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VIDEO: Here’s the debate between Albright and Steenstrup

2013 October 14
by Greg Reibman

Here’s the video from last week’s NewTV/League of Women Voters Newton debate between  School Committee candidates Margaret Albright and Andrea Steenstrup. Voters city-wide can vote in this contest.



64 Responses Post a comment
  1. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 14, 2013 11:18 AM

    Margaret Albright won this debate hands down.

    Furthermore, Margaret showed that she is a warm, kind, thoughtful, empathetic, articulate and compassionate educational professional who is committed to ensuring that we offer a high quality education to every child in the Newton Public Schools.

    All Newton voters can vote for Margaret Albright. All Newton voters SHOULD vote for Margaret Albright.

  2. Joanne permalink
    October 14, 2013 05:25 PM

    Margaret Albright won this debate. She is clearly the most qualified person for Ward 2 School Committee – We need someone on the school committee who understands education and will work for ALL the children in the Newton Public Schools.

    The differences between the candidates was made very clear in a Math Tutoring Question they were asked. Look at the video from 33.13 minutes to about 36.05 minutes – you will hear their responses to the Math Tutoring Question.

    It is frightening that Steenstrup thinks that Math Tutoring is not a good idea because it makes it more difficult for the teachers to teach these children because then they will be more knowledgeable in Math. Does she understand the importance of Math in the World today?? Did she ever hear of Differentiated Instruction?? Does she even know that in the middle and high schools there are varying levels of math instruction?

    I would love to hear what Parents who bring their children to after school Math programs like The Russian School of Math or Kumon or have their children privately tutored think??

    Clearly if we want someone with the vision to bring our school system forward we need to all vote on November 5th for Margaret Albright for Ward 2 School Committee.

  3. tomsheff permalink
    October 14, 2013 06:40 PM

    Joanne said: “It is frightening that Steenstrup thinks that Math Tutoring is not a good idea because it makes it more difficult for the teachers to teach these children because then they will be more knowledgeable in Math.”

    She’s right and she’s wrong. I think she has pinpointed a problem where students who get the tutoring excel at a higher level than normal kids. While her solution is wrong, instead of “dumbing” down those kids who can afford the tutors, lets attempt to smarten up the ones whose families can’t afford the tutors, by setting up a public/private partnership with some tutors. She’s identified a problem, but has come to the wrong conclusion.
    It’s the same type of thinking as no child left behind. Let’s dumb down the schools that accelerate so the bad schools can catch up, instead of rewarding the schools that accelerate and find ways for the lesser schools to catch up. In other words, lets punish achievers. Not a good signal to send.

  4. Jane permalink
    October 14, 2013 07:10 PM

    Tom-There are tutoring programs in the schools.

  5. tomsheff permalink
    October 14, 2013 08:40 PM

    Jane, we need to get these kids to the programs. There’s a disconnest, maybe appeal to the parents to get their kids to the tutors. Something needs to be done to even things up.

  6. Patrick permalink
    October 14, 2013 09:48 PM

    Tom, parents who are actively engaged in their child’s education should already know about available resources to help them. And you are assuming that all kids have the same aptitude for math, and they are willing to put in the extra effort to do better in a subject for which they may not have an interest. Call me negative if you wish; however I think forcing them to attend tutoring without their buy-in will not get you the results you anticipate.

    Also, there appears to be a segment of parents pushing to eliminate homework because they feel the kids are already overworked. Adding additional tutoring time does not jive with that position. We are obligated to make education available to all legal residents. That does not mean guaranteeing equal results.

  7. Jane permalink
    October 14, 2013 11:20 PM

    The programs are in the schools.

  8. Charlie Shapiro permalink
    October 14, 2013 11:24 PM

    Were the rules changed to allow notes to be brought into the studio? In previous debates, they were expressly forbidden.

  9. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 12:01 AM

    There was a mutual agreement between the candidates to allow notes.

    I think the debate covered a good amount of ground and the questions were reasonable.

    The end result is a very fair picture of the capabilities of each candidate and viewing this debate video should be something every voter does.

    Margaret’s depth of knowledge, collaborative approach and commitment to education came through.

    She especially understands that improvements can be made with the right priorities.

    The mantra that we cannot get improvements without more money is simply a myth embodying past thinking which is at odds with the advances many other school systems are making without educational overrides.

    Margaret offers a sound, practical path to the future and every Newton voters should vote for her on November 5th.

    She will make a very significant difference to the 2014 SC.

    This is an opportunity not to be missed.

