 5-8. Unfortunately, most students do not report having a positive experience in the middle grades, despite the hard work of our educators. We should start with holding the administration and the Chenery Upper Elementary principal accountable for creating a schedule that includes at least the 20 minutes of recess recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians for all 5th and 6th grade students. Recess is not an extra, but vital for student well-being and focus. We must also stop using negative messaging to communicate expectations to our students, not matter what their age is. Social emotional learning and diversity, equity and inclusion should be integrated and woven in with how students learn, how we address our students and how we design their day. Our students deserve a school environment that supports their mental health and well-being.
3. I would look for ways to include more challenging work for students in K-8 programs. Project based styles of learning can allow educators to design lessons that can be scaffolded for some students and provide paths for others to engage more deeply with material. We often focus on providing challenging coursework at the high school level, but if we neglect to provide such course work before high school, we are creating an inequitable system. Twice exceptional students will struggle with behavioral expectations because once they become bored and unengaged, they cannot self-regulate. Students from under-resourced families will not have the opportunity to develop the skills to grasp more challenging high school coursework. Public schools are meant to serve all types of students, and if we pride ourselves on academic excellence, we must provide academic rigor for students of all ages and learning needs.
Jung Yueh | 151 Waverley St.
|Campaign website/Facebook page/ Etc. (optional)||http://jungforbelmont.com|
|I’m a candidate for:||School Committee|
|I am running as a:||First-time candidate|
|Volunteer & community activities? (optional)||I have been a soccer coach for 9 years and currently on the board of the Belmont Soccer Association. I run the in-town program for K-8 kids. I have coached over 100 boys and girls in Belmont.|
I was treasurer for Butler School PTA for two years when both of my kids were at Butler. I was serving when Meg Moriaty was PTA president.
I volunteered and served on the Elementary School Advisory Committee on Hybrid Learning in 2020 for the School Committee. We dived into the survey data deeply and was able to allow the committee to digest what everyone was saying. It was a rough time for everyone, but the conversations we had were important in helping people understand different perspectives.
As an MIT alum, I volunteer as an education counselor, interviewing high school seniors for admission. I’ve done in-person interviews in the past, but for the recent years my interviews are done over Zoom and most recently, my responsible area is west Africa, where I have interviewed some very impressive students who grew up in countries much poorer than us.
|Candidate’s Statement||I am running for the School Committee because we are in a critical transition stage for our schools. I bring the skills, experience, and commitment necessary to navigate this transition successfully. As an actuary and Chartered Financial Analyst, I have expertise in benefit valuation, budgeting and long-term financial planning. As a trained mediator, I am used to listening to diverse opinions and bringing people together. As a first-generation immigrant to the United States, I understand the value of education in providing opportunity for — and meeting the needs of — all students, so all Belmont children can reach their fullest potential.|
|Supporting Belmont Public Schools||Projecting the future budget is one of my strengths that I can bring to the school committee. The budget process is likely to be well on its way by the time the election happens, so it will be my responsibility to think forward to 2024 and beyond.|
Since the hope is a stabilizing budget with a 2 ½ override, we should prioritize reductions that are only temporary in nature. We should only permanently cut a program that did not perform, not cut a program due to budget constraint. In fact, I feel it will be my job to convey a convincing vision for us to make budget plans for the long term. For example, frequent but manageable overrides, and spend money on proven, effective education programs for all students.
We should also look to increase the base. For example, increase business revenue within Belmont, look to our state representative for relief related to out-of-district placements, and get a better understanding on how the Fair Share Amendment is going to help us to fund our schools. For example, Governer Healey’s budget is already providing more support than we anticipated.
|Belmont Public Schools – non budget priorities||As we transition our kids to the new middle school, Chenery Upper Elementary and onboarding a new superintendent, it would be my hope that we make careful, lasting hires of the principals, administrators and teachers so we get back to a steady state. Only by retaining our quality staff can we maintain excellence in our school system.|
We should also pay more attention to our children’s mental health. This would include keeping our professional mental health stall in the high school beyond 2026. This also includes recess time at Chenery, and later school start times for the teenagers. We are moving to a new school configuration, and building these into the planning will benefit everyone, and are also likely to be budget neutral.
We need to find a superintendent who is a community builder and seeks to build and maintain a school system that teachers are proud to work for and students love to go to. In addition to hiring the superintendent, the SC’s job is to supervise and review the superintendent’s work, and I expect anyone who we hire will be a willing partner of the SC to be accountable to the entire community.
