Reece Dahlberg - Candidate for School Committee
Marblehead Beacon is presenting these candidate profiles in advance of our June 21 town elections with the goal of helping the community learn more about all of the individuals volunteering their time to run for public office. Please note that the answers included here are printed exactly as provided by each candidate, with only minor typographical edits. Marblehead Beacon does not endorse any candidate or validate any responses. All candidates for the Select Board, Town Moderator, Board of Health, Light Department, and School Committee who had available contact information were given the opportunity to respond to a set of questions specific to the office for which they are running.
What is your professional experience, including handling budgets, and how has your background prepared you to serve on the School Committee?
I have spent the past nine years solely focused on being an active participant in the work of improving schools and the larger community. Along the way I have had many different roles and have worked with countless people dedicated to serving their school districts through their position in the district. I am the current President of the Village School PTO, a member of the Veterans Middle School Student Advisory Council, and have held various PTO executive board positions in my children's schools. PTOs are 501(3)c organizations with self-sustaining budgets - each year a new budget is created and debated. This budget process considers the priorities of the PTO as well as input from teachers and parents. Additionally, I volunteer and advise in professional development programs for administrators and teachers in schools and businesses throughout New England for the DESE Safe Schools Program. I am a current member of the Marblehead Selectboard’s Task Force Against Discrimination and I am also on the board of The Spinney Foundation. Last year I also participated in the MPS Planning For Success initiative, which consisted of twenty five stakeholders made up of district leaders, staff, parents, students and community members that used outreach information sessions in order to develop the framework of our school’s strategic plan. Most recently, I proactively completed an eight-hour seminar hosted by Massachusetts Association of School Committees that featured an in-depth look into the roles and responsibilities of the School Committee. At this seminar I was able to connect with committee members from around MA. Earlier in my career, I was a residential and commercial real estate paralegal for a Boston law firm. I bring all of these experiences and the relationships I have built throughout the district to my candidacy for School Committee.
If you are currently serving on the School Committee, what do you believe are your most significant accomplishments thus far? If you are not currently serving, how would you evaluate the efforts of the School Committee over the past year?
I believe that school committee members have strived to do their best for the children of Marblehead during unprecedented times. I recognize that the School Committee and educators were under an enormous amount of pressure during the last three years. While I understand the circumstances as to why community connection was made difficult - all members should strive to make themselves available and approachable when possible. I believe all committee members should have a working relationship as well as regular meetings with the Superintendent. I believe that maintaining strong relationships is especially important when inevitably dealing with areas of disagreement. Members should always attend subcommittee and liaison meetings. I consistently attend district related meetings and presentations provided to our community and attend meetings such as various school School Advisory Council meetings and SEPAC meetings. I appreciate and attend when community ventures such as MRJT host events that highlight school related programs like METCO and the MHS leadership group, Team Harmony. I am a regular at the Superintendent Coffees and enjoy attending school sponsored events with my family. These are opportunities to see our district in action. I appreciate the amount of time and scrutiny that was put into the budget process this year and I applaud the committee for hearing our educational professionals when they said that the time is now and moving forward with the general override.
What are your top priorities to accomplish this year if elected or re-elected to the School Committee?
My top priorities if elected to the School Committee are as follows: I prioritize a school budget that provides the necessary funding so that each student receives an exemplary education and a concrete pathway to success that aligns with the district strategic plan. I prioritize Communication and Community connection - Covid forced us all to “socially distance” and it is time to close that gap and be more accessible to the parents and community of Marblehead by attending meetings that directly and indirectly affect our school population and support school related events. I prioritize putting the time and attention into our METCO Program and Student Services/Special Education that they deserve. I will strive to be a committee member that works collaboratively to set the tone as role models and lead from the front.
Do you support the general override for school funding that will be on the ballot on June 21? Are there any aspects of the funding with which you disagree?
