Marc McGovern

Marc McGovern
2007 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
15 Pleasant St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-642-1731

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

I am a 4th generation Cantabrigian and proud graduate of the Cambridge Public Schools. I am the father of two current CPS students. My 20 years of volunteering with Cambridge children includes coaching baseball and soccer, working in after school programs, working in classrooms and serving on a variety of committees including the Cambridge Kids' Council. I am a professional social worker with 15 years of experience working on behalf of children and families. I have worked in schools, side by side with teachers, administrators and parents, making sure the educational needs of children were being met. I have advocated for families and children with school systems across Massachusetts and have helped families navigate systems as large as the Department of Education, to as small as their neighborhood health clinic. I am currently the Director of Family Support Services and Adoption at Cambridge Family and Children's Service. I am a former School Committee member (2004-2005) where I led the way on issues such as budget transparency, special education, early childhood education and creating schools that are physically and emotionally safe. My commitment to Cambridge is rooted in close to 100 years of family history in this wonderful City. This is my life's work.


Former Senator, Jarrett Barrios

National Association of Social Workers

Progressive Democrats of Cambridge

Carpenters Union, local 40

Top Priorities:

1. Improve the delivery, quality and support of special education services. This will improve the educational experience of children with special needs AND non-special needs children.

2. Close the achievement gap not by bringing students to the middle but by raising students to the top.

3. Expand and support early childhood education services.

School Department Administration:
I believe that everyone in our school administration is working very hard. I believe that because of the many programs we offer that other cities and towns don't, we need an administration that is proportionately larger than other districts'. With that said, however, our non-school-based administration is double other communities our size. As overseers of the budget, which is a primary role of the School Committee, we need to look at central administration in the same way we look at any expenditure: Is this the best use of our finances? We need to ensure that we are using our budget as wisely as possible and to ensure that our funding is going to educating our students. I believe that there needs to be a full evaluation of the job functions of our non-school based administration so that we know which positions are needed and which are not.

Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn's Contract - Based on what you know today, would you support an extension of this contract and, if so, for what term and under what conditions?:
I will begin by saying that my commitment to Cambridge and to Cambridge's children began long before our current superintendent arrived and will continue long after he is gone. My campaign is not based on my positive or negative feelings about the superintendent in any way. I think Tom Fowler-Finn has done many things well. I supported him on the High School Extension Program, Quarterly Assessments, Benchmarks, and Block Scheduling when it was not politically advantageous for me to do so, because I felt he was making good decisions. The question before the new School Committee will not be “How well has the superintendent done?” TFF has done a commendable job since taking over and has been well compensated for it. The question before the Committee will be “Is he the person to lead us for the next four years?”

My vision of a superintendent of schools is someone who leads by empowering others; a leader who inspires staff, parents and students to be part of something larger then themselves. I envision a leader who can articulate a vision that others can rally behind and are willing to give every ounce of their energy to see this vision to its fruition. I believe that a superintendent should not only be able to make difficult decisions but should be open to staff and community input. I believe in a system of inclusion, not exclusion. I believe that we have tremendous resources in our community and we need a leader who will effectively tap into those resources and welcome respectful discussion. I don't believe that is the type of leadership we have at the moment. That is the type of leadership I want us to have in the future.

Controlled Choice:
I am in favor of socio-economic balancing and in fact believe that many of our schools are not diverse enough. However, I am well aware that there are many parents who have the financial means to choose private school for their children if they do not receive the school of their choice-expecting parents to send their children to schools they don't happily choose is counter-productive for the controlled choice system: we see the evidence right in our schools. Therefore, I am calling for the creation of more new school programs, such as the current Montessori program, that create more options for families and will keep families in the system.

Student Assignment Policies:
We need to make this process easier for parents and less complicated. We need to look more closely at "hardship" cases, as well as transfers and sibling preference. It is unfair to expect parents to place their children in two different schools, sometimes all the way across town. Although we have free busing in Cambridge, that is not always an option for families.

