I hope this finds you well and warm!
Though we are less than a week into the New Year, there is an abundance of news, so I wanted to share a couple of quick updates.
First, the new School Committee was sworn in on Monday. I am humbled and honored that my colleagues voted unanimously to name me Vice Chair for this term (2022-23). As Vice Chair, I will appoint subcommittees and work more closely with the Mayor and Superintendent to coordinate the Committee’s work. I am eager to use this opportunity to help improve our students’ experiences and academic outcomes.
(The new Committee took our masks off for a quick photo. We were masked and distanced throughout the inauguration itself.)
Second, I appreciated that Interim Superintendent Greer, with guidance from the Cambridge Public Health Department, decided to postpone the opening of school by two days in order to test students and staff for COVID. This was a seemingly prudent move that required long hours of work by teams in both departments over the winter vacation. Unfortunately, a number of missteps on multiple fronts resulted in students and families waiting multiple hours for tests in below-freezing weather, as well as incomplete lab results. Yesterday, Mayor Siddiqui and I released a statement reflecting on this troubling start to the year. You can read the full statement below this message.
I wish us all a healthy, joyous year full of learning and community.
CPS students, families, and staff,
This was not the way we wanted to start 2022. We are truly sorry that you have had to bear the brunt of others’ mistakes. From long, freezing lines to get tested Monday to delayed results and difficult decisions about sending your own children to school Wednesday, we hear you and are responding to these challenges. We recognize that Cambridge Public Schools and Public Health staff have been working around the clock and appreciate their commitment to our students and families.
We and our colleagues on the School Committee have been in frequent communication with Interim Superintendent Greer this week. We will have an action review about how plans (and contingency plans) were made and communicated. We are committed to learning from this difficult experience to ensure that families are never put in this position again. As we debrief with the School Department, the Cambridge Public Health Department, and CIC Health, we will continue to push for safe, in-person learning and better communication.
CIC has taken full responsibility for mismanaging the testing results and, with the support of the state, provided additional testing teams from the National Guard to conduct rapid tests for us today. Additionally, routine surveillance testing for staff and students has restarted.
Please know that we are dedicated to seeing the district do better as we move forward over the days and weeks ahead.
Do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions or concerns.
Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui
Vice Chair Rachel Weinstein