LtE: Important Questions We Should Be Asking of Our School Committee Candidates

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To My Fellow Constituents,

I recently had an opportunity to watch the televised “Town Hall” where each of the present candidates for Reading’s School Committee stated their case to the voters as to why they are most qualified. Among these candidates is a man by the name of Shawn Brandt. I must admit, the confidence that Brandt displayed during the Town Hall, and the ease at which he took credit for the accomplishments of his School Committee colleague (Tom Wise) was impressive. 

When Shawn first ran for office, his platform featured three main components:

  1. Integrity: 

“I want to see our leaders go out of their way to do the right thing. Overtly ignoring the charter and their ownpolicies simply because they can, is not what I am looking for in our leaders.” -Shawn Brandt

  1. Responsibility:

“I’m really tired of this ongoing narrative that being a volunteer in a position exempts you from facing criticism for the official actions you take in that position.” – Shawn Brandt

  1. Accountability:

“…because the Town Council informed them that, though their actions weren’t conducted in accordance with the Charter, there would be no consequences, is simply not good enough” – Shawn Brandt

These three campaign promises (Integrity, Responsibility and Accountability) are all that any person, in any city or town, could possibly ask of anyone seeking their vote, in a bid to represent their interests. In fact, these three things dovetail exactly with what is asked of elected School Committee Officials in the two documents that govern their behavior:

  1. The School Committee Member Authority
  2. The School Committee Member Ethics Policy

Given that I share Shawn’s stated values and place great importance on a person’s integrity, sense of responsibility and accountability- I wanted to ask the following:

  1. Was there ever a time when you failed to realize that your primary responsibility as a School Committee Member was the safety of the children in the district?
  2. Were there ever times when you neglected to realize or honor that your role was purely as a Policy Maker and at no time were you to involve yourself into operational administrative matters?
  3. Have your words and actions while in office, consistently demonstrated that you understood that your role was to represent the interests of the entire community in which you live (as opposed to picking and choosing which aspects of the community’s interests you represent)?
  4. While in office, have you ever (knowingly or unknowingly) “played politics”?
  5. Have your actions in office ever undermined or disrespected the clear, operational chain of command when it comes to the Operations and Administration of Reading Public Schools?
  6. Have you ever ignored the fact that you were compelled to direct all complaints to the RPS Administration, by making the conscious decision to insert yourself (or others) into RPS Operations?
  7. Have you ever intentionally withheld pertinent information from your colleagues or the RPS Administration relative to issues which may impact the safety of the children you are entrusted to serve?
  8. Have you ever ignored data, testimony or valid evidence that should/would be part of sound decision making process based on personal prejudice or ideological worldviews?
  9. Have you ever, while in office, ignored the laws and regulations which govern the way School Committees must conduct themselves- as outlined by the Massachusetts Board of Education?
  10. Have you ever intentionally or unintentionally dominated a scenario within the School Committee (either in formal meetings, in executive session, or behind the scenes)- to the detriment of the children you are entrusted to serve?
  11. Can you state, that every vote or official action that you have taken in the capacity of a School Committee Member, has been both impartial, and in the best interests of the children you are charged to protect?

If you are a parent with a child attending school in this town, I have three questions for you:

  1. If the answer to any of the questions above was “yes”, then how would that impact your perception of this individual’s integrity, sense of responsibility and accountability?
  2. If (hypothetically) someone answered “no” to the questions above, and you discovered that they lied- how would that impact your perception of whether that person was fit to be one of six people who decide what’s best for your kids (and whether you have a say in that at all)?
  3. Would the truthful answers to these questions have an impact on whether you decide to vote on March 5th, and who you would vote for?

It’s certainly something to think about, isn’t it?


Justin Perry
Whittier Road

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