I hope this finds you well and your spirits lifting with the arrival of spring and vaccines.
Last month, this newsletter noted the passing by suicide of a CRLS scholar. This month, my heart aches to share the news of the murder of Xavier Louis-Jacques, a recent CRLS graduate, artist and athlete. Xavier’s friends and educators remember his warmth, kindness and humor. The media often talks about gun violence in mass shootings, which are beyond horrific. According to Vox (3.23.21), mass shootings make up less than two percent of gun deaths in this country. We need real gun control.
We should hold one another in community.
On an upbeat note, next week, many more of our children will return to in-person learning, marking another pandemic milestone. It’s notable to me that this month’s newsletter is focused on our search for an Interim Superintendent and next year’s budget, topics that we would address in non-Covid years, too.
When Dr. Salim submitted his resignation in January, my colleagues and I decided to launch a search for an Interim Superintendent. The requirements for an interim search are different than for a permanent search. The School Committee has the authority to simply appoint an Interim Superintendent. Because we are committed to antiracism and closing opportunity gaps of all sorts, we wanted to incorporate some community engagement where possible, despite the quick timeline.
As a member of the ad hoc search committee, I have worked closely with Mayor Siddiqui, Member Rojas, and our Chief Talent Officer, Lisa Richardson, to design an abbreviated calendar that centers student, caregiver and staff voices. We have invited finalists to meet with these three groups of stakeholders for interviews that the stakeholders design and lead. On April 8th, the candidates will rotate through 45-minute sessions with each of these groups.
(Here is the link to watch the Committee discuss this process)
We know that the panelists in these stakeholder groups will ask critical questions of interim superintendent candidates. It’s also worth noting that, while we are observing how finalists interact with community members, we are also giving them an impression of what it would be like to work for our district and how we walk our antiracist talk.
To view these interviews, please visit the Interim Superintendent Search page for links. In the coming days, a new form will be added through which you can submit feedback on the candidates as well as suggest questions for the School Committee to ask when candidates come before us.
In other news, I am pleased to see the following items in the Superintendent’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022:
- The expansion of the Early College program, which provides high school students with rigorous learning and college credits before they graduate from CRLS. I’m also glad to see we are seeking the state’s “Early College Designation,” as I expect that will require a larger program with proven results, especially for students who are the first in their families to attend college.
- Expanded funding for a full-time social worker at every elementary school. Our children deserve the social emotional support and case work social workers can provide, now more than ever.
- Increased capacity to provide language access to all families. In addition to addressing a clear access issue, we all will benefit from more caregivers participating in public forums (with interpretation services).
The additions to the budget that I’m seeking include:
- Increasing Family Liaisons to 40-hours per week at every school. The Family Liaisons do critical work to close opportunity gaps for students. Among other things, families routinely turn to them for help navigating food, housing, and after school care, all challenges that impact well-being and learning.
- Allocating more funding for intensive tutoring, enhanced after school programming, and/or another strategy to augment our existing academic supports as we emerge from remote learning.
Apropos of which, I am advocating for a process this year through which the School Committee will approve the use of federal recovery and rescue funds. In typical times, we approve such grants through a consent agenda. Since we anticipate upwards of $13m coming to the district, I believe the Committee should have more oversight of these significant resources dedicated to building back stronger.
Just as this Tobin Montessori poster encourages a growth mindset in students, we too must be persistent learning to close opportunity and achievement gaps.
We are fortunate to live in a city that has increased the School Department’s budget by an astounding 22% in the last four fiscal years. Now we must ensure that our academic and wellbeing outcomes reflect and go beyond that investment.
As always, I welcome your questions and suggestions.