Richard Harding

Richard Harding
2011 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
187 Windsor St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact information:
Harding Campaign
PO Box 390450
Cambridge, MA 02139
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Harding Campaign
PO Box 390450
Cambridge, MA 02139

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Richard Harding, a lifelong Cantabrigian, began his service as an intern at Joe Kennedy's Citizen's Energy, then served as Director of Constituent Services for Senator Steven Tolman and is the past Chair of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee. He has served on the board of the Young People's Project and of the Community Arts Center. Richard is the President of the Port Life Foundation and a founder of the Port Action Group, a neighborhood group focused on violence prevention. Through the Port Action Group, Richard led the effort to secure the funding and institute a streetworker in Area 4 to help connect formerly incarcerated individuals with services and resources.

Recently, Richard has organized and facilitated two community wide conversations in the area of justice -- Civil Rights: Policing, Discretion and Race, and Not Guilty, a forum that examined police conduct in the Eurie Stamps and DJ Henry incidents. Richard is a proud recipient of the NAACP Education Excellence Award and the Cambridge Peace and Justice Award. Richard is a member of the Cambridge Police Commissioner's Community Advisory Board.

As a School Committee member, Richard's bold, effective leadership included serving as Vice-Chair and co-chairing the Budget Committee and Contract Negotiations. Richard has co-chaired the Kids Council and brought his leadership to the Neighborhood Safety Task Force's Employment Sub-Committee. Richard currently runs the Men of Color Health Initiative and is a program consultant to the job training program, CambridgeWorks. Richard attended the Kennedy Elementary school, received his high school diploma from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and is a graduate of Fitchburg State College. His daughter is a student in the Cambridge Public Schools.

Top Priorities
• Academic excellence for all children - student achievement
• Excellent instruction in every classroom - Algebra I in the 8th grade for all middle schools
• Successful implementation of the innovation agenda
• Creating meaningful opportunities for active parental involvement in the Cambridge Public Schools
• Summer learning opportunities to address summer learning loss and support accelerated learners

School Department Administration and Superintendent
I believe that a primary role of the school committee is to challenging the superintendent to be accountable to students and families by making sure he is evaluating programs, teachers and the central administration staff. We have work with him to make sure that he rises to the challenge of the persistence academic achievement gap and offers a concrete plan to close the achievement gap. I believe we must make sure that the superintendent is negotiating with the teacher's union with the best possible learning environment for children in mind and I will work collaboratively with the superintendent to develop goals that support a child centered learning environment.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs
As one of the members who fought hard to reconstruct our one public high school and voted to do it, I want to see to it that the renovations are completed in a timely fashion so that our children can fully enjoy it. I will continue to scrutinize the budget to eliminate wasteful spending. I will continue to hold the superintendent accountable to any money spent that is not directly impacting the classroom experience for children in the Cambridge Public Schools.

The Innovation Agenda
I will work to ensure the successful implementation of the innovation agenda for every school and every child. I will work to ensure that central administration hires the most highly qualified principals to run the middle schools. I believe we must make sure that there are adequate out-of-school time resources and programs that cater to the middle school age population. We must also provide resources for community building with new school populations and making sure that there are enough resources in place at schools to deal with social climate issues.

I will lead in the effort to evaluate the Innovation Agenda to make sure that it is succeeding every child, that there is academic rigor in every discipline, and that teachers are given all the support needed to be successful in the new middle schools. We must also ensure that our bilingual programs are supported and allowed to flourish.

All of this is possible if we make sure that the most highly qualified teachers are in front of our children.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap"
As co-chair of the controlled choice team, I would look to work on and implement the recommendations of this team. Central to our goal is that all schools should be seen as great learning institutions so that parents would feel comfortable no matter which they chose. This would help to alleviate parents' fears and perceptions of "good schools vs. bad schools".

No one supports diversity more than I, but I believe that each child receiving a quality education is the most important thing our schools can offer. I don't believe that these principles are in direct conflict as long as we work diligently to make every school a great school. We should not have to choose between diversity and "good schools".

The Achievement gap is often looked at as the difference between racial sub groups and so a lot of energy is placed on eliminating the difference between them, when we should focus on everyone reaching proficiency.

The most important thing is having excellent instruction in every classroom and real support for students with special needs to make inclusion in the classroom a reality.

Lastly, research supports the need for summer school to combat summer learning loss and provide an opportunity for accelerated learners to stay on pace. I have and will in the future support summer school that is open to those who need it and to those who want it, every child needs and education and, if we are doing our jobs well, every child will want to learn.

Enrichment Programs
We should find a way to provide more funding for programs such as Breakthrough Cambridge, so more kids can experience a high level academic enrichment program. We must create a district wide intramural program for students who don't want to participate in varsity sports but would be able to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and social interaction without the pressures of competition.

