Marc McGovern

Marc McGovern
2009 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

Let me begin by thanking you for taking the time to research the candidates. There is nothing more important then our public schools and our children, and it is important to be an informed voter. Here is a little information about me:

  • I am a 4th generation Cantabrigian
  • I am a proud graduate of the Cambridge Public Schools
  • I am the parent of two current CPS students, a 3rd grader and a 7th grader
  • I am a social worker with 15 years of experience working with special needs children and their families
  • I am the only current School Committee member who actually works with children on a daily basis
  • I am a two term member of the School Committee and current Vice-Chair
  • I am currently the Adoption Director at Cambridge Family and Children's Services, working with special needs children in foster care. Previously I was a clinical coordinator at the Manville School, an out-of-district school for children struggling with emotional, behavioral and cognitive special needs
  • Over the years I have devoted much of my time specifically to the children of Cambridge, volunteering at both the Cambridgeport and Tobin schools, helping to start the Peer Mediation Program in our elementary schools, being a member of the Cambridge Kids' Council, and coaching youth soccer. I am currently the president of Central Division baseball.

Top Priorities:

1. Accelerate learning for every child, regardless of race, class, learning style or ability, to ensure that all students achieve at high levels.

2. Improve our special education services so that our most vulnerable students have the supports they need and to create a special education department that meets our families with compassion and not conflict.

3. Address our controlled choice policy to balance our desire for diversity with the changing demographics of our city.

School Department Administration and Superintendent:
After conducting a national search and receiving close to 150 applications, the School Committee hired Dr. Jeffrey Young, a proven educational leader who has led some of the highest achieving districts in Massachusetts. Dr. Young possesses not only the educational experience but the demeanor and vision to lead our district to great heights. Dr. Young will need the support of the Committee in order to reach our mutual goal of educating all students at high levels.

The School Committee's role is not to micro-manage the superintendent but it's also not to simply "rubber stamp" whatever comes before them. The Committee is elected by the citizens to represent them. Therefore, it is appropriate for the Committee to ask questions of the administration and to ensure that the decisions being made are in the best interest of the children. With that said, it is important that the Committee respect its role and understand that it is not there to run the operations of the District.

Although we have made progress, Cambridge still has a central administration much larger then other districts its size. During my two terms on the Committee I have consistently called for greater budget transparency and re-distributing our financial resources from our bloated administration to the classroom. As we face challenging economic times, we will be faced with making difficult decisions. I will work to ensure that these decisions have limited impact on the classroom and that we expend our resources wisely.

School Department Budget and Capital Projects:
One of the primary responsibilities of the School Committee is to oversee the school department budget. Over the past two years the Committee has closed two significant budget deficits averaging over 3 million dollars a piece, and did so without cutting programs or instituting fees. Given the federal and state financial picture, our district will be facing many difficult fiscal decisions in the years ahead. My record on budget transparency, re-directing money to the classroom and taking an active role in the budget process is well documented. As budget co-chair, I took the lead, with my colleague, Patty Nolan, to create the district's first, "Citizens Guide to the Budget", a booklet meant to bring long awaited budget transparency to our school system.

This past year the school district began a massive renovation that will transform our only public high school into a state of the art educational facility. Although this is money well spent, we will need to watch closely to ensure that our resources are not wasted. In the years ahead we will have other projects to consider and will need to repair other buildings. We will need to work closely with city leaders and balance our capital project needs with cost.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment and "Achievement Gap":
Approximately 10 years ago Cambridge introduced a new controlled choice system designed to balance our schools based primarily on socio-economic status. For some time this system appeared to work, however, over the years, as the demographic of Cambridge have changed, and certain schools where increasingly chosen by certain groups, we have seen many of our schools become more segregated, not less. As this change has taken place, mandatory assignments have increased, often forcing families to decide to place their child in a school they did not choose, or leave the district. This is not a positive trend. In addition, we have some schools that have open seats because they have reached capacity for either free or paid lunch students. While these seats remain open, students sit on the waiting list. This is a significant issue that must be addressed.

During this term while serving on the Community Relations Subcommittee, I worked with my colleagues to address this issue. We held a public meeting to hear from parents, had an MIT expert present a study he worked on to the Committee and met many times to address this issue. Our controlled choice policy is the foundation of our district and we must find a way to balance our desire for diversity with the changing demographics of our city. This is a complex issue that does not have an easy fix.

When addressing the achievement gap we must remember that our goal should be accelerated learning for all students, meaning, that our goal is to raise achievement for all students and not close the gap by bringing everyone toward the middle but by pushing everyone toward the top. Our students who are performing above grade level are as important as those performing below grade level, and we must ensure that all students are held to high standards.

In addition, if we are going to close the gap, we must look beyond what takes place in the classroom. Although strong teaching and strong curriculum are extremely important, there is growing research to show that other areas, such as poverty, health care, after school activities, emotional support and parental involvement are all important aspects of supporting a child's learning.

Middle Grades/ Middle Schools:
Although I acknowledge the issues that we have in some middle grades, I also acknowledge the success we have in others. Based on research I have seen, I am not convinced that there is educational rationale for abandoning our K-8 model in exchange for a middle school model. Structure seems less important then strong teaching, strong curriculum and strong learning communities. We should be thinking about replicating what works.

However, if it's decided to go to a middle school model, I would suggest that we have a hybrid model where some schools remain K-8, some K-5 and one or two 6-8. The first step should be to talk with school communities to see if any schools wish to change their structure. I don't want to force this change on any school as was done with consolidation. We must have a great deal of parental input and the bottom line for me is that their needs to be an educational reason for making our decisions.

