Marc McGovern

Marc McGovern
2003 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
15 Remington Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Contact information:
Tel: 617-864-6272

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Marc McGovern
17 Pleasant St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

I was born at Cambridge City Hospital on December 21, 1968. I've grown up in Cambridge, a city my family has called home for nearly a century. I attended the Cambridge Public Schools, first the Cambridge Alternative Public School (now Graham and Parks), a school which my mother helped establish. I then moved to the Agassiz (now Baldwin) and to Cambridge Rindge and Latin, before graduating in 1987. At CRLS I was captain of the Varsity Soccer team, a writing tutor to other students, a member of the Student School Committee, and Co-Editor of the school newspaper.

Following high school, I attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I transferred to UMass-Boston, but before that I volunteered in a 5th grade classroom at the Tobin School. As a college senior I worked in the Cambridge Elementary Schools helping to establish the Peer Mediation Program and also was active in Amnesty International and MASSPIRG. I graduated in 1994 with honors and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology.

I immediately began working at Project IMPACT/ Special Adoption Family Services, as a social worker and case manager for special needs children awaiting adoption. All the children on my caseload were receiving special education services, and as a result, I consistently advocated for them at school systems throughout the Commonwealth. On that job I saw how political activism can create positive changes for children and families. That knowledge, combined with my previous school-based experience, solidified my commitment to helping them.

In 1996 I married Pamela Thilo, and in 1997 we welcomed our first son, Nicolas. I enrolled in the Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work, while working full-time and starting a family. Those years were busy, but they taught me many things: to manage my time well, to seek advice and guidance from teachers and colleagues, to remember my goals and head toward them every day. I graduated from Simmons in 2001 with a Masters Degree in Social Work. By this time our second son, William, had joined the family, and I went on to work at the Manville School in Boston, an out-of-district school placement for children with learning disabilities. I am currently employed there.

Starting in college, I often spoke out publicly -- through testimony, published articles and trainings -- on behalf of children in special education and their families. I have dedicated my professional life to working for all families, many of whom are struggling with special needs children, to ensure that they are receiving the support, education, assistance, and opportunities to be successful.

Role of the School Committee:
The role of the School Committee is to put forth thoughtful, well-reasoned policy directives to the Superintendent and establish a way to assess their implementation. The School Committee needs to show leadership, by working together to ensure that schools across the city are setting high standards, and educating all of Cambridge's children equally. The School Committee needs to monitor closely how our School Department is funded, making sure that money is being spent on establishing creative, nurturing and healthy academic environments that foster safety and learning and respect the different cultures and learning styles of students. The School Committee must, by its behavior, restore a sense of confidence to the management of our schools, and not get bogged down by micro-management, infighting, and personal political agendas. Deliberations and rationales for making decisions need to be transparent and well-communicated.

Elementary School Consolidation:
No matter where you stand on the educational reasoning (or lack thereof) of the elementary school consolidation, I believe there are three things most people can agree upon. First, for many reasons, Cambridge needed to consolidate some schools. Second, the process was demoralizing to our community. Third, the drive to "do something" revealed fundamental flaws in planning, vision, and proper communication that must be addressed.

Faced with budget cuts and declining enrollment, the School Committee struggled to develop a plan to address the many competing needs of the system. The result was a process that became disorganized, disrespectful, and hurtful to many parents, teachers, administrators and most sadly, children. With the exception of one School Committee member, who continues to not acknowledge the flaws in this process, every member who voted in favor of the plan stated "we could have done better" or "this isn't the best we can do, but we have to do something." As someone who has worked with families and children for ten years, helping them transition through many different settings and systems, I was disturbed that the School Committee would move close to 50% of the elementary school population because they painted themselves into a corner. Yes, they did have to do something, but this plan was far too disruptive. Many of the moves (i.e. Amigos) did not seem to be based on education but on politics.

If I had been on the School Committee last term, I would have looked to address this issue more quickly, while being respectful of the school communities that were impacted. I would have made sure that a transition plan was in place, so that teachers and parents did not have to do all the work over the summer, mainly at their own time and expense. I would have looked at minimizing the disruption to the system and impact as few children and schools as possible. Research shows that the small classroom/small schools model works best. Why did we abandon it in some programs? Most importantly, I would have made sure that whatever decision I made, it was based on what made educational sense for the entire system, not for one group over another. It was appalling to me as a citizen and professional to attend School Committee meetings where school communities were pitted against one another. This is what happens in the absence of clear goals and a shared vision that come as a result of all stakeholders being engaged. We can all accept tough choices if we are given time to understand them and feel our voices have been take into account.

