The candidates for election to the three-year seat on the Reading School Committee got together on Monday evening at RCTV Studios for a live televised forum on the issues. The candidates, Jeanne Borawski, Linda Snow Dockser, and Erin Calvo-Bacci, each started with a brief opening statement. Borawski spoke of her experience as a former teacher and her work at local nonprofit, Understanding Disabilities. Snow Dockser listed her twenty years of volunteerism in the schools and the community. Calvo-Bacci said she would bring her years as a parent and local business owner to the table if elected to the committee. Questions on a variety of topics then were posed by Catherine Robertson and John Carpenter, moderated by Alan Foulds.
The opening question asked each candidate if she were in favor of attempting an override for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. None of the three candidates specifically said yes or no to the question though all three underscored the need for a creative approach to the school district’s funding needs. Questions from this point ranged on topics such as evaluation of the superintendent, managing disagreement, and encouraging diversity in the school system. When asked about district policy changes Mrs. Calvo-Bacci stated that she was interested in seeing an increase in direct business-related skills for students. Mrs. Borawski mentioned finding a way to continue to support growth in social and emotional learning once federal grants expire. Dr. Snow Dockser talked about continuing programs in creative problem solving and communication skills.
The three candidates also discussed how to combat staff turnover. The incumbents, Borawski and Snow Dockser both warned about making assumptions about why staff have left and discussed new data collection methods being utilized to find out the reasons behind turnover. Each also mentioned increased teacher support mechanisms. Calvo-Bacci spoke of a more “roll up your sleeves” approach, suggesting more time spent by administration with staff to learn what is going on in the schools. The questioning period ended by asking each candidate the biggest concern facing the school district. Dr. Snow Dockser expressed concern about student anxiety. Mrs. Calvo-Bacci would like to see a more precise listing of priorities for the district. When asked, Mrs. Borawski listed two concerns: addressing the budget gap and getting every school in Reading to accountability level two.
The forum ended with closing statements from each candidate. “I have the right background and right experience to help address these concerns.” Borawski shared. Snow Dockser added, “The health, happiness, and success of our students is paramount.” Calvo-Bacci ended with, “I want to bring my business experience to the School Committee.” The forum can be viewed in its entirety on RCTV’s YouTube channel. The election will be on April 4 at the Hawkes Field House.