Grafton Candidate Statement – School Committee – Elizabeth Spinney (Incumbent)

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Grafton Candidate Statement – School Committee – Elizabeth Spinney (Incumbent)
Elizabeth Spinney

Why are you running?

I’m running for School Committee because I believe that I have a set of skills, knowledge and experience that make me an ideal asset to Grafton Public Schools and one who is well-equipped to help guide our schools through the challenging days ahead. My extensive record of working with the schools as a volunteer has proven my dedication, and the work has allowed me to gain valuable insight and build productive relationships throughout the district. With my education and professional background as an engineer and a lawyer, I bring an analytical approach and unique skill set in advocacy, negotiations, as well as contract and policy drafting. I’ve served on the Committee for four years, during which time we’ve helped to navigate the district through some incredible changes, yet nearly every day brings new obstacles–not the least of which will be the district’s budgetary challenges of the coming years. Filling this role with an experienced, strong leader and advocate, such as myself, will be key to ensuring the district’s success.

What are the three biggest issues facing the School Committee in order of importance?

First, I will say that the biggest issues facing the School Committee today may not be the biggest issues facing the Committee tomorrow, three months, or a year from now. This is why it is important that School Committee members have a depth of knowledge and range of experiences that allows them to respond to the changing needs to a school district such as Grafton. When I was first elected, for example, we faced the challenge of having to develop an entirely new way to educating students in the midst of a global pandemic. Although I would never expect such a serious challenge to arise any time soon, one must be prepared for anything. At the moment, however, the three biggest issues facing the School Committee are 1) lasting effects of Covid, including stress, anxiety, attendance, re-development of connections, recovering from missed opportunities and experiences, etc.; 2) capital issues including leaky roofs, additional ADA compliance needs, and the need for further security upgrades and 3) more generally, funding.

The superintendent for GPS has called the FY25 budget “demanding,” relying on revolving funds to help fund operational costs. Would you support an override in 2025? 

I attended a public school that was very similar to Grafton, but it was perpetually underfunded because we couldn’t pass overrides. As a result, we couldn’t afford many of the tools needed to prepare students for their lives after high school. Although I graduated at the top of my class, I was embarrassingly unprepared for college and worked very hard to catch up. My struggles fuel my passion for ensuring Grafton students don’t suffer the same fate. Eleven years ago, Grafton ranked last in the Commonwealth in per pupil spending. Although we’ve since risen as high as 15th, we’re again trending downward and are still the lowest among peer schools at 17% below the state average. A recent independent financial review and report illustrated that Grafton is an incredibly efficiently-run school. In the likely event that the Select Board, upon reviewing anticipated new growth and development, concludes that an override is necessary to maintain level services, I’ll use my knowledge and experience to advocate for the funds our schools need.

What is your opinion on the use of AI in the classroom? 

Artificial intelligence can be a very useful tool–when used appropriately. I believe the Grafton School District should take advantage of every available tool to help our students learn, remain competitive and reach their greatest potential. On the other hand, AI should never take the place of exercises intended to build skills, enhance learning or improve retention.

What is your relevant experience to serve on School Committee?

First, I’ve served on the School Committee for four years. I’ve also served four years on the Policy Subcommittee, and as the Committee representative on Tri-Comm and two contract negotiation committees. Last year, I was elected Chair of the School Committee and currently serve as Vice Chair. Over the years, I’ve gained a deep knowledge of the School Committee’s roles and responsibilities. A successful School Committee member must not only have a strong knowledge of all aspects of the schools, however, but must also possess skills in leadership, advocacy, group dynamics and communications. Knowing how to run a meeting is also a plus. I have extensive experience in all of these areas–from running a team of legal professionals at work to co-chairing the PTG, running the Grafton Farmers’ Market Committee, serving as Vice President of Apple Tree Arts and co-chairing many other fundraising and event committees. Finally, my twenty years of legal experience add a unique skill set in advocacy, policy drafting and contract negotiation.

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