Restructuring of the High School:
Cambridge Rindge and Latin needs stability. As the only public high school in our city, what takes place there radiates throughout the system. It should be the jewel in the crown. Through my door-knocking around Cambridge, I have met many parents of young children who are thinking about moving out of Cambridge, not because of the elementary schools, but over concern for the high school. When I attended CRLS, the school was a national model for providing progressive educational experiences for a diverse, urban population. A world of learning and explorations was opened up to me because even as a freshman, I was allowed to choose from classes anywhere in the high school, and expand my horizons.

The issues facing the high school include addressing the causes of probation, articulating a clear mission and vision for providing educational opportunities to all students, holding high expectations for students, and ensuring that students have challenging and innovative courses from which to choose. We must restore a feeling of community and pride. There are committed teachers and students at CRLS, and extra-curricular activities (Athletics, Clubs) routinely receive highest statewide honors. There is no reason that CRLS can't engage the interest of every student, in the classroom or out of it.

Academic Excellence and Goals for the Cambridge Public Schools:
I am in agreement with the Cambridge Teacher's Association and Superintendent Fowler-Finn, that we need a district wide educational framework that demands that all of Cambridge's children are learning similar skills and being prepared equally across the district. The goal for the Cambridge Public Schools should be to provide all children, regardless of race, class or gender, with an educational experience that will prepare him/her for future endeavors of his/her choosing, while promoting a sense of safety, community, self-discovery, and pride. At the elementary level, we must do a better job of teaching our children equally across the district. As it stands now, children learn very different skill sets depending on the school they attend. The result is that children enter our only public high school unequally prepared for the challenge. Some students leave elementary school knowing how to write a five paragraph essay, while others are do not. Some students learn Math skills that others do not. Some students are held to high expectations, while others are not. This is unfair to many children, and ill-suited for our diverse system.

School Budget:
It is no secret that Cambridge spends on average more money per pupil than almost any other school system in Massachusetts, approximately $17,000 per year. It is unfathomable to me that while spending this money, we still do not have full-time specialists in every school, full-time social workers in every school, teachers aides in every classroom, and that the photography class at the high school does not have enough funding for cameras. I will demand that we put forward a school budget that begins funding what is needed at the classroom and school level first. We need a budget that puts our money into establishing creative, supportive and healthy learning environments. We need to spend our money on education not wasteful administration.

Standardized tests are a given. However, I find it grossly unfair to have a one-size-fits-all test to determine whether or not a student graduates from high school. This does not mean that I'm against teaching our children to be proficient in Writing and Math; however, determining proficiency can not be done by one test. We are all individuals. We do not learn the same way and we do not express what we have learned the same way. To assume that all children can express their knowledge the same way is short-sighted. Do we need to make sure students are learning basic English and Math skills? Absolutely ! But to assume that we can determine that outcome for all children with one measure is unfounded.

With that being said, until MCAS are no longer the prime criteria for graduation, we need to ensure that we are adequately preparing our students to pass the exam and to graduate.

Civic participation:
I grew up with the value of civic participation and community activism modeled for me by my family. My great-aunt who passed away this year at the age of 96, was one of the founding members of the Riverside Neighborhood Association; my mother helped establish the Cambridge Alternative Public School, the Cambridge Women's Commission and the Mayor's Summer Work Program. My father was a teacher and City Council candidate in 1965. I learned at an early age that each one of us has a responsibility to work for the betterment of our community, and it was these values that led me into social work and community participation.

For the past 15 years I have been trying to make Cambridge an even better place to live. I volunteered in a 5th grade classroom at the Tobin School, working with students on social skill building, community participation, and peer relationships. I helped to implement the Peer Mediation Program in the Cambridge Elementary Schools. I was a coach for Cambridge Youth Soccer for ten years. I have advocated, publicly and privately, with elected officials on issues ranging from zoning to funding for community schools and literacy programs.

Currently, I am the Vice-Chair of the Ward 6 Democratic Committee, a member of the Cambridge Kids' Council, a member of the Center for Families Subcommittee of the Kids' Council, and a member of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association.

I believe that my skills as a mediator, child and family advocate, and consensus builder are needed on the School Committee. As someone who has century-deep roots in Cambridge, but has been involved in many "progressive" issues, I have established credibility in both "old" Cambridge and "new" Cambridge. I can bridge the gap that often interferes with sound policy on the School Committee. I work in a school every day, I have ten years of experience working on behalf of children and families, I have been involved in my community for fifteen years. I have the professional and personal experience and commitment that is vital to the School Committee. I would be honored to serve the children and families of Cambridge and to continue my dedication to working to improve opportunities for all. I have been endorsed by the Cambridge Lavender Alliance, Carpenter's Union Local #40, the Greater Boston Labor Council-AFL/CIO, the Painters and Allied Trade Council #35, and the National Association of Social Workers.

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