Patty Nolan

Patty Nolan
2011 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
184 Huron Ave.
Cambridge MA 02138

Contact information:
Tel: 617-661-0729

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Committee to Elect Patty Nolan
184 Huron Ave., Cambridge MA 02138

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Thank you for taking the time to do research on all candidates. I hope that you will vote #1 for me. I believe I have earned it. Please contact me with any questions or for clarifications on my work or my stands. I am always open and transparent.

Every vote matters. Recent elections have been decided by 7 votes. Last time, I won by 19 votes. And, please vote for someone else # 2, 3, 4... You do not hurt your #1 candidate. # 2s, 3s, 4s & 5s decide the election.

I am honored to be serving on School Committee, and hope to serve again - since I have made a positive contribution to our schools. I am the only candidate with a broad mix of management experience and leadership skills. I am the candidate known for being data-driven, for continually championing higher expectations and for getting issues addressed. I am also the strongest environmental advocate. I have a record of speaking up for higher achievement for all students - those who are academically STRONG in addition to those who are struggling. I am the candidate who really understands our budget, since I have a background in management.

I live between Harvard Square and Fresh Pond, with my husband, David Rabkin and our two children, Joshua (10th grade at CRLS) and Alexis, (8th Peabody). Our children also attended the Amigos, Kennedy-Longfellow ISP and King Open schools.

I was born in Chicago, where my parents chose Catholic school. When we moved to Stamford, Connecticut my five sisters and I attended public schools. My high school, Stamford High, was very much like CRLS in demographics. I was a varsity athlete (MVP in two sports), academically inclined and a little political. Afterwards, I spent a year as an exchange student in Belgium, which was formative in exposing me to another country, language, culture and education system. (And it's why I am fluent in French and can make my way in Spanish.)

The first in my family to attend Harvard, I moved to Cambridge in 1976, was involved in student activism, especially in divestiture from South Africa, and wrote my thesis on feminist consciousness. After 2 years of work in New York City for a politician (Brooklyn District Attorney Liz Holtzman), I got a graduate degree from the Yale School of Management. After several years in corporate consulting at the international firm of McKinsey, I went into the non-profit and socially responsible business sector. I have run two small companies (a local composting toilet company and telephone reseller) and done consulting to a wide range of non-profits including LISC, The ICA Group, Green Century.

For the last six years, my main job has been School Committee member. We get paid $35,000 a year -- more than any other school board in the state. I spend more than half time on the job and will continue if re-elected. I pledge to propose a pay cut for us when we face teacher layoffs due to budget.

Top Priorities
Thoughtful implementation of the Innovation Agenda.
Easy to say, not so easy to do. This year was wrenching. We finally acknowledged serious lapses in achievement and our schools - issues I identified vocally and courageously in the past.

Many supported the IA restructuring to address our distressingly imbalanced schools and widespread inequities. Others shared the goals but the lack of analysis and a host of unanswered questions rightfully concerned them.

My position in the thoughtful middle weighs both the potential for positive change and the need for thoughtful, inclusive implementation.

My push for careful monitoring and meaningful outreach to parents and outside educational practitioners helps ensure we build on the best in Cambridge and elsewhere.

My continued service would ensure a forceful voice advocating for research-based decisions, broad-based input and transparency. The IA will not solve our problems if we don't work together to: focus on outcomes, honor effective teachers and create respectful classrooms.

Better Use of the $26,000 per student we spend.
We need to use our dollars more effectively and efficiently. I have pointed to multi-millions in surpluses the last few years (even this past year of tough budget, we had a surplus. The issue is not our spending level, but are we getting expected results? We spend an astounding $26,000 per student, twice the state average. Yet we are not (yet) considered the best district in the state in all areas. In fact, compared to ALL districts anywhere near our size, we spend LESS as a % of our budget on classroom teachers and more on items not tied directly to effective teaching, which all research says matters the most. We need to carefully look at what supports are needed in our classrooms to address the needs of all children. And by all children I mean both those not at grade level, which is as many as half our students, but also those in need of greater challenge. Engaged learning reaches and invigorates children across the ability spectrum.

