Sunday, July 14, 2024

There are many of us at the school who do not support a unilateral, relentless campaign against principal Kathleen Smith’s leadership at the Graham & Parks School. While I have deep respect for the voices of the G&Parks Caregiver Coalition and have spent many hours listening to their perspective, I fundamentally disagree with their approach. It is particularly painful to write this letter, as I have shared playdates with their children and see them at our school every day.

The coalition – under the veil of anonymity – has spoken against Smith’s leadership (and that of superintendent Victoria Greer) continuously in the press (Cambridge Day, The Crimson, The Boston Globe, etc.) and are calling for an immediate removal. They speak on behalf of a community that for the most part does not know that they, or these conflicts, exist. This sets a dangerous precedent for our school and our district. We cannot allow a small, privileged group to direct the future of our school based on their perspectives alone. We need to come together in community – including all caregivers, teachers and staff who want to participate – to discuss what is best for our collective future, and it seems that a door to reconciliation grows smaller by the day.

Our community is extremely diverse – racially, ethnically, culturally and socioeconomically. The children of Graham and Parks reflect that tapestry and come together in the pursuit of learning. I am particularly concerned that the voices of brown and black families, especially those who do not enjoy socioeconomic privilege or English as their first language, are unheard.

I strongly believe that supporting an open, public process is the key to combating inequity, and I am deeply upset that caregivers, teachers and staff are being excluded from sharing their voices. Caregivers’ individual opinions on whether our principal meets the school’s needs should be taken into account as part of a comprehensive and holistic evaluation. Teachers and staff need to be able to share their opinions on the school’s climate without fear of losing their employment or jeopardizing relationships critical to the school’s success.

As of yesterday, the district finally released the name of the attorney leading the investigation into our school and invited our community to participate. The district needs to go further.

  1. An explanation of why the investigation was initiated needs to be shared. This has never been disclosed.
  2. A communication about what the investigation entails needs to be circulated, and the role of the investigator needs to be explained.
  3. The communication needs to be translated and passed out in flyer form, ensuring that those who do not have reliable access to or feel comfortable with technology (including Wi-Fi) have the opportunity to participate.
  4. Translators need to be provided to those families who want to share their experiences with the investigator.
  5. Like the school climate survey, online and written forms need to be supplied so that caregivers, teachers and staff can participate anonymously.
  6. Participants must be reassured that they will not be retaliated against – by teachers and administration or by other parents – for their honest feedback. This is the only way to ensure a fair outcome.

Our unique strengths at Graham & Parks are rooted in our differences. It feels wrong generally, but particularly in Cambridge, for us to exclude stakeholders from the conversation.

Thank you very much for taking the time to reach this letter and thank you again for your service to our community.

Isabella Ehrlich, Kirkland Road, Cambridge