Some of My Priorities:
Offer public junior kindergarten and pre-k for all – in developmentally appropriate classrooms.
Close the racial and economic opportunity gaps in the Cambridge Public Schools and meet the needs of all learners with a multi-pronged approach.
Budget for enough "hearts and hands" in every school building: teachers, family liaisons, social workers and specialized staff.
Exceed out goal of 30% teachers of color by hiring, supporting and retaining excellent teachers.
Ensure we are guided by the wisdom of our teachers, our families and the best available research as we implement the new strategic plan and evaluate a longer school day.
Strengthen our upper schools (grades 6-8) by supporting teacher collaboration and planning between schools, supporting social workers and family liaisons, and implementing evidence-based social and emotional learning programming.
Help our students and CRLS alums access opportunity through college and career guidance, internship and apprenticeship programs, mentorship and other supports.
I am proud of the Cambridge Public Schools – but I'm not satisfied. We can and should be a model for the country. Let's challenge ourselves to do better for all of the children of Cambridge.
As a member of the school committee I will be dedicated to working collaboratively with our teachers, administrators, fellow school committee members, city councilors, students and families ensuring that we provide the best possible education to every child in our wonderfully diverse community. We face many challenges…and we are up to the challenges. I look forward to talking with you about how we can work together.
IF WE CAN'T DO IT IN CAMBRIDGE, WHO CAN?
My vision for the Cambridge Public Schools, which I will support as a member of the School Committee, is
A district that is measurably closing the opportunity/achievement gap.
An innovative district that is adopting and adapting best practices from within Cambridge and beyond.
A district in which all schools actively engage our diversity and seek to be inclusive, supportive environments for all students.
A district in which all children receive the support that they need as individuals to achieve their best as learners and as citizens.
A district that brings all of our children, our families, our residents, our educators and our staff together with open and enthusiastic lines of communication.
I understand education from a number of important perspectives. I have taught grades K-12 in a range of public schools – I am the only candidate who has been a classroom teacher. I am a Cambridge Public Schools parent. My children are in 2nd and 7th grade in the Cambridge Public Schools. I have studied education policy and school reform at the graduate level. I earned a Masters in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education I am now immersed in higher education communications and program leadership. I am assistant director of a national civic engagement program for undergraduates, based at Brandeis University.
The knowledge and perspective I have gained through my experiences with public education have prepared me to be an effective member of the Cambridge School Committee.
Success Plans for All
Every child should have an individualized "success plan" along the lines of the model from the Education Redesign Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, so that the needs of all children are met, including those arriving with the greatest needs, those already achieving at the highest levels, and those not targeted by interventions designed for either of those cohorts. (Here's a recent article about this concept.)
This has implications for staffing: we must increase staffing as needs require. We must budget for enough "hearts and hands" in every school building: teachers, family liaisons, social workers and specialized staff – and to provide the planning time and other supports they need.
Strategic Plan & the Superintendent
Hiring, working with and evaluating the superintendent is one of the School Committee’s most important roles. The Committee serves as the nexus between the students and families and the administration.
The School Committee must guide the superintendent's implementation of our new strategic plan, so that all of our schools have the resources they need to serve our children well.
There was an extensive process of community input and lots of thought put into the frameworks document we have – but now the proof is in the pudding, to coin a phrase.
We must ensure that the actual impact in the classroom of this strategic plan meets our goals. And that we continue to communicate with all stakeholders in the community throughout the process.
The priorities I list above support the strategic objectives of the plan.
I am committed to looking critically at the school budget with an eye toward long-term planning and impact. If there is money that can be better spent, we should spend it better. If we simply need more money to do what we should do, then I will advocate for building those funds into the City's budget.
Testing and Assessment
Assessments help our teachers address the needs of our children. But not all assessments are created equal. We must be sure we are not unnecessarily taking time from teaching.
I supported “pausing” implementation of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) tests. We had MCAS in place, and unless we were mandated to make a switch, I felt we did not need to invest time and money implementing a new testing system until we see a clear benefit.
With regard to state required "MCAS 2.0" tests, we must implement them efficiently, taking into account best practices used and challenges faced by other school systems.
Communication and the Role of a School Committee Member
We need to do a better job of keeping all Cambridge Public Schools stakeholders informed. By not doing this, we lose out on others’ energy, ideas, goodwill and expertise.
We need increased and improved access points for students, their families, and other members of the community.
As a communications professional with more than a dozen years in the field I know the value of a well-designed website, good print materials, and a multi-pronged inclusive approach to outreach that includes both social media and in-person events.
