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I grew up in Connecticut, earned a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.A. in Teaching from Simmons College, after which I spent twelve years teaching middle school Social Studies in the Newton Public Schools. Throughout my teaching career, I developed many courses and units of study: African American History, Literature and the Blues, and American Women in American History, Community Service Projects In and Out of School, and Knitting. I served on the Teacher Advisory Board of Facing History and Ourselves, a nationally recognized curriculum for teaching tolerance; as a Team Leader and Department Chair at Day Junior High School and Bigelow Middle School, where I helped develop benchmarks for middle school Social Studies; and as a mentor for new teachers and student teachers.
Since my own children have been in school, I have been an active volunteer in their preschools and elementary school. As the co-Chair of the Graham and Parks Steering Committee (School Council) for the last four years, I have listened long and hard to the concerns of families and staff before voting on decisions that benefit the entire school community.
I am running for School Committee because the Cambridge Public Schools need leaders who are committed to excellent public schools and understand public schools. I will continue to listen hard to families and work as a team with fellow School Committee members. I will work to build a positive culture that values what is working and will fix what is not working. All children must have the chance to become educated and caring citizens. My husband, Tony, and I live in Cambridge because we value its vibrancy and diversity. Public schools are one of the best places where people can learn to work together. The focus must remain on improving our schools.
The middle school years are a weak point in our system. Opinions differ over the K-8 model, but everyone agrees that our children must be ready for high school and beyond. Currently, there is an initiative to gather information about the middle school years. If changes are going to occur in the next few years, I believe we need a person on the School Committee with middle school experience.
Students, Teachers and Principals
I am committed to quality teaching for every child. Excellent teachers need meaningful professional development, a strong mentorship program, useful evaluations, supportive teaching environments, and opportunities to share best practices with colleagues.
Principals are the most important leaders in our school system. They set the tone for their schools and play the primary role in evaluating and developing our teachers. All principals, but especially the ones newest to our system, need guidance and support. Principals need more coaching to help them know better how to tackle the specific needs of their schools. We need to help them develop, mentor, and evaluate teachers so our teachers never stop improving.
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?:
We need to focus all our attention on teaching and learning. The teachers and principals are the people who make the difference in our childrenís education. There are some serious problems that we must address and a new superintendent will not guarantee that these problems will go away. Our positive momentum could be stalled by the demands of a leadership change at this critical point. The search process is uncertain, expensive, and time-consuming. Having a new Superintendent get accustomed to the CPS and vice versa will also rob attention and momentum from other crucial efforts.
If I had to vote today, I would support an extension of the Superintendentís contract. The Cambridge Public Schools are improving and stability is essential for continued success.
Other school committee candidates are wondering if our Superintendent can take us to the next level. It is the responsibility of the School Committee to hold the Superintendent accountable for the goals we set for him; the systems he has in place; the priorities he sets; how he holds principals accountable; the data he uses to make decisions; and how well teachers are teaching; principals are leading; and students are learning and achieving. I believe it is the responsibility of the School Committee, the Superintendent, the administrators, the principals, the teachers, the custodians, the secretaries, the parentsí/guardians, and the students to make sure we take the Cambridge Public Schools to the next level.
If elected, I will spend the two months before I am sworn in evaluating the data from the last few years and take a look at the district-wide information on enrollment, student achievement, the evaluation of teachers, retention and graduation rates, and attendance. It is important that a decision as critical as this one is made based on the data.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the
We need high quality programs that will:
Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
I have spent my teaching career working with middle school students and have seen first-hand the strengths and capabilities of 11-14 year olds. When presented with an opportunity to study a topic in depth and connect it to their world, their potential for learning is limitless. This age group is capable of so much; therefore, we must have the highest expectations of them.
In the middle schools especially, we must create new opportunities for our experienced teachers so they can share and pass on their expertise. We want excellent teachers to come to Cambridge and stay here. Incentives and flexibility for "Master Teachers" will help them to formally mentor our new teachers.
