Send contributions to:
1. Accelerate learning for every child, regardless of race, class, learning style or ability, to ensure that all students achieve at high levels.
2. Improve our special education services so that our most vulnerable students have the supports they need and to create a special education department that meets our families with compassion and not conflict.
3. Address our controlled choice policy to balance our desire for diversity with the changing demographics of our city.
School Department Administration and Superintendent:
The School Committee's role is not to micro-manage the superintendent but it's also not to simply "rubber stamp" whatever comes before them. The Committee is elected by the citizens to represent them. Therefore, it is appropriate for the Committee to ask questions of the administration and to ensure that the decisions being made are in the best interest of the children. With that said, it is important that the Committee respect its role and understand that it is not there to run the operations of the District.
Although we have made progress, Cambridge still has a central administration much larger then other districts its size. During my two terms on the Committee I have consistently called for greater budget transparency and re-distributing our financial resources from our bloated administration to the classroom. As we face challenging economic times, we will be faced with making difficult decisions. I will work to ensure that these decisions have limited impact on the classroom and that we expend our resources wisely.
School Department Budget and Capital Projects:
This past year the school district began a massive renovation that will transform our only public high school into a state of the art educational facility. Although this is money well spent, we will need to watch closely to ensure that our resources are not wasted. In the years ahead we will have other projects to consider and will need to repair other buildings. We will need to work closely with city leaders and balance our capital project needs with cost.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment and "Achievement
During this term while serving on the Community Relations Subcommittee, I worked with my colleagues to address this issue. We held a public meeting to hear from parents, had an MIT expert present a study he worked on to the Committee and met many times to address this issue. Our controlled choice policy is the foundation of our district and we must find a way to balance our desire for diversity with the changing demographics of our city. This is a complex issue that does not have an easy fix.
When addressing the achievement gap we must remember that our goal should be accelerated learning for all students, meaning, that our goal is to raise achievement for all students and not close the gap by bringing everyone toward the middle but by pushing everyone toward the top. Our students who are performing above grade level are as important as those performing below grade level, and we must ensure that all students are held to high standards.
In addition, if we are going to close the gap, we must look beyond what takes place in the classroom. Although strong teaching and strong curriculum are extremely important, there is growing research to show that other areas, such as poverty, health care, after school activities, emotional support and parental involvement are all important aspects of supporting a child's learning.
Middle Grades/ Middle Schools:
However, if it's decided to go to a middle school model, I would suggest that we have a hybrid model where some schools remain K-8, some K-5 and one or two 6-8. The first step should be to talk with school communities to see if any schools wish to change their structure. I don't want to force this change on any school as was done with consolidation. We must have a great deal of parental input and the bottom line for me is that their needs to be an educational reason for making our decisions.
Enrollment and Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools/
Elementary/ High School Curriculum:
I would like to see our curriculum be challenging, relevant, and engaging. I would like us to focus on the "whole child" and not just on "teaching to the test." I would like our curriculum to be meaningful and teach our children the skills they will need to be successful in life.
MCAS/ Measuring Student Achievement:
Standardized test have been a part of education for a very long time. MCAS and NCLB are mandates that we cannot ignore. The consequences are too great. With that said, MCAS cannot and should not be our only focus. We must evaluate student achievement using a variety of measures. Children learn in different ways and express what they have learned in different ways. A "one size fits all" test is not the way to go.
Teacher Evaluations and Performance Measures:
Evaluating teachers is the responsibility of the principals and evaluating principals is the responsibility of the superintendent. These responsibilities must be taken seriously and there must be a workable, measurable, detailed performance evaluation that not only highlights what the staff member is doing well, but also where they need to improve and what supports will be in place to help them improve. If the staff member is unable to show progress and if their work remains below expectations, then that staff person should be replaced. The education of our children is too important to not demand excellence.
School Safety and Student Behavior:
Children do better with clear and consistent structure and limits. Schools must be a place of respect. Schools need to be communities where everyone feels supported and safe. When children engage in negative behaviors, we must look at what is the source of that behavior and offer necessary support services.
Parent Involvement and School Councils:
I am proud of my work on the Committee in this area. I sponsored a motion welcoming and encouraging school councils to come before the School Committee at a time when they were being shut out. I have met with many groups and individuals to make sure they have a voice. We must be creative in the way we involve parents and that is why I have called for social workers in the schools who work 12-8 shifts so they can meet with parents after school hours, since so many of our parents can't come to school during the day.
Parental involvement needs to be a priority.
Although I am proud of the leadership role I played on these issues, I am by no means satisfied. We still have a long way to go. Cambridge still has a two tiered educational system where some students receive a world class education while others leave ill prepared for what lies ahead. We still have a special education department that far too often meets families with conflict instead of compassion. We still have students who are above grade level but not pushed to go even higher and we still have issues of bullying in our schools, so much so that some students are afraid to come to school. It is because of these challenges and my unwavering commitment to our city and our children that I am seeking re-election to the Cambridge School Committee.
I understand the attractiveness of new candidates. Maybe they will be the magic bullet that will fix the ills of the system. However, this is the time for experienced leadership. As a life-long resident, graduate and parent in CPS and the only School Committee member who works with children, I believe that I posses the integrity, experience and leadership skills necessary to move our district forward. I ask for your #1 vote on November 3, 2009 for Cambridge School Committee. Thank you for taking the time to read about my positions.
|Page last updated September 19, 2009||Cambridge Candidates|