- Master's Degree in Management with a specialized graduate certificate in Diversity from Cambridge College in May 1999.
- Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Finance from Bentley College.
- Parent Advocacy Training from the Federation for Children with Special Needs
- Brings thirty years’ experience as a municipal finance professional as Deputy Treasurer for the Town of Arlington.
- Unique record of linking fiscal priorities, educational goals, and standards and measures of accountability in a strategic planning format.
- Experienced on both sides of the collective bargaining table representing management on the Cambridge School Committee and workers with labor as President of SEIU/NAGE local 113.
- Former Treasurer SEIU 888
- Served for thirty years as a member of the Cambridge School Committee.
- Sponsor Cambridge Little League-Major League Braves and All-Star team
- Sponsor Cambridge Girls Softball.
- Attends educational courses and conferences on a regular basis
- Recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the MA Association of School Committees (Nominated by Fellow School Committee Members in 2012), and was cited for “advocacy and courage during times of great change over 30 years of public service.”
- Elected the last three terms by colleagues to be its Vice-Chair
Greater Boston Labor Council, AFL-CIO
National Association of Governmental Employees (NAGE)
SEIU-Local 888-Working Together
Carpenters Local 40-Cambridge
General Construction Local 151-Cambridge
Plumbers and Gas Fitters Local 12-Boston
Bridge and Structural Iron Workers Union Local 7
Ma and No New England Laborers’ District Council
Top Priorities –
Implementation of Cambridge Public Schools District Plan:
Our Mission: The Cambridge Public Schools will be a diverse urban school system that works with families and the community to successfully educate ALL its students at high levels.
Last school year the Superintendent finished the development of a District Framework that was an intense, inclusive process that lead to the adoption of 5 Strategic Objective supported by 21 Strategic Initiatives and included 9 Outcome areas. The Strategic Objectives are:
- Provide Equity and Access to all students
- Provide engaging learning for Students and Staff
- Support the Whole Child as an Individual
- Expand and Strengthen Family Partnerships and community Partnerships
- Improve Implementation and Progress Monitoring
The 9 outcome measures are:
- Grade 3 reading proficiency (state assessment)
- Grade 8 math proficiency (state assessment) and Algebra 1 pass rate (CPS)
- Grade 10 ELA proficiency (state assessment)
- AP and Honors enrollment: proportionality
- College attainment & persistence (National Student Clearinghouse) Initial placement in non-remedial coursework and FAFSA completion
- School Climate survey (TBD), Student, staff, family perceptions on engagement, instruction, community support.
- Students’ meaningful connection with adults (Teen and Middle School Health Surveys)
- Chronic absenteeism (CPS-reported state data)
- Number/Percentage of student work internships that include community service opportunities and jobs (TBD).
All of the above is supported by a 183 million dollar budget that the City provided the school department. This generosity put us in a position so not to absorb any cuts or reductions.
Top Challenges Facing CPS today
Continue to Improve our Middle Schools
Ongoing support for the Upper Schools is essential to building a successful program in grades 6 through 8. It’s important we refine the Upper School program to meet the Innovation Agenda goal of a providing a superior academic and social experience for all students that prepares them for success in high school and post-secondary education. We need to continue to provide support and make investments in the areas that will enhance the success in our middle schools. Students enjoy attending schools with larger cohorts of students instead of the isolation that many experienced prior and the school system can provide enhanced offering in the visual and performing arts areas. The goal of having these middle schools racially balanced is also important to me. My goal is that every child leaving the middle school structure is ready to do rigorous work at CRLS.
Implementation of our approved three-year District Framework
The Superintendent spent all last school year gathering information and knowledge on how our school system functions. He conducted Listening tours, focus groups, meetings with many stakeholders, held numerous town meetings, created visioning exercises for what the future would look like, formed a planning committee all done to formulate a District Framework that was presented to the School Committee for adoption and implementation this school year. The District Framework http://www.cpsd.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_3042785/File/school_committee/CPS_district_planning_process_7-24-17.pdf consists of five strategic Objectives, 21 Strategic Initiatives, and nine outcomes goals. It is important that the school committee now stayed focused in working with the Superintendent to implement this plan by working on a few major initiatives each school year, measuring and enjoying its success while we move on.
With a city manager being an active partner with the schools by providing the necessary resources to support this plan we should be successful moving Cambridge from a good school system to a great school system.
It’s important to note as well that the school committee each year evaluates the Superintendent’s process to implementing this plan.
