Paulette Van der Kloot
What motivates you to run for school committee?
I have a deep interest in education and I am passionate about providing strong educational opportunities for every Medford child. Our community and our country is strengthened when we have schools that enable our children to grow into educated, thinking adults. I am committed to the children, their families and the citizens of Medford and for me that means working for continuous improvement of the Medford Public Schools.
What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve on the school committee?
I first came onto the school committee as a young mother and now I am a (young) grandmother. As such, I bring an extraordinary amount of history and knowledge to my position as a school committee member. I am never complacent but rather thrive on the challenge to improve our schools so we can better meet the needs of every child and family in our community.
I have worked on a daily basis with high school students over the last twelve years and previously with students in younger grades. I have a Masters in Education in counseling. I have worked on the state wide level advocating for educational reform and increased school funding. I listen and I am a very active school committee member. I work to bring people together.
In the past two years, what School Committee actions did you support or oppose, and why?
My number one goal for this current term was to ensure a positive transition to a new Superintendent of Schools. I had a very active role in the Superintendent search committee which put forth the candidates to the full school committee. I took part in the on site visits to the finalists school districts and held intensive discussions with parents, colleagues and supervisors of the finalists. I supported the nominaton of Dr. Marice Edourd Vincent who became our the new Superintendent of Schools in July, 2018. During her first year, I supported our new Superintendent as she grew into her new role. My experience and knowledge from many years on the school committee provides insight into the past so we can better build the future.
Increased funding for enhanced school security measures
The new science and math curriculums.
The Superintendents math initiative with an emphasis on productive struggle.
The development of a new capital plan which includes money for playground improvements, security and technology upgrades.
The Superintendents initiative to correct a racial imbalance at the middle school level.
The development of a new middle school athletic program. Increased resources for social emotional learning and support.
The student initiated change to more enviromentally friendly plates.
The expansion of the Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility to the elemenary and middle school.
Technology upgrades to infrastructure; new equipment for students and faculty I always support funding for arts education!
I am opposed to the multitude of State testing requirements.
I opposed an initial school breakfast program because I felt we could provide a more comprehensive one.
What are the greatest strengths and challenges of our current school system?
The greatest strength of our school system is our students! In addition, we have dedicated teachers and administrators who are working everyday to educate and support every student in our school system.
We benefit greatly by the diversity of our community which is reflected in our student population. We have many families and citizens who care deeply about our children. We have families new to Medford and we have families that have lived here for generations.
We have made small class sizes a priority and have strong early childhood programs including the Medford Family Network.
It is a continuous challenge to ensure that we are meeting the needs of every child and family and that we are communicating effectively with parents and our citizens.
We have strong partnerships with Universities, businesses and labor unions.
We are challenged to ensure safe and secure school environments that are condusive to learning.
We are challenged to create and maintain inclusive environments that enable all learners to achieve success. (EL, Special Education, LGBTQIA)
We are challenged by rapidly evolving technology needs. We are challenged by the needs of working parents for before and after school day care.
We are challenged by the potential of fluctuating financial support and the cost of supporting comprehensive educational programs and maintaining our school buildings.
What initiatives would you prioritize in our school system?
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL:
Increased opportunities for students to fully benefit from the combined High School and Vocational programs by restructuring the schedules to promote better coordination of classes.
Promote opportunities for EVERY student to participate in career building activities and character development and citizenship initiatives.
Continuous attention to building concerns.
MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL:
Re-examine the assignment process for students entering 6th grade. Can we do it better?
Promote greater shared activities between the Andrews and the McGlynn. Work to make sure that all middle school students have opportunites to participate in after school activities including theater and music programs.
Develop and promote educational programs about vaping and safe technology use.
Make sure new middle school math curriculum is being effectively implemented.
Support character development, citizenship, and social emotional learning at this critical level.
Enhance after school programming so that every family that needs after school care can access it.
Support new math and science curriculum. Support character building and citizenship activies. (C.C.S.R.)