  10. tomsheff permalink
    October 15, 2013 12:11 AM

    Patrick, not every kid has to be tutored, but it’s there if the parents want. I don’t have kids in the schol system so I can’t say whether kids have too much homework or not, but I would think every parent would want their kid to get the needed help if it’s available. But, thats just me.
    I wouldn’t be pushing this on parents/kids as necessary unless the child is flunking then I would require him/her to get the additional help.
    Studies have shown the biggest factor between an A student and a D student is family affluence for outside tutors. If a family doesn’t want it for their child then thats that, but it’s there is they change their mind.
    I think it is a major issue.

  11. mgwa permalink
    October 15, 2013 07:09 AM

    I think the most important point is that the way to make schools better is *not* to discourage kids who love math from pursuing that interest (much of the outside “tutoring” is programs like Math Circle for kids who want to do more math). I encountered this attitude when considering sending my son to the local p.s. for 4th grade – at his previous school he’d gone to the next-grade classroom for math because he has a natural aptitude and love for math (graduated from college with a theoretical math degree). When I said that he’d already done 4th grade math and asked that he be allowed to do 5th grade math, the shocked reply was “but what will he do for math in 5th grade?!” NOT the right answer.

  12. Charlie Shapiro permalink
    October 15, 2013 08:28 AM

    @Geoff-Thanks. Totally fair if agreed upon by all participants.

  13. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 08:29 AM

    mgwa has it exactly right. It is about encouraging kids to develop their abilities.

    That’s fundamental!

    The conversation here started with math, but it applies to all areas of endeavor.

    Regarding math, I recall a very interesting chat I had with the principal at Lincoln Eliot back in 2008 after I was elected. Vivian Swerboda, who was the architect of much of the Newton progress in literacy best practices, told me how it annoyed her so much when parents who encouraged their kids to read told those same kids when they were having problems in math: “I’m not good at math either”.

    Her point was that we bias kids to under perform in math and don’t encourage them to practice and stick at it, which is one of the key requirements to become skilled at math.

    We are making progress. We are getting more enthusiastic at math.

    But we have to stick at it as parents and potential School Committee members have to stick at it too.

    In my view, it’s an essential requirement for any School Committee candidate that they be totally supportive of our kids developing their abilities to the greatest extent possible.

    That is our mission!

  14. Gail Spector permalink
    October 15, 2013 08:37 AM

    I’m not sure if this is where Andrea was going with her answer but she almost raised a good point that I seldom hear discussed about our schools. In response to the tutoring question, she said that parents put too much pressure on their kids. When we think of tutoring, we think of kids needing extra help or wanting extra stimulation. But, at the high school level, tutoring can mean something different: It can mean teaching a student the content of the class prior to the class beginning in order to give the kid competitive advantage. Pay for a tutor over the summer so your kid gets an A in AP physics in the coming school year. There is a definite socioeconomic advantage here, and it makes the learning environment extremely competitive.

  15. Newton Mom permalink
    October 15, 2013 08:39 AM


    Newton South is instituting FOUR homework free weekends this year. . . . I don’t know. . . . I work five long days, but I don’t have to work over the weekends, every weekend. I think kids deserve to hang out, develop friendships, be with family . . . but homework every weekend?

    I read the Atlantic magazine article about the father that did the same homework that his daughter did. . . . and in reality, I think there is too much homework. I attended a competitive high school and did well, and did homework, but did not have the pressure that current high school kids have. . . . . their adult lives will start soon enough, but I think four hours of homework a night is too much, plus after school activities plus a job! I think having a job is a real education. . . I was a grocery store cashier, and I worked hard. I think kids that are exposed to “its all about me” should try working in retail for a bit. . . . it gives them a different view. However, right now kids are swamped in homework and after school activities!

  16. Steve Siegel permalink
    October 15, 2013 08:42 AM

    Studies have shown the biggest factor between an A student and a D student is family affluence for outside tutors.

    Tom, I think you overplayed this one. Studies show a correlation between family affluence and academic success, but outside tutoring is but one factor out of a complex array of differences.

    Here is a decent outline of factors outside of school that impact academic success.

  17. JLF permalink
    October 15, 2013 09:02 AM

    It is not the role of the School Committee to ask parents to stop putting “too much pressure” on their kids. We, as a society, are putting too much pressure on our kids. Technology enables a 24/7 constant barrage of socialization, media, news, games, etc.
    I don’t think Andrea’s statement has anything to do with her being a candidate for School Committee. I agree that we need to let our kids be kids, breathe, enjoy school and sports and the arts, and DOWN time.
    Remember to vote for Margaret Albright on November 5th!

  18. Gail Spector permalink
    October 15, 2013 09:27 AM

    JLF – What I liked about Andrea’s statement was that it was something she said that didn’t feel like a prepared statement. Margaret won this debate, hands down. I probably still look at these things really analytically, so I was watching Andrea trying to get a sense of why she wants be on the School Committee. Most of her answers seemed rehearsed about what’s so great about our school system. This answer came from a mother who sees something wrong going on inside the schools and is frustrated. That’s all.

