Alan Steinert, Jr.
2009 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
993 Memorial Dr. Apt 203
Cambridge, MA 02138

Contact information:
Tel: 617-290-4222

Send contributions to:
Contributions can be made via secure server
at the candidate's website.

Here are my Cambridge activities.

  • Citizen’s School Superintendent Selection Committee
  • Superintendent's School Advisory Committee
  • Citizen's Police Commissioner Selection Committee
  • Cambridge Chamber of Commerce (Director)
  • CEOC - Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (Director, Treasurer)
  • CASPAR - Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction (Director)
  • Cambridge Hospital (Trustee, Chair of Finance Committee)
  • Health Policy Board
  • Proposition 2˝ Committee (Chair)
  • Neville Manor Nursing Home (Trustee, Chair)
  • Cambridge Mental Health Assoc. (Director)
  • Born & raised in Cambridge, married for 50 years to Monica, also born and raised in Cambridge; four children, eight grandchildren
  • A.B. Harvard College; MBA Harvard Business School

Please go to my web site,, for my complete résumé, listed under "About Alan".

Top Priorities:
I have only one priority: improve the education of all the children in the Cambridge schools. The School Committee needs to narrow its focus to that priority and stop filling up its agenda with issues that are not directly related to its most important mission, which is providing educational excellence throughout the Cambridge District Schools.

School Department Administration and Superintendent:
Once appointments are made, it is the job and duty of the School Committee to make the Superintendent and the Administration successful. In my opinion, if the leadership of the School Department fails, it is the fault of the School Committee, either for selecting the wrong person or for not sufficiently supporting that person once selected.

Similarly, I believe the superintendent should place still greater authority into the hands of the principals to run their own schools than was called for in the decade old Education Reform Legislation. After granting that authority, the superintendent must make available the necessary training and support mechanisms and tools to make the principals successful. My experience in school governance and management is that a school's success is directly related to the effectiveness of the school's leadership.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs:
At $25,200 per student, Cambridge is near, if not at, the top of the cost per pupil in Massachusetts, twice the state average. The question is whether Cambridge taxpayers (including parents, businesses, and others) are getting their money's worth as measured by how well the children are learning. The results on standardized tests and the preparedness for the job market and college, the latter judging from anecdotal evidence, seem to indicate that we could be doing better for the money spent.

It's too late to do anything about the cost of the CRLS renovations, so the question is moot. Disposition of surplus buildings is an issue, but not as high a priority as providing educational excellence to our children and grandchildren.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap":
Tough issues which will only be properly addressed in the context of providing excellent education for all. The underlying issue is the difference in quality between schools and between classrooms in Cambridge. All the schools and all the classrooms in Cambridge should be excellent.

I believe in the merits of diversity and I believe in the merits of neighborhood schools. At the same time, I believe that educational excellence is the most important mission of the School Committee.

The 47.8% of the children who are failing/warning or Need Improvement according the MCAS standardized test are an indicator of a significant problem that some people call the "Achievement Gap". If, as a city, we do not focus on and solve this problem quickly, if not sooner, then we risk perpetuating the probability that a considerable number of Cambridge children will be left behind. As a life-long resident of Cambridge and a grandfather, I find that prospect unacceptable, especially because the great city of Cambridge has the capability to make sure our children are well educated.

Enrichment Programs:
With all the resources available in Cambridge, there are plenty of opportunities available within the system and within Cambridge for enrichment. Enrichment programs should be aggressively pursued for those students who seek and deserve them. Outsourcing them, rather than creating still more administration and fixed cost, is most likely the most effective way to supply quality enrichment programs at minimum cost.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools:
The existence of charter schools and private schools is directly related to a community's dissatisfaction with the public school system. If Cambridge were supplying what the charter school parents seem to seek, i.e., educational excellence, individual attention, fun learning, safe schools, then charter schools would not exist in Cambridge. They exist in Lawrence, New Bedford, Springfield, Boston, and like communities, but not in Arlington, Belmont, Lexington, Winchester, and other highly regarded school districts.

