Why I'm Running For Re-election

I'm honored to run for re-election to focus on three priorities: achieving equity in assessments, teaching to every child's needs, and supporting innovation at every level

When I ran for School Committee two years ago, I did so because my own experiences in the military and in the nonprofit sector helped me understand how important education is for access to opportunity. In my first term, I've learned a great deal about how decisions are made and resources are allocated, and I've been inspired by the work of teachers, school leaders, and parents who truly put learning first.

Over the last two years, I've championed a 'Whole Child' approach to education - an idea that the social and emotional development of our children should not be subordinated to achievement on standardized tests, that focusing on this kind of development unlocks a higher level of growth along traditional academic measures. As a result of this work and with my colleagues, we've set goals around whole child education for the district and we've enlisted the help of educational leaders in Greater Boston to think through the what and how of implementing this approach in Somerville.

I'm running for re-election because we have a very bright future here in Somerville. With the appointment of Mary Skipper as our incoming Superintendent, we have an opportunity to re-examine what we call success in our community and to build on the foundation of Superintendent Pierantozzi and the exceptional team he has built.

Specifically, I want to focus on three issues over my next term:

Equity in assessments

Standardized tests such as our MCAS are correlated more with socio-economic status than with anything else, and the amount of state-driven, top-down pressure is unhealthy for our students and our teachers. Working to develop our community's understanding of the social & emotional measures we value can serve as a healthy counter-balance to the focus on MCAS.

As a simple example, there is no formal measure that will ever tell us that we need more recess and yet we know intuitively that this is important for our children. If it's important, we should be able to identify how important in contrast with time spent on other priorities.

Teaching to every child's needs

What would it look like to have a personalized learning plan for every student no matter how we measure their achievement or ability?

There is an opportunity here to push our thinking about differentiated instruction beyond X-Block to the next level both in how we challenge each student on their strengths and their growth areas, as well as how we support teachers in their efforts to teach in a diverse community. There are models across the country and across New England that we can look to as we build out our long term vision for Somerville.

Supporting innovation at every level

Our greatest asset in Somerville is our families and teachers aligned on values. As we welcome our new Superintendent, we have a chance to double down on supporting a culture that encourages every educator to "try it out" and "see if it works," a culture that recognizes that good ideas can come from any pocket of the community, that prizes new ideas and pushes each other to articulate what exactly we're trying to achieve. This culture will result in new ideas created by our community that work for our community. 

I'm running for re-election because I'm excited to be a small part of the team working on these ideas, working to help Somerville achieve it's potential as an educational leader across the state. I'm running for re-election because I'm inspired by the level of engagement across the community, and because there's work to be done.

Thanks for your support, and I hope that you'll vote on November 3.

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Somerville school superintendent could get $10k for 'innovation' spending

by Danielle McLean

School Committee members are mulling a plan that would give Somerville School’s incoming superintendent $10,000 to use at her discretion for innovative purposes.

The plan was introduced by Ward 2 School Committee member Dan Futrell and could be included in the superintendent’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal this spring. Futrell told the Journal if approved, new superintendent Mary Skipper would be allowed to use the $10,000 to purchase one-time “innovative” tools or initiatives without getting school committee approval.

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Column: MCAS a flawed ruler to measure education in Somerville

Massachusetts, the #1 ranked state in the country for education, is using a measure of success that’s about as incomplete as trying to measure Tom Brady’s greatness by counting only his rushing yards - they definitely matter, but we would completely miss what makes him great. Amid the current discussion on renewing our standardized assessment system, we have a great opportunity to do it right.

There is a well-known business principle best said by American Express executive John Hayes: "We tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we can not." If the Bay State wants to be a true national leader in education, we would do well to use this as our starting point.

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