Editor’s note: This candidate statement was provided by school board candidate Paula Wood. The Pelham Examiner publishes statements in the form received as a service to the community.
I am Paula Wood, and I am excited to announce my candidacy for Board of Education. My husband Josh, our two sons, and I made Pelham our home more than 13 years ago. While shepherding the boys through their childhood and adolescence, I’ve had the privilege to get to know many other parents, teachers and administrators as friends and neighbors, and through my extensive volunteer work. I’m thrilled to be part of this wonderful community as we begin to pick up where we left off two years ago and return to lives full of activity and connection. At the same time, I believe the near-term challenges will bring a period of recovery and realignment for our schools. I am optimistic about the future and as a newly-elected BOE member, I will dedicate my skills as a creative collaborator and solutions-oriented innovator to serve the community I love through this transformational time.
I am a proud native of the Sound Shore and its public schools. I graduated from New Rochelle High School, and attended Bates College and Maine College of Art and Design. Early in my career I worked part-time as an enrichment teacher throughout the five boroughs, bringing arts-based STEM education to elementary and early childhood classrooms impacted by 9/11. That experience motivated me to focus my design work on educational organizations, eventually taking a position at Bank Street College, a leader in student-directed, early childhood education. As Web Producer for this wide-ranging, yet close-knit community of educators, I became well versed in the field of education and my commitment to public education is unwavering.
A year after settling in Pelham, I made the difficult choice to leave my position at Bank Street to be the primary caregiver for my sons. This shift allowed me to invest my time and skills in our new community. My husband Josh and I were deeply involved members of the Hutchinson community: I served on Site-Based Council and PTA board, and I coordinated the enrichment program, the largest in the district. I have also served on several BOE committees throughout my twelve years in the district: Community Engagement, Maker Space, and Authentic Learning. I look forward to seeing our older son graduate from PMHS in 2023, while our younger son will continue at The Masters School.
Based on my years of experience volunteering in the community and district, my priorities as a newly elected BOE Trustee will be:
Academic innovation: as a District and community, we owe it to each student to meet them where they are, academically, culturally, emotionally, and physically. While I believe Pelham must always honor and support our high achievers, I am committed to understanding what academic excellence means for the full range of our learners, and innovating multiple paths toward achievement. Success, like education, is not one-size-fits-all. In our current strategic plan, we have invested a lot of resources and made great strides toward Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), which have demonstrable and positive outcomes for students and their families. I would like to see the next Strategic Plan establish a similar goal of diverse paths to excellence and success.
Strengthening Special Education, Guidance, and Social-Emotional Learning: prior to COVID-19 shutdowns and disruptions, youth mental health was already a growing concern among educators and parents. Pupil and Personnel Services (PPS) made great strides in responding to a dramatic increase in demand, however the need for mental health and wellbeing services has only exploded since COVID interrupted schools. As a School Board Trustee, I will make sure PPS receives all the support and focus needed, as we unpack lessons learned from the past two years. Many children are in crisis and we must respond to each child’s needs.
Collaborating on a New Strategic Plan, fully realizing the promise of 21st Century learning. Developing community connections to foster a practical yet ambitious vision for the future of Pelham learners is where I believe my background of creative collaboration, analysis, and consensus-building will truly serve Pelham students of today and tomorrow. Much progress has been made in the three pillars of our current Strategic Plan: Cultural Competence, Authentic Learning and Whole Child. In the next year, the District will take the first steps toward a new Strategic Plan. It must be built on a clear-eyed analysis of successes and opportunities, and it must be holistic and aligned with best practices in K-12 education. Pelham is a high performing District; our next Strategic Plan will build on this and create new pathways to prepare students for a very different professional and personal future from our and our parents’ generations.
Maintaining Pelham’s tradition of fiscal responsibility and stewardship. The silver lining to the COVID crisis is the current budget surplus, but this is temporary. I am in favor of the Board’s decision to establish a capital reserve fund to maintain the high quality of our physical plant and athletic fields, all of which will require critical capital investment in the near-term. We must also remain aware of a state-wide decline in school enrollment as we plan for the District’s future. Part of our strategic realignment will necessitate projections that stay below the tax cap, while also managing potential decreases in federal and state funding. Responsible fiscal planning and budgeting will also go hand in hand with our next Strategic Plan.
Preparing all students for a life of curiosity, confidence, and independence: Empowering young people to initiate and direct their own learning by providing inspiration, mentorship, and access.
I have worked hard over the years, alongside many incredible leaders and educators, volunteers and parents, to maintain and improve educational and art opportunities for young people. My work as a problem-solver, community builder, and creator informs everything I do. I look forward to merging community input with my experience and ideas on the Board of Education. I am excited to meet many more neighbors to learn what your priorities are for the future of Pelham Schools.
Community Leadership Roles:
Hutchinson Site-Based Council
PTA Board – Hutchinson
Concordia Conservatory Advisory Board Member
Citizens Nominating Committee member
Hutchinson Enrichment Coordinator
BOE Committee Member (Advocacy & Engagement, Maker Space, Authentic Learning)
Progressive Women of Pelham Executive Board Member
Pelham Music Festival Board Member (current)
Pelham Art Center Board Member (current)
I have a website at www.paulawoodforpelhamschools.com.