Safe Medford Candidate Questionnaire 2019 (School Committee)

Note: This content has been provided by Safe Medford in October 2019.  For the same questions, organized by candidate, click here.  For their questionnaire to City Council candidates, click here.

 

Question 1

Medford’s Unity Resolution (medfordma.org/unity-resolution/) states that we are an inclusive community, in support of all of our diverse population groups, including immigrants and newcomers.

1a. What can Medford’s schools do to help immigrants living in Medford to feel safe?

Jenny Graham: Schools are the primary vehicle for communication to families in the community, Therefore, we can make a commitment to communicating statements of inclusion to all students, families, caregivers and community members. We can also commit to communicating resources specifically geared towards immigrant children and families.We can prioritize the diversity of teachers and administrators in our schools. This will require a commitment to hiring people who reflect the diversity of our community. I am pleased to hear that Stacey Mulligan, Assistant Principal at Medford High, is serving as the head of Diversity and Inclusion for our District this year. She is working toward several goals, including professional development training on implicit bias and cultural awareness proficiency. She is organizing a 4 part symposium on race and education. She has also started an ALANA chapter at MPS. I hope to see more programming that emphasizes celebration of diversity and includes students and their families.

John Intoppa: One thing Medford schools can do to help immigrants in Medford feel safer is to promote inclusion in extracurricular activities. I know personally for some immigrant students that I was close to, getting involved in sports, clubs, and other extracurriculars may have mad them feel more comfortable and adapt to the culture here in Medford.

Melanie McLaughlin: School staff could meet with families in a neutral location where they feel safe providing interpreters and, perhaps, other students who can act as mentors to establish a relationship and feeling of security.
We also need to create the state mandated EL Family Advisory Council that was supposed to be initiated last year. As the co-chair of the Medford SEPAC we have initiated meetings with the Director of EL to ensure the EL Council is well established with community leaders who understand the challenges of immigrant families face.

Mea Quinn Mustone: We want to ensure that all of our students, staff, and faculty feel safe. The mission of our schools is to provide a caring educational partnership of school, family, and community designed to ensure that all students are afforded a safe and healthy learning environment. To help, I believe we need to continue to stress our mission and make decisions based upon this mission. We also should highlight our commitment to nondiscrimination and to the welfare of our students; publicize our resources for students who need supportive services; ensure resources are in place to manage the diverse needs of our students, and promote an open and inclusive community.

Paul Ruseau: Medford Public Schools should clearly, and publicly, make clear that we do not collect immigration status.

Paulette Van der Kloot: We want all our immigrant families to feel safe and welcome in our schools. When children enroll in our schools only the child’s age and address are confirmed; immigration status is not. Making sure that we are translating all information for our non-english speaking families is critical. Students in our Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility have developed videos in multiple languages to assist new high School students from different countries to acclimate to the High School. Reaching out to all parents and inviting them into our schools is vital. Our English Learner program has a strong and welcoming leader: Mr. Paul Texeira.
I believe it is important to show our immigrant students we support them. Several weeks ago I attended a stand out in support of immigrants. While many of those who drove past were supportive, not all were. As community leaders, I think it is imperative for our elected officials, including myself to be seen supporting our immigrant population.

 

1b: What will you personally do as a member of the school committee to make Medford’s schools more responsive to the needs of all residents, regardless of immigration status?

Jenny Graham: Improving communications between the district and families is one of my priorities. This includes ensuring our communications are accessible to all. We should start with our website, which does not provide modern and meaningful support and information today. We are taking steps in the right direction with recent translation options but there is still a lot to do. Additionally, we have an opportunity as a district to develop sound protocols to ensuring information can be accessed by all families. I would like to see the district support efforts by our local parent groups to provide accessible communications as well. Our parent groups and PTOs are critical players when it comes to community building, but they are all volunteers and often could use assistance in engaging families so that all feel welcome at events.
Additionally, I will hold regular office hours in all parts of the city in order to reach as many families as possible if elected. I have also committed as part of the Medford People’s Platform to seek out and meet with individuals and stakeholder groups around the city about issues before the School Committee, in order to gain a more diverse perspective on our issues and to build stronger partnerships across impacted communities.

