Students voice concerns and questions to single superintendent finalist

Dr.+Linus+Guillory%2C+the+lone+finalist+for+the+superintendent+vacancy%2C+addressed+questions+from+students+over+Zoom+during+X-Block+on+Feb.+26.

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Dr. Linus Guillory, the lone finalist for the superintendent vacancy, addressed questions from students over Zoom during X-Block on Feb. 26.

Students voiced concerns and asked questions of Dr. Linus Guillory, the lone finalist for the superintendent vacancy, during a panel held in-person and over Zoom during X-Block on Feb. 26.

Guillory has not been officially hired yet, but he is the only finalist for Brookline’s superintendent to replace Interim Superintendent Dr. James Marini. He has experience as a science teacher, Science Director and later School Chief for Rochester City School District and as a NASA education specialist. Students questioned him on his opinions about bringing district issues away from unions and back to the students, combating mental health issues and racial disparities and on his decision-making process.

Junior Jacob Smagula said he was concerned that the district is focused on issues that have little to do with students of Brookline.

“My question is, the district has been consumed by a lot of “adult” issues. Whether it be problems with the union, or the parents, or all kinds of things that are above the heads of students,” Smagula said. “I’m wondering what your plan is to bring the focus of the district back to the students of BHS and our eight elementary schools.”

Guillory said he will prioritize the needs of students and keep student issues at the center of all the district’s goals.

“In all of my conversations, we talked about how we can best support students, and I support students directly through the adults that teach you at my level of work. These types of forums, as well as your school based forums, help me with understanding what your unique needs are,” Guillory said.

Guillory said he will stress the importance of building direct support systems for students.

“I think about your networks for connecting with folks who are your trusted adults in the building,” Guillory said. “ we continue to refine and build peer networks, where you have safe spaces to have conversations with one another?”

Junior Rohan Narasihman asked Guillory about how he would combat issues surrounding mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For mental health needs, I’m paying attention to what is in the budget, because that translates to or trickles directly to students. I know that at the focal point of many school districts, we’re talking about the safe returns of students, and that aspect of mental health,” Guillory said.

Narasihman also asked about how Guillory would handle racial disparities.

Guillory said support systems that students feel comfortable coming to with issues are very important in issues regarding race, and he said that he wants to collaborate with students when making programs to fight racial disparities.

“For the racial disparities that you mentioned, just having an appreciation for that is important because oftentimes, when we have these types of large group forums we’re not able to really articulate our true feelings. So then, we think about, what are the safe spaces? Who are the adults who are closest to you that you can go to? How then do we have private conversations with one another?” Guillory said. “And those would be systems of support that I would reach out to you to help me design. So this is not ‘I come in and I tell you,’ this is ‘we build together’”

Guillory has had experience in a variety of different public school systems, where he has represented 13,000 students. From the X Block meeting, he prioritized the problems all faculty and students are currently facing.

Guillory said he has held leadership positions within school administrations, and has always focused on listening to the interests of students and teachers when making decisions.

“While I’ve never held the title of the sole responsibility of the superintendent, I’ve had very similar roles as a School Chief at Rochester, where I managed a portfolio of about 13 schools that represented about 13,000 students, so I had similar types of responsibility,” Guillory said. “In each of those cases, my approach has been collaborative, working very closely with school leaders. When there are decisions that need to be made I like to have decisions being made as close to the students as possible. I have no problem making final decisions, but I don’t want to make decisions on behalf of folks when their voice is not there at the table.”