I believe that we should consider spending more in the classrooms, putting effective adults (whether they're teachers, aides, tutors, as long as they're effective I don't care what level or title they have) working directly with our students.

We will need to make thoughtful decisions, and be vigilant about basing the budget on proven programs, with well-researched evaluations driving decisions, and a comprehensive review of every non-educational aspect of running the district with an eye towards greater efficiency. The state's finance department compiles comprehensive budget information on all districts. That comparison shows a number of areas we should explore for re-allocation of dollars into educational uses. For example, we still spend more dollars on central administration this year than three years ago and FAR more than other districts anywhere near our size. It is critical that someone with my background represent you, as we face these budget questions.

With the Innovation Agenda, we will be spending even more on administration We need to make sure that spending yields more engaged learning.

Use our data on school choice to improve programs.
As co-chair of the Controlled Choice Team, I worked very diligently and successfully to identify issues related to our policy of school assignment. Our team's work was instrumental in getting a number of improvements: some policy changes, new plan in process now for overhauling all our communication materials, the piloting of an online registration system, which will be expanded over time to all students. Our district needs to be more welcoming to families, and also provide the support to staff so they can be effective ambassadors for the district.

Too many people opt out of our district due to worry about not getting their school of choice or trying and not getting it. We should be using all the information we have from the last ten years, honestly assess it, and use it as the basis for recommending changes in our school offerings. The choice system has strengths, and its core value of the importance of having balanced schools is wonderful. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be changing anything. In fact, the choice policy is not working now - most of our schools are not well-balanced, and too many parents don't feel satisfied with the choices. The reason this issue is a top priority is that it feeds into our areas: the families who opt out deprive our classrooms of their children, the schools are less balanced than the city, and the range of programs offered is not meeting market demand.

No one has worked longer or more consistently than I have on raising issues of choice, of new school models, of clear delineation of our enrollment numbers, of the complexities around discussing how choice plays out over the year. As we address the policy it is very important that the district and the Committee are thorough and equitable. Based on my past experience of providing the leadership necessary to avoid a potentially embarrassing policy change through diligence and collaboration, I am certain that I would be able to provide that leadership in future discussions and decisions.

School Department Administration & Superintendent
First, the single most important issue of any School Committee - the choice of superintendent. I played a key leadership role throughout the search. I was the most active member soliciting applicants. I am proud to have played a key leadership role in getting a good pool of candidates. I was the first and staunchest supporter of Dr. Jeff Young. Dr. Young, who led Newton for 11 years, had a depth of experience in a high performing, well-managed district that was unmatched. Our district now has a leader who is charged with getting us to excellence. However, while I supported Dr. Young happily, that does not mean I will stop doing our job of holding him accountable, asking tough questions, and continually seeking best practices from outside Cambridge to help us improve.

As for other district administration, we have some terrific staff. There are two main kinds of administration: in school administrators, like our principals and asst. principals, and out of school administrators, often referred to as central administrators. The main issue for me on school-based administrators is that they get the support they need and feel comfortable making decisions. They are central to our success as a district, and we need them to be the best. Currently, we have some weak leaders who need to be supported.

We need to give our principals, the fronline educational leaders, the full authority to do their job. We should be setting policy and establishing goals. The superintendent should be ensuring that the goals and statewide curriculum frameworks be followed. The superintendent should also be providing support to principals, and holding high expectations for teacher and student performance.

The main issue on central administration is to figure out how to help the district improve the efficiency of those roles, especially since we may be facing deficits in the coming years. That would be a huge change from the past several years when we have had multi-million dollars surpluses in the school department each year.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs
This question of our budget could fill twenty pages. Our budget is phenomenal. When I talk to school board members in other place, we have an embarrassment of riches. We spend $26,000 per student. Other towns average about half that.