We need to focus on time spent both in and out of school. Each year, only one-sixth of an a middle adolescent's 6,000 waking hours are spent in school. After fifth grade, enrollment in after school programs drops significantly. It is critical that we create more innovative programs to attract 11-14 year olds, especially between the hours of 2 and 6pm.
I have heard many parents complain that the current K-8 model does not provide their children with a wide enough social network. This is a legitimate concern, especially at some of our schools with less than 15 students in each 7th and 8th grade class. We must do more to improve the middle school programs at these under-enrolled schools. This is yet another reason for more and stronger after school programs for our teenagers.
At the same time, many see the positive aspects of the K-8 model. Older students have opportunities to interact with younger ones. The pressure to grow up quickly is not as intense since young adolescents are in smaller schools with younger students. It also gives 7th and 8th graders a chance to take a strong leadership role before going on to high school.
This task is difficult because we are dealing with a tricky age group. Young adolescents want a sense of belonging, influence, independence, competency and security. I remember looking over at one of my 8th grade students who was physically mature, socially sophisticated and had a strong desire to be considered "cool" by his friends. On this particular occasion, someone had put a stuffed animal on his desk and he was sitting there hugging it as though he were a toddler getting ready for a nap. These students want to be treated like grown-ups, but still want the comforts of childhood.
School Department Budget and Capital Needs (including CRLS
renovations), and the Disposition of Surplus Buildings:
Since the process of planning the CRLS renovation is at an early stage, there is plenty of time to make good decisions about what is best for a future high school building and for the students who will be using it throughout the construction process. With capable, active oversight, the school administration, architects and contractors can make a good process happen. It is important to be positive as a renewed CRLS building would be an investment in the future of Cambridge students.
MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement:
Because the federally mandated No Child Left Behind requires our children to undergo considerable testing, additional tests imposed by central administration should be limited. We need curriculum that balances the need to close the achievement gap and the need to provide profound and creative learning experiences. The good news is that recent Cambridge Public Schools test scores demonstrate improvement. But test scores don't necessarily tell the whole story, and many highly esteemed educators have spoken out against the limitations of test scores as adequate measures of learning. Students should be able to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of skills through creative writing, poetry, essay writing, art projects, public speaking, drama, and music. We need to foster other ways of assessing our children that incorporate the multiple intelligences and prepare them for a world which sorely needs problem solvers, collaborators, critical thinkers, and creative people.
From my twelve years of teaching, I know people do not go into education to follow a script. Also, great teachers are attracted to schools (and school systems) that allow some teacher autonomy. Teachers need time and support to incorporate creativity, alternatives, and enrichments into their classroom curriculum. Now there's a real struggle, because of pressure to stick to a prescribed curriculum versus teachers' desire to promote active learning and tailor classroom learning to individual students.
School Safety and Student Behavior:
Research shows that safe schools help students achieve more academically and have better social skills, teachers are more effective and offer higher quality instruction, and all children feel part of a community and more positive about school.
We need to identify places in the required curriculum where social and emotional skills can be taught. It is hard work, but it needs to be done. As a middle school teacher, I taught Facing History and Ourselves, and one of the goals was to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. We had moving discussions about "us vs. them", victims, victimizers and bystanders, teasing and bullying. Students were able to make connections between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Unfortunately, the problems do not disappear overnight, which is why we need to start with Kindergarteners and work with students on ethical choices and community behavior K-12.
The success of the Inclusion model-students with special needs integrated whenever possible into regular classrooms-relies on informed and responsive classroom teachers and specialists. Classroom teachers and specialists must communicate and collaborate to best meet the needs of any given individual student. They must also be trained, evaluated and know exactly what services their students need, along with the requirements on every single IEP. We need to make sure families, teachers, and administrators are working as a team to help students achieve their full potential. The quality of our services and must be proactive instead of defensive and reactive.
Role of the School Committee:
I work very hard to create consensus. My candidacy emphasizes listening with an open mind, clear communication, and responsiveness to the diverse families of Cambridge. As a former public school teacher, I am a vigorous ambassador for public education. As a parent of two children, I am sensitive to the diverse needs of all learners, and know how to work within the system for the community. As the co-Chair of the Graham and Parks school council, I know how to work for the system that serves the community.
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