Wayland 2022 Candidate Profile: Erin Gibbons, School Council

WAYLAND, MA — In 2022, voters in Wayland will have a choice of two new candidates for the school council: Erin Gibbons and Craig Gruber. Incumbent Kim Reichelt withdrew from the race in March.

Gibbons, a lawyer with Bowditch & Dewey, has served on several school boards in Wayland and is a football coach for the town’s youth. She graduated from Suffolk University Law School and Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Wayland Patch sent Gruber and Gibbons a questionnaire to candidates to let voters get to know them better. Here’s how Gibbons responded:

Last name: Erin Nicole Gibbons
Age: 38
Occupation: Lawyer
Wayland School Links: In September, I will have a pupil of 10th, 6th, 3rd and 1st. I have experience with all three levels of the District and have participated in the PTO, Warden, and Vice Warden search committees, and have coached several soccer teams.
Experience as elected official: Elected to the school board of Happy Hollow, Wayland Middle School and I am co-chair of the high school board.

Why are you running for a seat on the Wayland School Board?

I’m running for a seat on the Wayland School Board, because I want to provide a student-centered, balanced, solution-focused voice for the community that will confront issues head-on while working constructively toward positive resolutions through open and respectful communication. I am connected to the Wayland community as I have been an active participant in schools, athletics and other activities for the 16+ years that I have lived here. As an active listener, I know community members feel encouraged to share openly and honestly with me. I want to use my knowledge of the community and my role as a trusted partner and problem solver to continue to serve Wayland by taking a more active and engaged position as a school committee member.

What is the biggest problem facing public schools in Wayland and what would you do about it?

It’s a draw for me; I boiled it down to two problems. The two biggest issues I see facing Wayland Public Schools are: 1) communication and collaboration between teachers, administration, superintendent, parents and students is strained, and 2) equity for all our learners in the district.

I would address the 1st issue by encouraging a positive and respectful discourse between all school district stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, administration, superintendent and school committee. By treating members of the school community with kindness and respect, I believe we can begin to increase dialogue between parties and encourage a more harmonious work environment that best supports each learner and builds parental trust in our district.

To address the second issue, I believe the School Board needs to work closely with Superintendent Omar Easy to ensure that all students in our district receive an equal educational experience. For example, we should not have one primary school that is “better” than another, whether in terms of facilities, technology, or class size. The school board can support this by reviewing policy at the district level to ensure equal opportunity and outcomes for all students in the district, regardless of address.

DESE lifted its mask requirement earlier this year, but the coronavirus continues to circulate widely in Wayland and Massachusetts, and there will likely be outbreaks next winter. Would you like to bring back a mask mandate? Why or why not?

None of us really know where the pandemic is going, but I sure hope we get to a place where it will be rampant. I’m glad DESE and our school committee have made the decision to make masks optional at this point. I hope the climate in schools is such that those who choose to wear a mask can feel comfortable doing so without ridicule or judgment. I sincerely hope that we will not need to reinstate a mask mandate, but I am in favor of doing everything we can to keep our students physically in school to best meet all of their needs.

If you could snap your fingers and fix or change one thing in the school system, what would it be?

Although I will certainly have a period of acclimatization if I am elected to the school committee, I already know that the state of our school facilities leaves much to be desired. Research has shown that the quality of school facilities has an impact on student learning. If I could snap my fingers to change one thing in our school system, it would be to optimize our facilities. Students and teachers benefit immensely from a positive environment and having poor facilities compromises student and teacher well-being and performance. Our middle school suffered flooding in January which ended up exposing a mold problem and now two classrooms have been forced to close and modules need to be used which has eliminated the use of the new pickleball court. Not only is this disappointing and confusing for students, teachers and staff, but it also takes away from the use of a fun outlet for children during their time out of class. We need to better support our students and teachers by providing safe, up-to-date and appropriately sized facilities so they have the best environment in which to thrive. The school committee can better manage funding for proper upkeep and upkeep of existing buildings and the potential for new buildings with a responsible budget that maximizes all available scholarships and external funding sources so as not to sacrifice opportunities learning for our students.