Closing the Achievement Gap
One issue that is unacceptable to me is that fact we have not made progress in closing the achievement gap. The performance of our students at greatest social and economic risk continues to fall below the rest of the student population. These include families who live in poverty, in socially vulnerable family settings, in homes where they are not yet English speakers, or who are homeless or transient and do not remain long in one place. This is a statewide problem, not just for Cambridge, but we have done so much as a district and as a city to welcome and serve high risk students and families that we want to protect our investment in our community by ensuring that we have high expectations for success for all our students. The school committee and the Superintendent need to create a real “sense of urgency” not panic and a plan to end this disparity. MCAS results show that little progress has been made and no internal benchmarks have even been established. With the recent work with our professional development, curriculum development, and district framework plan, I am encouraged that we are making progress.
Evaluation of the Innovation Agenda (IA)
As I have said previously, I’m excited about the Innovation Agenda (IA) and believe it holds much promise to prepare our students for the rigors of high school and prepare them for college or career success. The IA is necessary to close the persistent achievement gap and improve academic achievement for all our students. I like the concept of transitions into K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 schools with each transition expecting more from our students and our system. Our smaller middle schools with fewer than 300 children allow for better and focused management that should result in significant achievement.
The IA, however, has proven to be a major undertaking. In its fifth year we have some valuable experience behind us, have provided additional budgetary supports, a lot of professional development for staff and leadership and are prepared to move forward with some optimism. Many of our upper school teachers are working long and hard and need to be supported. Our new Superintendent must be more proactive in its decision making and the school committee needs to encourage him and back him in these decisions. And it is critical that we engage and respect parents voice in this process.
School Department Administration and Superintendent
With the adoption of a District Strategic Plan and its clarity about goals and objectives it’s a lot easier to hold administration and ourselves accountable. In addition, this school committee has taken seriously its obligation to evaluate the Superintendent of Schools on an annual basis to provide important feedback to him and by extension his leadership team as to our progress in key areas. Over the last few years school committee has been frustrated by the lack of progress in key academic areas-we expect more from the resources we provide. Our expectations are that Superintendent Salim will be bold in taking the necessary “action steps” to move our system. His hiring of a skilled and experience Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, and program evaluator give us hope.
School Department Budget and Capital needs
Strong relationships between the City Manager and City Council have allowed us to increase our general budgetary needs over the last few years to meet our growing needs. It’s unfortunate so much of our general fund dollars (app. 12,000,000) goes to support charter schools.
And in addition, the city has supported our capital needs which could reach half billion dollars over a ten-year period. We have a renovated high school, War Memorial athletic complex, built a state of the art main branch of the public library, erected a new King school, set to work on the ongoing rebuilding of our King Open school which will house our Administration and finally tackle the rebuilding of the Tobin school in the near future. We are providing our employees with top notch facilities in which to work and our students with the best climate to learn.
Of importance are older schools that also need attention paid to them. We continue to make repairs, replace boilers and roofs, install air conditioning units but a next phase of rebuilding and renovating these schools will be necessary.
Achievement Gaps, Meeting the needs of All Students
The persistence of an Achievement Gap still eludes us and requires a strong response from all stakeholders. Initiatives begun such as Response to Intervention, instructional coaches, significantly improved and targeted professional development, a strong curriculum plan with a new Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, School Improvement Plans aligned with our new District Strategic Plan show great promise towards closing/eliminating the achievement gap. MCAS growth for our lowest performing students are showing promise but we must do better. Finally, our new Superintendent needs to create a “sense of urgency” not panic that he wants the Achievement Gap eliminated as much as the school committee.
Meeting the Needs of Advanced Learners
I think we have a way to go in meeting the needs of Advance Learners but we are making progress. In school year 2013 the position of Academic Challenge Program Manager was created to oversee academic challenge and enrichment supports in the elementary and uppers schools. This position is currently unfilled (it’s being advertised again in hopes of getting a good match) has many significant responsibilities in providing professional development for teachers and administrators in differentiated learning, working with our instructional coaches to identify advanced learners, developing individual plans through the Subject Acceleration Protocol procedure, providing training programs for parents and being a contact person for parents.
A committed parent group known as CALA-Cambridge Advanced Learning Association (http://cambridgeadvanced.org) has played a crucial role in keeping the issue of Advanced Learners front and center and has been instrumental as an advocacy group not only for advanced learners but for all children-a great resource. Most recently their advocacy for changing how math is taught in our middle schools is making a difference. The number of children taking advanced math has increased dramatically as well as the number of students taking advanced math during the summer.
