Town resident Karen Tal-Makhluf has announced her bid for one of two School Committee seats that will open in June.
Last year, former Vice Chair Emily Barron resigned from her position due to a conflict of interest, leaving a vacancy that was later filled by Tom Mathers. Mathers made it clear that he had no intent to run for a full term on the committee when he was appointed.
The other vacancy comes as a result of member Sarah Gold’s three-year term expiring.
In a statement, Tal-Makhluf said that she decided to run for the position because she believes that Marblehead Public Schools need to change its approach.
“Over the past several years, it has become painstakingly clear that Marblehead Public Schools need to refocus their priorities on recovering from student learning loss and promoting academic achievement,” she said.
In the statement, she referred to data gathered from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, in which 72 percent of Marblehead fifth graders were not meeting grade-level expectations. She also referenced that even taking the effects of the pandemic into consideration, Marblehead students still performed second-to-last when compared with similar school districts.
In addition, Tal-Makhluf questioned the school district’s decision to change the kindergarten to sixth grade report cards to a “standards-based” system, which did away with the “exceeds expectations” category.
“The majority of teachers were not even aware of the report card change until they read about it after the decision had already been made,” Tal-Makhluf said. “How administrators felt that changing the report card was a priority is baffling considering the pandemic had such negative consequences on Marblehead students.”
Tal-Makhluf also addressed the issue of teacher and student support in her announcement. She said that compared to other districts, teachers are underpaid and expected to “effectively teach students with a wide spectrum of behavioral and academic abilities in one classroom.”
She said that it is not fair to either teachers or students. She added that the pandemic led to increased behavioral problems among students, which in turn has overwhelmed teachers.
“This is putting our teachers through a tremendous amount of stress at a time when we need to provide them with as much support as possible,” Tal-Makhluf said.
Another priority that Tal-Makhluf listed was to retain more special education students that are leaving for out-of-district placements. She said that this can be accomplished by ”hiring appropriate specialists to allow them to stay in Marblehead Public Schools.”
In order to resolve these issues, Tal-Makhluf believes that three underutilized governance roles should be implemented: policy, budget, and evaluation.
She closed her statement by saying that the time is now to turn the school district around.
“This is our opportunity to change the trajectory of Marblehead Public Schools,” Tal-Makhluf said.