Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Children

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, communication between LPS Central Office and Principals remained open to the School Committee over the weekend.  I was inspired by what I read from our administrators: by their dedication and care for staff and students, by their thoughtfulness and collaboration with colleagues, and by their exemplary leadership to their school communities.

Some among us would be quick to point out that it is their job to do so. And they'd be right.

But while we expect school administration to review safety procedures and protocols and to forward supporting resources for students and families following such unconscionable violations on elementary school children and their educators, we should not be surprised that they reveal their deep love and care for neighbors and humanity, too.

What an incalculable loss in those twenty innocent young lives, in those six dedicated educators!

It is true that some children face deadly violence in their neighborhoods on a daily basis.  And, even though the violence rarely happens in school, wherever it happens, children are affected.  Whether the violence is experienced locally or through the media, parents, educators, and communities have had to explore ways of helping children cope in the aftermath of impossible violence.

Friday's violence happened in a school, a place where so many work every day and to which they returned Monday.  Friday's victims were children (just like ours) and others were educators (also like ours) who died trying to protect their students. One does not often think of Principals "ministering" in a kind of pastoral way to  parents and community members, but that is what they did, and did so against their own sorrow and grief.

Principals and the Superintendent forwarded excellent resources to school communities in Global Connect messages on Friday and Saturday; community members shared those messages in turn with our larger community. My heart went out to all of our teachers and staff returning to work after spending the weekend in sorrow, thinking about the needs of students, colleagues, and families and preparing for Monday.

I learned last night (at our SC meeting) of some personal ties and connections between our Town and Newtown. One family relocated from Newtown to Lexington just last year. Several staff members are connected to police, fire, and medical personnel there.

Often, when we talk about "safe schools", we mean keeping students safe from bias, bullying, from negative messages that limit their opportunities to learn and grow, not as places where life itself is in danger...

It's heartbreaking to realize that sometimes they are.

My Take

This post is my view of last night's School Committee meeting, an unofficial set of minutes.  (Meeting Agenda was posted here on the Sunday before). I invite you to view the entire meeting "onDemand" via LexMedia (posting may take several days). 

The meeting began and ended as anticipated in the Town Office Building, Selectmen's Meeting Room.  Following the Call to Order & Executive Session at 7:02 PM, the Committee returned to Open Session at 7:35 PM.

Chair Margaret Coppe began with a moment of silence out of respect for the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy last Friday.  She then read a statement on behalf of the School Committee, published in the Lexington Patch and Lexington Minuteman.

Superintendent Dr. Paul Ash also expressed his sadness for the loss of life to elementary school children and school staff.  He invited Police Chief Mark Corr, Fire Chief John Wilson, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance Ms. Mary Ellen Dunn, and Director of Public Facilities Mr. Pat Goddard to the meeting to address concerns related to school safety.

Chief Corr said, "no one wants to hear that they [his department] have received new military-grade assault weapons" and that they have been to Hartwell Ave, training for the impossible, but that is what has been happening.  They will be prepared to respond as quickly as possible in the event of the impossible.  Chief Wilson said that the schools will have everything they need from his department.  Ms. Dunn described Crisis Management Teams (a.k.a. Incident Management Teams) at each school, of which building principals are a part.  Each Team is equipped  with a "go bag" and an "All Hazards Guide", created as part of LPS' Readiness & Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) implementation grants.  Mr. Goddard described some of the security features at all schools and entrances.

School Committee members had questions, responses, and comments.  I had loosely prepared some remarks pertaining to the Newtown tragedy - - I will post them in a separate post after this.

