Showing posts from 2013

Joseph Estabrook Elementary School

There is a lot to say about the Joseph Estabrook Elementary School, a K-5 school where "the historic past meets the progressive future." Trust me, this isn't the last word.

The school was built in 1962. One can imagine
that, after 50 years, the school has left an indelible impression on thousands of children and their families who spent years here.

We broke ground on a new building in June 2012 and for the past 18 months, construction has been on-going, just a few feet from the existing school.

Construction is expected to be completed - ahead of schedule and under budget! - for move-in next month (February 2014).

In August (2013) the School Committee was invited to the new site for a "walk-through". I took pictures of several areas.

Three months later (to the date!) we were invited back for another walk-through to see how far the project had progressed since August. By November, the most visible and striking changes were to exterior masonry and gym. Also notic…

Urban Post-Disaster Interim Housing

I was in Brooklyn a few weeks back, which also happened to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. As I walked from my hotel to DUMBO, I engaged with a construction site infographic located at the corner of Red Cross Place and Cadman Plaza East, just North of Whitman Park.

The site is a parking lot that measures about 40' x 100'. The construction fence was "wrapped" in that heavy-duty fence wrap that had large-scale texts and graphics printed on it.

Content of the texts and graphics described the reason and process for building emergency Post-Disaster Interim Housing, a prototype of which was being built behind the fence.

"Fantastic!" I thought. The genius being not only the project itself but the communications around it.

Through the Prototype Program, the City is creating a multi-story, multi-family interim housing solution that will work in urban areas all across the country. Interim housing is post-disaster housing. It's used af…

Raise Up MA - Update!

For the past two months I've been part of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition working to gather signatures across Massachusetts for a ballot initiative that would see two questions added to the statewide ballot next November (see previous Posts: Raise Up Massachusetts; PDM). These two important initiatives would index the minimum wage and require employers to provide earned sick time to their employees.

The coalition has been successful! We succeeded in our signature drive - - gathering more than a quarter-million signatures, far surpassing our most ambitious targets. And, PDM has substantially exceeded its own ambitious goals. I was one of many familiar faces at the Farmer's Market each Tuesday from mid-September through the end of October and at several Town events. I also made a personal commitment to knock doors in my precinct - pleased to say that goal has also been achieved!

The impact of Raise Up's statewide campaign has led the state Senate's leadership to ad…

Will Congress Expand Early Education?

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a new partnership with states that would provide universal, high-quality, full-day preschool for 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families. Last week, Secretary Arne Duncan joined members of Congress, business and military leaders, law enforcement officials, educators, and parents to voice support for a landmark early learning bill.

Introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), the Strong Start for America's Children Act would improve and expand high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five.

If signed into law, the new bill will accelerate the progress that states already are making to implement high-quality preschool programs and ensure that these programs are accessible to children who need them the most.

Early nurturing, nutrition, and stimulation increase a child's ability to learn and thrive over a lifetime. Read the Bill Summary of t…

Media Literacy Education

Advocates in support of the Media Literacy Bill (S.213) were in good company in Room A-1 of the State House on the morning of October 31st. Below is the testimony of Christina Brown on behalf of the Massachusetts PTA, followed by my testimony on behalf of the MASCLegislative Committee.
My name is Christina Brown; I am a parent, educator, and a proud member of the Massachusetts Parent TeacherAssociation, an affiliate of National PTA, the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association in the country, here to speak on behalf of the needs of families, parents, and children. 
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on the critical issue facing children in the 21st Century, media literacy. Right now there are children all over the Commonwealth who have in their hands, in their lockers, and in their backpacks devices that connect them to the greatest collection of marketing, images, information, videos, social media, and personal data collection tools in the history …

Public Hearing on Media Literacy Bill

I spent the better part of Halloween morning at the Massachusetts State House, specifically in Hearing Room A-1, for a Public Hearing convened by the Joint Committee on Education. The hearing was dedicated to proposed bills on curriculum in K-12 public schools, that included teaching of genocide, Civics education, and more. It was standing room only. Seats were filled and walls lined with staff, press, teachers, students, and advocates in attendance to hear testimony in support of a range of bills that would impact K-12 curriculum in public schools. I was there to testify in support of the Media Literacy Bill (S.213/H.472) on behalf of the MASC Legislative Committee.

