Friday, May 24, 2024

Over the past several weeks there has been a great deal of debate regarding Superintendent Jeffrey Young’s plan to restructure his administration. At times the debate turned divisive. Rather than enter the public fray and further enflame the opposing sides, I chose to work with city councillors Marjorie Decker and Tim Toomey, Mayor David Maher, the superintendent, City Manager Robert W. Healy and the Cambridge Teachers Association to forge an agreement that would allow the necessary restructuring to move forward in a way that would minimize the negative impact on staff.

I have said before that I feel the restructuring is needed. Cambridge employs more administrative staff than any other school district its size, and more than many districts significantly larger. That is neither cost effective nor efficient. It is not about the individuals, whom I believe are dedicated and hard working, but in these difficult financial times we must evaluate all areas to ensure we are using our financial resources in the best way possible. We must do all we can to protect the classroom. No matter where you stand, I hope we can all agree that real people, with real families and real lives are being impacted, and that means we have an obligation to handle this issue with empathy.

Cambridge Public Schools will be facing dramatic financial difficulties in the years ahead. State and federal aid is being cut. Expenditures are on the rise. Some organizations choose to simply make cuts and offer fewer services. We decided to use this financial challenge to look at our operations and programs and find a way to do things better. The budget passed by the School Committee in April not only closes a $3.7 million gap, but adds $1 million in spending that will improve special education services, professional development, school climate, curriculum and technology. To do this we had to make very difficult choices, and we did so with the goal of improving student achievement as our top priority.

In the years ahead, when other difficult decisions will have to be made, we must never lose sight of the fact that no matter how necessary the changes may be, we have an obligation to treat our employees with dignity and respect. We must be better than large, private corporations that often see people as numbers on a page. That doesn’t mean that we shy away from making those tough decisions, but in doing so we must never lose our compassion. I am confident we have learned valuable lessons from this experience and that in the future we will handle such sensitive issues with greater care.


Marc McGovern, vice chairman or the Cambridge School Committee