School Committee Candidates

Donna McKenzie

 What motivates you to continue to serve Natick?

Gratitude and capability motivate me to continue to serve. I attended Natick Public Schools from kindergarten to 12th grade and received an outstanding education that enabled me to earn a doctorate in ethics. This was no small achievement for a first generation college student and third generation Irish immigrant. I am thankful for what I received and want to help future generations of Natick children have what they need to achieve success and flourish. As a life long college educator, I think I have the experience and wisdom to contribute thoughtfully to guiding the district as the School Committee formulates budgets, institutes and revises policies, and oversees our superintendent who I am proud to have had a part in hiring.

What role do you see the School Committee having in relation to the overall Town budget?

The School Committee and NPS administration work hard to collaborate with the Town Administrator and her proposed budget. But Massachusetts General Law requires the School Committee to propose a budget that supports the needs of the students in our district. Agreement among our partners is not always possible. In the end, it is up to Town Meeting to determine and appropriate the necessary funds for the schools. Last year NPS used monies from its revolving funds to bridge a funding gap because the School Committee and School Administration believed strongly that not doing so would have a negative impact on services provided to students. This meant that NPS's budgetary appropriation last year did not reflect its true operating expenses. Without some kind of intervention, this will be even more the case this year when the Schools begin the budget process for fiscal year 2022 (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022) with as much as a $3 million differential between what the Town Administrator indicates as the FY21 school budget and the actual FY21 school budget. The challenge for the School Committee is to be ever vigilant against decreasing spending for education and about helping our town partners understand and prioritize the needs of Natick's children.

How will you use your role as a School Committee member to foster collaboration between municipal and school departments?

I use my presence to help
municipal and school departments work together. As a School Committee Member, as well as a long-standing Town Meeting member, I am watching, hearing, learning from and challenging what our municipal partners are doing. I make the time to participate in Select Board Meetings, and Finance Committee meetings including subcommittee meetings. I do this even though much of the collaborative work with town partners is entrusted to our chair, as well as our newly appointed vice chair for finance, a position which I suggested we create. I try to use a hermeneutic of generosity by presuming good will on the part of all of our town partners even when we disagree. I have a lot of hope for our future and enjoy our life together so much.

Shai Fuxman

 What motivates you to continue to serve Natick?

I am proud of the public school system that our community has built in the past years—strong leaders, committed teachers, and comprehensive and personalized K-12 education. But I also know we can’t take the success of the past for granted. we need to ensure that we can continue to provide the best instruction, services and supports to enable each of our students to be successful—however success is defined for each and every one of them. That is what motivates me to continue to serve in my role as school committee member.

What role do you see the School Committee having in relation to the overall Town budget?

Coming up with a budget that serves the needs of all of our residents is much more than a simple exercise in mathematics. During this difficult period, in particular, when we are seeing shrinking revenues and increasing expenses, it is important to have voices in town government that advocate for the value that lies behind every single dollar we invest through our taxes. As a school committee member and as an education researcher by profession, I see my role as advocating for the importance of investing in our most cherished asset—our children’s education.

How will you use your role as a School Committee member to foster collaboration between municipal and school departments?

As a resident of Natick, I want the best education possible for my children, alongside well-resourced first responders to keep us safe, well-paved roads, a robust library system, and as someone who hopes to grow old in this town, excellent services for senior citizens. To have it all, we need to work together, be creative and innovative, and make compromises across the board. As a school committee member, I will continue to work hard to foster relations with colleagues across our town government to work towards making the right decisions when it comes to investing our tax dollars.

Hayley Sonneborn

 What motivates you to continue to serve Natick?

I am motivated by the opportunity to affect planning and policy that ensures that all students are supported and find pathways to success within our schools. As an educator and parent of a 6th and 9th grader, I appreciate the complexity of the role our schools play in developing our students to become productive, critical-thinking citizens. I am excited by the work that Natick has implemented and continued during my tenure. The essence and potential of this work is what has motivated me to continue to serve on School Committee. I am particularly enthusiastic about the Profile of a Graduate work which requires our schools to reflect deeply on curricular goals. Further, I am vested in supporting NPS's Social Emotional Learning initiatives as well as its commitment to engaging students and nurturing their talents through extra-curricular offerings in athletics and in the arts.

What role do you see the School Committee having in relation to the overall Town budget?

It is essential for the School Committee to appreciate the complexity of the demands of other municipal departments in the town and understand (and ideally align) with those priorities that serve the complex and diverse needs of our community. Our current crisis situation is one where all school and town stakeholders have been forced to bend in ways that are uncomfortable. However, it is the role of School Committee to ensure student achievement and advocate for the necessary funding to guarantee that all students continue to have the supports and opportunities necessary for success and achievement.

How will you use your role as a School Committee member to foster collaboration between municipal and school departments?

In this role, collaboration is about communication. I think it is essential to be able to listen to the perspectives of other municipal leaders and stakeholders with the goal of understanding their objectives and concerns. Similarly, I see collaboration as an opportunity to provide data to help other stakeholders better understand the rationale behind the objectives and priorities of our schools. Ultimately in this role, I appreciate the necessity of listening with an open mind, seeking the opinion and expertise of other leaders and stakeholders and advocating for what I know to be essential to ensure the well-being of our students.