Our job as a school system is to be supportive for children at both ends of the learning spectrum – and in the middle, to assist all those children needing help, in need of encouragement and high expectations, and those children who are advanced and want to get even better. Not an easy task but with a strong District Strategic Plan with focused goals I’m hopeful.
Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies
Our voluntary Controlled Choice plan stands out as a national model on how to integrate schools. The goal of making our schools balanced by Socio Economic Status is important to me as I believe strongly that the results are a stronger community and school system. School Choice works best when all schools are schools of excellence and the choice part is real. In this manner, all parents even though they may not get their first choice would remain satisfied. It’s important that all schools be in a continuous improvement mode, always striving for excellence.
As folks are aware, we have many choices in our system from Montessori school, three immersion schools, schools that believe in project based learning, schools that many chose because they live in the neighborhood, and schools that have a strong music program. In the coming year, it is our goal to do a review of our elementary school program to see where improvement/change needs to be made.
I’ve been around since the start of our voluntary controlled choice plan and know the importance of children of all races and economic backgrounds learning and growing together. The schools are the center of a community and having our schools be diverse makes for a much stronger community.
There has been some talk of creating neighborhood schools or zones which we should open to, our current plan sometimes creates winners and losers and needs a fresh look.
Family engagement and communication
One of the five Strategic Objectives in the school systems District Strategic Plan is “Expand and Strengthen Family Partnerships and Community Partnerships” The objective is supported by four Strategic initiatives. The first being “Engage families as partners with a formal, ongoing feedback mechanism that creates differentiated opportunities for family voice and engagement.” Our parents are special, always willing to give of themselves to make the system better for all children. We have a pool of talented diverse parents that we should invite into the decision making to help make our schools great.
All schools have been asked to align their individual School Improvement Plans to the district goals so that the entire system is aligned to improve Family engagement and communication. We have dedicated many resources to this endeavor, having parent liaisons at each elementary school, a family liaison at our sheltered English immersion program, a parent liaison for our special education program, community engagement team to do outreach, funds allocated to middle schools to improve family engagement and a recently new position of a Director of Communications all to improve family engagement. We also have School Improvement Councils at each school that should involve parents in deciding what the goals are for the school and to assist in budget deliberations/activism to ensure their school gets the resources it needs.
All schools and administration must acknowledge that parent voices are welcomed and encouraged. By ensuring there is a meeting space for parents to gather would be a good first step.
Personally, I make myself available to ensure that any parent that has an idea or concern can reach out to me and get an immediate response.
The state is requiring that school systems at various grade take the MCAS 2.0, the results of this Standardized Test show not only how well our students are doing in Cambridge but also compares our children with school systems throughout Massachusetts. In addition to Standardized Testing Cambridge has its own internal assessments systems. Last year, Kathleen Kelly and I worked with a dynamic group of talented and committed teachers who were interested “less testing and more teaching” to try to reach an appropriate balance that would support accountability and support allowing teachers to be the instructional leaders that they are-this work continues. This reflects our commitment to both good scholarship and good social and emotional support for students.
Role of the School Committee
The major responsibilities of the school committee are to set policy, approve the budget, and hire the Superintendent of Schools. I also believe that we must be advocates or cheerleaders for our public school to support the good work the school system does. Through this advocacy role we have been able to secure necessary budget funds to support programs and necessary funding to build new schools and repair other schools in need. It can truly be said that over my years on the school committee we have changed the focus and steered a very firm course toward focusing on student achievement in everything we do.
One important role that the school committee performs is to work with the Superintendent to establish goals and objectives of our school system and then to “evaluate” the progress that the Superintendent has made. It’s critical that the school committee evaluate the Superintendent annually in a comprehensive way to discuss his strengths and weaknesses and progress made on agreed upon goals and then for the next year to set new goals to complete. Our best chance to move our system from good to great is to stay focused on goal setting and doing timely evaluations.
My own personal preference is to stay very active in visiting schools, going to school based events and engaging parents on a regular basis. This helps me know what the real issues are and guides the way I form my own priorities.
Role of Teachers in shaping programs and influencing policies
The school committee has great respect for our teachers who daily are on the front line making sure all our children get what they need so they will be successful in careers and college. One of the most important documents in our system is our “Teachers Union Contract” which shapes many of our policies and practices. I have played a significant role over the years being on the front line of negotiations with the teacher’s union to make sure a fair deal is always reached: one that compensates people fairly and gets, in return, genuine commitment to the children of Cambridge. This last contract was significant in that the School Committee and Teachers Union reached agreement that three working committees would be formed: Special Education, Curriculum and Assessments, so that we could work together to improve these areas to benefit our students. My sense is that we are truly working together as a team to do what’s best for our students.
