Geoffrey A. Gorman’s pride in the Mashpee Public Schools motivated him to apply for a seat on the school committee, for which he was appointed on Monday night, August 4, in a vote by the selectmen and current committee.
The Mashpee parent, a US Navy commander and military professor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, will finish the term that was vacated by Phyllis A. Sprout until the May 2015 town election.
Cmdr. Gorman was the last of four candidates to be interviewed for the interim position at the public meeting at Mashpee Town Hall. The other candidates were Jean K. Bowden, Mohamad A. Fahd, and George C. Schmidt III.
Ms. Bowden, a production assistant for Capizzi Home Improvement, Inc., who has lived in Mashpee for three years, confessed that she would have a lot to learn to participate on the committee but could contribute to areas of decision-making, communication, and collaboration.
“You have to have good communication with everyone, with group members and other people involved,” she said. “I’ve watched many school committee meetings and sometimes that doesn’t happen.”
Ms. Bowden served on the Barnstable Special Needs Parent Advisory Council in the 1990s when her daughter, a special needs student, was in elementary school, and currently volunteers as a parent advocate by the Federation for Children with Special Needs.
When asked to describe her vision for the district, Ms. Bowden said, “Making sure children have good experiences here so that when they’re done, they come back to Mashpee.”
Currently a member of the finance committee, Mr. Schmidt highlighted his financial background and his work as a three-year liaison to the school committee. His strengths include dealing with the school department budget and working with other people to reach an “acceptable solution,” he said, identifying one potential area of improvement in the district as focusing more attention on “middle” students who are not the lowest or highest achieving in their classes.
While selectman John J. Cahalane said that Mr. Schmidt may be able to continue his role on the finance committee if appointed to the school committee, at least until the May election, Mr. Schmidt said that he would choose to serve on only one or the other.
“I have mixed emotions about leaving the finance committee, but I’m also looking forward to doing something on the school committee,” he said.
The responses offered by Mr. Fahd were less brief and more focused on classroom learning.
Mr. Fahd works as a level one tech at the Sears Auto Center in Hyannis, but is licensed in education for grades 8-12 mathematics and physics. Although he said that he has little personal experience with Mashpee schools—his daughter attends St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis—he identified many issues with schools in general, from the “basic” material of the Common Core State Standards Initiative to distractions caused by technology use in the classroom.
Students should be instructed to complete challenging work while teachers are attending to “the business of the class,” Mr. Fahd said, because worksheet pages currently assigned to students are often left blank.
“It’s a joke,” he said, adding that a school should not be “just a box” for children to enter and exit. “We have to find ways of revitalizing this stuff.”
If elected to the committee, Mr. Fahd said, he would collect data to determine why Mashpee “has failing grades currently,” and would recommend decreasing the size of the administration.
Cmdr. Gorman offered a more positive outlook on the district.
After moving for most of his 26 years as an active duty naval officer, he fell in love with the Cape only a few years ago and decided to settle in Mashpee with his family. Superintendent Brian A. Hyde knows him as “the father of” a rising 3rd grader, he said, who has excelled academically with the aid of district special needs services.
“If it’s working for my daughter, who needs a lot of attention, then everybody else is going to have an even better time,” he said.
When asked about weaknesses in the district, Cmdr. Gorman said that changes are moving too fast—“It’s very difficult to see if things are working when you’ve made 15 changes,” he said
In response was to a question asked by selectman Michael R. Richardson regarding his understanding of discipline in the public school system, he said discipline could be distributed more equally.1
As a parent, he is overall impressed with the quality of education in Mashpee and would like to see a “spectacular” experience for his daughter and other students from preschool through graduation.
Most voters agreed, lauding the candidate for his honesty, positivity and leadership skills. Of the group of nine, only school committee members Joan N. Oliver and Scott P. McGee dissented, supporting Mr. Schmidt instead for his experience on the finance committee. However, when Mr. Cahalane made a motion to make the vote unanimous, the others agreed.
Cmdr. Gorman was sworn into the position August 5 at town hall, allowing him to participate as a member of the committee at its regular meeting on Wednesday, August 6.
1. Correction August 25, 2014 at 4:30 PM. An answer to a question had been included in the original posting of this article without the actual question being mentioned. The question has now been added.