Reforming North Attleboro: FSU student serves on local school board

(SGA senator and member of North Attleboro School Committee Adam Scanlon advocates academic reform. Photo by Allie Gath)

Junior Adam Scanlon has always had a passion for politics. At age 10, Scanlon sat down and began to journal a checklist of future goals. The list included accomplishments such as graduating from high school, running for city council and running for president of the United States.

Ten years later, Scanlon is a political science major at Framingham State University and still on track to pursue his life dreams.

Scanlon’s mother, Darlene Martell, said he joined Cub Scouts at age 6 and could recite all the U.S. presidents’ names in order, including how long they served.

At 14, Martell said Scanlon was chosen by the governor of Massachusetts to participate in Project 351 as an ambassador for his town of North Attleboro. The project chooses one eighth-grade student who has shown initiative in their community from each of the 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts.

In high school, Scanlon worked as an intern for state Rep. Elizabeth Poirier at the Massachusetts State House. He became passionate about helping different state representatives with their campaign, including Scott Brown and Sean Bielat, Martell said.

While working at the State House, Scanlon met former Gov. Michael Dukakis who advised him to join theater to improve his public speaking skills. By sophomore year, Scanlon was involved with theater, student model senate, debate club, student council and swim team.

Even with a busy schedule, Scanlon was eager to learn about local government issues and voice his opinions by engaging in town meetings.

Scanlon said he was informed about town meetings by reading the local newspaper and became interested when “the school department was thinking about eliminating various sports and activities to fill the budget gap because there was a budget deficit at the time.”

As time passed, Scanlon continued to pay attention to the town as a whole, especially budgetary decisions and concerns.

Scanlon said he realized there wasn’t a “strong view for new ideas and new reform” presented in the town and swore to get more active in the town meetings.

“I got involved in the education side of politics because I wanted to give back and make sure the students in the future get the same education that I got,” he said.

At age 18, Scanlon became one of the youngest people in the town’s history to be elected as a town meeting member in North Attleboro.

Last year, Scanlon campaigned to be a member of the North Attleboro School Committee and was elected over an established committee member. 

In 2016, Scanlon said North Attleboro High School received an accreditation warning after an evaluation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges based on a variety of factors. According to the evaluation, the town spent less money per student in the school system than any other high school in the state.

According to Scanlon, many people within the community were wondering where the school department would be heading in the next five years.

Scanlon and the school committee reviewed and approved a district improvement plan, which Scanlon advocated for during his campaign. The plan focused on school facilities, reforming curriculum, improving district culture and the budget crisis.

“We gave a template for curriculum to measure not only accountability but the methods in which education was being facilitated,” Scanlon said.

He said money is pulled from the town when students leave the district to attend other high schools. He questioned whether the school could survive on good test scores alone and believes the town needs to find a way to make the school more competitive.

Sarah Harvey, a North Attleboro resident, said she noticed children using the same social studies textbook that students used 10 years ago. “While there are some things that North Attleboro has done well, it’s time for change,” she said. “I’ve never doubted Adam’s ability to bring about positive change to our school system because he’s just so passionate about what he does.” 

Scanlon’s former campaign manager, Diana Holmes said, “Adam is devoted, honest and a tireless advocate for schools in North Attleboro. … Adam also follows through with the ideas he has while still incorporating new information in order to benefit the schools and the students who attend.”

Holmes commended Scanlon’s effort to upgrade North Attleboro schools, adding he has improved “overall communication with the school committee” by navigating union negotiations and writing new strategic plans for schools.

She said, “Adam brings people together by staying focused on the goals and not allowing his ego or others’ to negatively impact the vision. Adam and I do not see eye-to-eye on everything, but we keep the dialogue going and this is the type of leadership North Attleboro could benefit from.”

Scanlon continues to work for the school committee while attending FSU. He is also a senator and finance advisor for SGA.

Junior and SGA senator Curtis George said, “Two things that stick out to me about Adam are his relationships with students and faculty members on campus and his preparedness for Senate meetings. … He puts a lot of his own time into making sure he can do his best to help foster positive change on campus, even if it means disagreeing with some of the senators.”

Scanlon said he manages to hold his major GPA above a 3.0 while going to college and working with the school committee by reminding himself of his passion and determination to help students. He advises other students to “always stay true to their ideals.”

Recently, Scanlon is thinking about attending law school.

James Legee, a political science professor said, Scanlon is “a leader on campus and in the classroom,” adding he is “very engaged in local politics, constantly thinking aloud about education policy, funding and improving the schools in North Attleboro. He’s quick to ask questions and weigh the opinions of his peers and professors.”

Scanlon said he has a natural drive to help his community. 

“Community can mean a variety of different things to people, but to me, it’s all about people listening to one another and helping one another,” he said.  “One person can voice their views about what they think is unjust or not being done correctly, but it often takes an entire community of voices to establish that point from start to the finish line.”

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