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14 years of direct service experience working with children for the Department of Human Services at the Frisoli and Gately Youth Centers.
23 years of community activism successfully advocating for the creation and renovation of youth recreation facilities, open space and the creation of youth sports leagues.
Small business owner of a real estate appraisal company, specializing in residential valuations.
Volunteered time to the following organizations as well as successfully advocating for improved recreational facilities and opportunities for children throughout Cambridge.
Frisoli Youth Center, Founder
Married, wife Dawn, two children enrolled at the Morse Elementary
School Department Administration:
I am proud to be a member of the School Committees that eliminated 83 administrative positions and cut more than $2 million from administration. The School Committee created a debt stabilization fund totaling more than $11 million for CPS to lessen impact of future deficits and capital projects. This has allowed the CPS to assist in the funding of the renovation project at CRLS.
I have made the budget process more transparent and advocated for an analysis of spending differences between Cambridge school budget and surrounding communities. Supported efforts over the past decade to evaluate and discontinue programs not meeting the needs of students. Increased the amount of funding spent directly in schools by directing funds to school improvement funds. I have worked to consistently align the budget with academic goals.
I hear concerns from parents that the way the budget is presented is not the clearest or the easiest to understand. The City Council has a highly regard budget document that clearly outlines expenditures with departmental goals. I would like to explore a budget process that may be similar to the City Council. The School Committee can highlight all non-teaching positions in separate section of the budget. This will assist with clarifying costs of administrative functions as well as assist in identifying any possible areas for future savings.
Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn's Contract - Based on what you
know today, would you support an extension of this contract and, if so,
for what term and under what conditions?:
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the
The Cambridge Public Schools has for far too long revolved around the Controlled Choice Policy rather than the policy supporting the educational goals of the district. The centerpiece of the issue with questions on why the Controlled Choice Policy is not working properly is the fact that some schools are under chosen by families. The issue must focus on why aren't those schools as highly chosen as others and what is being done to correct the situation. This is an issue that will require thorough research and extensive discussion.
The achievement gap is a serious issue that communities across the State struggle with. The Cambridge School Committee has included it as one of our goals during this term.
Graduations rates have increased during the past several years. The CRLS graduation rate in 2004 was 78% and has improved to 97% in 2007. 99% of the Class of 2007 has passed all State graduation requirements. The Class of 2010 will be the first class required to pass a science test. 80% of these students have passed a science exam at this time. These results are excellent. Cambridge has made some great strides in reducing the achievement gap and has seen improvements outpacing the State. During the 2007 school year, African-American and Hispanic students have seen substantial increases in Math and English/Language Arts MCAS results when compared to 2005 school year.
I served on the Achievement Gap Sub-Committee that sponsored several parent and student forums to create a dialogue on the issue. We have supported a number of measures including the youngest kindergarten age in the State as well as a two-year kindergarten opportunity for many children. The School Committee has supported early childhood education, an age 3 entrance age for the Tobin Montessori Program, the existence of five Special Start classrooms, and some of the smallest student-teacher ratios in the State. This is an area where the School Committee needs to keep as a focus and keep as one of our goals.
During the budget for 2007-2008, the School Department along with the Department of Human Services created a program at the Gately Youth Center and Peabody School to increase participation of middle school students. Collaboration such as this can be expanded in other parts of the City. The School Department already supports a middle school athletic program for grades 7 and 8. After school activities for students is an area that is mostly programmed by DHSP through the Community Schools, Childcare and Youth Center Programs.
Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools
and Private Schools:
I feel that the best way to compete with Charter and Private Schools is to continue to be a professionally managed school system that continues to improve in achievement. This will inspire confidence in the community and will be our most powerful marketing tool.
Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
Several schools are struggling to meet Adequately Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. These schools need additional support. Several schools created a Saturday academic program resulting in success. I would like to ensure that these programs are funded and are available. I would also like to review the effectiveness of the Jump Start Program and create a more extensive elementary summer school with greater participation
High School Programs and Curriculum:
I would also like to develop a protocol and reorganize resources to increase the numbers of CRLS seniors applying to college, applying for financial aid, choosing the right college, completing college or putting together a career plan with steps to achieve short and long-term goals. These programs may not necessarily need to be funded with additional budget resources, but may be able to be implemented with existing staffing levels.