The most relevant question is now "why do we spend so much or where does our money go". The most important budget questions, given that we have enough money, are "Are we spending our money well? Are we getting our money's worth?"

In my view, no. We do have amazing programs and we are all lucky – students, families, residents – to have such a well-funded school district. Much of the money we spend IS well spent. Some of our excess spending goes to things other districts only dream about: no fees for activities or buses, all day Kindergarten, an array of afterschool programs, early childhood programs. We also have relatively small classes and relatively big school buildings.

Add that all up, and it accounts for a portion of the extra we spend. We owe it to ourselves to be honest that our extra spending is not just about no fees. Nor is it mostly due to small class sizes. All our extra spending on non-school based staff is great if it's leading to higher achievement. Not great if it's because we have not evaluated programs and positions and cut those which are no longer needed.

For example, we spend three times the state average, on a per pupil basis, on professional development. We have done that for a decade. People say "it's great to spend so much on training and professional development." I ask "Is our spending on professional development effective? How do we measure it? If we have spent three times the state average for over ten years, why isn't our district improving at a far more rapid rate than the state?"

Numerous studies have shown that for all the cuts we have made, we are still one of the most top-heavy districts in the state. With the Innovation Agenda, we will be allocating even more dollars to administrators, and have less available for classroom teachers. We need to be sure that every dollar spent ultimately improves the education of all children. Should we be re-allocating some of our professional development dollars to more art or music or second language teachers? Or tutors? I believe that is worth exploring.

The research on effective ed reform demonstrates clearly that the path to excellence is through school-based management, and pushing authority and resources into the schools, not keeping much of it centralized. Over half our spending is in non-teaching areas. That is too much.

One area that hasn't been addressed systematically is how we're doing on being a technologically up-to-date school district in terms of management. In a number of areas, teachers have told me we're behind a lot of districts. For example, a teacher can't process a purchase order for something for the classroom electronically. That seems very inefficient to me, and worth examining.

Over the last six years, the school district has had to close multi-million budget gaps, due to rising staff and energy costs and small budget increases. Since we start from very high funding levels, we have been able to close gaps without cutting essential programs or staff. That luxury will likely end soon. It is critical that someone like me, who understands budgets and can quickly synthesize information and take a top-level view of the budget serves on School Committee.

It takes a village to raise a child, including one in a school district. We must all work together, instead of getting caught up in petty politics, to ensure our budget dollars are spent in the most effective way possible.

I am very proud of the work Marc McGovern and I did as budget co-chairs a few years ago in getting the district's first ever budget guide out to every household in Cambridge. For a very modest amount of money - far less than we spend on some other publications, we send a comprehensive but readable guide to you, the city's taxpayers - who are footing the bill. The guide summarizes our budget spending, priorities, process and initiatives.

Buildings are important. CRLS is undergoing a very expensive renovation. And we have a very long list of elementary schools in need of renovation and repair. It will be very challenging to find the money to work on those buildings. But we must figure it out, since all children should be in buildings that enhance their learning, not ones in need of serious repair.

On the disposition of school buildings
The school department is planning to use the former Longfellow School (and former Ninth Grade Academy), for the next ten years, as swing space for school renovations. After that, we will need space for school department administration, hopefully space for renovating elementary schools in dire shape, and space for an expanding enrollment. We are likely to need the Longfellow building.

The Upton Street building is now slated to be the Amigos School in the fall of 2012. The building itself needs major work if it is to be used for a school on a permanent basis (new fire codes, accessibility issues, no open space, few bathrooms). The funds need to be allocated, so all students in Cambridge, including those at Amigos, have access to appropriate educational space.

Innovation Agenda
This year was wrenching. We finally acknowledged serious lapses in achievement and our schools - issues I identified vocally and courageously in the past.

