Sarah Fox - Candidate for School Committee
Marblehead Beacon is presenting these candidate profiles in advance of our June 21 town elections with the goal of helping the community learn more about all of the individuals volunteering their time to run for public office. Please note that the answers included here are printed exactly as provided by each candidate, with only minor typographical edits. Marblehead Beacon does not endorse any candidate or validate any responses. All candidates for the Select Board, Town Moderator, Board of Health, Light Department, and School Committee who had available contact information were given the opportunity to respond to a set of questions specific to the office for which they are running.
What is your professional experience, including handling budgets, and how has your background prepared you to serve on the School Committee?
I have vast budget experience from my professional background as an Interior Designer specializing in project management of large-scale new construction and renovations. I was responsible for budget proposals, tracking, and reconciliation in my professional career. My professional experience developed my keen understanding that successful plans require aligned goals, timelines, and action items, all of which need to be frequently evaluated throughout the process to ensure maximizing outcomes. As a professional, I also have a deep knowledge that constructive criticism and productive debate are necessary and in fact, the most valuable element in achieving the best result.
I am very proud of the work I have done as the chair of the School Facilities Committee. I have successfully advocated for funding a professional facilities assessment. Using the information from that assessment, I worked with the facilities committee to create the ten-year facilities master plan, which lays out the capital investments that need to be made each year with associated costs.
As a member of the School Building Committee, I worked on the largest capital project Marblehead has ever taken on and am proud that we brought the Brown School under budget and ahead of schedule.
I am very proud of my reputation on the school committee as an independent thinker who comes to all meetings prepared to ask questions, engage in constructive debate, and stay focused on students' needs. I am proud of my candor and honesty and feel it is an asset to the committee and community.
If you are currently serving on the School Committee, what do you believe are your most significant accomplishments thus far? If you are not currently serving, how would you evaluate the efforts of the School Committee over the past year?
If re-elected to the school committee, I would prioritize taking the work that has been done through the planning for success process and expanding it into a clear strategic plan. Just as I was able to do with the Facilities Strategic plan, I will prioritize a district wide plan aligning initiatives with action plans and budget drivers. I will prioritize student outcomes and achievement focusing on investing in curriculum, special education, and the social-emotional needs of our students. Learning loss and the effects of the pandemic continue to need to be addressed and require being a focus in the coming year.
Do you support the general override for school funding that will be on the ballot on June 21? Are there any aspects of the funding with which you disagree?
I support the general override. While there are aspects of the override that I feel need more work, I know our current budget extremely well and know that we have been underfunded for many years.
For many years, our schools have relied on private funding via our PTO/PCOs, Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools grants, private donations, and other forms of community support to bridge the gaps between our students' needs and what is provided for in our operating budget. I advocated prioritizing a K-6th grade Social Studies curriculum, Social-Emotional curriculum, and district-wide curriculum coaches to ensure an aligned curriculum for all our students and investments in special education to provide more inclusion, and I am disappointed they were not included in our current budget. If elected, I will continue to prioritize student-focused spending.
Do you support the current trend toward de-leveling high school courses so that all students take classes together rather than having the option of honors, regular and remedial classes?
While I see the merits of a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) model, which has students in one integrated class where all students have their needs met at their appropriate educational level, I see problems implementing it with our current staffing ratios and budget. True MTSS exists when all students in a classroom can use the curriculum at their level, and if not staffed and appropriately funded, MTSS can hinder student achievement. Teachers can not simultaneously teach the same concept to students who require additional support, are at grade level, or need enrichment or advanced study opportunities if they do not have adequate student-to-staff ratios and training. Ideally, Marblehead Public schools can work towards a model that provides true inclusion and ensures ALL students meet their needs in the most inclusive environment possible. However, much work needs to be done in staffing and budget before implementing a successful MTSS model. I am committed to doing the work within my purview to ensure that all student's needs are met at their appropriate level and that all students have what they need to maximize their educational success.
Do you think that relevant public documents should be made available online at least 24 hours in advance of each School Committee meeting?
ABSOLUTELY. I have constantly advocated for doing public business in public.
Do you think the superintendent is doing a good job? Why or why not?
As a new superintendent, I believe Dr. Buckey continues to have areas of growth potential. I have had the opportunity to perform two-yearly superintendent assessments for Dr. Buckey, another skill that I bring to the job of School Committee member. I approached this process with professionalism and integrity that I approach all aspects of being a sitting school committee member. I encourage readers to view my assessments on the district’s website.
Do you support hiring a diversity administrator in Marblehead? Why or why not?
I place great value on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have concerns that we are not approaching DEI with fidelity by prioritizing a DEI director position over things currently lacking in our schools, like a K-6 social studies curriculum, and aligned social-emotional curriculum, and full inclusion.