BELOW IS: 1) A LETTER TO THE SC BY CPS PARENT ELISABETH KANNER, AND 2) PUBLIC COMMENT PROVIDED BY CPS PARENT MARY-ANN MATYAS AT THE SC BUDGET HEARING ON OCT. 21, 2014. Both are posted with their permission.
Letter to the School Committee from CPS parent Elisabeth Kanner
October 22, 2014
To the School Committee:
I am writing to you as a parent and as an educator re: curricular priorities and strategies. I am concerned about HOW money is allocated more than exactly what it is being allocated for.
We know all of the schools in Cambridge are different. There is no way that schools with different populations of students and different teachers and different histories can be identical. Yet, the way that many decisions have been made treats all schools as if they are the same. For example, the way much of the PD money has been spent treats all teachers as if they need coaching on the same thing (Did all teachers need to learn backwards design? No. Many teachers are already very skilled at this and this was a waste of their precious time.) Likewise, do all schools need the same battery of assessments? No, many teachers already have the data they need on their students and do not need a computer print out to tell them who reads at what level.
There are certainly decisions that the Superintendent should make for all schools. For example, setting district-wide standards (especially for literacy and numeracy) is vital so that students at all schools are held to high expectations. But the supports each school needs to reach those standards might be different. Therefore, budget allocations should be changed so that each school is given a larger sum of money that principals, in consultation with their faculty, decide how to spend funds to benefit their students. Do they need more inclusion specialists? SEI instructors? PD around planning and assessment? The Superintendent, of course, can provide oversight around how principals choose to spend this money.
The School Committee should not be saying that the whole district should spend X number of dollars on y consultant. Who is better equipped to say what PD a school needs: the principal and faculty who work in the school and see student learning there every day (and have experienced lots of PD) or school committee members who spend very little time in classrooms and have very little (or no) teaching experience?
The School Committee can and should play an important role in establishing in what areas the district needs to be standardized and in what areas standardization is unnecessary or even detrimental. Personal experience as an educator for 20 years (I currently work in Boston Public Schools) and conversations with teachers across the district strongly suggests that those closest to the students (the teachers and the principals) can make the best decisions about what a school needs. And, if the Superintendent and School Committee really do not trust the principals to make wise decisions, I wonder why these principals are not being replaced?
Elisabeth Kanner, Ed.D.
Public Comment at School Committee Budget Hearing, October 21, 2014
CPS Parent Mary-Ann Matyas
Hello Mayor Maher, School Committee members, Superintendent Young and Cabinet Members,
Thank you for the opportunity for parents to comment on next year’s budget priorities and allocations so early in the process.
As I have remarked in previous years, I urge you all to consider moving away from accepting a maintenance of effort budget and lobby the city for a budget distribution that goes beyond cost of living increases and that more closely meets the tremendous diversity of needs within our district. I respectfully submit that we need to be more aggressive in our pursuit of additional funding to fully realize our district’s vision of a robust 21st century education with high academic achievement and social justice for all our students: what was promised to us via the Innovation Agenda.
As I consider the school system I would like my children to be a part of, I would like to advocate for a Cambridge Public Schools budget that:
- increases the number of reading and math interventionists in all our schools;
- allocates co-teachers in all classrooms;
- elevates foreign language instruction to a core academic subject, starting in Junior Kindergarten;
- builds additional supports into our classrooms to include, as much as possible, students with academic and social challenges;
- continues funding full-time librarians and coaches in our schools;
- offers meaningful out-of school and summer learning opportunities aligned with our curriculum and,
- allows each and every one of our schools to engage meaningfully with the families in their respective communities, and in particular, to fund Family Liaisons in each of our upper schools, even if only part-time. For all the good reasons that these positions exist in the elementary schools and high school, they are equally necessary for all the 4 upper school campuses.
Last, but not least, I would encourage you to fully fund, the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program. Graham and Parks has been very fortunate to participate in this program for the second consecutive year, but it is extremely alarming that each year, many more families applied for weekend food bags at our school than we had funding for. All the wonderful academic initiatives present in our schools will be for naught if kids are hungry and can’t focus on learning.
I know that the budget season is a particularly intense time of the school year. I appreciate your willingness to listen and consider my priorities as well as those of all the parents in our district.