Sunday, December 18, 2011

::Running for Re-election

As a long-time advocate and activist for public education, I enthusiastically announce my candidacy for re-election to the School Committee. It is critical that our children continue to be educated to meet future challenges. I have worked strategically and collaboratively in this regard over the past three years and seek your support in continuing that important work.

Lexington’s public schools are the pride of our community, a key component of our quality of life, and why so many of us choose to live here. Yet, as we prepare to enter 2012, state and federal fiscal austerity measures have resulted in budget uncertainty. If re-elected, I will continue to engage a broad constituency, advocating for what our schools and students need. I will continue to listen and understand diverse perspectives and work collaboratively to find positive solutions. I am eager to continue to both exercise the skills I’ve developed as a School Committee member, and continue to bring my broad knowledge of issues advocacy, policy and budgeting from my work at the state level to bear on the work ahead for Lexington.

As a leader and champion of our schools, I am proud of my contributions. As part of an engaged community committed to excellent schools, I remain committed to raising achievement for all students to ensure each is prepared with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for college, career, and social and civic success.

I invite you to peruse my website (, visit my Facebook campaign page, and to follow me on twitter (@mascipioni) for information about me, the campaign, and how you can become involved. I enjoy this work and it is a privilege to serve the Lexington community as a member of the School Committee. I am also up for re-election as a Town Meeting Member this year. If you live in Precinct 1, I would be grateful for one of your Town Meeting Member votes. I ask for your vote on Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gift Giving for Teachers

Recently updated regulations from the State Ethics Commission in Massachusetts impact gift-giving to teachers in our schools.  The rules were adjusted to allow teachers to receive a class gift or group gift of up to $150 a year, so long as individuals from the group are not named and the amounts by each individual are not listed.  According to the new guidelines, individual students may offer a gift to teachers of up to $50, but teachers must report gifts to the Commission unless the gift is below $10 or is homemade.

For more examples for families and students, please visit the State Ethics website:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

School Committee: Community Input

During meetings, both presentations and School Committee discussions will be brief.  Public input, when time permits, will be limited.  The following procedures for Public participation will be followed:
  1. All comments/questions should be directed to the School Committee Chair.
  2. During Public Comment, speakers will be limited to three minutes; comments should focus on school policy matters rather than on administrative matters.
  3. Individuals should not expect an immediate reply from the Committee, since this is a time for questions or concerns to be heard and not the time for decisions to be made.  Generally, the Administration will return to the next meeting with a response or the item is place on the Agenda for a following meeting for further discussion.
If need be, the School Committee may vote to go into closed session (Executive Session) to discuss items permitted by law, such as those of collective bargaining strategy.

The Lexington School Committee endeavors to discharge our responsibilities properly and welcomes comments that would serve to improve School Committee procedures.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

School Committee: Minutes, Agendas, & Reports

The minutes and agendas of all the School Committee meetings will be posted as quickly as possible.  Typically, the agenda is available several days prior to the meeting date.  The minutes of a meeting are typically approved at the following meeting, and are typically posted within a few days after that.  An archive of agenda and minutes is available for the current year or prior years here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

School Committee: Meetings

School Committee conducts its business in regular public meetings under the rules of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.  Generally, these meetings are scheduled for Tuesday evenings, September through June; adjustments are made to accommodate school vacations.  The regular twice-monthly business meetings allow the School Committee to efficiently conduct all of the various transactions required by law. Most meetings are held in the Selectmen's Meeting Room of the Town Office Building, but occasionally the meetings are held at Clarke Middle School Auditorium or in Cary Memorial Hall Auditorium; at least one meeting is scheduled in Boston with METCO families.

Additional meetings are scheduled when needed.  These meetings serve a much broader purpose than the business meetings.  Usually they allow opportunities for the School Committee to explore specific issues in greater detail, to listen to more extensive presentations and public input on topics, and/or to engage in School Committee development activities.  Public forums on key topics may also be scheduled.

School Committee agendas and other public documents may be found on the Lexington Public Schools' website.  The Public is invited to speak at School Committee meetings during the Public Comments portion of the meeting and, as the Chair and time allows, throughout the meeting after members of the School Committee and the Administration have had an opportunity to express their views.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

School Committee: Hires

The School Committee hires an administrative staff to oversee all of the daily operations in the schools and to do the work necessary for the Committee both to act on policy matters and to evaluate, in a general sense, the overall functioning of the school system.  Thus, the Committee asks the administrative staff to do a variety of tasks involving data collection and analysis and to make recommendations where appropriate.  In many instances, the law requires from the Superintendent a recommendation upon which the Committee can act.

