Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

November 13, 2013

CRLS Alumni Association Project Announces First Annual Alumni Meeting and 2013 Homecoming Events

Filed under: Cambridge,schools — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:54 pm

CRLS Alumni Association Project Announces First Annual Alumni Meeting and 2013 Homecoming Events

Nov 10 – The CRLS Alumni Association Project has been building support for the launch of an Alumni Association for all graduates and staff from Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, Rindge Tech, and Cambridge High & Latin School and has collected over 600 signatures supporting this effort. On Friday, Nov. 29 there will be the First Annual Alumni Association Meeting from 11:00am-12:30pm at CRLS. A interim Alumni Board will be selected. The meeting is open to all graduates and retired staff of CRLS, Rindge Tech, and CHLS. Tours of the renovated high school will also be available before the meeting starting at 10:00am and after starting at12:30pm.

The CRLS Alumni Association Project has also announced a series of Homecoming 2013 Events. All Alumni, staff and families from CRLS, Rindge Tech and CHLS are welcome:

  • Nov 27 – Open House at CRLS from 10:00am to 12 Noon with tours of the new facilities and meeting with Principal Damon Smith
  • Nov 27 – Alumni Reunion Night at Tommy Doyle’s, 8:00pm until closing. Free Hors D’oeuvres from 8-10:00pm. Cash Bar. All classes, all schools and guests welcome! Tommy Doyle’s, 96 Winthrop Street
  • Nov 28 – Pre-game Tailgate and Football Game vs. Somerville. Hospitality starts at 8:30am. Kickoff at 10:00am at Russell Field
  • Dec 6 – The Fall Musical "Rag Time" at 7:00pm. Alumni are encouraged to attend the Friday night performance at the CRLS Fitzgerald Theater. Reception immediately following performance in the Media Café at CRLS.

Please register for events (most are free) at: crlshomecoming2013.eventbrite.com. For more information about any of these events please contact Andy Farrar at 978-764-7566/af@handsontoys.com or David Vogel at davidgvogel@yahoo.com.

October 28, 2013

School Committee Candidates Respond to PANGEA Questions

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections,School Committee — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 12:04 pm

P A N G E A
Parents for a Global Education Association

Dear Cambridge Families,

Six of the nine (6 of 9) School Committee candidates participated in our forum on World Languages: Fran Cronin, Alfred Fantini, John Holland, Elechi Kadete, Patricia Nolan, and Mervan Osborne. One (1) candidate responded that she was a strong advocate for world languages, but was not able to answer the questions: Joyce Gerber. Two (2) candidates did not respond: Richard Harding and Kathleen Kelly.

We are grateful to have received responses from 6 candidates. We have enclosed these here in alphabetical order.

You can also find them on PANGEA’s website under latest updates: www.pangeacambridge.com

We have reached out to all the candidates and are hopeful that other responses will soon follow. If you know any of the candidates who have not responded and desire to hear their opinions on these issues, we’d encourage you to reach out to them and ask for their responses.

When we receive further responses, we will forward them along.

Sincerely,
Paul Ciampa, PANGEA member
Jane Chiang, PANGEA member

Fran Cronin responses (2 pg. PDF)

Fred Fantini responses (6 pg. PDF)

John Holland responses (4 pg. PDF)

Elechi Kadete responses (5 pg. PDF)

Patricia Nolan responses (11 pg. PDF)

Mervan Osborne responses (2 pg. PDF)

PANGEA is an organization of parents and community members advocating for the development, support, and promotion of language immersion programs in Cambridge for all children. We believe that effective cross-cultural and communication skills are integral to a global education. Language immersion programs are one way to fill that need. Strong world language programs can also provide these skills. Families should have the option of choosing the model that best fits their circumstances.

September 26, 2013

PANGEA request for questions to be directed to Cambridge School Committee candidates

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,School Committee — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:01 am

Sept 26 – PANGEA (Parents for a Global Education Association), a new parent group, has made the following request for questions to be directed to Cambridge School Committee candidates. They would like to get questions no later than Oct 7 and plan to publicize candidate responses by Oct 24. (Questions can be sent to info@pangeacambridge.com):

Dear Cambridge Families,
We feel that world languages are an important part of an elementary education. Over the past few years, there has been a vigorous debate around exactly what type of language instruction the City will provide. Given the upcoming election, we feel that it is important to ask specific questions of the candidates and request their written responses. To this end, we are reaching out to the Cambridge community to see what questions they’d like to ask the candidates for School Committee on this issue. If you have a question you’d like to ask, please email us at info@pangeacambridge.com or send us a letter in the mail to: Jane Chiang, 245 First Street, Suite 1800-18020113, Cambridge, MA 02142

ALL QUESTIONS NEED TO BE IN OUR HANDS BY OCTOBER 7 TO BE CONSIDERED FOR INCLUSION.

