LETTER: Resident Endorses Two School Committee Candidates

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Dear friends and members of the Watertown community,

The upcoming municipal election on November 7 presents a unique opportunity at this moment in Watertown’s history to meet the complex and overlapping challenges that face us, within and far beyond Watertown’s neighborhoods, institutions, and city limits. Fortunately, we’ve a dedicated, experienced, and talented crop of candidates running, particularly in the contested School Committee race.

As a single female childless Baby Boomer, I cannot claim to know the specific concerns and claims parents have when entrusting their children to the Watertown Public Schools, especially in these complex times. I leave that to the many others who’ve worked long and hard on behalf not only of their own families but also others. What I can say is that I do know that a vote for the School Committee is an investment in our collective just and prosperous future — not just for Watertown but our nation and world. For a host of reasons, both Rachel Kay and Lisa Capoccia have my School Committee votes, and I encourage you to vote for them, as well.

Meeting the Moment

This School Committee election is an extension of Massachusetts’, and the nation’s, history. More than a year after becoming a state, in 1789, the Massachusetts legislature authorized the creation of local school committees. Five decades later, Massachusetts native (and West Newton resident) Horace Mann, considered the Father of American Education, advocated the creation of free and universal public education — so-called “common schools.”  Public schools would serve not just as a vehicle for social and economic advancement but also the cultivation of character and citizenship.

Over subsequent decades, what emerged throughout the land was a more expansive view of elementary and secondary public education, one that prepares for citizenship and responsible adulthood as well as basic skills mastery and career readiness. Public education, despite multiple crises along the way, came to embrace the “whole person” and the various environments in which cognitive, socio-emotional, and character development occur. In today’s world, our young people are under severe pressures from all directions, so public school governance also involves matters of safety and security, along with public health and well-being.

Put another way, public education has come to recognize not only that we are embedded in multiple systems, but there is civic moral significance to our mutual interdependence. Never has that “civic moral significance” been so important, which is something to keep in mind as we vote for School Committee members.

On top of all that, deciding “Who governs the Watertown Public Schools?” poses a special challenge because WPS is a creature of multiple jurisdictions and alliances, both vertical (local, state, federal) and lateral (students, teachers, staff, taxpayers, and other stakeholders). And because the Watertown Public Schools, in many ways, serves as a microcosm of both the challenges and opportunities facing public school systems in these turbulent times of transformation, electing School Committee members who are up to the challenge becomes ever more important.

That’s why I’m especially enthusiastic to endorse, and will vote for, both Rachel Kay and Lisa Capoccia for the Watertown School Committee. They are fully capable of meeting the moment, and then some.

Rachel and Lisa: Power Combo

I believe firmly that, both individually and together, Rachel Kay and Lisa Capoccia bring an extraordinary blend of capabilities that generate powerful synergies with multiple positive impacts on at least three realms: the Watertown Public Schools (and School Committee) as a whole; our beloved Watertown community, now transforming before our very eyes; and our pluralist democracy, now threatened from within and without.  

I have known Rachel for several years, both in my capacity as co-founder of Watertown Forward and throughout the Charter Review process, and as a friend and concerned citizen. Her life experience as a single parent (of 10-year-old Adam!); community activist (especially for greater equity, accessibility, and inclusion for our fellow humans); English (in Tokyo!) and math teacher; curriculum development and data scientist; educational research, measurement, and evaluation specialist — list goes on and on — well-equip her for tackling both known and unknown issues confronting the Watertown Public Schools. Her current work as MIT’s Director of Admissions Research puts her on the front lines of evidence-based and equitable educational policy and practice.

I only recently met Lisa Capoccio at the October 16 School Committee Forum sponsored by WCA-TV and Watertown News. As a parent of a Lowell School graduate, longtime WPS advocate, and professional work as a social worker and adjustment counselor in the Newton Public Schools, Lisa embodies the “whole person” approach to public education. I was mightily impressed by her presentation, answers to questions, and subsequent commentary she sent out. Sitting there on October 16, I thought, My goodness, what a power combo Rachel and Lisa would make!  

Since then, I’ve become even more excited about this dynamic duo. In addition to their knowledge of and involvement with the Watertown Public Schools, both Rachel and Lisa have a good grasp of the dimensions of public schooling that go back to the days of Horace Mann yet remain critical to our collective just and prosperous future. In my view, their dispositions and character, record of constructive civic activism, and insights gained from professional vocations make them outstanding stewards of the Watertown Public Schools.

Keeping America’s Promise

Why is this important? Because, rightly understood, good governance not only upholds public trust, but a public promise to assure a better world inhabited by future generations. Good governance, then, especially school governance, is a task both pragmatic and prophetic: In the midst of multiple statutory and regulatory demands, it embodies both civic investment and stewardship of our most precious resources — our children — in pursuit of better performance outcomes, not just for their own but for our collective, evolving future.

Both Rachel and Lisa are more than up to the task. I urge you to vote for each of them on November 7.

With warm regards,

Marcy Murninghan, Ed.D. 
Watertown Resident

Letters to the editor can be sent to watetownmanews@gmail.com. Please note the last day that endorsement letters will be accepted is Saturday, Nov. 4.

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