Q&A With Amy Checkoway, Seeking Re-Election To The School Committee


Amy Checkoway is running unopposed for a second three-year term on the Belmont School Committee where she is the current chair. Checkoway has been a senior project manager for nearly 20 years with the research consultancy Abt Associates and was active in her local PTO and school activities before running for public office in 2019. She matriculated at Brown (Public Policy and American Civilization) before earning her Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Q: You served during what everyone has said was the most trying time to be a school committee member. From making snap decisions on new procedures and ways of learning to what a segment of the residents/parents believed were harsh restrictions on in-school instruction and mask mandates. What was the most difficult decision that you made during the pandemic for you personally and do you have second thought about it?

A: One of many difficult decisions was to start the 2021-22 school year remotely. With hindsight, I have second thoughts about many decisions made during the pandemic and how we approached planning generally. The School Committee should have worked more closely with district leadership during the summer of 2021 to develop better and more agile hybrid plans. We were too reactive and there was too much waiting for guidance from above, and not enough proactive planning. We should have done a better job at communicating and partnering with parents/guardians. We also should have been more transparent about our decision-making processes and more open about the challenges that we were facing.

Q: How has living through the pandemic change the relationship of the school committee with the school administration and parents? Is it for the better? 

A: Living through the pandemic certainly intensified the relationships between all parties. We were all forced to interact in ways and about issues that we never had encountered before. I do not think that confidence and trust has been completely restored yet, as some relationships remain frayed. One thing that I hope we can hold onto and continue to improve is deeper family engagement and participation in School Committee meetings and district decision-making.    

Q: There continues to be tension with segments of the population and the schools. What would you do to “lower the heat” and bring a sense of collegiality for all sides.  

A: This will require a lot of listening, assuming positive intent, a willingness to compromise, making space for all sides to share their perspectives, and trying to see value in all suggestions, even if our immediate instinct is to disagree. Social media tends to “raise the heat” and be dominated by a small number of voices. Creating more opportunities for in-person interactions and two-way conversations with different segments of the population will be helpful.

Q: What are some of ideas/concerns/objectives will you personally advocate for during the next three years?

A: Some of my priorities include supporting more authentic family engagement; strategically managing the district’s budget and resources; using data to inform decision-making; working toward more equitable policies, practices, and outcomes; and holding leadership accountable for meeting the goals that the School Committee sets out.

Q: What do you enjoy about being a member of the school committee? 

A: I enjoy building relationships with and learning from other School Committee members, district staff, students, and parents. I enjoy when I can serve as a bridge between the school community and district administration. I enjoy when I can effectively facilitate and/or influence a discussion about how to better serve students. And I enjoy when I can answer a question or help a parent/guardian with an issue.

Q: What’s it like having a trombonist in the house?

A: Loud. And my other son is a percussionist!

Letter To The Editor: Re-Election Announcement From Amy Checkoway, School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway

To the editor:

I am pleased to announce my candidacy for re-election to the Belmont School Committee. I believe my experience, capabilities, and demonstrated effectiveness working collaboratively to meet challenges will advance the excellence of the Belmont Public Schools.

I was first elected to the School Committee in April 2019, and since April 2021 I have had the honor to serve as its chair. My term has been intense, meaningful, busy, and challenging. I care deeply about the future of our schools and feel strongly that I will continue to make a positive impact. If re-elected, key goals for my next term will include focus on continued engagement with our wonderful community and a strong commitment to working closely with the leadership of our school district and the Town.

I ran for School Committee three years ago because of my professional background and expertise in federal and state education policy, experience volunteering in our schools, personal investment in the district as a parent, and deep commitment to public service. In my first term, I have led or participated in multiple subcommittees and working groups that focus on school finance, district-wide policy, curriculum and instruction, educational equity, capital needs, and town-wide structural change to improve efficiency and reduce costs. I also represent Belmont on the board of EDCO, a regional educational collaborative that provides high-quality professional development for teaching staff and special education services at a reduced cost to the district.