Marketing is not as important as word-of-mouth praise for the schools. If all Cambridge schools were superb, marketing would not be needed.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
A curriculum is merely a means to an end. Results such as the ability to read fluently and critically, write coherently, be facile in arithmetic, have knowledge of the world, etc. are what count. How the children get to those proficiencies is not the role of a school committee, but, rather, the responsibility of the educational professionals who work in the system. The School Committee's role is to decide on the goals (in conjunction with the professionals and other involved parties), to provide the support necessary to achieve those goals, to measure the progress, and to reward achievement, improve deficiencies, and to see to it that failure is dealt with appropriately.

Therefore, I advocate that individual schools should set their own curricula (within state and federal requirements, naturally), so long as they meet and, preferably, exceed their agreed upon student proficiency goals.

So far as middle schools are concerned, I have not seen definitive, persuasive arguments for middle schools that would make worthwhile the disruption that would take place in Cambridge to undertake a middle school initiative. I believe that pubescent, adolescent children can learn effectively in K-8 settings when the system is appropriately sensitive to the children's situation and the need to prepare for the transition to high school.

High School Programs and Curriculum:
I do not believe it is the role of the School Committee to establish curricula any more than I believe the owners of Patriots should tell Bill Belichick what plays to call. I know it is common practice generally for school committees to be involved in curriculum decisions, but I do not believe that laymen elected to school boards necessarily have the required expertise.

MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement:
Children will be able to succeed on any standardized test who have learned how to read critically, write coherently, think deductively, logically, and creatively, who understand arithmetic, who have been exposed extensively to varied material in science and art. I believe in testing, testing to inform the teacher about the success of his or her teaching, testing to indicate to the child and the child's parent(s) how well he or she is learning, and testing to determine how a school or a school system stacks up against others. The MCAS is a threshold test, something to be endured, probably the best of its kind, but certainly not a measure of the type of learning I advocate. There are many other testing protocols that will do that and I believe they should be used.

Teacher Evaluations and Performance Measures:
I strongly believe in accountability. I believe the superintendent, the principals, the teachers, and the School Committee should be accountable for measurable goals that are created collectively and transparently. I believe in periodic reports of results and broad publicizing of those reports.

School Safety and Student Behavior:
Parent Involvement and School Councils:
I believe that all schools in Cambridge should have a PTO that is actively supported by the principal and the faculty. I believe that an active PTO can substantially influence the behavior of students and can contribute meaningfully to school safety. I believe that having an active, engaged PTO is an indicator of the effectiveness of a principal. At the same time, there must be limits to the activities of the PTO, especially when it comes to personnel matters.

The Role of the School Committee:
I believe the School Committee has unfortunately been part of the problem rather than part of the solution. I believe the School Committee needs to change its approach to its role. Professionals who work in the system day after day are the education experts. Micromanagement, quarterbacking, excessive attention to issues that do not relate directly to education, lack of consistency, and political posturing must have no place in children's education. The School Committee should get out of the way.

Supportive leadership should be the role of the School Committee. The Committee should set the tone for the school district. That tone, that culture, should be one of constant striving for education excellence. What is education excellence? In a nutshell, it is to have every child without exception, grasp the tools necessary to be a critical and creative thinker and productive member of the citizenry. Everyone wants high quality learning, parents, teachers, employers, voters, and, yes, the children, too. What is missing in Cambridge is selfless, passionate, enlightened, committed, dedicated, and unswerving leadership. The School Committee must be the source of that leadership. Organizations reflect the ethos of the people in the leadership positions, both for good and bad. I will help provide the positive and constructive leadership that a great city like Cambridge deserves.

I'm experienced in organizational effectiveness and in fighting dysfunction. My only interest is in addressing the fact that so many of Cambridge's children are not learning as much as they must to become productive and successful in life. Cambridge can do better. Cambridge can be the best. I can help through my experience in leadership and through wisdom I have garnered with age.

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Page last updated September 19, 2009 Cambridge Candidates