Curriculum and programs
Our relatively new experienced Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction will oversee the three areas noted below. Her focus on strategic planning and implementation for curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development JK-12 will be critical to moving our system forward.
As one can see by visiting our schools, administrators, teachers, and specialists are working hard to create a special place for our children. Our elementary schools have many resources that most schools in Massachusetts do not. Parent Liaisons, full time Librarians, schools are provided an allotment of school improvement funds to allow for school based expenditures in priority areas, assistant principals, innovative programs like Kodaly Music, a community engagement team, significant professional development and much more. And it goes without saying that a strong active parent community adds a lot of value to our schools.
Our elementary schools now are aligning their school improvement plans with that of the district to create alignment. The school system will also this year begin to review our elementary programs to ensure we are making progress with our students.
Our K-5 schools are much smaller, and strong leaders can manager them well. We are in a good place to make progress in closing the Achievement Gap.
Middle School Grades
Ongoing support for the Upper Schools is essential to building a successful program in grades 6 through 8. It’s important we refine the Upper School program in order to meet the Innovation Agenda goal of a providing a superior academic and social experience for all students that prepares them for success in high school and post-secondary education. We need to continue to provide support and make investments in areas that will enhance the success in our middle schools. Students enjoy attending schools with larger cohorts of students instead of the isolation that many experienced prior and the school system can provide enhanced offering in the visual and performing arts areas. The goal of having these middle schools racially balanced is also important to me. My goal is that every child leaves middle school ready to succeed at CRLS.
High School Grades
Our high school continues to be the showcase of our system with capable strong leadership with principal, Damon Smith, a great facility and campus, and very active community groups and strong community support. We continue to send students to the nation’s best colleges and universities and to careers that require two-year schools, apprenticeships, or other training. High school enrollment is increasing because of many students coming from private elementary schools want to attend CRLS in no small part because of excellence in instruction and high rates of college admissions to a thoroughly diverse range of institutions.
Language Immersion Programs
As someone who was on the committee 30 years when we started the Amigos program, and was active in supporting the Ola and Mandarin Chinese immersion programs, I take great pride in having the vision to recognize the important of immersion programs long before they became popular.
We all know the educational research on how Immersion programs benefit all children and they are an important part in our School Choice system. We must continue to support our immersion programs, help schools promote the values of bilingual education, and in thoughtful ways talk about opportunities for more low-income children to attend them.
It’s important to note that I believe we have many excellent schools all throughout our city from Immersion Programs, to our Montessori program, our extended day schools, our schools that many consider neighborhood schools, and schools that believe in project based learning. As I’ve mentioned above the success of our Controlled Choice System is based strongly on the notion that all schools must be excellent choices for parents. Given we have a consistent curriculum at each school I believe we are getting there.
Extended day programs
Cambridge offers many choices in our public schools two of which are extended day programs at the Fletcher Maynard Academy and the King School. Children go to school for 8 hours a day except Wednesday. Many parents favor a longer school day for their children. With more time, schools can be creative in scheduling and course offerings. For example, additional courses can be offered (Spanish at Fletcher Maynard), extended classes in all subjects including academics and Visual and Performing arts, more time for teachers to collaborate, etc.
Early Childhood Education
I think we all agree on the importance of early childhood education and the importance of providing high quality programs that are affordable. The city and school department are working jointly thru its original task force on Early Childhood Education now referred to as “Birth to Grade 3 Partnerships” to meet these goals. Some progress has been made in that 20 slots for long income families has been made and coaches have been working with some preschool provides to ensure that programs are of high quality.
I believe the task force’s goal this year will be to work on a comprehensive plan that will involve the school department, city and preschool provides to provide a model that will support its goals. My sense is that the resulting recommendation will be a hybrid model as they figure out which of the three entities will serve which children.
I get that folks may be a bit frustrated by this process but because of its complexity it needs time to do it well.
Social and Emotional Development
Students are under a lot of pressure in school and outside to succeed in their education and thrive in society. Their social and emotional development is a high priority in our schools and is one of our District Strategy Plan five major objectives: “Support the Whole Child as an Individual.” There are four Strategic Initiatives to support this goal, I will highlight two of them: 1. Implement a PK-12 social, emotional, and behavioral learning framework and vision; and 2. Develop and expand effective inclusive practices in all classrooms through professional learning. In additional the school system has hired a social and emotional coordinator to facilitate this implementation.
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