The COVID pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our schools, school leadership, and School Committee. An important focus of my time as chair in the last nine months has been rebuilding trust and confidence in our district, improving communications with all stakeholders, and increasing the level of transparency in decision-making. I have prioritized a welcoming environment at our meetings, including meaningful opportunities for parents and community members to share their views and concerns. I value the strong relationships that I have built with my colleagues on the School Committee, town leaders, and members of the school district staff, which enable me to be a more effective and informed leader.

My priorities looking forward include building even stronger district-family-community partnerships; working toward a more equitable and inclusive educational community for all students and staff; supporting students’ academic recovery and their social-emotional and mental health needs; and strategically managing the district’s financial resources, including one-time COVID recovery federal funds, to ensure that our schools are positioned to provide the kind of educational experiences and supports that our students need and deserve.

There is enormous talent and potential in the Belmont Public Schools. In the coming months, we have an exciting opportunity to work together as a community in constructing a dynamic vision for the future of public education in Belmont as we reconfigure the grades in our school buildings.

Serving in this role is incredibly humbling and consuming. I do not pretend to have all the answers, and we will need the help of the entire community to ensure our schools’ success. For my part, I can – and will – commit to offering my proven work ethic, empathy, critical thinking, even handedness, and constructive problem-solving skills in tackling the many challenges and issues at hand for the Belmont Public Schools. With your support, I hope to have the opportunity to help steer our district to a better place and provide steady and knowledgeable leadership as well as important stability to our community for another term.

Amy Checkoway

Checkoway Submitting Papers For Re-Election To School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway

There will a familiar name on the ballot at Town Election in April as current School Committee Chair Amy Checkoway said she will be taking out nomination papers this week for re-election.

“I have decided to run for re-election to the School Committee,” said Checkoway in a Jan. 11 email. “I plan to go to Town Hall to pick up papers on Thursday or Friday of this week.”

“As you know, it has been an extremely busy, complicated, and challenging first term, and I hope that I have the opportunity to continue to help lead and serve our community,” she said in an email to the Belmontonian.

Checkoway won election to the committee in 2019 with 3,104 votes, topping the ticket with 41 percent of the ballots. The Pequossette Road resident became chair this past April after Andrea Prestwich resigned to take a position with the National Science Foundation.

An education policy researcher for a large international consulting firm, Checkoway as committee head has been a steadying influence on the board looking for committee-wide consensus on several issues including Covid mitigation and the school budget while chairing the committee during the opening of the high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School project. She also led the committee in confronting a rash of racist messaging left at schools.

School Committee Chair Responds To Rash Of Hate Incidents At Belmont Schools

Photo: Racial, homophobic and anti-Semitic incidents have occurred in Belmont schools in the past three years.

In October, there were multiple reports of racist, homophobic, and antisemitic hate speech scrawled on the walls of Chenery Middle School and racist slurs posted in the library of Belmont High School. These incidents, and the beliefs that they reflect, are not new to Belmont or any other community, and cannot be interpreted as another troubling outcome of the pandemic. 

I write as an individual School Committee member, Town Meeting member, and parent to condemn these acts. Every time a slur is written or spoken, there are people who feel less welcome in Belmont. We should all be concerned about the impact of recent incidents and what could happen next. I also worry about how to ensure that responses not only help heal and bring us closer together, but also help prevent future incidents.

I urge everyone – especially those with systemic privilege and power – to not stay silent, to denounce injustice when it happens, and to contribute to actions to improve our systems.

Amy Checkoway, Belmont School Committee

I witness the hard work that our leaders, educators, and staff are doing to foster safe and supportive environments for all students. More detailed protocols are being developed to ensure immediate and effective responses. The district is working to add layers of preventative measures to try to stop incidents before they happen.

