Where Kristen Stands


I am a long-term public school supporter. I had the opportunity to be educated in a well-supported Massachusetts K-12 public school system, and I think all kids deserve that opportunity. My mother started her teaching career in Boston and finished not too far from here in the Milton public schools, so the topic of education was often discussed at the dinner table. Also, years ago I had the opportunity to volunteer teach with an ESL program. Education has been and always will be a priority for me – it is the foundation to a progressive and successful society.

Boston should be immensely proud that we have the oldest public school (Boston Latin) and public school system in the US – we have a historic legacy connected to education. We are surrounded by some of the world’s top higher education institutions. We have some of the best schools in the state and country, but we also have a number of underperforming schools. We are a community that values education and that should be reflected in the Boston Public Schools.

Click candidate questions below to view Kristen’s replies

Do you think is important having the input of parents and community in the process of creating and executing policies?

Yes, parent and community input is essential. Anyone who is directly affected by a policy should have the opportunity to provide his or her perspective and ideas for improvement and/or implementation.

Safer Neighborhoods: Families are struggling to find solutions to deal with rising violence in our communities. How have you/are you working to address this issue?

For many years I have attended my local community police meetings and have developed working relationships with our local community police officers. Additionally, I have been on the board of the Fenway Victory Gardens for 6 years. As we are stewards of 7.5 acres of historic city parkland with known drug and prostitution activities, we have and continue to work closely with the police, park rangers, and city officials.

What will you do to address this issue should you be elected to office?

When elected I would continue to strengthen communications with police, park rangers, etc. To better understand local situations, we need to share information to highlight trends and areas that we can affect immediately. More long-term solutions around violence and drugs involves an integrated effort between neighborhood, city, and state resources. I believe that the role of a Boston City Council is to connect those resources and work hand-in-hand with the community. We have many strong community advocates and volunteers who are ready to partner and solve our collective issues. The City Councilors should help support those efforts and set up our safety advocates to be as effective as they can be.

Do you support increasing quality summer programming for youth directly in our neighborhoods? What type of programming do you think is currently missing?

I completely support this. I think that creating connections between our youth and parks is a perfect opportunity. The Green Team at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy is a good example of engaging high schoolers with our city park system. They learn about horticulture. They help keep our parks clean. And they learn to appreciate and enjoy the parks at a whole new level. What I am getting at is creating a connection to one’s neighborhood is so essential to long-term community engagement. However that can be accomplished is worthwhile.

Do you support increasing community access to schools for youth programming during evenings, weekends and the summer? Would you help find solutions to overcome financial obstacles to make this a reality?

For decades, I have balanced budgets and met employee needs. I find that to be a parallel to a city councilor’s responsibility to match the availability of city funds to constituent needs. We are in a period of rising residential values that has positively impacted our annual revenues (note: between 60% and 70% of Boston’s operating revenue comes from property taxes). At this point in time, there would be room to find funding as revenues increase. However, in the event of an economic downturn additional youth programming could be cut. To better prepare for that possibility, I think that we should encourage partnerships with community organizations and local institutions (universities and colleges) to create and sustain youth programming. Currently many of our local institutions have not come through 100% on their Payment in Lieu of Tax related to tax-exempt properties of non-profits. Perhaps they could provide programming support to bridge the gap.

Do you support the Safe Communities Act (SD.1596 and HD.3052) currently being debated by the legislature?

I support this Act. Not acting against current federal immigration initiatives would be detrimental to all of us in the long-term.

Affordable Housing: Parents in our communities are concerned about the lack of quality affordable housing stock available. While affordable housing may be available in certain circumstances, oftentimes the housing units offered are too small to meet the needs of a family with children. What will you do to address this issue?

I am an advocate for affordable housing. We need to focus not only on low income housing but also moderate-income housing. Additionally, housing needs to be available in every neighborhood and not shifted to other parts of the city by developers when it is convenient and financially rewarding for them to do so.

What will you do to address the Section 8 backlog that leaves many families waiting for housing for upwards of 7 years?

Creating more of supply of housing is the answer. That means not only new construction but also improvements to housing that is not currently at appropriate livable conditions. In the case of new construction, we need to be sure that it is integrated into every neighborhood and with various apartment sizes that work for families, non- families, and those with accessibility challenges.

Do you support An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents (H.675) currently being considered by the legislature?

I support the Act as there is no doubt that we need more low and moderate income housing.

