Healey retaining Craven as education board chair
Move signals broad alignment with current policies
GOV. MAURA HEALEY, who vowed last year in her campaign launch to “continue with what’s working and fix what’s not” if elected, has decided the existing leadership of the state education board is working just fine. Healey’s office confirmed Tuesday night that she has asked Katherine Craven to remain chair of the 11-member board responsible for K-12 education policy in the state.
“Katherine Craven has dedicated her career to serving Massachusetts students, educators and their families, and she has provided strong leadership as chair of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Healey said in a statement.
The move will please those who have supported the board’s general approach to education policy, but will be a disappointment to some teachers union leaders, who were hoping the election of a Democratic governor would bring a clean break with policies on everything from testing to charter schools that unions have waged battles against.
Craven, highly respected and widely known across the state from a career that has included top posts in the State House and at two public education building authorities, has served on the board since 2014.
That high regard, however, does not necessarily extend to the state’s largest teachers union.
Last August, when the education board voted to raise the minimum passing score on the 10th grade MCAS test, which is a high school graduation requirement, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association delivered a scathing rebuke of the board in public testimony.
Max Page said the board was “obsessed with a test invented some 20 years ago and repeatedly shown to do little more than prove the wealth of a student and the community where it is taken.” Addressing board members, he said opponents of the state’s graduation test would stay committed to ending its use “until each of you who continue to reinforce this high-stakes testing regime have moved on to other places and we have replaced you with other people who will replace this two decades-long travesty.”
Last week, Page also expressed disappointment with Craven’s support for a Worcester charter school application, which the board approved two weeks ago by a 7-4 vote. “I think it would be better to have someone who thinks differently,” he said of the board chair.
Craven was appointed to the board by then-Gov. Deval Patrick. In 2019, then-Gov. Charlie Baker tapped her to chair the board.
Members of the education board are appointed by the governor. All but one of them serve staggered five-year terms that don’t align, by design, with the governor’s term in order to give the panel a degree of independence. However, the governor does appoint the board chair, and one of the 11 seats is “coterminous” with the governor’s, giving him or her the ability to bring on a new board member and appoint them chair.
Baker used that authority after taking office in 2015 to name former tech executive Paul Sagan to the board and appoint him its chairman. Sagan replaced Margaret McKenna, who had been named chair by Patrick. Healey, who has followed Baker’s centrist tack on some issues, has concluded that Craven is the right one to continue leading the board.
Craven brings a wealth of education and public sector experience to the role. She was a top staffer in the House Ways and Means Committee and Speaker’s office on Beacon Hill and went on to direct the Massachusetts School Building Authority and the University of Massachusetts Building Authority. She is currently chief financial officer at Babson College.Craven said she doesn’t bring a “base ideology” to the board. Craven said her approach is informed by both background in education policy and finance issues and by her role as the mother of five children, aged 5 to 23, including a 19-year-old son with Down syndrome.
“I come at this as someone who has worked on education budgets and school building budgets,” she said. “But I’m also the mom of five kids and I come at it personally. I think public education in Massachusetts is the best in the country, but we have room to go with subgroups that haven’t had that same success.”