Achieving a more inclusive and equitable school communitywill not happen overnight. As leaders, we must identify where the system is falling short. One current focus is the external equity audit of the Belmont Public Schools. The audit is identifying issues and challenges that the district – and our students and families – face with the goal of supporting each student to reach his/her/their potential. With the audit findings in hand by early 2022, the district will develop a strategic actionplan that includes concrete steps forward by the spring.

I urge everyone – especially those with systemic privilege and power – to not stay silent, to denounce injustice when it happens, and to contribute to actions to improve our systems. We must be clear that racist, homophobic, and antisemitic actsare unacceptable, that those who threaten others will face consequences for their actions, and that it is our collective responsibility to speak up for one another. We especially owe this to our children, who are watching, listening, and counting on us. I should have made this public statement sooner.

Amy Checkoway

Pequossette Road

Checkoway Named School Committee Chair. Vice Chair? Let’s Wait On That

Photo: A Zoom capture of Amy Checkoway

Amy Checkoway was unanimously elected chair of the Belmont School Committee at its organizational meeting a week after the Town Election. She takes over the reins of the six member board from Andrea Prestwich.

An education policy researcher for a large international consulting firm, Checkoway enters her third year on the committee having won a seat in 2019.

“I’m really committed to building and fostering really strong working relationships with all members of the committee, with our town leaders and perhaps most importantly with our community,” said the Pequossette Road resident, adding there is also a need to improve the committee’s governance structure, decision making and communications.

“I don’t think I have all the answers. I recognize what a challenging time this is, and the trust that needs to be repaired on many fronts,” she told the committee.

Newcomer Meg Moriarty was named the committee’s secretary.

A request to create the position of vice chair to the committee never got a chance to be voted as the committee decided to spend the fortnight between gatherings to allow the proposal to sit and wait.

Committee member Mike Crowley noted the need for the new post was necessary due to the avalanche of work Prestwich undertook during the height of the pandemic without a designated second in line to help manage it.

“The role of the chair in ordinary times, it can be an overwhelming amount of workload,” said Crowley. “It would be very helpful to be able to share the work that the chair currently has as their responsibility in order for this committee to be more effective,” said Crowley.

Prestwich, who led the committee for nearly the past year, said it was not just the volume of work but also the wide range of meetings – executive, negotiating, finance – that requires coverage.

While the vice chair position would be similar to the Select Board’s post, Moriarty wondered if anyone would wish to undertake the position noting that no one was eager to step into the secretary’s role – Moriarty was nominated for the role and accepted after one member deferred and the four remaining members were left quietly eyeing the others resembling a scene from the western “Deadwood.”

“That’s a very fair point,” said Checkoway.

While she acknowledges the need for the position, member Kate Bowen felt it would be helpful to have clearer guidance about the leadership roles and spreading the authority.

While Crowley pointed to an urgency to vote to add the vice chair position since the burden and volume facing the chair remains considerable, the measure was tabled as there are two new members who weren’t involved in previous dialogue, and despite having been discussed in the past, some agreed with an obscure parliamentary point that it wasn’t listed as an item in past meeting agendas.

Final Say: Amy Checkoway, Belmont School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway, Belmont School Committee candidate (Credit: Campaign Facebook)

Belmont is a community that deeply values and invests in its schools. I am running for School Committee because the Belmont Public Schools will experience a lot of change in the next few years as we transition all schools to new grade configurations and build the new grade 7-12 school. I am confident that I can serve as a strong leader and bring valuable expertise and perspective as a School Committee member during this important time.

I am already deeply involved in educational issues as a parent, a volunteer, and a 20-plus year career in education policy. My two children (grades 3 and 6) are in the middle of their school careers. We feel fortunate to live in such an excellent school district and see the benefits of our substantial community investment in education first-hand every day.

Since moving to Belmont in 2012, I have spent hundreds of hours volunteering in our school buildings through PTO leadership roles and as a Board member of the Wellington Student Care program. I have frequent discussions with families, teachers, and school leaders about the issues that matter to them, and would bring to the School Committee role a broader perspective on what is going well and what can be improved.

