Bouchard: Teachers are the key

Published 9:57 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about School Board candidates. Look for the rest on Wednesdays during October: Cypress on Oct. 8, Holy Neck on Oct. 15, Sleepy Hole on Oct. 22 and Suffolk on Oct. 29.

Suffolk School Board member Linda Bouchard says she wants to represent the Chuckatuck borough for another four years then call it quits.

Bouchard, 66, was elected in 2010, after teaching Spanish at John Yeates Middle School for 20 years.



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When first elected, “I didn’t even know what the School Board did,” Bouchard said, though adding, “I learned pretty quickly that they set policy, set the budget and hire the superintendent.”

Bouchard feels she has “raised some issues that had not been raised before.”

To save money, she has championed exploring outsourcing custodial services.

“I feel that I have helped improve the communication between the School Board and the City Council,” Bouchard said.

Bouchard feels public schools are not a priority for the City Council. The city has invested too much in some other areas, such as the water and sewer system, and schools are “paying the price,” she said.

She said the city should cap its reserve funds and invest extra revenue in schools.

“If they want our school system to be good enough to attract these families moving into Suffolk, then they need to invest (in schools) at least $8 million more per year,” she said.

Combining local, state and federal sources, Suffolk is at the “bottom of the pack” in per-pupil spending, she said.

“My goal is to continue to try to get the schools to operate more efficiently,” Bouchard said.

“One way is we need to give the city back a half-a-million dollars (annually) and let them provide (school) resource officers — I’m concerned about that money going back and forth.”

Recently, Bouchard said, she asked an unnamed city councilman if he “really trusted how we spend money, and this councilman said no.”

“However,” she continued, “I don’t believe the City Council favors our leadership. I think that they’re hesitant to invest more money because they don’t have confidence in our leadership, whether the superintendent or the School Board.”

Bouchard said she believes an upcoming study will show Suffolk teacher salaries are “out of line, and I hope that’s going to encourage the City Council to help us readjust.”

But teacher morale is low for other reasons too, she said. “I think the teachers will be part of the solution if they are allowed some ownership of the problem,” she added.

Increasing volunteer numbers in schools could lift test scores by providing more one-on-one tutoring, she said.

“I know that the truth of the matter is test scores are directly related to the economic level of the students,” she said. “With the level of investment that there is today in the public schools, I don’t see the test scores improving enormously … but I do think our teachers are absolutely key to bringing up the test scores.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misquoted Bouchard’s quote about the unnamed city councilman. It has been corrected.