The superintendent is the head of the Brookline school system. That information is common knowledge. But who hires the superintendent? Who manages issues like school expansion projects and budgeting for all of Brookline’s public schools? The answer to that question is much less well-known.
The Brookline School Committee is a panel of nine elected members that handles issues like budgeting and school expansion. While it receives minimal attention from students at the high school, the School Committee plays an important role in the affairs of both the high school and the town.
Senior Ben Simon is the high school liaison to the School Committee. Simon says that his role is mainly keeping the committee up to date on what is happening at the school.
“My role is essentially to transmit the events that are happening at BHS, and what students are saying and thinking about, to the school committee,” Simon said. “Also, I keep the students at the high school, and more specifically in the student government, updated with what the committee is doing.”
Brookline School Committee Chairman David Pollak explains that the primary responsibilities of the committee focus on overseeing the school system.
“The School Committee’s job is to oversee the strategy, policies and budget for the school district and assure strong leadership by hiring, supporting and evaluating the superintendent,” Pollak said. “The Superintendent of Schools runs the school system, and the School Committee is the elected oversight board.”
Pollak explains that school population size is one of the most pressing challenges that Brookline is currently facing.
“Student enrollment has grown enormously and continues to grow,” Pollak said. “It is up by 40 percent already at the elementary school level since 2006. This has had significant cost implications, and Brookline voters have passed tax increases in both 2015 and 2018 in order to hire more educators and support other key aspects of our schools.”
The issues that the School Committee is most focused on currently are the various ongoing expansion projects in the elementary schools, according to Simon.
“For the most part, the things that are related to the high school were already passed. So now, we’re talking about the Driscoll school renovations, and all of the things that are going on with the Baldwin school, which is going to be the new school,” Simon said.
An important job of the committee is supporting the Superintendent with his myriad responsibilities. For example, if there is a school emergency, the committee is notified so they can help deal with the situation.
“The Superintendent carries a lot of responsibilities, and sometimes these need to be shared with the School Committee,” Pollack said. “Before calling a snow day the Superintendent calls the chair to discuss the decision.”
The School Committee also helped handle the renaming process of the Coolidge Corner School.
“School Committee approved a plan for the Coolidge Corner naming process which outlines how the names will be suggested, researched and decided upon by the community,” Simon said. “The main topics of discussion were the timeline, which some people thought was too rushed, and that it mainly involved students at the Coolidge Corner School, since some people believed that it should involve the larger community.”
Pollak made sure to give credit to the teachers who make up the main framework of the school system and those who help them be successful.
“What we do at School Committee is a lot of work and really matters to our students, but we are a couple steps removed from direct action,” Pollack said. “It is our teachers who work with you minute-by-minute and day-by-day and have the greatest impact on our students. Our principals, deans, administrators and curriculum coordinators support our educators and help make them successful.”