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For Connolly, mayoral campaign begins and ends with schools

Mayoral candidate John Connolly spoke with volunteer Brenda James in his Mattapan campaign office.
Mayoral candidate John Connolly spoke with volunteer Brenda James in his Mattapan campaign office.Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe

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The dashboard clock reads 7:44 a.m. as John Connolly carefully straps Teddy, just shy of his fourth birthday, into the back seat of the family’s dark gray caravan. First stop, the Parkway School, a two-story preschool with a half-dozen “John Connolly for Mayor” signs on the front gate.

Then it is back home, where he helps his wife Meg corral the rest of the Connolly crew into the van, including newborn MaryKate, who has miraculously slept through the morning’s tumult, and their very excited 5-year-old, Clare, purple lunchbox in hand.

For a man who has gone to great lengths to carve out a profile as the race’s “education candidate,” the morning’s task is as symbolic as it is personally important: It’s the first day of school.

“Wait, wait,” Clare calls out, reaching back into the house to grab a second campaign sticker for her lunchbox before they all drive to the Trotter School in Dorchester for the start of kindergarten.

Connolly’s ideas for shaking up the city’s schools are central to his bid for office, the reason he entered the race, the reason his supporters love him, the reason his detractors despise him.

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