Many supported the IA restructuring to address our distressingly imbalanced schools and widespread inequities. Others shared the goals but the lack of analysis and a host of unanswered questions rightfully concerned them.

My position in the thoughtful middle weighs both the potential for positive change and the need for thoughtful, inclusive implementation. My push for careful monitoring and meaningful outreach to parents and outside educational practitioners helps ensure we build on the best in Cambridge and elsewhere.

My continued service would ensure a forceful voice advocating for research-based decisions, broad-based input and transparency. The IA will not solve our problems if we don't work together to: focus on outcomes, honor effective teachers and create respectful classrooms.

I am not tied to any particular structure. I am tied to outcomes and good measurements. There are many issues related to the IA. We needed to improve our schools. We need to be thoughtful in implementation. For example, if we do this IA right, we will need five campuses, plus Amigos. If we do it wrong, four will be enough. In reviewing enrollment, it is important to talk about the buildings. If our enrollment continues its upward trend and the middle schools are done well, we will need five upper school campuses.

I favor K-8, for a host of reasons. However, I voted for the IA, at great political cost, to vote for change and make my voice a plea for unity in addressing our districtwide issues.

With the 6-1 vote for the IA, the planning started on the plan itself. Now we have to focus on making the middle schools the best they can be. The question now is not what structure of schools, but how good will the schools be? We need someone with my critical eye to ensure successful implementation.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap"
Controlled Choice
I have championed, and worked VERY hard to ensure that our controlled choice policy improves. Our schools are not balanced now - either socio-economically or racially. And, we have not laid out a plan to have 100% of parents get one of their top 3 choices for Kindergarten. I want to address this issue by talking about some issues we need to address : Address the unevenness of choices for our elementary schools. The school format should be more attractive to all families. We do not have evenly chosen schools, so we should restructure our schools – I would bring in an Int'l Baccalaureate program into one of our least chosen schools.

Over the years, we have made changes to the controlled choice policy. One change from a couple of years ago is emblematic of how I work, and why I should be re-elected. I am proud that I led the effort to overturn a vote on the controlled choice policy that shortchanged low income families. I refused to go along with a plan that helped the middle class at the expense of low income families. Taking political heat, I stood up for finding a better way. We did. We came up with and passed, a plan that increased options for BOTH the middle class and low income families.

Student Assignment Policies
I take this question to be about our controlled choice in the elementary schools, and how we assign students. The reason this is an issue is because we have schools that have waitlists. WE have underchosen and overchosen schools. The latest Kindergarten round was just as unbalanced as when I did it for my first child 11 years ago. We need to look seriously at the impact of all our policies. Here are some things I support and we could do: open up seats in classrooms that are empty if there are waitlists. Explore new models for underchosen schools to attract more families. With the IA, we still need to address underchosen elementary schools. It is critically important that we bring in some new programs in the lower grades so every family can get their # 1 choice.

The Tobin Montessori school shows how we could address the issue of getting to a district that still allows choice, but without a waitlist problem. We should consider changing one of the least chosen schools into a similarly popular program. We should involve the community in what that program should be, and explore options in-depth. Select a model, and implement it. If we did that with even one underchosen school, we would go a long way to addressing the problem of people not getting their school of choice.

Achievement Gap
While I hesitate to compare any group to white middle class (which I am), the fact that there are such large disparities along both socio-economic and racial/ethnic line is troubling. The average gap between white and African American in Cambridge, as measured by the usual albeit limited measure, proficiency on MCAS in 2011, is over 30 points. For Low income, and Hispanic/Latinos, it's also almost as big. And for special needs students, proficiency rates are not even 1 in 4. The proficiency of low income, Afr. American and Latino students in Cambridge is less than 50%. AND that gap is unchanged in nine years. I worked with the Cambridge NAACP to document the gap and ask for a clear plan to address it. That is what matters most to the implementation of the IA.

