ANDOVER — Five Andover residents are on the ballot vying for two school board positions on March 22. All would be newcomers to the elected office, replacing Shannon Scully and Paul Murphy.
Candidates were given the same questions and the answers were edited only for length. An issue regarding the teacher assistant contract is no longer in play because the school committee has tentatively reached an agreement with this bargaining unit. However, a new contract will have to be negotiated during the next 3-year term for which the candidate could be elected.
Erin Cash did not answer questions.
Emily Di Cesaro, Senior User Experience Designer at IBM
Wants to serve because: I am very excited to serve the town of Andover as a member of the school committee. I am passionate about public education and believe that helping our children develop a love of learning early can give them the confidence they need to succeed as they age. My reasons for running focus on giving back to the community, a responsibility I feel to help prepare our students to succeed and have the opportunity to work collaboratively with a new superintendent in a way that can have an impact. positive on many children.
Top priorities in the office: I think there are many very pressing issues that the school committee is working on all the time, and many of them are interrelated. However, as we emerge from COVID, the mental health of our students, families and staff must be a top priority. I was pleased to see that our superintendent recommended to the school committee to approve more social/emotional learning and mental health resources in the fiscal year 2023 budget. Going forward, we must be prepared to adapt and respond as we continue to support our education staff and children to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic.
Jo Thorlin, public school teacher
Wants to serve because: I would like to be part of the school committee because families have to get more involved again in the schools. We need to move towards a more optimistic and inspiring setting in our schools after the difficult two years of dealing with Covid and its effects on students’ happiness and academic progress. We need to pay Andover’s instructional assistants more and finalize their contract. It is important to improve programs for students who need additional support to access the grade level program, as well as for students who benefit from AP programs and vigorous enrichment programs in math, science, sports , arts, literature and social studies.
Top priorities in the office: My first priority is to help students correct reading, writing, math, social, and study skills that have been heavily impacted over the past two years. Another is to bring parents back into school buildings as volunteers and room parents to enrich classrooms. Teacher assistants need to be paid more for their important work. Let’s make sure students have access to advanced-level courses or more science, math, literature, social studies, arts, and a variety of sports programs. We need to connect with Phillips Academy and vocational schools to pool our resources and strengths for our children.
Shishan Wang, Senior researcher in microbiology and biochemistry
Wants to serve because: I would like to be involved in local government. When my three children go through APS, I am so thankful for all the help given to my children. As a member of the AHS Improvement Council and the Andover Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I learned a lot and would be happy to continue serving in our local government.
Top priorities in the office: Mathematics and science should be further improved in public schools in Andover. The Andover School Board recently voted to begin renovations to AHS. I would support adding a new building across from the Collins Center or on a tennis court. I’m proposing the AHS plan for a three-building campus. I also support the combination of social and emotional growth with sportsmanship for the well-being of students. I would pay more attention to cultivating students’ motivation and learning curiosity. Then it would help students prepare for college and career.
Sandis Wright, General Manager of Information Management at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
Wants to serve because: As a resident of Andover for 11 years, I care about our schools – it’s one of the reasons so many of us live here and it’s why I’ve become so involved in our community. I look forward to continuing on this path of community building so that our schools can excel. While our schools have a long-standing reputation for innovation and excellence, we must always look for ways to raise the bar. I thrive on collaborating and connecting with like-minded people. Collaboration is key to learning, appreciating different perspectives, and achieving common goals.
What will be your main priorities at the office: Our top priority must be to address the impacts of the pandemic, especially given the student learning deficits that have emerged. The prolonged period of uncertainty, isolation and anxiety was felt most in the classrooms. Therefore, meeting the needs of students is more critical than ever. We need to ensure that supports are in place to get students back on track, such as additional math tuition and counseling and expanded supports for social-emotional learning.
Facilities must also be a priority, including solidifying secondary school plans while modernizing Doherty Middle and supporting the construction of the new West Elementary/Shawsheen preschool building.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 22. For more information on where and how to vote, visit andoverma.gov/413/Voting-Information.