Fran Cronin

Fran Cronin
2013 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
1 Kimball Lane
Cambridge, MA 02140

Contact information:
Tel: 617-497-2115
Facebook: FranCroninForCambridgeSchools
Twitter: @facronin

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As an educational advocate in Cambridge for the past 15 years, Fran has served as co-chair of the Parent Advisory Council (C-PAC) for children with special needs; served as an officer of the CRLS School Council and co-founded MPACT, a parent advocacy group. She is a certified Orton-Gillingham reading specialist who taught and tutored in the greater Boston area. She knows best practices for emerging readers and for students for whom learning does not come easily.

This past year Fran participated in the Mayor's Healthy Children's Task Force exploring how early childhood adversity impacts learning and the social and emotional well being of students. With MIT, she developed ArtWorks, an after school program bridging the arts community of Cambridge with CRLS students interested in careers in the arts.

As a widowed single mom of two children, ages 18 and 15, Fran's advocacy and passion for quality public education has been fueled by her experiences with her own children. Her daughter is a CRLS class of 2013 graduate and is now a successful freshman in college. Her son is a special needs student who struggled in school. Fran had to advocate to make sure her son received the academic as well as social and emotional supports he needed. She knows how tough that can be and knows families in our community deserve better, whether their student is a challenged or accelerated learner.

Fran grew up in a family committed to quality public education. She and her three brothers all graduated from their neighborhood public high school. Her mother taught public elementary school for over 30 years and one brother was a public elementary school vice principal.

Fran moved to North Cambridge after her husband's death and built her new community through her children's schools. Her father-in-law is a life-long Cantabrigian. He graduated from the Longfellow Grammar School class of 1945 and from Cambridge High and Latin class of 1949. He received his law degree from Harvard and served for many years as Cambridge's city solicitor.

Fran is determined to ensure every student learns to their potential and graduates to success from our schools. Please give her your #1 vote.

Top Priorities
1. Bridging community resources with schools to support all students and families.
As a mother of two children, I know first hand what it takes for families to advocate for their students' needs. Cambridge is uniquely rich in resources yet we still don't get the outcomes we expect. Both the public and private sectors of our city offer much to our community but accessing the right network of support is often hard work - and it shouldn't be that tough. Whether a student is an accelerated or challenged learner, we must do a better job aligning enrichment resources and academic supports with the real needs of our students and families.

2. Making sure the Innovation Agenda delivers on its promise.
As a member of the School Committee, I will focus on realizing the promise of the Innovation Agenda. The IA is a bold and ambitious restructuring of our upper school program - designed to better prepare our middle school students for the rigors of high school and to build larger cohorts for out-of-school time programming. With our 6th, 7th and 8th grade students now in five school communities, the bridge between middle school and high school is better supported.

While much work has been accomplished, implementation is uneven and the potential of the IA not fully realized. It is my goal to make sure the School Committee remains focused in helping the IA achieve its goals. The students, faculty, administrators and families of Cambridge all deserve to see this vision fulfilled. Being prepared for high school is a critical step towards graduating with success.

3. Our youngest learners need to enter our elementary school program equally prepared.
Universal access to quality early childhood education ensures our youngest learners are equally prepared for the social, emotional and academic challenges upon entering our elementary school program. Research, observation and experience all indicate that unequal preparation upon entering school is the beginning of an achievement gap, which often widens as our students move into higher grades.

Cambridge is proud of its diversity and the enrichment it adds to our pubic school culture. But the diversity we cherish can also be a challenge: 45% of our students come from low income households, 20% receive special education services and more than 30% come from households where English is not the first language. School is where our community comes together and we need to make sure that every student enters kindergarten prepared to learn. Access to high quality preschool is crucial to the success of our many students who are cut out of the lottery or can't afford private preschool.

I am fully committed to working on the task force recently initiated by the City Council and City Manager to further explore this issue.

Recommendations for meeting the needs of high achieving/advanced learners, especially in the middle school grades.
Middle school is a pivotal time in the academic life of a young adult. It is the time when students learn to be more independent both socially and academically. It is also the best and last time the educators in their lives can ensure each student has learned to their potential and is ready for the rigors of high school.

However, between 6th and 8th grade, students mature and intellectually grow at different rates. To best accommodate the variation in intellectual and emotional development, four key initiatives should be considered:

1.) Co-teaching in math for all three years;

2.) A robust after-school program that can provide academic enrichment for accelerated learners and academic support for students more challenged by math and English Language Arts;

3.) Instruction in time and homework management; and

4.) Summer school options to remediate against summer slippage.

Yet to be made clear is how the new Common Core standards will impact curriculum development and annual benchmarks for learning. While the Common Core is a framework for knowledge acquisition, much opportunity will exist for teachers to inject their own teaching style and enrichment during a course of study. In particular, there will be latitude for creative teaching as options for a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum are introduced. Much of this will incorporate experiential instruction, which will allow students to explore material at their own pace.

In addition, Cambridge is a rich palette of opportunity, in particular with its green initiatives, urban planning challenges and successes within the high-tech center of Kendall Square. The School Committee should help facilitate initiatives that bridge the rich resources within our community with the enrichment needs of all our students.

