Southborough Candidate Statement – School Committee – Zhi Li


Southborough Candidate Statement – School Committee – Zhi Li
Zhi Li

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

I’m an Associate Director at a large pharmaceutical company. I lead a group of 20 scientists and engineers to support the manufacturing of life-saving medicines. Outside of that, my third grader Emma keeps me busy. I’m passionate about learning with her and also serving the community. I’ve served on her school council and coached her softball team for 2 years, in both Shrewsbury and Southborough. I substituted at the Shrewsbury schools using my vacation time when the schools faced a shortage. I immigrated to the US 17 years ago. I’ve studied and worked in Illinois and New York before moving to Massachusetts. Last year my family “immigrated” from Shrewsbury to Southborough and we have all enjoyed the new town very much.

Why are you running?

I’m always looking for opportunities to serve the community. Education is one opportunity that best uses my strengths. I spend a lot of time with Emma and I’m interested in all the things happening in her school. My experience on school council, substitute teacher, and softball coaching in two towns are great “warm-ups” for me. I started doing all these in Shrewsbury, and when I moved to Southborough I wanted to do more. The first month I moved in I talked to the Town Clerk’s office and the Advisory Board to ask how I can help. We identified the School Committee to be a great opportunity for me to serve the town. I have been looking forward to this Town Election since then. I’m excited about this volunteer opportunity that perfectly blends my education background and passion in serving the 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.?

As the world still struggles with the aftermath of the pandemic, I’m glad to see that the schools are striving to give the children a normal environment. Masks are no longer required but the schools are creating an inclusive environment for those who still choose to wear them. When kids call in sick the nurse would kindly remind them to test for COVID. Other than these few things that still remind us of what happened in the last three years, everyone in school is ready to put the past in the past. Teacher shortage is becoming less serious. I got to review the Woodward School action plan 2022-2023 as a School Council member, and I liked what I saw about “Healthy and Balanced Learners” initiatives. I learned from Emma that some kids in her class get to have one lunch with teachers every week, a program called the “lunch bunch” that helps kids with emotion control. This is one good example of the school’s effort on mental health.

What are the three biggest issues facing Southborough schools?

Honestly I am happy with what I have seen in this school year since we moved to the town. Looking ahead in the future, these are some of the areas I’d like to pay close attention to:

1. Ensure the schools are sufficiently budgeted in light of inflation.

2. Examine the school infrastructure and building update opportunities. One such opportunity is the potential new Neary School project.

3. Explore STEM education improvement opportunities. I’ve been to the school to talk about my science career. Kids are always fascinated. There’s more we can do in STEM education.

If elected, how would you address these issues?

1. Review the budget planning carefully with the Superintendent and Principals. Understand how inflation is factored in. Review frequently throughout the year to ensure we have a healthy balance.

2. Work with the Principals to understand the needs in infrastructure updates, like the building, playground, parking lot, HVAC, etc. For example, I was at Neary for the Boy Scout Pancake Breakfast recently and noticed the building and parking lot could use some upgrades. I’ll work closely with the New Neary School Committee to understand the status of the project.

3. Work with the Principals to understand what STEM education programs are budgeted at the schools, and what additional programs we can fund, for example, STEM afterschool programs, special speakers from the STEM fields, field trips to STEM companies like my own employer, etc. I recently participated in an event at Emma’s school to talk about how I use math at my work. These are the kind of initiatives I want to see more of.

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