What do you believe highly effective schools should look like?
Effective schools, as well as a district, inspires children to embrace the joy of learning based on their unique academic needs. Aspiration, hope for the future, and motivation and educational excellence should be at the core of every learning experience.
What steps should/could the School Committee take to promote diversity and equity for students and staff in the Cambridge Public Schools?
As a School Committee member, I am committed to using the function of the committee to discuss issues that stop our school district from living into its full potential. While we live in a highly progressive city, that doesn't make us immune to the effects of systemic race and gender issues. It is our job to review CPSD policies to ensure an equitable learning environment for students, and staff.
The work of equity in education is hard work! There is no getting around this! It's having the hard conversations that lay the foundation for meaningful change. Words must lead to action. In my first term, I demonstrated my commitment to address these issues by partnering with students and the administration to expand free access to sanitary hygiene products in ALL schools and leading a no suspension policy for k-2nd graders. These are small steps, but examples of what a School Committee can achieve when it leverages its governance position to address issues of equity.
What do you believe the role of educators should be in school leadership and decision-making?
I have learned one crucial lesson in my first-term, collaboration is the most effective and efficient way to move forward. Educators must be at the table. If educators, the administration, and community, can't find common ground, progress is delayed, and our children suffer! I demonstrated my commitment to collaborative leadership by overseeing Dr. Kenneth Salim's entry plan and district-wide planning effort as the Chair of the Superintendent Transition Ad Hoc Sub-Committee. Through the Ad Hoc committee, Dr. Salim was given the space to established a robust community engagement process that led to the Cambridge Public School District Plan Framework; a three-year strategic plan that will shape how we allocate resources in our school district.
What role, if any, do you believe educators and families should have in the evaluation of school and district administrators?
Electing the School Committee is a critical role on how families and educators are included in the evaluation of our schools and district administration. I'm open to creating a fair and balanced feedback loop that allows the community to give School Committee members insights on key leaders within the district. This must, however, be done in partnership with CPSD Human Resources department as we must take into account confidentiality when dealing with staff outside of the Superintendent and the School Committee Executive staff. These are the School Committee's only direct reports. We must be sensitive to the organizational structure of our institution.
What is your view on the role of standardized testing in Massachusetts schools?
I think we can do better with aligning standardized testing with practical life application. Whether it's getting a drivers license or exploring post-secondary education opportunities, our students will need to take a test at some point in their life. Unfortunately, our current testing system doesn't achieve this goal. I would like the district to work closely with educators to figure out how to balance the pressure of teaching to a test vs. project-based learning for our students.
Did you support Question 2 last year, and what is your view on the role of charter schools in public education?
I am pro public schools, against for-profit charter and open to the role non-profit charter schools have filled for some students in the city of Cambridge.
Please see below 2016 statement for Question 2.
Speaking from the Middle
This weekend I had the opportunity to engage School Committee Members from around the state on Question 2 at the MASC/MASS Joint Conference. There were hardcore supporters on both sides of the debate, but it was interesting to find so many people just like me discussing the issue. I'm in the middle on this, and honestly, I wish there were a write-in option for this piece of legislation. And I'm not alone. I have spoken to colleagues, neighbors, and friends regarding whether or not to lift the charter school cap. The average person is torn on this and just desperately wants to make the right decision.
My conclusion, the people of Massachusetts, are being put in an incredibly difficult position. We are being asked to decide on a complex issue through misleading narratives and arguments driven by emotions. This is not the way to legislate our children's future.
Yes, there are failing public schools that need interventions, and charter schools do indeed take money away from districts that are suffering from a host of issues that have nothing to do with education. These two concepts are real and are not mutually exclusive. It is time for us to come to terms with that reality and stop governing from a boxing ring. Both sides have valid points, and as a community, we must do the hard work to ensure we make decisions that meet the needs of all students. This past spring, the Mass Senate tried to bring people to the middle, but advocates on both sides went into their corners, and middle voices were left in the dust.
I respect my colleagues who have taken a position on the charter school cap. They are working extremely hard on both sides of the aisle. I hear your voices, and they matter to me!
I'm not telling anyone how to vote on this. No matter the outcome of Question 2, there will still be significant work to be done to produce equity in education. As a School Committee Member in Cambridge, I promise to be a part of that conversation because that is what the children of the Commonwealth deserve.
For years, administrators, educators, and families have complained about “initiative fatigue” in Cambridge Public Schools. What current programs, activities, or policies do you think CPS could eliminate / de-prioritize in order to better serve students overall?
Yes, there is initiative fatigue. I would recommend putting a moratorium on new initiatives and focus on actually evaluating current efforts to see if they work. We need focus! I would also recommend leveraging the new district plan framework as the tool we use to introduce new initiatives to the district.
What outcomes would you look for to measure the success of the new district plan framework?
All of them! We already have information on reading and math proficiency as well as chronic absenteeism. A lot of the outcomes data can be obtained now, why not share how the district is doing once the administration and School Committee agree on our aspirational, yet achievable, measurable objectives? Let's create more transparency and share our progress with families and the community. I would love to see CPSD, and the city of Cambridge agree on our targets and generate a Cradle to Career Strive model in our city.