The LPS administrative staff consists of Dr. Paul B. Ash, Superintendent of Schools; Ms. Carol A. Pilarski, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development; Ms. Mary Ellen Dunn, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Business; Mr. Robert. J. Harris, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources; Ms. Linda Chase, Director of Student Services; and Mr. Tom Plati, Director of Educational Technology and Assessment.

For more about the Lexington Public Schools, please visit the LPS website:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

School Committee: Members

The School Committee is a policy-setting body.  Since education is a State function, the five elected members of the Lexington Public School Committee serve as officers of the State.  At the local level, the School Committee is a legislative body responsible for establishing local policy for seeing that the schools are properly run in accordance with State law and regulations.  Copies of the Policy Manual are available in the Office of the Superintendent, 146 Maple Street, Lexington  MA  02420, or online here.

The Lexington School Committee is composed of five citizens elected to serve overlapping terms of three years each.  At the end of a term, a Committee Member wishing to continue unsalaried service to the community must be re-elected to an additional three-year term.  State law does not limit the number of terms a member may serve.  Voting for School Committee positions takes place at the regular Annual Town Elections in March.  the list of Committee members and the expiration of their term is:

Mary Ann Stewart, Chair, 2012
Alessandro Alessandrini, Vice-Chair, 2013
Margaret Coppe, 2013
Jessie Steigerwald, 2012
Bonnie Brodner, 2014

Sunday, October 23, 2011

School Committee: Mission

The Lexington School Committee provides oversight and direction to the operation of the Lexington Public School District.  The Committee's role, responsibilities, and high level operating procedures are established in the context of various applicable general laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Our primary responsibilities are to establish the educational vision and goals for the district, approve the budget, establish policies for the district, and hire and evaluate the Superintendent.  The implementation and achievement of these goals lies with the Superintendent and the administrative team.  More simply stated, the role of the School Committee is not to run the schools, but rather to establish the policies by which the schools are run, and to oversee their maintenance in a very broad sense.

For more about School Governance:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Common Core

In July 2010, Massachusetts became one of over forty states to adopt new national education standards.  These standards, called the Common Core State Standards, were designed to prepare students for success in college and 21st century careers.  They are important because they help ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in college and the workforce.  They help set clear and consistent expectations for students, parents, and teachers:  build your child's knowledge and skills; and help set high goals for all students.

The standards are for all students in Kindergarten through grade 12 and, at the present time, are  focused only on English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.  Of course, high standards are not the only thing needed for our children's success.  But standards provide an important first step - a clear roadmap for learning for teachers, parents, and students.  Having clearly defined goals helps families and teachers work together to ensure that students succeed.  Standards help parents and teachers know when students need to be challenged even more.  They will also help your child develop critical thinking skills so necessary for college and career.  

National PTA collaborated with education experts, parents, and others to create a set of Guides for families to understand Common Core, strengthen home-school communications, and support childrens' success.  You may access them here.

The challenge for school leaders now is to understand how to transition from their current curriculum to the new paradigm.  Activities include comparing the content of the Common Core with current standards as a bridge and implementing the core standards systemically, with an approach that engages the whole school community - teachers, students, families, and community members - to ensure success.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Words To Live By

Courage.  Purpose.  Compassion.  Gratitude.  Service.  Respect.  Support.  Care.  Love.  Concern.  Balance.  Inspire.  Strength.  Revelation.  Calm.  Goodness.  Progressive.  Humility.  Voice.  Reflection.  Attention.  Heart.  Unity.  Solitude.  Truth.  Freedom.  Values.  Discipline.  Justice.  Liberty.  Passion.  Hope.  Advocacy.  Change.  Stability.  Grace.  Empty.  Wonder.  Difficult.  Sight.  Joy.  Flight.  Energy.  Faith.  Challenge.  Vision.  Insight.  Rest.  Wisdom.  Access.  Believe.  Open.  Closed.  Present.  Possibility.  Speak.  Listen.  Presence.  Lead.  Promise.  Trust.  Soul.  Harmony.  Discord.  Consonance.  Sanctuary.  Forward.  Community.  Certainty.  Growth.  Empathy.  Engage.  Adapt.  Levity.  Integrity.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Site Councils and School Committees

When our daughter was in elementary school, I served on the Harrington Elementary School Site Council for two years (2006-2008).  I was elected through a representative process.  Serving on the School Council was an engaging, pragmatic way to be involved in all students' academic and social-emotional life. 

