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  • Name: Kevin McGowan
  • Family: Wife Betsy; children Peter, 16, Charlie, 13, Emma, 6
  • Occupation: Superintendent, Brighton Central School District
  • Focus at Federation: Partnership2GETHER Rochester-Modi’in and its Education Bridge; with Jewish Family Service: Brighton Food Cupboard, Brighton Your Wardrobe

1. What do you value about the Jewish community in Brighton and beyond?


“I was a teacher, assistant principal and Superintendent in the Buffalo area before moving to Brighton nine years ago. I came here specifically to have my kids grow up and attend school here. Brighton’s large Jewish population is a bedrock of who we are as a school community. We value the cultural emphasis placed on education, inclusivity and diversity. We are the only district locally to take off for the High Holidays. We serve matzah during Passover. We are mindful to respect and value the cultural identity of every group in our community. The notion of tikkun olam has led us to think deeply of our responsibility to everyone around us. I have found this community to be warm, appreciative and supportive. My relationship to the Jewish community has impacted me as a father, husband, and educator.”


2. What inspired Brighton’s local partnerships with the Jewish community, such as Brighton Your Wardrobe and the Brighton Food Cupboard?


“Janet Sunkin (CEO of Jewish Family Service) and I, encouraged by Susan Kramarsky, decided to address poverty and specifically hunger among our students and families. Our response to the opportunity to address this need was not ‘why,’ but ‘how.’ Knowing the ethos of our community and school board, it was easy to make it happen. We developed the Food Cupboard and it’s been a wonderful learning experience, an important service for people in our community, and a great example for students to see. That evolved into another conversation generated by staff members concerned about clothing for kids. This has had a direct impact. We often bring kids there to go shopping in a dignified manner, and its success has led to events such as Say Yes to the Dress. It also led to the district-wide Day of Caring in March. Six years ago, on another track, we started an exchange between our students and the students of Modi’in, encouraged and supported by the Federation.”


3. Why is Education Bridge -- pairing educators and students in Israel and Rochester –important to you as a Superintendent?   


“Seven years ago I went to Modi’in for the first time. The Israeli teachers we hosted and our teachers that traveled there formed this special bond that helped us think about our own professional practice. It gave us the chance to go deeper into our work. It’s easy to stay in our sandbox, but when our horizons expand it helps us think differently. To stand in the Golan Heights – not just read about it – gives you an immediate understanding of the security issues. From the top of the mountain you are looking right over the demilitarized zone between the Syrian and Israeli border. We were able to gain a much better understanding of the strategic advantage of being above your enemy in a conflict.

It drove home the sense of spiritual connection, human connection and historical beauty of being there. My tenth-grader, Peter, was on the trip this year; he now has a flag of Israel over his bed. I’ve found these to be life-changing trips that have expanded my horizons as a person and educator. We are understanding each other better: learning lessons around collaboration, compromise, environmental education, social justice, diplomacy, patriotism, tolerance, personal identity, world citizenship. We’re way outside of our box and free to think about programs not seen in the States. Likewise, the Israelis seem to see the same from their vantage point. That’s been a rich and deep experience, a gift from Federation that I can never repay. And it’s been so enriching for our school community to have Israeli students visit. The classroom partnerships have exploded in the last three years. Imagine the possibilities: diplomacy electives that give our kids insight into the Middle East; or the chance to collaborate with Israeli students on a piece of music, artwork, or scientific research. Linking our classrooms takes us way beyond our borders, and helps our children develop their identity as a world citizen who is an ‘upstander,’ not a ‘bystander.’”


4. Can you share something interesting about yourself?


“I’m an avid skier, I play pick-up basketball and hockey, but the most enjoyable hobby for me is being a dad, spending time with my family of five.”

-Melissa Pheterson