I note that while our achievement gap is unacceptably high for proficiency, our district has an enviable record of high school graduation for all, and an especially great record for a group very difficult to reach, African American males.

The answer is deceptively simple: higher expectations, balanced schools, and acknowledge the gap publicly, since that is always the first step to addressing an issue.

Enrichment Programs
There's enrichment, which is usually thought of as an out of school time thing, and there is the separate issue of challenging curriculum. They're both important.

On enrichment
Cambridge has an array of enrichment programs, but they have not been well coordinated or communicated. There are many programs that help children go beyond the classroom work. Some programs, like Science Club for Girls, happen in our schools. Some, like The Math Circle, happen outside our schools. We should have a more comprehensive approach, an explicit program to stretch all students.

On the challenging curriculum
First, we need to make sure we are not dictating curriculum across the board. Secondly, we need to do more to ensure that academically strong students are engaged. I believe we do a good job of providing challenge to academically advanced students at the High School level. I don't believe we do a good enough job at the elementary level. For the new middle schools, we need to be thoughtful about how to ensure challenge, since that was a key motivating force for parents.

I have heard -- all of us on School Committee have heard -- about programs for struggling students, but have not ever had a report on programs for the other end of the ability spectrum. At the high school, we have a full array of courses, not only AP, but in science internships at Biogen and other companies which provide those students involved college level and beyond exposure and experience. If you complete through the math offerings, some students go to Harvard Extension. If you are ready for more than AP English or History, you have a range of options to ensure challenge.

Not so at the elementary level. It is an issue I have worked on, and plan to do more on if re-elected. A concern of mine stems from some research suggesting that if a district is not careful, the pressure of No Child Left Behind can be used to basically ignore those already proficient.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools
Our enrollment is going up, following a very steep decline - far greater than any district within Route 128. Our future challenge will be a good problem to have: how to manage our growth as students fill our classrooms. The reasons are fourfold:

Improvements: With the high school rebuilding itself, and some of the turmoil of the last decade over, families now look to CRLS as a terrific endpoint instead of a question mark. A key factor for success of the IA will be whether we stop losing students, a few percent every year, so that by the time a Kindergarten class is in 8th grade, it is 30% smaller in number.

Demographics: the city's school age population is growing

Economics: some people who used to pay for private schools can't

Consolidation fatigue over: the consolidation, which caused major disruption, was long enough ago that the district has been able to settle down and parents have been able to focus on the positive changes in the district, instead of feeling betrayed by a process that ripped apart the district without a clear educational rationale.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum
I support our elementary schools, which include a range of choices. I would like to see us take a look at programs across the different schools to see which ones merit replication in other schools. I believe that we need to do additional market research to better understand what families in Cambridge want, in order to ensure our enrollment keeps going up. The same schools have been overchosen for 15 years now. It is time to address the need for a new program, so that 100% of Kindergarten parents get one of their top 3 choices. That is a very reachable goal.

The curriculum should not be dictated from above, but decided upon by an individual school community, as long as the outcomes are mutually agreed upon. At Amigos, for example where my children attended for 6 years, the nature of a bilingual immersion program does not always fit with curriculum that might work at another school. Amigos should do what's best for its program. Similarly, an alternative project-based approach is appealing to many - the Graham &Parks, Cambridgeport and King Open all have aspects of it. Are we losing the specialness of these schools? Let's make sure the answer is no.

A policy change I advocate is second language at every school K-5. Our students live in a world where exposure to a new language, and to different cultures is not a nice-to-have, but a necessity.

High School Programs and Curriculum
Our high school is getting back to where it was many years ago: a highly regarded urban school. CRLS went through rough times, as it went through wrenching changes. WE now have a high school that works for many kids, with some stellar programs, and a sense of school spirit. The climate is important, since a healthy, vibrant school culture of high expectations is the best predictor for a high quality school.

