Provided by Valery Young
As the Westford School Committee continues to make important decisions, Valery Young is one Westford resident who has decided to step up and take a more active role in her community by running for a position.
Young has lived in Westford for the past six years and is the mother of a seven-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. Since her children began attending school, she has strived to be an active volunteer in the Westford Public School system, serving on the Nabnasset School Advisory Council for the past two years, and assisting with fundraisers for the Westford Preschool at St. Mark’s.
Additionally, Young’s experience on the Nabnasset School Advisory Council helped her to see the repercussions of tough budget decisions. After seeing the school committee face similar challenges, Young felt inspired to run, as she experienced first hand how the budget cuts affected the families of those with younger children, specifically children in K-5 schools.
“I just figured [running] was a natural progression for the volunteering I’ve been doing in my kids’ schools, but I didn’t think I would actually run this year [until] I kept seeing the candidates and state committee members and hoping for someone with young kids to be able to commiserate with [young students],” Young said.
Along with the advocacy for K-5 schools, Young feels as though the communication and accessibility between the committee and the public can be improved. Young notes that it can be hard for parents to attend every single meeting when they have children to care for at home, and that casual observers can have trouble keeping up with new information as decisions are quickly made.
“I hear a lot from fellow parents about how hard it is to stay engaged with the issues facing our schools. Evening meetings are tough to attend for families with young children, working parents, and many others, and these are the very voices that we need to [listen to],” Young said.
To bridge the divide between the committee and public, one of Young’s ideas is to create short videos that break down difficult committee meeting topics, such as the town and school budgets. This way, viewers can obtain direct information in a form of media that’s easy to absorb and understand. Another idea of Young’s is to schedule monthly office hours where residents can meet with committee members to ask questions. This was inspired by the live question and answer format provided on Zoom, which the committee adjusted to when schools closed in response to COVID-19.
Young feels ideas like these would be extremely beneficial to those who are unable to watch the meetings in their entirety while creating a sense of community where people feel as though they are a part of the conversation.
“I think creative ideas like [these] would be really helpful to the community, as well as make everyone feel heard and included,” Young said.
Along with the knowledge she has gained from her previous experience, Young believes her dedication and work ethic will help her to hit the ground running if given a seat on the committee. She intends to use these qualities to help the committee achieve their future plans, such as the search for a new superintendent.
“I want to ensure that the search for the next superintendent looks for someone with an innovative vision to lead our evolving school system. We need someone to be creatively looking at how to fund our top-ranked school system […] and find ways to address the resultant learning gaps and inequities,” Young said.
With the additional impact of COVID-19, Young acknowledges that the committee will be faced with more difficult decisions regarding budgets, as well as the reopening of schools, and how these decisions may affect students and teachers. Young feels that there has been some mistrust towards the committee since the previous budget cuts earlier in the school year.
If elected, Young hopes to help re-establish that trust between the town and the school committee by providing opportunities and resources to include more voices and help individuals to feel heard and validated.
“I’d like to see how we can move forward and heal together. […] We need to include more voices– not just the ones who can show up at evening meetings– by finding new ways to communicate with the community,” Young said.