The school committee is in a perfect position to connect students and their families, teachers and staff, school and district administrators and the city government, and residents of Cambridge at large with one another. As a school committee member I will be committed to keeping open, vital lines of communication between all of these stakeholders.
We have so much energy, talent, good will and commitment in our community. We need to welcome everyone in and enable them to help us provide the best possible academic and civic education for our children. We must work together with vision and direction and make course corrections as needed.
We must all pull together – or else we are at risk of pulling apart.
Launch an Ombuds Program
The Cambridge Public Schools should launch and adequately staff an ombuds program (sometimes known as an an "Ombudsman" program, in less gender-neutral terms) that follows best practices and is available to all students, staff, teachers and families. Everyone should know that there is someone they can contact confidentially with concerns related to the schools.
At times a student, family member, community member, staff member or teacher has a concern but is either not sure to whom they should bring the concern, is not comfortable approaching that person, or wants to maintain confidentiality. For example: a family member has a concern about their child, and doesn't feel comfortable speaking with their teacher, but doesn't want to go "over the the teacher's head" to the principal. Or a teacher has a concern about an interaction with an administrator but isn't sure to whom they should speak.
Controlled choice is an essential part of our school system, but can be a confusing entry point. We must continue to do all we can to improve the communication and support for families around the process and to improve the functioning of the system itself.
We should actively pursue providing free junior kindergarten (universal pre-kindergarten) for all Cambridge 4- year-olds, and then offer public pre-k for all.
And we should be ready to build on the early readiness universal pre-k would foster by ensuring sufficiently small class sizes in the early grades.
The middle schools need our focus. They are still new, and we must ensure that the promise of the new district structure is realized. We must make sure that the transitions from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school are smooth and effective academically and socially. We now have the critical mass at each upper school to support our middle school-aged children with an even richer array of programs than before. Our middle schools should take the best of what our elementary schools offered in grades 6 through 8 as they shape strong learning communities with their own identities.
All of our students should enter middle school and then high school having reached the skill and knowledge benchmarks we have identified and that mandated testing requires. And all of our students should graduate from high school equally well-prepared. That does not mean they need to or should have a uniform experience in every school and in every classroom. Teachers and principals should be able to shape their school communities with support from the district to preserve and enhance the rich diversity of teaching approaches Cambridge fosters, and the distinctiveness of the schools. This should always be in service of ensuring that every child reaches their highest potential.
No one should sell our children short – not the schools, not their friends, not they themselves.
Once again, we must be sure every child is reaching their maximum potential. And we must be sure that the incredible resources we have at Cambridge Rindge and Latin are accessible to all – that there are pathways supporting all of our children to succeed, and as they succeed in each area to reach new heights. Our teachers have identified a need for curriculum coaches. Well-trained, well-qualified coaches and mentor teachers are valuable to both new and more experienced teachers and deserve attention in the budget.
I support the move to more heterogeneously grouped classes. Research shows all children do best in heterogeneously grouped classes – if it is done well. I learned in and taught in diverse public schools with heterogeneous grouping and I know it can work -- as long as teachers are supported to develop their pedagogy for this approach, and additional professional support staff are in place as needed so that children who are struggling get the support they need to reach our standards, children who are excelling academically continue to grow and are challenged, and those children "in the middle" who would not be targeted by initiatives aimed at those groups also receive support to excel. If we do not achieve this, all families will rightly say that this is not working – and we will be back to square one. We must get it right – and we can get it right.
Any family that wants to engage more with the schools should be able to. We need to ensure we don’t unwittingly place obstacles in their way. And we should we go further than that, to actively foster the circumstances for engagement. We all benefit from that engagement – and the Cambridge community as a whole is enriched.
This was a focus for me when I served as an elected parent representative on the Graham & Parks Elementary School Steering Committee (the school council). I chaired a subcommittee focused on family/school communication and engagement, and with fellow Steering Committee members and input from other members of the school community I successfully created a family/school communication and engagement survey that we distributed widely. The results will help inform the work of the principal and the Steering Committee in the coming year.
And we should reach beyond the families of current students to get the word out to the wider community – including families of future students, families of alumni, and Cambridge residents who do not have children.
We are doing exciting things in the Cambridge Public Schools and can benefit from deeper community engagement. The schools are a linchpin of the community, a jewel in the crown of a City that has so much to offer. In important ways the schools build and renew the City of Cambridge on an ongoing basis. The Cambridge Public Schools already engage with the community and the community already does so much to enrich our schools. We should support that engagement and enable it to develop further.
I look forward to talking with you about these and other issues. Email me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org