  19. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 09:27 AM

    Two points:

    1. Homework:

    I think that the homework load seems quite variable and the SC should ask for this to be tracked and reported on. My son seemed never to have much homework load at Newton North and he had a solid AP course load. He has much more homework at college this year as a freshman in engineering. But that is just an anecdote. The SC should get the data on this one in easy to assimilate reports, so we can work with the admin staff (central staff + principals) to figure out what is the best homework policy.

    2. Math tutoring

    I think that in many cases, tutoring is engaged to counter instructional weaknesses and to maximize kids’ proficiency in a critical subject. Here is my story.

    I had two math interventions on my son.

    The first was in 4th grade, where the Everyday Math instruction was totally deficient in math practice. After several months of popping arithmetic questions to him when our paths crossed at home, he got to proficiency. It ended up being a game for us and was a lot of fun.

    The second was in freshman year at Newton North, where he was in the advanced math track but under performing. He got 100% in the physics MCAS, so he is not a slouch, but math was something he seemed to think needed some innate ability he did not have.

    So he was getting Bs when he had the ability to get As.

    So I took him over to the Russian School of Mathematics (RSM) the summer after freshman year ended and had them assess him. I thought they’d take him off to another room to do that, but they said to me stay with us as we do that. So this elegant Russian woman asked him question after question, starting with one topic and making the questions a little harder each time. Then moving on to another topic until she had covered the range of material he had been instructed on.

    It was clear he was a bit rocky.

    So he agreed to be tutored at RSM beginning in the fall. One of their advanced classes on a Saturday afternoon for 4 hours. Solid investment.

    He maintained his B average in sophomore math at Newton North, but in all of the RSM assessments which were done on math material focused on areas covered in junior year at Newton North, he consistently got A+ scores. Pretty interesting.

    By October, though he seemed to be dying in the back seat of the car, as I drove him to RSM.

    So I told him that I was not into torture and that he could quit RSM if he wished.

    Once I had ceded complete control of the situation to him, he relaxed and decided to keep on. Happiness descended on our car trips to RSM on Saturdays.

    He continued to get 95% as an average on all RSM assessments while still operating at around 80% at Newton North. Same kid. Different instructional support.

    He spent an entire school year of Saturdays at RSM and the important thing was not the 95% grades. It was that he realized he was good at math and that practice and persistence mattered. That was a huge change.

    He need no further RSM support after that year. The mental battle had been won. We had successfully countered the deficiencies in Newton Public Schools math instruction.

    His grades in Junior year rose to match his RSM grades: As. He got 730 in the math part of the standard SAT and 790 in the SAT II focused on math.

    He is now in the Honors college at Purdue doing engineering and is the happiest I have ever seen him.

    The battle for us as parents was never about getting this grade or that. It was about bringing out the best in our son.

    That would never have been achieved without the support of superior math tutoring at RSM.

    I support every parent who is engaged in bringing out the best in their children.

    But it is a team effort and we managed to solve the problem together with our son.

  20. Mark Marderosian permalink
    October 15, 2013 09:37 AM

    NewtonMom – I’m veering us off-topic a bit but totally agree with you re: real-life work as after-school activity. My first “real” job after paper route was in drugstore. I’ve always said that everyone should work in a retail job or wait staff in restaurant at least once in their careers. It’s a real education with all the good and bad for sure.

  21. tomsheff permalink
    October 15, 2013 10:21 AM

    Newton Mom- Of course I believe kids should have some down time. No one is disputing that. I am arguing in favor of optional tutoring for kids who need help in an area, but whose family can’t afford supplemental education, thats it. I would think parents would support this idea, hopefully, it would give kids a better chance to improve their grades which would improve their choice of college, etc. I know, I know some kids aren’t made for college, I also undertsnad that.

  22. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 10:48 AM


    I totally agree. I spent a number of summers as a teenager working in a hardware store.

    You meet all kinds of folks, with all kinds of questions and all kinds of attitudes.

    It was great experience for me.

  23. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 15, 2013 11:21 AM

    I also worked in retail previously. That helped me gain the confidence to identify high quality retail companies to invest in.

    I’d love to chat with you all more about retail, but Apple Inc just hired Burberry’s CEO and I have to write a report on it.

  24. Lisap permalink
    October 15, 2013 01:53 PM

    I think I understand what Andrea was trying to communicate in her comments about stress, but she is flat out wrong in stating that this is “more of a Newton thing” or thinking that parents in Newton are atypical in their efforts to help their children achieve academic excellence. It’s a reality for many kids who want to attend competitive colleges that they are competing against thousands of kids who have had rigorous classes, and even colleges with generous acceptance rates ask students how many AP classes that they have taken. So, no, this is not merely “a Newton thing”.

