SHREWSBURY, MA — Shrewsbury’s 2022 School Committee race features one incumbent and three challengers seeking to land a vacancy that opened up with the retirement of member B. Dale Magee.
Lynsey Heffernan is seeking her second term on the committee and will run alongside newcomers Erin Boucher, Jennifer Luke and Sanam Zaer.
Prior to the election, Shrewsbury Patch asked each candidate to complete our questionnaire to help voters get to know them better. Here’s how incumbent Heffernan responded:
name: Lynsey Heffernan
Occupation: Lawyer, MBTA
Experience as elected official: Current member of the Shrewsbury School Board since 2019; Member of the Municipal Assembly 2019-present; appointed representative for the Shrewsbury Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, 2019-2020; Paton School Board Member, 2014-2019.
Why are you running for a seat on the Shrewsbury School Board?
I am running for re-election to the school committee to help build the strong school system we have come to expect in Shrewsbury. I want to ensure that all children receive the same quality public education that has allowed me to succeed both academically and in my career. The past few years have been difficult for schools, between total closure in 2020, hybrid and distance learning in 2021, and the lingering effects of the pandemic as we enter 2022. From teachers to parents, children to employers, we have everyone realized the crucial importance of schools in our local ecosystem. I want to make sure our schools continue to lead the state in developing responsible, inclusive citizens who embrace new ideas and value diverse opinions. I am proud of my work on the school committee and I am proud of our residents who voted to invest in all of our municipal services.
What is the biggest problem facing public schools in Shrewsbury and what would you do about it?
From my perspective, dealing with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic presents the greatest current challenges for our school system. We must continue to focus on helping our students, through our valued staff, to make up for the educational losses suffered by the disruptions to learning over the past few years due to the pandemic. Additionally, we must continue to reassess to ensure that we are adequately meeting the growing mental health needs of young people in our community. Not all students and families have been impacted equally, which has potentially widened education gaps and limited connections to positive prosocial adults in the lives of some of our young people. Knowing the impact of these losses will take time for our staff to determine, and we must ensure that we have the appropriate resources to provide meaningful interventions.
DESE lifted its mask requirement earlier this year, but the coronavirus continues to circulate widely in Shrewsbury and Massachusetts, and there will likely be outbreaks next winter. Would you like to bring back a mask mandate? Why or why not?
Like all parents and community members, I wish COVID was behind us. However, the virus proved to be unpredictable. As a school committee member, I have always tried to follow the science as best I could, to keep our children and staff safe. The mask requirement was put in place for this purpose and was rescinded when it was determined that our rates of
community spread was low and the variant caused mild symptoms for most people. If these factors were to change dramatically, I would certainly support the reinstatement of the masking mandate to ensure the fundamental purpose: to educate our children safely in person. While no one appreciates masks, and personally I look forward to a world without them, we know that, worn correctly, masks can significantly reduce the spread of the virus. Since students, even medically vulnerable students, are required by law to be in school, I would support efforts to protect the educational environment for all children. If medical and public health experts keep telling us that masks can and should be part of that equation, of course the school board should consider them.
If you could snap your fingers and fix or change one thing in the school system, what would it be?
Given my previous experience working in the juvenile justice system and my understanding of adolescent brain development throughout adolescence, I have long sought to see a change in our school start times. , especially at the secondary level. I sat on a committee as a parent representative on this issue in 2015, and learned how complicated and frankly costly this change would be. Transportation costs are a significant part of our budget, and changing start times likely impacts our staff who live in different districts, our arrangements for extracurricular activities and sports, especially with other cities, and childcare arrangements for young children. That said, the science is clear that teens need more sleep for healthy brain development and function, including positive mental health. If I had the power to snap my fingers and make this change, I would do it in a minute!