My name is Jake Crutchfield and I am a Cambridge resident whose dedication to making education better for everyone is why I am running for the Cambridge School Committee.
For the past five years, I have worked in a variety of educational settings and diverse types of classrooms. I have taught in almost every school in Cambridge and at almost every grade level. I have also developed curriculum and workshops for afterschool teachers, and worked closely with educators and families to improve our community.
Through these experiences, I learned that Cambridge has a devoted community that is committed to building an impactful school district. And while we have achieved much, there is still room for us to build on this great work. Every child deserves an education that takes into account his or her unique learning needs. In Cambridge, we are lucky to have the resources to do this, but we need to coordinate those resources more efficiently.
If elected, I will continue the same approach and passion I’ve brought with me to my teaching, working with the community, and policy work: bringing everyone to the table to find the best solution for our students’ development. I want to take that passion into the Cambridge School Committee to make sure all students have a unique learning experience. That’s why I am asking for to be your #1 vote for School Committee.
Supporting the Superintendents District Plan Framework
This past school year our new Superintendent, Dr. Salim, successfully completed his first year leading our district. One of his major accomplishments was creating a district wide effort to develop a District Plan Framework which will help guide the district's work for the next three years. This was a process that included many stakeholders and opinions and was praised by individuals who participated. I applaud the Superintendent for making sure this was a community focused plan that included many different opinions which ensured this document was representative of what is best for Cambridge and our district.The strategic objectives and initiatives of the plan help give us a path towards moving our district forward and the next steps of creating action plans for each initiative will be vital to our District's success. I support the District Plan Framework, and if elected to School Committee I would focus my work to making sure it succeeds.
Hiring more staff that are culturally reflective of our diverse student body
One unique aspect about teaching in Cambridge is our incredibly diverse student body, one that is made up of a multitude of cultures. It’s important that our students are able to look towards their teachers and see a little bit of themselves in those role models. Having teachers that are culturally reflective of our student body means more students will feel as if they, too, can succeed. This is critically important for our students who may feel left behind by the system. By having teachers who culturally reflect our student body we can help students succeed in the classroom and in their long-term educational careers.
Increasing Community Awareness and Engagement
One of my biggest takeaways from working throughout the district these past four years is that communication is a major issue facing our district. The solution to most problems our district faces can be found in better communication between the schools, the administration, families, and the Committee. A good portion of people who have a stake in our schools might not be sure about what School Committee is working on or how to get engaged with this work. For most students, families, teachers, and staff finding the time to make it to School Committee meetings can be difficult. That is why I believe School Committee could be taking a proactive role in raising awareness about their work and getting the community engaged. As a School Committee member I would implement reverse office hours, where instead of the community having to come to the Committee, the Committee would go out to the community. This encourages real dialogue between committee members and community members, instead of just prepared statements and no real conversation between the two parties.
Assessing our Assessments
We are at a pivotal moment in education where students are being tested more frequently than ever before. We need to have more open discussions about assessments and their place in our schools. Conversations like this can help us understand what’s working, what needs to be revisited, and what we aren’t doing that we should be doing. Repurposing assessments means less stress on families and teachers alike. As a School Committee member, I will make sure that we are connecting with and communicating with all those involved in assessments, making sure we are putting students first.
Top Challenges Facing the Cambridge Public Schools today
- Communication: When I think of many of the issues that we face in the schools, as well as the issues facing school committee I keep asking myself if we are communicating about these issues effectively enough. For example when you think of a challenge, such as making sure we have a diverse teaching staff, we have to ask ourselves are we communicating enough to encourage change effectively. Are we communicating well enough with our current teachers of color to understand their thoughts on this issue and how we might go about fixing it? And are we communicating well enough to potential teacher applicants of color about what makes our district so special and why they should work here? Or are we even communicating to our students, that they themselves can follow the path towards becoming teachers so they can help give back to the community that gave them so much? As for school committee, we have to ask, is the body communicating and collaborating within itself or do we need to find ways for the body to be communicating better. We will always have different issues and challenges facing our schools. Whether it’s having a diverse staff, over testing of our students, or whatever else may come up, we are always going to face problems. But I personally believe one major solution to these problems will always be making sure we are communicating about them as a community and work together to overcome them.
