What people say: Patty “works with her whole heart and all her experience.” Her work is “comprehensive, data-driven, and meticulous.” “Her willingness to take on tough issues and take action, even when it costs her politically, makes her a true leader.”
I wasn’t lucky enough to be born in Cambridge. I chose it because I love it! Born in Chicago, as were my parents and five sisters, I attended Catholic school until fifth grade when we moved to Stamford, Connecticut and into the public school system. My high school, Stamford High, was very much like CRLS in its demographics: well-off families, families struggling to make it financially, and lots in between, middle-income folks who today struggle to afford spiraling housing as prices spiral. Similar breakdown of racial and ethnic backgrounds, except fewer Latino students. I was a geek and a jock. Most days I kept out of trouble by going to the gym, where I competed on varsity gymnastics and track. I was the first girl on the school’s cross-country team, and was coached by a man who resented the federal legislation opening sports up to girls. He scheduled an initial – and mandatory – team meeting in the boys locker room. I’m known for surprising the coach by showing up in that locker room. I fought for and benefited from Title IX, and ever since have appreciated the need to break down barriers.
I was the first in my family to apply to Harvard, where I went to college, fell in love with Cambridge, and first volunteered in the schools. After working in New York City for the Brooklyn District Attorney, Liz Holtzman, I received great training in business and strategic thinking at the Yale School of Management. After several years in corporate consulting at McKinsey & Company and paying off my student loans, I went into the non-profit and socially-responsible business sector. I have run two small companies (an environmental firm and a telephone reseller). I’ve helped a legal staffing start-up, several worker-owned enterprises including a model welfare-to-work home health aide company and a worker-owned bicycle manufacturer (Independent, when it was still worker-owned), economic development efforts in Boston, an environmental mutual fund, and many other projects. I was leader of a group that sought to open an International Baccalaureate Charter High School here in Cambridge. That effort did not make the final cut by the state, but it got me deeply involved in thinking about how to better use our tremendous resources as a district.
Since moving back to Cambridge in 1991, I have been active in the community. My educational involvement includes serving on the Board of Cambridge School Volunteers for 7 years, including 4 as Treasurer. I was President and Treasurer of Children’s Village, a childcare center near Fresh Pond where my children went. I also served as Director of Cambridge United for Education, an independent citywide organization dedicated to promoting excellence in our public schools. When my children entered school, I became active first in the Peabody School then Amigos, working to ensure community and parent input into district wide decisions. I testified often at School Committee, and helped push the district to address declining enrollment and to communicate more transparently about policy and budget.
In 2005, I wanted to have greater impact, and ran for School Committee. I won, and have become known for effective leadership, public outreach, insistence on getting and using sound data in our decisions and policy making, and advocacy for high expectations for all learners. I have consistently, passionately and unswervingly advocated for us to raise the bar – and to address the needs of students who are advanced learners as well as those who are non-typical learners with special needs. I recognize that some kids are BOTH advanced learners AND have special needs. My guiding philosophy is that education in a city with great resources like Cambridge is not zero-sum: we can and must meet the needs of kids who are struggling, those striving for more, and the rest, too. I have been a strong advocate for change – from ensuring exit interviews for families so we can better understand issues and how to improve our district, to championing subsidies for the prom for low income students, starting a high school Participatory Budgeting program, and supporting our bilingual immersion programs. Also, I was instrumental in the district’s upping its commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility, for which we have won numerous awards.
My background in management and strategic thinking, analytical approach, and willingness to listen to diverse perspectives have made me a balanced and important voice on the Cambridge School Committee. I am consistently and promptly responsive to people who contact me — students, parents, teachers, staff — and I work hard to represent those who may not reach out and are consistently underrepresented in our system’s policy-making discussions. I’m known for transparency and honesty, particularly on tough issues. I seek out reliable data, insist of intellectual honesty and solid analysis, and am willing to hold people accountable, for example standing out as the sole vote against extending the contract of a superintendent who failed to meet mutually agreed-upon outcomes and goals, notably around closing achievement gaps, and who failed – for years – to do a critical part of his job.
I hope to bring the same leadership to City Council that I have provided for School Committee, and to be a consistent force for positive change and accountability for our city. My management background, straightforward style, eagerness to collaborate, and willingness to call it as I see it will make a positive difference.
