The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2020 election will be held on March 17.
Melissa Martin is one of three candidates running for the two open three-year terms on the School Committee. The five-member Wellesley School Committee is made up of local residents. Like other town boards, members of the School Committee receive no payment for their volunteer services. The Committee’s responsibilities are to develop and manage school policies; support the allocation of resources by overseeing budget and facilities; hire and review the superintendent of schools; and advocate for the school district.
We invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and their priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Below are candidate Melissa Martin’s answers. Lauren Duprey’s Q & A ran in a previous post. Catherine Mirick’s Q & A will run later.
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Melissa Martin: It has been an honor to serve our community as a member of the Wellesley School Committee since 2017, including as its current Chair. I have appreciated the opportunity to leverage my professional background in non-profit financial management and my Harvard MBA in support of our school system. In addition, I have frequently drawn upon my personal experience as a mother of four children who have attended the Wellesley Public Schools.
The work of the School Committee is complex, deep, and broad, and I have worked hard to learn the facts, to dive deeply into the data, and to engage the community and relevant town boards in discussions about the opportunities and challenges facing our schools. Together with my colleagues on the Committee, I strive to make the best decisions for our students.
SR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish on the School Committee?
Melissa Martin: I intend to continue supporting our district’s commitment to “Focus on every child, in every classroom, every day,” particularly through investments in differentiated teaching, social and emotional learning, cultural competence and 21 st Century learning and skills.
On a facilities front, there is much work to do at both the elementary and middle school levels. During the fall of 2020, the Committee plans to bring forward a request for construction funds to improve building systems at the Middle School — an investment that will extend the facility’s major systems to a 25-year life span. In addition, I hope to achieve our goal of educating all of our elementary school students in appropriate facilities by 2024.
SR: What is your hot-button issue?
Melissa Martin: I support a NO vote on the March 17th ballot question related to the Hardy, Hunnewell and Upham (HHU) projects. The non-binding ballot question asks if the Town should rebuild and/or renovate all three of those elementary schools instead of building only two schools at this time. The question as framed ignores crucial context, including declining elementary school enrollment and financial considerations.
The School Committee’s plan is to build the Hunnewell school and either the Hardy or Upham school now, and then rebuild the third school when enrollment will support it. The inconvenient truth is that all three facilities need to be completely rebuilt, yet elementary enrollment has declined by 386 students since the 2008-2009 school year and is predicted to continue to decline. It is neither educationally nor fiscally responsible to spend tens of millions of additional taxpayer dollars to rebuild a third school that we do not need at this point in time.
We are currently on a path to bring a request for construction funds to Town Meeting for both the Hunnewell project and the Hardy/Upham project in the spring of 2021, with a debt exclusion to follow. Based on this time frame, the Town would be able to educate all its elementary school students in appropriate facilities by 2024. A NO vote on the ballot question supports this carefully deliberated plan. A YES vote, on the other hand, could jeopardize our ability to provide appropriate facilities for any of the children at those three schools in a timely fashion.