Thank you for voting in local elections! Remember: November 7, 2017.
Who am I?
I am currently a 1st-term Cambridge School Committee member, running for re-election. Originally from the Washington, D.C., area, I’ve lived in Cambridge with my spouse since 1990. Our two daughters attended the Cambridge Public Schools K-12, graduating from CRLS in 2010 and 2014.
As an activist CPS parent for 17 years, I served on several districtwide and citywide advisory groups, including the city's STEAM Working Group (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics). I also write a blog, "Public School Notes: Commentary and Grassroots Information about the Cambridge Public Schools," which is widely read by parents, teachers, and community members. Read my full platform.
Because I’m trained in child development, I view education through the lens of the developing child and emerging young person. Great schools are those that take an individual approach to learning, not a standardized one. They also understand that students learn in school and classroom communities.
Cambridge classrooms have very diverse students, each with different educational strengths and needs. Combine student diversity with structural inequalities in our society, and we end up with unequal opportunities for students to learn. Our teachers need more help and resources if they are going to teach every student well. Cambridge spends a lot of money on its school system, but not enough of that spending goes directly into the classroom.
What have I accomplished in my 1st term?
In my first term on the School Committee, in collaboration with other School Committee members, parents, students, community members, and the Superintendent:
I pushed successfully for more staff who work directly with students: paraprofessionals in our largest 1st grade classes, high school guidance counselors to reduce student-counselor ratios, and social workers to provide more mental health supports in the elementary schools.
I asked for an analysis of our attendance data, which that showed higher chronic absence rates for lower-income students. As a result, principals are making more effort to close the attendance gap.
I pushed for an elementary language program (Spanish) that is being piloted this year in two 6-hour CPS elementary schools--Peabody and Morse. Until now, the only elementary language programs were in the immersion programs and in our two 8-hour Extended Day schools (Fletcher-Maynard and ML King).
I met with high school student leaders and supported their efforts to spend less time planning dances and more time working on serious youth issues and school policies.
I pushed for a comprehensive review of the elementary school program and staffing, which will be conducted in the 20217-2018 school year. Before joining the School Committee, I co-wrote, “Unequal Schools: How Unequal Staffing, Demographics, and Neighborhood Resources Create Unequal Opportunities for Low-Income Students to Learn in the Cambridge Public Schools.”
I raised old and new questions, such as: How much of our high per pupil spending goes directly into the classroom? Do lower-income students have equitable access to extracurricular activities at CRLS? Is it fair to have a publicly funded Junior Kindergarten (JK) program that serves only half of all 4-year-olds?
What are my priorities?
The national trend in education is to teach academic skills at younger and younger ages. I want the CPS curriculum to be flexible, active, and developmentally appropriate. Cambridge teachers do too.
Student learning happens in schools and classrooms. I want our teachers to have the resources they need to teach their diverse students well, and not be stretched thin with too many students and too little support. We need a maximum class size of 20 in grades 1-2, more co-teaching, and more reading and math specialists who work directly with struggling students.
Though our high school has many excellent programs, fundamentally it is a two-track program that labels students as Smart-and-Motivated or Not-Smart-and-Motivated. Detracking the whole school doesn’t solve the problem. We need flexible, more personalized pathways that can be tailored to the interests of each student, not more whole class instruction and standard requirements. As they progress from freshmen to seniors, high school students should have more and more of their learning situated outside the school through internships and apprenticeships.
We still have children starting kindergarten who have never gone to school. Our school department and human services department need to work together to ensure all students have had access to early childhood education before kindergarten.
What are my qualifications?
I’m trained in educational research and have a doctoral degree in child and adolescent development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I worked for five years as a language specialist at a school for Deaf students, and for fifteen years as a literacy researcher at Harvard and Lesley University.
I’ve had advanced training in qualitative research and statistics. I understand the power and limitations of data, and how to ask good questions.
I was an activist CPS parent for 17 years, and know that schools can only thrive if parents and community members are active, involved, and advocating for improvements.