School Committee Candidates put their best foot forward

Above: Candidates Li, Sheyner, and Malinowski were in good moods at last night’s friendly forum at Cordaville Hall. (photo by Beth Melo)

Last night, three candidates running for two seats* on the Southborough School Committee made their cases to a room full of voters.

The panel was the first one at this year’s Candidates’ Night. It was also the only one to feature the full roster of candidates competing for an office in the May 9th election.

Each candidate was given 3 minutes to introduce themselves. That was followed by questions from the audience. (There wasn’t a section for questioning each other.)

The mood in the room was more collegial than competitive.

No stones were cast. Nor were they any clear areas of disagreement. There were even several lighthearted moments with laughter from the candidates and attendees.

Since the introductions were in alphabetical order, my highlights are as well.

Zhi Li, Chelsea Malinowski, and Johanna Sheyner spoke about why they are running. For each, having one or more children in a Southborough public school was part of their motivation to run.

Previously, Li served on a school council in Shrewsbury and filled in as a substitute teacher several times when the school was short-staffed. Upon moving to Southborough (less than a year ago), he immediately reached out to see how he could support the schools. He was excited by the opportunity to get more involved.

Li works in pharmaceutical development and expressed an interest in the schools’ STEM education. He also prioritized the district’s emotional health and special needs education. He said he took the time to educate himself about the district’s school building project.

Malinowski highlighted her experience in Town government on the Select Board and other committees with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility. She noted the importance of working through issues with the community and followed that not every conversation is easy. She described the best solution as compromise reached through collaboration and consensus. (Note: The importance of collaboration was later echoed by the other candidates as well.)

As an area of concern, Malinowski pointed out that the district doesn’t yet know the full learning-loss impact from Covid-19. She also spoke about the importance of listening to the staff that works with students day-to-day.

Referring to the work being done by the Neary Building Committee, Malinowski noted that one challenge the schools have is elementary students being forced to transition between schools every two years. 

Sheyner spoke about her years of volunteering for the schools, SOS (the parent-volunteer led Southborough Organization for Schools), and on the NSPAC board (Northborough/Southborough Special Education Parent Advisory Council). 

Sheyner said she would like to help the district do a better job of communicating with the public to increase transparency. She acknowledge with so much going on it is hard to get parents attention. Her ideas included creating a blog and holding office hours. She also would like to focus on inclusion for both the classrooms and in extra-curricular activities.

Upon questioning (by Li’s 3rd grade daughter), each assured that they will find other ways to continue to serve the community if they lose.

Southborough Access Media hopes to have their video of the program available to watch in time for this weekend. You can check for that here.

For more information on each candidate, read their statements here.

You can also look for more of my election coverage here, and find the Town’s election page here.

*For anyone confused by the ballot. . . There are actually three seats on the ballot for the Southborough School Committee this year, but split into two races. The three candidates are vying for the 2 seats with a 3 year term.

Incumbent Kamali O’Meally is running unupposed for the special 1 year term seat on the ballot. That is to complete Kim Tolander’s term. (Tolander died last summer and her seat was temporarily filled by the appointment of Jessica Devine.)

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