Cambridge School Committee Vice-Chair
Why I'm not seeking re-election
After deep reflection, I have decided not to seek re-election to the Cambridge School Committee.
I was eight months pregnant when I was sworn into office for my third term in January 2020. At that time, my peers elected me to serve as vice-chair of the committee. In this role, I am responsible for appointing subcommittee leadership, facilitating the public budget process, and serving as a committee representative during bargaining and negotiations with our unions. In the best of times, doing this work while holding a full-time job and raising a family was ambitious. But I was up for the task! Then COVID hit.
I often say leaders don't get to choose the moment; the moment chooses them. I don't know why the moment chose me to be a crucial leader in education, during the worst public health crisis of our time, while being a sleep-deprived mother. As a woman fully aware of Black maternal health outcomes, I carried the weight of my health, the safety of my newborn baby and family during COVID, all while serving children and families in Cambridge.
Though things were challenging, I dug deep to meet the moment. As a leader, I chose to use science and data. This led me to a path to ensure families had a choice between remote and in-person learning. The needs of children and families guided every aspect of my decision-making. As a Black woman, I was willing to consider a diversity of voices across the community. As a result, my advocacy was sometimes met with resistance and personal attacks. Despite all of these pressure points, I showed up and did the work!
Black women so often take on unbelievable challenges while presenting with poise, grace, and resiliency. This is how Black girl magic and the strong Black woman concepts have become a part of our lived experience. But underneath the surface of these terms, you will find that Black women are also exhausted! For this reason, I am choosing to center the needs of myself and my family instead of seeking another term in office.
Despite the challenges I faced, it has been a privilege to serve as a School Committee member in Cambridge. As a mother of young children, time was my enemy. Early in my tenure, I decided that learning the role of the School Committee and producing results would be my priority. This left little time for retail politics. But voters never held that against me. Year after year, you sent me back to serve, and in 2019 you made me the highest No. 1-vote-getter in the city. For this, I am grateful!
There is nothing more precious than the love a person has for their child. And for you to have placed me in this position for the past five-plus years has been a great honor. Thank you for trusting me to make decisions on behalf of Cambridge children. I will consider running for public office in the future. But for now, I choose to rest.
Black Cambridge and COVID-19
Vice-Chair Bowman is a champion for the Mass menstrual justice movement!
Massachusett National Period Day
A Balanced Voice That Produces Results
Vice-Chair of the Committee
Moms for Manikka
Meet the Dynamic Moms Supporting Manikka
Dianelys Mejia & Fran Nuñez
"We support Manikka because inclusion is as important to her as it is to our family. Manikka continuously puts our children first. She is a working mom, like us, and understands the challenges we may face. This insight is extremely valuable to the Cambridge School Committee. Manikka is the type of leader we need!
"As a fellow Cambridge mom, Manikka balances the everyday challenges of being a working parent with grace and grit. For the past two terms, I have seen Manikka bring her own signature blend of empathy, innovation, and tenacity to her work on the School Committee to knit our community together and propel us all forward. Manikka's trusted 'can-do' brand is an absolute staple in Cambridge and I always feel better knowing she is out there representing the best interests of our kids so well."
"As a mom balancing work, community engagement, and epilepsy, I appreciate the dynamic leader ship of CPSD Committee Member Bowman. She cares about our kids and keeps her constituents informed on school issues. She has made substantive changes for the better, particularly in providing sanitary hygiene products for students and making sure Cambridge Schools are air conditioned in hot weather."
Fletcher Maynard Academy
"As a mother, it is important to me that our representatives understand and connect with the experiences of families. Manikka is a current CPSD parent and is experiencing our school system first hand. I support Manikka because she has proven through her actions time and time again her commitment to all of Cambridge's children. She continually pushes for us to live our ideals, set a high standard for the children as well as adults, and to push for us all to do better in serving our kids. I stand for Manikka because she stands with us.
