First, say a little bit about yourself.
My name is Sarah J. Shamsuddin and I have been a Westborough resident for many years. I attended elementary, middle and high school in Westborough. I continued on to complete my bachelor’s degree and moved closer to Boston with my husband to attend law school and start a family.
We have three daughters in WPS. My youngest daughter is in 5th grade at Mill Pond. My older two children are in high school; one is a freshman and the eldest is a junior. It amazes me that some of the teachers that taught me are still in the Westborough school system and are now teaching my children.
I have been practicing law for about 16 years. After moving back to Westborough approximately three years ago I decided to open an office downtown. I found a great spot in the Rotary and have been there for the past six months.
Why are you running for School Committee?
I am running for School Committee because I would like to give back to the town I grew up in and the town that my children are now growing up in. When I was attending Westborough schools, I was one of a very small number of minority children. I believe there should be minority representation on the School Committee as we know this to be a growing population.
My background in legal studies gives me a valuable skill set for the committee in negotiating contracts and analyzing applicability of state law as it relates to our schools and town charter. Equally as important, I would like to set an example for my children as well as other children so they know that the way to make an impact in our society is to engage.
What would you consider to be the top three issues for Westborough Public Schools?
I would not characterize the following as issues, rather, challenges that most Public Schools face:
a.) Maintaining the highest academic standard possible while ensuring accessibility and applicability to a diverse group of students with varying learning styles.
b.) Ensuring positive COVID recovery and support for teachers and students.
c.) Ensuring fiscal responsibility in approving the budget and negotiating contracts, while maintaining excellent facilities and meeting the needs of the teachers and a diverse student population.
After more than two years, COVID-19 has started to recede. How do you believe the schools are handling the impact from the pandemic – mental health, MCAS scores, etc.?
I think the district has done the best they can given the circumstances we are in. Most school districts have seen a fall in MCAS scores since the pandemic, similar to Westborough. I don’t think this should be a surprise for anyone. We know that COVID had a major impact on the mental health of the general population (not just children). To think that a child whose life has been disrupted for almost two years would be unaffected, both mentally and educationally, is an unreasonable expectation, in my opinion. Due to the work of the school committee in the past, our district was able to be nimble and shift straight into an ALD model very quickly after the shutdown was initially announced. This strategy allowed teachers and students, especially in the high school and upper middle school setting, to have a productive classroom experience. Other towns spent weeks trying to implement various models.
Post pandemic, I believe that our district has worked diligently to transition into a “normal” school cycle. Everything will come with a lag, as well our scores and other evaluations. The results of the work done by the School Committee over the past several months will not be seen for another year or two.