What does the School Committee DO?

There’s a full page description in our policy book, but, the quick way I remember it is that we are responsible for:

  • Superintendent
  • Budget
  • Buildings

We hire and keep the right superintendent. Once they’re in place, we provide the resources and local knowledge to make it possible for them to be wildly successful. We also hold them accountable. We set up feedback routines so that honest communication s constant. Their performance evaluation is a year long process every year, where we are tying together daily work toward reaching Stoneham’s big goals. All our policy work is channeled through the leadership and values embodied in this office.

The budget is where every dream for our students becomes reality. Did you know that Stoneham has a really limited tax base? We rely 80% on residents to make our budget work and 20% on business. Developing our commercial areas to support existing businesses and attract the new businesses we want would be good for schools and take pressure off residents.

We’re not there yet, but we have realized consistent increased educational investments from the town and state in recent years. A year ago, the School Committee successfully advocated for an extra half percent (.5%) increase. This was the equivalent of convincing your spouse, your kids, your in-laws, and all your extended family to agree on a vacation plan. It took a lot of effort but it has yielded so many new opportunities for students that it was entirely worth it.

As we do every year, the administration worked diligently to contain costs and strategize ways to leverage every penny. (If you are new to Stoneham, please know that in the early 2000s, and for years before that our budget was reduced to dangerous levels. Relying on stable local funding is new here and we don’t take it for granted!)

I’ve heard it said that a good teacher can run a school on a campsite if they must. While it’s true that the school is the people, we all know that the state of the buildings matters a lot. Fortunately, all of Stoneham’s elementary schools were rebuilt less than twenty years ago. Your middle school is about five years old.

After much struggle – six annual proposals to the state, a local feasibility study, interim repairs, the daily toil of our facilities staff to keep the building bright & comfortable for current students – our high school is finally moving forward through the state’s funding program to be rebuilt anew or renovated to 21st century standards.

A green light from the state means it’s ours to get right or mess up at this point. We still need you to come out and vote at critical local decision making points. The next one is this May 6th, 7pm at Annual Town Meeting, please do come and vote yes for the Capital Plan!

So these are the big three. There are lots of other pieces of work, but if a volunteer elected committee like ours can get these elements right, we are performing the core role of school committee members. Anything and everything becomes possible for our students when we get these things right.

Wait, doesn’t the School Committee hire our teachers and principals?
The School Committee is not an administrative board, thank goodness. Since the state passed its last major education reform legislation in 1993, Massachusetts public schools became best in the nation in large part because it freed school committees to focus their power on the big picture, seeing and shaping the district as a whole using the major tools of budget, superintendent and buildings. The professional staff who are on the ground every day need us to be at that 10,000 foot level, seeing and understanding their work, connecting it to a whole picture and moving the entire district toward future needs of students.

Do you see yourself as a future school committee member? Or are you interested in advisory opportunities? If you’d ever like to chat, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m at 781-832-0195.

I’m Rachel Meredith-Warren and I’m asking for your vote to re-elect me as a member of the School Committee of the Stoneham Public Schools on Tuesday, April 2nd at Town Hall, 35 Central Street.

Thank you for the privilege of serving in this role over the past three years.


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