Our Council was comprised of four parents whose children attended the school; each parent served overlapping terms of two years each with two parents elected each year.  Three school staff members were elected by the staff.  One parent was nominated as Co-Chair and the principal served as the other Co-Chair and also appointed one member from the community at large.

Most often we met monthly in a conference room at the school, before the start of the school day, and for about an hour.  The issues we took up  impacted the annual school improvement plan:  the impact of class size on student performance; school safety and discipline; the school handbook; enhancing family engagement; enhancing the school and grounds and more.

The law requires Councils to:
  • hold meetings in a public place and allow anyone in attendance to audio and/or video record the proceedings as long as it is not disruptive to the meeting;
  • post a notice of each meeting with the city or town clerk and in a public place at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.
  • keep minutes indicating the date, time, place, members present and absent, and actions taken;
  • adhere to a quorum, which is to be defined as a majority of the Council members.
In recent years, our School Committee has sought to inform local Councils of the above requirements.  The relationship between school committees and school councils provides for a unique opportunity to improve and strengthen community engagement within public education governance.  The law provides an oversight role for School Committees.  School Committees are responsible for:
  • setting district wide performance standards and educational policies that building-level School Improvement Plans (SIP) must take into account;
  • reviewing and approving building-level SIP;
  • approving a representative process for the election of parent and teacher members of the Council.
The School Committee is a policy-setting body.  Since education is a State function, the five elected members of our School Committee serve as officers of the State.  At the local level, the School Committee is a legislative body responsible for establishing local policy for seeing that the schools are properly run in accordance with State law and regulations.  Copies of the Policy Manual are available in the Office of the Superintendent, 146 Maple Street, Lexington MA 02420, or online at

Sunday, September 11, 2011


 From the Visual ThesaurusAccommodate.  Conform.  Adjust.  Make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose.  Adapt or conform oneself to new or different conditions. 

Know, understand, and connect to purpose, first.  Context shifts so it is important to be clear about one's sense of purpose.  Purpose relates to one's values.

As Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky put it: Clarifying the values that orient your life and work and identifying larger purposes to which you might commit are courageous acts.  You have to choose among competing, legitimate purposes, sacrificing many in the service of one or a few.  In doing so, you make a statement about what you are willing to die for, and, therefore, what you are willing to live for.  ~  from The Practice of Adaptive Leadership

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Top 10 Ideas for a 21st Century Classroom * Experience

  1. Pull, don't push.  Draw out questions and help students translate that into insight and understanding.  Education is not about the transmission of knowledge, it's about empowering each student to reconcile a question he or she is facing--and can't help but seek out an answer.
  2. Create from relevance.  This has always been the case -- capture their attention and imagination.  Engage kids in ways that have relevance to them and discuss them, or, better yet, work to address them, instead of relying on explanation alone.
  3. Stop calling them "soft" skills.  Talents such as creativity, collaboration, communication, empathy, and adaptability are not just nice to have; they're the core capabilities of a 21st-century global economy facing complex challenges.
  4. Allow for variation.  Permit mass customization, both in the system and the classroom.  Too often, equality in education is treated as sameness; the truth is that everyone is starting from a different place and going to a different place.
  5. No more sage on stage.  Engaged learning can't always happen in neat rows and so must engage the learner using multiple modes.  Everyone needs to feel, experience, and build.  In this interactive environment, the role of the teacher is transformed from the expert to a kind of enabling coach.  Teachers step away from the front of the room and find a place to engage with their learners as a "guide on the side".
  6. Teachers are designers.  Let them create.  Build an environment where teachers are actively engaged in learning by doing.  Shift the conversation from prescriptive rules to permissive guidance.
  7. Build a learning community.  Learning doesn't happen in the child's mind alone.  It happens through the social interactions with other kids and teachers, parents, the community, and the world at large.  Schools must find new ways to engage parents and build local and national partnerships.  This doesn't just benefit the child--it brings new resources and knowledge to the entire enterprise.
  8. Be an anthropologist, not an archaeologist.  An archaeologist seeks to understand the past by investigating its relics and digging for the truth of what was.  An anthropologist studies people to understand their values, needs, and desires.  In order to design new solutions for the future, we must understand what people care about and design for that.
  9. Incubate the future.  What if our K-12 schools took on the big challenges that we're facing today?  Through topics like global warming, transportation, waste management, health care, poverty, and even education, children may see their role in creating this world through examination and creating solutions.  It's not about finding the right answer, it's about being in a place where we learn ambition, involvement, responsibility, not to mention science, math, and literature.
  10. Change the discourse.  If you want to drive new behavior, you have to measure new things.  Skills such as creativity and collaboration can't be measured on a bubble chart.  We need to create new assessments that help us understand and talk about the developmental progress of 21st century skills.  This is not just about measuring outcomes, but also measuring process.  We need formative assessments that are just as important as numeric ones.  And here's the trick:  we can't just have the measures - - we actually have to value them.
 * From IDEO's Top 10 Ideas for a 21st Century Classroom