Members had various reports and updates to share:
  • Vice-Chair Alessandrini informed about the "how-do-we-begin-to-restore-elementary-foreign-language" meeting he and I attended last week with Elementary Principals Trach, Lipsitz, and Anton, and Assistant Superintendent Pilarski.  We were presented with the approach to elementary school schedules; he asked that the members of the Committee receive the schedules that we saw.  
  • Member Bonnie Brodner updated on the Cary Memorial Building's renovation project and asked Member Jessie Steigerwald to share information related to upcoming Capital Projects Planning Committee meetings (to which she is a voting member liaison).
  • Member Steigerwald attended an EDCO Collaborative meeting and shared that Weston has a subcommittee looking at a later start to the high school day; Weston is interested in LHS' later start (8:30 AM) on Wednesdays.
  • I attended the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) meeting last Thursday and updated related to the two school renovation projects at Bridge & Bowman Schools and the new Estabrook Elementary School project.
At Bridge & Bowman, PBC reviewed :
  • Scheduling the core rooms behind the library (referred to as "D-2")
  • HVAC refinement
  • Punch list from Phase 1
  • TLT Construction's approach to planning and scheduling the various trades for the period from now through summer
  • Work continues during vacations, on nights and weekends
At Estabrook:
  • Project is on schedule
  • The GMP (guaranteed maximum price) is due to MSBA in early January
I also raised the fiscal issues related to pending federal sequestration budget cuts and the governor's recent mid-year 9C budget cuts for FY13.  State tax receipts are lower than projected.  The cut to the state's special education circuit breaker reimbursement account (identified at $11 million) will have an impact to LPS.  Added to the as yet unknown Congressional outcome of pending across-the-board sequestration federal budget cuts (identified as an additional potential $300 million cut to Massachusetts) and we are in for some interesting times.  The 9C budget cut process is designed to ensure that the Commonwealth's overall budget remains balanced.  View the FY13 budget HERE and details related to the 9C cuts HERE.  I also recommend viewing the non-partisan MassBudget and Policy Center (MBPC) analysis, found HERE.  For information about federal sequestration, check HERE and HERE.

When we got to the first item on the Agenda, it was 8:30.  We approved the Unit A Contract (teachers' contract) with the Lexington Education Association (Massachusetts Teachers Association union affiliate).  As a member of the bargaining team, I was thrilled to learn that the LEA had ratified the new three-year contract only a few hours before our meeting.  The terms agreed to were 2% in year one; 2.25% in year two; and 2.75% in year three.

Tom Plati, Director of Educational Technology and Assessment, clarified some 2012 MCAS data.  Member Steigerwald objected to claims that LPS had "closed the achievement gap".  Why it is true that MCAS scores in 10th grade ELA were100% Proficient or Advanced (no Warning or Needs Improvement), we are committed to high achievement for all students and for the long haul.  Dr. Ash said there would be no "resting on laurels"; results of the focused work of getting all students to Proficiency are just beginning to bear fruit.

This proved a perfect segue to the presentation on the District-wide Professional Development to Increase Educator Capacity and Student Learning.  Mr. Len Swanton, Director of Professional Development (now referred to as "professional learning") and Ms. Carol Pilarski, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, gave an impassioned, comprehensive presentation on meeting student needs with better tools for teaching through professional learning.  Their presentation, in turn, perfectly teed-up Dr. Ash's Update on Improving Professional Relationships. Presentation documents will be posted HERE.

The meeting adjourned at 10:55 PM.  The next meeting of the School Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at 7:30 PM in the Town Office Building, Selectmen's Meeting Room, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, when we expect Dr. Ash to present the FY14 School Budget.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

School Committee Meeting - Agenda

 Agenda for the School Committee meeting this Tuesday, December 18 (below). I am looking forward to items #3 and 4; stay tuned to this space for my updates from the meeting, to be posted Wednesday, December 19:

Lexington School Committee Meeting
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Lexington Town Office Building, Selectmen's Meeting Room
1625 Massachusetts Avenue

7:00 PM Call to Order

7:01 PM Executive Session
Exemption 3 - To Discuss Collective Bargaining Regarding the teachers' Contract
Exemption 3 - to Discuss Executive Session Minutes relative to Litigation

7:30 PM Return to Public Session and Welcome
Public Comment - (Written comments to be presented to the School Committee; oral presentations not to exceed three minutes.)