Incorporate healthy movement activities to supplement recess.
Support students and families with a variety of challenges including financial, behavioral, gifted, new to system, new to country, health and developemtal.
Medford has a broad diversity of students. How would you address the unique needs of various student populations? Be specific.
The key to addressing the unique needs of various student populations is first to understand them. To that end, I am a very active school committee member. I attended Special Education parent meetings whenever possible. I visit classrooms and attend school events VERY often and I LISTEN to parents and students as they express both their satisfaction and concerns.
Providing translation services and communication is vital for non-english speaking parents as well as providing an atmosphere of welcome and inclusion. I have worked very closely with multiple students from immigrant families and their input in very valuable to me. Providing services to students with low incomes is essential and breakfast and lunch programs that are implemented in such a way that the stigma of poverty is removed is essential. This spring, I along with the other members of the committee voted for a trial run of a program that provides free breakfast for all of our elementary students.
As a member of the sub-committee focused on Special Education, I supported the initiatives for inclusion and education to summer program personnel. Additionally, I believe it is vital to move forward on disability awareness program for all our students to they may better relate to the needs of all their classmates.
A continued focus on the Whole Child is essential in order to meet the needs of all children in our school system. Professional development for faculty and staff on differentiated instruction must be continuous and providing sufficient support staff is critical.
I have been an outspoken advocate for our LGBTQIA students.
Do you have any priorities for the school budget? What are they, and why?
1. Ensuring a safe and secure school environment condusive to learning
2. Continuing to provide a a comprehensive curriculum and maintaing excellent class size.
3. Balancing academic rigor with effective programming for social and emotional support
4. Increasing access to before and after school programs to meet the need of our families.
5. Strengthening our professional development to enhance teacher ability to meet the needs of all students.
6. Funding for art and music programs.
7. Funding for after school opportunites at all levels.
8. Ensuring sufficient educational materials and supplies for instruction.
9. Maintaing and enhancing state of the art technology resources for students and teachers. (most likely part of a capital plan.)
10. Maintaining our buildings (budget) Upgrading facilities (capital plan!)
What role should charter schools have in our public school system?
Charter schools provide an alternative to the traditional public school system. Unfortunately, the charter school funding mechanism is woefully underfunded so the impact of a student going to a charter school means that the local public school looses vital funding to the charters. Additionally, ALL charter schools must be required to serve the same range of need based students as the regular public schools. Initially, the idea was that charter schools would provide meaningful new ideas to improve education but that has not come to fruition. I have met students from charter schools who clearly were not receiving the services they needed. And, I have met students who have thrived at their charter school but who also would have thrived wonderfully in our school system. I ask all parents who are considering a charter school to come visit our Medford schools.
What is your stance on the PROMISE Act?
The PROMISE Act is an attempt to correct inadequacies from shortfalls in the Chapter 70 local aid funding formula. Unfortunately, the uptick in funding to Medford is small and provides no great relief at this time. However, there was some additional new money that primarily went to high need urban areas which on a state wide level can be seen as a positive step. Going forth it is essential that we continue to advocate for the state to fully fund charter school reimbursements, homeless transportation and other unfunded mandates as well as increasing Chapter 70 aid to Medford.
How can we increase parental and community engagement in school committee meetings?
Years ago, the school committee in order to encourage attendance scheduled a meeting at each of the elementary schools during the course of the year. It makes sense to try this again and I will motion to revitalize this initiative. We see the greatest community involvement at our meetings either when something is going wrong or when students are being honored for an achievement. Obviously, it is much more joyous to meet families when students are being honored. We make an effort to bring in recongnize a wide range of student accomplishments.
I make a concerted effort to attend many student events like concerts, plays, athletic events and open houses so I can talk with parents and become a familiar face. We can also improve our efforts by outreaching to PTO’s and school councils. The new city wide PTO is a tremendous initiative and has had a positive presence at school committee meetings as has the Special Education Parent Advisory Board.