Term: 2 Years

Camille Bernstein

Candidate Website/Social Media Address

Candidate Biography

A transplanted Southerner, I arrived in Massachusetts in 1999 for graduate school, after serving as an Army medical service officer for four years. Although I am proud of my Kentucky roots -- and miss seeing daffodils pop up as early as late February! -- the northeast climate and culture felt more like home to me, so I stayed and landed a job at Natick High School. I am entering my 22nd year there as an English teacher and my 18th year as a resident of Franklin.

As a citizen here, I’ve been involved in a variety of activities, including serving on the Friends of the Franklin Library, hosting ESL students at Dean College, teaching cooking classes for Adult Ed; more recently, I've been coaching soccer, volunteering at my kids’ schools, and working the polls. In the past year, I’ve been involved in the FAAR (Franklin Area Against Racism) group and the Franklin Freedom Team, two groups whose values align closely with my own as a teacher, mother, and human being.

What accomplishments are you most proud of during your most recent tenure? Or, if you are a new candidate, what achievements make you most qualified for the position?

My experience as a teacher doesn’t automatically make me a worthy candidate, but my work as a teacher leader does. I have taught all levels and most grades in the English Department, including online and hybrid courses since 2003. In my four years as president of my local teachers’ union, I worked closely with the administration, as well as the School Committee, to negotiate contracts, design policies, and settle conflicts.

I have designed and led professional development within my department, my school, and in a number of states on a variety of topics, including mindfulness, adolescent psychology, digital literacy, difficult conversations, and digital integration in a 1:1 environment, among others. I keep up with new directions in curriculum and pedagogy while retaining institutional knowledge of the educational landscape over the last two decades.

I have served as a team leader for both 10th and 11th grades, heading curricular and policy changes, and I’ve overseen the MCAS analysis in our department. I’ve led committees for the NEASC Accreditation teams, as well as served on visiting teams to other districts. Finally, I recently completed a year-long position as a member of the National Humanities Center’s Teacher Advisory Council. More than two decades in, I am still invigorated by the work, expanding and evolving my personal practice as our students’ and society’s needs change.

What is your plan to make Franklin more appealing to teachers?

First of all, we need to have a stable budget that doesn’t put teachers in peril every year, wondering if they will be laid off. COVID monies have helped recently, but they won’t last much longer. We also need to have a robust mentoring program that does not overburden new teachers, but helps them during the crucial first years of their career. Over 30% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years, owing to burnout and stress, and the pandemic has made this teacher shortage crisis even more dire. The vertical alignment work being done by the FPS administration will help provide structure to teachers so that they have a roadmap to success, while also offering them some autonomy to share their academic passions with students. Finally, continuing to focus on staff wellness, in addition to SEL for students, is essential to retaining high quality staff.

What is your plan to increase community involvement in School Community bi-weekly meetings, District impacting changes, and other events?

The trick is not to overload people with information. Multiple emails, FB group posts, and announcements can become a wall of noise for parents and community. My organizing background makes me think that we could encourage representative parents from each school could agree to attend and then report back to their PCCs, or that each of the seven SC members could serve as a liaison to particular schools.

Davis Thayer was the oldest Franklin school, but there are others that are close to being above the recommended age of a school building. What is your plan to address the aging schools in Franklin?

Assessing the educational and physical capacity of the buildings must be considered not in isolation, but in conjunction with the town’s upcoming budget efficiency audit, the Master Facilities Plan, and possible reevaluation of the state’s funding formula. Closing any school comes with emotional repercussions for the affected school communities, so we need to approach any decision with compassion, guided by logic, community input, and transparency.

What is your perspective on redistricting to better support school capacity?

I assume that an analysis of redistricting is in our future, but I don’t feel I’m in a position to make a definitive statement without an objective study of the facts. The Superintendent’s Davis Thayer Facilities Analysis Subcommittee memo from January 2021 warned against moving ahead with redistricting before other analyses are completed.

Redistricting seems intertwined with plans for a Master Facilities evaluation that is likely to be completed in the immediate future. Given our long-term budget issues, repeatedly addressed in the past several years by both the Superintendent and the Town Council, ensuring that the school budget is reasonably apportioned is part of our fiscal responsibility. I was recently reading about something called “collaborative redistricting” used in legislative redistricting, and I think it would be a worthwhile practice to explore -- should we go down that road -- so that all stakeholders feel included in the process.

What is your position on continuing to increase diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in Franklin Public Schools?

Representation matters: all students benefit from seeing diversity in the educators and in the curricula they encounter in school. They will, after all, join the most diverse workforce and society in our country's history. We need to hire and retain a faculty that can offer a rich tapestry of voices and experiences. Part of retaining a diverse staff, however, means ensuring our culture is open and welcoming, culturally responsive, and that we are willing to have difficult conversations with ourselves and each other.

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