Incumbent Lynn School Committee member Jared Nicholson is running for re-election in this year's municipal election. Here he answers questions regarding his thoughts on the issues facing LPS.
One of the major issues facing the Lynn Public School System are current budgetary issues. What are your thoughts on the Foundation Budget review Commission's recommendations? Do you believe that the current funding formula needs to be revised?
I believe that the funding formula needs to be revised and I support many of the Foundation Budget review Commission’s recommendations. I especially support the recommendations to change the formula rates for English language learners, low-income students and special education students. We need more help from the Commonwealth to support the educational needs of those students.
I am not optimistic that the Commission’s findings will be adopted by the Massachusetts legislature in the immediate future. But I am more than willing to help our state delegation understand the challenges that the current formula creates for Lynn and advocate for change.
In my first term, I worked with my colleagues on the School Committee and the Lynn Teachers Union to write and send a letter to our state delegation on a change the state made to the definition of low-income students in the school funding formula that had hurt Lynn. I think it is important for the School Committee to speak up on issues that affect our public schools, even when those issues are beyond the scope of the School Committee’s formal authority.
Outside of changes to the funding formula, how else do you believe that the funding issues surrounding LPS could be addressed?
Beyond state funding, the city needs to improve its fiscal situation. In the long run, the best way to do that is to grow our commercial tax base. Responsible, inclusive growth will allow the city to make the investments it needs to make not only in education, but also in public safety and other crucial city services.
Another important source of funding is grants. We need to continue to push to find available grant funding. For example, when we started a middle wrestling team at Marshall Middle School, we were supported by private funding.
Finally, it is important that we make sure that the city meets its commitment under state law to adequately fund our schools. That is something that my colleagues and I on the School Committee have advocated for and something we expect to achieve this year. But it requires our focus and follow up.
In what ways, do you believe that LPS is doing well? In what ways is the district in need of improvement?
LPS has so many terrific educations, and there is a lot to be proud of in what those educators help our students accomplish. We are a large district with diverse needs, and consistently perform well in relation to our urban peers. In the long run, we need to keep pushing ourselves to improve to the point that we can say that we perform well in relation to all peers. That is a lofty goal and not something that LPS will accomplish by itself. But LPS has to lead the way.
Specific ways that the LPS is doing well include our expansion of programs to build pathways to college and jobs for students. We launched a program at Lynn Tech for students across the district to learn job skills after school and have expanded an Early College program at North Shore Community College that offers LPS students the opportunity to take free college courses for college credit. Lynn Tech has added vocational programs in IT and healthcare, two areas for which we know employers need people. Other examples of specific ways that LPS is doing well or is making progress is beginning to roll out a new social-emotional learning curriculum and targeted interventions to address the opioid crisis.
Specific areas that we need to improve include solving the problems we have with the physical state of our schools and the resulting overcrowding. 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 in the city and resources in the city’s budget to build new schools. But the physical state of the schools in a community reflects 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. Other examples of specific areas to improve are reversing the decrease in the dropout rate and offering more after-school programs.
Why should Lynn voters elect you to a second term on the Lynn School Committee?
I believe that voters should elect me to a second term on the Lynn School Committee because I continue to bring a fresh perspective and have built a record of leadership in my first term.
For example, in my first term, we started a wrestling team in Lynn. We launched a program at Lynn Tech for students across the district to learn job skills. We have begun to roll out a new social emotional learning curriculum. We have been strong advocates for the full funding of our schools. We came to an agreement with the Lynn Teachers Union that is fair to all sides and moves the District forward.
The District also faces serious ongoing challenges that require leadership today, chief among them rising enrollment and financial instability. I feel like I have a lot to contribute to work on those issues as an attorney with a business background.
Finally, as a Spanish-speaker who is accessible and responsive, I believe that I have a lot to offer all members of our community in listening to their concerns and helping to find solutions.
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