The “Achievement Gap”:
The research on systems that have successfully closed the achievement gap shows that there is more to it than "Strong teachers and strong curriculum" as some say. Many factors come into play when looking at children's learning. Early childhood education, stresses associated with lower socio-economic status, health care, nutrition, parent educational level, and parent involvement are just a few issues that impact learning. As a school system we need to start looking at, working on, and supporting families in these other areas if we are going to achieve any long-term closing of this gap. We need to add more support services to our schools, provide child care for meetings and school functions, reach out to families in their homes if they are unable to make it to school, welcome parental and teacher input into the discussion, look at our nutritional standards, and have more social workers on staff to help those students and families who need extra assistance. We need to work more closely with the City to make sure that we are working together with common goals.

We also need to have high expectations and make sure that we are challenging students. There are two ways to close a gap. One is to bring the lower level up and the other is to bring the higher level down. I support bringing the lower level up. We need to ensure that all students are performing to their best ability and we need to support them in any way we can.

We have a wealth of resources in Cambridge, resources that go well beyond our financial stability. A number of schools and districts around the country have had more success in this area than we have, but I think we have the financial and personnel resources to become a leading example of real success.

Enrichment Programs:
These programs enriched my school experience when I was a CPS student and are enriching my children's school experience today. Cambridge does a great job of making most of these programs accessible to students. We need to increase the number of low-income students taking honors and AP classes. We need to increase after school opportunities for special needs students and ensure that our programs can meet their varied needs. I support introducing foreign language at earlier grades, as well as increasing time spent on music, art, and theater-all these areas are valuable in and of themselves, and they can also help students more easily access literacy and math curricula.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools:
The Cambridge Public Schools have done a far better job marketing our schools and the superintendent deserves a great deal of credit for this. Cambridge has so many private, parochial and charter schools within its limits that there is no shortage of options for parents. We need to continue to publicize our schools' successes. We also need to reach out more effectively to new parents in all corners of our city, long before their children become school age, in order to find out their perceptions of CPS and what they want for their children. We need to work more closely with private and public pre-school programs and reach out to parents who have either left the system and who never chose the system. The recent upturn in enrollment is encouraging, but we have a very long way to go before we serve as many children as we should be serving. I believe a popular public school system-especially one that is socially integrated--is not only beneficial to the children enrolled in it, it is also a place where residents of the city can find common cause and become more attached to their city and all the other people in it.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
This is an interesting question because the School Committee should certainly be able to comment on school curriculum. The truth is, however, that since Education Reform, the School Committee has NO jurisdiction over curriculum, other then to hold the superintendent accountable for his/her decisions. Candidates who say that they will bring a strong middle school or high school curriculum if elected either don't understand the limits put on the school committee by Ed Reform or are being disingenuous. The way the SC can support curriculum improvement is to make sure that we work with the superintendent to provide the financial stability needed to carry out his goals and to support our teachers. The SC cannot, under law, make decisions in the classroom.

With that said, what I would like to see at both the elementary and high school level is a curriculum that creates life-long learners. I want our schools to be creative, to be inspirational, and to teach children not only facts but how to be productive and successful adults, no matter what field of work they choose. I want our curriculum to prepare our students for any life decision they make and to ensure that their school experience is worthwhile and exciting.

High School Programs and Curriculum:
Much of my answer to the previous topic applies here. For CRLS specifically, I am so excited that the high school has made such a tremendous turn around and a great deal of credit goes to our staff and administration, as well as to students and parents who have all worked so hard. I would like to see expansion of AP and Honors opportunities. I support block scheduling. I would like to see as much emphasis placed on our academic teams and accomplishments as on our sports programs.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs (including CRLS renovations), and the Disposition of Surplus Buildings:
Many of the projects at CRLS are needed for safety reasons. Many of the additional projects that are raising the costs are to provide our students and staff with an improved educational facility. Unlike other cities and towns that have significant space to build a new building, Cambridge does not; therefore the idea of building an entirely new high school is probably unrealistic. In addition, with the new library being built, I think the location of the current high school is ideal. There never seems to be a good time to undergo such major projects. The cost is always high and the disruption is often great. Those factors, however, don't change, and if you don't "bite the bullet" as it were and start the process, the costs only go up and the disruption is just passed along to another generation. I believe that these renovations to the high school are necessary and that we should move ahead with them soon because if we don't we risk losing our state funding, which will only add to Cambridge's costs.

