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Statements from 2015 election:
About Fran A. Cronin –
Eighteen years ago, I became a widow and moved to Cambridge with my two young children. Today, I'm the proud mother of a recent CRLS graduate and a son who will be finishing high school next year. My family understands first hand that academic rigor alone does not ensure academic achievement. Many students who face challenges outside the classroom may require non-academic supports to help them succeed in the classroom. I will vigorously advocate for a robust art program in every school and a stronger bridge between our schools' and our city's mental health resources. We need to create a more seamless system of care both inside and outside the classroom to support our students and their families.
In my second term, I will continue to advocate for policies that harness and align Cambridge's vast resources to maximize support of our teachers, students and families. In addition to ensuring an effective leadership transition with the new Superintendent, I will advocate for a systemic, District-wide Improvement Plan focused on supporting our teachers and increasing student achievement. I will fight for renewed academic opportunity while we focus on well-being for all students.
Working together, these strategies will propel our students of today to become the leaders of tomorrow.
a) Equity and Diversity
In a perfect world, each neighborhood in our city would equitably reflect the economic and cultural diversity of our city. Each of our schools would be perfectly balanced for economic status, ethnicity and learning profile. However, our world is not perfect nor is equal balance achieved in all our schools.
To help better achieve and maintain equitable school-based cultures and to better balance resources based on school-based learning and social and emotional needs, I will in my second term on the School Committee, continue to advocate for:
Acknowledging inequities will lead to better intent and best inform our policy development and budgetary allocation of resources. It is a conversation we as a community must be willing to engage in and embrace if we are to achieve our shared goal of making sure all students in Cambridge graduate from high school able to fulfill their dreams.
b) High-quality Out-of-School Time Experiences
The Strategic Plan reiterated the known benefits of middle school participation in quality OST activities: Students perform better academically, demonstrate greater social and emotional competency, and engage less in risky behaviors and more in sports and exercise.
To achieve this desired success, we need to strengthen and efficiently access our OST partnerships without overburdening our teachers. Adding tasks to their already heavy load would further fracture and distract their focus on class-based instruction. We need to develop and support creative solutions to make connections stronger between all educators and community partners in Cambridge – those who work with our children and families before, during and after school.
As a member of the School Committee, I will provide the committed leadership necessary to realize the potential benefit of high-quality OST experiences for all our students. Working together with our city and community partners, our goal should be to provide every student with after school academic and cultural enrichment opportunities that best align with their interests, aspirations and their well being.
c) Special Education
As a member of the School Committee, I want to make sure that every dollar we spend on supporting the needs of students on IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and 504 Plans (for instructional accommodations) is money well spent and serves the best interest of our deserving students.
As a former co-chair of the Cambridge Parents Advisory Council (C-PAC), I support Dr. Greer's goal to break down our educational silos to ensure every student – whether on an IEP, 504 Plan or has been recognized as an advanced learner – has access to a rigorous curriculum in the least restrictive environment and achieves the academic success they aspire to and deserve.
Through my advocacy on behalf of the C-PAC and the relationships that followed, I have been able to give voice to the many issues raised by the sped community, including transparent and equitable oversight of IEPs, skillful implementation of 504 accommodations and supports, and use of RtI (Response to Intervention) and other in-class strategies to create a more seamless access to inclusive quality teaching and academics.
To maximize success for all special education students, I will continue to:
Achievement Gaps, Meeting the Needs of All Students
Students entering our elementary school program unprepared for school, enter with deficits that become more difficult to ameliorate as the student ascends through school. To close this achievement gap, we need to close the gap in access to quality early childhood education.
This fall, the Early Childhood Task Force will present its recommendations on how Cambridge can achieve universal access to high-quality early childhood education for our youngest learners.
As a mother and a member of the School Committee, I will make sure the Early Childhood Task Force recommendations are received and responded to with the seriousness with which they will have been crafted.
However, Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) can't, nor should it, be alone in the development and oversight of a high-quality early childhood system of education. To be successful, our community must come together with common purpose and high expectations.
To succeed, CPS and City Hall must share not just vision but bridge resources and commitment to a community-wide early childhood education initiative that gains strength from relationship and partnership built across our city.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies
As recently as 2014, the School Committee passed five new recommendations to strengthen and clarify the rules that govern school access and balance. However, balancing the dictates of the Controlled Choice Policy with best intentions for students and their families remains a struggle.
Families enrolling their student for the first time have to navigate the terms "lottery" and "mandatory assignment." Armed with more anecdotal information than fact, families have to prioritize school preference for their student.
With schools scattered throughout the city, crisscrossing Cambridge to attend school takes students out of their neighborhoods and often away from natural friend groups; requires school busing or parents to transport students back and forth to school; and challenges the desire to increase family engagement with our schools.
The impetus behind our Controlled Choice Policy remains an important ethos for our community and will continue to drive the values intrinsic to our public schools. However, it's time to explore whether or not a policy crafted 35 years ago is the best working model for Cambridge today.
This past spring the School Committee convened a round table to explore this question. It was the start of an important conversation that, if re-elected, I intend to bring out into the community for review.
As a community – no matteer where you live – we must come together and create a school enrollment policy that best respects and balances our city's racial diversity, the differing economic status of our families, and the integrity of our neighborhoods.
Since coming to office, I have crafted and advocated for policies that bridge Cambridge's vast resources with our schools and students. I championed and led the effort to:
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