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I’m Jeff Lucas, and I’m running for a seat on Weston’s School Committee. My experience and perspective uniquely qualify me to serve as an agent of change on the committee.
A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF EXPERIENCES
My wife, Stacy, and I have lived in Weston for 10 years, and our daughter, Natalya, is in sixth grade. I attended public schools growing up and ultimately earned graduate degrees in law and business. After a career in marketing, most recently at Raytheon, I now focus on teaching our next generation.
Throughout my career, I successfully engaged in all the things that Massachusetts law requires of school committees: recruiting and evaluating leaders, policy making, and budget management. I can quickly add value to the committee.
During my tenure at Raytheon, I led complex organizations with team members dispersed across the U.S. and in China, Australia and Europe. I also supported large-scale change management initiatives. I know what works, and I’ve experienced what doesn’t.
Having served as an educator in several settings, including Weston’s Field School and Boston College, I understand the joys and challenges of teaching in our community. I also have insights into the rapidly changing skills required of Weston graduates for success in college and beyond.
MY RECOMMENDED PATH FORWARD
For years Weston has had a reputation for outstanding schools with first-rate teachers and resources, and we all desire to sustain our town’s excellence in education. Recent developments, however, suggest a need for realignment. Toward that end, I’m advocating for three priorities.
PRIORITY #1: ACADEMIC RIGOR
Weston’s academic performance hasn’t kept pace with neighboring districts.* The pandemic had a negative impact on MCAS scores for schools across the state, but for some MCAS tests, Weston’s average scores from 2019 to 2021 had the largest point declines among neighboring districts, and for many of our tests, our average scores were among the districts that declined the most. Beyond MCAS, we rank below average on other key indicators: AP exam performance, advanced course completions, and ninth graders passing all courses.
You are what you measure, and I know that if we begin to adopt metrics focused on impact and not just activity, we can accelerate improvements in our performance. Last year the district published a five-year strategic plan. It guides annual goal setting at the district and school levels. All of the district’s goals this year describe measurable outcomes focused on completion of activities by a particular date, things like a decision made, training completed, or a committee formed. That’s important, as you want to make sure things get done.
What’s missing are metrics focused on the impact of the district’s actions on academic achievement, closure of performance gaps and other strategic priorities like inclusivity and communications. Mirroring a practice of the well regarded Highland Park school district near Dallas, Weston should begin to adopt impact metrics like this one, with accountability and actions to support it: “The percentage of Grades 3-8 students attaining Meets and Exceeds Proficiency on the MCAS Math exam will increase from 76% in 2021-2022 to [a percentage to be determined] in 2025-2026.” This impact metric specifies where we are today and where we intend to be in the future.
In addition to impact metrics, to help us get back to basics, we should explore maximizing students’ time focused on “core” subjects, particularly in the elementary schools. External curriculum reviews consistently return with recommendations for more time on these subjects. We should also explore increasing the availability of tutoring to students after school.
Furthermore, the district would benefit from what I call aspirational benchmarking. It goes beyond comparing Weston to neighboring districts. Through it we identify the highest-performing schools in the U.S., we learn what makes them work, and we bring those ideas back to Weston. The PolarisList could be a source of those schools.
The district should also re-implement the “Why Not Weston” survey conducted in 2016, which solicited feedback from Weston parents who had transferred their children to private schools. The number one reason cited by parents then was a lack of appropriate academic programs.
Finally, the district has been implementing social and emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching practices, and we should continue to prioritize these practices, particularly given the increase in mental health challenges brought on by COVID-19.
PRIORITY #2: LONG-TERM PLANNING
Our district’s per-student expenses are 26% higher than the average of nearby districts, and in the past 10 years they’ve increased 45%, while enrollment has declined 15%. Every year since 2017 the town’s Finance Committee has urged the district to produce a multi-year plan that accounts for smaller student populations while still delivering a quality education. It’s time for that plan—and the practical efficiencies it would envision.
The district would also benefit from a targeted communications effort to residents outside the school community. The aim would be to build confidence in the district’s financial stewardship and increase likelihood of passage of the school budget at future town meetings.
PRIORITY #3: A STRONGER VOICE FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS
Similar to practices in other districts, Weston should implement annual surveys of parents and teachers, the feedback from which would reinforce what’s going well, identify improvement opportunities informing future district action plans, and provide input for impact metrics.
Teachers can give what they don't have, so we should prioritize adult social and emotional learning for them. This focus on adult well-being will help to reduce the risk of teacher burnout.
Also, building on a marketing concept called the “customer journey,” where businesses examine and improve the many interactions their customers have with them, I propose a focus on the “ideal parent experience,” in which common guidelines are established for parent-school interactions. The aim would be to improve consistency and identify ways to help smaller segments of the school community, like parents of special-education students and families with two working parents.
Finally, our town enjoys a wealth of professional experience among residents, including those who no longer have children in our schools. The district should more assertively engage them as volunteers—as guest speakers in classes, co-advisors of clubs and judges in competition-preparation activities.
PLEASE VOTE FOR JEFF LUCAS ON MAY 7
If elected, I’m committed to delivering on my experience to drive improvements based on proven practices, while also representing the best interests of every student in the Weston Public Schools, regardless of ability or background. I respectfully ask for your vote on May 7.
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*For purposes of this platform, “neighboring districts” refers to the group of schools and districts that the Weston Public Schools included in its analysis of 2021 MCAS Results: Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Concord-Carlisle, Dover-Sherborn, Lexington, Lincoln, Sudbury, Lincoln-Sudbury, Needham, Newton, Wayland, Wellesley and Weston.