    As for the other portion of Andrea’s answer, I’m absolutely stunned that she thinks that kids are “so over taught in math”.

    In her words: “My first issue is that it changes the mix of who the math teachers have to deal with and the knowledge base that the math teachers have to deal with. Instead of everybody just going along with Newton curriculum some kids are, like, very far ahead and can’t even take middle school math in middle school and have to go to the high school because they’ve been so over taught in math.”

    To all the parents who aren’t happy “just going along with Newton curriculum” – and are parenting those kids who have been “so over taught in math” — please vote for Margaret Albright.

  25. Patrick permalink
    October 15, 2013 02:16 PM

    Steve, thank you for your response to Tom. You have more credibility on this blog than I do. Tom appears to be walking back his position now that he has learned there are already programs in place to help those who would find them helpful.

    Gail, we are not going to eliminate the competitive nature of Newton parents / students, who want acceptance to the best colleges. That competitive nature, when used properly, is a key ingredient in many highly successful people. If they want to commit to the added work of summer school to enhance their college resumes, then good for them. They could also enhance their resumes by volunteering to peer-tutor other students. With all of the clamor by the teachers for more assistants in the classrooms, I would think they would welcome the better prepared students helping to raise the level of learning in the classroom. I must be naive about the quality and personal agendas of our teachers.

  26. Patrick permalink
    October 15, 2013 02:55 PM

    Geoff, I find the story about your son interesting because I have a similar one about my son. I will not bore everyone with the details however it is another example where the school curriculum and/or the teachers were falling short of our expectations, and external tutoring became an essential component of preparing our sons for adulthood. My wife and I made financial choices to afford external tutoring to supplement the standard school teaching and the school sponsored extra programs. We did not ask, nor expect, Newton to pay the bill for the external tutoring.

    In retrospect, I wish we had engaged more tutoring on the language side because our kids suffered through the whole language curriculum that Newton selected to use.

  27. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 03:00 PM

    Just a note that Village 14 is trying to put together a campaign event where candidates can put forth their views in a good forum.

    The original invitation read:

    On behalf of Village 14, I would like to invite you to meet with us to discuss your campaigns for School Committee from Ward 2. Because we view ourselves as a group of individuals with separate opinions, we do not plan to endorse a candidate, but we would like to contribute to the conversation in the election by hosting an informal debate/forum with as many of us present as possible. We would videotape the discussion and post it on Village 14. Village 14 bloggers who attend will share their impressions on the blog thread if they so choose.

    Village 14 comprises myself, Greg Reibman, Jerry Reilly, Andreae Downs, Groot Gregory, Sean Roche, Julia Malakie, Bob Burke, Adam Peller, Doug Haslam, Kara Robbins, Bruce Henderson, and Chuck Tanowitz. It is doubtful that we would all attend.

    With all that in mind, I’m wondering if you are both available at any time on Thursday, Oct. 24 or Friday, Oct. 25. Please let me know and I’ll get this scheduled as quickly as possible.

    Our goal is to help educate voters, and we believe that every person who visits Village 14 is a voter. Thanks for your help in making this happen.”

    The Albright campaign response to this is that the Newton TAB and LWV debate have provided good print, online and video coverage in a fair manner with questions for the LWV debate invited from everyone. The video for the LWV event was produced under moderated circumstances and has to distributed as a whole and cannot be clipped or edited. That makes sense.

    It seems to us that a small meeting, which is not moderated and where the participants are few and video is taken and could be used any way is not the way to go.

    What this political season is lacking is an orchestrated blog event, where a time is set aside and candidates are available to respond to any question from the entire blogging community.

    That is what we would like to do. Margaret and Andrea could be available for blogging at a planned and advertised time on Village 14 and then we could have a great blog fest.

    The entire blogging community could engage and we could see Margaret and Andrea in their blogging capacity.

    Such an event fits the model that Village 14 follows. A place for all bloggers to come and share information.

    So we are very positive on a Village 14 event that includes all Village 14 bloggers.

  28. Lucia permalink
    October 15, 2013 04:23 PM

    Geoff – who is ‘us’ and why couldn’t Margaret respond herself?

  29. October 15, 2013 05:19 PM

    @Lucia: I agree that it’s weird that Geoff Epstein choose to speak on Margaret Albright’s behalf. Gail’s invitation was send to Albright. She aparently forwarded it to Epstein and he tried to negotiate a different format, while also requesting a list of was attending.

    I know Margaret Albright to be a strong, confident, articulate person (and a very worthy candidate I might add). I don’t think she needs a handler or spokesperson.

    I’m also surprised that Geoff choose to publicly announce that his candidate is declining to meet with anyone that would want to talk to her. Usually, campaigns would want to keep that private.

