Each Tuesday, Lowell’s First Look will be publishing a different profile of a school board candidate. These profiles are intended to introduce candidates to voters and cover each person’s background, why they are running and other details they would like voters to know. To hear candidate positions on policy issues, Q&As will be published each Thursday. You’ll be able to find profiles and Q&As, as they are published, at this link.
Jennifer Dougherty isn’t thrilled about campaigning for a seat on the school board. As a self-employed civil engineer, she isn’t the type to draw attention to herself. However, when she heard Gary Blough would not be seeking reelection to the Board of Education for Lowell Area Schools, she felt it was important to throw her hat into the ring.
“Gary Blough is the only [school board member] who lives south of the river,” Dougherty says. “The idea that there would be no one to represent the south side was concerning to me.”
The Alto resident is part of a crowded field in this year’s Board of Education race. She is one of eight candidates – two incumbents and six challengers – vying for three seats on the school board in the upcoming general election in November.
Red Arrow for Life
Lowell Area Schools often uses the phrase “Red Arrows for Life,” and that’s something Dougherty embraces wholeheartedly. She is a lifelong resident of Lowell who went to Alto Elementary School and was co-valedictorian of the Lowell High School Class of ’92.
Now 48, she and her husband have been married 27 years and have four children – two who have graduated from the district and two who are still in school. The family owns a turkey farm in Alto, and Dougherty has been involved with the Alto Downtown Development Authority since 2009. She currently serves as the organization’s treasurer.
“I believe strongly in our school district,” Dougherty says. “There is a lot of pride in our community.”
That’s a pride she feels personally when she looks back at her past education in the school district and sees the experiences her children have today. Over the years she’s been involved in many activities, and she sees serving on the school board as one more way to give back to the community.
Preparing Kids for the Future
When asked about her biggest goal if elected, Dougherty says she wants to ensure that students graduate with the skills necessary for whatever they want to do next in life.
“I want them to be ready to go to trade school, jump into the workforce or go to college,” she explains.
To do that, the school district needs to ensure it offers diverse learning opportunities. “Not everyone benefits from an AP class, and not everyone benefits from shop,” according to Dougherty.
In addition to having a range of classes, Dougherty stresses it is important to also have extracurricular activities for students who don’t neatly fit into all the regular “boxes.” That’s something she thinks Lowell Area Schools already does well.
“The fact that we offer so many diverse experiences for students is huge,” she says.
If elected, Dougherty hopes to build upon the positive momentum in the district. “I know what we’re doing works,” she explains. “I see it every day.”
School Board Shouldn’t Be Politicized
When Dougherty first heard rumblings of discontent from some in the community about the school board, she began attending meetings. However, she didn’t see anything that made her question the ability of current board members.
“I think our school board has done a wonderful job,” she says. From where she stands, the board did struggle with some of the changes that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, and she thinks there is room for improvement in how well the board explains their decisions and actions to the public.
Overall, though, she is not interested in upending how the school board works. “My goal is not to throw the school board into turmoil,” she says.
Rather, she’d like the school board to remain focused on creating an environment that fosters learning and not get sidetracked by political agendas. She doesn’t want the board to get politicized.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t very vocal who have kids going to this district and who need to be represented,” she says. “I think it’s important to [elect] someone who has no political agenda.”
When it comes time to cast ballots in November, Dougherty says community members can count on her to be that someone.
For more information about Jennifer Dougherty, visit her campaign Facebook page.