Kathleen Kelly

Kathleen Kelly
2017 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
address: 17 Marie Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact information:
website: www.kathleenmkelly.com
e-mail: KMK@kathleenmkelly.com
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Kathleen-M-Kelly/458346347574209
Twitter: twitter.com/KathMKelly

Send contributions to:
ActBlue: https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/kathleen

I am running for my third term to the Cambridge School Committee based on my experience as public schools parent and community activist. I believe that every child and family should experience what my family did—to have both strengths and difficulties met with appropriate support. I earned an MBA from Simmons and an MSW/MA from Boston College. I have found both these degrees have helped me to be a strong budget co-chair and an advocate for teachers, families and students. As a social worker, I view the whole child in the child’s environment and focus on social justice and equity when creating policy. For a student to access curriculum, the student must feel socially and emotionally safe. Classroom and school culture matters. Our teachers may offer culturally relevant, rigorous curriculum and powerful instruction but if a child’s environment feels unsafe, a student will not take the risks she or he needs to learn.

Our district’s most urgent concern remains the many students who do not fully access the education they need to reach their potential. This creates a loss for these students and our community as a whole. All students have a right to a rich, rigorous education according to our state’s constitution. Cambridge public schools must be student centered and support teachers in their challenging work every day.

Improving achievement for all students
Our community wants rigor and higher expectations for all students. A consistent educational philosophy needs to back School Committee policies and District leadership decisions to raise achievement. The Superintendent’s entry plan and strategic plan framework puts our school district on that path. Although different interventions are appropriate for different students, the emphasis on achievement for all students is at the forefront of the framework, which identifies the barriers we have to effective implementation and builds on our district’s strengths.

Strong instructional leadership is needed in all our Upper Schools and Elementary Schools. The Superintendent has been addressing this important lever by mentoring more experienced principles and supporting new principals through a new principal induction program. Our district leadership team must address the causes for lower academic achievement at some schools. Social Emotional Learning is important. Fully implemented, SEL helps students engage in learning and improves academic achievement. In schools, SEL needs to be balanced with appropriate academic challenge. One Upper School continues to struggle with this balance, due to weaker instructional leadership. Some K-8 schools which struggled with this balance, have made gains as K-5s. Kennedy-Longfellow has improved significantly. The entire school community has played a role in its success, especially the teachers.

Teacher voice and District leadership
Educator voice is important. Teachers and paraprofessionals are the frontline people in our district, who know what is happening with our families and our students. Previous superintendents have emphasized a top down approach when implementing instructional practices, assessments, and curriculum. As subcommittee chair of curriculum and achievement, I worked with district leadership and the CEA to open dialogue on this contentious history. As a result, a clause in the teachers’ contract created a working group on these issues to ensure that the teachers experience and voice is included in decisions about instruction, assessments, and curriculum. These areas will be strengthened by the teachers’ experienced voice and the assistant superintendent’s experience.

As a Districtwide Family Engagement Committee Member, I worked with others to widen our definition of family engagement, raise learning expectations for all students, and increase the time our most vulnerable students spend in the classroom, where they need to be to learn and remain engaged in school. We understand a partnership must be created between families, teachers, and principals to support student learning. I advocated for cultural proficiency training for administrators and new teachers to raise expectations for all students and improve family engagement. I asked district leadership to create a common language and practice around culturally responsive instruction and curriculum. This past year, teacher leaders created and led the culturally proficiency work. Our teachers understand how critical this is for student learning.

Building a safe, supportive, nurturing environment in our schools
A welcoming environment must exist in all school communities and requires continuous evaluation and improvement. The primary focus must be students. We need to develop positive, collaborative relationships between the adults: family members and guardians, teachers, staff, and administrators. Adults must model the environment we want for our students. Some schools have created a strong feeling of community through particular practices, such as PBIS, responsive classroom, and restorative practice. All schools must be safe, supportive and nurturing environments for their community members.

Social-Emotional Learning remains a growing edge for the district. We have wonderful pieces of the SEL puzzle, but they are not integrated fully. We need to evaluate our SEL programs, not as separate elements but as an integrated whole. How do our programs reinforce the development of healthy student and community member identities? School climate surveys and student health surveys are excellent evaluative tools for SEL. Our students need emotional intelligence as they navigate a different work world, where teamwork is critical.

Special Education and Student Supports
Our district is one system that implements particular supports, such as academic challenge and special education, not separate educational systems. Next term, I will participate in the discussion about the future direction for special education at the state and local levels. I remain concerned about the increase in mental health issues among students from JK – 12 in our district, Massachusetts, and nationwide. Some increase may be due to increased consciousness and attention to student mental health, school refusal, and trauma. Lack of recess, physical activity, and independent, child directed play may contribute as well.