We will read through these questions, and from these responses, send a list of questions to the candidates. We will then aggregate their responses, send them to the broader Cambridge community, and post them on PANGEA’s website: www.pangeacambridge.com.

We’d note that not every question sent to us may be submitted to the candidates. We will attempt to capture the key themes/questions that reflect the community as a whole.

Thank you.
Paul Ciampa, PANGEA member
Jane Chiang, PANGEA member

PANGEA (Parents for a Global Education Association) is an organization of parents and community members advocating for the development, support, and promotion of language immersion programs based on best practices in Cambridge for all children. We believe that effective cross-cultural and communication skills are integral to a global education. Language immersion programs are one way to fill that need. Strong world language programs can also provide these skills.

September 18, 2013

Episode 4 of Cambridge InsideOut – Big Issues in the 2013 School Committee election

Filed under: 2013 Election,Cambridge,elections,School Committee,schools — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 4:30 pm

Episode 4 of Cambridge InsideOut – Big Issues in the 2013 School Committee election.
This episode aired on Sept 17, 2013.

June 17, 2013

MLK School Groundbreaking – June 17, 2013

Filed under: Cambridge,schools — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 5:10 pm

MLK School Groundbreaking

June 17, 2013 – City and School Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School & Putnam Avenue Upper School Monday, June 17. The existing structure at 100 Putnam Ave., Cambridge will be replaced with a new energy efficient NET ZERO building design. The final construction phase shall begin following final project bids due in December 2013 and occupancy is scheduled for September 2015.

June 13, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School & Putnam Avenue Upper School Groundbreaking Ceremony – Monday, June 17 at noon

Filed under: Cambridge,schools — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 12:41 am

Cambridge, MA — The City of Cambridge will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School & Putnam Avenue Upper School Monday, June 17, at 12:00pm, 100 Putnam Ave. (rear), Cambridge.
Note on Directions: Please access site from Kinnaird St. or Hayes St. only. Please do not use Magee St. This is an active construction site so please stay inside marked barriers for your safety.

Project Background
In July 2012, the city’s project architect, Perkins Eastman, presented City officials with its Feasibility Study for the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Construction Project. Three options were considered and the final decision was to replace the existing structure with a new energy efficient NET ZERO building design. During the design phases, the occupants participated in the building programming, which included education of what a NET ZERO design consists of, and why their actions when using the building will help control the energy consumption. This design is scheduled to be completed for bid in early Fall 2013.

The Construction Manager at Risk, the Rich-Caulfield Venture, began abatement of hazardous materials and demolition in April 2013. These activities should be completed by the end of October 2013. The construction start date for the foundations, steel and geothermal wells is anticipated for early Fall 2013. The final construction phase shall begin following final project bids due in December 2013 and occupancy is scheduled for September 2015. The present total project costs approved by the City Council in September 2012 was $84,550,000. Design features of the 187,000 square foot building and indoor parking garage include:

  • Geothermal Wells which extract heat from the ground thus helping keep energy costs low;
  • Daylight Harvesting which includes glass and other design elements that enable natural light to pass through the building;
  • Automatic Lighting Dimmer System which helps conserve energy use;
  • Gray Water Storage System which helps conserve water use;
  • 30 kBtu/sf/year which describes the building’s energy use and efficiency performance. The average K-12 school in America has an efficiency rating of 169 kBtu/sf/year. This design goal of 30 kBtu/sf/year means the new school will be 82% more efficient than the average American school.

The school will contain all new facilities and equipment for its classrooms, library, auditorium, gymnasium, community rooms, new outdoor play space and improved parking. For project updates, visit the Martin Luther King Construction Project Webpage, http://www.cambridgema.gov/cmanager/mlkjrschoolconstruction.aspx.