John Intoppa: I personally would love to meet with immigrant families on a one to one or group basis. I want to hear first hand what they feel needs to be fixed, adapted, and/or continued within the system.

Melanie McLaughlin: I am creating a talk show with students to help them publicly share their concerns and celebrate their success.
I am also the co-chair of the Medford Special Ed Parent Advisory Council where I advise the district on programming and safety for all students. I plan on including more student voices in our monthly presentations and hope to host a citywide event where students can share their perspective much like an event that was created recently in Lexington public schools.
As the parent of a child with a disability I will have a keen eye on communication that goes out into the community to ensure it is inclusive and respectful of diversity. I will also advocate for more translation of materials and consideration of accessibility for all students and especially high needs students (further defined as English Learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students).
Most importantly I will go into the community and meet with residents to better understand what their needs are. I also hope to empower individuals to feel confident in speaking for themselves in public forums.

Mea Quinn Mustone: I will continue to encourage parents to get involved in the schools and with the school committee. I will continue to invite parents to school committee meetings and to speak with me personally. I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned talking to parents on the sidelines of a game, sitting in the park, or shopping in the supermarket. I will be mindful to extend those invitations to those who may not know me or who do not approach me. Most importantly, when making decisions on what is best for the Medford schools, I will consider the multiple perspectives of our school population. To do that, I need to hear those perspectives so I will personally make more of an effort to hear and welcome concerns from those often not voiced.

Paul Ruseau: Medford Public Schools do not consider immigration status in providing an education to our students, as is the law. Our communications are not translated into all of the languages found in the homes of our students – while this is a costly endeavor, full integration of our new families into our community requires this translation and I will push to increase the amount of non-mandatory translation (mandatory translation does happen, as is required by law).

Paulette Van der Kloot: I will continue to work for programs for our students that meet the needs of the “Whole Child.” That means supporting programs like our new breakfast program, making sure that we offer a wide array of academic and technical courses of study, that we have strong art, music and athletic programs, that our English Language Learner programs abd Special Education programs have the resources they need, and that every student has a safe and secure learning environment. As a school committee member, I am very mindful that some students may not have access to technology at home and I make sure we are addressing the needs of these students. Additionally, I support and promote the many school committee policies that support economically challenged families.

 


Question 2

Due to changes in federal policy, ICE has detained and deported people from our neighborhoods, breaking up families in the process, even though those being removed pose no threat. The Safe Communities Act is a proposed Massachusetts law that will protect the civil rights of all state residents by making sure our tax dollars are not used to help the Trump administration deport immigrant families or to create a Muslim registry. Do you see a role for the school committee in supporting this bill? Please describe.

Jenny Graham: I support the Safe Communities Act. The school committee has a responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of all of Medford’s students. If elected, I will work with the committee to advocate for this and other policies which protect our students, family and community.

John Intoppa: I am not sure of the role the school committee would play in supporting this bill. What I do know is that my role in the school committee would be to make families feel safe and I would research and evaluate this bill before giving a proper answer.

Melanie McLaughlin: I see a role for every community member to be involved in supporting the safety of children. As an elected body one of the school committees tasks is to ensure the safety of all Medford public school students. To that end I think we need to focus on the rich diversity Medford students offer the community and celebrate that – not on one day – but every day.

Mea Quinn Mustone: This law appears beyond the purview of the school committee. As a school committee member, I can ensure that we have policies in place to have open and safe discussions about immigration, that we have resources available to students, and that we adhere to federal mandates on educating children regardless of their immigration status.

Paul Ruseau: At this time I am unsure what role the School Committee would play in supporting this effort. School Committees in general in Massachusetts are supportive of protections of their students and families and I would certainly speak out in support of the Safe Communities Act and lend my voice to pushing my legislators to pass such a bill into law. Needless to say any effort to create a Muslim registry must be met with every possible roadblock and I would do anything within my authority to ensure such a registry does not get created using any resources or personnel of the Medford Public Schools!

