School Committee Candidates Share Their Perspective


School committee candidates Maria Fenwick and Richard Taft

Anna Kelly, Opinion Editor

On Saturday, May 20th, Scituate voters will determine which candidate for the open school committee seat will replace former school committee member Michael Long, who resigned due to personal circumstances when he had one year left on his three-year term. Scituate residents Richard Taft and Maria C. Fenwick are running for the position.   

Taft, a three-time candidate for the school committee, grew up in Rhode Island but has lived and worked worldwide. His professional career in air conditioning sales allowed him to travel to India, China, and Europe. A resident since 2014, Taft has one daughter who is graduating from a private Catholic school this year. When asked about his passion for improving education, Taft acknowledged that his career “didn’t involve education.” However, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, and an MBA from Emory University, he considers himself a “life-long learner.” 

Politically, Taft believes in democratic ideas such as free speech, equal justice, and limited government. As a candidate for the school committee, Taft cited the current committee’s “monolithic” perspective, which “makes it difficult” to create the best policies to achieve accountability. With this opinion in mind, his goal is to “use specific, measurable objective benchmarks,” like standardized test scores, to measure Scituate’s schools against their South Shore counterparts. Taft noted, “Scituate is lagging behind neighboring towns in terms of MCAS, AP, and SAT scores.” 

According to Taft, “Schools are for everyone.” Focusing on budgeting, transparency, and accountability, Taft said, “No one should have to sacrifice their values for safety at school or quality of education.” 

When asked about his thoughts on student mental health, Taft replied, “Covid created mental stress in students.” 

“For a good part of [students’] high school career, [they] were isolated. [They] were told that [they] had a good chance of dying from Covid or that [they] could cause the death of an older family member,” he elaborated. “In hindsight, we know this was either not true or an extreme exaggeration.”

When asked about CRT (Critical Race Theory) and banning books, Taft said he “spoke out against the implementation of CRT concepts in the creation of policy and curriculum in Scituate.” Taft expressed an interest in “counterbalancing” CRT authors with writers such as Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, and John McWhorter; however, he noted his suggestions had not been implemented. 

A Duxbury native, Fenwick earned a bachelor’s degree at Colby College, a master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a master’s degree in Elementary Education from UMass Boston/Boston Teacher Residency. A resident since 2017, Fenwick has three children, who attend Hatherly Elementary School, Gates Middle School, and Inly School. She has volunteered in all three levels of Scituate schools.

As the founder and executive director of The Teacher Collaborative, Fenwick works with teachers from across Massachusetts. “My vision has always been to help teachers—through the Teacher Collaborative, one teacher’s expertise can aid another’s,” Fenwick explained. 

A self-identified liberal, Fenwick said she recognizes the “non-partisanship” of a school committee. If elected on May 20th, she hopes to hear from students and teachers as much as possible to ensure that “all children have access to high-quality teachers, teaching, and educational experiences.” 

Fenwick emphasized the importance of data, recognizing that a new district 5-year plan is expected. 

When asked about student mental health, Fenwick said she believes it’s a real issue, noting Scituate’s data isn’t “drastically different” from nationwide trends: ”We’re not doing a worse job,” she commented. “Social-emotional learning is a prerequisite to academic success. If [a student] is coming to school feeling depressed, it will be hard for [them] to learn.” 

When asked about CRT and banning books, Fenwick responded, “Public schools are for everybody.” She believes it’s important for students to access all the materials and books to learn about complex issues from educated teachers rather than online sources. “I don’t think that CRT is being taught in the ways that many people hear that it is,” Fenwick elaborated. “Teaching about racism and its historical and present sense is a part of education that will prepare kids for the future.”

On a lighter note, both candidates were asked about their favorite books. Taft said he loves science fiction, especially the Dune series. Fenwick is a fiction fan, citing Clap When You Land as her favorite recent read. 

The school committee is a non-partisan group of Scituate residents who work together to hold the school district and the superintendent accountable. Committee members attend public meetings every other Monday to address district-wide goals, concerns, and policies. Each year, two SHS students serve as representatives on the committee. SHS seniors Victor Bowker and Emma Riedel represented Scituate students this year.  

The upcoming school committee election will help shape the future of Scituate Public Schools. Remember to vote on May 20th in the SHS gym if you’re a registered voter. Your voice is important!