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I believe my unique combination of academic credentials and professional achievements will help me serve on the School Committee. In 1987 I earned my undergraduate degree from Connecticut College and found a position as an administrator and fundraiser for an international non-profit organization. In that position I came to understand that the management skills required to run a successful non-profit were often not the strengths of those in leadership positions. Passion for a cause is imperative in the non-profit environment, but without management skills the work necessary to achieve noble goals cannot be achieved. It was at this time I chose to return to school to earn a Certificate in Organizational Management at Tufts University and continued on to earn a Master's Degree in Urban Policy at the Urban and Environmental Policy Department (UEP) at Tufts University. While at Tufts I focused my studies on urban policy and specifically on affordable housing development. Upon finishing my degree I worked as a housing specialist at the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), assisting homeless families transition from temporary housing into permanent subsidized housing. My work during those years strengthened my sense of social justice. Without housing these families were not able to move on with their lives and their children suffered under the strains of uncertainty and displacement. Through this work I also met many intelligent and hard working attorneys and decided I was capable of earning a law degree in an effort to continue on in this field either as a legal advocate or in the development of affordable housing. In 1998, I both graduated from the Northeastern University School of Law and gave birth to my first child. My professional career was sidetracked as I chose to remain home with my children for several years before reentering the professional world.
The transition into the legal world took me in an unexpected direction. I relaunched my legal career as an associate in a civil service law practice and then came to specialize in family law.
Two years ago I left the field of family law and found myself focusing much of my energies supporting my children's school. I was elected to the Peabody School Council and increased my volunteer commitments. Over this past year I focused much of my energies on working with creating connections across the district. In September of 2010, I was integral in organizing several parents from different school communities in meeting with Superintendent Young to discuss the formation of an all city parent group. From this initial discussion, the Citywide School Advisory Group (CSAG) was formed. The idea behind this group is quite simple but integral to assisting our school communities improve through improved communication. The goal is to have a forum for school communities to meet and discuss issues we all deal with but try to solve alone. For example, I wanted to know how other school communities manage their websites or how school directories are organized and distributed. Simple communication issues that each of us try to solve on our own but could be solved more efficiently by helping each other.
In addition, I wanted to meet my fellow Cambridge parent leaders. There are many families in this district willing to give time and voice in support of our school district and I feel proud to know there are so many of us trying every day to make Cambridge the Best Urban School District in the Commonwealth. Although less than a year since the idea was initially presented to the Superintendent, CSAG now has a governance structure and is setting out its agenda for this academic year. I am proud to have played a part in creating this group and believe it displays my leadership style. My goal is to create policies that benefit all the students of Cambridge and to achieve this goal we must work together across the district. The Advisory Group is a forum for all our voices to be heard and a means for which we can get to know each other as well.
As part of my commitment to forming the all city parent group I also pledged to visit every school community. I have met many of the hard working Parent Liaisons who graciously allowed me to tour their schools and speak with them about their own communities. The impression I came away with is that our school communities are very similar across the district, especially in the elementary grades. All our schools are able to maintain a full time librarian, a media specialist, gym teachers, music teachers, art teachers, language teacher as well as reading and behavioral specialists. The classrooms are full but not overcrowded. Every school has a community garden and outside play space. The expectations across the city are high in every classroom in every building. We are doing a good job training teachers. But there are improvements to be made.
If you would like to learn more about my campaign, or me please visit my website at www.JoyceGerber.org.
Thank you for your interest in my campaign for seat on the Cambridge School Committee.
The Innovation Agenda
Following the unveiling of the plan I tried to attend as many school community meetings as possible to hear from my fellow public school parents. This also allowed me to visit communities and see the school buildings across the city. At every meeting I attended parents expressed concerns as well as excitement for the plan. The Cambridge Public Schools have much to offer and our schools are very similar on many levels, in the elementary grades. However, the middle school grades across the district are very uneven. We now have schools with robust and creative programs filled with students excited to learn and parents ready to support the school with both time and money, alongside school communities that are struggling to provide similar opportunities, both academic and extracurricular, to their students. I understand that my experience as a Peabody parent has influenced my support of the Innovation Agenda in that the Peabody brings in students at the sixth grade year for the ISP. I have seen how the welcoming of additional students has benefitted the entire Peabody middle school experience for both students and teachers.
In addition, the influx of new parents with energy ready to support the school has improved our school community. But I know that the experience at other schools is very different. There are school communities that lose students in the middle grades for a variety of reasons, in effect diminishing the opportunities for those students to participate in robust non-academic activities such as band or athletic teams. This also impacts the academic opportunities. Supportive professional communities are integral to the success of our schools and I believe the isolation of teachers is detrimental to the teachers as well as our students. I think it is important for teachers to have colleagues in both their grade level as well as their subject matter. The Innovation Agenda creates larger middle school communities that will allow for professional communities to have collaborative peer groups for both support and innovation.
In our current system, schools are becoming more and more imbalanced socioeconomically and often by gender and race as well, by the middle school years. This is a problem. The new Upper Campuses will be a hybrid of the beloved K-8 structure in that many of our youngest students will remain in buildings with middle school students and the older students will see the younger students on a daily basis. I believe the inclusion of children spanning the grade levels influences behavior in a very positive manner. The older students are aware of their status in the building and they are expected to be good role models for the entire school community. The younger students see the older students as mentors and role models. In addition, the creation of the Upper Campuses will foster connections across the district, which do not exist today. Our students come together at CRLS but for students coming from schools with extremely small cohorts the experience can be overwhelming. The Upper Campuses will create a transition period for students to know each other and work together before their freshman year at CRLS.
Cambridge is a great city to live and raise a family and our public schools should be the gem in the crown. I support the Innovation Agenda because is it the best first step in moving our public schools forward to providing the best education and most opportunities for all our students.
CCTV Candidate Video (2011)
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