I’m seeking your #1 vote for City Council so I can add a useful and analytical voice, some solid listening, willingness to drive change, and a strong dose of transparency to the Council’s deliberations. Our city has great challenges and great resources. Help me apply our resources effectively so Cambridge can live up to its potential.
Read on, and also take a look at my video on CCTV. In my first Council term, I’ve demonstrated the same things that made me effective in my 14 years on School Committee:
Integrity: You can count on me to be clear about my views, and to revise them as I learn from others and when the data do not support them. You may not agree with me at times, but you will always know where I stand. In line with that integrity, I vote my conscience, not what’s convenient or politically expedient. Also, I never forget our elected bodies’ roles: On School Committee, it was to monitor the district and hold the superintendent accountable. On Council, we keep our eye on the city and evaluate the City Manager. My sharp eye for the issue details and faulty analysis, sensitivity to people who speak up and those who may be shy but whose views are just as important, and willingness to hold officials and the Council itself accountable for commitments and goals mean I play a unique and critical role for our city. For example, I led the effort to assess the feasibility of municipal broadband, critical for social equity, after years of stonewalling the Council by the administration. I also led the effort to review the city’s charter after a shocking 80 years of neglect (most towns and citys review theirs at least every 10 years). I’ll ask the tough questions even when others don’t want them asked. We all need to face, stay grounded in, and make decisions based on the best possible understanding of reality.
Effectiveness: I have been an independent voice and a force for positive change in many areas! My impact has been substantive in many ways: Yes, municipal broadband and reviewing the City’s charter, but also focusing on barriers to implementation that slow progress on climate by forming and chairing the Mayor’s Climate Change Working Group, adding warning labels on gas pumps, bringing together the City’s neighborhood groups to put on the table the challenges they face and ways the city can help them be more effective. I focus on accountability: If goals were set, were they specific, measurable, and did we meet them? If not — on any of these three — what got in the way and… how can we do better now? Clear commitments, measurement of results, the courage to share results honestly and explore to improve are all key to getting things done.
I also follow up on issues, not just introduce motions. I don’t forget goals and commitment. I respond when contacted. I communicate with ALL parties involved, not just the ones who agree with me. I know that collaboration, accountability, transparency, and listening are essential.
Excellent training: My background helps me do a good job. I bring management knowledge, strategic thinking, and thoughtful analysis to my work. We can only make good policy if we practice intellectual honesty, insist on good information and use a constructive approach to addressing issues. I do that. We need people like me on the Council. My experience running small businesses, doing corporate consulting, helping with a range of small mission-based organizations, and serving on School Committee has given me skills I apply every day to City Council.
High expectations: On School Committee, I have been tireless in celebrating our successes and pushing us to address our shortcomings. Successes like extremely high graduation rates for all, including students of color. Shortcomings like an embarrassingly low proficiency for black, Latino, low income and special education students and a 30+ point achievement gap unchanged in 6 years. Our City’s efforts in addressing our many challenges – affordable housing, climate change, and more – are marked by successes and shortcomings, both. Even as we celebrate our successes, its important to remember that in a City with our resources and talented people, we can do better.
Courage: I am not afraid to take action when warranted. Despite my commitment to affordable housing, I have questioned the effectiveness of some proposed, and popular policies. My analysis suggests that the Missing Middle Petition, for example, would do nothing to help moderate income residents. Meanwhile, I focus on a range of options to support residents at different levels of income and strongly advocate for programs to support home ownership since I believe one of the most damaging aspects of our country’s history of bias is the systemic barriers in our society to equity-building among BIPOC citizens. I believe the the Affordable Housing Overlay is flawed and will fail to reach its goals; to date, it has produced led to no proposals for affordable housing in West Cambridge, one of its key goals, and I have made the only specific proposal in that part of the city so far. When discussing rethinking our police departments role and budget, I was in touch with all parties involved, including the police commissioner; I engaged rather than threw bombs, thus bringing people together.
SUMMARY: I work hard, do my homework, include others, fulfill my promises, and live my values — which include following the data (and the science), sound analysis and intellectual honest, listening to others, and dealing with the true complexity of issues. I hope you agree that Iv’e done that and that I’ve earned another term.
If you like what I’ve done in the past and what I will do on the Council, I need your # 1 vote, any financial donation you can make, and your help Election Day either at the polls, and by encouraging friends, family, and contacts to vote #1 for me.
