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Mervan was born in London, England and raised in New York City. After attending Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, he joined the first Teach for America corps as a teacher in Los Angeles in 1990.
In 1994, Mervan moved to Cambridge to teach at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School. In his twelve years at BB&N, Mervan taught English and drama, coached multiple sports, and worked in the school's Admissions Office.
Seven years ago, Mervan helped to found Beacon Academy, where he is now the Associate Head of School. Beacon is the only school of its kind in the country: an intense "bridge year" between eighth and ninth grades. In a single year, Beacon students make two or even three years of academic progress – they close the Achievement Gap. The vast majority of the school's alumni go on to thrive at highly-competitive secondary schools and colleges.
Outside of school, Mervan serves as the Governor's Appointee to the Massachusetts Humanities Board. He recently joined the Board of Directors at Concord Academy. And for 17 years, he created and directed a summer film and drama camp for young people in Cambridge.
In his personal time, Mervan loves producing and reviewing films, cooking for his wife Lucy and son Moses, and enjoying Cambridge's parks with his dog Sparky. He and Lucy look forward to sending Moses to Cambridge Public Schools.
School Department Administration and Superintendent
However, this doesn't mean that we should give the Superintendent a "blank check." As a member of several Boards of Directors and as a school administrator, I know how to ask the right questions and ensure real accountability.
It's not our job to micro-manage district operations. As a School Committee member, I will continue to stay focused on what's always been most important to me: academic excellence.
School Department Budget and Capital Needs
For example, our K-3 early literacy program is both strong and innovative. By investing directly in teaching and learning at the critical early stages, we're setting a strong foundation for every student. And CRLS is an excellent high school. Through focused and strategic investments, we've built a wealth of strong programs and completed a spectacular renovation.
However, despite high per-pupil spending, many of our schools still show pronounced achievement gaps across socioeconomic lines. We can do better. As a School Committee member, I will continue to work with my colleague to reassess our budgetary commitments and to seek new ways to get the most for our money.
The Innovation Agenda
We have plenty of evidence that the district will be able to do this job well. Cambridge's K-3 early literacy program is incredibly effective, and the resources we've focused on CRLS are paying off in a spectacular renovation. Our Upper Schools are growing up into institutions we can all take pride in and we must continue to support the demanding work that has been done and continues for our US parent groups, our US faculties and staffs and our US Heads and their teams.
Ensuring the success of our Upper Schools requires that we strike a balance between two important priorities. First, we'll need a consistent Upper School program that creates pathways toward success for all students. But second, we must also recognize the distinct strengths and challenges of each school in our district – and we must empower each school community to pursue its own unique brand of excellence. We must celebrate our areas of strength and be transparent about our weaknesses in order to more powerfully move forward.
The necessary balance isn't easy to find. To get the job done right, we'll need intense, ongoing collaboration between parents, teachers, administrators, and School Committee members. And I believe that, as a working teacher and administrator and active board member, I'm the right person to help facilitate this collaboration. At every school where I've worked, on every board on which I have served, I've been the kind of "connector" who builds bridges between parties and finds practical common ground- I'll continue to do that for our School Committee.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap"
Given these findings, it makes sense for our district to try and "balance" schools by class and race. But unfortunately, Cambridge's Controlled Choice system is not meeting its goals. First, our schools are not balanced. And even more importantly, our attempts to create balance do not seem to be leading to excellent academic outcomes for all children.
During the past two years, led by my esteemed colleagues Alice Turkel and Fred Fantini, our Controlled Choice Subcommittee spent many hours and met over many months to this policy. We believe we have and continue to make real progress in identifying and addressing our school community's priorities regarding equity of opportunity.
I don't think that Controlled Choice should be dismantled entirely. As I talk to parents, teachers, and administrators throughout the district, several themes are becoming clear:
Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools
I love the part of my job that involves going out into the community and marketing a school district that demands the absolute best from its students, cultivates comprehensive parental involvement, and pursues an aggressive recruitment and hiring strategy that ensures the success of our students.
Teacher Evaluations, Performance Measures, and Contract Negotiations
An effective evaluation strategy incorporates multiple metrics such as meaningful student and parent surveys, systematic classroom observations, measures of professionalism and school community participation, and fair assessment of test score gains for students in each teacher's classroom. Moreover, we must continue to provide our teachers with the appropriate opportunities for improving their practice and supporting them to grow.
The importance of effective educator evaluation has been highlighted at both the federal level, by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama, and at the state level with new regulations on evaluations. In the upcoming years, Cambridge will need to align the current system with the state regulations. We must take a holistic approach and set a high bar for our students and our educators.
When I began my career as an educator I didn't set out to enter politics. Instead my experiences as a teacher and school founder of Beacon Academy pushed me to broaden my impact for the benefit of my students.
This year as I run for reelection it has become more personal. I now have a young son who will be starting in Cambridge public schools in just a few years. Moses will grow up attending Cambridge schools and I want to ensure that his experience in our schools will allow him to fulfill his potential. I want to continue to build a school system where excellence is expected of every child, and we prepare our children to succeed in our advanced technological and multicultural world.
