A Request For Your Vote: Jamal Saeh, School Committee

Photo: Jamal Saeh for School Committee (Saeh For Schools Facebook Page)

The Belmontonian is providing candidates/campaigners of ballot questions in contested races the opportunity to make a request for votes in the final week of the election race.

I am running for Belmont School Committee because I want to bring a sense of urgency to tackle challenges, bring disciplined data-driven decision making and leverage my experience with budgeting and long-term planning to help Belmont public schools support every student in reaching their potential. I believe my background and experience bring needed skills and diversity to the committee. 

I am an immigrant, son of a teacher. I moved to the US for education and to Belmont to provide my two boys with the best public education. I understand the path a good education provides, specifically to marginalized communities.  

I believe in the vision of Belmont Public Schools that all students are capable of learning at a high level and that it’s the duty of the SC to provide leadership and oversight to ensure that we maintain that promise. 

In the near term, we must deal with the fundamental challenge of operating schools during the pandemic. This requires science-based, data-driven decisions at the intersection of health, policy, and quality that must be done within a budget envelope. That’s my day-to-day job. I believe my professional experience adds a unique perspective to the SC. I am an executive at a pharmaceutical company. As a scientist and a leader, I am accountable for the research and clinical development of innovative medicines for cancer patients, and I do it with the requisite sense of urgency that cancer patients deserve 

I believe that good leaders identify and remove obstacles. In August, when it was clear that COVID testing could enable a safe return to in-person learning, I partnered with the community to offer solutions. I proposed a developmentally appropriate, cost-effective pooled testing proposal to the SC in September. It allowed us to get a baseline for all students and teachers and provide teachers with weekly testing and surveillance for the student population at all grades. It was ignored. Neighboring towns adopted it and operationalized it soon thereafter. The state implemented a similar program four months later. Belmont could have been a leader but chose not to act. Surveillance enabled schools to have data on the in-school transmission which enabled them to move to full in-person ahead of any Department of Elementary and Secondary Education mandate. As a member of the SC, I pledge to continue to collaborate with Belmont’s talented community to address new challenges and listen with authenticity to build creative solutions.  

It is also critical that mid and long-range planning be prioritized. With two new schools opening soon and a shift of fourth grade to the Chenery, a comprehensive plan needs to be in place to ensure these transitions are smooth for students and teachers. New opportunities will exist for 7-8 grade students when they are collocated with the high school, including access to the accelerated and collaborative curriculum. Clear budget decisions and oversight will be crucial in order to take advantage of these opportunities. I will work to ensure collaborative and stretch goals are in place, and outcomes routinely monitored.

I believe in greater transparency from the SC and School District. Transparency requires an open and honest decision-making process; it allows biases to be confronted and assumptions to be fully vetted. Transparency empowers the community and improves decisions and outcomes. Doing so rebuilds public trust, our biggest asset as leaders.

I pledge to protect excellence and equity for all students. I believe that we need to identify the causes of imbalance in access to parts of the Belmont Public School curriculum (e.g. uneven or ineffective communication with families; failure of earlier or prerequisite classes), confront and call out biases, revamp our curriculum where appropriate, and remedy the achievement gap.  I am encouraged that the Student Opportunity Act will more fully fund English Language Learner and Special Education programs and pledge to make sure the SC takes full advantage of this state program. I also believe that all students need to have the opportunity to find and pursue their passion. This means that we need to maintain or increase options in core and elective classes as well as extracurriculars that allow students to be sufficiently challenged in their areas of interest because it is then that they are really inspired and can learn and grow.

If elected on April 6th, I will bring my collaborative data-driven decision-making, and my focus on transparency and accountability to improve oversight and help keep BPS Belmont’s jewel in the crown.

Jamal Carlos Saeh, Watson Road, Precinct 1

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