There are a number of improvements that can be made for Special Education students at CRLS. I think the School Committee can take a role in expanding internship opportunities for students. I feel we need to review the Venture Program to see if it continues to meet the needs of our students. I also feel there needs to be a review of the inclusion classrooms at CRLS.
School Department Budget and Capital Needs (including CRLS
renovations), and the Disposition of Surplus Buildings:
As a Member of the Buildings and Grounds Sub-Committee, I have been working with my colleagues on a proposal to review the physical needs of the building as well as the academic needs of space and existing equipment. Working under a tight timeline to keep the original project timeline on schedule we have an initial proposal for an expanded renovation at a cost of $95 million. 30% of this is reimbursable from the state and the School Committee is prepared to make a significant contribution from our debt stabilization fund which is currently in excess of $11 million. There will be ample opportunity for input from the school council, parent body of CRLS, students as well as middle school parents.
If the City Council approves funding, construction will take place between 2009 and 2011. This project will require the use of the vacant old Graham and Parks and Longfellow Schools for displaced CRLS students. At the conclusion of construction, the School Committee must review current needs of the CPS. My intention is to declare the buildings as surplus if there is no need and the City Council will have the authority to decide on the future use of the space. The planned use of vacant buildings avoids the added costs of renting space.
MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement:
There are several changes that I feel would improve MCAS scores. Principals need to dedicate more time in classrooms observing teaching and learning. This is essential to ensure that teachers are dedicating the appropriate time on task, ensuring that the curriculum is being taught and that it is happening at the appropriate sequence. Parents are essential partners in improving achievement. I proposed several motions this past term that created curriculum guides for parents, subscription to EdLine; a computer-based communication for parents and brought organization to report cards and progress reports. The successful implementation of these systems will make parents partners.
There are downsides to the MCAS as well as NCLB. Cambridge has always been a School System that has never and will never completely prevent the innovation and diversity of curriculum that has always been the hallmark of our schools. This is true in other communities. The graduation requirements at CRLS are not just MCAS based, but include the passing of our own extensive graduation requirements. Cambridge has a multitude of classes in art, music, foreign languages and a number of electives that is unparallel in any community in Massachusetts. Several elementary schools include the development and presentation of portfolios as a requirement for graduation.
12) School Safety and Student Behavior:
My experience of working with children helped identify the issue of class cuts. This was a safety issue that had severe academic impacts on students not being in class. I authored the class attendance policy that included consequences for class cuts as well as daily notification to parents. I led the charge for a security/safety analysis by a consultant resulting in a comprehensive review of the CPS. I will ensure that the recommendations are implemented.
13) Parent Involvement and School Councils:
I have always supported the family liaisons to encourage family involvement in all aspects of school improvement. School Councils provide a key factor and we need to develop additional ways to seek input. During this next term I would love to explore ways for middle school students and high school students to have direct dialogue with the School Committee.
This past term the School Committee supported several of my motions to improve communication with parents. I proposed the implementation of Ed-Line, a web-based communication tool connecting schools, teachers and parents. This program will be running at CRLS in January of 2008 and will eventually be in all of our elementary schools. I also proposed the development and distribution of curriculum guides to inform parents about what is being taught in the classroom. I challenged and changed the educationally unsound practice of multiple elementary report cards, progress reports and advocated for unified reporting schedule throughout CPS.
We have a school system today where students are achieving at a higher rate, the system is professionally managed, the budget reflects our educational priorities, the School Committee has established goals and the agenda has been depoliticized.
All candidates will tell you what they plan to do if elected. I have clearly stated my vision, but I am asking you to look at my accomplishments and improvements that have been made to our schools.
During the past 14 years, I have made many difficult decisions to change the direction of CPS. There are items of courage and integrity that do not come out in a stump speech, literature or a web site. These qualities can only be proven by action. During my first term, I stated publicly that I would not support a contract extension of a sitting Superintendent and then made the deciding vote to hire a Superintendent from outside the school system. The CPS was not meeting the needs of students and I was proud to change the cycle of politics. I voted to change the separate and unequal system of choice at CRLS in 2001 where students were segregated by race, income and language. This was the foundation for change toward the success of CRLS. I also voted to close two elementary schools that were struggling to meet the needs of students and voted to merge two schools that had extremely low enrollment.
I have a track record of putting the needs of students ahead of political ambitions because doing what is right has always come easy to me.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you on the Cambridge School Committee. I am asking for your #1 vote on Tuesday, November 6th.
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