Toni Donais has been an educator in Haverhill schools for 40 years, and now she is running for School Committee.
“I wanted to try the other side of things with policies,” Donais said. “After being in the trenches hearing from parents, students and teachers, I think I’ve heard it from all angles.”
Donais, who taught in grades one to eight for 32 years and has been an administrator for the last eight years, turned down the principal's job at Walnut Square Elementary School last week and said she will run for School Committee.
Donais said she has three major goals: smaller class sizes, more professional development for teachers, and maintaining infrastructure.
Her goals come from her own experiences working in schools.
During Donais’ time teaching, her largest class was 35 students in a middle school math class. It was hard balancing group activities with helping individual students, she said. She doesn’t want teachers being “stressed to the max” when handling larger classes, she said.
“It should be 18 to 20 in kindergarten, 20 to 22 in first and second grade, 22 to 24 in third through fifth grade, and max 25 students in any grades above that,” Donais said. “A small class size is vital.”
Donais made her decision to run just as her daughter, teacher Jennifer Donais, returned from a professional development trip during which she went to space camp in Alabama to learn about teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Donais said her daughter came back with a variety of new ideas to try in her Silver Hill School math classroom and an enthusiasm that will help students when the next school year begins in the fall.
“When we get teachers excited about learning you will have students excited about learning,” Donais said.
Donais said that in her time as a teacher she was never given the opportunity for development. More recently, as a principal she saw advertisements for development opportunities, but teachers were not taking them very often, she said. She said there needs to be more encouragement and possibly more money for teachers to use for professional development.
Donais said she is also running to ensure that Haverhill school buildings are well maintained.
The School Committee is made up of the mayor, who serves as chairman, with six other members who hold four-year terms. Vice Chairman Sven Amirian and members Gail Sullivan and Scott Wood Jr. all have seatas on the School Committee that are up for election this year. The deadline to file nominations papers to run for School Committee is July 23.