Interestingly, Councilor At-Large candidate Hong Net is one of few (if not the only) city council candidates that specifically names education as one of his top campaign issues. See below for the answers to a few questions posed to Net regarding his thoughts on public school funding and how he would attempt to work with the school committee to better the Lynn Public Schools if elected to city council.
Part of your platform is to prioritize funding to the Lynn Public Schools. How do you think that public school funding in Lynn could be improved?
To improve funding for Lynn public schools, I would suggest hiring a grant-writing agency that has experience writing grants to improve public education. There are untapped funds available, and as city councilor-at-large I would work with the mayor, school committee members, and the school superintendent to find ways to apply for these resources.
Given current levels of funding, we need to take a hard look at how we are spending our money. This is primarily the responsibility of the School Committee but I would be happy to share ideas if invited.
Some things I would like to see us seek finding for are:
-opening closed schools or other existing schools to reduce class sizes
-nutrition: ensure that school lunches and vending machines are healthier so children can concentrate in class
-summer learning programs or extended year to give our students extra support
-after-hours programs for parents inside the schools (ESL, etc.)
You are also advocating for arts and recreational programming for Lynn youth. Given the budgetary constraints that we are currently facing, do you believe that these types of programs could actually be established in the short term?
Budget constraints are real. However, there are many talented individuals--young and old--that have shown interest in volunteering. We must pursue creative ways to engage these people and connect the dots for our children. One promising idea I have heard lately is a plan to open up one of our high schools for evening hours for youth activities and adult education. I am positive that “if you build it, they will come” and that dedicated volunteers would be excited to lend a hand or teach a weekly workshop. In general, we as a city must increase coordination and be creative to make the most of what we have with limited financial resources.
There are already groups like Khmer American Youth in Action and Project YES (Youth Empowerment for Success), which are running very successfully with relatively little money. We can also seek funds from generous individuals and hold fundraisers to establish and support these programs and others like them. In some cases it may be possible to encourage partnerships between schools and non-profits so that after-school organizations can provide programming in the schools.
Do you have any other plans for youth in terms of things like after school programs and summer jobs?
I would like to explore the possibility of having internship programs for high school students in local organizations and businesses. Also, if we can encourage them to even get involved in their respective religious and community institutions it would help promote civic engagement and help them make positive life choices. Another goal I have is is to see our youth join established programs like the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps to volunteer in other countries. Exposure to these kinds of career paths can open up young people’s horizons and motivate them to think big about their future and their involvement within the global village.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many young people and youth work professionals in the city. One concept that I would support is for the city to set aside a centralized building for youth activities. By inviting existing programs to run their programs in this building on a rotating basis, we could ensure that there is always at least one place for youth to go even as funded programs shift and change.
How do you think the City Council and the School Committee could better work together to improve the Lynn Public Schools and increase parental involvement?
To better work together to improve the Lynn public schools and increase parental involvement, I think that the City Council and the School Committee needs to have an open communication line for sharing ideas and expertise. Although the Council does not have the authority to oversee or make any decision for the School Committee and the school administration, we can still make recommendations to them, the superintendent, and the mayor on behalf of our constituents.
Parental involvement is an essential key to student success. As I said in the first debate at ELCA, schools alone cannot educate our children--it must be a community effort. I believe that parents who are immigrants or non-native English speakers do care for their children’s education, but are often unable to meet teachers halfway due to their work hours or language barrier. I would be excited to work with the School Committee on any effort to reach out to motivated bilingual parents.
Anything else you would like to add?
In addition to providing structured after-school enrichment programming, I think we can offer more opportunities for our young people to get involved in their community. North Shore Community College ran a great Youth Leadership Initiative that resulted in a resolution to create a Lynn City Youth Council. Brendan Crighton teaches a civics and politics class to high schoolers at NSCC. Classical High School requires its seniors to research the political candidates and volunteer with their campaigns. These sorts of opportunities get young people involved in our city and help them take ownership. I also believe we will learn quite a lot from the Youth City Council once they are up and running!
I am happy to have been running a positive campaign dedicated to empowering communities to address our most pressing issues. I hope you will consider me for one of your four votes come November 8. To connect with our campaign, please visit votehong.net, email email@example.com or call 781-309-7771. And "like" Hong Net for Lynn City Councilor-At-Large on Facebook.
For another Q & A with Hong Net, see - Councilor At-Large 2011 - Hong Net