MFOFC wants to introduce you to the movers and shakers in our state, the family leaders who are working to make change for people with disabilities in their communities and beyond. The ones who are imagining better and then making their ideas happen.
This week, we’d like to introduce you to Heather Baylies-Grigoreas. Heather is a graduate of the Southeast Family Leadership Series 26. She hails from Taunton, MA, and she is running for the school board!
Social Media Handle(s): https://www.facebook.com/HeatherForSchoolCommittee and @hbaylies on Twitter
Hometown: Taunton, MA
Current neighborhood/Town: Taunton, MA
Who makes up your family unit? In our home there is my husband, Scott, our three children– nine year old, Dexter; seven year old, Violet; five year old, Miriam, and myself.
Any pets? We have a cutie family dog named Mason with two different color eyes.
Who did you want to be when you grew up? I changed my mind a few times but ideas were a veterinary, teacher, and after school program director.
What’s your guilty pleasure? I love a late night snack and catching up with a DVR full of reality TV.
What is your favorite self-care activity? You can’t go wrong with a well deserved nap.
What is the last thing you laughed at? My kids come up with some great, original jokes, which are all the more funny when the jokes make little sense and they can’t stop laughing at themselves long enough to finish the punchline.
What’s your greatest/biggest struggle right now? Like so many other parents, it’s very hard to find quality time with my husband. There should be far more date nights in my life than there are currently.
What would you tell your younger self? Honestly, I would tell myself to relax a little and cut myself some slack. No one test score, break up, semester grade, or fizzled friendship is going to change the fact that you’re a kindhearted person who always tries her best.
What’s the best advice you ever got? Margaret Mead told the world to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
What gets you on your soapbox? Hearing people tell how something was always done successfully in the past as a way of saying that change, progress, and improvements aren’t needed now or in the future makes me cringe and has lead me into many conversations on current research and the ever changing dynamics of families, education, and society overall.
What MFOFC trainings have you participated in & what was your biggest take away? I’m a graduate of the 2017-2018 Family Leadership Series and so very thankful for every bit of time spent there listening, learning, networking, and dreaming big. My biggest take away, other than the many new friends and their system of support, is that true inclusion is not creating special opportunities for people to be included. Inclusion is adjusting our current society in a way that all people can successfully and comfortably participate in anything they desire.
How has becoming a leader impacted your family? Well, we have all become better at accepting last minute schedule changes, new routines, and team work at home given that leadership roles do require time and creative solutions to scheduling conflicts and child care. It’s an excellent lesson in flexibility. And our kids are definitely gaining an understanding of what it means to actively participate in our community, occasionally coming with me to meetings, workshops, or events where people might not otherwise expect to see children, and I think that’s a great thing.
Tell us what you’re working on now. Right now I’m beginning my third year as a co-chair of our school district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council and working on my campaign for a seat on our school committee with the November election quickly approaching!
When did you get involved in your current advocacy project? For years I have considered becoming a candidate for school committee, ever since it was suggested to me by several people, including a good friend who began (only half) jokingly introducing me to others as her friend who was running for school committee, giving this introduction well over a year before the next election and before I had really considered it a real option for me. After so much encouragement from others and discussions with my family, I decided just earlier this year to make the leap, pulling papers, collecting signatures, and getting my name on the ballot for the November 5th election.
Why is your cause/project important? Perhaps the most common question asked about my current candidacy is “Why are you running?” It’s my work with the Taunton Special Education Parent Advisory Council that lead me to begin attending school committee meetings as a spectator. I wanted to know more about things happening in our district, how decisions were made, and who was making them. In watching meetings, hearing discussion, finding out about different initiatives that were being planned, and learning the budget process, it was very hard for me to just sit and listen. I wanted to be a part of the discussions. I wanted to give the perspective of a preschool and elementary school parent, a special education family, a parent of children with disabilities, a person with particular interest in mental health and social emotional well being, and a mother with the importance of inclusive practices for both my own and all students and families in the forefront of my mind. At every meeting I wished I could raise my hand and participate. And so my family and I decided I would run, hopefully earning my own seat at the table to speak on behalf of all Taunton students and their families and to bring new and different perspectives to the school committee body and it’s ongoing work. We have many great things happening in our school district, but it would be foolish and irresponsible to not also acknowledge that we have many areas that need to be addressed including improvements in school culture, appreciation and acceptance of inclusion of all, improved communication with families, and further supporting the social emotional growth and well being of our students, all of which I believe are closely connected.
How are you working to advance your cause? Whether I win a seat on the school committee or not, my attendance at the school committee meetings will not change. I will continue to stay an informed district parent and tax payer. I will fulfill my advisory roles for the Taunton SEPAC by meeting regularly with the special education department and school committee members, sharing ideas for improvements and voicing concerns and feedback from special education families. I will continue to advocate on behalf of families by contacting my elected officials, at the local, state, and federal levels on topics relevant to children, families, and equality. As I continue that work, I continue on with my campaign in hopes of soon sitting at the table myself and taking an active role in the school committee’s policy shaping and decision making processes.
Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story! We wish you the best of luck in the upcoming election. We are so proud of you!