Uncontested Northampton School Committee candidates respond to Gazette questions

Last modified: Saturday, October 31, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton School Committee candidates are running unopposed in six wards. The Gazette asked each candidate to supply information about themselves and their qualifications for the job. Below are their responses:

Ward 1

Rebecca Busansky, 49

82 Jackson St.

Background: Family and community are critical values in my life. My three children attend Jackson Street School, JFK, and NHS, where they are happy and thriving. My husband, Jonah Zuckerman, is a furniture maker. I am an active volunteer in public education, currently serving as the NHS PTO Secretary and on two Northampton Education Foundation committees. Professionally, I coordinate the PVGrows Investment Fund, providing financing and technical assistance to farm and food businesses to strengthen our local food system.

Reasons for running: I am passionate about public schools, and I want to use my problem-solving and communications expertise to improve the experiences for all students so they can thrive and succeed. Northampton has wonderful public schools and I believe we can make those schools even better. I have been fortunate to volunteer alongside so many smart, dedicated parents working to improve our local public schools, and it has inspired me to run. I want to listen and learn from everyone in the system, especially students, parents, teachers, and administrators and help give those who have not been heard a voice in the conversation.

Priorities: I look forward to tackling many of the challenges currently facing our public school system. I believe that Northampton has a great opportunity to work with a strong Superintendent who is providing the critical leadership and stability our schools need. This is an important foundation for change. First, it is imperative that we provide challenges and opportunities for all students, especially for those families who do not have the means to go elsewhere or provide supplementary learning. Second, I will continue to advocate for increasing funding at the state level. This is an opportune moment for the School Committee, given our State Senator Stan Rosenberg’s role as Senate President, and the important work of Raise Up Massachusetts. Third, I would work to improve communication with parents, especially at the middle and high school level. My hope is that this in turn, will help to increase parental involvement during these years.

Ward 2

Laura Fallon, 43

12 Massasoit St.

Background: I am the mother of four children attending Jackson Street School and JFK. My professional background is in education. I have experience teaching Spanish at the elementary school, middle school, high school and university level. I am a board member of the Northampton Education Foundation, active in the School Local Northampton campaign, work as an interviewer for admissions for Rice University and serve as an adviser to the Religious Education Board at our church.

Reasons for running: I have had the privilege of serving Ward 2 for the past year and found the work to be both interesting and rewarding. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know so many members of our community, spending time in our district schools and learning as much as I possibly could about the financial, curricular, and policy decisions being made at both the local and state levels. I welcome the opportunity to continue my work on the School Committee and will focus on improving upon past successes and honing in on those areas that still need improvement.

Priorities: I would like to ensure that the needs of each and every student are being met by providing additional support to those who are struggling, quality curriculum to those students who are performing at grade level and more challenges for those students who are advanced. For this to occur, I think we need to continue to assess student performance, examine how well differentiated instruction is being implemented and continue to provide as much professional development as possible to our educators.

I will work to improve communication within our school community and with the greater Northampton community. Everyone is working really hard, but it’s important that we are working together. I will continue to promote our schools so that more families are aware of the amazing opportunities Northampton Public Schools offer students.

Finally, I will continue to meet with our legislators and lobby the state government for more school funding.

Ward 3

Howard Moore, 57

56 Cross Path Road

Background: I’m a homemaker and part-time lawyer, specializing in care and protection cases. I have been a lawyer since 1998. Prior to that I was a crew coach for 10 years, and before that I was a baker. I grew up and went to college in Lawrence, Kansas. My wife and I moved to Northampton in 1992. We have four children, the oldest of whom is in college; the other three are in middle and high school.

Reasons for running: I am running because I am interested in the questions that come to the School Committee, because my varied background is often valuable when discussing those questions, and because I want to be a part of the public process.

Priorities: I think the most important role of a committee member is supporting open, honest and respectful discussion, both on the committee and in the community. The more difficult the issue, the more important that is. We need to work to find and implement the best practices for our students, even though those practices are not what we are used to doing. And we need to keep working on how to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse student population.

Ward 4

Edward Zuchowski Jr., 44

67 Ice Pond Drive

Background: I have lived in Northampton and Ward 4 my entire life. I graduated from the Northampton public schools in 1989. I attended the university of Massachusetts and went on to a career as a Spanish teacher at Easthampton High School where I have worked for the last 22 years. I have been very involved with youth baseball in the city and have coached many teams. I have lived on Ice Pond Drive with my wife and two children for the last 11 years.

Reasons for running: I have been on the School Committee for the last eight years and have been honored to represent the people of Ward 4. I believe that being involved in city government is important work and is the responsibility of all its citizens. If elected, I will continue my work to represent the residents of Ward 4 and to find ways to support the education of every student in our fine schools.

Priorities: First, I think it is important that we work on getting our district out of Level 3 status. We must support Bridge and Leeds schools in ways which will allow them to continue to improve. Second, I would like to see our low-income students who are struggling, find ways to lower their absenteeism and increase their student learning. Third, I would like to find ways to decrease the turnover of our highly qualified staff so that they stay with us for many years.

Ward 5

Ann M. Hennessey, 50

186 Federal St., Florence

Background: I live in Florence with my wife Jo Comerford and two children, who are students at Jackson Street School. I have a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, and master’s degrees from Wheelock College and Harvard University. I have been a special education and/or social studies teacher for more than 20 years and have served on the Board at Sunnyside. Currently, I am the supervisor of the social studies department at Chicopee High School.

Reasons for running: I am running for School Committee because I believe in the power and importance of public education to our democracy. Simply, I love Northampton Public Schools and want to help move them forward.

Priorities: The three most important issues I plan to work on are 1. continuing to prioritize the goals set forth by Superintendent Provost in the District Improvement Plan, 2. making certain that teachers’ voices are heard in the myriad discussions on policy and budget, and 3. making certain that the arts are funded.

Ward 7

Downey Meyer, 49

516 North Farms Road

Background: I have been teaching science for most of the past 20 years, and currently work at Mohawk Trail Regional High School in Shelburne Falls. In addition to the School Committee, I have also served on the Conservation Commission and the Community Preservation Committee in Northampton. Before beginning my career in education, I was an attorney.

Reasons for running: I have served on the School Committee since 2010. I believe that the School Committee can help to secure the resources that are necessary to run an exceptional school system, and that the committee can help to ensure that the work of that system is aligned with the priorities of our community. At the same time, education in Massachusetts is highly regulated by the state, and our system must adhere to regulations and initiatives that are handed down from the state level. I hope that I can help our schools be what our community desires and what the state requires.

Priorities: “I will work to ensure that adequate financial resources are available to meet the educational needs of our children. I will work to ensure that our schools help each student to develop in a way that appreciates that each student is an individual with distinct abilities and goals in life. I will work to ensure that our schools help each student to develop the broad array of talents that will be needed to allow them to contribute to a complex and rapidly changing world.”


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