May 20, 2013

Merry Month of May – Cambridge City Council May 20, 2013 Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council,cycling,School Committee — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:00 am

Merry Month of May – Cambridge City Council May 20, 2013 Agenda Highlights

Amidst the flowering trees and the birds and the bees, springtime also brings the annual City Budget to the peaceful garden of Cambridge. The Big News is that the School Department Budget was not passed by the City Council’s Finance Committee amidst suggestions that important questions asked were not being answered. The 3-4-1-1 vote at the May 9 Budget Hearing [YES – Decker, Maher, Davis; NO – Simmons, Kelley, Cheung, vanBeuzekom; PRESENT – Toomey; ABSENT: Reeves] means that on the night when the final vote on the FY2014 Budget was expected to occur, the largest single component of the budget ($151 million) remains in committee. There appears to be trouble in the garden.

This might have been resolved on May 16 when there was a scheduled meeting of the Finance Committee if necessary, but Finance Committee Chair Marjorie Decker canceled that meeting. Instead of an actual meeting, we’ve been treated to a flurry of letters by city councillors and School Committee members posted here and on the Cambridge Chronicle website. [Mcgovern/Harding (May 13); Davis (May 13); vanBeuzekom (May 14); Cheung (May 14); Decker (May 15); Cheung, Kelley, Reeves, Simmons (May 16 and on this agenda); and Simmons (May 17).] Monday’s meeting agenda is interesting in that there are proposed policy orders that are incompatible. One order calls for the School Committee budget to be released from the Finance Committee and the unresolved issues discussed at a joint Roundtable meeting after the Budget is passed. The other order calls for the Finance Committee Chair to schedule a meeting of the committee before June 3 to resolve these matters prior to the Budget being passed by the City Council. The School Committee is not involved in these votes, but the co-chairs of their Budget Committee, Richard Harding and Marc McGovern, have been quite outspoken in characterizing the City Council’s actions as "reckless."

Here are the agenda items related to the current impasse:

Order #1. That the School Department budget be discharged from the Finance Committee and be referred to the full City Council for adoption at the City Council meeting of May 20, 2013.   Mayor Davis and Councillor Decker

Order #9. That the City Council schedule a Roundtable Meeting on June 10, 2013 at 5:30pm to meet with the School Committee members, the Superintendent of Schools and the School Department as a follow-up meeting to discuss issues raised in the FY14 School Department Budget hearing held on May 9, 2013.   Mayor Davis

Order #17. That the City Council respectfully urges the Chair of the Finance Committee to convene further budget hearings, to allow for additional discussions, with the hope of resolving any outstanding concerns that individual City Councillors may have regarding the FY2014 School Budget.   Vice Mayor Simmons, Councillor Kelley and Councillor Cheung

Communications & Reports from City Officers #2. A communication was received from Councillors Cheung, Kelley, Reeves and Vice Mayor Simmons transmitting a copy of a letter to Mayor Davis regarding the Cambridge School Department budget. [This communication gives a very detailed list of grievances/concerns.]

Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from Jeffrey M. Young, Superintendent of Schools regarding the Cambridge School Department Budget.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #5. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis regarding the School Budget.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #6. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis transmitting a copy of a memorandum from Carolyn L. Turk, Deputy Superintendent of Schools regarding Capital Improvements and Corresponding Educational Planning.

Late Communications & Reports from City Officers #7. A communication from Mayor Henrietta Davis regarding the FY2014 School Budget.

Letter from Massachusetts Association of School Committees (written by Glenn Koocher)

It will be interesting to see how this is resolved if, in fact, it is resolved. There has been a lot of talk around town about how the highly-touted Innovation Agenda may not be as rosy in its implementation as it was in its initial presentation. This may not be entirely apparent in the above communications, but the failure to pass the School Department Budget was most likely preceded by many phone calls and e-mail messages to city councillors from parents of children in the public schools.

In other matters, we have these items:

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to develop a progress report on all of the non-zoning recommendations submitted by the Central Square Advisory Committee   Councillor Cheung, Councillor Reeves and Vice Mayor Simmons

This is important. Potential zoning changes to enhance retail and residential opportunities in Central Square will come before the City Council later this year and will hopefully pass in some form. However, many quality-of-life issues and actions that support the retail environment of Central Square are not part of the zoning code and should not be ignored while the zoning discussion continues.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to explore how the City of Cambridge can adjust the structure of its commissions to make them project-based and have the appropriate levels of funding for projects.   Councillor Cheung

It’s a little difficult to read between the lines of Councillor Cheung’s order. Taking a long, hard look at the structure and purposes of the City’s various non-regulatory borads and commissions is overdue, but this order could be little more than a prompt for the City Manager to hire an executive director for one particular board.

City Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 13-62, regarding a report on evaluating and incorporating traffic signaling during very low traffic volume times.

I found it interesting that the loop detector on Lee St. at Harvard Ave. is not on the list. Perhaps this is why it never registers the presence of my bicycle no matter how I position myself there. The loop detector on Lee St. at Broadway is on the list, but it does not detect bicycles. If you’re on a bike at a red light and there’s no way to make it turn green, what exactly are you supposed to do?

Unfinished Business #14. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Apr 3, 2013 to discuss an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to create a new Section 6.100 Bicycle Parking, and to create a new definition for Bicycle Parking in Article 2.000, modify the yard standards in Article 5.000 as they relate to bicycle parking and modifying various sections of Article 6.000 to remove references to bicycle parking. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after May 6, 2013. Planning Board hearing held Mar 19, 2013. Petition expires June 17, 2013. May 6, 2013 substituted language referred to Unfinished Business and remained on Unfinished Business.

Having spoken and written about this petition in the past, I’ll just make one simple suggestion for an amendment: Require that in any renovation of a residential or commercial property there be no net reduction in the potential for secure bicycle storage below the established minimum as proposed in this zoning amendment. That is, if basement or garage storage space is converted into living space this should not eliminate the potential of an appropriate amount of secure bicycle parking. – Robert Winters

May 16, 2013

Communication from Councillors Cheung, Kelley, Reeves and Simmons to Mayor Davis (May 16, 2013)

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council,School Committee,schools — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 5:51 pm

May 16, 2013

Mayor Henrietta Davis
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

Dear Mayor Davis:

With only three of all nine Councillors voting in favor of the Cambridge School Department budget on Thursday, it is clear that there is a heightened level of frustration and angst amongst the Council – one that should not go unnoticed. The principal duty of the Cambridge City Council is to exercise fiduciary control over the City of Cambridge to ensure that it is meeting and exceeding the goals set by the Council each session. As adopted in December of 2011, one of our principal goals is to "strengthen and support human services, public education, and out of school learning in Cambridge for the benefit of residents of all ages". On May 9, the will of the Council showed that questions and concerns remain as to whether the budget makes significant strides towards meeting this integral goal.

Many citizens throughout the City share this concern. In each of the last three Citizen Satisfaction Surveys, the quality of our public schools has been the top ranking concern amongst all Cambridge residents. It is crucial that all elected and appointed officials understand the importance of addressing the concerns that our community has expressed and that many Councillors raised in regard to the budget as it was presented at the May 9 Finance Committee meeting. We recognize that the wealth of concerns that were raised at this point may not be met in the next year, much less be solved during this current budget discussion, but it is important for the District to acknowledge that these concerns are real and that the District, coordinating with Cambridge’s elected officials and relevant City staff, will address them and develop a comprehensive, data-driven and outcomes-oriented long term plan to work towards accomplishing them in the years to come.

In particular, we think the District must make a clear and focused effort in these areas:

1. Research has time and time again demonstrated that youngsters who participate in a high-quality preschool program demonstrate higher levels of academic achievement, more socially responsible behavior, and make significantly higher earnings as an adult. We must invest in early childhood education to ensure that each and every child in Cambridge has the opportunity to attend preschool, and the current budget should more clearly explain how CPSD is supporting this notion now and how that support will be continued in the future. If the budget does not address this concern, it is not in line with the Council’s goal of strengthening public education.

2. Throughout discussions about CPSD with current, former, and prospective families, classroom management, school climate and teacher training are consistently recurring issues, as is supported by past CPSD parent surveys. We would like to see a budget that sets clear goals for teacher training as it relates to classroom management and school climate, along with associated data about student disciplinary issues. We understand that the CPSD budget cannot include every effort that the District is making, but it is important that the budget reflect the attempts made to address major concerns raised by the families it has been created to serve. A failure to assess these issues in the current budget is not in line with the Council’s goal of strengthening public education.

