BOSTON—Mary Jo Rossetti, who was elected to the Somerville Board of Alderman in November 2013 but who
previously served seven terms on the city’s School Committee, met earlier this month in Washington DC with Massachusetts Congressional leaders including Representatives Katherine Clark and William Keating as well as the education aides to Representative Michael Capuano and Senator Edward Markey. The focus of her discussions with the legislators and their aides concerned the financial realities confronting Massachusetts school districts and the need for increased federal K-12 education dollars if districts are to succeed in raising student achievement. The meetings, which took place in Congressional offices, were held in conjunction with a six-day School Leadership/ Advocacy summit presented by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and attended by over 800 school board members from across the country. Mrs. Rossetti was among a ten-person delegation representing the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) of which she concluded her term as President this past December and is currently serving as Immediate Past President.
Rossetti reminded the Congressional leaders about the new pressures that many districts are experiencing as the economy struggles to recover, including higher percentages of students on free/reduced lunch; more families under stress and in need of additional services; and higher mobility rates. Mrs. Rossetti also advocated for the importance of local control in setting education policy and called for easing the burdensome, time-consuming and cost-ineffective regulations promulgated by the US Department of Education. She also pressured for increased investment in IDEA and Title I funding; increased focus and funding for early childhood education, including full day pre-K and Head Start programs; and the need for reform of current Social Security provisions that make it difficult for districts to hire high quality teachers from private industry.
In other meetings and breakout sessions over the course of the leadership/advocacy event, attendees were briefed on key education issues by NSBA federal relations staff and also heard from famed Washington Post “Watergate” reporter/author Bob Woodward, who offered unique insights into the political climate of Washington and the challenges posed by the sputtering economy and unflinchingly partisan legislature. Also addressing the group on the subject of leadership under fire and the importance of connecting with youth today was Alexandria VA High School Football Coach Herman Boone (the subject of the recent Denzel Washington film Remember the Titans). In addition, participants also attended a variety of special workshops and clinics focusing on employment and education trends in the 21st century; the federal role in education; and using new social media to engage families and communities.
A long-standing advocate for high quality educational opportunities for all the Commonwealth’s students, Mrs. Rossetti reported that “many of the topics we addressed have important implications for school committees at the local, state and national levels. As we insist on higher standards and increased accountability for students and staff, we also need to reflect on how our policy and management decisions support and further these goals.”
In addition to attending workshops and special sessions, Mrs. Rossetti led the Massachusetts delegation in accepting the National School Boards Association 2014 Thomas A. Shannon Award for Excellence which was presented to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees this year. The award honored the Association for developing the District Governance Support Project, a statewide training endeavor that has helped school committees improve teaching and learning in their districts. As Association President in the first full year of the project’s implementation, Mrs. Rossetti was one of the earliest supporters of the effort, which was funded through a federal grant. (see photo attached).
MASC is a non-profit organization that represents more than 2,100 Massachusetts school committee members in over 330 local and regional school districts throughout the commonwealth, providing its members a wide range of training programs, policy development and administrator search services, as well as legal and advocacy support.