Marblehead Beacon School Committee Questionnaire - Scott Stunkel
Regardless of whether you are appointed to fill the current vacancy, do you plan to seek election to the School Committee during municipal elections this coming June 2023?
I wouldn't want to commit either way at this point. There are other candidates that are seeking to fill the vacancy as well, such as Paul Baker, who I know and deeply respect and would feel satisfied the community is in good hands. It will also depend on whether I feel I'm actually doing a good job in the role!
What aspects of your background or experience best prepare you to serve on the School Committee?
There are a number of ways I think my background prepares me to be on the school committee. First, I was a secondary school teacher in Chicago. I taught technology literacy, multimedia, and computer science. This was a wonderful experience, but it made me well acquainted with the plethora of challenges that teachers face including schedule management, classroom management, technology management, professional development, keeping up with parent outreach, and compensation. I was very actively involved with my school administration on all of these issues. Second, I learned a lot about both the science of learning and childhood as well as system-wide issues of education when I received a master's degree in the science of education from Northwestern University. Finally, I've been very fortunate in my career path since leaving the field of education and I am currently a software-engineering executive at a large life-science software company called Dotmatics. While the school district is much, much larger than the software engineering teams I'm responsible for, I would hope that some of the experience and skills I've learned in managing people and budgets would be applicable. In my role, I am currently hiring college graduates for some of the most desirable post-bachelor's job openings that are out there, and I'd like to pass on my experiences about what skills prepare young adults to be successful in a job search in our software-oriented world.
What do you believe are the most significant strengths and weaknesses of the current school administration?
As for strengths, though this may be an unpopular opinion to hold, I'm really appreciative of the fiscal competency of the district. The macroeconomic conditions out there right now are some of the worst I've ever experienced, with inflation hitting every facet of life incredibly hard. Regardless of one's feelings on the override, for our district to be, relatively speaking, on budget this year after it was just rejected indicates competency, restraint and willingness to keep things running as smoothly as possible. However, the topic of the override also demonstrates one of the primary weaknesses of the current administration - communication. The messaging around a number of the current issues coming out of the district has struggled to find common ground with the community. We have an incredibly collaborative community that absolutely desires the school-system to rank amongst the best, and I believe they're willing to do what is necessary to make it happen. However, in recent conversations, community members have indicated to me that they felt the communication coming out of the district has been "top-down" rather than "bottom-up." The district recognizes this challenge and has brought ThoughtExchange on board to assist, however even in the platform's rollout some of the same tendencies might have crept (perhaps unintentionally) into the communication. It is my hope that if I joined the school-board I could assist with some pragmatic ideas to increase communication and understanding between the district and the community.
What are your top priorities if you are appointed to the School Committee?
Technology is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I really would like to know more about the effectiveness of technology-use in the district. Overall, technological literacy amongst young adults is dropping at an alarming rate. This may seem counterintuitive for a generation that has grown up with phones and tablets, but these devices are frequently only used for consumption, not creation. Technological illiteracy shuts the door to many of the best jobs in the market, as well as increases the chances of getting scammed. I really hope that I could use my knowledge and experience to help the technology education decisions that occur in our district. That said, my highest priority would be to learn everything I can about the position and the district itself so I could be as effective as possible as a committee member.