Enrichment Classes:
Throughout my two terms on the Committee I have consistently supported enrichment classes, such as art, music, and theater. I welcomed the return of honors and AP classes, so long as we increased participation and opened these opportunities to all students willing to accept the challenge. School needs to be more then test taking. Children need a well-rounded educational experience that is both academic and culturally enriching.

Enrollment and Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools/ Private Schools:
Cambridge has a significant portion of its school age population attending schools other then the public schools. Rather then be frustrated or angry with parents who have chosen another option for their child, I look at this as a challenge. If the public schools were meeting the needs of all its students, then fewer parents would choose to leave. We must meet that challenge.

Elementary/ High School Curriculum:
Since Ed Reform, School Committees are no longer allowed to make curriculum decisions. Prior to beginning my first term in January 2004 the School Committee had a reputation for micro-managing. There were some members on the Committee who would rather have been a superintendent then a school committee member. We must not return to that time. With that said, it is the responsibility of the School Committee to closely monitor, ask questions and evaluate decisions being made by the administration.

I would like to see our curriculum be challenging, relevant, and engaging. I would like us to focus on the "whole child" and not just on "teaching to the test." I would like our curriculum to be meaningful and teach our children the skills they will need to be successful in life.

MCAS/ Measuring Student Achievement:
Education is much more then MCAS or standardized tests. Education is meant to create well rounded, well educated individuals who are prepared for life. I am proud to have worked with my colleague, Luc Schuster, as we pushed for the addition of 21st Century skills in our district goals. Although some members were reluctant to use that term, we were able to add the goal: Students will demonstrate skills in critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, global awareness and communication. This was a step in the right direction and it made it clear that we cared about more then a state test. We want our children to learn skills that will help them be successful in a global economy.

Standardized test have been a part of education for a very long time. MCAS and NCLB are mandates that we cannot ignore. The consequences are too great. With that said, MCAS cannot and should not be our only focus. We must evaluate student achievement using a variety of measures. Children learn in different ways and express what they have learned in different ways. A "one size fits all" test is not the way to go.

Teacher Evaluations and Performance Measures:
Prior to my first term on the Committee in 2004, our teacher evaluations were a disgrace. If they were even done at all they didn't address performance measures, strengths and weaknesses and offer a plan for improvement. Much has changed since that time and we have a far better system today. However, like so much in our district, we have made progress but we are not finished.

Evaluating teachers is the responsibility of the principals and evaluating principals is the responsibility of the superintendent. These responsibilities must be taken seriously and there must be a workable, measurable, detailed performance evaluation that not only highlights what the staff member is doing well, but also where they need to improve and what supports will be in place to help them improve. If the staff member is unable to show progress and if their work remains below expectations, then that staff person should be replaced. The education of our children is too important to not demand excellence.

School Safety and Student Behavior:
Children learn better when they feel safe and supported. During my two terms on the Committee I have consistently called for improvements in school climate. During my first term I worked with the superintendent to begin the district's first district wide anti-bullying program. This year I was successful in getting improvement in school climate as one of our district goals and creating a School Climate Subcommittee.

Children do better with clear and consistent structure and limits. Schools must be a place of respect. Schools need to be communities where everyone feels supported and safe. When children engage in negative behaviors, we must look at what is the source of that behavior and offer necessary support services.

Parent Involvement and School Councils:
Parental involvement is vital to the success of our schools. The research is clear. Schools that have more parental involvement are more successful. This isn't just true in Cambridge but around the country.

I am proud of my work on the Committee in this area. I sponsored a motion welcoming and encouraging school councils to come before the School Committee at a time when they were being shut out. I have met with many groups and individuals to make sure they have a voice. We must be creative in the way we involve parents and that is why I have called for social workers in the schools who work 12-8 shifts so they can meet with parents after school hours, since so many of our parents can't come to school during the day.

Parental involvement needs to be a priority.

Some out there are saying that the School Committee needs "guidance" and "focus". I assure you those comments are nothing more then old and tired politics as usual. Truth is, this has been a monumental term for the District and the Committee. We conducted a national search for a new superintendent, resulting in the hiring of Dr. Jeffrey Young, a proven educational leader. We closed two significant budget deficits without impacting services. We began a significant high school renovation project. We continued our work on middle grades and controlled choice. All of this while enrollment and achievement increased.

Although I am proud of the leadership role I played on these issues, I am by no means satisfied. We still have a long way to go. Cambridge still has a two tiered educational system where some students receive a world class education while others leave ill prepared for what lies ahead. We still have a special education department that far too often meets families with conflict instead of compassion. We still have students who are above grade level but not pushed to go even higher and we still have issues of bullying in our schools, so much so that some students are afraid to come to school. It is because of these challenges and my unwavering commitment to our city and our children that I am seeking re-election to the Cambridge School Committee.

I understand the attractiveness of new candidates. Maybe they will be the magic bullet that will fix the ills of the system. However, this is the time for experienced leadership. As a life-long resident, graduate and parent in CPS and the only School Committee member who works with children, I believe that I posses the integrity, experience and leadership skills necessary to move our district forward. I ask for your #1 vote on November 3, 2009 for Cambridge School Committee. Thank you for taking the time to read about my positions.

Candidate's 2007 responses 

CCTV candidate video 

Page last updated September 19, 2009 Cambridge Candidates