WINCHESTER - Current Chair of the School Committee, Michelle Bergstrom, who has already made quite the impact on the town in just her first term, is running for re-election on March 31 and has completed her first term as chair. She was elected in 2017.
She opened up about her role as chair during her first term and she said that her “work as a member has focused on establishing a Gender Identity Policy, adding full-time aides to the kindergarten and fully funded all-day kindergarten, as well as implementing later school start times.”
She is proud to report that she has successfully expanded world language options, implemented a town-wide after school childcare program, worked to bring teachers’ salaries to a level competitive as a member with peer communities, supported infrastructure improvements to Skilling’s Field, had solar panels installed at the schools, and successfully funded social and emotional learning (SEL) support.
She has also worked to revive the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), to connect parents with resources and support for children with special needs and on Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) and 504 plans. She was a part of the team that put together the McCall expansion project and the application for the Massachusetts State Building Authority (MSBA) partnership for the Lynch School, which was approved this December.
This year she began a School Committee research group to bring together students, parents, teachers, and administrators to analyze district data regarding Student Success and Well-Being in collaboration with the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment (MCIEA).
Bergstrom believes that the greatest strength in the Winchester Public Schools is their innovative mindset and they should apply that toward expanding their performance-based assessment practices, curriculums, and school schedules. She mentioned that there is much to be done to create exceptional learning environments for students, as well as create exceptional working environments for teachers and staff to increase positive outcomes.
She noted that to be a change-maker for their schools they must carefully listen and actively learn from students.
She stated that "we have just begun assessing all of the concerns and issues that our students are facing, and I believe that any change to our system should be led by putting students first."
Bergstrom also wants to focus on the future. She commented that the community is growing and the facilities that serve current and future children should be built with the needs of the 21st century learning keeping athletics and the arts in mind.
“Any plans for future schools or facilities should be resilient, sustainable, and purpose-built to ensure the success of future generations,” the chair noted.
She has been a Winchester resident since her family moved to town in 2010. Her family has enjoyed being a part of this close-knit, small-town suburb. Her children, Annika, Erik, and Kajsa enjoy all the town has to offer such as playing soccer with the Winchester Soccer Club, doing theater at Kidstock, dancing at Ballet Arts, and working out at Mountain Strength CrossFit. As a family, they like walking around the Farmer’s Market together in the summer and grabbing a coffee or snack at Fuller Cup. Her children also love the new addition of the bike trail which makes getting to school and activities possible by bicycle now.
As far as accomplishments for next term, Bergstrom wants to continue to advocate for innovative curriculum and assessment practices. She plans to work with the superintendent and assistant superintendent to continue to expand performance-based assessment practices, re-examine grading practices, implement innovative middle school and high school schedules, and continue to improve the curriculum with diverse texts and research-based practices. She feels that the programs and curriculum should be designed to meet the needs of all learners.
Also, she would like to work with teachers, students, parents and community leaders to use the data they have from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, MCIEA, and School Climate Surveys to ensure that social-emotional programs and intervention strategies are working, and to investigate and implement new strategies where they can.
She said, "We must involve students in this process, learn from their experiences, and make changes that best suit their needs."
Lastly, she wants to accomplish building for their future. She noted now that the MSBA has agreed to partner with them to rebuild the Lynch Elementary school, Winchester has the opportunity to create an important legacy for future generations by building a structure that is green, energy-efficient, and has classroom spaces that enable 21st-century learning, athletic and art goals.
The partnership with the MSBA is just the beginning and they need to fund both the feasibility study and the eventual school building.
“We also cannot lose sight of preparing the schools that we have for any increases in student population by striving to maintain reasonable class sizes and ensuring that all of our facilities are sound and welcoming to our students and staff,” Bergstrom said.
She is the only woman running in this election and she believes her experience and depth of knowledge of the Winchester Public School System is what sets her apart from the other candidates running. She stated that she is a dedicated innovator, advocate, and leader who delivers on the promises she has made to her community.
Bergstrom suggested the town should vote for her re-election because she is committed to Winchester.
“I’m committed to creating 21st-century schools that are focused on the needs of every child,” she remarked. “I’m committed to making our town a place where students and families feel welcome and have every opportunity to succeed. I'm committed to continuing our record of success and doubling down on our innovative curriculums. And I'm committed to being an advocate for our students, teachers, and staff, who deserve exceptional learning environments for years to come."
As chair she initiated School Committee office hours for the first time to provide another means of two-way communication regularly with town residents. She sponsored office hours specifically dedicated to high school students. She believes one of the biggest challenges the School Committee and the school department face in an information-rich environment is finding new and effective ways to reach out to parents, teachers, and students regularly. This term she would like to work with the community stakeholders to figure out what is working and improve what is not.
She calls the Winchester community "compassionate and collaborative" and she's dedicated her service to the School Committee to reflect those values. She noted that it is one of the greatest honors of her life to be elected to serve families, students and residents of Winchester.
She added that "learning from students, teachers, and staff that we are unified in our desire to create the best school system we can is what motivates me every day. Our community is full of dedicated people that have shown me the best way to serve this town and I’m excited to continue the good work that we have started together.”