Profiles of candidates for the school committee: Gregory Thomas Renchkovsky
Job sought : School committee, district 1
Address: 16 Vista Ave
Education: BS in Behavioral Neuroscience (Northeastern University) / JD New England Law – Boston
Current civil service: Reader / Eucharistic Minister Parish of Sainte-Cécile / Coach of the Little League of North Leominster
Former civil service: Management of non-profit housing program / pro bono legal services for low income tenants and their families
Campaign website / Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/greggrenchkovskyward1
Why would you want to serve the city better on the school committee?
First and foremost, I am the parent of two young children in the Leominster school system. I am civically engaged in the Leominster community in many different ways – as a baseball coach, lawyer, and church member. I volunteer for the common good of this community and will continue to do so. I firmly believe that the quality of our schools reflects the quality of our community and vice versa.
What are the areas in which you could contribute the most?
As a lawyer, I will bring my expertise in the negotiation and drafting of contracts. I will bring my expertise in the analysis and interpretation of the laws, regulations and ordinances in force. I will also bring the skills and ability to interpret any new legislation, laws and / or regulations as well as any mandates and guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or other governing bodies.
In addition, I have extensive personal experience and in-depth knowledge of mental health issues. I personally dealt with my own mental health issues from an early age to become a successful graduate of two challenging college programs. I am the first in my family to receive a doctorate while successfully treating and managing ADHD and bipolar disorder. I know what it’s like to fight mental illness and stressors related to school, sports and peer pressure, to name a few. This is especially important in the current climate of intimidation and pandemic.
Finally, working as a program manager for a local nonprofit – providing case management and direct services – opened my eyes to the struggles of low-income families and how those struggles affect their children at school. I have successfully advocated for Leominster’s low income families within the justice system to stay in their housing or help them find the resources they need to find new housing. In all the court cases that I have not been able to appear personally, I have helped them navigate the courts on their own. Housing disparities undoubtedly affect a child’s home learning environment.
If you were elected, what would your priorities be and how would you achieve them? Are there areas of the budget where funding and / or posts could or should be adjusted to achieve these priorities?
See above. Specific areas of the budget that I believe should be increased: student mental health services and outreach and low income students / families. I will achieve this in several ways which are all fluid ideas and strategies for lively and cordial debate: (1) by researching failed and successful strategies used by other schools in the Commonwealth and the rest of the country; (2) researching studies from top public policy colleges and consulting firms in the country; (3) using the science and previous information promulgated by these entities to inform our decisions; (4) present these facts, theories and conclusions to SPL stakeholders for further discussion; and finally (5) by listening attentively to parents and pupils on the front line and by defending their cause and that of their children. Inviting parents of students to initiate discussion and professional debate is of utmost importance as we move forward. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and build on the successes.
I will deal more specifically with low-income families. As I mentioned above, we need to remember the impacts of low income on a child’s home learning environment. Current research has shown that little things like reading to children for 15 minutes every night will promote cognitive and social development. To promote this, I will present strategies and policies to support low-income families to help them be successful. I think the goal is simple: to promote book reading to low-income parents using both standard and digital tools. Can we get parents to commit to weekly goals with their kids similar to the Foot Steps to Brilliance program they use for my daughter at Bennett School? I believe the answer is a definite yes. Much more research, discussion and debate is needed, but these are my current ideas and potential solutions that I will come up with from day one.
If the total budget for fiscal year 2023 approved by the school committee follows the pattern of previous years and ends up being greater than the total budget presented by the mayor to city council for approval, what total budget would you publicly support, and why ?
The Commonwealth Schools Funding Act, Chapter 70 of the General Acts, establishes an annual net educational expense (NSS) requirement for each school district in Massachusetts. As a new candidate for the school committee, I’m still learning the ropes. As I learn more throughout my tenure, the facts that inform my decisions may change. Today I will support as high a budget as we can get for our school system and I will work independently with all stakeholders to get that amount through. There is something fundamentally wrong with saving our children’s education.
If you look at the current data for the NSS, one concern jumps out at me. Dating as far back as FY16 through FY20, our actual spend as a percentage of NSS required is 100.4%, 102.5%, 102.8%, 103.3% and 101.8%, respectively.
Comparatively, this corresponds to a much poorer economically neighbor, Fitchburg. In my humble opinion, this is unacceptable. I will immediately begin to examine the reasons for this inadequate spending package and enter into debate and negotiations with our city leaders looking for ways to dramatically increase our SNS. How can we say that they prioritize the education of our children with such a low budget?
How can the school committee help Leominster public schools help students who have fallen behind in their studies due to the move from in-person to online, then hybrid, classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
that’s a great question. Almost all students have lost ground because of distance learning in the last year. On day one, I will begin to work with my fellow board members, the mayor, city council and all other stakeholders to discuss immediate and sustainable ways to help our students get back to where they need to be. regards the classroom. It must be a multi-faceted approach including mental, emotional and physical health as well as educational barriers.
According to McKinsey and Company, one of the world’s most prestigious government consulting firms, data from last fall shows students started school three months late in math. Their research shows that students of color were about three to five months behind in learning, while white students were about one to three months behind. The first step in this multidimensional approach has been taken, the return of the children to school, but the damage is done. The summer enrichment program was a great success. We have to send books home with the students on a weekly / biweekly basis. We need to monitor student performance as quickly as possible.
Beyond having access to the right tools to be successful, we also need to make sure all of our children are in the physical and emotional state they need to learn. Children in our community suffer from food and housing insecurity, with both parents, guardians and guardians sometimes having to work to make ends meet, leaving our most vulnerable children unattended. I don’t have all the answers but I will do everything in my power to find solutions. As a working parent with two school-aged children, I understand the challenges families face. I will bring my real world experiences to the table.
How would you describe the relationship between the school committee and the city government, including the mayor? What do you think could be done to change this relationship?
I would characterize the school committee’s relationship with the city government as heritage at best. I believe it is time to change that and I will do my part to make it happen by demonstrating an impartial, bipartisan and independent attitude by putting parents and children first. I will work independently with all stakeholders. Every idea, agenda item, policy suggestion and motion, etc., will have a common theme and only one: how will this affect our children and our school system, period. I will refocus the narrative to include the superintendent and defer to her leadership. She is a neutral arbiter and the leader of our schools. She is a tremendous advocate for our children and a real asset. We need to give him more autonomy to use his skills, knowledge and expertise to run our schools. We all need a little humility, to take a step back, to untie the hands of our CEO and allow her to guide us. We must all work together for the common good, our children.
What does the term “critical theory of race” mean to you? Do you think it has its place in the Leominster public school curriculum?
I support the current Massachusetts curriculum frameworks for history and social studies that our schools have put in place since 1993 under the Education Reform Act. This program was re-authorized in 2010 and revised and approved again in 2018. It is clear that something is working and this program has been a success. We must continue to learn from our successes but also from our failures. Teaching the history of our republic and our country allows students to learn to think independently and analyze facts. Additionally, Massachusetts law already requires public schools to teach students of U.S. history, including the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and federalist documents. I do not support any person or governing body to violate the laws of this Commonwealth. I am in favor of an open and transparent debate. I support listening to all opinions whether I agree with them or not.