Shutesbury Elementary School, Information and Commentary

Campaign Statement for the School Committee Election May 4, 2002

Stephen Bannasch

I'm Stephen Bannasch, a parent of three daughters at Shutesbury Elementary School and I'd like your vote for school committee at town meeting Saturday May 4, 2002.  The polls are open from 8am to 2pm at the Elementary school.

I work at Concord Consortium as the Director of Technology and have 20 years of experience developing innovative educational technology and curriculum, managing projects, hiring people, and maintaining budgets.  The Concord Consortium is a non-profit educational research and development organization specializing in developing and adapting technology for education at all levels.

Shutesbury Elementary School is a special place which reflects the educational values of our community.  There's a recent trend to focus only on learning which can be measured with standardized tests.  Help me make sure our school also continues to foster compassionate, creative, competent and curious students. I will work hard to promote conversation among the town, parents, teachers and administration to achieve these goals.  In addition I will encourage the school to do a better job communicating its philosophy, expectations, curricular goals, schedules, and forms of assessments to parents.

The rest of this letter fills out details on my views on education and my goals for the Elementary school.

Educational Philosophy

I want to make sure that Shutesbury Elementary school does the best job possible in preparing all our children to lead successful lives. I believe this is best achieved with a curriculum that emphasizes thematic and project-based learning along with a rich mixture of assessments.  The learning strategies and essential skills described in the Massachusetts Educational Frameworks are learned most effectively when children use these skills in projects they have a personal investment in. It is important for the School Committee to defend this educational philosophy and approach against a general theme in education today which values a broad but shallow mastery of facts.


The school now uses many types of assessments in addition to standardized tests including graded homework, parent-teacher conferences, report cards with narratives, portfolio conferences and more.  I'd like to see the philosophy, structure, and timing of the school assessment system organized and communicated more effectively to parents and students.  The best assessments are those that provide timely feedback to students, teachers, and parents.  The results from certain assessments such as the MCAS test are not available for 4-6 months.  This is too long a delay for the information to be used efficiently to help individual students.

Special Education

Every child has a right to a good, effective, and inclusive education.  Some children need special services to achieve progress. I think our new principal Tari Thomas has been doing a good job organizing the special education services.  I support developing a document describing the Shutesbury special education program including staff, assessments used to qualify students for special services, and a description of the specific services available.

Early Reading

I think that every child should be able to read and write by the end of the second grade. Research shows that approximately 20% of kids in these grades will have a difficult time. Reading is such a critical skill that I believe specialized instruction is appropriate for kids who are in danger of falling behind. By putting more resources into teaching reading some kids may not need more extensive special education services later.

High Expectations

Every child also has a right to be challenged.  Whether a child is getting special services or not, they deserve challenging assignments, our high expectations and serious appreciation of their work.

Transition to the Middle School

The transition from our 200 student Elementary school to the 900 student Amherst Middle school can be difficult both educationally and socially.  Academic expectations and social stresses increase dramatically.  Shutesbury kids seem to be doing well, however the principal of the Middle School has stated that she would like to see stronger English language skills from all her incoming students.  We need to prepare our kids well for this transition and to keep track of their progress.

Teacher Professional Development

Parent-teacher conferences and portfolio assessments require more teacher effort than creating report cards.  Making sure that we cover the critical skills in the State Frameworks while organizing the school year around projects and themes is more work than teaching with a textbook.  We are lucky to have teachers experienced at and committed to doing this extra work.  I'd like to see a semester schedule and description for every class that includes major projects and themes, academic and social learning goals, and skills and content children are expected to master.

In order to keep improving the school our teachers need more professional development opportunities to strengthen these assessments and teaching strategies.  I also support improving coordination from one grade to the next.

State Aid and School Budgets

With the state in financial trouble I expect at least several years of reduced state aid to towns for education.  I will encourage reduction of school and Union 28 administrative expenses where practical so that resources are spent on services to students.  I will work to avoid any increases in class size.

Contacting Me

If you would like to share your ideas and concerns about Shutesbury Elementary School, I invite you to call, write or email me  You can reach me after the kids are in bed at 259-9125 or by email at [email protected].

Stephen Bannasch
106 Sand Hill Road, Shutesbury, MA 01072
413 259 9125
[email protected]