Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker calls for DCF, education changes


Photo Gallery | Republican Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker

PITTSFIELD -- Charlie Baker is making his second run for governor, and this time the Republican Party candidate said he wants be the governor of all of Massachusetts -- not just part of the state.

In order to achieve that goal, Baker said he favors a regional approach to solving problems that have vexed state government, including the situation regarding the state Department of Children and Families, which has been affected by the recent deaths of three children.

On Tuesday, DCF Commissioner Olga I. Roche resigned, one day after top state officials publicly demanded her resignation. On Wednesday, Baker said the DCF needs new leadershp to protect youngsters under the DCF's care.

In a Tuesday meeting with The Eagle's editorial board, Baker said taking a regional approach to assessing DCF would be a more productive way to solve the problems that have plagued that agency.

"It tells you most about where your weaknesses are," said Baker, who had also called for Roche's resignation, and released a plan in January that contains his recommendations for fixing the DCF.

"Don't think of it as a statewide entity," he said, "Think about it as a bunch of regions. Each region performs some things better and some things worse than other regions. Take the key ways you measure each region and do a quick inventory on how each region is doing."

Baker, 57, who served as secretary of administration and finance under former Gov. William Weld, lost to Deval Patrick in the 2010 governor's race. He also has experience in the private sector, having served as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare.

Patrick, who owns a home in Richmond, has maintained a regular presence in the Berkshires during his two terms -- the exception, not the norm, for state governors in the past.

Baker, who said his campaign is based around jobs, schools and communities, said he also plans to be active in the Berkshires, referring to a campaign pledge that his administration will receive a strategic plan from every city in the state within six months of him taking office.

"For me that would mean a plan to deal with what the issues are in Pittsfield, and what the issues are in North Adams, and basically turn that into a hopefully accountable report card between the commonwealth and regions around the state," Baker said. "And, to judge my performance, and our collective performance on how we do around those benchmarks.

"You want your cities to be the hub of your regions," he said. "And I would build a strategy around working with people here that would build on the strengths and the capabilities here."

Baker also prefers a regional approach to dealing with economic development in the Berkshires.

"I think the opportunity is to grow more of what works out here," Baker said.

"One of the major points in running is I feel like we kind of have (more than one) Massachusetts at this point," he said. "Whether you're talking about jobs, or schools or communities, it's true in all three places.

"We can't be a great state unless we make sure everybody's moving forward and leveraging the talents and the skills that we have here."

Baker described himself as a "little bit of a contrarian" on early childhood education. He believes there is a need for those services in Massachusetts, but would like to concentrate on fixing the entire public school system, not just a part of it.

"There are many places in Massachusetts, including a lot of cities, that have Level 1 elementary schools, Level 3 middle schools and Level 3 and Level 4 high schools," Baker said, referring to the state's performance-ranking system for schools. Level 1 means a school is performing well; Level 5 is reserved for schools doing poorly, which are in receivership.

"If we're going to be strategic about how we approach the early childhood ed piece, we've got to make sure that the kids coming out of that are heading into an elementary school, a middle school and a high school that's a performer.

"A lot of studies show that whatever the gains are in early childhood ed they fade pretty fast if the kids aren't in schools that perform at a reasonably high level."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
or (413) 496-6224


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