Monday, July 22, 2024

Challenger running for committee for the second time


The candidate’s website | Facebook | Twitter

Background: Engineering | Focuses: Accountability, staffing, after-school programs


Why did you decide to run for a seat on the School Committee?

I felt like we needed a presence on the council that could communicate in plain language with the community, make long-range planning decisions and execute and iterate on those decisions. Cambridge Public Schools should be centers for academic excellence, supporting our students and showing them all the opportunities that education can provide.

What are the top three issues you would like to address if reelected?

1. We need to hire a permanent superintendent and work with them to remove the many interim positions in leadership around the district. Lasting organizational change requires steady, consistent leadership, people who understand they are valued, are committed to our community and willing to work toward long-term goals.

2. The District Plan that was allowed to expire in 2020. It needs to be revised and updated to provide some clear and tangible guideposts to our teachers and community of what it is we value, what we are prioritizing and what we are trying to do to achieve these goals.

3. We need to massively expand our internship, mentoring and vocational education programs. Every child at CRLS should have multiple opportunities in many different fields or vocations to see what life beyond school looks like, to experiment and to clarify as they start to make some of the most important decisions of their lives.

What are the most effective ways to strengthen the district’s initiatives to promote social justice and racial equity?

We need to continue the partnerships with community groups and programs such My Brother’s Keeper, Building Bridges and Challenging Conversations. The schools can do only so much on their own; they need strong community support not only in identifying problems, but in addressing those problems in a socially just and responsible manner. We cannot be afraid to be wrong, and we cannot be afraid to be honest. Mistakes will be made and we must seek justice, but there has to also be an effective and realistic process to address the problem while offering a path of redemption for those who commit the wrong.

How can the district improve its efforts to provide culturally sensitive instruction tailored to student interests, skill sets and ambitions in light of the diversity of student backgrounds? 

I think we need to trust our teachers to deliver their curriculum in the manner appropriate for each class and year, because it is an ever-changing and diverse school system. I think we need to be culturally sensitive, but the reality is that in a reasonable school day, a single teacher cannot provide 20 to 30 perfectly tailored instructional sets to each of their four to five classes. They need to make the most effort for the most affected, but also to maintain the educational focus of the classroom. When there are challenges, if a student is in need or feels unsafe, the student and their family needs to feel comfortable in approaching the teacher and having an open dialogue.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students and staff since March 2020 has revealed strengths and weaknesses in the system – are there specific items that you would review or revise?

1. It would be useful to find out how many students or families preferred remote instruction and how often. Given the existence of Covid-19 variants and the likelihood that we could face another pandemic, it would make sense to have contingency plans that identified students and teachers who felt comfortable with or preferred the remote learning environment.

2. We need to make plans for enhanced outdoor classroom space where available in the city – again, not for immediate use, but for disaster preparedness and flexibility.

3. We really need to identify long-term physical space options and what our long range plans are, given an expanding population.

As a School Committee member, how would you encourage the district’s after-school providers and partners to improve or expand services?

We need to become true partners with our after-school providers and partners and push to have parental consent to allow information sharing in both directions. These programs often have incredible relationships and direct access to the most vulnerable of our students. We need to support the programs with additional resources and more transparent communication, and provide pathways for those interested in becoming fully trained and certified education professionals.

What processes would you put into place to encourage parents and caregivers to have a voice in shaping the district’s priorities?

School Committee members should float around on a set schedule to all of the schools’ friends of meetings and be more out and involved in the Cambridge wide community. We have a lot of open meetings and sub committee meetings already, what is clear is that we’re not getting out to enough of the other voices and we need to find better ways to do that.

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Christopher Lim for School Committee, 2019