- Another overarching problem facing our district is the use of our time.Time is an issue for everyone involved with the schools. Teachers don’t have enough time to fully teach the content they want to when they have to focus their students on the test they are taking next week. Students don’t have enough time to balance the challenges of a rigorous academic schedule and work at a career launching internship that is available to them thanks to our amazing City. Parents don’t have enough time to attend School Committee meetings to highlight problems with the district while supporting their families. And currently the School Committee does not use time efficiently enough in order to properly diagnose and find solutions for the problems it faces. One solution to this issue, at least at the school committee level, is to use subcommittees. We could diagnose problems and present solutions to the at-large Committee without having to discuss them at regular committee meetings. This, in turn, streamlines communication and helps save time for specific problems that need to be discussed by the regular Committee.
- Cambridge prides itself on the idea of cultural responsiveness, however, it remains hard to pinpoint what that means in our schools and in our communities. We have an incredibly diverse student population but our staff does not always reflect the student body. To tackle this problem effectively we must first set a district wide definition of what cultural responsiveness means to us as a City. Without a definition, the School Committee and other educational bodies can’t begin to properly address the issue. We must come together in the CPSD community as students, educators, and elected officials to brainstorm definitions, and in turn solutions, to a staggering problem facing our schools.
Innovation Agenda, Hybrid Middle School model
I am looking forward to Superintendent Dr. Salim’s review of the K-8 grade levels that should include a review of the innovation agenda which created the Upper School system here in Cambridge five years ago. Five years in, what is clear is that there are successes to be shared from our upper schools, as well some challenges still to overcome. There are some of our upper schools that need more support compared than others and that is not acceptable. If the goal of Innovation Agenda was to create a more equal playing field for students entering the High School, then it is not working as we had hoped. We need to check what our goals were a half decade ago, what we have reached as of now and what we need to change about the Innovation Agenda to make sure we reach those obtainable goals.
School Department Administration and Superintendent
A large and important duty of the School Committee is to conduct superintendent evaluations, which in turn evaluates all school district senior administrators. It is imperative that we conduct these evaluations with absolute transparency, and make sure they are as fair and as critical as possible to ensure the best result for our children. We also need to make sure that the School Committee is evaluating itself. Without self-evaluations it is impossible to see if the district and the School Committee are living up to the goals they have set for themselves at the beginning of each term. If elected, I would make sure that we evaluate ourselves as often as we evaluate the Superintendent, and in just as a transparent and fair manner.
School Department Budget and Oversight, Capital Needs
The budget is another of the most important and time consuming functions of the School Committee. A large portion of the Cambridge City’s budget is the school’s budget, and we spend the most per student in the state. While I am proud that we put the most resources possible towards our students, I think the budgeting process can take a few notes from the District Framework Plan process done by the Superintendent. The Superintendent went through a 3 month process of getting over 700 members of the community involved in the making of the District Framework Plan. This same amount of time and community engagement needs to be put into the district budget. The committee can host budget meetings at the school to get this community engagement, and have members of the community sit on the budget subcommittee. If the Committee is able to do this, the budgeting process will be much more transparent and inclusive, and more members of the community can see the resources we are putting into the district, and they can be proud of that.