3. Family engagement has been another important issue that the FY2014 School Department budget appears to overlook. The Family Liaisons play critical roles in ensuring that parents have a steady guide through all school-related issues and concerns, and they are tireless advocates for the children they work with, often going above and beyond their job descriptions to ensure that our kids get the very best educational experience possible. Study after study has shown that children do better at school when there is an active partnership with the parents and the families, yet the money devoted to Family Liaisons and the family engagement process is nowhere as robust as it needs to be. A failure to assess this great need in the current budget is not in line with the Council’s goal of strengthening public education.

4. Understanding why students and families opt to leave the District, whether it be to attend a charter school, private school, or school in another district, is crucial for schools to improve. At present, the City spends approximately 9-11 million dollars annually, depending on state reimbursement formulas, on charter schools and a significant proportion of school-aged residents opt not to attend Cambridge public schools. Making an aggressive attempt to understand what educational needs that families perceive CPSD as not well-equipped to meet seems like a logical first step in figuring out how to address these concerns. If we do not address the concerns of residents who ultimately decide to send their children to academic institutions outside of CPSD, the Council is not furthering its goal of strengthening public education in the City of Cambridge.

5. The Council has committed to an extensive school building upgrade project that will add a quarter of a billion dollars to our City’s debt load, a figure that will bring our total debt load beyond the level at which we have traditionally set the limit. Additionally, we’ve discussed the potential of extended day, expanded pre-k, eventually expanding the wrap around program, giving computers to kids, broader world language offerings, an office of college success, and other potentially large programmatic expenditures which are not accounted for in the long-term budgetary plan. While we are fully in support of investing in programs and facilities to give our students and staff the facilities they need to grow and thrive, we need a more comprehensive long-term picture to make informed decisions about expenditures that will ultimately be reflected in higher taxes for our residents. We also need to understand the trade-offs and considerations that go in to thinking about how these programs and facilities will increase our return on investment, given that Cambridge already has one of the highest per pupil costs in the state. The failure of the budget to address this concern is not in line with the Council’s goal of "[evaluating] City expenditures with a view of maintaining a strong fiscal position and awareness of the impact on taxpayers while providing a high quality array of city services".

6. There is a concern that the population growth may not keep pace with the amount of building renovation called for in the proposed school budget. It would be most unfortunate if, after a decade of renovations, the City has four state-of-the-art school buildings with precious few students to occupy them. This is why it is important that we have at least a five-year projection for the Innovation Agenda. We would be much better served if we have a sense of how much this will cost going forward, if we can anticipate what additional expenses may need to be called for, what additional positions may be created that will need funding, how many students will be expected to be housed in these buildings, and so forth. The failure of the budget to address this concern is not in line with the Council’s goal of "[evaluating] City expenditures with a view of maintaining a strong fiscal position and awareness of the impact on taxpayers while providing a high quality array of city services".

7. Why, in a District that is very multi-cultural, do so many events, activities, programs and awards seem to be demographically disparate? The systemic inequities and racial unbalances that continue to exist between student populations strongly impact the ability of all of our children to reach their full potential. Failure to address this concern is not in line with the Council’s goal to "value and support the racial, socio-economic, cultural and religious diversity of our city".

Given the scope of the $150,000,000 CPSD budget, along with the roughly 22 million dollars in charter school payments and school construction debt service, it is clear to us that not all of our concerns will be able to be met immediately. We would like a clear commitment from the School Committee and CPSD staff that the next budget year will start with a focused discussion with the City Council and City staff of the above-listed concerns, and that measurable steps will be taken to ensure that additional concerns of families, students, and members of the community are addressed as well. If we can get that clear commitment, we would be willing to support this year’s CPSD budget and work with all concerned parties to make sure future budgets better reflect the fiscal and educational concerns of the City.

Several years ago, we initiated the practice of holding City Council-School Committee Roundtables to increase the amount of communication between these two bodies, in the hopes of avoiding the very situation in which we now find ourselves. It would appear that we either need to increase the number of Roundtables we hold each year, or we need to set aside specific Roundtables each year to devote exclusively to discussing drafting the school budget, to ensure that City Councillors are able to publicly provide feedback as a group and air concerns during the budget drafting process.

Please feel free to contact us directly should you have any questions or concerns about this communication.

Sincerely,
Councillor Leland Cheung
Councillor Craig Kelley
Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves
Vice Mayor E. Denise Simmons

Cc: Councillor Marjorie Decker, Finance Committee Chair
City Council
School Committee
Superintendent Jeff Young
City Manager Bob Healy
Deputy City Manager Richard Rossi

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