Please provide a brief biographical background on yourself. What should voters know about you?
I am Rajesh Velagapudi, a Process Excellence Leader at Cytiva. I am an accomplished business professional with skills in process improvement strategies that support organizational efficiencies. I enjoy using my skills to identify and expand opportunities by continuous improvement in implementing short and long-term growth initiatives. I have a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Germany and a Master’s in Business Administration from California. For the past 17 years, I have worked as a research scientist and a business professional, accelerating innovations to develop therapeutic products that improve the health and quality of life for all. For more information about my campaign and me, please visit www.vote4velagapudi.com.
Why are you running?
As a parent of two kids (Grade 6 and Grade 1) in the Shrewsbury Public School system, I am proud of our School District and where we stand. I also see improvement opportunities to meet students’ current and future needs. With the changing public educational landscape, we need to be nimble in bringing 21st-century competencies to students through early exposure to career paths and skill development to be successful when they graduate. My experiences from Harvard Medical teaching hospitals and at biotechnology companies in fostering strategic collaborations to develop research innovations into therapeutic products will be a unique skill set I will bring to complement the current committee. I am excited to share my transferrable skills in developing an action plan, and I can make an immediate impact, drawing from my professional and personal experience. Giving back to the community empowers a sense of belonging for me.
In both the short- and long-term, what should the schools do to address the growing need for technical education?
The fallout of the Assabet Valley policy is critically impacting over 100 students who anticipate leveraging the hands-on vocational training. I plan to leverage the local ecosystem to develop internships and training programs to foster innovation, teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills early in their careers.
For Vocational Training, the focus is on mitigating the impact of Assabet Valley policy change on the students with a two-pronged approach.
Short term: Collaborating with institutions like Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) and Worcester Tech., become a member (or leverage existing members) of the Innovation Pathways program and WPI, to name a few.
Long-term: Advocating at both State and District levels to improve access to existing regional technical schools and expand collaborations with similar need school districts.
Students earn transferrable skills that enable them to grow and develop personally and professionally.
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.?
The Pandemic had a significant impact on students’ social and emotional well-being. As a district, we mitigated the educational loss by quickly pivoting to digital platforms. But mental health and a sense of belonging took a toll on students, teachers, and caregivers, which should be of focus. Improving the sense of belonging in students within the school district is critical as we are coming out of the pandemic. Students who feel supported to be their authentic selves excel academically and positively impact the class and the community. Invest in improving belonging with a focus on equity, directly impacting social, mental, and academic outcomes. Working closely with School and Town leadership, residents, and voters, building consensus on areas for immediate improvements, and planning for long-term developments. Less crowded classrooms enable students to interact better with teachers and peers, improving belonging and academic outcomes.