Achievement Gaps, Meeting the Needs of All Students
One way the district is already addressing this problem is the introduction of the Leveling Up program at the high school. Even though it is currently only in Freshman English classes, getting students exposed to different levels of learning will help them in the future prepare to take honors and advanced level classes. But we must also look earlier to make significant gains. We can tackle this issue two ways. First, we need to make sure that all of our students are at a third grade reading level by the time they finish the third grade. This is crucial because reading is the key to unlocking academic content throughout the school day and is vital to the success of our students. I think we need to take the next step and collaborate with the City and the City Council on this issue to make this one of the most important issues of our city. Not only the schools should be involved with third grade reading, but the City of Cambridge must support a culture of reading to encourage our youngest of students and teach them the importance of reading. It is important to provide mentors to students to help encourage them not only academically but also socio-emotionally. We are already testing this out at the Fletcher Maynard Academy at the Qualls Academy, and some students already have access to this through after school programs. However, I believe that every single student in our district should have a mentor outside of their teachers. Cambridge is a city that has the resources to make this happen, whether it’s expanding on Qualls Academy, relying on our large network of university and business partners, or more crossover between the after school teachers and regular school teachers.
Meeting the Needs of Advanced Learners
To start, we need to make sure that we hire someone as the Academic Challenge and Enrichment Program Manager so that someone is in the district and working on meeting the needs of advanced learners for every school. I would also say that we should pilot a program at an elementary school, an upper school, and at CRLS, where each of those schools have a person who works with teachers to help meet the needs of advanced learners. Also, we could open up the discussion of what it would look like to introduce an alternative school program in our district which would be founded on the concept of competency based learning.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies
Controlled Choice tends to be one of the things I hear more and more often on the campaign trail. Based on everything I have heard, I think it is time we have the discussion again on the role Controlled Choice has in our schools. The District is planning on doing an all inclusive elementary review, and if elected on School Committee I would encourage that this topic would be a part of that review.
Family engagement and communication
This is work that I think is paramount to the success of our district, and it is something I have spoken to at length throughout my campaign. I have already said above how I think communication is one of the most pressing issues of our schools, but I would like to use this space to highlight the importance of family liaisons, and why we should have family liaisons at our upper schools. This has been an issue that is constantly being presented to the school committee and the administration yet we still do not have family liaisons at our upper schools. When we talking about creating a successful uppers school environment for both our students and our families it's hard for me to imagine this happening without family liaisons present at the school. That is why, if elected, I will continue to press the administration to find ways to make sure that family liaisons become part of the upper school community.
As I mentioned before, we are at a pivotal time in terms of testing in our classes. Personally, I believe high-stakes testing has taken up too much time in the school year, and has taken away instructional time from teachers to do what they really want to do. By focusing too much on high-stakes testing, we have created a situation where the role of the teacher is not just to teach, but to be a data-manager as well. While there may be some relevant information we may gain from using high-stakes test, in no way do these exams fully show the true strengths and weaknesses of our students. We must find a more holistic approach to test our students, such as project based learning or portfolios, which is already used in some schools, but is not being supported nearly as much as they should to truly succeed.
Role of the School Committee
Traditionally the main three functions of the School Committee are to evaluate the superintendent (which includes hiring, firing, or extending the contract), to help with the budget process, vote on the budget, and to create and set policy to help guide the district. But I think there should be much more. I believe the School Committee could focus more on community engagement and communication throughout the district. A well informed and in touch school district will help create happier and more successful students. I also think it's important for the School Committee to have a role in self evaluating themselves to make sure their goals are aligned with the administrations.
Role of Teachers in shaping programs and influencing policies
As an educator, I believe fully that we should be engaging with teachers and other staff in the schools as much as possible to obtain feedback about programs and policies. While the main focus of all of our work involved in the schools is the success of our children, we must be making sure that the people who are spending the most time with students during the school day, teachers and staff, have a say on how they can best bring success to our students.
Curriculum and Programs:
Elementary School Grades
Cambridge is home to a diverse and unique system of elementary schools throughout our district. Each one has its own character and story to tell as well as staff that are committed to making sure the whole child is learning. Starting as a day-to-day substitute, and then a building substitute, I had an opportunity to fully appreciate what Cambridge Public Elementary Schools have to offer. With a rich curriculum, strong support network, and dedicated educators, the elementary schools of Cambridge are the building block of the academic career for all of our Cambridge students. In order to support our elementary school students, educators, and families, we need to be proactive in listening to their specific needs in order to prepare elementary students for future success.