Food Access/Stability: Many families across our communities struggle with being able to access sources of consistent support when it comes to providing good and nutritious food for their children during weekends, school vacations and the summer. What will you do to address this issue should you be elected/re-elected to office?

I think that we need to be more creative in distributing perishable food to those in need. Across the U.S., each year supermarkets throw out billions of pounds of food that is not fit to sell but safe for consumption. If local organizations such as Fair Foods had additional government support, they could reach and serve more individuals and families in need. Additionally, I am a long-term community gardener and am proud to say that the Fenway Victory Gardens regularly donates produce to the Women’s Lunch Place in Back Bay. There are more ways that each community can help provide resources to its citizens in needs – some can offer funds and/or food and others can provide education to grow food and/or connect to government and non-profit resources.

Do you support the Breakfast After the Bell (HD.1046 and SD.1986) bill supported by the Rise and Shine Coalition?

I support this. My mother instilled in her five children that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Kids who battle hunger during school hours are not likely to be able to focus on learning.

The Achievement Gap: In our community, there are drastic differences between the quality of education our children receive based upon which neighborhood they live in or to what
school they have been assigned. How have you/are you working to address this issue?

In Boston, we have school choice and weighted student funding, which has helped to create more equity. However, the goal is to not have any underperforming schools so that no child is in a situation where learning is compromised. We need to raise the bar for all underperforming schools. Parents and children should have desirable school options right in their neighborhoods.

What do you plan to do to address this issue should you be elected/re-elected?

I plan on visiting each school in District 8 and as many others across the city that have lessons to be learned regarding turnaround schools and those with long-term successes. I am going to meet with teachers, parents, students, and school administrators. All voices needed to be heard to get to that middle ground of priorities. I have a lot of connections who are new and longtime teachers and other professionals within public school systems. In fact, I was at a community event recently and had a very interesting conversation about occupational therapy within the Boston Public Schools.

Also, I have background in budgeting and would dig through the numbers to ensure that we have equity across the school system. Budgets should be analyzed and challenged, but we should never forget the importance of the day-to-day education of the city’s children.

Do you support the collaboration and coordination between schools of all types in an effort to find what works best for students? What will you do to address this issue should you be elected/re-elected?

Through collaboration we can find best practices. It is important to share ideas, educational materials, and innovations. We are only better when we work together and elevate each other. I am not sure if this is happening but perhaps a simple way to have ideas filter from one school to another is to have teachers swap schools for a semester or a year. There could be in-person and online forums for teachers in similar type schools and class subjects.

Do you support the right of parents to choose the educational option that best suits the needs of their children?

I think that having top performing schools in each city district and neighborhood of Boston is a goal to work toward. Families should be able to send their kids to schools in their community without lots of travel time. That being said, there will be instances when a child is better served by making a longer trip to a school with a better fit for that particular student. Kids need to be set up for success. Parent and teacher partnerships are essential to improving the educational experience of each child.

Do you believe language equity is a problem in our school systems? How would you address the issue of language justice in our schools and community?

In the Boston Public Schools, approximately 50% of students have not learned English as their first language, so it is important to provide a variety of language learning opportunities. We need to give students and parents the tools to be successful in the short and long-term.

Do you support the Innovation Zones Partnership Act (S. 279) currently being discussed in the legislature (this legislation would give school districts the ability to create empowerment zones and allow for specific autonomies and interventions to immediately address issues in struggling schools)?

I support learning more about innovation zones and analyzing the progress in Springfield, MA. I think that we need to be careful about our path moving forward as we have the original public schools, charter schools, and now this new innovation zone structure. I think that be truly successful in the long-term we need to settle on a proven structure that will work for the greatest number of students. If we have too many structures, we’ll create more overhead costs instead of reducing them and will lose out on savings that would directly impact student learning. I want to be sure to make clear that I believe that we should always be looking for ways to be innovative and to make changes when it is for the greater good. I’d like to better understand this option and its role in the school mix before throwing my full support behind it.

Do you support increased funding to expand programming and access to vocational and technical education in the Commonwealth as supported by the Alliance for Vocational and Technical Education?

I support increased funding for vocational and technical education as long as the support is for programs that are forward-thinking and include technology/modern equipment. Also, it is important that there is collaboration with local companies and internship programs with those same organizations. As a society, we need to provide thoughtful and accredited workforce development opportunities for those not on a 2- year associates degree path or a 4-year college path.

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