Several Significant Developments - Rachel for Cambridge

Several Significant Developments

Dear Friends,

Recent months have been challenging for our school district. After much deliberation, the School Committee decided to part ways with Superintendent Greer, who will wrap up her service this summer. To be clear, I appreciate that Dr. Greer shepherded our schools out of pandemic-era schooling and oversaw gains in student achievement. Our views diverged on a number of matters, but I know Dr. Greer to be a strong, hardworking leader, and wish her all the best in her next chapter.

With my colleagues Member David Weinstein and Vice Chair Caroline Hunter at RAUC

In other news, I’m pleased to chair the School Climate Subcommittee this term. I truly believe that the vast majority of students need to feel safe and seen in order to progress academically. Since the subcommittee focuses on upper schools this term, we are reviewing data from the Teen Health Survey as well as visiting each school. Last month, we visited the Rindge Avenue Upper Campus (RAUC), where we used a social-emotional learning tool to observe classes.  We also met with a group of students to hear directly from them about their experiences of school culture and climate. I was quite impressed with educators and students at RAUC – among other things, we saw

  • Young people engaging with their peers to tackle academic challenges
  • Teachers explicitly asking about emotional responses to content (attending to social-emotional learning while also discussing intellectual matters)
  • Students giving thoughtful, candid feedback to the school principal, who was eager to hear both kudos and constructive criticism from them.

High school students in SHADE sharing plans for a Shade is Social Justice site at Donnelly Field

A significant school climate question I continue to grapple with is the role of Youth Resource Officers in our schools.  Coming off of the accidental gun firing by a Youth Resource Officer in April, I requested a discussion at our May 7th meeting with the Cambridge Police Department and CPS leaders.  I remain impressed with the YRO program’s impact on reducing youth arrests by approximately 80%, and its stated aim to break the school-to-prison pipeline. I have personally witnessed the rapport YROs have built with our students and am grateful for their dedication to our community. At the same time, it’s notable that the first time a firearm went off at CRLS, it was that of an officer.  That raised questions about what dangers are greatest and how we mitigate risks.  CPS has an internal Safety and Security team charged with addressing daily safety matters.  The Committee approved a few new positions on that unarmed team in our FY25 budget.  In advance of the meeting, I asked CPS leaders to include the City’s new Community Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) Team in conversations with CPD and to look at alternatives, which they did.  I appreciate Commissioner Elow and her team for their service, candor, and commitment to continuous improvement.  We are fortunate to have a police department that has made dramatic culture shifts in recent years.  

Two big takeaways from our conversation:

  1. A school climate where young people trust teachers, staff, and police is the number one preventative factor in school violence.
  2. Cambridge police are uniquely positioned to divert young people away from the criminal justice system.  This is what they do now and should continue to do.  

Moving forward, we need to continue to build school climates where students trust educators and administrators as much as they trust YROs.  I also think that the school district can rely more heavily on our Safety Specialists within our school buildings and lean on YROs for activity outside of literal school walls.  While I do not see these being rigid or exclusive deployments, I encourage district leadership to revise our working agreements with this orientation. 

In closing, I was delighted that Tutoring Plus recently recognized Khari Milner for his decades of service to our community.  Khari exemplifies what it means to center students and families furthest from privilege; to work explicitly on racial justice; and to collaborate deeply with young people, caregivers, educators, and community partners.  Whether backing his efforts to establish remote learning pods at out-of-school-time organizations (during pandemic schooling) or as a caregiver in a team of the Building Equity Bridges movement that he co-led, I have learned a great deal from Khari.  I welcomed the chance to recognize him publicly with a resolution at our April meeting.

In collaboration,


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