    Sunday, August 28, 2011


    Education is essentially progressive:  we are making our way forward into a vision of excellence and equity for all.  The educational enterprise is not about the business of preserving antiques in some kind of museum.  We are grounded in the past, to be sure; we owe a great debt to those who have gone before us, to be sure, but we don't live in their world.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Shift happens

    In education policy, though, wherever you mark the start, the shift is non-linear and not without challenges.  The new educational emphasis is on collaboration, accountability, teamwork.  Does it require trust?  Definitely.  Trust takes support, experience, and time.  The shift is from teaching to learning.  Gone are the quaint days of the one-room school house.  That is different than today.  Different does not mean deficient.  The shift requires using multiple strategies, sourcing media, creating original work developed in collaboration with others sharing the same goals for all students to learn and grow. 

    Ultimately, everything about the system must support all students well.  Feedback is continuous even as the rapid pace of change continues.  Students today need to be prepared for college, career, and life beyond.  The shift is beyond what teachers want students to know and about focusing students on the complex application of knowledge to solve problems.  As has been noted elsewhere, we are preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist using technologies that haven't been invented in order to solve problems we do not know are problems yet.  Teaching not only requires a strong foundation from teacher preparation programs, it requires an attitude for continuous learning that is supported by professional development in a culture fostering collaborative work with colleagues to build trust and develop confidence. 

    Some characterize our schools as becoming more standardized at the expense of meaningful and enjoyable learning.  It's true that state and federal governments (vis-à-vis MERA and ESEA/NCLB, respectively) require greater accountability from the educational enterprise.  And while we may all like to see fewer bubble tests, assessments from multiple measures developed by teachers identify individual students' needs better.  I believe our schools are well run and, further, continue to move toward greater responsiveness, flexibility, creativity, and student-centered learning.  Our schools are better than they were last week and even better than we thought six years ago.  And, they continue to improve.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    With Thanks and Gratitude

    Tomb of the Unknown
    Memorial Day 2011

    In memory of all service men and women killed in all American wars.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Parent Advisory Councils (PACs)

    For over two decades, parents of children with disabilities in Massachusetts have made significant contributions to improving the education of their children through PACs.  Since 1986, Massachusetts state law has required all public school districts to maintain a Parent Advisory Council open to all parents of students identified as eligible for special education, as well as other interested parties. 

    The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides guidance to PACs so that each and every PAC will have access to knowledge of what the law allows them to do.  The guidance document updated in March of 2010 provides:
    • A clear, concise description of the basic requirements that apply to PACs;
    • the key components to address in meeting those requirements;
    • and some options for practices, activities, and resources that might assist a PAC in making positive contributions to special education in their community.
    Interested persons may view and download a copy of the guidance document here.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Response to the Extended Day RFP

    Harrington Extended Day is a great program and Rose Culkins a cherished program director, as all three of my children thrived in the program and have memorable experiences.

    School facilities fall under the care of the School Committee and our stated goal is to support quality afterschool programs at an affordable cost to all families.  The extended day programs are leased at cost by LPS and not for a profit.  Because of the stability a multi-year lease provides, an RFP must be issued every three to five years to ensure our stated goals continue to be met.

    I understand the anxiety the RFP process caused due to the two outside bids and the fact that parents were not permitted on the RFP Review Committee as it is a conflict of interest.  Two weeks before the RFP deadline, the School Committee received many emails from Board members and parents of extended day programs across Town; the emails expressed strong support for maintaining local control and urged not to go out of district for a provider.  After all extended day Board members were apprised that the Superintendent would be recommending that the contract go to Lextended Day, some Board members and parents continued to lobby for a separate program at Harrington, which wasn't possible under the provisions of the RFP.