I support the general override for the Marblehead Public Schools. I also recognize that residents are faced with a tough question at the ballot that affects two of our most vulnerable populations: elderly and children. With that said, it has been 17 years since a permanent override was adopted by Marblehead and we have allowed our schools to be level-funded for far too long. It has become too difficult to meet the demands of educating our students the way they deserve and Marblehead expects. I also believe that the process that led to the override request was robust. The school leadership team was charged with identifying what they need to provide the children of Marblehead with an exemplary education. The results were presented to the School Committee back in December. The budget was refined during community listening sessions, working with FinCom, and town leaders. The budget proposal evolved even further after input was provided during the public hearing. I appreciate the attention the district has also given to address the financial stress this could put on our population. At the last budget information session, Dr. Buckey spoke of his collaboration with the town to explore tax abatement opportunities for Seniors and Veterans with available hours within the schools to earn up to $750.00 off their tax bills. In the end, I have confidence in the budget process. Our educational professionals have told us what they need - things like free kindergarten and security items and I think we should listen.
Do you support the current trend toward de-leveling high school courses so that all students take classes together rather than having the option of honors, regular and remedial classes?
I do not believe we are currently in a position to begin de-leveling at the Marblehead High School. While I recognize and applaud large urban districts for beginning the process of looking inward at their practices and making proactive strides toward making certain classes more attainable, I do not think we are there for Marblehead yet. I am not opposed to the concept of deleveling, but I believe the process to be a long one. In Marblehead we would need to hear from our teachers, administrators and community about how it would look in practice for our schools. A solidly built plan for deleveling would need to be developed and explored well before implementation.
Do you think that relevant public documents should be made available online at least 24 hours in advance of each School Committee meeting?
I believe that documents should be made available to the public as early as possible. However, I have seen countless times - not just with School Committee meetings - when released documents, without the necessary context of the accompanying presentation, are misinterpreted on social media. This has the unfortunate major ramification that a narrative is developed, discussed and dissected with incomplete information without the input of the presenter. I applaud our School Committee for setting a practice where they are presented with information and proposals then typically take the two weeks between meetings for due diligence and public input then use the next meeting to hold discussion and vote.
Do you think the superintendent is doing a good job? Why or why not?
I do believe the Superintendent and his administration are doing a good job. That doesn’t mean the district should not always strive for better and welcome constructive thoughtful criticism. Just like our students, we should always expect leaders to be learning and evolving. I recognize that Dr. Buckey began his role as Superintendent during unprecedented times. Covid related guidelines from DESE forced the hand of our leaders on many issues, including those that proved to be divisive. Stepping in and inheriting a school district with fresh wounds from major turmoil is also no small feat. From day 1 obstacles such as time on learning deficits, no teacher evaluation process in place and of course, a global pandemic have existed and I have appreciated the numerous ways that Dr Buckey has made himself available to the parents and the community. Regular rotating superintendent coffees which were used as opportunities to hear from the public about issues such as the school calendar, budget priorities as well as just open conversation. I appreciate that Dr. Buckey is regularly seen inside our schools and is recognizable and approachable to our students. My 7th grade daughter considers him a “regular” in her English class at Vets. As a vocal and involved parent of three children in the Marblehead Public Schools and a PTO president I have had instances when I have agreed with the District and times when I’ve strongly disagreed with decisions being made. However, I have always found Dr. Buckey to be willing to engage and listen. Regular communication, in good times and in bad, is appreciated. I recognize that he is a superintendent to ALL 2,700+ Marblehead students that also means that resolutions on some issues are not one size fits all.
Do you support hiring a diversity administrator in Marblehead? Why or why not?
First, I think it's important to clarify your question - the position is not “diversity administrator” the position is a Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. DEI director positions have already been incorporated into other schools in MA such as: Belmont, Concord-Carlisle, Newton, Wellesley, Lexington and Wayland . There have been ELEVEN documented incidents of hate speech and graffiti in the Marblehead Public Schools in the 9 months of this school year alone. If you are a parent in any of these schools affected by these eleven incidents you know that communication over and over again from our principals vocalizes the need for a DEI director. This role would assist us in examining issues such as why we have been unable to keep a METCO director and provide much needed SEL coaching. Inclusion also directly affects the children in our special education programs. As a member of the strategic plan working group, I had the ability to speak to groups of teachers, parents, and other community members and consistent feedback from these listening sessions indicated that DEI should be one of the main focus points of our district plan. This role is not solely about diversity. It is about ensuring that every student who walks through our building doors feels supported and ready to learn. It is about ensuring that systems are in place to create an environment that allows all students to be successful.