The Sierra Club:
“The Massachusetts Sierra Club is proud to endorse Patty Nolan for Cambridge City Council. Patty has proven to be a dedicated and persistent advocate for transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030, expanding public transportation and electric vehicle infrastructure, and environmental protection. Patty brings the values, vision, and experience necessary to keep Cambridge on the vanguard of climate resilience, conservation, and environmental protection.”
A huge range of people from across the city have endorsed Patty over the years for her work on the Council and on School Committee. Here’s what some have said about her work.
“I have known Patty Nolan politically for almost 20 years. She is not my friend although I like and respect her. I know her from her community work and Cambridge School Committee efforts. She basically invented the “follow the data” concept that people cleave to so strongly now, poring through research on secondary education best practices and data outcomes to improve the system. Ms. Nolan is relentless in her honesty, integrity and absolute evenhanded fairness when deliberating issues. She will tell the truth even if she risks losing a supporter. In short, she is not stupid and she is no coward! But nor is she an aloof policy wonk, either. Patty is engaging, friendly, and clearly listens and cares about Cambridge, the issues, and ALL Cantabridgians. She gets my #1 vote for City Council and I hope yours, too.” -Bill Donaldson, North Cambridge
“Patty is the only councilor who digs in, does her homework, and gets stuff accomplished. When other said nothing could be done, Patty worked with the City so now part of the Armory site will be acquired for public use. Patty also pushed for trees to be treated as essential infrastructure, and convened a working group to tackle climate issues. Patty doesn’t just talk, she makes things happen.” -Doug Brown, Fresh Pond Residents Alliance
“It’s a pleasure working with Patty on environmental justice for the best possible solution at Jerry’s Pond. I admire how she hears all sides, analyzes facts, and tenaciously achieves the best possible results. I truly appreciate her being the chair of the Climate Crisis Working Group — nudging the city to be its best.” -Eric Grunenbaum, Friends of Jerry’s Pond
“Patty Nolan has always impressed me with her commitment to improving schools in Cambridge, her lively intellect, and her collaborative spirit. Her insistence on including the whole community in discussions leads to better policy-making. And her willingness to take on tough issues and take action, even when it costs her politically, makes her a true leader.” -Rep. Jon Hecht
“My wife and I moved to Cambridge for the rare combination of diversity, commitment to education, and the resources to become a model for other districts. Patty has proven to be the most important force on the School Committee for making good on this promise.” -Robert Cowherd , CRLS Parent, Math Tutor, and Architectural Historian
“Patty Nolan combines a commitment to making the American Dream available to every child with a truckload of common sense and knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. She also works hard and brings ideas and research from outside the district into policy discussions.” -Christopher Jencks, Cambridge resident & Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy Harvard Kennedy School (for identification purposes)
“Patty Nolan does more homework for School Committee than a high school student taking 3 AP classes. She doesn’t toe the party line: she demands evidence that academic interventions will work before she votes them in. Patty genuinely cares about all children in Cambridge- those who struggle, those who excel, and everyone in-between. And her record shows it.” -Shannon Larkin, CPS and St. Peter’s parent
“Patty needs to stay on the school committee because she can be a pain in the patootie when she wants to! She has terrific ethics and sticks to her beliefs, even if it makes some of her opinions unpopular. WE NEED HER!!!!! Plus, she’s wicked smaht and knows a lot about finances, which is important when budgets roll around. She has a lot of common sense.” -Liz Lyster, CPS parent
“I met Patty before either of us had children, when we volunteered together on the Board of Cambridge School Volunteers. Since then, she has gone on to serve the community in a number of ways, focusing her School Committee work on raising the standards for all students. In making the difficult decision to transfer out of the public schools, Patty understood our decision without blaming us – and is working hard on the issues that lead many people to opt out. As an involved community member and parent, I know how lucky we are to have her on School Committee.” -Anna Eckert Byrne, Attorney and parent
“Patty works with her whole heart and all her experience to get the very best outcomes for all school kids.” -Audrey Schulman, proud mom of two CPS students
