Dear fellow Cantabrigians,

As mayor, one of my most important duties is to serve as chairman of the Cambridge School Committee, a duty I am fully committed to.

The Cambridge School Committee voted last week to approve Superintendent Jeffrey Young’s Innovation Agenda, a plan for strengthening programming for grades six through eight. This plan will provide a rigorous, engaging program for all of our students. Under the adopted plan, our district will consist of JK-5 grade schools with four upper school campuses for grades six through eight that feed into our high school, Cambridge Rindge & Latin. We will also have two JK-8 language immersion programs — the Amigos School at the Upton Street building and the Ola Program to remain at the King Open site. Additionally, under the Innovation Agenda, students in substantially separate special education classes and Sheltered English Immersion classrooms will no longer be asked to transition more frequently than other students. The adopted plan calls for the coming school year, the 2011-12 academic year, to be a planning year, with implementation slated for the fall of 2012.

This new configuration for upper-school campuses promises to provide a greatly enhanced experience for all of our sixth- through eighth-grade students. A few of these enhancements include consistent, high-quality world language instruction for all students. The ability to speak a second language is a skill we must provide our students for their future success in the work world. Just as world language instruction is vital for our students’ future academic success, so is top notch programming in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. As a result, we will be partnering with our local universities and businesses to be sure the upper-school campus curriculums prepare our students for the future these fields demand. Additionally, a consistent start and end time for all our upper-school campuses will allow for more opportunities for out-of-school time programming for students.

Because our upper-school campuses will be “right sized,” all of our students will be part of healthy sized programs. This will allow students to grow socially and academically. Additionally, our teachers will now have subject area colleagues at their same school, creating professional learning communities for our staff. This will enable teachers to collaborate and provide the most stimulating academic classroom experiences for our students. These professional learning communities will build on our current successes and expand them to all of our classrooms. As I have said, all of our schools have successes to share.

Cambridge, unlike most other municipalities in the state, is in the fortunate financial position to be able to contemplate major building renovations to our schools most in need of repair. We can look forward to updated facilities with improved technology and science labs. As we progress through the upcoming planning year, we will be working to create a facilities plan that will support the structural changes called for in the Innovation Agenda.

As with any major change, the process for coming to a decision about the future direction of our school system has been filled with intense discussions and generated a variety of opinions about the plan. I write to you today to assure you that as we move to the planning phase of this process we need representatives from all parts of our community to be active participants in the many task forces and planning groups that will be formed. The plan calls for major community building activities to accompany the formation of these four upper-school campuses. There is a place for everyone in our community at the table during these discussions. In order for these new campuses to be successful, we must engage a broad, representative cross section of our community.

Please continue to be involved in the discussions about the future direction of our school system. I am confident that with the clear direction provided by our School Committee and the able leadership of our superintendent and his team, our schools will thrive.

Sincerely,

Mayor David P. Maher