School Committee Candidates Answer Some Questions for Acton Forum: Part 2, Eileen Zhang

On behalf of Acton Forum, I asked each candidate for the School Committee three questions based on current topics that concern many voters.

1. Explain your approach and plan to addressing the #1 topic referenced in Superintendent's Report of Entry Findings: tension between parents specific to the balance between wellness and achievement.

The National Wellness Institute defined wellness as "a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential." My understanding of achievement (student’s life) is we believe in ourselves more and more each day through effort and courage, then we reach full potential through the daily evolving process. Wellness and achievement are like twins, they are inseparable and complement each other. If a student didn’t sleep well, it will not be able to achieve its full potential on the next day. At the same time, when a student makes progress(achievement), it will bring wellness as it’s evolving to reach its full potential. Wellness and achievement complement each other, not compete with each other. School supports our students’ wellness, at the same time, help them to achieve.

What is the current state of our students’ wellness and achievements? I think there is still a lot we can learn and do. We need to have more data on the current state and we will need more in-depth discussions and understanding the root-cause of any concerns. We also need to get a consensus on wellness and achievement from all stakeholders. We also need to provide transparency on data collected and establish clear process on decision making.

2. Do you believe all renovation alternatives have been adequately assessed by School Building Project Committee and explain if you think new construction or renovation will be the best value for the citizens of Acton and Boxborough?

Acton's (and Boxborough) schools is the most valuable asset of our two towns given we are at the suburb and we don't have many industrial revenues in town. Besides the importance of the quality education, the great school system needs the absolute safe environment, safe physical building has to be the necessary part.

I was very curious about Douglas's facility. After I went to one school tour one night, I was completely convinced. The students there have right to ask for better facility to be in the safe environment.

The School Building Project Committee worked diligently and established a series of forum from the beginning that engaged community and all stakeholders. Due to the age of the building, the renovation cost is very high, the cost will be paid 100% by ourselves with $0 State fund support, and the renovation will not be able to sustain for the generations beyond. I support the project and I think new construction will bring the best value for AB community. It will provide an environment that will reach our education goals for years and it will help the growth of AB.

A building project advocacy community group is forming. I hope their job will further promote the project to our citizens in our two towns.

3. Please explain your opinion (disagreement or justification) on how state or federal programs, guidelines and mandates affect local school committee decisions specific to a). traditional approaches to education with less technology and b). how much flexibility should principals have on a school's methods or pedagogy. Please provide examples.

Public Schools have to follow regulations mandated by federal and state. Principals are educators that works with the students on a daily basis, who understands the student and their education needs. The principal should have some flexibility in turns on how to educate students without jeopardize education goal or risk any regulation violation.

For example: based on the common core, our elementary schools have different math programs. I value both advantage of traditional approaches and the new technology approach but both ways have weak sides. Our district should have the flexibility to consider ways that will suit our students’ need under a balanced budget.

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