7:40 PM Superintendent's Announcements

7:45 PM Members' Reports/Members' Concerns

8:00 PM Agenda

1.  Vote to Approve the Unit A Contract with the Lexington Education Association (10 minutes)
2.  Additional 2012 MCAS Data (10 minutes)
3.  Report on the District-wide Professional Development to Increase Educator Capacity and Student Learning (60 minutes)
4.  Update on Improving Professional Relationships (15 minutes)
5.  Vote to accept a $100 Donation from Lueders Environmental, Inc. (2 minutes)
6.  Vote to Approve School Committee Minutes of August 28, 2012 (2 minutes)
7.  Vote to Approve School Committee Minutes of October 16, 2012 (2 minutes)
8.  Vote to Approve School Committee Minutes of November 19, 2012 (2 minutes)
9.  Vote to Approve and Release School Committee Executive Session Minutes of August 14, 2012 (2 minutes)
10. Vote to Approve and Not Release School Committee Executive Session Minutes of August 30, 2012 (2 minutes)
11.  Vote to Approve and Not Release School Committee Executive Session Minutes of October 22, 2012 (2 minutes)

The next meeting of the School Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at 7:30 PM in the Town Office Building, Selectmen's Meeting Room, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue.

All agenda items and the order of items are approximate and subject to change.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Last night, the School Committee met for our annual meeting with families in Boston participating in the METCO program, the second oldest desegregation program in the country.  The program provides support services to students, staff, and parents around academic, cultural, and social issues.  About 250 students are bused each day from Boston to attend Lexington Public Schools.

We were privileged to hear directly from three students, two current and one graduate, who shared their experiences and challenges.  One student, a junior at LHS and a METCO Scholar, stated that her experience has been very positive.  She noted that there is great support from parents and staff for academics as well as for social-emotional issues.  One challenge has been that some teachers of AP had not expected to see her (as a person of color) in the higher level classes.

The second speaker, a sophomore, talked of how she is benefitting from her METCO experience:  she is exploring several post-secondary options for college, including careers in photography, meteorology, and teaching.  Through the Today's Student Tomorrow's Teachers (TSTT) program she is learning a lot about potentially becoming a teacher.  LHS is one of five high schools in Massachusetts participating in TSTT.  TSTT's Mission is to recruit, mentor, and train culturally diverse and economically challenged students and place them as effective teachers and committed leaders who strengthen schools and communities.

The last student who spoke was a 2012 LHS graduate who currently attends Lesley University.  She spoke about the benefits of METCO relative to the cultural exchange and being exposed to resources and networks that she might not otherwise have had access to.  She also shared that the program helped her to become more comfortable with diversity and that had a positive impact on her first semester in college.  She said that LHS successfully prepared her for this part of her life.

Having participated in the Family Friends Program when our children were in elementary school, this meeting solidified my understanding that not only is METCO an integral program of educational excellence in Lexington, but it has a positive impact on building community between Boston and Lexington and that lasting cultural and social benefits extend beyond the school day.

Lexington has participated in the METCO program since its inception more than forty years ago and in the Greater Boston area, there are at least ten districts participating: Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Concord-Carlisle, Foxborough, Needham, Reading, Scituate, Wakefield, and Wayland. There is another METCO program out of Springfield, but I am not as familiar with that one. The state funds the entire program on an annual basis.  The current funding level, at $18,142,582 for FY13, is seriously underfunded.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

I learned that

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Eschew Sequestration

The following post appeared in the Lexington Minuteman weekly newspaper as a Letter to the Editor on December 7, 2012.

On January 2, 2013, Lexington Public Schools will experience federal budget cuts of more than eight percent, affecting vital education programs beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, unless Congress intervenes.

The across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration" are the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, mandating reductions in both defense and non-defense discretionary programs as a means of deficit reduction, with no consideration for vital investments in long-term economic growth.  For school districts across the nation it will mean more than $4 billion in cuts to public education (pre-K through higher ed).  Cuts to programs like Title I and Special Education (IDEA) are across the board reductions; highest-need schools and students will suffer most, as their share of federal funding is higher.

Education is vital to long-term economic health.  Our community works hard to successfully educate college-, career-, and civic-ready students.  The success in our own community should not be jeopardized because members in Congress are incapable of indentifying a responsible, balanced, and bipartisan approach to deficit reduction that preserves investments in vital services for children and families.

For our schools, sequestration will mean reduced personnel, larger class sizes, less access to intervention programs, cutbacks in professional development, and more.  This will impact the overall quality of education for students and the overall economic health of our entire community.