  30. tomsheff permalink
    October 15, 2013 05:45 PM

    Geoff is the campaign manager. And I 100% understand their position!!!

  31. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 05:48 PM

    OK. Let’s get this straight. I’m Margaret’s campaign co-manager and I’m in constant contact with Margaret. We discussed this today and since she was in meetings downtown as she has a pretty demanding job, we decided that I would post what we thought was best for Margaret’s campaign.

    Margaret is NOT declining to meet with anyone that would want to talk to her.

    No one ever said that.

    We simply think that since you run a blog, you should use the blog machine to support a broader forum. Having what amounts to a 6 person coffee event can only reach people second hand.

    Why not have the event public on Village 14 in perfect digital accord with your communication platform, with anyone present and hundreds of community members able to interact and ask questions first hand?

    Margaret and I are in complete sync on this and my role is to support her campaign and follow her lead and communicate when she is off the grid working.

  32. October 15, 2013 05:57 PM

    @Lucia & Greg, I have been in a meeting downtown all afternoon.

    Please, if anyone has questions they want to ask contact me at

    There will also be another candidates forum on October 30 at the Emerson Center, One Pettee Street in Newton Upper Falls from 7:00 to 9:30 PM. All are welcome. It is co-hosted by the Newton Upper Falls, Newton Highlands and Waban Area Councils.

  33. Gail Spector permalink
    October 15, 2013 06:05 PM

    Geoff – Thirteen voters invited Margaret and Andrea to sit down with us. Although I acknowledged that the odds of all of us making it were slim, I told you that as many of us who could would get there. Margaret declined.

    Your blog forum idea might be a good one and I welcome you to organize it. Maybe we’ll try it another time. But that’s not the invitation we sent. We are a group of volunteers who care about our community and would like to help educate voters. While the League did a great job with their debate, I doubt that everybody in the city who might have had questions was watching that debate. New questions might have surfaced.

    Hopefully Village 14 will have stimulated some new conversation points. Once we post the video there would be plenty of opportunity for people to ask questions of both candidates.

  34. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 15, 2013 06:12 PM

    I just realized something. Margaret has been a more frequent contributor to this blog than Andrea even though Margaret has a demanding day-job that requires downtown meetings.

  35. Geoff Epstein permalink
    October 15, 2013 06:23 PM


    So why don’t you use this blog to invite questions and have this all out in the open?

    You run the blog! Why don’t you organize it?

    Post a thread advertising a mutually agreed on time for a blog forum on the Ward 2 race where Andrea and Margaret will be available to post.

    Then run the blog forum as a blog thread which invites questions and have Margaret and Andrea respond.

    What could be easier!

    It would then be a Village 14 blog event. Not a coffee with 6 people in a room where we cannot be there and ask questions.

    Let’s have a 21st century blog event.

    One thing I would really like to see is Andrea on the blog answering questions. Any SC member we want to elect should be able to blog to connect to the community.

    We know Margaret blogs and will blog after the election.

    We have no evidence that Andrea will blog now or any other time.

    So the real challenge is to get Andrea into the blogosphere.

    We want all elected SC members to blog on Village 14.

    Don’t we?

  36. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 15, 2013 06:32 PM

    Geoff/Gail/Greg/Groot, maybe Village 14 or the Newton TAB (or even the Boston Globe Your Town Newton) could set up something like the live chat event the Boston Globe set up for the 2013 Newton override. That was fun.

  37. Lucia permalink
    October 15, 2013 06:33 PM

    Although I enjoy blogging, I’m not sure it should be a SC requirement.

  38. October 15, 2013 06:33 PM

    @Geoff: You’re missing — or more likely avoiding the point — an invitation was issued for a specific meeting. You or your candidate declined. I’m sorry she did.

    There are always opportunities on this blog for participants to ask candidates questions. Albright has been especially good answering them. This was something different. End of story.

    As Gail said, feel free to organize your event. There’s lots of space on the internet for more blogs and forums.

    Go Sox!

  39. Hoss permalink
    October 15, 2013 06:47 PM

    This sucks. Now no one knows if all the pro-Albright comments recently have been organized by the campaign. If would have been nice if people would identify their affiliations.

  40. Tricia permalink
    October 15, 2013 07:20 PM

    Hoss – what?

  41. Max Goldsmith permalink
    October 15, 2013 07:24 PM

    @Hoss. Notice that in 39 comments so far (or less, if you discount Margaret and Geoff as self-identified members of the campaign), none has been “Yeah, Andrea, you nailed it.” Two possible takeaways: (i) everyone agrees that Margaret is the better candidate or (ii) Andrea and her campaign considers Village 14 irrelevant.

