Candidate Steve McKenna II
Dear Members of the Lexington Community,
I am pleased to announce my candidacy for the one year term on the Lexington School Committee.
Three years ago, I first decided to get involved in the politics of our town by successfully running to represent Precinct 6 in Town Meeting. Back then I looked at Town Meeting and discovered that the average age of its members was 57 years old. I realized how difficult it must be for the younger generation to relate to representatives who are so far removed from their perspective on the unique challenges that they face in a rapidly changing world. As a graduate of the Lexington High School Class of 2009, and recently having completed my Master's Degree in Political Science, I believe I can relate to many of those issues that the children of our town face on a daily basis.
While I could not have known it at the time, I have been gaining experience for this position ever since my time at Hastings Elementary School. I remember what it was like in 2nd Grade when I arrived in September to find out the the brand new modular classrooms, that I was to spend my year learning in, were not completed on time and my class was put into a glorified closet for a month while they were being finished.
By the time my classmates and I had adjusted to life in the small windowless room, we were uprooted and moved into the modular building. As anyone with eight year old children can imagine, this was a difficult transition that took another month of time to fully adjust to, and it was not until after Thanksgiving break that our class finally settled into a normal classroom routine. Unfortunately, because of the length of time it took for my classmates and I to fully adjust, we were put at an educational disadvantage that should not have happen in the Lexington Public Schools.
Fast forward to my time at Diamond Middle School, where I first began to understand the overcrowding issue that currently faces our town. During my years at Diamond I was lucky enough to have one of the truly spectacular teachers that should be the hallmark of any child's education. She had the unenviable task of corralling as many as 150, 12, 13 and 14 year olds, on a cramped stage, and turning them into a choir.
We often talk about class sizes and student to teacher ratios, but I wonder how many people know what it is like to have one adult in a room with that many students with a diverse range of education learning styles and abilities. I can say without any shadow of doubt that a teacher of even the slightest bit less caliber would have collapsed under the burden of that situation, and dozens of children's educations would have suffered as a result. However, the overcrowding issue was not limited to that stage.
As Diamond's population grew, there was a need to alleviate overcrowded classrooms, and my classmates and I were once again place into modular classrooms again. Anyone who went through middle school will tell you, those years are tough regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what you are doing. As 14 year old 8th Grader, I knew this all too well, and I can tell you that life does not get any easier when other students are taking classes in a newly renovated part of the school while you are stuck in a glorified trailer. Frankly, you feel like a second class citizen in your own school, and it is because of my experiences in those "classrooms" that I will demand that our School Committee puts together a comprehensive plan to address the overcrowding issue that will not put the children of this town at a prolonged disadvantage in their own schools.
Another issue that is facing our students, especially at the High School, is stress. Once I entered the LHS everyone constantly reminded me how much these grades counted, as if students do not understand the position they are in. For most students this level of stress culminates on Ivy League Acceptance Day. 10% of the school is jubilant because they got into the school of their dreams, but the vast majority of kids do not get into the Harvards, Yales or Princetons of the world, and while it is important that our students strive for achievement worthy of admission to those schools, they must understand that there are many great colleges throughout the country.
The prospective of a student on stress is different than that of an adult, and if we want to address it we need to understand the underlying cause of stress from the students' point of view. I have always believed that students, even from a young age, are more capable of understanding how the world works than for which adults give them credit. Having graduated from LHS eight years ago, I believe that I have had enough time to gain a necessary level of hindsight perspective on exactly what it is that we can do to make students feel more engaged, and that they have a say in their educational experience.
Through this whole process people always ask, "why are you running for School Committee?" My answer is simple, I am doing this is because I had a good education, the people of this town made sure of that. Because of that, I learned that I have a responsibility to ensure the next generation gets that same good education, so maybe in a few years people will not say how great it is that a young person wants to get involved, rather they can celebrate how lucky Lexington is to have so many young people involved.
Steve McKenna II