Laurance Kimbrough

Laurance Kimbrough
2017 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
24 Aberdeen Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

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Laurance Kimbrough is a new candidate this year.

Statement for 2017 Election
It is with much excitement that I announce my intention to run for the Cambridge School Committee in 2017. As a lifelong Cambridge resident, the parent of a rising junior kindergartener, a former Cambridge Public School employee, and a current member of the City's Police Review and Advisory Board, I believe my wide range of experiences make me uniquely qualified to serve all Cambridge families if elected to the Committee.

A New Direction for Boys
My candidacy for the Cambridge School Committee is deeply personal. Within the past calendar year, two of my classmates from CRLS have died from drug overdoses. Additionally, one other classmate and two former students (who I met while doing my student-teaching at CRLS) have been murdered because of their involvement in illegal drug sales. It is important to point out, without naming names, that all of the aforementioned victims were men.

In the Cambridge Public Schools, boys are almost three times more likely to be disciplined and suspended than girls. Coupled with the fact that boys and men are far less likely to seek help or counseling, I believe we have a boys/men health crisis that is impacting us all.

The Cambridge Public Schools need to think differently about supporting the emotional health and development of the boys who will one day grow up and become men. And while these numbers are not unique to Cambridge, the Cambridge Public Schools should be at the forefront in addressing this national health crisis.

Improving Achievement for All Students
“You measure what you can count easily and often fail to measure what really counts” ~Albert Einstein

I believe the Cambridge Public Schools has an “Engagement Gap.” Too few of our scholars are fully engaged in learning within our schools because it is enjoyable, uniquely challenging, and personally meaningful. During my time as a special education teacher, guidance counselor, and tennis coach at CRLS, many of my strongest students were simply “doing school,” while others felt little motivation and interest to engage in the education afforded to them.

In 2013, I recall a time when I tried to complement a pair of my students who were deeply engrossed in an AP AB Calculus problem. I told them we needed more students engaged and loving math because it is a language we can use to solve so many of the world’s problems. One was quick to correct me however, stating that she hated math and was only taking AP AB Calculus so she could get into a good college. Improving the type of achievement that looks good on a transcript or increases test scores is NOT the type of achievement I want to improve.

My interest in improving achievement for all students is more value-driven and individual than anything that is measured by fat admissions-envelopes, AP or Honors Classes, MCAS scores, or grade earned. Can we measure achievement by how schools and educators help students and families meet their own personal goals for improvement, engagement, character growth, moral development, and community activism? I believe that we can.

“The Achievement Gap” is an issue within the Cambridge Public Schools for which we must allocate resources and enact policies to eliminate. And yet, we must resist the temptation as educations, policymakers, parents, and community members to only measure things can be counted easily. What good is an acceptance letter from Harvard if the boy receiving it is “cat-calling” girls in the hallway? Is it more important to have students taking AP Environmental Science or understanding the importance of recycling and energy conservation in relation to climate change? Should we sacrifice our need to create lifelong learners at the expense of students passing the MCAS? If a student earns an “A” in US History, but chooses not to vote upon turning 18, did the individual actually learn anything?

I see engagement in school as a prerequisite for a different type of achievement that I believe, we as Cantabridgians, want to measure. Fulfilling our district’s goal of “educating all students well” starts with a love of learning. It continues when curricula is meaningful, challenging, and forces students to think critically about and engage with the world around them. If elected, I will never lose sight of “what really counts,” as it will be part of my core values when evaluating the growth of our school district.

Black Lives Matter!
In the Cambridge Public Schools, Black students make up 25% of the student population, compared to white students which make up 40%. Yet, Black students were 3 times more likely to be disciplined than white students and over 3.5 times more likely to be suspended from school than whites. I believe our schools should be at the forefront of creating equity within our city and dismantling the legacy of white supremacy and white privilege within Cambridge, not perpetuating it.

Lift Every Voice – especially those of our most vulnerable
In Cambridge, we have the terrible tendency to give our focus, attention, and people-power to families who make the most noise. I believe this has created a chasm in the Cambridge Public Schools that leaves our city's most vulnerable students and families voiceless. If elected, I will always speak up for those who have been rendered mute through years of oppression and discrimination. I will also work to create policies within our schools to ensure that all families have a voice, not simply the "squeakiest wheels" who regularly dominate the conversations.

The race to nowhere
The gap between the haves and have-nots in America has risen. Our democracy and our government officials at the national level have let all of us down, and many of us believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction…and has been for decades. A 2014 Wall Street Journal poll showed that 75% of Americans believe their kids' generation would not fare better than their own. These fears have trickled down into our schools, and as a result parents are placing more emphasis on preparing our students to attend highly selective colleges and universities in hopes that these institutions will provide them with the edge that helps them be part of the "haves." In my work as a guidance counselor at CRLS, I spoke with many parents and students who believe admission into a highly selective school gives them an advantage necessary to creating a better life. "The reward for getting into the top x percent of the income distribution now is a multiple of what is was 30 or 40 years ago. And people now believe that the access to a higher income comes through these elite schools," said Catherine Bond-Hill, the former president at Vassar, in Frank Bruni's 2015 book Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be.