  42. October 15, 2013 07:27 PM

    @Hoss, I hope that you will judge on the issues and on where we both stand and not the recommendations of others. I think as candidates we have both been pretty clear. If you have further questions for me, I am always available to answer them. I invite you to contact me directly at

    Again, I invite you to attend the candidate forum on the 30th at Emerson. You will also find me at the Harvest Fair on Sunday afternoon. Come by and say hello and speak to me one on one. I’d like to meet you.

  43. October 15, 2013 08:36 PM

    @Hoss: you talk about “campaigns” as if they’re some highly financed machine. These are volunteers who do it because they believe in it so I think it’s fair to assume the comments are genuine.

  44. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 15, 2013 10:12 PM

    Hoss, Margaret Albright is a genuine and thoughtful candidate who is passionate towards moving educational excellence forward. She invited you to contact her directly and to meet her in person at the Harvest Fair. I’m proud to say that I’m casting my vote for Margaret Albright on Tuesday November 5th. I don’t need some highly financed machine to make that decision for me. I’m a fiercely independent thinker when it comes to investments and a proudly independent thinker when it comes to politics.

  45. KarenN permalink
    October 15, 2013 10:14 PM

    @Hoss: Let me say that I am a Margaret supporter and helping with her campaign. I am also a communications professional familiar with the orchestration of disciplined messaging campaigns. There is no orchestrated communications campaign here. Does anyone actually think that one could wrangle this diverse group of people (much less Geoff Epstein?) and get them to spit out a lock-step message like Republicans on Sunday morning talk shows? Rather, I would call it the free associations of like-minded and somewhat passionate people who came together around issues and concerns about our school system. These people have been on email lists and sharing thoughts for at least 7 years. My best friends in Newton are those who share my passion for public education as key to the American Dream.

    So, I’d like to get this thread back on topic: Albright vs. Streenstrup.

    I would like to ask:

    Do we need a “No Can Do” bean-counter whose knee-jerk response to EVERY mention of improvement and advancement is to say that we can’t afford innovation, progress, educational competitiveness, and staying a step ahead of trends in state and federal education mandates? OR, do we want someone who wants to challenge our system to have a global vision for the future with the goal of elevating Newton’s rankings and reputation? I think that there are probably enough small-minded, unimaginative bean-counting accountants on the current payroll of the NPS. We don’t need to elect them to the School Committee. The School Committee should be a place for genuine vision and “What if?s”. It should be a place that believes that, to paraphrase advertising legend Leo Burnett, “If you reach for the stars, you might not reach them, but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.” Every organization has a steady parade of people who are the first to tell you why things CAN’T be done. Organizations that are successful have creative, visionary people to counter their status-quo, head-in-the-sand small mindedness and destructive torpidity. The SC is supposed to articulate the vision of the voters. We have a very smart, progressive and education-supporting population of voters. Do we dream of a system that continually blames budget constraints for not moving forward? Hasn’t that been happening for at least the last ten years? Or, do we want to elect SC members that will look to innovations in other systems with much smaller budgets and tax bases that are forging ahead — not only restoring programming but advancing it?

    If you talk to Margaret, you will hear a vision. You will hear a vision of investing in early education and full day kindergarten so that we will save seven-times the money later on. You will hear about a passion to level the playing field for our most disadvantaged students, not only in how they score on MCAS, but on how they can access a spectrum of opportunities that are increasingly privatized and the domain of the privileged.. You will hear about connecting our after school programs to the curriculum being taught during the school day — treating after school programs like important partners to be teamed with educators around curriculum, not tenants to be reporting to facilities managers like Mike Cronin. You will hear a moral abhorrence to 4th grade music fees because they violate the principle of having to pay for instruction taking place during school hours. You will hear a commitment to closing the achievement and opportunity gap, not just to meet state standards, but to meet moral standards. For Margaret, Newton’s achievement gap and the odds of a minority student in our system vs. others is really is a social justice and fairness issue. Oh, and you will hear the real life experiences of a working Mom. Someone who knows what a toll that our current, not-family friendly schedule takes on parents who, in today’s economy, can be working more than one job.

    You want to talk everything’s just hunky dory and let’s decide one year into a four year contract that we’ve already decided that we’re going to renew the superintendent’s contract in 2o16 regardless of what he might do in the next three years? Vote Steenstrup.

    You want to demonize parents who seek out extra enrichment — whether it be math or the arts– because the students that they foster are so ahead of the Newton curriculum? Vote Steenstrup.

    Or, do you want a candidate who will bring arts and STEM opportunities into our after school programs so that EVERY STUDENT has the opportunity to raise the bar for the rest of the class — not just affluent families with a stay-at-home parent to facilitate out of school time enrichment? Vote Albright.

