Friday, August 28, 2015

Lynn School Committee 2015 Q & A: Jared Nicholson

Jared Nicholson is among the candidates for  running for School Committee in this year's municipal election. Nicholson currently works at Northeast Legal Aid in Lynn, where he provides free legal help to small businesses that cannot afford it to help them get started and grow in Lynn. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, he was formerly the Executive Director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Nicholson's connection to the Lynn Public Schools dates back to the turn of the last century, when his great-grandfather graduated from Lynn Classical.

Here Jared answered a few questions regarding his candidacy for Lynn School Committee. 

Why are you running for School Committee?

I am running for School Committee because I am so excited by the potential this city has, and I know that to reach that potential, we need to help our kids meet theirs. On a personal note, I plan to raise my family here, and like many Lynners, I want to send my future kids to great public schools. 

I am an attorney at Northeast Legal Aid, where I provide free legal help small businesses who can’t afford it to help them get started and grow in Lynn, with the goal of contributing to community economic development. That goal, contributing to community economic development, is a big reason why I’m running. Having great schools is so important to our city’s hopes for growth. Great schools broaden opportunities for our children, attract new businesses that know the value of good public education, and encourage young families to move-in and stay in Lynn.

We want longtime multi-generational residents, newer immigrant families, and young professionals looking for a historic community near Boston all to see a bright future here. That vision requires investing in great public schools and bringing innovative ideas to the table about how we stretch limited resources to meet the challenges of a diverse school district. As Lynn sets the standard for gateway city resurgence, public education needs to be recognized as the foundation upon which the city’s future is built. I’m running to encourage that recognition.

Describe the knowledge and abilities that you believe a successful graduate of the Lynn Public School student should possess.

Successful graduates of the Lynn Public Schools should have the skills, knowledge and character they need to succeed in life and in their college or career plans. They should also graduate with at least a rough draft of those plans, along with a life-long love of learning that will help them adapt to the changing demands of the 21st century economy and lead fulfilling, responsible lives.

The skills and knowledge should include traditional subjects as well as the social-emotional skills they need as well-rounded citizens. Our students should also graduate having begun to form their relationship with their community. That relationship should include both how to access the resources available to them and how to give back and engage in the community’s civic life.

Finally, the schools should prepare our graduates to lead safe and healthy lives. One of the things that I’ve been struck by as I’ve been running is how much we ask of our schools. The schools don’t just educate our children, they’re also the front line of prevention on a host of important issues – including drugs, crime, obesity and reproductive health to name a few.

The Lynn Public School System is currently underfunded by approximately $15 million. Given the city’s financial constraints, do you think the focus should be on seeking waivers for this deficit and changes to the net school spending language or on finding ways to increase revenue and allocate more money toward public education? 

I believe we should focus on finding ways to increase revenue and allocate more money toward public education. We should fund our schools at the level that’s at least 100% of the state funding formula. My understanding is that the city plans to do that going forward.

As far as the prior accounting errors that have created the deficit, we need to continue to negotiate with the state to make sure we avoid any penalties. As an attorney with a business background, I feel like I’d be able to contribute to those negotiations if they remain open.

When it comes to the budget, I wouldn’t stop there. I also think that it makes sense to look at changes to the net school spending language. The state’s school funding system is old, and in the process of being updated.  As a School Committee member, I would want to help support our state delegation and leaders from similar cities around the state as that process unfolds to make sure that we are able to meet the needs of our students and our schools. 

In your opinion, are the issues facing public education in Lynn overall similar or different from the educational issues being discussed nationally? How so?

There are definitely some issues facing public education in Lynn that are similar to the educational issues being discussed nationally. One of them is the concern about the growth in in high stakes testing and the effect that’s having on the learning culture. Another is the interest in and need for developing community schools.

One of the most urgent issues facing public education here in Lynn is rising student enrollment and the resulting overcrowding, which goes hand in hand with the physical state of our schools. Other communities may face similar challenges, but it’s such a local issue that it doesn’t always get the same national attention as other educational issues being discussed.

Overcrowding is a strain on our teachers, who are asked to achieve more learning even as class sizes rise. It is also a logistical challenge, given the difficulty finding physical space and resources in the city’s budget to build new schools. The physical state of the schools in a community is a reflection of the priority that it puts on education, and I know that our community cares more about education than the physical state of our schools would suggest.

We’ve obviously had some major issues going through the school construction process in the past that has put us behind.  It’s exciting to have the new Marshall opening next year. As we begin the process for the construction of a new Pickering Middle School, we should make the most of the opportunity and make sure that the planning accounts for the rising enrollment numbers that we know will continue.

Why should Lynn residents cast their vote for you on November 3rd?

I believe that I have a lot to contribute to the School Committee’s work as a legal aid attorney who speaks Spanish and has a passion for public education having attended public schools myself, studied education policy in college at Princeton and worked for the Massachusetts Secretary of Education. I’m ready to focus on best practices and new ideas on issues like expanding pathways for students to college and jobs, developing students’ social-emotional skills in addition to improving test scores, and offering more after-school activities (like wrestling).

We already know that the challenges the next School Committee will face will include financial concerns, rising student enrollment and infrastructure needs. I believe that my legal and quantitative skills will be particularly valuable in work on those issues. 

Finally, I am also ready to hear from and work with anyone who has ideas or concerns for our schools. I invite readers to please reach out to me with any thoughts, questions or concerns so I can hear your ideas and get your thoughts on the new ideas I plan to bring. That’s the approach I plan to take as a candidate and as a member of the Committee. Please look me up on my Facebook page or on my website,

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