Upper School Grades
It’s been five years since the Innovation agenda has created the system of upper schools in our district and now more than ever we need to be reviewing what practices are working best and where we can help the innovation agenda meet its stated goals. We have to have serious conversations as to whether our accelerated math path is working or not and how we can get more students on the track to take advanced math classes. In addition, we need to be having conversations about how upper schools can work with their feeder schools to help align what students are working on so the chance of success at the upper school level are greatly increased.
High School Grades
The high school has developed into a robust program that is recognized on a state level as one of the best public high schools in Massachusetts. Students are able to experience in depth classes, opportunities outside of school, and have differentiated learning experiences, but there is still more work that can be done. Leveling Up is a great first step in tackling the issue of the achievement gap, but we also have to work more to improve the opportunity gap that exists for many students at the high school. We need to provide all of our students with connections to internships and immersive education. We also need to be doing more to empower our students to have a larger role in our community by listening to their voices and giving them a reason to participate in civic life.
Language Immersion Programs
The strength of our current programs is evident by high interest, but we still face challenges around equity and how some of our programs have very long wait lists. We will have to wait to see how the current pilot program of teaching language classes at two elementary schools goes to see if we should expand to other schools.
Extended Day Programs
Part of the all inclusive elementary review should also include looking into these programs. We could have surveys for our schools that currently using extended day and see how everyone (parents, students, teachers and staff) feel about it.
Early Childhood Education
This is an incredibly critical issue, and you’d be hard pressed to find a candidate for School Committee who doesn’t support Universal Pre-K and early childhood education in Cambridge. But supporting it and putting it into practice are two completely different things. Early childhood education is a very complex issue with a wide variety of providers. Not only are there city and school run offerings of early childhood education, but private offerings, ranging from schools such as Bright Horizons to small local programs. We must continue working with the City, and also make sure to plan ahead for the expected City growth.
Social and emotional development
Social and emotional development has always been key to the success of our students, but in recent years, it has become even more impactful to our students success. The district has been addressing this issue, especially with the hiring of Alice Cohen, who is the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Lead Teacher. I would propose that the district also look into ways to best identify practices of SEL and give teachers more opportunities to discuss these practices freely amongst themselves.
Throughout my campaign, I have been keeping a blog about education related thoughts as well as the election process itself. The following is what I've uploaded to my blog so far.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the school year over, now is the best time to officially announce that I will be running for School Committee in Cambridge again in this upcoming election. While I came close to being elected in 2015, unfortunately I fell just short. I want to thank all 1,221 people who considered me their #1 choice for School Committee, and to all of those who volunteered and contributed to my campaign. All of you have inspired me to have the confidence to run again, so I can help ensure that the district is on the path to success.
Since the last election, I have had the pleasure of working with many communities throughout the city. As the building substitute for the Cambridgeport Elementary School, I've gotten to experience the school year from day 1 to day 180. Working with the students has been an exceptional experience for me, and I am thankful for the relationships I have built with the students, their families, and my coworkers. In addition I've been an active member in the out of school time community, both teaching at the Elm st. Community school, and running trainings with the Agenda for Children. My time working as a teacher and being part of multiple learning communities gives me a unique insight into the Cambridge school district. I want to take all of that experience and knowledge and apply it to School Committee.
While working as an educator in Cambridge, I've realized that despite our amazing school district, we can still build on this great work. I believe every voice in education deserves to be heard. Students, families, and teachers - every person involved in the schools needs to be listened to. We need School Committee members that are catalysts of communication around the issues that matter to their constituents. I believe that we need to have serious conversations around issues like high-stakes testing, educating the whole child, universal Pre-K, and having a culturally diverse staff that fully represents our students. It is impossible to have these conversations without properly engaging our constituents to get to the heart of the problem.
