Kathleen Kelly, a Mid-Cambridge resident for more than 25 years, has served two terms on the School Committee. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Simmons and a dual master’s degree in social work and pastoral ministry from Boston College. She has worked as a small-business consultant for an economic development program in low-income areas in Boston, assessing struggling businesses, developing technical assistance plans and coaching business owners with regular tutoring.
In describing her experience, she says that as a social worker and community activist she has worked to create greater access to educational resources and opportunities for all children; mitigate the social and emotional effects of violence on youth, families and neighborhoods; and engage parents with different experience and backgrounds in public school activism.
As a Cambridge Public School parent, she served on the King Open School Council and the King Open Extended Day Advisory Council. She says she is running in part because she wants every child and family to have the experience her family had – to have both strengths and difficulties met with appropriate support, something she realized many families did not get.
Improving achievement for all students. Our community wants rigor and higher expectations for all students. Although different interventions are appropriate for different students, the emphasis on achievement for all students is at the forefront of the new district framework.
Strong instructional leadership is needed in all our Upper Schools and Elementary Schools. Fully implemented social-emotional learning helps students engage in learning and improves academic achievement.
Teacher voice and district leadership. Teachers and paraprofessionals are the frontline people in our district who know what is happening with our families and our students. My work has included advocating the inclusion of teacher experience and voice in decisions about instruction, assessments and curriculum, widening our definition of family engagement, raising learning expectations for all students and increasing the time our most vulnerable students spend in the classroom, ensuring cultural proficiency training for administrators and new teachers to raise expectations for all students and improve family engagement.
Building a safe, supportive, nurturing environment in our schools. We need to develop positive, collaborative relationships between the adults: family members and guardians, teachers, staff and administrators. We need to evaluate our social-emotional learning programs, not as separate elements but as an integrated whole. School climate surveys and student health surveys are excellent evaluative tools for SEL.
Special education and student supports. I remain concerned about the increase in mental health issues among students from JK-12 in our district, state and nation. Some increase may be due to increased consciousness and attention to student mental health, school refusal and trauma. Lack of recess, physical activity and independent, child-directed play may contribute as well. Student individualized education programs and accommodations must be implemented fully in classrooms. The roles of guidance counselors, school psychologists, school adjustment counselors and social workers need to be delineated.
Other issues include building a cohesive and collaborative leadership culture within the School Committee and with the leadership of the district; developing a common language and culture of shared responsibility with the superintendent; and ensuring strong, positive working relationships with the district, city programs and School Committee and City Council.
Compiled from the candidate’s words and statements in publicly available sources.
Kelly’s statement to the Cambridge Education Association is here.
Kelly remains a member with obvious compassion for all students and an urgency about providing each with individualized support. How that gets translated into actionable work at the School Committee level has proved to be more complicated for her this term, in which Kelly’s best accomplishment has been her continued co-chairing with Richard Harding of the budgeting process, with her taking the lead in scheduling. The process now includes ample hearings allowing parent, student and educator comments – although this emphasis was begun by previous co-chairman Mervan Osborne. The meetings were opened up this year to include four excellent roundtable discussions on budget-related topics: high school staffing, technology, world language and special education. Unfortunately, though, those meetings were not televised – a decision the committee could have changed. Despite, or perhaps because, Kelly won chair assignment from vice chairman Fred Fantini of an extraordinary five subcommittees, the four non-budget subcommittees have hardly met in nearly two years: one has met once, two have met twice, and one she co-chairs has not met at all. For some reason, Kelly joined Fantini in presenting last-minute substitute motions that undermined new member Emily Dexter’s nearly identical motions, and she had a not-insignificant role in creating the tone this term that members were not trusting the motivations of others.