It is also time to evaluate the block scheduling. Currently, unless a student doubles up on math, they go 8 months with out math. Same with foreign language. This gap in learning is educationally problematice for those two subjects.

The range of course offerings, the great quality in so many areas and the upcoming renovation all bode well for continued success of CRLS. The challenges for the future include instilling small school feel and attention when the small learning communities are not allowed to differentiate and are not separate schools. The high school renovation project needs to be carefully managed. The new emphasis on science and engineering will take some careful thought as well.

There are other issues to address in the high school. We need to look at policies on AP grades and policies on use of technology in the classroom including when online and computer coursework is appropriate. I also believe that our discipline policy is too punitive and rigid. While we all like zero-tolerance, we also like forgiveness and support. Many of our policies sound too much like one strike and you're out.

MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement
I am proud of my role in broadening our districts goals beyond strict test measures of achievement. Our district wide goals include measures beyond standardized testing. And last term we explicitly expanded many offerings in the arts area. Critical thinking, global awareness, media literacy, creativity, and technological savvy are all important to the success of our 21st century children. We also can never forget that the arts, music, phys ed and yes even recess and unstructured play are each essential elements of a well-rounded education.

I appreciate the MCAS and resent the MCAS. I appreciate that it is the single most important reason that districts, including Cambridge, could no longer pretend they were doing fine, when on average they were doing OK, despite having large groups of kids, mostly low income and kids of color, were NOT doing OK. I appreciate that it gives us a benchmark against which we can measure ourselves. We can see how we compare to the state on average, to other middle districts in Mass., to high performing districts in the state. We can use MCAS results, if we choose, to identify schools that do better than us, and learn from them. WE can use MCAS results to help figure out how we can do better.

But, I resent MCAS since it is tempting to slide into thinking the test is the goal, as opposed to a means of determining whether the goal of learning has been reached. I resent MCAS since too often it is used as a stick, not a source of information to inform teachers of effectiveness. I also want to throw up when I see my own children's homework consist of work that can only be described as test prep. That is totally counterproductive to engaged learning.

MCAS is here to stay, for better or worse. What we as a district have to fight is the urge to do even more testing, to focus ONLY on MCAS. The best teachers and the best schools confirm that you can do well on the test without teaching to the test. Too many teachers in our district have been telling me they don't hear many queries about their teaching and learning beyond its impact on MCAS. That is disturbing, but happens when you standardize too much and you don't let educational leaders in each school determine for themselves how to achieve desired outcomes. I am a big believer in setting the goals, the expected outcomes, and leaving it to the creativity and energy and passion of our school based staff to meet the goals and achieve the outcomes.

A message of hope for those who think I am naïve: This year, two of our elementary schools (Amigos and Baldwin) were # 1 in the state for 8th grade ELA proficiency. Graham & Parks was 17th in the state in math for middle grades. Two years ago, the one school in Cambridge which made it to the top 10 of the state in MCAS proficiency was Amigos' 8th grade Science MCAS results. That grade was majority students of color and almost half low income, and their proficiency % beat almost every suburban school in the state. The students achieved those results by having a teacher who is dynamic and engaging, NOT by drill and kill.

Teacher Evaluations and Performance Measures
Education comes down to supporting teachers in the classroom. For too long, we didn't give teachers the type of feedback they deserved and needed in order to teach as effectively as possible. We need to continually ensure that the teacher evaluation system supports teachers and identifies their professional development needs. If it is the wrong fit, the teacher shouldn't be in the classroom. If the teacher needs help, they should be given it. And if principals are not doing their job of properly evaluating teachers, their job ratings should suffer.

In the last few years, very few teachers with professional status (tenure) were let go. I find it hard to believe that there are only a couple of tenured teachers over several years who are ineffective. I agree we should help teachers become effective, but for all our talk about excellent instruction, it means nothing if we do not act when it is not the right fit for a teacher.