I plan to be out on the streets, talking with residents everyday, to get their input and listen to their concerns about the Cambridge Public Schools. While not every resident may have a connection to our schools, the success of our schools is important to every resident. Investing in our city's education and students is investing in our city's future.
I truly believe that I can get elected and make a difference, but I can't do it without your help. If you are able and interested to volunteer for my campaign, please contact me at VoteJakeCrutchfield@gmail.com, or fill out this form here. Also, if you would like to donate to the campaign, please Click Here to Donate.
Over the next few months, I will keep you updated about my campaign through my website, Facebook, Twitter, my blog and my newsletter (sign up for my newsletter here). I feel honored to have this opportunity to make a difference in Cambridge and I look forward to this process of engaging with the community on the campaign trail. Hope to see you out there!
Candidate for Cambridge School Committee
Cambridge is an inclusive and engaged school community, and I want to continue to build on that culture and add to that work. Below are some of my thoughts on how I would do this if elected.
Engaging and Empowering our Community
One of the greatest resources we have in Cambridge is our teachers and our students. However, it's not always clear for students, teachers, and families on how they can utilize the School Committee to empower their needs. I believe the School Committee should be using their subcommittees to engage and empower members of our school community.
In the past three years, subcommittees have met on average of 4.5 times a year. I think the school committee needs to work together to double or triple that number. This way, we will be able to innovate how we interact with the community and invite more people to drive the discussion.
School and City Collaboration
Cambridge is fortunate enough to find itself surrounded by numerous institutions that value learning. Between our established universities, our thriving tech sector, and our valuable artistic community, Cambridge has resources that other districts do not. Unfortunately, access to these resources is not equitable. Too many students go without taking an internship, being in after-school classes, or being exposed to college level curriculum. As a School Committee member, I would work on strengthening our relationships with these institutions and developing innovative solutions to make these connections easier to access.
Assessing our assessments
Testing is hands down one of the most critical issues affecting our schools. As a teacher, I completely understand the importance of assessing a student's growth, but at the same time when is it too much? Between state and district assessments, younger students are being tested more frequently than ever before, resulting in more stress on students, teachers, and their families.
We need to have more open discussions about assessments and their place in our schools. Conversations like this can help us understand what's working, what needs to be revisited, and what we aren't doing. Repurposing assessments means less stress on families and teachers alike. I will make sure that we are connecting with and communicating with all those involved in assessments, making sure we are putting students first.
Conversations are the best way to get to the root of a problem. Speaking with someone and understanding their needs and concerns can help lead to a better understanding of how to create policy that's best for everyone involved.
This means going out to the people where they live, to speak with them about the issues at hand, and not just during campaign season. That's why I pledge to hold reverse office hours, where I (and hopefully other School Committee members) will go out to community centers, schools, and places where people live, to engage in educational conversations and diagnose problems at the grassroots.
My name is Jake Crutchfield and I am a Cambridge resident who is dedicated to making education better for everyone. That is why I am running for the Cambridge School Committee.
For the past five years, I have worked in a variety of educational settings, including diverse types of classrooms. I have taught in almost every school in Cambridge, at every grade level. I also developed curriculum and workshops for afterschool teachers, and worked closely with educators and families to improve our community. Through these experiences, I learned that Cambridge has a devoted community that is committed to building an impactful school district. However, we can still build on this great work.
Every child deserves an education that takes into account his or her unique learning needs. In Cambridge, we are lucky to have the resources to do this, but we need to coordinate those resources more efficiently. If elected, I will continue the same approach I've brought with me to teaching, working with the community, and policy work: bringing everyone to the table to find the best solution for our students' development.
That's why I am asking for your #1 vote, so I can take that passion into the Cambridge School Committee to make sure all students have a unique learning experience.
CCTV candidate video (2017)
2015 Candidate Page