Bill S.213 is unique in that it is not written as a mandate for teachers or districts to teach a particular subject. Rather, Media Literacy is a methodology, a pedagogy, a way of teaching that incorporates strategies for critical analysis in a way that is relevant and engaging to kids. Teachers recognize the need for med…

Literacy Today = Media Literacy

Lexington's community forum about the positive and negative impact of media on societal behavior and the development of children got me thinking about our current media landscape and what individuals, families, and communities can do to improve positive outcomes. The forum was held on October 10th at Lexington High School and was co-sponsored by the School Committee, League of Women Voters, and numerous Town and School Department groups, and individuals.

The impact of media on children is always a topic of concern and today's media landscape has dramatically changed over the last decade; all of us are now living in a world of 24/7 media saturation. One startling finding of a Kaiser Family Foundation survey (2010) showed that young people are devoting more than 7.5 hours each day with entertainment media - an increase of 1 hour and 17 minutes since 2004. The survey also found that:
"...because they spend so much of that time 'media multi-tasking' (using more than o…

The Wall (two weeks later)

Scroll down to my post of September 25, 2013 to see how the wall has changed! Still plenty of time for more mailings...I'll try updating the wall one more time before the Special Election this coming Tuesday, October 15th.

Raise Up Massachusetts

The Raise Up Massachusetts ballot initiative would see two questions added to the General Election Ballot in November 2014. Voters would be asked to approve an increase to the minimum wage and to guarantee paid sick time for employers with eleven or more employees working a minimum of 30 hours each week. The effort of gathering the required 70,000 signatures is engaging activists all across the Commonwealth.

If successful, we would see the minimum wage increased from $8.00 per hour to $10.50 per hour, phased in over two years and indexed to the inflation rate after January 1, 2016. Paid sick leave would be guaranteed for employees working in a business with eleven or more employees working 30 hours or more per week; each employee would receive one hour of sick leave for each 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year. For employees in a business with fewer than 11 employees, employers would be asked to honor the time each employee accrued.

The first step in …

Political Mailings - CD5

These are the mailings I've received from the Democratic Candidates - I've taped them up on my kitchen wall. With the Special Election Primary just under three weeks away, I am sure to receive more! I'll update the wall with everything I've received closer to October 15th.

MassPartners for Public Schools

Seven years ago I joined the Board of Directors of MassPartners for Public Schools, a coalition of the statewide parent, teacher, school committee, principal, and superintendent associations in Massachusetts. It was founded in 1999 with the coalition's associations pledging


Whereas Arts education comprises an array of disciplines including dance, music, theater, media arts, literature, design and visual arts; and

Whereas Arts education can help students develop a variety of skills such as

Summer Leadership Meetings

Every summer members of the Massachusetts PTA Board plan meetings with local PTA leaders across the Commonwealth. This year, meetings were held in the following places on the following dates and times:

Yarmouth, Saturday, August 3, 9:30 AM-11:30 AM
Brockton, Saturday, August 3, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Plymouth, Saturday, August 10, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Lexington, Thursday, August 15, 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Salem State University, August 16, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Monson, Friday, August 23, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Pittsfield, Saturday, August 24, 9:30 AM-11:30 AM

Established in 1910, Massachusetts PTA is the oldest and largest volunteer advocacy association for children and youth in the Commonwealth. Today we speak up for family engagement language in laws; safe, healthy, and technologically advanced schools; and equal opportunity for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Brother Outsider *

In the coming week the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (August 28, 1963) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I have a Dream Speech. I was a pre-schooler when Dr. King made this speech, but there have been many


In summer of 2007, I was fortunate to spend two days in a workshop hosted by the Public Policy Institute (now Massachusetts Leadership Academy) and led by Patrick Bresette from Demos | Public Works. The topic was how to effectively frame conversations around public structures.

Breaking Ground

A new school building is uncommon in the life of a community; a school is built about once every fifty years. So we were excited in spring of 2012 when State Treasurer Steve Grossman and representatives of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) came to the Joseph Estabrook School for a ceremonial ground-breaking for a new Estabrook School building project. The conditions surrounding the accelerated process for a new building will have to be part of another post, but I want to post pictures!

Media Literacy

Media is powerful.

Today's media landscape has dramatically changed over the last decade and our children are now living in a world of 24/7 media.

Results of a national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed (2010) that

Minimum Wage

Throughout the week of July 22-26, 2013 the Kids Count Blog focused on issues related to the impact of low-wage work on families with children in Massachusetts. I posted on behalf of Mass PTA. There were great contributions all week! Read my July 25 post at the following link: Living within the Minimum Wage::Reality Check.

Convention Swag

I was a delegate to the 2013 State Democratic Convention in Lowell, MA - lots of good materials from advocacy groups and candidates for Congress in the CD5 and Governor/Lt. Governor (so far...)