Amy A. Zuccarello | 78 Elizabeth Rd.
|Campaign website/Facebook page/ Etc. (optional)||http://AmyZforBelmont.com|
|I’m a candidate for:||School Committee|
|I am running as a:||First-time candidate|
|Volunteer & community activities? (optional)||During my time in Belmont as a parent, I have held leadership roles as the town-wide service unit coordinator of Belmont Girl Scouts (5 years), been a troop leader of Troop 69200 (9 years) and served as a Board Member and Secretary of Parents of Music Students (POMS) (6 years). In addition, I have held roles with parent-teacher organizations at both Burbank and Chenery Middle School, as the Burbank PTA Treasurer, and co-chair of events at both schools including the Dr. Feinberg Geography Challenge, Science Night, Library Night and both the 4th and 8th Grade Moving-On events. Despite my general lack of familiarity with soccer, I also served as an assistant coach for my daughter’s Second Soccer team for several seasons. I am most proud of my work with Belmont Girl Scouts, which has grown into a group of more than 300 girls who are learning to “take the lead” in their communities and who inspire me every day. I am very much invested in Belmont and committed to seeing our public school system thrive for these girls and every other student in our community.|
|Candidate’s Statement||I am running for School Committee because I am deeply invested in the strength of our public schools. I am a lifelong resident of Belmont, a graduate of the Belmont Public Schools and the parent of both a current student and a BHS graduate. My background as a financial restructuring lawyer will allow me to contribute immediately to the School Committee’s work managing the school budget to address Belmont’s fiscal challenges. Notwithstanding my work with distressed companies and transactions, I consider myself an optimist and I believe that anything is possible for those who are willing to plan effectively, work hard, and use their resources wisely.|
My goals are to maintain academic excellence and to meet the needs of all students. Belmont’s fine public schools provided me with the strong foundation I needed to become a first-generation professional. I am running for School Committee to ensure that every student has the same opportunity to develop and thrive here. Although we have work to do as a community to make this our future, I am committed to putting in the time and energy to make it happen.
|Supporting Belmont Public Schools||We need both short-term and long-term strategies to address this issue. Realistically, as a short-term solution, the school budget needs to be supplemented by the use of some free cash from the town’s budget to be sure that we are not cutting essential student services as a result of this deficit. As a long-term solution, to keep our schools excellent and well-funded we need to do a full analysis of the district’s special education program and the factors that drive out of district placements. The first step is analyzing the problem – we really need to know whether Belmont is sending more students out of district when compared to comparable towns, why we aren’t meeting the needs of these students within the district and what specific services are required to meet the needs of these students within the district. Once we have answers to these questions, we can then determine if it is feasible to broaden the services we are providing within the town to reduce the number of out-of-district placements. Making programs and services available in-district for our special needs students would be a win-win for the district: students would be able to remain in Belmont and the district could bring the associated costs within our control. By investing in building a robust program here – in district – we may also have the ability to accommodate OOD placements from other towns and generate additional revenue. This strategy uses one of our assets – our new physical space – to accommodate the learning needs of our students and provide fiscal stability to the district.|
|Belmont Public Schools – non budget priorities||1) Maintain Excellence In Education for All Students|
Belmont schools need to be focused both on challenging high-performing students and supporting the academic needs of students who require or benefit from extra support. This is not a question of choosing one over the other, as we need to do both things well. All Belmont students need to be assured access to excellent quality in public education.
2) Support the Social and Emotional Well-Being of our Students
Children have been uniquely impacted by the pandemic, having experienced this crisis during important periods of physical, social, and emotional development. In the past few years, adolescents have experienced worsened emotional health, increased stress, and a lack of peer connection. Our schools need to provide the resources for our students and their families to address these needs.
3) Maintain and Improve Fine and Performing Arts Programs
Belmont’s strong commitment to its fine and performing arts has made our community a wonderful place to live. Strong programs in these areas give our students another way to connect with our educators and inspire a lifelong love of the arts. My family’s introduction to Belmont music came when my then-fourth-grade student picked up a trombone at a music department petting zoo. Years later, he found a community of “his people” in the Belmont Band Program and has gone on to study music at the college level. Like other music programs across the state, budget cuts and obstacles inherent in the remote learning model have presented challenges to the continued success of these programs. Now is not the time to reduce spending in arts and music. We need to focus on maintaining and ultimately improving the quality of these programs across all grade levels in our schools.