NORTH ADAMS -- It was with a sense of urgency that new state Secretary of Education Matthew Malone called upon a group of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student leaders to voice their support for the governor's proposed $6.9 billion investment in education.
"Education is a game-changing moment in our lives," he said Thursday during a visit to MCLA. " I need you to pick up the phones, call your officials at the State House and tell them that you support them trying to find a way to finance this investment They need to hear from you. If they don't hear from you, then it's not important to you. I need you young organizers to use your skills. The time to be engaged is now."
Malone, who was appointed to the post five weeks ago, succeeds Paul Reville as education secretary in Gov. Deval Patrick's administration.
Since his appointment, Malone has been traveling the state, meeting with education administrators and local officials. On Thursday, he toured Berkshire County, making stops in the city, Lee and Pittsfield.
"During the last two years of his administration, the governor wants to push harder on implementing his education agenda" he said, while speaking at MCLA. "I'm here to implement those plans. We need to find ways to make college more affordable and accessible; align our community colleges with workforce ready skills. We need to focus on early education and higher education and closing the achievement gap.
During his time in Pittsfield, Malone spoke with area education administrators and business and community leaders at Berkshire Community College about the governor's education agenda. It's a plan which includes the Achievement Gap Act and Readiness Project for 21st-century early education and K-12 improvements and keeping schools connected with the higher education agenda known as the Vision Project.
In North Adams, Malone stopped briefly at MCLA Gallery 51 to get a firsthand look at the college-run gallery and to speak with MCLA President Mary K. Grant, Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and state Sen. Benjamin Downing about the impact of local collaborations.
"I've been touring the state, talking about the need for collaboration," he said. "When I spoke earlier today at BCC, I heard about all the collaboration that happens out here. What most of us talk about around the state, you already do out here. That's been a common theme since I started my morning. This county is strong in collaboration."
Malone also assured the officials this wouldn't be his last visit to the region, as he plans to visit local elementary and high schools when they are in session.
"I want people to know that I'm the secretary of education for the commonwealth, not just inside Route 128," he said. "I've been touring the state, amassing a bunch of ideas and bringing them back to Boston. I'm comparing what we think we're doing to what we're actually doing. I want to know where the disconnect is happening."
While addressing MCLA students, he spoke about their role in closing the achievement gaps at all levels of education and five points of investment in education -- universal Pre-K for 4-year-olds, extending learning time at the middle-school grades, increasing reading proficiency in all children by third grade, continued restructuring of the state community college system and creating affordable pathways to college.
"We can say that now isn't the right time to invest so much money, but think about the end of World War II. We invested in education and infrastructure then," Malone said. "Now is our opportunity to invest once again. It's our generational responsibility. We're different now than we were back then. We've shifted to an economy of skill and knowledge. We have 250,000 unemployed people in this state and 150,000 available jobs. So why aren't they filled? The skills and knowledge aren't there. There's a gap. This educational agenda is about investing in people."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email