Admissions - Education secretary tours local schools
Photo By: Cape Cod Times/Christine Hochkep
Standing at the wheel of an 80-foot boat, state Education Secretary Matthew Malone stared out over New York Harbor on Wednesday, finding the Statue of Liberty and skyline on the horizon.
The skies were clear, the water calm — too pleasant a day for Adm. Richard Gurnon.
"Go ahead and give us Hurricane Sandy," said Gurnon, president of Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
In an instant, the simulator darkened the skies and churned up waves, pitching the boat up and down walls of water.
"I should bring my 10-year-old son here sometime," Malone said, turning around to face his tour guides. "He would love this."
The simulator — or "$2 million Xbox 360," as Gurnon calls it — was just one of the toys the Taylor's Point campus and Mashpee Public Schools shared with Malone as he spent the day touring Cape Cod schools. Stepping into a kindergarten classroom at Kenneth C. Coombs Elementary School on Old Barnstable Road, he picked up a Tyrannosaurus rex and held on to it as he spoke with the teacher and parent volunteer.
"You know what I like best about kindergarten?" he said. "Dinosaurs."
But the day was about more than just fun and games. Malone, a former superintendent of the Brockton and Swampscott school districts, has been visiting schools to see their classrooms and hear about their needs.
With plans to raise admission standards along with enrollment, the maritime academy is in the midst of a massive expansion. But from inside the American Bureau of Information Commons — the academy's new, $23 million library — Gurnon and Capt. Francis McDonald looked out the window to point out older buildings with leaky roofs and relayed the need for help with maintenance.
Gurnon said he sees the state as the landlord, the campus as the tenant. But the academy has been willing, he said, to match the state's contribution for some maintenance projects — the so-called "deferred cost" of construction.
"We'll pay half. We'll pay half of the rent," he said. "Get us to the front of the line."
In a brief interview before he left for Plymouth North High School, Malone said the state invested in new campus buildings between 1960 and 1980 — "and then we had 30 or 40 years when we didn't invest anything."
Malone defended Gov. Deval Patrick's record on higher education, saying the administration has ensured "over the past several years that each campus has a brand new building." Blaming campus maintenance needs, in part, for driving up tuition at state colleges, Malone said he hopes an ongoing higher education finance study will address those costs.
"It's a really expensive proposition. We're talking multiple hundred millions of dollars," he said. "We don't have enough money to do that overnight. That is the challenge."
After years of benefiting from Senate President Therese Murray's clout on Beacon Hill, Gurnon has come to nickname the school the "Murray Maritime Academy." With Murray, D-Plymouth, and state Sen. Stephen Brewer, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, both stepping down after this term, Malone said the academy would need a strong voice to "move the beachhead" in future budgets.
In Mashpee, school officials showcased the high school's technology center, which Superintendent Brian Hyde said is "No. 1 in all of Massachusetts."
Malone said he was wowed by the center, where students use a 3-D printer to bring their designs for phones, eyeglasses and figurines to reality.
"They haven't lost any of the good stuff that makes school fun," Malone said.
Article written by C. Ryan Barber/ Cape Cod Times
February 27, 2014
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