2019 Candidate Survey: School Committee

Photo from somervillema.gov

Welcome to Scout Somerville’s candidate survey for the 2019 municipal elections, which will take place on Tuesday, November 5. We sent surveys to all candidates running in opposed races for Somerville mayor, city council, and school committee, and present their answers to you here.

Today we are featuring the school committee race. All candidates were given the same five questions, and were limited in the directions to 50 words in their answer; longer answers have been truncated and are indicated with an asterisk (*) at the end of the text. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name; any who did not respond to the survey are listed in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

You can find the mayoral candidate responses here, and the councilor-at-large responses here.

Ward 3

Mary Marshall
Pronouns: she/her
Somerville resident: 60 years


1) The issue of student health is growing more pressing for Cambridge schools, as administrators are paying attention to students’ diets and vaping habits. What efforts would you make on the school committee to address student health?
We must prepare and empower our children for achievement and opportunity—regardless of ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ identify, immigration or socioeconomic background. School Committee members must first LISTEN! For 15 years, I’ve been in our schools listening to our youth and parents of all backgrounds. I’ll always listen and advocate.

2) What would be your top three issues if elected?
We must increase access to special education and social/emotional programs. Second, we must remove affordability barriers by expanding free lunch, after school, and summer programs and physical activities. Third, we need to increase the diversity of our staff to reflect the diversity, culture, and language our students’ communities.

3) What items do you think need to be prioritized in the Cambridge Public Schools budget?
We don’t have enough highly-skilled and trained teachers who can provide special education in the district. Children and youth with relatively common special education needs are educated elsewhere. This is highly disruptive for some families. We need to invest in teacher training programs and hire additional skilled special education teachers.

4) What sets you apart as a candidate?
Over the last 15 years, my personal mission has been to help all of Somerville’s kids succeed. As a first-time candidate, I’m excited to bring my experience, progressive values, and passion to the job. I’m a hands-on working mom and PTA leader. I’m proud of my truly local, grassroots campaign.

5) What’s one fun fact about you?
Flying kites off of Castle Island is one of my most favorite things to do.  I like to scout for the biggest, longest, and the brightest kites. 

Sarah Phillips
Pronouns: NA
Somerville resident: 11 years

1) The issue of student health is growing more pressing for Cambridge schools, as administrators are paying attention to students’ diets and vaping habits. What efforts would you make on the school committee to address student health?
I would work with my colleagues and district leadership to more actively solicit input from immigrant families, families of color, and low-income families. I would strengthen and pass the proposed equity policy. I would ensure we fully fund that policy and hold the superintendent accountable for implementing it successfully.

2) What would be your top three issues if elected?
We need to prioritize: 1) hiring more (and more diverse) teachers to meet all students’ academic needs; 2) establishing wraparound social and legal services to ensure all students come to school ready to learn; 3) expanding high quality after-school and summer programming; and 4) building inclusive school climates.

3) What items do you think need to be prioritized in the Cambridge Public Schools budget?
Funding for the priorities listed above, including funds for new positions to make these priorities possible, such as additional family liaisons to improve community engagement, coaches to help teachers improve the cultural relevance of their teaching, and transportation to improve access to after-school opportunities.

4) What sets you apart as a candidate?
I have spent 20 years improving public education, first as a teacher and currently as the research director at a local nonprofit. If elected, I would be the only social worker on our school committee and the only member with a Ph.D. in social policy. I’m a lifelong progressive activist.

5) What’s one fun fact about you?
I grew up in the women’s movement. Some of my earliest memories include “Skating Away for the ERA” (the Equal Rights Amendment) and marching to “Take Back the Night.”

Ward 7

Carrie Normand
Pronouns: she/her
Somerville resident: 25 years

1) The issue of student health is growing more pressing for Cambridge schools, as administrators are paying attention to students’ diets and vaping habits. What efforts would you make on the school committee to address student health?
I have advocated for expanded early education opportunities, more middle grades programs and redesigning the education plans of Somerville High School and Next Wave/Full Circle. I will focus on an equity policy that is culturally responsive to the needs of each family and support teachers in designing performance assessments. 

2) What would be your top three issues if elected?
My top three priorities are equity and diversity, education innovation, and increased communication and transparency across stakeholders. My leadership has been and will continue to be guided by a commitment to equitable resource allocation.

3) What items do you think need to be prioritized in the Cambridge Public Schools budget?
Mental health supports to students must continue to be prioritized in the budget.  This entails strengthening guidance department resources, increasing on-site counseling services, and better access to wellness support systems.

4) What sets you apart as a candidate?
My candidacy is distinguished by my passion, my knowledge of current educational finance strategies, and my steadfast commitment to advocating for historically underserved student populations. What sets me apart are my deep roots in Somerville and my broad understanding of the community’s needs and challenges.

5) What’s one fun fact about you?
My friends say my chocolate chip cookies could win an award. I love to bake yummy treats.

Tara Ten Eyck
Pronouns: she/her
Somerville resident: 14 years

1) The issue of student health is growing more pressing for Cambridge schools, as administrators are paying attention to students’ diets and vaping habits. What efforts would you make on the school committee to address student health?
I am committed to working with all stakeholders to identify needs and facilitating conversations at schools, at committee meetings, with families, teachers, and administrators, to develop the best ways to address the needs of Somerville students and families. Communication and feedback are foundational to meeting diverse needs.

2) What would be your top three issues if elected?
1. Ensuring families get the student services they need (supports for English language learners, students with disabilities, and mental health issues).
2. Maximizing access to enrichment programming (access to pre-K, citizen schools, music programs, language programs).
3. Improving the school choice program.

3) What items do you think need to be prioritized in the Cambridge Public Schools budget?
Student services should be prioritized above all else. We need strong special education services, targeted and sustained literacy and language interventions, and mental health and social service supports. We must also invest in our educators’ growth and development through teacher-led trainings, building teacher-teams, and high quality professional development.

4) What sets you apart as a candidate?
My experience as a public school teacher (10+ years) and mother of two SPS students gives me a unique perspective from both sides of most issues. I understand the needs of teachers, students, and families, which would be an asset when deliberating on issues that come before the school committee.

5) What’s one fun fact about you?
I learned to play the trumpet at School of Honk and now play with some Somerville-based brass bands. If you’re in Davis Square or Kenney Park, you may find me busking on the corner!

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