Videos: School committee candidates on climate change


September 5, 2021

Seven candidates are vying for three open seats on Quincy’s school committee, and QCAN asked all of them to submit video answers to two questions:

  • What would you do as a school committee member to advance the understanding of climate change among Quincy students, staff, and families?
  • What can the school committee do to fight climate change here in Quincy? (This could include changes to anything related to schools or school buildings.)

Ahead of the preliminary election on September 14, when voters will choose the top six vote getters to put on the ballot for election day on November 2nd, we present the answers from three candidates who responded by our deadline of September 1: Emily Lebo, Courtney Perdios, and Liz Speakman. (Update from Sept. 10: Scroll down for answers from Doug Gutro.)

Find out where to vote and make your voice heard on September 14 and November 2! (Early voting for the preliminary takes place September 7-10, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, at Quincy City Hall.)

Emily Lebo

“The Massachusetts state frameworks in science, technology, and engineering, updated in 2020, give us a clear understanding of where and how to teach Earth science and the effects of human activity on our planet. You see project-based work that allows for active engagement in learning with descriptions of real-world issues and possible solutions in the middle school technology course and also in high school courses that build on climate issues, including meteorology, sustaining the future, Earth science, and environmental science. All of these include climate change and associated careers. 

What we have to do as a school committee is to ensure that our teachers have the resources needed to provide hands-on activities as well as the time for common planning where appropriate for integration and any needed professional development. We also should continue to encourage and support the many site-based activities, including clubs, green teams and campaigns that support mitigating climate change at all levels, and celebrate the civic participation at school committee meetings.”

“One thing that I have done is participate in the mayor’s task force on composting. I joined this group in 2019. We visited composting sites, communities that have implemented composting and heard from experts. I brought Sara Dufour, our food service director, into our group when the city wrote for the state grant to implement composting in our schools. Although we were not originally successful in getting the funding, we decided to release a pilot in one elementary school. I was able to get financial support from the Wollaston Garden Club and we were all set to start in September 2020, but COVID hit and students were not going into the cafeteria. We plan to restart our efforts as soon as schools are able to participate. We’ve also talked about putting solar panels on carports, like roofs, in some of our parking lots to augment the solar panels already there. I also have recently started working with the Wollaston Garden Club to form pod squads where we go out and pull invasive plants on public grounds. Next year we plan to work with the QCAN student group to support that effort and possibly the middle schools on property near them.”

Courtney Perdios

“In our current state standards, it appears that climate change is not specifically mentioned as an expectation in the curriculum until students get to high school. I believe we could and should be doing more to introduce climate change earlier so we can continue building and deepening students’ understanding of climate change over the course of their K-12 schooling.

As a school committee member I meet often with the superintendent and his leadership team. I will definitely make it a point to work with them to find ways to supplement the current science standards with age-appropriate ways of including climate change in both elementary and middle school. By using technology, we can bring into the classroom online programs like NASA’s ClimateKids, videos of children of similar ages speaking at climate-change summits across the world, and virtual speakers who are experts in the field. In fact I’d love to assist with and support the program that was started last year in which some of QCAN’s members went into classrooms to speak with middle schoolers across our district about climate change.

I also believe that we need to foster the capacity for advocacy in our students. Building the skills that they need to more easily find their voice, research facts and perspectives, and speak out for change in our world is important, not just to climate change, but to all issues facing our youth today.”

“There are many things QPS can do to fight climate change within our school system. Although we do a fairly decent job of recycling paper in the classroom and some plastic, we have to start putting recycling bins on school grounds and in school playgrounds. Pre-COVID, the city’s natural resources department was trying to develop a collection system for a recycling program like that across our school district, and I think we need to advocate for that sooner rather than later. We also need to talk about ways of reducing food waste from our cafeterias and establishing a sustainable district-wide composting system for our schools.

We can also advocate for more tree planting on school grounds to decrease the amount of carbon going into our atmosphere and help the soil retain more moisture, in addition to providing shade for students and families. We can regularly encourage parents in school newsletters to walk or bike to school for drop-off and pickup, rather than driving to school.

And at one of our last school committee meetings, we were given a list of upcoming school building projects. Among them was an expansion of the solar-panel program that included adding solar panels to the roofs of six more of our school buildings and a proposal to add solar carports in the parking lots at Quincy High School and Clifford Marshall. I am proud to support those projects as they move forward.”

Liz Speakman

“Hi, I’m Liz Speakman, running for Quincy School Committee.

There’s lots that we can do to impact climate change here in Quincy. I think we can advocate for students to have real-life discussions and projects based on what’s happening locally, including the impacts of storms, flooding, as well as sea wall construction and the impacts of storms on our housing as well as our economy. We also have many experts that we can call on to come in and be guest lecturers and guest speakers for our students, including folks from the New England Aquarium, the Save the Bay/Save the Harbor groups, so students can see where the opportunities are for them to be more active.

Climate change doesn’t need to only exist in our science curriculum. We can think broader and have students really understand the broader context of climate change through social studies, world history, politics, that kind of thing.”

“There’s a lot that the school committee can do to fight climate change right here in Quincy. We can start with really centering our students. As I’ve said many times in my campaign, we need to listen to what the students want. We can take a look at the QYouth survey that was done where they identified needing more meatless options, particularly around more protein options, in school, and figure out how we can make that happen for them. We also need to look at more energy efficiency in our buildings. How do we create more opportunities for solar panels, for renewable energy. Particularly when we’re looking at new buildings, we can integrate that into our plans. We also need to reduce waste. There are so many plastic utensils and styrofoam trays that are used on a regular basis in the schools. We can think creatively about how we do something different. Composting is another way that we can be more creative around our climate change activism here in Quincy.”

Doug Gutro

“As a member of the Quincy School Committee, I believe we have an obligation to help advance the understanding of climate change in students, staff, educators, and their families. 

The first thing I’d do is to seek professional development around climate change. Professional development and training is essential for our teachers in many areas, like technology, COVID protocols, and social justice. We could do the same for climate change. 

Number two, I think it’s important to work within the state guidelines and embed it into our curriculum. I would invite the chairs of our science departments up in both high schools to give a briefing on where we are and where we can go. 

Number three is to create a nexus with city departments so we can hear specific areas where storm surge, intense flooding, and heat waves have had a direct impact on our community.

And finally, professionally, I’m the director of public affairs for the US Environmental Protection Agency. I have access to many experts and professionals that understand the climate crisis here in New England, and I’m happy to invite them in and set up field trips as well.”

“What can the Quincy School Committee do to combat climate change? The first thing we can do is to acknowledge that it’s real. In March of 2010, 18-inches of intense rainfall devastated a West Quincy neighborhood, and FEMA declared it a national disaster. In 2018, portions of Adams Shore and Houghs Neck saw incredible storm surge and massive flooding. Homes and basements were destroyed, as was a million dollars’ worth of damage to the Broad Meadows Middle School boiler. And just north of it, we lost 15 school buses behind the Kennedy Senior Center. 

What can we do? First thing is we adapt. We move those buses to higher ground. Second is the mitigation strategy around energy efficiency. We should begin by insisting that all new buildings are LEED-certified in terms of construction. We should also work in the older buildings to replace roofs, windows, and boilers to make sure they’re energy efficient as well. Establishing recycling and waste-diversion programs and having goals in all of our schools is very important, as is greening our school grounds. And finally applying to buy cleaner school buses that will protect the health of our children and will also combat climate change.”