Saturday, April 20, 2024


Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young repeated a plea from May for the ability to focus on changes under way in the district.

Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young.

A recommendation to use the existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test in the 2014-15 school year and not the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career test was approved unanimously by the School Committee on Tuesday.

Cambridge Education Association president Chris Colbath-Hess, teacher Kathy Greeley, Citywide School Advisory Group co-chairwomen Mary-Ann Matyas and Whitney Allen and four parents all spoke to thank Superintendent Jeffrey Young for his decision. They all also urged continued public discussion about what Colbath-Hess called the “demoralizing … burden testing and assessments” have on teachers and the classrooms.

In other action at the committee meeting …

Student committee members report: Lucy Sternbach and Emily Gray reported that seniors graduate at 6 p.m. Thursday; freshman are taking the physics MCAS this week; the high school’s softball, lacrosse and baseball teams all made it to state tournaments; the girls track team is the Division 1 state champion.

For the second anniversary of the violent death of classmate Charlene Holmes, senior Mercedes Wallace organized a walk in her memory, held earlier in the day. Her death “hit us really, really hard,” Gray said, but “this was a great event.”

Unfinished and new business: Moved forward to the next meeting without discussion was a motion to hire a consultant to provide feedback to K-5 and middle schools, originally proposed in July.

Also moved forward was a motion to re-examine the designation of high school “college preparatory” classes, originally proposed in February, after a discussion culminating in an additional motion by member Fran Cronin that the mayor schedule a roundtable or working meeting with the high school principal and staff, with student input, regarding the designation and naming of “college preparatory” and advanced placement courses. Member Kathleen Kelly made a further motion that the mayor schedule a roundtable or working meeting around “disparity among subgroups” in student achievement.

Approved was the process for evaluating the superintendent edited by committee co-chairman Fred Fantini and Young to align with new state standards, with members Richard Harding and Patty Nolan voting against. Discussion revolved around Nolan’s contention that the document did not provide adequate measurable goals, including specifically the use of student achievement results for population subgroups rather than for an aggregate district achievement measure.

A report on the advanced placement program at the high school, originally requested for the fall of 2013, is still awaited.

Superintendent’s agenda recommendations approved without discussion: 

Allocation of $9.6 million for the provision of three years of special education transportation services; and the acceptance of a $104,000 federal grant going toward the salary of a K-8 English as a second language coach.

Moved to a second reading were revisions of the department’s anti-bullying policy and the anti-bullying policy of the rights and responsibilities handbook; and the policy related to fingerprint-based criminal background checks, all edited to align with new state standards.

Resolutions: Letters to staff retiring this spring, with names available Tuesday including: Eugenia Athanassiu (Morse School); Audrey Cabral-Pini (Cambridge Rindge and Latin School); Kathleen Clinton (CRLS); Cornelia Heise-Baigorria (Home-Based Early Childhood Education); Fran Hiller (King Open School); Yvon Lamour (CRLS); Judy Lazrus (Graham & Parks School); Barry McNulty (assistant principal at G&P); Ellen Miller (Kennedy-Longfellow School); Andrea Plate (Rindge Avenue Upper School); Karen Rudgis (G&P); Anthony Russo (CRLS); Holly Samuels (CRLS); Filomena Silva (dean of students at CRLS); Karen Thompson (G&P); Margaret Walsh (Putnam Avenue Upper School); Geraldine “Maggie” Whalen (Office of Student Services); and Rosalie Williams (CRLS/Rindge School of Technical Arts).

The mayor also recognized the accomplishments of several graduating seniors able to attend the meeting.

Presentation: School-related capital planning issues were discussed by City Manager Richard C. Rossi, Assistant City Manager Lisa Peterson and school department Chief Operating Officer Jim Maloney.

Closed-door session: At the end of the meeting, the committee adjourned to enter a closed-door session to discuss strategy for contract negotiations with the superintendent. Separate from the superintendent’s review, which takes place in public, discussions about the possibility of extending a contract are allowed to occur outside of public meetings.