Mervan Osborne

Mervan Osborne
2011 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
149 Auburn Street
Cambridge MA 02139

Contact information:
Tel: 617-863-7826

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See website above for details.

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A teacher, coach, mentor, and school administrator, Mervan Osborne knows what it takes to help kids succeed. Mervan helped found Beacon Academy, an innovative school that helps low-income students meet the highest academic standards. He has the experience that Cambridge needs to ensure success for every child.

Mervan was born in London, England and raised in the Bronx. After attending Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, he joined the first Teach for America corps as a teacher in Los Angeles in 1990.

In 1994, Mervan moved to Cambridge to teach at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School. In his twelve years at BB&N, Mervan taught English and drama, coached multiple sports, and worked in the school's Admissions Office.

Seven years ago, Mervan helped to found Beacon Academy, where he is now the Associate Head of School. Beacon is the only school of its kind in the country: an intense "bridge year" between eighth and ninth grades. In a single year, Beacon students make two or even three years of academic progress – they close the Achievement Gap. The vast majority of the school's alumni go on to thrive at highly-competitive secondary schools and colleges.

Outside of school, Mervan serves as the Governor's Appointee to the Massachusetts Humanities Board. He recently joined the Board of Directors at Concord Academy. And for the past 17 years, he's directed a summer film and drama camp for young people in Cambridge.

In his personal time, Mervan loves producing and reviewing films, cooking for his wife Lucy, and enjoying Cambridge's parks with his dog Sparky. He and Lucy look forward to one day raising a family and sending their children to Cambridge Public Schools.


  • Excellence: I believe in educating the "whole child" toward success in college. A great many children in Cambridge are already receiving a public education that's among the best in the nation. I'm proud of what's working, and I'll work to extend that same high quality to even more families.
  • Engagement: The parents of Cambridge are extremely thoughtful and involved. However, we know that our School Committee can do more to foster authentic and ongoing engagement. I'll do everything within my power to build strong connections between families, teachers, and district administration.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: We need to focus on the outcomes that our kids deserve. I'll ensure that the School Committee and the district look deeply at all available data, collect new data when necessary, and ask the right questions every step of the way.

School Department Administration and Superintendent
As a School Committee member, I'll work with my colleagues on the Committee to continue to build a constructive relationship with Superintendent Young. The Superintendent has a commitment to innovation, diversity, and academic achievement for every student in this district, and I share these commitments.

However, this doesn't mean that we should give the Superintendent a "blank check." As a member of several Boards of Directors and as a school administrator, I know how to ask the right questions and ensure real accountability.

It's not our job to micro-manage district operations. As a School Committee member, I'll stay focused on what's always been most important to me: academic excellence.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs
Cambridge Public Schools is fortunate to have a depth of resources to spend on our students – and in many of the district's schools, this investment is paying off.

For example, our K-3 early literacy program is strong. By investing directly in teaching and learning, we're setting a strong foundation for every student. And CRLS is an excellent high school. Through focused and strategic investments, we've built a wealth of strong programs and completed a spectacular renovation.

However, despite high per-pupil spending, many of our schools still show pronounced achievement gaps across socioeconomic lines. We can do better. As a School Committee member, I will dig into the budget line-by-line and find new ways to get the most for our money.

The Innovation Agenda
The Innovation Agenda represents an important opportunity for this city. It's a bold plan, and now that it has passed, we must implement it in a way that delivers the highest-quality education for all families in Cambridge. As a school committee member, I will work with the Superintendent and his team to effectively implement this plan, but I will also hold the administration accountable for meeting benchmarks.

We have plenty of evidence that the district will be able to do this job well. Cambridge's K-3 early literacy program is incredibly strong, and the resources we've focused on CRLS are paying off in a spectacular renovation.

Now it's time to extend this level of quality. I agree with Superintendent Young that our new campuses will retain a greater number of our strongest students as they rise to the secondary level. And as a middle-school teacher, I'm excited to place particular emphasis on the developmental needs of students on these new campuses. I will work with the administration to ensure the strength of the academic program and that our facilities are appropriately renovated.

This will require us to strike a balance between two important priorities. First, we'll need a consistent Upper School program that creates pathways toward success for all students. But second, we must also recognize the distinct strengths and challenges of each school in our district – and we must empower each school community to pursue its own unique brand of excellence. We need to afford families the chance to connect in their new communities and involve them in the process as we go through this planning year.

The necessary balance isn't easy to find. To get the job done right, we'll need intense, ongoing collaboration between parents, teachers, administrators, and School Committee members. And I believe that I'm the right person to help facilitate this collaboration. At every school where I've worked, I've been the kind of "connector" who builds bridges between parties and finds practical common ground.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap"
The power of diversity is not just an idealistic notion. Study after study has shown that groups of individuals who think differently from one another have unique advantages over groups that are more homogenous.

Given these findings, it makes sense for our district to try and "balance" schools by class and race. But unfortunately, Cambridge's Controlled Choice system is not meeting its goals. First, our schools are not balanced. And even more importantly, our attempts to create balance do not seem to be leading to excellent academic outcomes for all children.

I don't think that Controlled Choice should be dismantled entirely. And I don't claim to have a "magic bullet" that can fix it. But as I talk to parents, teachers, and administrators throughout the district, several themes are becoming clear:

  • The current system of Controlled Choice needs improvement.
  • Parents need to feel that every school in the district represents a good choice for their children.
  • We must continue to improve the Family Resource Center so that we effectively communicate with our families.
  • Improving the system will require outreach, deliberation, and data.
  • The primary goal of this district should be to ensure that every single student can meet the highest standards of academic excellence. That's been my mission at schools from BB&N to Beacon Academy – and Controlled Choice is only valuable to the extent that it serves this core goal.

Enrichment Programs
For 20 years, I've taught gifted students, struggling students, and everyone in between. My experience has emphasized for me just how important it is to present every student with genuine challenges and developmentally-appropriate supports. No two students are the same, and our district's enrichment programs must serve to personalize each child's experience in Cambridge schools. There's nothing more important than identifying and building upon each child's unique interests and gifts.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools
Having had the benefit of working in all three school environments, I can attest to the existence of incredibly successful elements in each. I've worked with excellent and ineffective leaders alike, taught motivated and disinterested students, and consulted with parents at Public, Private and Charter schools. Excellence and failure occur in all models; the determining factor is the school's level of expectation.

I look forward to going out into the community and marketing a school district that demands the absolute best from its students, cultivates comprehensive parental involvement, and pursues an aggressive recruitment and hiring strategy that ensures the success of our students.

Teacher Evaluations, Performance Measures, and Contract Negotiations
In my 20 years of experience as a teacher and a school administrator, I've found that the very best educators welcome – even demand – vigorous evaluation practices. They view the evaluation process as a professional development opportunity.

An effective evaluation strategy incorporates multiple metrics such as meaningful student and parent surveys, systematic classroom observations, measures of professionalism and school community participation, and fair assessment of test score gains for students in each teacher's classroom. Moreover, we must provide our teachers with the appropriate opportunities for improving their practice and supporting them to grow.

Educator evaluation is a critical issue in our schools. Teachers influence student achievement more than any other school-based factor, and school leaders provide the environment and supports so teachers can do their job well.

The importance of effective educator evaluation has been highlighted at both the federal level, by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama, and at the state level with new regulations on evaluations. In the upcoming years, Cambridge will need to align the current system with the state regulations. We must take a holistic approach and set a high bar for our students and our educators.

CCTV Candidate Video (2011)

Page last updated Wednesday, September 4, 2013 10:07 AM Cambridge Candidates