    With its majority vote Tuesday April 26, 2011, the School Committee instructed Dr. Ash to award a five-year contract to Lextended Day.  This action expands Lextended Day's program from Hastings, Estabrook, and Bridge Elementary Schools to Bowman, Fiske, and Harrington Schools.  

    And now, we are in the time of transition.  

    Lextended Day's transition plan is thoughtful and comprehensive, including many opportunities for parent and staff input, as well as in-service days to foster the care and conditions supporting as smooth a transition as possible.  I believe all afterschool programs will be strengthened as a result and that Harrington's program will continue to flourish.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    An Ever-emerging Nation

    On Patriots' Day, before marathoners take their marks on the road from Hopkinton to Boston, before pancake breakfasts are served and parades step off, re-enactors will stir in the morning haze as John Hancock's nimble-footed secretary protects a trunkload of Patriot-activist papers from British Regulars descending upon Lexington's Green.

    When the Stamp Act crisis developed in 1765, signaling the revolutionary era, Patriot-activists were quick to respond. Patriot men referred to themselves as “sons of liberty” and Patriot women as “daughters of liberty”. Spurred by the revolutionary cause, all were drawn to political action.

    Women re-enactors tell of their participation in boycotts on finer British textiles, dressing their parts in “homespun” linen, wool, or “linsey-woolsey”. The constant spinning, knitting, and sewing, they say, kept the hands busy and the mind free. In their sewing or spinning circles, conversation would naturally turn to political and economic matters.

    In her book Founding Mothers, Cokie Roberts asserts that revolutionary women did what women do in remarkable circumstances: they accompanied soldiers to camp; served as spies; organized boycotts of British goods; and defended their homesteads alone. And all the while they bore and buried and reared children. Then, the Revolutionary War was over and there was a country to raise!

    How indebted I am to our Founding Mothers and Daughters of Liberty -- indeed, to all women who have elevated and strengthened the level of political thought and civic engagement throughout our democratic history.
    Even now, as rancorous and uncivil discourse in Congress over the size of government threatens to quash us, one thing is certain: government is what we agree to do together, whether we are talking about revenue, laws, highways, or public services.

    This Patriot's Day, let's be more like our foremothers and forefathers and renew a spirit of revolutionary activism that draws us into political action. After all, government is all of us—sons and daughters of an ever-emerging nation.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Rally for School Funding

    Government mandates.  Increased class sizes.  Shrinking budgets.  Curriculum cuts.  Public schools today are challenged to provide every child with opportunities to meet their educational needs ... budgets are tight but government requirements and children's needs are growing.

    The state of Massachusetts and local communities, with the federal government as a critical third partner, have a shared responsibility for maintaining public schools and assuring that all children have equitable access to a high-quality public education.

    Across Massachusetts, schools lack resources for critical programs they need to reduce the achievement gap and overcome barriers to learning that threaten the quality of education for every child, and leave our most vulnerable children behind.

    To keep the promise of public education alive, we must renew our partnership with our policy makers and  promote a more fruitful collaboration on behalf of every child in every public school in every Massachusetts city and town.

    The Parent Teacher Association is the oldest volunteer child advocacy organization in the country.  I am a  member of the Massachusetts PTA because we are dedicated to building community and statewide partnerships that work for our schools and our children.  Being a member of our national and state PTA accomplishes great things; as members of PTA we have a unified voice that tells our legislators what is important to us.

    Yes, family engagement is about building community and partnering with our child's teachers, and yes, it is also about packing healthy lunches and monitoring screen time and supporting children's activities - - but that's not the whole picture.

    We all need to work together - beyond the classroom and school - to help our schools get the resources they need to fulfill the promise that public education holds for every child. 

    Albert Einstein is credited with saying, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

    Advocacy is like an ever-flowing river, one that you can step into at any place, at any time.  And whether you choose to dip your toe in at the edge of the calm shore, or wade all the way into the deep, your presence has already changed the course.

    Now, we must make our voices heard for our children, all of our voices together, in one voice; one voice for children, one voice for children in schools, at town meetings and yes, even at the state house.

    Our children deserve no less.

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    School Climate

    It is useful to draw attention to the importance and excellence of our teachers, but it would be severely limiting to underestimate the importance of other aspects (i.e., energy efficient buildings and clean environments, budgets that reflect goals and priorities, effective building leaders, or anything else) that contribute to a positive school climate for teaching and learning.  