Paulette Van der Kloot: Yes, at times the Medford School Committee has voted to support various legislation. I support the Safe Communities Act and would be willing to put it to the School Committee agenda for discussion and possible endorsement. 

 

 


Question 3

Medford has a reputation as a white, Catholic, blue-collar city. Yet Medford has had a community of African Americans for hundreds of years, and there was a period when the dominant white Protestant community was hostile to Italian and Irish immigrants. Jews, Baptists and Evangelicals have been part of Medford for decades, and today, 27% of the population, and 40% of the students in Medford’s schools, are not white. In addition, 29% of the city’s residents speak a language other than English as their first language. This diversity is not reflected in the city’s leadership or workforce of the public schools.

3a. Do you agree that the leadership and employees of Medford’s public schools should reflect the city’s diversity?

Jenny Graham: Yes

John Intoppa: Yes

Melanie McLaughlin: Yes

Mea Quinn Mustone: Yes

Paul Ruseau: Yes

Paulette Van der Kloot: Yes

 

3b. If (re)elected, what would you do to help accomplish this within the school district?

Jenny Graham: When jobs in the school district are posted, inclusive language should be included to show the city’s commitment to diversity, and a preference for bilingual applicants. Creating a diverse pipeline of candidates was a topic of discussion during our Superintendent search in 2018 and our new Superintendent had very specific and actionable ideas to create this pipeline. I look forward to an opportunity to work with her to continue moving in this direction.

John Intoppa: I would encourage those of all descents to get involved and I would like to model how the city went about searching for members to make our police force more diverse.

Melanie McLaughlin: I believe both the leadership and employees should reflect the city’s diversity. I also believe each of our schools should reflect the city’s demographics as a whole. For example while some schools are 48% non-white others are 27%. Some schools hosts English Learner students while others do not. Some schools have special education programming others do not. The Superintendent has directly addressed the issue of segregation at our middle schools. I would like to see this work continue as we address the needs of each of our schools.
I have met with the newly identified school diversity and inclusion liaison Dr. Stacey Mulligan to collaborate on ways in which we can increase and celebrate diversity in our school leadership and student groups.
I would also love to mentor a school committee candidate for a future campaign and have already spoken with potential candidates of color about running as a school committee candidate in 2021.

Mea Quinn Mustone: The school committee’s role is limited to hiring and supervising the Superintendent. In that capacity, we can engage with the Superintendent about her plans to attract a diverse applicant pool and ensure that diversity and non-discrimination remain a priority.

Paul Ruseau: I believe that hiring within our public schools should have a ‘Rooney Rule’ to ensure that we are not hiring without including candidates of color in the candidate pool. The Rooney Rule has had shocking impact on the diversity of coaching within the NFL, and I believe it would have a similar impact on the diversity of our public school staff.

Paulette Van der Kloot: I have supported all efforts in the past to hire a diverse workforce for the Medford Public Schools but it has been very difficult to attract candidates. It is my hope that with our new Superintendent at the helm we will be able to attract a more diverse staff. Making sure we are outreaching to all when we are advertising positions is essential.


 

3c. What can Medford do to change the misconceptions about the demographics of our City so that we all understand who actually lives and works here in 2019?

Jenny Graham: Medford’s recent diversity day was a great start, and I look forward to additional programming which celebrates the rich diversity of the city.  I would also like to see more diversity in our elected officials. As a first time candidate, i’m acutely aware of how challenging at-large elections can be. I support charter review and ward representation. Ward representation is a great way to ensure that city government reflects all of our neighborhoods and communities. Ward representation also lowers the barrier to entry from a financial perspective, which is critically important as we talk about diversity of our elected officials.

John Intoppa: The Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility does a great job of doing this with their annual “Diversity Day”. I would push for the city to do events similar to inform the population about all the cultures that live here in our great diverse city.

