I hope this finds you and your loved ones as well as can be. During this time of such horror, including the unmitigated violence in Gaza and the traumatization of both Palestinians and Israelis, I am quite concerned about our Cambridge Public School students. The young people I have spoken with feel unsafe and misunderstood, regardless of their different religions, nationalities, or politics. I am in frequent communication with the administration about what we can do to provide students (and staff) with spaces to listen to one another, process together, and learn through building community. I hope to have more to report on this front in the coming weeks.
Students and Math Coach Ms. Vincent at CPS’ Math Pop-Up last week
Holding on to small successes and joys is critically important in moments like this. I’m grateful to have numerous pieces of positive news to share with you! Since Election Day, we have:
- Settled the contract with units A &B in the Cambridge Education Association. The new contract provides teachers with raises totaling 18.8% over three years. It also ensures that teachers have more time to collaborate with colleagues, and K-8 students have 30 minutes more of instruction four days a week. Here is the full agreement.
I was inspired observing this Mandarin immersion class at the MLK school recently.
- Adopted a new policy regarding transgender and gender-nonconforming students. As the lead sponsor, I am proud that we are taking new measures and making other practices official to keep our trans and gender-diverse students safe. (You may recall that CPS data is in line with national data. For example, more than half of our upper school students who identify as trans or gender-nonconforming report they’ve considered hurting themselves in the last 30 days.) I'm deeply grateful to the students, caregivers, and educators who contributed to the language of this policy, as well as those who contacted the Committee in support.
- Renamed the Vassal Lane Upper School the Darby Vassall Upper School, changing the honoree from a man who enslaved people to a man who, after enslavement, went on to advocate for civil rights and educational justice. This is the final stage of a long process, which began with VLUS students a decade ago, included school community conversations and student research last spring, and culminated in a School Committee decision. Students, educators, and community members, such as those in the Cambridge Black History Project and the Slave Legacy History Coalition, have been instrumental in this process. At our meeting Tuesday night, when talking about why I authored this motion, I quoted the writer and poet Clint Smith: “Symbols and names and iconography aren’t just symbols, but are reflective of the stories that people tell. And those stories shape the narratives that communities carry, and those narratives shape public policy, and public policy shapes the material conditions of people’s lives.”
In addition to this policy news, two longtime pillars of the Cambridge Public Schools and its School Committee have retired in the last month:
I will miss sitting next to Dr. Turk at School Committee meetings.
- Dr. Carolyn L. Turk was Deputy Superintendent during my tenure on the Committee, but has held many positions in our schools, including that of a student! I often refer to Dr. Turk as the heart of the district, because she has cared and tended to countless students, staff, and families. Her retirement party was, appropriately, filled with love. (Stay tuned for a school space being named in her honor.)
- Fred Fantini, the Dean of the Committee, has retired after 40 years of service. I’ve learned a great deal from Fred. I will be ever grateful for his collegiality, mentorship, and friendship. I will continue to call him for advice, but first we’ll celebrate his legacy!
May we bring peace, health, justice, and joy to 2024.