Fran Cronin is a single parent who moved to Cambridge after the death of her husband – a Cambridge native – and raised two children on her own. One an “honors” student, one special needs, they spent some of their school years in public schools. “Advocating for my own children’s [different] needs taught me how challenging it can be for parents to advocate for what their children need and deserve,” Cronin has said.
Cronin grew up in a family committed to the power of quality public education. She and her three brothers all graduated from their public high school; her mother taught public elementary school for more than 30 years and one brother was a public elementary school vice principal. Fran is a certified reading specialist and has tutored and taught in public schools. She also taught English as a second language to Russian students while living in Moscow.
She has served as co-chairwoman of the Parent Advisory Council for Children with special needs; served as an officer of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School Council and co-founded MPACT, a parent advocacy group, as well as on other community boards. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Harvard University, and is working as an aide to councillor David Maher, including in the term he served as mayor.
She has served one term on the School Committee, 2014-15.
Accelerate access to early childhood education. Research makes clear: the most effective way to close the persistent achievement and opportunity gaps is access to high-quality preschool education. But despite the urgency, especially for our low-income students, developing a systemwide early childhood education program has been slow. An ECE program will not only better prepare our early learners for school, but create opportunity for families to build the habit of engagement with teachers and schools
Improve social and emotional learning in all schools. Research shows that students learn best when they feel safe and valued for who they are. To cultivate resilience in our students takes professional skill building, use of best practices to mitigate anxiety and teacher empathy. Some schools have embraced more nurturing cultures, but this is not true districtwide. As a member of the SEL Advisory Board, I will continue to advocate for all principals to adopt best practices in their schools.
Create a partnership in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics education. The greatest opportunity for our graduates is in the rapidly growing tech sector, locally and globally. A recent Massachusetts report identified 119,000 state jobs that go unfilled because applicants lack necessary high-tech skills and training. Building synergy between our high school, local business community and institutions of higher learning allows us to create a Steam Partnership, offering pathways to 21st century careers.
Recruit and retain a diverse teaching force. Despite being a majority-minority school district, about 20 percent of our teachers are from underrepresented populations, and research confirms that students feel most affirmed and able to learn when the teachers in front of them look like them or share their cultural experiences. Our School Committee has set a goal of 30 percent minority employment, but does not have a plan. I began this work when I served on the committee and will continue to conduct the outreach necessary to build the pipeline of diverse, high-quality talent our students deserve.
Other issues include strengthening relationships with local resources and partners to support students in and beyond the classroom; and increasing citizenship classes and service opportunities.
Compiled from the candidate’s words and statements in publicly available sources.
Cronin’s statement to the Cambridge Education Association is here.
Cronin was a School Committee member in 2014-15 and barely lost the 2015 election in the last round. A main focus when she was a committee member was on special-needs students and alternative education pathways, such as the Rindge School of Technical Arts. Since then, she has been legislative aide to city councillor and former mayor David Maher. This election, Cronin is emphasizing early education as a major priority – a hot topic in Cambridge – while continuing to stress social-emotional learning needs and training for high-skills technical, engineer, and arts jobs. She also adds increasing teacher diversity to her priorities. Her experience in literacy education is helpful when debating how to improve third-grade reading levels, a critical goal for the district. Cronin is articulate and charismatic, though her previous term was underwhelming, too filled with broad declarations rather than focused debate. Other candidates are more compelling this year.