The Way Forward

The Way Forward
Posted on 12/20/2019

Like many of you, I am looking forward to spending some time off to be with my family. However, the past couple of weeks have been difficult for many in our community and I want to share some of my thoughts before we break for the holidays.

Cambridge Public Schools is at a crossroads. The time has come to accelerate our efforts and get honest about the impact of racism on our students and families. We must become more transparent, learn from the promising outcomes of our district plan, and know that we can - and must - do better.

Earlier today, Building Equity Bridges released a call to action, rooted in 18 months of powerful listening. Launched through a partnership between Cambridge Public Schools and the Cambridge Education Association, their work centers the voices of historically marginalized members of our community including students of color, their families, and staff members of color.

Building Equity Bridges shared what they have learned last June, distilling their findings into nine barriers to equity that must be overcome if we are going to disrupt inequities in our schools and district. Their call to action channels the voices of hundreds of children and adults of color -- challenging us to do more.

A shift in our practices is required if we are to become an actively anti-racist school district. Drawing from the 12 Building Equity Bridges Commitments, I am immediately prioritizing the following actions:

  1. CPS will establish an enhanced investigation and response system for racist incidents and other inappropriate behavior: This will include clear steps for communication, restorative practices, professional learning, and accountability, up to and including termination. In November we began talks between CPS and the CEA to develop a clearer and more transparent protocol for investigating and responding to reports of racist behavior by CPS staff. Some CRLS students have also been developing a proposal, which we look forward to learning more about so that we can establish new systems that respond to the needs of all stakeholders.

  2. Anti-racism and racial equity training will become mandatory at every level. Over the last few years, we have invested in peer-led and expert-led professional learning around racial equity issues; and every school has implemented a school-designed strategy to provide cultural proficiency training to their staff. We see that this work has been uneven from school to school, and the quality of these efforts has at times seemed inconsistent. Among the gaps in our current model has been the need to differentiate learning experiences for staff members’ different identities, roles, and existing skills and knowledge. We need to develop an education-specific, comprehensive and structured mandatory training experience where participants demonstrate their practice.

  3. We will center the voices of students and families of color, while actively engaging with our broad community of parents and caregivers around issues of equity and racial equity. In fall of 2019, we piloted a series of family discussions in one of our school triads, focused on the barriers to equity named by Building Equity Bridges. Based on our learning from that experience, we will move forward with family engagement around these issues -- responding to our community’s desire to be part of the solution, while also recognizing the concerns of those who have felt unheard in existing family engagement spaces.

These are just a few of the next steps that CPS will take as we put all of the pieces into place. Drawing on the voices of those most impacted by inequity, Building Equity Bridges has shown us the path toward becoming un-stuck as a school district. As soon as we return from the winter break, we will work together to take decisive action in each of the areas named in their Op Ed today.

It is important to me that our students understand that their voices have been heard, and have moved our community to action. I am energized by the power of this moment in our Cambridge history. If the CPS community can come this far despite all that divides us, imagine how much we will accomplish by working together.

As I have written previously, the stress of the past few weeks is not sustainable for us as individuals. It is all the more important that each of us take some time for rest and healing. The road ahead is challenging, and our students need us to return to them, ready to do the work.

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