Innovation Agenda
As a member of the School Committee, my goal will be to ensure the Innovation Agenda - which created four district middle schools - succeeds. To do so, the IA must live up to its promise of providing a rigorous curriculum and after school activities aligned with the enrichment, athletic and academic support needs of our upper school students. I will work to ensure that the initiatives these new schools build with city and community partners address the real needs of our upper school students.

With the IA, CPS has a great opportunity to get to know well each of its 6th, 7th and 8th grade students - where they excel and where their competencies fall short. Our CRLS and four upper school principals now meet as a cohort. The opportunity exists to align our upper school curriculum and student readiness goals with what students need to succeed at CRLS. This holds true for both our challenged and accelerated students.

While I support the IA restructuring, I feel CPS has fallen short in communicating expectations to families. Our families deserve to know how changes will impact their lives and the lives of their students. Moving forward, I would ensure the Superintendent provides not just a vision statement but also an implementation plan with goals and a timeframe. Change is difficult and takes time and cooperation. To succeed, our families deserve to know what to expect.

School Department Administration and Superintendent
The School Committee performs three primary functions: 1.) To evaluate the performance of the Superintendent; 2.) To determine the educational policy goals for our public school system; and 3.) To oversee our city's $151 million public school budget. To fulfill these responsibilities well requires collegiality, cooperation and a shared sense of purpose. If elected to the School Committee, I will work with my colleagues to develop a shared purpose and help to instill the discipline necessary to implement measurable goals that can chart the progress of our schools.

During the past two years, our sitting School Committee has not complied with its state mandated responsibility to evaluate our Superintendent annually, a process which is open to the public. This omission has limited the public's knowledge of how our Cambridge public schools operate. It has also thwarted opportunity for constructive dialogue between the School Committee and the Superintendent as well as with the families of Cambridge. Scheduled evaluations would also help measure how well our schools are implementing CPS goals.

Our budget process too deserves the same level of assessment and oversight. As a School Committee member, I would work to ensure that CPS departments align their expenditures with the goals set by the Superintendent and the School Committee. Bridging budget resources to expected outcomes will allow us to effectively measure our achievements.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs
The issue that most challenges our school system is the persistent presence of an achievement gap. This problem is not just endemic to Cambridge but to most urban communities across our country. But what is unique to Cambridge is the abundance of resources we have to tackle this issue.

As an urban district, we have a wide variety of students with varying levels of need and skill. With discipline and targeted intent we can deliver better training to our teachers so they can have the skills and knowledge to help all of our students. Our hard working teachers deserve state-of-the-art professional development and our students deserve the supports they need to learn to their potential.

We need to be hiring and training teachers who have the skills to fulfill the promise of differentiated instruction and inclusion in our school system. Amenities and services should be consistent from school to school.

We also value a school-based culture, but use of part-time and floating faculty does not support this objective. To best support students, to help encourage them to take the risks critical to academic growth, both teachers and students need to know each other well. This can only be achieved by daily engagement with students in the school they attend.

Capital needs are constant and schools need to be maintained as safe and clean environments. Our schools also need to adapt to the demands of curriculum. The City Manager, School Committee and city agencies are currently in the midst of an ambitious multi-school renovation plan. The City Manager envisions our renovated schools to be 21st century community centers. Working together, our School Committee, City Council and city agencies need to collaborate and share resources to best accommodate projected needs. Sound planning and projections of cost and enrollment will be critical to successful long-term planning.

I'm a widowed single parent of two children who knows first-hand what it takes to advocate for our children's needs, whether your child is a high achiever or in need of support. Cambridge is rich in resources but accessing the right network of support is hard work. My goal is to bridge our existing network of city resources with the real needs of students who struggle in our public school system.

I'm running for School Committee to bring the leadership needed to break down barriers and build bridges between our School Committee and City Council, between our families and our schools and between the public and private sectors of our city.

When it comes to education, we are all partners in the future success of our children. Please join me in building the bridges we need to span our children's arc of education.

I have been a long time advocate for preparing all - elementary, upper and high school students - to graduate for success. I served as co-chair of Cambridge's Parents Advisory Council for children with special needs; served as an officer on the CRLS School Council and co-founded MPACT, a parent's advocacy group. For the past year I met monthly with the Healthy Children's Task Force exploring barriers to breaking down childhood adversity. Working with MIT, I developed ArtWorks, an after school program that brought CRLS art students together with community artists, designers and gallery owners.

A strong community takes responsibility for its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, its children. As a single mom, I know first hand how important our community is to support and educate its students. When all of Cambridge - North, West, Mid, East and Coast - joins together around a shared goal, our city is stronger, safer and more successful.

Experience has taught me the value of partnering with my children's schools, teachers and Cambridge's social support services. I know that sitting down at the table to talk - as I did with the CRLS school council and as I did with the parents and administrators for the C-PAC - gives voice to issues that might otherwise go unheard. Partnerships strengthen families, giving them the tools they need to make good choices for their children.

Please visit my website at to learn more!


Podcast interview with Jimmy Tingle

Fran Cronin 2013 Candidate Profile - Cambridge Chronicle

   CCTV candidate video (2013)

Page last updated Monday, October 21, 2013 9:10 AM Cambridge Candidates