Now is not the time for thoughtless, blunt reductions.  Now is the time for leadership in Washington, DC.  Join me in urging our own members of Congress to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to intervene and protect education.  Deficit reduction is needed, and I am counting on Congress to sideline the bickering and reach consensus on a responsible approach that doesn't place disproportionate burden on students by decimating our national investment in education and long-term competitiveness.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Schoolhouse Talks

Since taking the oath of office in 2009, I have continued to offer opportunities for community members to meet and discuss any school matter with me that they wish.  Meet with me at Panera Bread in Lexington Center on the following dates and times:

Friday, December 14, 8:30-9:30 AM
Wednesday, January 16, 2:30-3:30 PM
Thursday, February 7, 9:00-10:00 AM

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Special Town Meeting

Before a Special Town Meeting (STM) was convened Monday, November 19, 2012 at 7:30 PM, there was a lovely ceremony honoring long-time Town Meeting Moderator, Marge Battin.  Cary Hall Auditorium was formally renamed in her honor.

Among the STM Warrant Articles was a request to appropriate additional funds for the new Estabrook Elementary School project.

Since the discovery of PCBs at Estabrook in 2010, and subsequent ruling of the EPA to evacuate the building by December 31, 2014, the School Committee has been collaborating with the Town and MSBA to replace the facility.  Citizens successfully passed a debt-exclusion override last January (2012).  At the STM last spring [held within the Annual Town Meeting (ATM)], Town Meeting approved $39,742,284 for a new Estabrook School, of which an estimated $31,145,045 was dedicated for  construction.

Since last spring, construction cost estimates for the project have increased $1,253,674 above what was approved. With the Request for Proposals (RFPs) for remaining work going out in a month, and with another RFP for site demolition and abatement to go out in 2014 for the 2014 summer, Town Meeting approved $2.6 million in additional appropriations.

For more about the November 19, 2012 STM, visit the Town's website HERE.
To view my voting record in Precinct 1, visit the Town Meeting Members Association website HERE.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Check this out!

From the non-partisan MassBudget and Policy Center: view the slideshow HERE

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Schoolhouse Talks

I invite you to join me at Panera Bread (1684 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington Center) to discuss what's good and what we can improve upon in our schools, as well as any policy or legislative issue:

Thursday, September 20, 3:00-4:00 PM
Wednesday, October 24, 9:00-10:00 AM
Thursday, November 15, 9:00-10:00 AM

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

::Summer Mode

With our final School Committee meeting behind me, I begin to re-set for summer mode.  The unstructured time for family and friends promotes rest and relaxation - - and is so welcomed and necessary after a busy year!  

This being an election year, I have already agreed to be Precinct Captain for the Elizabeth Warren campaign in Lexington.  My friend and Emerge MA classmate, Mara Dolan, is running for State Senate in the third Middlesex District (which is not my district - I'm in 4th M'sex), and I am excited to be working to get her elected!

All that said, I will post only occasionally through July and August and plan to resume regular posting in September.

All best for a safe and happy summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

::The Open Letter to Stand for Children

As parents, teachers, and community members, we are Massachusetts grassroots activists for education. We read bills, testify at hearings, write letters to the editor, pore over budgets, speak at town meetings, make phone calls, and hold fundraisers. Many of us have done so for years.
It was as part of this work and with great hope that we joined Stand for Children.  And—initially—Stand helped us do great work.  We cast a critical eye on education bills at the State House and testified as needed. We turned back ballot initiatives that would have gutted education funding. We closely watched local budgets to keep dollars close to classrooms. We put our voices, time, money, and reputations into building Stand for Children. Because we were united and we spoke from our experience, we were heard.

Along the way, we learned a great deal about the legislative process, education funding, and policy. We learned to research our positions, present them, and back them up.

But in 2009, while we struggled to give voice to the needs of our schools, Stand’s staff was turning away from our concerns, announcing that it expected its members to forgo community advocacy in favor of a new, special agenda. This agenda, emerging seemingly out of nowhere, touted more charter schools, more testing, and punishing teachers and schools for low student scores.

None of these initiatives arose from the needs of our communities.  Indeed, we understood well their dangers. Yet all of them became the positions of Stand for Children. Policy proposals no longer came from the local level. They were dictated from the top.

