Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series of profiles on the candidates running for the Newburyport School Committee in the Nov. 3 election. Four candidates are running for three, four-year terms on the School Committee. The profiles are running in no particular order.
Peter Q. McClure
Years in Newburyport: 18
Occupation: First-, second- and third-grade elementary teacher
Education: BA, Yale University; MAT, Boston University
Family: wife, Gretchen; daughter, Li, 12
What do you see as the role of a School Committee member?
The School Committee supervises the entire school system, and provides vision and guidance toward the direction that the system must go. As an elected official, it is paramount that the School Committee member provide as much transparency about how the district is being governed, while at the same time ensuring that the district is moving forward to meet the needs of all of its current and future students. Finally, a School Committee member has to be able to work with every other member of the committee to guarantee positive outcomes toward our strategic plan goals.
If elected, what will be your top 3 priorities as a School Committee member?
A. Ensuring that we have a smart budget. As last year’s budget process proved, there isn’t an unlimited source of money for our schools. Until we can convince our community how important a well-funded school district benefits our city, we have to make sure that every dollar that we are spending is not wasted. Our school budget has to be completely transparent, so that our community understands why its so important to prioritize school spending.
B. Making sure that our district understands the importance of each individual, and that everyone’s learning does not follow the same scripted path. We cannot hand children over from classroom to classroom without making sure that each student’s history is known and embraced. Our school system is only successful if all of our students can leave the system feeling confident in their abilities, which needs to be a priority.
C. We have to work together with elected officials, school committees from around the state and community members to change as many unrealistic, outdated and unfunded state mandates and regulations as we can. We have been offering a system of education that doesn’t reflect the needs of our students for too long. It’s time to change our educational model from looking backward to anticipating the needs of the future.
Superintendent Susan Viccaro recently formed a task force to study the idea of implementing a later start time for middle and high school students. Do you think they should have a later start time than elementary students? If so, why?
It’s not an easy question to answer either yes or no. As a district we have to consider the needs of all the students, and I am not sure we are doing that. For instance, my very first question is how does the later start time impact the needs of elementary students? My second question is, what is the cost to the district? Also, how would the changes affect working parents? I will say, it is important that we are setting up a task force to study the matter from many different angles. I’ll listen to the findings of the task force, and make my decision based on their research.
There has been much controversy over standardized testing in the schools. Which standardized state test would you prefer to see Newburyport schools use — PARCC or MCAS — and why?
If we have to have standardized accountability tests, then I would stick with the MCAS. The PARCC is a test that is designed to see if students are ready for the next level and is designed poorly. The MCAS does a better job of showing where students are at the present time.