My campaign is built on three Core Beliefs:
To do everything we can for ALL the children of Cambridge, we must develop a BETTER UNDERSTANDING of the challenges facing those we are at risk of leaving behind, especially our English language learners, our children requiring special education services, and many of our children of color.
1. To do this we must BUILD better schools in order to close the achievement gap.
2. We must be TRANSPARENT about our results – both good and bad – and realistically address our successes and failures.
3. We must be PROGRESSIVE in our policies and new programs.
In order to turn these beliefs into a reality, I propose we focus on three specific research-‐based goals.
1. Universal Access to Pre-K
Currently access to preschool is not guaranteed for all three and four year olds in Cambridge. Families must apply far in advance, and even then, the luck of a lottery can often determine their child's fate.
I propose that every family should have access to a quality preschool for their child.
The research is clear: children undergo critical cognitive and social development during the earliest years of their life, laying the foundation for future academic success, and building skills like motivation and perseverance. We need to make sure that every student is prepared for a successful career at CPS from the start!
Measurement of Success: Expand the opportunity for access to preschool to 100% of three and four year olds in Cambridge.
My Record: I have assumed leadership in our effort to conduct a feasibility study on the implementation of this plan. I am working with parents, City Councilors and Facilities Managers to mobilize support across a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
• National Institute for Early Education Research
o For every $1 that we spend on early childhood education, we get $7 back in long-term benefits (Chicago Longitudinal Study)
o Quality early childhood education particularly benefits disadvantaged children
o Positive Example: Michigan-based Perry Preschool Program
• James Heckman, Nobel Prize-winning Economist
o "Investment in birth to five early education for disadvantaged children helps prevent the achievement gap, reduce the need for special education, increase the likelihood of healthier lifestyles, lower the crime rate and reduce overall social costs. In fact, every dollar invested in early childhood education produces a 10% per annum return on investment. Equitable early childhood education resources produce greater social and economic equity."
2. Address the Achievement Gap Challenge
Our City's school system is filled with talented leaders, instructors and children. We must, however, be willing to face the reality that too many of our students are falling short of the academic goals we set for them. By any measure, too many of our students of color demonstrate disappointing results; the MCAS reveals what many teachers and families see every day and we need to do more as a community than pay lip-service to this cultural and educational reality. If we are to make inroads, we must honestly and openly address the root causes of the Achievement Gap dilemma. In addition to expanding our commitment to differentiated instruction, we need to be willing to consider new means of elevating all of our students, particularly those with special needs, those in our English Language programs, and those whose families live near or below the poverty line.
I propose the creation of an Achievement for All working group that calls on the expertise and experiences of school leaders, parents, community members and outside experts.
The group will convene with the expressed goal of closing the quantifiable gaps in student achievement in our city. The group will work with the CPS administration to gather data, and emerge with a unified strategy to address the achievement gap.
Measurement of Success: By the beginning of the 2014-15 school year the Achievement for All working group will present their findings to the School Committee with their proposals for addressing the achievement gap.
My Record: Passion for dealing with the achievement gap is not enough. My experiences qualify me to lead open and transparent conversations that address the socio-economic and cultural realities that characterize many of the disparities in student outcomes, out of which solutions can arise. I helped found Beacon Academy as one solution to these many challenges. It is time we bring the same solution-oriented approach to Cambridge public schools.
• Beacon Academy
o Beacon Academy provides a transformational year between 8th and 9th grades to promising, motivated and hard-working students from Boston and surrounding urban areas. Inspired by a challenging curriculum and stimulating co-curricular experiences, students learn vital academic skills and develop habits of mind that empower them to change the trajectory of their lives.
3. Foreign Language in all CPS Elementary Schools
I believe that the study of a foreign language should be consistent throughout all of our schools. Literacy in a second language will help strengthen literacy in a primary language. In so doing we also help create global citizens who are more culturally aware.
I propose a review of the World Language program to introduce curricular opportunities on our JK-5 campuses and examine the possibility of requiring a foreign language for all three years in grades 6-8.
Measurement of Success: As the Superintendent of Schools makes clear, the biggest challenge to his own desire to see more foreign language in our schools is the time factor. In the reality of a 21st Century global workplace, we must continue to keep this curricular necessity on the table and move toward an ultimate goal of 100% of elementary school students in Cambridge with access to foreign language study.
My Record: I stand with the parent activists at the King School who have been willing to tackle the challenges of charting the future of Chinese Immersion in their school. The research that was unearthed as a result of their debates, in addition to the measurable success of our Spanish Immersion school are more than suggestive of a path forward.
• Foreign Language Study and SAT Verbal Scores
o Students who study a foreign language score higher on college entrance standardized tests (SAT and ACT)
• The Effect of Bilingualism on Toddlers' Executive Functioning
o Learning two languages has a demonstrable effect on children as young as three or four years old
o Bilingual children have sharper executive functions than their monolingual counterparts: attention, problem solving, cognition, etc.
• Improving Primary Language Skills
o Further studies show that the study of two languages as a child can improve skills in one's native language, and there is a strong correlation between second language abilities and academic achievement in other subjects.
CCTV Candidate Video (2011)
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