My husband and I moved to Massachusetts and to Brookline specifically in 1999. Long before I became a parent, I became an activist. Armed with graduate degrees in both History and Communications, my community service in Brookline began with the fight to preserve and rescue places of historical significance from the clutches of what seemed like (and still seem like) reckless developers in North Brookline. In the context of this involvement, I became aware of a troubling by-product of these large-scale housing developments: the overcrowding of our schools. I then began attending School Committee meetings, followed by B-SPACE meetings. I became increasingly troubled by what I heard and genuinely alarmed by the lack of leadership and decisive action in response to overcrowding in the schools.
In 2008, we became the proud parents of a son, and my commitment to children and education deepened, as I now brought a new parental perspective to my activism. In part from my concern for the future of Brookine Schools, I successfully ran for Town Meeting Member from Precinct 8 in 2013 and was re-elected to this office in 2016. In 2015 and alongside my activism and community service work, I began a new chapter of my professional life as the director of the district's largest after school program. This position has given me a unique lens onto the important and complex relationships between teachers, students, parents, and administrators.
Our son is now entering second grade at the Devotion School. Thus far, my husband and I feel that he is getting an excellent education largely because of the tremendous dedication of his teachers and in spite of the many problems in our school district: frustrated and overloaded teachers, escalating dependence on standardized teaching and testing, overcrowded schools, and possibly a contested philosophy at the heart of our school governance. I deeply desire to see my child's and every child's education flourish precisely because of our community's educational philosophy and practices and not in spite of them.
I've joined and helped found the BPO because I care passionately about how we educate our children and about our commitment to Brookline's long-standing child-centered philosophy of learning that seems to be eroding. Our teachers seek the ability and time to teach to the unique needs of each child. However, our current reliance on copious amounts of testing and assessing forces teachers to "teach to the test" instead and prevents creative and personalized teaching and learning--attributes that made Brookline Public Schools top-notch and enviable for so long. The BPO seeks to engage parents in a thoughtful and inclusive conversation on these and other issues and to bring parents' voices into the larger discussion of how best to educate our children.
Claudine Kavanagh is a graduate of the School Within a School (SWS) at Brookline High School and a parent with a child in the Brookline Schools. As a student at BHS, she founded the Gay-Straight Alliance (currently known as Gender and Sexuality Alliance). For the past several years, she has been a board member and now Treasurer for the Devotion After-School Enrichment Program (DASEP), the largest after-school program in the PSB. She recently installed a Little Free Library in North Brookline, a free book collection and distribution program for the neighborhood. She teaches ninth-grade physical science and engineering, including overseeing a new maker-space initiative. Claudine initially became interested in the work of the BPO during the extended teacher contract negotiations. She is interested in how the PSB meet the needs of diverse Brookline students and families and embraces the principle of walkability and neighborhood schools in future planning.
I am a parent, resident, and business owner in Brookline. I teach people how to move their bodies and minds, I am always trying to connect people, and I do my best to make great things happen. I am a part of the BPO because I believe in the primacy of the student-teacher relationship and the incredible things that can happen in a nurturing, positive, and open learning environment where every student is valued, listened to, and given the opportunity to lead. I also believe that by working together we can create the community that we all desire.
I am a proud Brookline Schools Parent. I have been lucky enough to spend the last 25+ years working to create thought-provoking teaching and learning materials for the K-12 market, Higher Ed, Vocational, Consumer Health and Patient Education. This has helped give me perspective on what works and what doesn't. I understand that it's important to be able to quantify and measure achievements and gaps, but not at the expense of fostering a positive and motivating teaching and learning environment that is child-centered.
Like many families in Brookline, we moved here precisely to avoid the commodization and rampant and unnecessary standardization of education that has happened both nationally and locally. We wanted our daughter to go to schools where teachers and administration were aligned in the pursuit of the highest quality education for ALL students, and where teachers were treated with respect and allowed to implement innovative approaches to teaching and learning that resulted in instilling a passion for life-long learning within the student population. I helped found the Brookline Parents Organization because I believe that most Brookline Parents agree with this vision. I want to promote honest and transparent conversations about how we can all work together to ensure amazing outcomes in our school system AND create thoughtful, critical thinkers that change the world. Utopian? Possibly. Necessary? Absolutely!
Long before we thought of moving to Brookline, my wife Katherine spoke with happy pride about her years as a student at Runkle and BHS. So when we arrived four years ago—in part to help care for Katherine’s mother—the public schools were at the top of the list of attractions. We now have a fourth grader in Runkle and an anxious freshman in the High School. Over the past two years, however, a number of issues at our schools began to trouble me. I’ve been very impressed with the dedication and talent of our teachers, and I take very seriously their complaints that they are not getting the professional respect they deserve. I’ve also found myself wondering why Brookline, of all places, should be pushing ahead with some of the least desirable aspects of national education fads—like applying the dead hand of standardization to the creative process of learning. I’m committed to participating in the BPO because I want to learn more about our schools, and because I’m convinced that enlightened parents are the best safeguard of good education.
In between drop-offs, pick-ups, and cooking (my family niche), I am a writer of non-fiction books, mostly in the history of ideas. I have a DPhil in Philosophy from Oxford University and an AB from Princeton. I was once a founding partner of a management consulting firm and am currently Chair of the Sachs Scholarship program at Princeton. You can learn more about my work here.
My wife and I moved to Brookline four years ago with our two toddlers. I had been seeing the escalation of outcome-based education in my professional life (I teach at Wellesley College) and reading about the progress of the Common Core Standards and Curriculum in America’s public schools. The lightning-fast, un-debated implementation of the Core struck me as an anti-democratic, utopian scheme. When our children began attending Runkle School, I was dismayed to see the extent to which data collection and standardized testing had already taken hold even in Brookline’s traditionally outstanding schools. Forced to spend more and more time collecting data and “teaching to the test,” the teachers were demoralized and working without a contract. Three School Committee members were connected to an NGO that promoted corporate education reform. Parents had been effectively removed from the equation and could only watch as the situation deteriorated. This is when I joined together with other concerned parents to found the BPO.