Southborough Candidate Statement – School Committee – Johanna Sheyner


Southborough Candidate Statement – School Committee – Johanna Sheyner
Johanna Sheyner

Please provide a brief biographical background on yourself. What should voters know about you?

My name is Johanna Sheyner and I am running for Southborough School Committee. I have lived in Southborough for 8 years with my husband and two daughters. I have a 9 year old in 4th grade at Neary Elementary and a 12 year old in 7th grade who attends Fay School. I have collaborated with the district in multiple roles over the years; from volunteering for SOS, being a room parent, to my positions in leading the NSPAC Board, participating on the Superintendent’s monthly Advisory Committee, and participating as a member of Neary School Council. My professional background is in IT Program Management where for 15 years, I managed complex global programs. In my corporate career, I was responsible for communications across all levels of management, fostering a spirit of collaboration on my teams, and a penchant for out of the box thinking and problem solving. My diverse personal experience, ongoing school involvement, and professional experience would allow me to serve all families in our community as a Southborough School Committee member.

Why are you running?

All students deserve access to a high-quality education that prepares them for success in their future endeavors. I am committed to promoting equity and inclusion practices in our schools, providing opportunities for all students to thrive regardless of their background or circumstance. I believe in collaborating with administrators, educators, and parents to create policies that prioritize student wellbeing and achievement, teacher professional development, and school safety. I will advocate for increased attention to our children’s social – emotional health, well-being, and curriculum. I will be guided by three tenets in my school committee work: Inclusion for all children, Transparency in decision making, and Accountability for follow up and follow through with respect to decision making by the School Committee. Learn more about me and why I am running at I look forward to contributing my skills and experience towards ensuring a quality education for all students in the Southborough community.

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.?

Our district has taken important steps towards addressing the resulting mental health crises stemming from COVID era policies including the hiring of a district coordinator for Social Emotional Learning, enacting a data driven approach based on survey feedback to identify groups of students struggling with mental health, rolling out A World of Difference program at Trottier to positively influence overall school culture, and identifying students who need additional support in feeling connected to their school community. Still, there is more work to be done in the areas of loss of learning due to pandemic era remote and hybrid learning models. While our district scores on the 2022 MCAS test compared to state metrics are excellent, there is a reduction in scores compared to pre-covid era testing and I believe there is more work to be done to make up for learning loss, especially within vulnerable/”at risk” groups of students and additional supports we should be looking at relative to the mental health and well-being of our students.

What are the three biggest issues facing Southborough schools?

First, the recent mental health survey results are alarming; showing increased number of students experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and cyber-bullying with those indicators significantly elevated for adolescent teen girls in grades 7 and 8. Second, the pandemic has resulted in significant learning loss for students across the commonwealth, including our own Southborough district. Learning loss has an outsized impact on marginalized student populations and we need to determine strategies to remediate this challenge. Last, our district will soon be having town wide discussion on the utilization of many of our public buildings. How we fit into existing school building structures will be analyzed with decisions being made on making capital improvements/expansion to Neary School or the development of a new school building footprint to replace Neary. This will impact the fundamental structure of our school system K-8 affecting school transitions, educators, support resources, transportation, and more.

If elected, how would you address these issues?

School Committees are tasked with creating and updating school policies, evaluating the superintendent, and approving the annual school budget. I would advocate for increased student education and teacher professional development to grow awareness and reduce stigma around mental health, improve crises intervention policies, and look for opportunities to increase school and parent learning opportunities around mental health topics. Secondly, I would advocate allocating ESSR3 funds towards tutoring support for students showing significant loss of learning based on assessment data. I believe there is an opportunity to leverage technology platforms or online tutoring to remediate some of the learning gap with support structures in place between school and home. Lastly, I would advocate engaging the community in a needs based discussion for the Neary School Building project. I would strive to keep the community updated with progress being made, feedback received, and any decisions that have been made on this important community project.

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