School Safety and Student Behavior
One issue I have advocated for strongly is an evaluation of our student discipline policy. WE want all our students to be safe, but too much of our discipline policy is "one strike and you're out". That policy is not something that helps kids learn, or keeps other kids safer. We are waiting a review of that policy, based on a motion I put forth.

The market research study showed that a very high percentage of families worry about school safety. Moreover, a significant percent of parents in the district and of families who left said that bullying and/or classroom behavior is a problem for their child. The extent of this problem is troubling.

The issue of student behavior is complex. On the one hand, if you engage kids in learning, then behavior problems are dramatically reduced. On the other hand, there are kids who need different classroom environments and instructional strategies to be engaged than other kids. And one classroom one teacher might not be able to be all things to all kids. First, we do need to remember the first, and focus on helping teachers provide engagement. One worrying trend in our district is too much focus on testing, too much using the stick instead of the carrot to inspire teachers.

School safety is another issue. In general, Cambridge is a very safe environment. Whether compared to suburbs or urban, we have an excellent safety record. But we still have far too many instances of kids feeling insecure. This issue is not just the high school, but our elementary schools. I am concerned less about the external intruder than I am about how to inculcate throughout our district a culture of respect, which eliminates most safety and many behavior problems.

Parent Involvement and School Councils
Article after article, study upon study, research efforts across the board confirm: excellent schools invite, encourage, welcome and include parents and families. I will always advocate for participation and inclusiveness in discussions.

There is a new spirit of openness in the district. Let's build on the momentum coming from the new administration, and encourage families to be more involved.

Similarly, we have not done all we should and can to communicate with people. All of us must stand up and demand greater outreach, greater input and greater respect for participation. Participation does not mean confusing who actually makes the decisions. But without participation, without input, without the benefit of hearing from a range of voices, perspectives and experience, decisions are not as good. I'm plenty smart, but I don't know everything. Whenever I'm in a position to make a decision, I know that I will make a better decision by listening to and learning from others. That's the culture we need to develop and nurture in this fabulous district.

Environmental leadership
Due to my background and my passion, I have led the School Committee and school district towards greater environmental responsibility. This year saw the landmark hiring of our district's first full time Sustainability Manager. I am proud of my work in this area, which led to that hire.

With policies and practices, we are slowly moving towards high performance, sustainable district. The forum I put together on green school buildings with Harvard, MIT, and the state Green Schools program, led directly to some of the most innovative sustainable features of the CRLS renovation. Our school bus emissions program has helped alleviate toxic emissions from our buses daily polluting our air as they transport our children.

Our schools can and should be at the forefront of environmental education, building, and programs. Our city has made a commitment to being a city supportive of environmental sustainability. But we have not done enough to have a culture of environmental responsibility. I have been working in this area on a number of fronts, and if re-elected will continue this work. I bring my volunteer work in the community on environmental and energy issues - with Green Decade Cambridge, HEET, Green Streets - into my School Committee work. We do not yet live the ideal of incorporating sustainability into our practices as a district. We can and we should.

Explore extended learning time, including a longer school year
We need to have a community wide dialogue about how to avoid the summer backsliding that all kids experience. My colleague Richard Harding and I co-authored a column calling for extended school year for all CPS middle school students.

The summer backsliding is particularly acute for special needs students, for low income students and for students of color. Our school schedule is still based on a harvest that last happened in Cambridge more than a century ago. (Anyone know when?)

Ask any teacher what kids lose over the summer. Answer: A lot. I see it in my kids, and their Spanish. They are the part of the Amigos family that is not Latino at all. Without Spanish over the summer, they lose a lot. It is as true for other subjects, from math to writing to science. Ten weeks with no academics is too long.

A recent national educational study demonstrated the positive benefits of academically oriented summer programs, especially for middle school students. We should be at the forefront of addressing this challenge.

Candidate's 2009 responses     Candidate's 2007 responses

CCTV candidate video (2011)

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