Student IEPs and accommodations must be implemented fully in classrooms. Through discussions with families, I know the lag time for general education students, who need supports, is too long. The roles of guidance counselors, school psychologists, school adjustment counselors, and social workers need to be delineated. These roles have overlapping training. By evaluating these roles, our district could more effectively use their training to assist students and their families. These professionals could support each other in their work with students as teachers do meeting by grade level or by content area.

For many years, School Committee members have worked to lessen punitive responses to behaviors. In previous years, some members worked with the Schott Foundation. We continue to advocate for reducing suspensions. Our district-wide social worker, Alice Cohen, has worked with many teachers to help them understand and respond appropriately to difficult student behaviors. With our students in the classroom, we are better able to ascertain the needs of students, teachers, and others. Restorative practice continues to grow in the district. It rebuilds and strengthens our classroom and school communities. Our data indicates we have work to do meeting these student’s needs. Engagement in learning, attendance, and appropriate responses when students encounter difficulty are critical for student achievement and supportive classroom cultures.

Building a cohesive and collaborative leadership culture within the School Committee and with the leadership of the District
As School Committee members, we must be the consistent and critical friend to the district and set effective policy. We name what needs improvement and work with the Superintendent and other district leaders to improve our district. Developing working relationships built on respect and trust matters. Due to having these working relationships, I was able to assist teachers and administrators, who needed a policy on gender fluidity and identity to support students, their families, and teachers. I worked with administrators to draft this policy, which was passed by the School Committee. After this policy was passed, administrators and teachers were able to implement protocols and training in our schools. Collaboration creates successful policy.

Superintendent Evaluation and School Committee/District Leadership Norms
I will continue to work to ensure that School Committee and District Leadership develop a common language and culture of shared responsibility and accountability in our appropriate roles. The superintendent deserves a constructive review from the School Committee that moves our district forward.

With co-chair, Patty Nolan, I led the new Superintendent Evaluation process. The structure and evaluation process has challenges, especially for the first evaluation year. With the Superintendent, we created four first year goals and a comprehensive evaluation process for the Committee. The Superintendent submitted a comprehensive self-evaluation to Committee Members. Our evaluations were combined into a summary evaluation for the Superintendent. We will be meeting to discuss what we would improve the evaluation process for the coming year.

Instituting long-range planning for budgetary and programmatic decision-making
Creating effective policy requires School Committee members to understand both what works and what needs improvement at a particular moment in time. Parents, teachers, staff, and the broader community need to voice their experience and what needs improvement. Planning and evaluating are ongoing. In addition to improving achievement for all students, the Committee and the Superintendent have put particular emphasis on the district’s need to institute long-range planning for budgetary and programmatic decision-making. This planning included wide community input.

Ensuring strong, positive working relationships with the Cambridge Public School District and City of Cambridge programs and the School Committee and City Council
As a budget co-chair, I worked to strengthen the relationship between the School Committee and the City Council in order to build a comprehensive support for all children – from birth through age 25 – and for their families with particular emphasis on: expanding parenting training; literacy; early childhood education; academic enrichment in after-school programs, building partnerships between the Cambridge Public Schools and after-school and summer learning programs; and post-high school planning and partnerships.  City Council members have been concerned that School District budget arrives when changes are less possible. Together, we set a more collaborative tone and considered the successes and the challenges in the School District and in the multiple programs and initiatives for children, youth, and students in the City Manager’s budget. Achievement and opportunity gaps will not be lessened if we rely on technocratic educational solutions alone. The City Council can assist with initiatives that help build economic and social capital for our vulnerable families and students. This is a priority for many City Councilors. We must understand our separate and collective responsibilities to help all students reach their potential.

With Budget Co-Chair Richard Harding, CFO Claire Spinner, and Superintendent Salim, I created a more transparent budget process, which increased the engagement of teachers, parents, and my fellow Committee members. The budget process opened with a series of discussions on topics of concern, such as the pressure of increased enrollment in K-2 and CRLS, elementary world language pilot, Level Up 9th grade ELA, and extra resources for schools that need to respond to particular challenges. Staff and principals were included in these discussions. This was followed by three Committee Budget workshops when each Committee member was invited to speak to what she or he felt were critical budget issues. We also held hearings and received regular budget updates and presentation. This resulted in a unanimous vote by the School Committee and the Finance Subcommittee of the City Council.

I am proud of the work I have been able to accomplish in my two terms on the School Committee. If I am re-elected, I will continue to work with my colleagues to build a strong working relationship with our new superintendent, strengthen special education and student supports, and continue to advocate for our most vulnerable families and students. I ask for your #1 vote for the Cambridge School Committee on Tuesday, November 7. I have worked hard and accomplished much. I would be honored to continue to serve you.

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CCTV candidate video (2013)

Page last updated Tuesday, October 10, 2017 2:36 PM Cambridge Candidates