Term: 2 Years

Denise Spencer

Candidate Website/Social Media Address

Candidate Biography

I grew up in Walpole and am a product of the public-school system. My family moved to Franklin in 2017 because I felt it was the perfect fit, the place I wanted to raise my son, who is currently a fifth grader at Keller Elementary School. We love the community, we love our schools, and the teachers and staff that have worked so hard to educate, care for, and nurture the students. As a current member of the school committee, I have had the honor of serving the Franklin community during some truly unprecedented times.

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?

I am incredibly proud of the work done by our Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. Administrators, Teachers, Staff and Students spent a lot of time pulling together our Equity Statement and creating a well thought out plan for our district. Having a hand in the success of our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts has been a highlight of my term.

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

We are losing incredible staff to other towns due to our inability to compete salary-wise. Our school system, and by extension our students, will suffer when we start losing more staff and interested candidates because they can make more money elsewhere. We hear the Schools should be creative in finding fixes for the budget issues. Franklin Public Schools have cut programs (languages in both elementary and middle, cuts to the music and arts programs, library cuts at both the elementary and middle levels, and reductions in supplies, memberships and professional development), we have cut positions, we have closed a school. Where do the cuts stop? We need to begin seriously investing in our schools.

Before we can tackle any other issues surrounding retaining and attracting teachers, we need to first be able to compete salary-wise with surrounding districts.

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

If re-elected I believe we need to continue to focus on enhancing communication efforts between staff, families, administration and the community. I would like to see the committee draft a long-term communication plan with metrics and benchmarks to evaluate where we are along the way.

Stemming from the last two public budget hearings, I would like to see the School Committee meeting with and communicating more regularly with the Finance Committee and Town Council around budgetary and other concerns.

Now that we can efficiently host meetings online, or even distanced in person, I would like School Committee members to meet with community members in an informal conversational setting. These “office hours” could be scheduled in conjunction with other events in the district wherever possible to maximize attendance. Obviously with the pandemic we were not able to host any of our in person events, but now I think we should be revamping these efforts.

I would also like to see the School Committee section of the District website updated to include items such as an FAQ section to address who we are, what our role is, how we operate, etc…

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?

In 2020 we received the Facilities Assessment Report from Kaestle Boos which highlighted that Franklin Public Schools facilities are currently 26% under capacity and are anticipated to continue to decline to 31% in the next 10 years. The contractors suggested a long term master plan for facilities in order to explore all strategies to optimize school capacity and limit the financial burden of underutilized facilities. Part of a long term master facility plan should also include some type of renovation and improvement plan for each building. We need to ensure that our buildings are properly maintained. We cannot let these buildings fall into disrepair. All of this is important in the bigger picture as well, properly utilizing our facilities can only help with our long term budget concerns.

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

It is important to include redistricting in the long term facilities master plan. Using the information from both the facilities and demographics study, it is easy to see that the schools are not being utilized efficiently or effectively. A piece of the long term facilities master plan will need to include redistricting students within the town to properly utilize each building and to distribute staff and resources.

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

All members of the Franklin community deserve respect, justice and equity. We need to be thinking “Let’s do what is best for our students, not what is most comfortable for adults”. The School District is conducting an internal equity audit this fall to address potential racial inequity in the school system. We are intentionally reviewing our practices in a commitment to promote diversity, belonging, inclusion, and equity. This is all a part of really taking a look at who we are and what we can do better as a school community, to ensure everyone feels that they have access to the same opportunities. The Equity Audit should not just be a box we check off, and now we are done in our work. The district needs to Prioritize the continuation and expansion of equity and inclusion work, ensuring that curriculum, professional development opportunities, and hiring practices are culturally diverse, socially just, and anti-racist.

More information from other sources

Franklin Matters

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