In my professional life, I work as an education policy researcher for a large international consulting firm. I work with districts and programs across Massachusetts on a range of issues such as educator effectiveness, teacher preparation, mentoring and coaching supports, and preschool programming. I am a trusted adviser to state policy leaders about how to invest our resources to support positive child outcomes.

I am also responsible for managing complex budgets; currently, I manage almost $20 million in public resources as one of my job responsibilities. My experience managing finances along with a strong understanding of what is in district budgets and how districts and schools operate in practice will allow me to contribute immediately to important discussions that the School Committee will need to engage in.

If elected to the School Committee, I will approach all discussions and decisions with a focus on what’s best for our students in the center. We need to provide every student in our district – including those with different learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds – with an excellent education. The district should continue its focus on social-emotional development as well as additional critical skills that are necessary to succeed beyond high school, including persistence, collaboration, and critical thinking. I hope that the new grade 7-12 school will inspire more opportunities for project-based learning and that we can consider additional opportunities across all grades for students to build their technology skills.

We need to continue to focus on reducing class sizes and investing in critical support staff such as guidance counselors, social workers, and academic support specialists. Our educators deserve ongoing high-quality professional development and collaboration opportunities so that they can continue to grow their skills and innovate in the classroom. We need to improve the diversity of our district workforce so that it better reflects the make-up of our student body.

If elected, I am committed to listening to the diverse perspectives in our town. In addition to listening to residents who come to share their views at meetings, I would also be present in a variety of other forums and make myself available to meet with community members about particular issues. Meeting with students and reflecting their voices in discussions is a particular interest of mine.

I am a strong advocate for the funding our schools need to support high-quality teaching and learning environments for students. I am also attuned to our town’s constrained resources and hope that we can find ways to recognize efficiencies across our town departments and identify new revenue sources.

Serving on the School Committee is a big responsibility and I am ready to jump in as a well-prepared, pragmatic, and hard-working leader. This role is not a passing interest; I am committed to involvement in our schools over the long haul.

Please visit my website for more details about my priorities: https://electamycheckoway.com/  It would be a great privilege to serve the residents of Belmont on the School Committee, and I would be truly honored to have your vote on April 2.

Letter to the Editor: Enthusiastic Support Of Amy Checkoway For School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway’s campaign poster

To the editor:

I am writing in enthusiastic support of Amy Checkoway for School Committee member.

Amy is an outstanding choice for a School Committee member. She is an intelligent, devoted candidate who will do an exceptional job helping the School Committee navigate the challenging road ahead — building a new school and the reorganization that will follow. Amy is an excellent communicator and she is a consummate professional. I can think of no one else better suited for this role than Amy.

I have known Amy for more than five years as we served together on the Wellington PTO Student Care Board together from 2014 through 2018. I had an opportunity to see Amy and her tireless efforts for the benefit of the Wellington community. Now she is ready to dedicate her time to ensure that the Belmont Public Schools are the best they can be for our kids, the educational professionals, and the community.

Working with Amy has taught me a number of things about her. First, Amy is very bright and is able to appreciate complex situations at multiple levels; she understands the finer details but is able to keep the larger goal in mind. Second, Amy is a highly effective communicator and she understands the importance of clear, open dialog with the community. Further, she has experience as an education professional and therefore knows how to communicate with others in the education field. Third, she is about as organized and dependable as one can be. Amy is the type of person that you know will get the job done, and get it done well. Finally, Amy is extremely ethical, professional, and dedicated to any endeavor she undertakes.

While Amy is just about one of the nicest people you will meet, that doesn’t mean she won’t stand up to do what she believes is right for our schools, our children, and our community. I completely trust that Amy will always do the right thing for Belmont Schools.

Please join me in voting for Amy Checkoway for School Committee member on April 2.

Brooke Bevis

Cedar Road