What accounted for this shift?  We were mystified at first. But we’ve since learned that Stand abandoned its own local members – us – to follow the lure of millions of dollars from Bain Capital, the Walton Foundation, Bill Gates, and others who had an agenda in conflict with our previous efforts.

The ballot initiative brought forward by Stand for Children is just the most recent example.
Stand was one group of many at the table when the new Massachusetts educator evaluation system was hammered out over several months last spring. Unions, principals, state officials, parents—all contributed. But when the new regulations were finally announced, one group walked away—Stand for Children.

Immediately, Stand filed for a ballot initiative and used some of their new corporate money to hire people to collect the signatures. It cost them $3 a signature, but they have plenty more. They are following the master plan revealed in Colorado by their national CEO, Jonah Edelman, a month before it was announced in Massachusetts.

The proposed ballot measure attempts to blow up the collaborative work that created the new regulations last spring. It does nothing to improve teaching in our schools. What it does is put the careers of our teachers at the mercy of an untested rating system, violating the recommendations of the people who designed that system.

We fear the result would be to drive some of our best teachers away from the schools that need them most.

This ballot measure fits the ideology of its corporate sponsors, but it is not what we want for those who teach our children. Most of all, it is not what we want for our children. 

Therefore we the undersigned, as former members and leaders of Stand for Children, urge Massachusetts voters to oppose this ballot measure.

Ted A. Adams, Medford
Alessandro Alessandrini, Lexington School Committee member
Bonnie Brodner, Lexington School Committee member
Dale Bryan, Medford
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Somerville
Mary Cleary, Worcester
Margaret E. Coppe, Lexington School Committee member
Ann Marie Cugno, Medford School Committee member
Tom Diaz, Lexington, former School Committee chair
Jonathan Dreyer, Lexington
Michael Feldgarden, Boston
Lisa Fenichel, Arlington
Mary Finn, Medford
Mary Fusoni, Arlington
Ann Gallager, Medford
Roger Garberg, Gloucester School Committee member
Isabel Gonzalez, Worcester, Former Stand staff organizer
Barbara C. Goodman, Arlington, Former Stand State Strategy Member
Jason Grow, Gloucester
Sharon Guzik, Medford
Matt Haberstroh, Medford
Victoria Halal, Medford
Moe Henzel, Mendon
Geeta Jain, Medford
Josh Kratka, Arlington
John J. Krawczyk, Lexington
Mary-Beth Landy, Medford
Lynne Lupien, Lowell, MA
Meredith Martin, Saugus
Bonnie McFarlane, Medford
Michelle McGonagle, Medford
Beth Morris, Gloucester
Tracy Novick, Worcester School Committee member
Christopher Nye, Sheffield
Ann O’Halloran, Waltham, formerly of Newton Stand for Children
Natalie O’Hayre, Worcester
Simon Paddock, Gloucester
Rev. Aaron Payson, Worcester
Meryl Perlson, Medford
Sondra Peskoe, Brookline, formerly of Arlington Stand for Children
Karen Poole, Holliston
Joyce Shortt, Somerville, MA
Deb Steigman, Worcester
Mary Ann Stewart, Lexington School Committee member
Paulette Van der Kloot, Medford School Committee member
Deb Vuona, Worcester
David J. Weinstein, Jamaica Plain
Jennifer Whelan, Auburn
Adiya White-Hammond, Boston

Support from outside Massachusetts
Susan Barrett, Portland, OR
Betsy Marshall, New Paltz, NY
Tom Olson, Canby, OR
Melissa Westbrook, Seattle, WA

Sunday, April 22, 2012

::Revolution 2012

Back in 2011, I posted about the impact the shift was having on business and on American education policy. That shift is non-linear and not without challenges. The emphasis in business and in education is on collaboration, accountability, and teamwork requiring trust, support, experience, and time.

In education, the shift from teaching to learning requires the use of multiple strategies, sourcing media, creating original work developed in collaboration with others sharing the same goals for all students to learn, grow, and achieve. 

There is a lot to say about engaging students with the technology necessary for success, for example, the prevalence of iPads in kindergartens, or in the way Khan Academy is revolutionizing technology use, thereby flipping the way we may view homework, or through blended-learning strategies. In these scenarios, the teacher clarifies questions and students receive individual instruction; a teacher functions more as a coach and interactive content facilitator and less a "sage on stage".