And yet deep in our hearts, I believe what we want most for our children is to not only be happy but to be engaged in their own academic growth. As adults, we should be more interested in our kids' "eulogy virtues" than "character virtues." The desire for our students to do well in school for the sake of college admissions puts us on a "race to nowhere," making learning a competitive battle with others rather than an engaging, fulfilling journey to figure out who we are, what we care about and what type of person we want to become. If we believe in social justice in Cambridge, then education can't be a competition, where we compare our kid's success to that of our neighbors. We must put into practice the beliefs that all kids within our community and within our schools deserve the best schools, the best educators and the best opportunity for personal fulfillment and success; which I believe is at the heart of a social justice education.

Charter Schools
I am not a supporter of charter schools. And yet this past fall, I voted in support of Question 2 because of the Cambridge Public Schools' poor history of creating equitable educational experiences for all families. Many African-American families in Cambridge have given up on our schools and believe their children can receive a better education at The Benjamin Banaker, Prospect Hill Academy and The Community Charter School of Cambridge. Despite the amazing opportunities afforded students within CPS, the trust in our schools from the Black people in Cambridge has been lost. Black families in Cambridge not only take valuable financial resources with them to but also take talented and gifted scholars out of the Cambridge Public Schools and into charters. I believe these students are some of our city's most valuable resources. Charter schools were originally created to support public schools and learn from the best practices they use in supporting all students. There are great educators and policies at the charter schools in Cambridge that we can learn from.

Addressing the lack of educational equity
A June presentation by the Cambridge Community Development Team indicated that almost 20% of Black Cambridge residents over 25 do not have a high school diploma. In addition, Blacks in Cambridge aged 25 or older are just as likely to have a high school degree as a college degree. These numbers lag far behind those of Asians, whites and Latinos. And while this data does not indicate what percentage of Blacks living in Cambridge attended the Cambridge Public Schools, this data does show us that the legacy of slavery and white supremacy is alive in Cambridge.

The most recent data from the Massachusetts DESE website shows that Black, white, Latino and Asian students all attend higher education after finishing CRLS in high numbers. And yet Blacks and latinos are 3.5 and 4 times more likely to attend community college than white students. Additionally, in the '15-'16 school year, White students were 3.5 (history), 10 (math), and 8 (science) times more likely to take an AP exam than black students. During my time working within the Cambridge Public Schools, both at the middle and high schools, there was a belief among some Black students that taking honors and/or AP classes was "acting white." I support the "Level Up" initiative at CRLS for the fact that it requires all students to take honors classes upon entering CRLS. This will hopefully create less self-segregation in AP courses during junior and senior years and prepare more students of color to enter four-year public and private colleges upon graduation from the Cambridge Public Schools.

Straight to working for the City
I believe that our schools should play multiple roles in the development of our young people; primarily to create life-long learners who believe in civic engagement and work for social justice. And yet in America, we all believe that education should create greater financial opportunities and social mobility for those who attain degrees.

The data from the Cambridge Community Development Team showed that 60% of blacks in Cambridge make $60,000 annually, compared with whites, 50% of whom make over $125,000 a year. 25% of Black families in Cambridge make less than $20,000/yr, the largest wage earning group for Blacks living in Cambridge.

The Cambridge School Department should be working with Cambridge Public Works, the Department of Human Services, Traffic/Parking/Transportation, Information Technology and the Cambridge Housing Authority to provide career pathways for students such as job shadowing opportunities, internships, and to assure that there are job openings for CRLS graduates who want them. This would not only address the earning income gap between racial cohorts within the city, but put CPS graduates on a path towards financial independence, which I also believe will make our graduates more likely to be fully engaged in Cambridge civic life and our national democracy.

Carrying the torch
My father Leslie Kimbrough spent the majority of his adult life working in the Cambridge Public Schools, championing educational equity and opportunity. He worked tirelessly to build relationships with his fellow educators and the young people he worked with at CRLS. Around the time I was born, my father was fighting the Cambridge Public Schools to hire more educators of colors, even receiving death threats for standing up for his beliefs. I'm confident that the Cambridge families and educators who have worked with both my father and myself believe that "the apple doesn't fall from the tree."

The last conversation I had with my father before he passed was about educational equity, academically engaging and socially relevant curriculum, and the need to continue to hire more men of color within our public schools. I will never forget that conversation. All Cantabridgians who knew Leslie Kimbrough should know that the torch has indeed been passed. If elected to the Cambridge School Committee, I will continue to carry on my father's legacy and strive towards making our schools better for all students.

Page last updated Monday, June 26, 2017 2:34 PM Cambridge Candidates