With respect to the other buildings (Upton St. and the Longfellow building), I believe that the School Department needs to hold onto these buildings for potential relocating of high school students during renovations and for future educational use. I like the idea of moving the Central Administration into the high school, as is the case in many other communities. The School Committee and the School Department, however, need to be open to discussion with the City and with the community as it may not be possible to hold onto these buildings past the high school renovations if we are to obtain the funding needed for this capital project.

With regard to the budget, this has been an issue I have championed for many years. While a member of the Committee in 2004 and 2005, I was often the lone voice calling for greater budget transparency, an explanation for our high per pupil expenditure and a shifting of funds from non-school based positions back to the classroom. Through my questioning there has been progress on these issues, but there is still work to be done. We now understand the cost of free, full day kindergarten, for example. The cost of free bus transportation and no fees for extracurricular activities. We now understand the cost of small classrooms and schools. Prior to my time on the School Committee these issues were black holes. If elected this term, I will take up where I left off and make sure that our budget is understandable, transparent, accountable and education focused. I will make sure that we prioritize student achievement, teacher compensation, support services and training. I will ensure that we are taking full advantages of the tremendous support we receive from the tax payers of this community.

MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement:
Child Left Behind as an attack on public education. NCLB sets districts and schools up to fail by under funding mandates and establishing benchmarks that are arbitrary. I believe that we must strive to make sure our schools do well on MCAS exams because the consequences of not doing so are too great. However, I never want to see Cambridge become a system that "teaches to the test." I want our schools to continue to inspire children to learn by being creative while ensuring that students are making progress.

We need multiple assessments to measure student achievement and school progress. While the Clinical Coordinator at the Manville School, an out-of-district school for children with special needs, I saw all of our 10th graders pass the MCAS. They did this because we took full advantage of all the accommodations offered under the law to assist them in this exam. We also had the trained staff needed to make this happen. Cambridge should follow this example. Many of our special education students can and must pass the MCAS but need more support. It is our responsibility to provide them with what they need. I do not believe in MCAS as the determining factor in a child's graduation from high school. NCLB calls for "multiple assessments" to determine graduation requirements.

We need a system that inspires children, a system that creates life-long learners and a system that is creative, innovative and on the cutting edge.

School Safety and Student Behavior:
Teachers can't teach and students can't learn if they don't feel safe. In 1994 I worked with Stephen Brion-Meisels to implement the Peer Mediation Program in our elementary schools. As a School Committee member in 2004 and 2005 I saw to it that we implemented the first district wide anti-bullying program, re-instated funding for Project 10 East (a support for GLBT students at the high school), and called for an increase in social workers and guidance counselors in our schools. I have conducted trainings, both in Cambridge and in other communities, on the impact of bullying. This is an issue that is very dear to me and that I consider of significance.

We need to create school climates which are inclusive and positive. We need to improve staff training on behavior modification. We need to increase supervision of students in the halls, at lunch, and at recess. We need to welcome parents into the process and have open and honest discussions about behavior. We need to provide training for parents on bullying, child development, cyber-bullying, violence and sex in the media and other issues that influence our children's behavior.

Parent Involvement and School Councils:
While on the Committee in 2004 and 2005 I sponsored a motion that welcomed School Councils to attend and comment at School Committee meetings. You may wonder why this was necessary. It was needed because many did not want parents or School Councils to voice their opinion. Not that long ago, but before my time on the Committee, parents from different schools would band together, often around budget season, to lobby the School Committee to grant funding or services to their schools. The School Committee, often concerned with politics rather then looking at the District as a whole, would grant these requests. This created disparities in the system. Schools who were well organized received more then schools who were less organized. That is not the fault of the parents but the fault of the politicians! Every parent, School Council and citizen should feel welcomed to come before the School Committee and advocate for their position. The School Committee needs to be responsible and take a District wide view, no matter what the political consequences. Because School Committee members in the past put politics in front of their responsibility to serve all schools equally, the pendulum has now swung in the other direction, and many don't want any parental input for fear that they will have to take a stand and make a difficult decision.