    There are things that haven’t been mentioned in this debate. I’ll mention my personal favorites. They are world languages in elementary, a gifted and talented program, increased curricular emphasis on STEM, and oh, let’s really dream… an International Baccalaureate program. My dream would include an array of AP offerings, a world where a child could master a musical instrument on a public education, and where no high school student would ever be closed out of a STEM class because we had to ration lab spots.

    We will never realize how great we could possibly be if we continue to elect people who are focussed on where we once were.

    Vote for vision for a strong future. That’s Margaret Albright.

  46. mgwa permalink
    October 16, 2013 01:35 AM

    Are Newton HS kids really being closed out of STEM classes due to lab space? That’s unconscionable!

  47. Mark Marderosian permalink
    October 16, 2013 09:01 AM

    @KarenN. Nicely articulated. Beyond the content of your post, you’ve sketched out a larger picture of what is needed, not just on the SC, but for many organizations in general. Case in point: Vision vs business as usual. The letters in today’s TAB that supported Andrea, are written by the usual suspects from the same template almost word for word.
    My wife and I once attended a teacher/guidance counselor meeting for one of our children. Due to the child’s struggles with the subject, my wife asked if perhaps outside math tutoring would be a good idea. The teacher replied that it would mean extra work on her part because then the child would be further ahead and “we’d have to give him extra work from the grade above and what would next year’s teacher do?”
    We watch the SC meetings fairly regularly on NewTV. Frankly, as stated above, as a community we deserve better than what the ruling elite identified in today’s Tab keeps serving us.

  48. Groot Gregory permalink
    October 16, 2013 09:10 AM

    @Hoss – I am not affiliated with either campaign but I have tried to meet all of the candidates in the contested (and even non-contested) races. I have been more impressed with Margret’s answers to my questions, particularly in the are for STEM education. As a physicist I am inclined to think that everyone should know something about how the world works but there is a new reality that we all need to understand something about technology so we can do everyday things like make a phone call and use a spreadsheet.

    I would encourage you to talk with both Andrea and Margret. It is interesting to me that I have had many conversations with Andrea’s supporters who have lots of praise for her but I am not sure how that translates to the leadership role I would expect to see in any elected position. While Margret seems to have the blogging public in her camp there are folks in Newton that think Andrea is a better choice.

  49. Lisap permalink
    October 16, 2013 10:00 AM


    Your comment reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with my eldest child’s third grade teacher who thought my child might have a “slight” math learning disability. When I asked about outside tutoring I was told that under no circumstances should we consider the Russian Math school. I accepted that advice without much questioning and it’s a decision I have come to deeply regret. My child was also told that her third grade reading selections would not count toward her weekly reading log because they were too advanced. I did balk at that and I’m grateful that I did. It is pedagogically wrong to discourage children from advancing beyond their peer grouping.

  50. Lucia permalink
    October 16, 2013 10:07 AM

    mgwa – yes. Newton high school students have been closed out of STEM classes (and also other higher level classes) due to lab space, limited class size, etc. It happen to my daughter more than once. She was never locked out of a higher level math class, though, because unlike English and science lab classes they can grow to 30+ students.

  51. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 16, 2013 10:28 AM

    I just realized something else after watching the Ward 1 Ward Alderman debate and the Ward 2 School Committee debate. Talking about out-of-district students is no longer a taboo topic in Newton politics and that Bill Heck and I were instrumental in this paradigm shift due to our efforts in opposing the 2013 override. We approached the issue in a rational, thoughtful and data-driven manner

  52. tomsheff permalink
    October 16, 2013 11:57 AM

    Now you all did it, you woke up Karen:).
    Go Karen….Go Margaret (no offense Andrea).

  53. Joanne permalink
    October 16, 2013 12:34 PM

    I hope everyone has seen Mark Marderosians cartoons in the last 3 Newton Tabs.
    They are Excellent and also tell the picture of what is going on with the Newton Voting Machine- they have annointed their chosen Candidate and with their political back room politics but maybe should have been a bit more observant of Andrea Steenstrups views. I sure alot of them are wishing that they had held off on their endorsements until after the debate and Tab Interviews came out.

    If you want someone that is going to be more beholden to the Political SC network than to your childrens education (the 6 SC Members on her Endorsement list ) then vote for Andrea Steenstrup. If you want someone who is a Former CPA and unfortunately even with her accounting degree doesnt seem to understand that DATA is important in evaluating our children and where our School system needs to go – then vote for Andrea Steenstrup. If you want someone that thinks that our children should NOT have outside tutoring because it will make our teachers work supposedly more difficult because the children will be too advanced (Obviously she has not heard of Differentiated Instruction) then vote for Andrea.

    If on the other hand you want someone that has worked in Education in Massachusetts for over 25 years and is going to put your childs education first then vote for Margaret Albright.