“One of the most impressive things about Patty is the amount of knowledge, and the quality of the analysis, that she brings to every issue. Another is her expectation that everyone responsible for leading our school system will approach issues the same way. Patty believes that leaders should hold themselves to standards of excellence and be accountable for results. “It is a perplexing fact about Cambridge — where we pride ourselves on a robust civic culture — that a willingness to sometimes criticize leaders or an insistence on openness, transparency and rigorous analysis of data can get one labeled a “naysayer.” I have never understood it when people have so labeled Patty, for to me her insistence on candor and rigor as indispensable conditions for sound policymaking expresses an inspiring combination of realism and faith in the possibility of genuine progress.” -Dan Penrice, CPS parent
“I support Patty Nolan and appreciate her leadership on all issues. I especially appreciate her strong and steadfast advocacy on behalf of immersion programs in Cambridge.” -Jane Chiang, CPS parent
“Patty Nolan has stood up for excellent education and is willing to challenge conventional thinking – her stance on charters is nuanced, as mine is. Her stance on testing is also nuanced – she believes in limits to standardized tests and also understands the need for accountability and some measure of meeting benchmarks so high school graduates don’t find themselves having to take remedial classes in college.” -Marty Walz, former state rep and Mass. Planned Parenthood CEO, currently Chair of the Advisory Council, Massachusetts Chapter of Democrats for Education Reform
“Patty’s work on the School Committee has been comprehensive, data-driven, and meticulous. She listens to parents and students, and spearheads issues that matter to them, such as keeping or abolishing class-rank at the high school and investigating why our students perform less well than students in some other districts with comparable school budgets. Patty is interested in inclusion: she makes sure that all stake-holders are included in discussions. And as a parent of a child who attended a private elementary school, I have appreciated her efforts to expand high-school outreach efforts to private school families, through better advertising and open-house scheduling. She is also not afraid to confront hard questions, working with the School Council to bring in films on topical issues like Race to Nowhere and Freedom Writers.” -Janet Randall, mother of Noa Randall, alumna of Cambridge Friends School and Shady Hill School and current member of CRLS class of 2014
“Patty Nolan stands out from all other School Committee candidates for her rigor, thoughtfulness, and thoroughness. She is a forceful advocate for good education and for environmental responsibility. As both a resident and elected official, she has walked the talk of addressing the climate emergency. Patty pushes for good education for our young people, and she works to build them a safe, healthy future. She deserves the #1 vote of all Cambridge environmentalists.” – Sue Butler, Resident, environmentalist, net-zero emissions advocate and practitioner
“The school system is a very dynamic entity consisting of students, teachers, and administrators. Many issues arise on a daily basis, and a good healthy school system should be equipped to address those in an effective manner, ensuring no student is left behind. Upon encountering an issue in one of my daughter’s classes, I turned to Patty for advice — appealing to her as a mother, a neighbor, as someone who understands the CPS well, and as a School Committee Member. Patty immediately grasped the gravity of the problem and was responsive with suggestions of appropriate language, several channels, and an initial plan of action. This was outlined to me via e-mail and she also followed up with a call. Such a combination of understanding, competence, knowledge, insight, and immediate responsiveness clearly sets Patty apart in her leadership style and dedication to our school community.” -Nadia Shalaby
“Patty Nolan combines an attainable and realistic vision of the schools with a detailed understanding of how the school administration works, and is the only candidate able to identify and articulate the practical steps needed to achieve her goals. She also respects and recognizes the validity of opposing viewpoints — and not just the opinions of her friends and supporters. All the candidates have a vision, but not many make sense and hardly anyone knows how to implement their ideas. Unlike the others, Patty has the smarts and know-how of a do-er.” -H. Chang
“Patty has been independent, thoughtful, and cooperative. That says it all.” -Lynne Molnar, non-profit consultant & parent
“Patty works hard to dig into the facts and get things done rather than score political points. We need more of that.” -Phineas Baxandall
“Patty is a dedicated, fair, and just leader. She shows deep concern for the education of all children and knows all are capable of high achievement. I wholeheartedly support her.” –
Bunmi Matory, former CPS parent
“Patty consistently advocates for all kids and for democratic participation. She’s an effective member who identifies key issues and works with others on them. We need Patty to stay on School Committee.” -Michele Sprengnether, scientist, activist, parent
“One thing I love about Patty is she openly acknowledges the strengths and the weaknesses of our district. She’s earning every penny of her salary with her sincerity, commitment, intellectual honesty, openness and a willingness to listen. -Phyllis Baumann, law professor, activist, resident!Pattya