We need to find a way to make more programs available for students with special needs in out-of-school settings, families struggle to find suitable programming with the necessary support and know how. Our system and our city should be able to do better. I will also continue the work that I started to make our AP classes more diverse and representative of our student population, the opportunities we have must be open and accessible to every child.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools
I believe we are losing the battle in marketing the Cambridge Public Schools as a viable choice for Cambridge parents. As I work events, especially community health fairs, I notice that charter schools are reaching out to families and their children, communicating all that they have to offer. The Cambridge Public Schools should do the same. We have a great number of offerings and a diversity in programming that should allot any family in Cambridge a desirable choice for their children.

We need to be more aggressive in marketing our system as a viable option and create a recruitment plan to reach families and children with the variety of options and opportunities that the full system has to offer.

Although we are seeing an increase in enrollment it was only a short while ago that we lost 1000 students. We cannot be complacent, we need to sell ourselves and recruit to make sure that we are doing as much as our competitors to market our schools. We need also to conduct exit interviews to ascertain if there are any patterns for why students are leaving and create a plan to address them.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum
Unfortunately in our elementary schools there is an inconsistent level of achievement across the board. Some of this has to with the curriculum, but most of it has to do with the "teaching gap". Some teachers have mastered differentiated instruction, others are not there yet. We need to figure out a way that all of our students have an accelerated learning experience and ensure that teachers have the support to make this happen. I think that the curriculum in our K-5 grades is very good, but we have to make sure that the middle schools have a curriculum that prepares all children for high school. A good curriculum with great teaching will produce high achieving students.

I believe also that to adequately prepare our students for the 21st century, the Cambridge Public Schools must support and offer world languages.

High School Programs and Curriculum
I believe that the high school curriculum allows teachers to be creative in helping students meet the goal of proficiency. From talking to the high school principal, I know that he is confident that the block schedule will allow for exciting learning as well as the necessary time for students to work on the skills that will help them to be more proficient learners. The energy at the high school is amazing, the curriculum coordination is organized at a level where the bar is raised for teachers and students, and this will in turn raise the bar on student achievement. I am, however, concerned about the lack of low income students in AP courses, this has been a persistent problem that we need to work on at CRLS. I am impressed with the new principal Damon Smith's focus on teaching and learning and in creating a student centered learning environment at CRLS.

MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement
I have never been a major fan of the MCAS, but I do believe that it has its benefits, particular as a diagnostic tool so we can measure whether or not students are learning and are proficient. I think that the MCAS along with other forms of assessment, particularly portfolios, will help us understand what is going on in classrooms and get the students ready for the 21st century learning and work environments they are graduating into.

Portfolios and project based learning are part of the learning experience for some students; this should be the reality for all children. I think project based learning provides an exciting opportunity for teachers and learners to be creative while acquiring meaning skills that will allow our students to become more well rounded critical thinkers and to become proficient in all subject areas. Our MCAS scores have been stagnant, with small glimpses of promise. I think we need to continue to use best practices to inform our instruction and meet the needs of all of our students. We should also think about creating a district wide assessment that would help us measure student achievement to compliment the MCAS data.

Teacher Evaluations, Performance Measures, Contract Negotiations
I believe that the teachers' contract is the blueprint for excellent instruction in every classroom. We must seriously negotiate the new teachers contract to ensure that all of our teachers are competent and have the ability to teach students at high levels and that they are experts at differentiated instruction. I will support a new contract that includes student performance in teacher evaluations. We must also entertain the notion of having more time for instruction; this will allow teachers and students more time to work on subject matter. The superintendent has to make sure that all principals evaluate their teachers fully in order to help the Cambridge Public Schools realize my goal of excellent instruction in every classroom.

Differentiated instruction is very easy to say, but a very hard thing to do well. Our professional development resources need to focus on building teacher expertise in this area.

School Safety and Student Behavior
While our schools are very safe, classroom management, particularly managing students with behavior issues, is a real concern for me and other parents in the district. We have to make sure that the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) which has begun to be implemented in some schools is offered in all schools. This will help teachers to have better classroom management and positively affect student achievement. I believe that the Cambridge Public Schools will be a better place for all students once the entire faculty has had the benefit of this professional development.

We need to do a better job at giving the parents of children with behavioral needs the tools to support their children in integrating home and school. Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that taking away recess from children is the way to punish children for bad behavior, we need to be creative in our approach to helping children succeed in the classroom. We can and must do better.

Parent Involvement and School Councils
I believe that parents should be involved in all school based decisions including the budget. Parents also must be invited to the table to be invested in their children's education. I believe that educating children in Cambridge is a 50/50 commitment between parents and schools. I believe that the Cambridge Public Schools must do more to engage parents in the schools and with the school committee. To do the latter we must take meetings out to the community and do a better job at communicating information from the school system to the home.

Candidate's 2009 responses     Candidate's 2007 responses

CCTV candidate video (2011) 

Page last updated Wednesday, September 4, 2013 10:06 AM Cambridge Candidates