Each of the four candidates running for two School Committee seats in the upcoming Town Election have lots of experience to offer in their own ways. But for Jen Schaeffner, this isn’t her first time in this position.
Schaeffner, who is from Marblehead and attended Marblehead Public Schools, was previously a member of the town’s School Committee for four years, and is using the knowledge she gained from that experience, along with her deep economic background to spearhead her campaign.
Schaeffner and her husband moved back to Marblehead with their children in 2003, leaving the corporate world to become business owners with her husband. Since then, she has been heavily involved with the schools.
“When my children were school age, I became very involved in the schools. Initially for many years as a parent leader, serving in each of the PTOs and PCOs, culminating in a run for School Committee.”
She served on the committee from 2016 to 2020 and said that one thing she has learned from being in that position is the importance of transparency. Schaeffner said that there has been a lot of “distrust” and “scrutiny” of Marblehead Town Government over the last year-and-a-half, and one of her goals is to try and rebuild trust with the public.
“To me, the most important thing, which I believe I did when I served earlier and have a lot more ideas about coming into the role this year, is about transparency and honesty,” she said. “What that means is, if somebody asks me a question, Im going to answer it. The parents and community members who have questions or concerns deserve to be heard, deserve to have an answer and deserve to have it in real time.”
She added that she wants to see more “open dialogue” between the School Committee and community at open meetings, which she says has not happened in “quite some time.”
In addition to her four years of School Committee experience, Schaeffner has 23 years of experience in the investment and banking industry, working for Fidelity Investments and Bank of America.
In her letter announcing her candidacy, she listed that one of her goals would be to work with the School Administration to “Insist, starting immediately, on a zero-based budget that creates budgets for each school building from scratch based on existing student headcount, needs, and appropriate staffing levels.”
As someone with 23 years of investment and banking experience, Schaeffner understands the dynamics that go into school budgeting.
“From my background in finances and as an individual managing my household finances, I understand there’s only so much revenue we’re appropriated and we have a very challenging and complex set of services that we are to deliver to maximize our students’ achievement.”
Enrollment has been on the decline in the district over the last few years, and though Schaeffner is aiming to bring back students currently attending out-of-district schools, she believes that what she calls an “enrollment dividend,” can help increase the services that they provide to students through funds not affected by declining enrollment.
“With the funds that we have been appropriated from the town, that have not gone down with declining enrollment, how do we maximize what we’re delivering to our students with what we’ve been appropriated?” she said.
In addition to these goals, Schaeffner also aims to eliminate and reverse learning loss, and to “create a culture that celebrates maximizing student achievement, promote programming that incentivizes strengthening student resiliency, independence, and critical thinking.”