SHREWSBURY, MA — Shrewsbury will have at least one new school board member after the May 3 municipal election.
Incumbent B. Dale Magee is not running for re-election this year, although incumbent Lynsey Heffernan is. This leaves at least one vacancy on the committee for a new member to take. Three non-incumbents – Erin Boucher, Jennifer Luke and Sanam Zaer – have signed up to run this year.
Prior to the election, Shrewsbury Patch asked each candidate to complete our questionnaire to help voters get to know them better. Here’s how Luke responded:
Occupation: Social worker
Experience as elected official: I have been a member of the Town Meeting for six years and president of the PTO for six years.
Why are you running for a seat on the Shrewsbury School Board?
I am running because I feel that my volunteer experience in the community and my 25 years in the mental health field will make me the ideal candidate. Not only was I president of the PTO for six years, but I volunteered in my children’s classrooms for years. I have experience with community needs and how to alleviate the significant mental health issues we face. I have a 5th and 8th grader in the school system and would like to serve on the school committee to continue to ensure that my children and the children in the district have their needs met.
What is the biggest problem facing public schools in Shrewsbury and what would you do about it?
The biggest issue facing schools in Shrewsbury today is mental health. We saw a significant increase in depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Access to services is difficult. We have a wonderful resource with Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, right in our community, but the services are not being used as much as they should be. Many parents are not even aware that there is a partnership between the schools and SYFS, and I want to make sure this is known and services are accessible as much as possible. I would like to think about other ways to help kids feel connected and heard and reduce mental health stigma.
DESE lifted its mask mandate in February, but the coronavirus continues to circulate. Would you like to bring back a mask mandate? Why or why not?
I think a mask mandate is a tough subject. People have such strong feelings one way or another. Personally, I think parents and students should be able to decide which is the right choice for them. There are children who suffer from sensory processing disorders, and the masks make it very difficult and they could face negative consequences if they do not want to wear them. Young children have experienced developmental delays by being unable to see a person’s expressions or their lips when speaking. For some people, it gives them a sense of protection, so I think people should be able to make the choice that’s best for them.
If you could snap your fingers and fix or change one thing in the school system, what would it be?
I wish we had unlimited funds to bring back some things that have been cut over the years, like language in elementary school, programs in high school that taught certain trades and life skills and ways of reduce the stress and homework that is placed on our children. There’s a lot of pressure on kids today, and that’s fueling the mental health issues that we’re seeing.