Arthur Benoit promotes trust and transparency in run for school committee


Provided by Arthur Benoit

Arthur Benoit, who is running for school committee

Keertana Gangireddy, Co-Managing-Editor

Westford resident Arthur Benoit has involved himself in his community through the work he has done for the public school system. After a one year break, Benoit is running again for a seat on the school committee in the upcoming town election.

Benoit has served on the Westford School Committee for fourteen years, from 2006 to 2019, but left the committee due to personal issues for the 2019-2020 school year. However, after witnessing the financial issues that the current committee faced the year of his leave, Benoit decided to run to be re-elected for a position to ensure that the budget is handled as effectively as possible.

Benoit’s experience on the committee, as well as his involvement as the president of the Westford Kiwanis, reputedly exhibits his eligibility for a position this year.

“I’ve gone through […] very tough budget years on the committee, and I think that has really prepared me to be able to understand what the negotiation process for the budget [is] and who to negotiate with,” Benoit said.

Benoit feels as though the committee for the FY21 school year didn’t uphold trust and transparency for the townspeople and departments, as before in earlier years. Along with returning financial stability to the district, his goal is to regain the trust that previous committees worked strenuously to build.

“When I first stepped onto the committee back in 2006, […] every department was in it for themselves, and it took a lot of really strong committees [to change this]. […] Since I stepped off it seems like that has been completely undone. There’s not a lot of trust between departments, between the town manager and the school committee, between the parents and the school committee. Between students, staff. [this trust] has been undone by a few simple, but significant [gaps] in communication and collaboration,” Benoit said. 

To increase transparency and rebuild trust, Benoit is planning on bringing back meetings where parents and community members are invited to talk to the committee. This allows the school committee to hear the concerns of the different populations of people that corroborate with the nine schools of the district.

“It starts with the school committee meetings. Doing things to avoid executive sessions, where you’re behind closed doors and nobody can hear you, is first and foremost, the responsibility of a committee. I don’t think that this committee has really taken that responsibility seriously. So, one change that has to be made, is to do everything in the open meeting, or as much as possible,” Benoit said.

As for the transition to a new superintendent, Benoit believes that the responsibility to find a successor to keep the school system running belongs to Bill Olsen, and that it’s paramount to consult Olsen when making the choice.

“The most important thing to remember is that the members of the school committee in every single case, are not staff in the schools. They’re not administrators of schools, they’re not superintendents, and none of us, I believe, are truly qualified to choose a candidate […] for a superintendent. That said, we have somebody who is, and that’s Bill,” Benoit said.

Through more than a decade of serving his community, Benoit says that the main quality he has developed from his experience is compassion. 

“I see that the community really needs people with experience […] to help lead the school committee […]. Today, I can empathize with the people on the committee […] because it’s not an easy job and [there’s no bad intent in the mistakes they have made]. Before I would have just blamed them,” Benoit said. 

Benoit wants the Westford public to know that he works solely for them. His main goal is to keep Westford Public Schools as one of the top school districts in Massachusetts and build a system that teachers and parents wouldn’t want to leave.

“There were a lot of days that it was very tough to go through those budget sessions right, [and] to go through negotiation with the town on […] financial things when problems arise in schools. […] The days that are really good are when you have a meeting with the student council, and you hear their aspirations. […] Those were the best days that I had. […] So I guess just if there’s anything that I can say, is that I will always fight for the students. I will always try to do what’s right for the students,” Benoit said.