Another issue is that the public is only able to come to School Committee meetings and speak for 3 minutes on an issue that is on that meeting's agenda. This is not a conversation. A conversation is when there is dialogue back and forth. If elected, I would work to create a series of Town Meetings where a person could come and ask the School Committee members and Superintendent questions and actually receive answers. I am not afraid of public discourse. In fact, I believe it is necessary, helpful and I welcome it.

This year's School Committee race is very interesting, in large part because there is a "race within a race." Technically, all six seats on the Committee are up for election. However, there are only 5 incumbents running, meaning one of the four non-incumbents, including myself, will certainly be elected to fill the vacated seat.

I encourage Cambridge voters to think of this election as a job interview. I am the only non-incumbent to have grown up in Cambridge and to have graduated from Cambridge Public Schools. I have 20 years of volunteer experience with Cambridge's children from all of our diverse neighborhoods. I have 15 years of experience working in schools, special education, and family advocacy. I am the only non-incumbent to have served on the School Committee previously. I believe that my broad range of experience puts me in the best position to help bring our schools to the next level.

If elected, I will continue my work to improve special education, expand early childhood education, create emotionally and physically safe schools, and achieve budget transparency. I will ensure that we close the achievement gap, not by bringing students toward the middle but by raising students to the top.

Everyone in this race is nice, smart, and well-intentioned and wants our schools to improve. So, when going to polls on November 6th, and voting for someone to fill the empty seat on the Committee, hire the person with the most experience who can start working for you on day one. Our children deserve nothing less. I ask for your #1 vote and will be honored to continue my life-long commitment to our City. Please visit my website, for more information.

Candidate's 2005 responses 

Preliminary Statement for 2007 (July 1, 2007):
Although I am not a current member of the School Committee, I am a former member and am now a candidate hoping to return to the Committee next term, I thought I would post some of my priorities. If you would like more specific information, or would like me to comment on anything else, just ask. I took the following from my website, You can go there for additional information. Thank you for your interest.
Respectfully, Marc McGovern

• Marc will work to improve the way special education services are delivered. Cambridge has many students who learn differently and who need extra support in order to reach their full potential. Currently, many of those children are not receiving the services they need and are legally and morally obligated to receive. Our special educators are working hard but need more resources. Marc wants to create a Special Education Department that is responsive to parent concerns and one that is able to evaluate children’s needs sooner rather than later and then to deliver whatever services are needed to meet these children’s needs. Marc will do this by ensuring that the Special Education Parent Advisory Council has a seat at the table with the School Department, calling for more specialist, such as school psychologists, social workers, speech and language specialists, occupational therapists and tutors. In addition, Marc will ensure that teachers receive professional development in areas such as behavior modification, teaching special education students, and alternative curriculum.

• Marc will work to expand and improve our early childhood education programs. Cambridge has excellent early childhood teachers and programs, however, there are still too many children who enter public school well behind their peers. Marc will call for the Cambridge Public Schools to work more closely with city run and private pre-school programs so there is greater coordination between programs. Marc will also call for the school department to work with city programs such as the Agenda For Children and 0-8 Council, to reach out to new parents and stress the importance of reading and talking with children from day 1 and how important early childhood education is to a child’s educational future.

• Marc will work to allocate School Department funds to help children currently struggling in the Cambridge Public Schools. Marc believes that although things have improved, parents can no longer be told that “things will get better in the future.” Marc believes that the future in now and that funding needs to be used to plan for the future but not at the expense of the present.

• Marc will continue his work to create emotionally and physically healthy schools. Marc believes that children cannot learn if they don’t feel safe in school. Many parents have talked with Marc about their children being bullied and teachers feeling overwhelmed and spending more time on behavior management instead of teaching. Marc will call for a review of anti-bullying programming, call for an increase in social workers to help children struggling with behavior issues, and call for professional development for both teachers and administrators in behavior modification techniques and the impact of bullying on learning.

•Marc will continue to call for greater budget transparency so that the School Committee and the public can have a better sense of how Cambridge is spending its over $122 million school budget and to ensure that we are funding programs that lead to positive results.

Page last updated May 10, 2009 Cambridge Candidates