Campaign Statement for the School Committee Election May 4, 2002
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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].