David Weinstein for School Committee, 2021
Incumbent first elected in 2020 and seeking a second term in office
Background: Teaching and education | Focuses: Universal pre-K, staffing
Why did you decide to run for another term on the School Committee?
We must close racial, gender and economic opportunity gaps and ensure that each child is prepared to succeed and thrive. We have so much in Cambridge: the people, the money, city programs, community partners, thriving innovative businesses. Ensuring that no child falls through the cracks or lacks support to reach their potential is why I taught in public schools and studied educational policy. It is why I ran for School Committee and have worked so hard for the past two years, and it’s why I am running for reelection. Even with all of the demands of the pandemic I was able to make progress toward this goal and take actions that laid the groundwork for further progress. But there is much more to be done.
What are the top three issues you would like to address if reelected?
- To establish a coordinated “cradle to career” system of support. This must include preschool access, after-school programs, sports and extracurriculars, special education and advanced learning supports, college and career guidance, internships and apprenticeships – a system that knits together our schools, the city, partners and businesses and is tied to “Individualized Student Success Plans” for all.
- We must design a multiyear district plan anchored in measurable goals that expects great things from our children by holding us accountable to support them and that reflects our commitment to antiracism and equity.
- While we to continue to implement pandemic health and safety measures guided by the best research and evolving with the science and the situation in partnership with our teachers and families, we must understand and assess the disparate impact of the pandemic and our response and address the differing academic, social and emotional needs of our children and families.
What are the most effective ways to strengthen the district’s initiatives to promote social justice and racial equity?
We have committed as a School Committee to address the nine barriers to equity identified by Building Equity Bridges through a robust, inclusive community process. Now we need to reflect that commitment in our actions as we design a district plan, hire a permanent superintendent and develop policy.
I will work to ensure that the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging continues to be properly funded and that we are building a network of support and capacity throughout our school community – students, teachers, staff, families – not simply establishing an office and leaving everything to a very few people. In line with his commitment, as chair of the Communications and Community Relations Subcommittee I advocated successfully for fully funding Caregiver University and ensured we supported a racial equity-focused design process.
A related point: We need to evaluate existing initiatives and our progress, and not simply pile things on without considering what is already in place. Should it be replaced? Refined? Redoubled? As an example: When CRLS students raised concerns this term about gender-based harassment and assault and a culture of misogyny, I called for a report on the implementation of the School Committee’s 2017 Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Action Plan Recommendations, working with the student School Committee members and my colleagues. Why? We had an excellent start on addressing these problems in 2016-2017, but we have not made enough progress. To be more effective, rather than beginning from square one we need to first determine what worked, what didn’t, what was planned but not done and what might no longer be the right approach, then determine the way forward.
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?
We need to hold cultural competency as a key set of skills for all educators and staff. We certainly need to exceed our goal of 30 percent teachers of color by hiring, supporting and retaining excellent teachers, but we must not place on our teachers of color the responsibility for managing all things that intersect with race – and race is not the only dimension of culturally sensitive instruction. In addition to a diverse teaching force we need ongoing professional development and to build systems and a culture of mentorship that will allow teachers to be vulnerable and look critically at their practice with support from colleagues.
The “Individualized Student Success Plans” I’ve been working on this term will help us focus on supporting students in what they need, rather than asking them to conform to a single style of learning, and must include guidance and support for success in a range of college and/or career goals.
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?
- The pandemic forced us to pilot some additional coordination, and we need to build on that to better serve our children and families – and with the same urgency when we are post-pandemic.
- We worked to strengthen social and emotional support and access to mental health services, but there is much more to be done with staffing, curriculum and co-curricular work and with partner organizations.
- We have expanded our educator collaboratives during the pandemic, bringing together educators across the district, resulting in incredibly valuable curriculum and teaching practices. In my years as a classroom teacher this kind of opportunity was impactful – and rare. We should continue growing this.
As a School Committee member, how would you encourage the district’s after-school providers and partners to improve or expand services?
While we have excellent providers and partners, our lack of sufficient coordination is causing families to struggle to access the right services for their children. We can learn from the Birth to Third Grade Partnership, which brings city and school district staff together, as a potential model for our after-school programs. We also need to be ready to commit funds from the School Department budget and/or elsewhere in the city budget to expanding the number of after-school spots and to broaden the options so every child has an affordable option providing care that is enriching, joyful and academically and socially supportive. Expanding summer programming should be considered as well.
What processes would you put into place to encourage parents and caregivers to have a voice in shaping the district’s priorities?
Families are key to our success. The priorities of our families should be the priorities of our district. We must do better at collaborating with families, students and teachers as we carry out our key responsibilities as a School Committee: determining our budget priorities, the superintendent hiring and review process and policymaking and strategic planning. We also need to ensure we have racial, cultural, linguistic, economic and disability status diversity among the families we work with. As a step in that direction, I have made it a practice to invite parents and caregivers to the subcommittee meetings I chair and to specifically invite the Special Education Parents Advisory Council and Cambridge Families of Color Coalition to send representatives, regardless of the specific meeting topic. Additionally, we cannot rely solely on who can attend a meeting, but instead we must build multiple modes and opportunities for partnership and collaboration with families and caregivers into our processes. We are interdependent. When we build more inclusive processes we create better policies with better outcomes – and we grow stronger as a community.