    If you want someone that is going to work to remove Fees from the Music and Arts, work to get us Full Day Kindergarten( which is already in 87% of Massachusetts Communities), Increase STEM in our schools and understand where we need to go with Common Core then Vote for Margaret Albright.

    If you want supporting information about my statements above – please look at the Newton Tab Interview Article from Last weeks Tab and the LWV Debate and dont forget to look at Mark’s Last 3 Cartoons! I am sure once you do you will see that the choice is clear – VOTE Margaret Albright on November 5th.

  54. Hoss permalink
    October 16, 2013 04:00 PM

    I think everyone realizes that political types flock together and in this age, communicate and masquerade in all sorts of invented roles over the web (case in point, Newton’s overrides, and moreover, roles of mayoral campaign spokespersons and senate campaign advisers). Today;s game is all text mails, emails, facebook/tweets, blogs, news comments and other organized efforts, each of which leave the opportunity for the candidate to deny involvement when things go wrong It would be certainly nice if those committed individuals would state that you’re a spokesperson, manager or adviser while giving your opinion of your candidate. Otherwise your position and statements become political hoss manure when your campaign role becomes known.

  55. Joshua Norman permalink
    October 16, 2013 06:50 PM

    Hoss, it is obvious beyond any reasonable doubt that Margaret Albright draws support from people with a wide variety of political outlooks. Notable people who have expressed support for Margaret Albright:

    Jay Harney
    Amy Sangiolo
    John Stewart
    Rodney Barker
    Barbara Johnson
    Lucia Dolan
    Geoff Epstein
    Mike Striar
    Karen Nacht
    Lisa Ganley-Leal
    Dan Proskauer
    Greer Tan Swiston
    Jay Ciccone
    Joshua Norman

    I don’t think that any casual observer or even many people in Newton’s Civic Affairs Inside Baseball Club would put us together in some political faction or bloc.

  56. Tricia permalink
    October 16, 2013 07:43 PM

    Hoss, Geoff has publically supported Margaret from the beginning. These are local elections – no one’s getting paid to blog or hold signs or write letters, they’re dedicating their time and energy to candidates they believe in. Being a campaign co-manager just means you get to do more of it.

  57. KarenN permalink
    October 16, 2013 09:13 PM

    I don’t think that I would call myself a notable person, but I will say that I have been able to find common ground with people from across many political stripes in Newton around the issue of education. The biggest example of this has been my relationship with Greer Tan Swiston. She is a moderate Republican. I am a pragmatic Democrat whose heart sporadically bleeds. However, one thing that we both believe in is the importance of public education to not only our collective economic prosperity, but to democracy itself. A commitment to public education and in investing in our future is a common trait that people who move to Newton share. There is a lot of typecasting of people in this city. The political establishment seems to like to identify and vilify people for no other reason than that they have not shown loyalty to their social network or god forbid, even an interest in joining it. I think that we’d be a much better city and would have a much stronger school system if we broke out of the mean girl middle school mentality of current social networks and focussed our most committed citizens on the issues and challenges. I have absorbed a lot of marketing data on motivations for investing in early education, for instance. Lefty liberals can say that kids are naturally entitled to a bright start. Ultra-ultra cons can make an argument about current functional literacy in our armed services and how we aren’t grooming a generation who will be prepared to serve in a high-tech military. Does the motivation or ulterior motive matter if the end result is investing in early ed so that more young children get into programs regardless of our political psychographics?

    The bullet that we just dodged in Washington is indicative of the paralyzing polarization of politics. As citizens, we need to elect more people who are willing to listen to EVERYONE and reach out across social lines to achieve common outcomes. I know that that Margaret is that kind of person.

  58. Lisap permalink
    October 18, 2013 09:24 PM

    @Gail and/or Greg,
    For the record . . . did you extend your invitation for a recorded sit down with Village14 bloggers to all candidates in contested elections, or did you just extend the invitation to the Ward 2 School Committee candidates?

  59. Gail Spector permalink
    October 18, 2013 09:59 PM

    Lisap –
    We’re starting with Ward 2 School Committee and Ward 5 alderman at-large. We wanted to focus on the contested citywide races. FYI: All three candidates for Ward 5 alderman at-large have accepted the invitation.

  60. tomsheff permalink
    October 19, 2013 08:44 AM

    Are you doing it for the mayoral candidates, too?

  61. Gail Spector permalink
    October 19, 2013 09:04 AM

    Tom – Not sure.

  62. tomsheff permalink
    October 19, 2013 12:46 PM

    Why not??

  63. Gail Spector permalink
    October 20, 2013 11:33 AM

    Because of the time it takes to coordinate these things.

  64. Joanne permalink
    October 20, 2013 08:36 PM


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