110115i-Pia-CisterninoFacebook-icon-small

Twitter-icon-smallCisternino is a mother of three Cambridge public school students – one in elementary school, one in the upper school and one in the high school. She has lived in Cambridge with her family for 10 years. She has been involved in their schools, including serving on the Haggerty School Council and as co-chairwoman of the Cambridge Parent Advisory Council on Special Education for two years. Pia also was founder and co-facilitator of the Twice Exceptional Parents Support Group, for parents of children with advanced learning and special education needs. Pia also a board member of the Boston-based Citizens for Public Schools, an organization that advocates less school testing, among other things, and helped to start the Cambridge branch.

Cisternino is a trained speech therapist with a specialty in early childhood and more than 10 years of teaching experience. She grew up in Amherst and got her undergraduate degree at Tufts. She got her master’s degree from Teachers College of Columbia University, as well as a graduate degree from Johns Hopkins. Cisternino said she is running for office because she has a vision for student-centered learning and inclusion.

Compiled from the candidate’s statements in publicly available sources

Top three issues:

bullet-gray-small Provide time and resources for rich and developmentally-appropriate curriculum. Cisternino advocates for universal pre-kindergarten and emphasizes play-based schooling for young children. She is the only candidate with expertise in early childhood development. Her vision of elementary school education includes learning supported through play, the arts and world languages, with more recess. She strongly supports restorative justice practices continuing into the upper schools and high school level. She wants more support for teachers and increased co-teaching, including at the honors classes in the high school, as a way to broaden access to the courses. She is a strong advocate of decreased state- and district-level testing and questions the need for a high-stakes standardized test for high school graduation.

bullet-gray-small Provide clear protocol, supports and communication for families. Cisternino’s time navigating Cambridge’s special services for herself and others has given her insight into the strengths and failures of the Cambridge system to support families. She has advocated successfully for an increase in school-based social workers and in expanding Kodaly music program into Haggerty. She continues to advocate for family liaisons at the upper schools.

bullet-gray-small Improve inclusion practices for students with diverse backgrounds and learning styles. This means flexibility within the curriculum, as well as strong social emotional supports. Dramatically decreasing testing and test-prep time will allow for more time and resources to devote to a differentiated curriculum. Technology is not the answer to addressing the needs of advanced learners, she said; what is needed is additional face-time with teachers and flexible curriculum. She advocates for more teachers in the classroom, more mentoring and early identification of students with special and advanced learning needs.

Compiled from the candidate’s statements in publicly available sources

Profile one view of the candiate

Cisternino is a challenger who has already done a great deal of work in the district as an advocate. She has a deep knowledge of the challenges and strengths of the district from early education through to high school and knows what it looks and feels like in the classroom. Her quiet determination, thoughtful approach and adept diplomacy have already helped build bridges and community, and she could be a steadying, informed and positive influence in the committee.