And, what is tremendously exciting is there are simple structures in existence right now that can have a positive, widespread impact on schools and achievement. For example, with the dollars we have dedicated to LPS' professional development, it is exciting to partner and collaborate with educators (who are more responsible than ever) for meeting the needs of every child. Whole Professional Learning Communities are working to hone skills for individualizing instruction to successfully engage in a collective process that provides each child with targeted instruction, additional time, and support necessary to learn at high levels. 

I will have more to say about this - - it requires a bit more research on my part before I do so. 

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

::School Matters @Panera

Join me in a relaxed atmosphere at Panera, 1684 Mass Av in Lexington Center, to discuss your concerns, questions, and thoughts about what's good and what we can improve upon in our schools:

Thursday, April 26, 9:30-10:30 AM
Wednesday, May 2, 3:30-4:30 PM
Wednesday, May 16, 9:30-10:30 AM
Tuesday, May 29, 3:30-4:30 PM
Wednesday, June 13, 9:30-10:30 AM

For LPS business, email Mary Ann at or email the School Committee: writing or responding, please be aware that the Secretary of State has determined that most email is a public record and may not, therefore, be kept confidential.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

::Public Testimony

Public Testimony of Mary Ann Stewart to The Joint Committee on Education
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Co-Chair, Room 312D
Representative Alice Peisch, Co-Chair, Room 473G
Boston State House, Room B-1
April 10, 2012

Madam Co-Chairs, Honorable members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today about a proposal that threatens to undo what a 40-member task force was only able to accomplish in many, many hours of meeting discussions from August 2010 to March 2011.

My name is Mary Ann Stewart, I’m a parent of three, and three weeks ago I became the Immediate Past President of the Massachusetts PTA. As President, I served as a member of the Educator Evaluation Task Force. The PTA is the oldest and largest child advocacy association in the country - in Massachusetts we are 112 years old. I think it's fair to say that PTA has been standing for children longer than anyone. I know I did not spend hundreds of hours working for improvements to the evaluation system only to have a national group - with no particular expertise in education - threaten to undo them. This proposal is way out of step with what is happening in Massachusetts schools today.

Parents and teachers do not disagree on the need for outstanding teachers and schools and we already have a rigorous evaluation system to do that. The Task Force recommended balanced changes to the evaluation system for all educators through a collaborative, deliberative process. I am very proud of the Task Force's work and pleased that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted new regulations for improvement in June of last year, following a public comment period. Districts across the Commonwealth are preparing now for full implementation for the 2013-2014 school year.

I agree with Secretary Reville that we must give these Ed Evaluations a chance to work. There is no need to implement another system before the new one is rolled out. We need to stay the course and not get distracted from the real issues.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

::Thank you!

Thank you to the Lexington voters who re-elected me to a new three-year term on the School Committee.  It is an honor and a privilege to serve our children and our schools in this important role. 

I am also thrilled to have been re-elected to represent Precinct 1 in Town Meeting.  

Watch this space for details about my "Coffee Hours" at Panera Bread in Lexington Center -  opportunities to meet with me in an informal setting to discuss our schools and thoughts about continuously improving them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

::Every Child and the Whole Child

Parents expect schools to prepare children for success in life beyond high school, whatever they choose to do. They want schools to educate the whole child and achieve beyond success on high-stake tests in a few academic subjects. In many communities, budget shortfalls, combined with a narrowed focus on the MCAS, are causing other areas of children's learning to be neglected or eliminated.

Our schools can and should provide a well-rounded education that meets the needs of the whole child. This is accomplished with a rich, varied and engaging program for all children; schools that succeed by meeting students' individual needs. Attention to a child's social and emotional development is as important as academics, enhancing complementary learning skills, things not  currently measured, like creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and diligence. 

I am proud to have played a part in moving these ideas forward for students in our schools. I feel we do this better than most, but we can improve, too. 

We could embrace a broader vision and definition of accountability.  District report cards could include indicators of quality that expand upon standardized test scores.  These report cards would be tools for promoting greater involvement of parents and community agencies and would assess school leadership, learning environment, school climate, parent and community involvement, and staff development.

