By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – School Committee Chair Michael Clark recently kicked off his campaign for re-election with an event at Rinaldi’s Italian Specialties on Feb. 6.
Clark is approaching the end of his first three-year term on the School Committee, chairing the schools’ policy-making entity for two of them. The Annual Town Election that will take place in June.
Clark was elected to the School Committee in 2011 after serving as clerk of the Finance Committee for one year.
Clark touted the accomplishments of the board during his tenure, stating, “There’s a lot for us to be proud of as a board.”
Addressing his specific impact on the School Committee, Clark pointed to his work on the development of a social media and accepted use policy for the schools, a process that took nearly two years to complete.
“It was a long process, but I think we did a great job not only for the students in our district, but for districts around the Commonwealth who have modeled our policy,” he said. “As a committee, we try to be as thoughtful and progressive in those areas in the hopes of changing the way students learn for the better.”
He also said he was proud of the way the School Committee had been able to develop budgets that keep the interests of students at heart while keeping fiscal responsibility in mind.
“Last year’s budget season [fiscal year 2014] was difficult in some aspects, but when it came right down to it, it was an issue of $300,000, so we were not all that far apart in the end,” Clark said. “I think we have made smart decisions when it comes to finances and how to best utilize our resources.”
He also applauded the district for its strides in literacy and math instruction and the implementation of new technology.
Clark added he and the board continue to strive to make the School Committee’s decision-making processes transparent and keep parents informed on issues within the schools.
“I think we try to be as out there publically as possible,” he said. “Our meetings are open to the public and we have forums to involve the public in policy issues. In addition to that, we’ve launched Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep the public informed – abiding by our social media policy, of course.”
While he could forecast some potential challenges for the district in the future, he said when dealing with a public school district, issues and obstacles that exist tend to be fluid. Testing, he said, is one area that he pointed to as a constant need for attention.
“The thing about being involved in public schools is there are new challenges every year,” he said. “We have some shortcomings in our [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System] test scores in some areas and there’s a need for us to acknowledge that. We have incredible teachers who work extremely hard and acknowledging these shortcomings is one of the most important things we can do to make sure they have the tools and resources to help our students succeed.”