    I believe it is easy for people to underestimate the level of thought and collaboration necessary for a high functioning educational enterprise.  Superintendent Dr. Ash and his administrative team are attuned to all of these aspects and more, keeping the School Committee, Selectmen, Appropriation and Capital Expenditures Committees, Town Manager and others apprised of emerging issues or developments across the district, especially as they relate to people, programs, and facilities.
    Our students continue to be well served due to the high quality of instruction to students from our educators, the engagement of our students and families, and also to our nationally recognized high level of commitment to professional development and collaboration with the Lexington Education Association (LEA).  Because the community and district place such a high value on these attributes, our schools continue to improve.

    Two years ago, the LEA surveyed all teachers on a full complement of issues; the administration has worked collaboratively with LEA President Phyllis Neufield and the LEA Board with regard to the data obtained from that survey.  Another such survey may be administered again in the near future.  I believe this process fosters greater educator satisfaction and stability, as well as a more comprehensive and unified instructional program, thereby engendering further trust and collaboration from all involved.

    Our schools are thoughtfully, collaboratively, and financially well run.  The vast majority of teachers in Lexington are retained from year to year and are committed to the goals of continuous improvement across the district.

    The School Committee has to focus on topics where we need to deliberate and take action.  We need to work hard to prioritize what we put on the agenda, whether it is with regard to special education, school technology, eliminating or reducing elementary instrumental music fees, improving professional learning communities, professional development, or many other goals already identified.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Education Opportunity & Equity - Washington DC

    I attended PTA’s Annual Legislative Conference last week (March 7-10). Two others from Massachusetts’ State PTA Board joined me to meet with Massachusetts’ Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas, and Congressmen Ed Markey and Barney Frank.  We spoke with them about the importance of promoting family engagement standards in the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind and of providing opportunity and equity for all children so they can be prepared for the future.

    Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, was keynote speaker at lunch Wednesday. As the country’s highest-ranking health official, Secretary Sebelius played a key role in the passage of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and is now leading its implementation.  The Secretary spoke about how effective family engagement, beginning with Head Start and during a child’s early years, lays a positive foundation for success during transitions and across a child’s lifespan.

    Listening to her, I was struck anew by the powerful responsibility we all share to ensure people receive the health care they need and provide children, families, and seniors with the essential human services they depend upon.  Across Massachusetts schools lack resources for critical programs they need to reduce gaps and overcome barriers to learning that threaten the quality of education for every child and leave our most vulnerable children behind.

    Our state and local governments, with the federal government as a critical third partner, also share responsibility for assuring all children have equitable access to high-quality public education and health care.  Budgets are tight but government requirements, and children's needs, are growing; this is most pronounced at the intersection of children's education and health care needs.  Engaging families on this issue is vital:  when children are healthy, school attendance improves and children learn better.

    Here we are, already in the second decade of the 21st century.  as we navigate challenges before us, let us continue to look for opportunities.  Our public health infrastructure throughout the country must be a higher priority and we need to upgrade state and local health departments.  Secretary Sebelius has answered President Obama's call to break down walls in government to serve the American people more effectively.  For example, she has teamed up with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to raise the quality of early childhood education programs.

    Founded in 1897, PTA is the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association in the country.  One of PTA's founding principles is its dedication to engaging parents in the education of their children.  Since its inception, PTA has provided workshops and resources on healthy child development to parent groups and community leaders.  From the outset, PTA championed the importance of equal opportunity for all children, regardless of socioeconomic background, and addressed  associated problems of child labor, childhood diseases, and the unfair and punitive treatment of children involved in the justice system.

    PTA continues to advocate for all children to have the opportunity to grow and achieve through education.  In the context of PTA, advocacy is supporting and speaking up for children in schools, in communities, and before government bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children.  We educated members of Congress and their staff on PTA's priorities:  adequate funding for schools and an improved juvenile justice system that ensures all children are college and career ready.

    Friday, January 7, 2011


    Bullying is a serious issue that for too long had gone unchallenged, with parents, who are often unaware of the bullying problem, neglecting to talk about it with their children; with students, feeling that adult intervention is infrequent and ineffective and will only bring more harassment from bullies; and with school personnel, viewing bullying as a harmless rite of passage that is best ignored.  

    The Lexington School Committee and the LPS administration are committed to supporting policies and programs that address the prevention, intervention, and elimination of bullying.  The legislation that was swiftly enacted last year in Massachusetts was a good start.  However, we know we need a multi-pronged approach to change acculturated behaviors.  I believe thoughtful guidelines for parental notification along with resources so vital for training and prevention in schools and communities will go a long way to change that dynamic--and I sincerely hope it does.