Putnam Ave Upper School & Cambridge Rindge & Latin School
"As an educator, public school parent and activist, I am proud to Support Manikka Bowman for School Committee. Her deep understanding of policy, desire to create systemic change in our district and holistic approach to education are a true asset to the Cambridge Community."
Cambridge Rindge & Latin School
"Manikka is such a powerful force for making sure all of our kids get their best shot at a world-class education. Our daughter directly benefits from her work on the School Committee, and we're so grateful for her work."
"Manikka Bowman has been an advocate for equity and excellence in our schools and is a leader on these issues. She is unafraid to speak up and at the same time she is one of the most thoughtful listeners I know. As a working mom with a school-aged child, Manikka represents real-time experiences of parents and takes those into her policy. work.
Doing the Work
All Cambridge Schools have access to free sanitary hygiene products!
Free Sanitary Hygiene Products
In 2017, I spearheaded the effort to expand access to sanitary hygiene in all schools. As of the end of the 2018 school year, all Cambridge Public schools had hygiene dispensers installed in their bathrooms. Machines are being installed in all gender-neutral restrooms in addition to female-designated facilities.
When the dispensers were installed in the elementary schools, teachers and principles leveraged the curiosity of the students to engage them on health and well being. Group trips were planned to the bathrooms, and student's now know these products are available to them in case of an emergency.
Thank you to the CPSD facilities management team, CRLS students and educators for embracing this effort in the district.
Transforming the Budget Process
Because of my leadership, our budgetary process is now directly connected to a multi-year District-wide plan specifically designed to close the opportunity gap within the district. Tackling a stagnant achievement gap without clear direction is hard.
The FY 2019 General Fund Budget is $191.1 million, which is $8 million more than the FY 2018 Budget. Key investments in the FY19 budget includes:
Enhanced Math for 7th Grade Students: 7th grade math classes will be heterogeneous and provide all students with access to rigorous mathematics and the personalized support.
Technology for Students: the District will begin to roll out a 1:1 chromebook ratio in schools for grades 3 through 8, beginning with the upper schools. Learn more about the CPSD budget.
Keeping Kids Cool
Last summer, I partnered with parents and educators to get air conditioning units in all classrooms that didn't have it. Our Keep Kids Cool campaign wasn't selected through the Participatory Budget process, so I brought a motion forward that would include the purchase of units for classrooms in the District facilities budget.
The School Committee passed the motion and now our educators and children will no longer suffer in 90-degree classrooms as climate change continues to impact New England weather. Research indicates a student's ability to learn is undermined when their classrooms are too hot.
To date, over 30 units have been installed and the district will not conduct summer programs in classrooms that don't have access to AC. The remaining AC units will be installed by the beginning of the FY19 School year.
Tackling the Challenging Issues
We are living in challenging times. I recognize the toxic rhetoric coming from the highest levels of leadership in our country is impacting us. Through a series of videos produced by the Black Student Union at CRLS, our students let us know they were hurting. I believe our students.
As a School Committee Member, my job is to lead during challenging times. As I articulated at the May 15, 2018 Regular Business meeting, we are battling 400 years of institutionalized racism and it is our job to ensure our students understand their rights in the CPSD Non-Discrimination Policy. We need to clarify our reporting systems for the Non-Discrimination policy as well as educate the CPSD community on the impacts of microaggressions on school climate and culture.
For me, dealing with issues of unconscious or conscious bias must take place in real time. If not, students will not feel empowered in their schools, which impacts learning.
This is why I put a motion forward to hire a diversity and inclusion specialist who will be on retainer to directly address issues of racism. The motion unanimously passed. While there are some institutions of higher education training teachers to identify and be introspective on issues of race, many educators, administrators or students don't have the support or skills to manage the impact of race embedded in the US educational system.
Cambridge is a progressive place and racism exist here too. I am fully aware of this and will continue to do the work to transform our school system to ensure all students of color feel supported within the district.