I welcome your input for keeping our schools on track.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

::A Champion for Our Schools

Every child and the whole child. Now more than ever our schools need champions. I am one of those champions. Our community has faced one of the worst economic crises in recent times. As a School Committee member, I have used a child-centered lens to constantly ask: How does this decision affect the children in our classrooms? How can we protect what we do best? How can we continuously improve?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

::School Matters

I will continue to engage residents on topics of concern and interest at Panera Bread in Lexington Center (1684 Mass Av) and at other dates and times as noted below:

Friday, February 10, 8-9 AM.  Special Education.
Monday, February 13, 8-9 AM. Technology K-12: Where are we going?
Wednesday, February 15, 8-9 AM. Our Community: What's the long view?
Thursday, February 16, 7:00 PM. League of Women Voters' Candidates Night
Friday, February 17, 8-9 AM. Our Schools: What's missing?
Saturday, February 18, 2:00 PM. Chinese American Association of Lexington Candidates' Forum.

For updates to this list, visit and visit my campaign facebook page: Mary Ann Stewart for Lexington School Committee

Sunday, January 29, 2012

::What is a School Committee?

The School Committee exists to serve children and their educational, health, and safety needs.  The School Committee can enhance coordination so that schools and the LPS district better serve them, their families, and our community.

Since education is a State function, the five elected members of the 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.  The Policy Manual is in the process of being completely updated with the assistance of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.  The current manual may be found at http://lps.lexington,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

::To Lead and Advocate

I have a deep understanding of and love for our schools and our community. My family made a commitment to Lexington when we moved here in 1994. My husband, Duncan and I have had two of our three children successfully complete their Lexington public school education, and continue to educate our eighth grader at Clarke Middle School.

As a seasoned advocate for children and the public school system, I hold numerous leadership roles:
  • Chair of the School Committee
  • President of the Massachusetts PTA (2010-2012);
  • Chair of MassPartners for Public Schools, a coalition of the six statewide education associations and the PTA;
  • I was tapped to serve on DESE's Educator Evaluation Task Force last year and served on Governor Patrick's Readiness Project, Whole Child Subcommittee before that.
As a member of the School Committee, I have kept the education of our children the centerpiece of all decisions, balanced by the realities of school and Town resources, and tempered by productive and civil discourse.  I will continue to take on the Schools Committee's highest tasks: to enact wise policy, shape educationally sound, community conscious budgets, and advocate for what our students and schools need most.  I ask for your vote on Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

::Why I'm Running

Time and again, Lexington Public Schools have served as an example of excellence for teaching and learning across the state and across the country.  Our schools are the pride of our Town, a key component of our quality of life, and why so many of us choose to live here.  As a leader and champion of our schools, I am proud of my contributions and of the gains we have made:
  • We are closing learning gaps between all students;
  • We lead the state in program efficiencies and fiscal responsibility - over the past three years, the School Department has saved over $4.6 million dollars as a result;
  • We continue to be recognized nationally, most recently as a leader in fostering collaborative Professional learning Communities, and for our Professional Development programs.
But, our work is not done.  With your support, I will keep working on the challenges before us:
  • Continue to address the issue of teacher morale across the district
  • Stabilize a maintenance plan for all school facilities
  • Increase classroom technology
  • Collaborate with our Town and unions to reduce health care costs
  • Begin to restore programs that have been lost in past years, like additional high school science labs and elementary foreign language.
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.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

::Campaign Coffees

I will continue to engage residents on topics of interest or concern during School Matters info sessions at Panera Bread in Lexington Center (1684 Mass. Ave.) and at candidate forums as noted below:
  • Thursday February 16, 7pm. League of Women Voters’ Candidates Night, Jonas Clarke Middle School, 17 Stedman Road
  • Monday February 27, 9:30am. Home of Amy Weinstock and Mike Coln
  • Thursday March 1, 7pm. South Lexington Civic Association (SLCA) Candidates’ Forum, Brookhaven, 1010 Waltham Street
  • Saturday March 3, 1:30pm (note date change) Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL) Candidates’ Forum, at the home of Sophia & Larry Ho
  • Sunday March 4, 2:30pm. Merriam Hill Association, Pilgrim Congregational Church, 55 Coolidge Avenue
Election day is Tuesday, March 6, 2012.