Melanie McLaughlin: I think we need to build relationships across demographics. We could host community forums where we have storytelling workshops to understand each other’s backstories. The Harvard Kennedy School has a class on personal storytelling where we could connect with graduate students there to help drive a project like this. We could expand upon this through a social media project similar to what the school CCSR has done on Instagram called “Humans of Medford”. We could also consider a cable access show.

Mea Quinn Mustone: As a school committee, we can ensure that our materials and publications reflect our city’s diversity.

Paul Ruseau: We all live in bubbles – bubbles come in many varieties, and some of us live in multiple bubbles – but we all live in them, and most of us are often unaware of the other bubbles that do not intersect with our own. I believe simple efforts around communications to the public can have significant impact on our understanding of who our neighbors are – from putting compelling graphics of the diversity of our city on the front page of our website, to including demographic information in communications that in fact have nothing to do with diversity. Medford has really ramped up celebration of diversity in recent years, with Diversity Day as an example that I thought was excellent. Identifying the various communities within our community to ensure they are aware of these events and inviting them to fully participate would go a long way towards deepening the connections between all of us.

Paulette Van der Kloot: As a school committee member, I am very aware of the demographics of our city. I believe our diversity is our strength and I know how greatly my own children benefitted by having by having both culturally and economically diverse classmates.
I believe the City of Medford could do a publicity program to advertise our great diversity and our schools can play a role in this effort. Our C.C.S.R program has begun such an effort and we can encourage and support them to expand further outreach.
Lastly, the lack of diversity of our public officials is problematic. I think we must all work together to identify and support diverse candidates for future elections.

 

3d. How could Medford’s public spaces, including all school property, be made to feel more welcoming and inclusive to the entire community?

Jenny Graham: I would like to see more public art in our school spaces which represent a real picture of who we are as a community. Our diversity and our respective histories is one of the many reasons my family calls Medford home. We should celebrate it.
I’d also like to see our district make more events accessible to our non-English speaking families with translation support. I’d like to see our public event invitations offered in multiple languages so that families know they are welcome. This past year, Medford High’s graduation had translations to Creole, Portugese, and Spanish to support families as they celebrate this important milestone. What an awesome step in the right direction!
I’d also like to commend the students of CCSR who impress me every day. The commitment of CCSR, its students, and projects have shown to welcoming and celebrating all of Medford’s residents is part of what makes Medford Public Schools so special.

John Intoppa: This is a tricky question – as everyone has their point of view. Unfortunately – no matter what we do someone may always feel unsafe or not welcomed. Similar to my answer for question one “A”, I would encourage all to get involved in extracurricular or city-wide events. I would push for a study to be done so that we have a primary source of information about what may make individuals feel safer in our community.

Melanie McLaughlin: There are a number of ways to approach this but if we start with one framework we can build from there. Perhaps Bolman and Deal’s framework where we begin with the symbolic frame. We could include signage at parks and playgrounds that are in multiple languages with accessibility points – like braille. We could be sure out of school events are advertised in multiple languages. We could see people in school settings that are representatives of the community as a whole. We could host school forums where families are engaged and share what they want to feel a part of the community.

Mea Quinn Mustone: First, I believe we need to have more conversations with our students about our spaces and hear their opinions and suggestions about ways to improve our space.

Paul Ruseau: The Medford Unity Resolution should be posted in prominent public locations, such as the entrance to our schools, parks, and public spaces. If/when Massachusetts passes the Safe Communities Act we should then post something to ensure everyone in our community knows we are a safe community.

Paulette Van der Kloot: The first step is to reach out to our community and see what sort of improvements would make our schools and our community more welcoming and supportive. Now, with more time in my own schedule, I will be able to take a lead on this. I am committed to the continuous improvement of the Medford Public schools and to our immigrant community.

 

Additional statement by John Intoppa: While completing this questionnaire, I realize my answers may not be as informational as they should be. I am interested in learning more and encourage those who would like to educate me on these topics and / or want to voice their opinion to me please contact me via email @ intoppa4medford@gmail.com. Thank you so much for your time and have a great rest of your day!