Meet Anne Fernandes

May 17, 2023

Incumbent Anne Fernandes is running for her third term on the Rochester School Committee.

Fernandes, who had worked as a special education teacher for 22 years, said she “didn’t want to jump out entirely” from the world of education and that “staying in as a school committee member allowed me to continue engagement on a couple of different levels.”

If elected, Fernandes plans to focus on literacy at Rochester Memorial School.

“Literacy is my agenda,” said Fernandes. “It was my agenda. It remains my agenda.”

She added that she is “excited” about literacy initiatives that are being planned by Old Rochester Regional School District Assistant Superintendent Shari Fedorowicz.

Fernandes said she also plans to improve school safety by holding “roundtable discussions” about bringing on a school resource officer to Rochester Memorial School “sooner than later.”

“Because of incidents that have occurred in the United States in the last 12 or 15 years — and even recently — I think that we need to talk about what else we can do,” she said.

Fernandes also said she would like to see more “balance” and “discussion” surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the school district.

“I think that you need diversity and inclusion around the School Committee table as well,” said Fernandes, who noted that she would like to see the diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee meetings move from six-week intervals to monthly meetings.

In regards to future diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, Fernandes said that she is “not sure that we need anything different. I believe that we have done quite a bit of professional development for our teaching staff [and] our paraprofessional staff. The administrators have been trained as well.”

This year, ten library books held in the Old Rochester Regional High School and Junior High Schools were challenged for alleged explicit content. This has sparked discussion over suitable in-school materials.

“Some of [the books] are very graphic,” said Fernandes. “What I would like to see is, perhaps, a policy change.”

The current policy in the School District allows parents to “opt-out” of some in-school materials. Fernandes suggested that an “opt-in” policy may “be better for students.”

“I would like to see more discussion about it,” said Fernandes. “I don't think it should be a one and done that the books were checked and that they're back in our library for three years without any more say.”

According to district policy, now that the 10 books have been approved, they cannot be challenged for three years. Many of the challenged books discussed themes of gender, sexuality and identity.

“I've heard enough people say that these books represent certain populations of students … I am not opposed to that,” said Fernandes. “I'm not a homophobe, I'm not transphobic, I'm not a ‘phobe.’”

On Oct. 4, 2022, Fernandes stated in a Facebook post that “Those of you abusing children with cultish ideologies (drag queens, transgenderism, LGBTQ+ to name a few), I’d suggest you check yourself. [God] means business, and Hell is forever.”

When asked to address this post, Fernandes said, “Our children, they need to be protected and it is a parent's right to protect their children, I believe … that gender and sexuality is best discussed between parents and their children.”

Fernandes clarified that she only has experience on the elementary school level and that she has “not taught at the junior [or] senior high level so I'm not going to say anything about them and gender and sexuality at all, but at the [younger] levels, those discussions are best had with family.”

If elected, Fernandes said she hopes to draw upon her experience as a special education teacher to aid her on the School Committee.

She said she has found that “it takes a while to get to know students just like it does to get [to know] teammates on a committee,” she said. “You make no assumptions. You wait, you ask your questions, you listen [and] you make observations. I think I'm very good at making observations. And then you collect data. I'm a big data person.”

According to Fernandes, the greatest strength of Rochester Memorial School is the commitment of the staff, students and administrators.

“I hope that our teachers at RMS know that they're very, very valued … and then as far as the school committee goes, it's a non-paid job, so everything that we do is because we are very invested in both the staff and the students.”