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‘Relieved’ and ‘Disheartened’: Mixed Reactions from Cambridge Parents After Superintendent Firing

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Cambridge parent Thomas F. Burke had to wait nearly two months for the public announcement after he mistakenly joined a closed-door School Committee meeting and learned the body planned to ask Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Victoria L. Greer to resign.

After the School Committee publicly voted to finalize Greer’s termination in May, Burke — like many parents — said he was relieved the decision was “finally out.”

Now, as the district tees up to find a new superintendent, parents said they had mixed emotions about Greer’s exit: relief that the saga had ended, confusion about the process for removing her, and, in some cases, frustration that the School Committee pushed her out despite her record at the district.

Greer’s termination followed months of parent complaints about her leadership, particularly regarding her hiring practices and her handling of tensions between parents and the principal of Graham & Parks Elementary School.

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Though the School Committee met in private several times during the spring to discuss Greer’s contract, parents, teachers, and students were left largely in the dark about Greer’s future at the district, save for a news article in April that reported the committee had asked for her resignation.

“There was kind of a consensus that she was going to resign,” Burke said of the April 1 meeting. “The only discussion was, well, when is she going to go?”

Burke said that he was surprised by how “candid” committee members spoke about the situation. It wasn’t until he read an article in The Crimson that Burke realized he had accidentally stumbled into a confidential meeting.

Burke said that though he understood navigating the contract of an administrator is “difficult,” he wished that the School Committee could have announced their decision earlier.

“The meeting I saw was on April 1,” he said. “That’s a lot of time. I don’t think you want to be wasting time, you know, with important decisions like this.”

The School Committee voted in late May to devise a transition plan on or before June 24, and the plan is expected to be discussed when the body meets on Tuesday.

But Francis J. Bingham, another CPS parent, said that though he was “relieved” the announcement was made and “encouraged” by the decision, Bingham said he was also frustrated with the School Committee for not announcing their decision earlier.

“We’ve lost two months of time,” he said.

Other parents praised aspects of Greer’s tenure and said they were disappointed at her firing.

Tara L. Edelschick, whose three children graduated from CPS and whose grandchild is attending the debuting Cambridge Preschool Program in the fall, said that she was “disheartened” by the decision the School Committee made, calling it a “loss” for the district.

“I know she’s made some mistakes, but overall, the progress she has made?” Edelschick said. “I just don’t think we can say that about any superintendent that we’ve had in a long time.”

During the 2022-2023 school year, Cambridge students’ Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores returned to pre-pandemic levels — one of only three districts with more than 5,000 students in the state to do so.

Edelschick cited other progress CPS has made under Greer’s two-and-a-half year tenure including the decrease in CPS’ chronic absenteeism and an extension of the school day by 30 minutes — a provision from the contract CPS negotiated with the Cambridge Education Association last fall.

“I’m actually, like, stunned that we fired her. I don’t get it,” she said.

Tina T. Lieu, a CPS parent and co-leader of the Cambridge Families of Asian Descent group, said that she had “mixed views” on Greer’s contract termination.

Lieu said she appreciated Greer’s responsiveness to parent and district feedback several times and praised her decision to include affinity groups in discussions about the CPS budget.

“She set up a whole co-design process with us, invited all interested parent affinity groups to participate,” Lieu said.

Lieu also noted that by introducing iReady — an online assessment tool for teachers — to the district, Greer gave parents “visibility into how our kids are doing.”

But Lieu said Greer’s tenure was marred by the controversy at Graham & Parks, where CPS hired an outside law firm to investigate allegations of a toxic workplace environment, and her principal hiring practices.

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Greer also received a “needs improvement” rating on her annual evaluation report last year, with the committee noting that they were “troubled by both the content and volume” heard regarding principal hiring processes at Fletcher Maynard Academy and the Morse School.

Though Greer and Mayor E. Denise Simmons both sent messages to parents announcing that Greer’s contract would be terminated early, the School Committee has not yet issued any statements explaining their rationale. Simmons and Greer’s emails were both positive, sharing progress and initiatives that Greer instituted as superintendent.

The School Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Many parents expressed hope that the search process for Greer’s successor would be broad and transparent.

“To me, transparency and communication is going to be the most important thing. If you don’t communicate, people aren’t going to trust the process,” Bingham said.

Similarly, Lieu noted that she hoped the search would include the voices from a “wide range of voices” and that any surveys sent out utilize language that is easy to understand for everyone.

Arjun K. Jaikumar, another CPS parent, said that he would like to see a “broad and thorough, even national search.” Bingham said he’d like Cambridge to find “somebody who is world-class.”

Parents’ desire for transparency and communication extended to their hopes for Cambridge’s superintendent as well.

“Two areas that the current Superintendent struggled with — by the School Committee’s own reckoning — was hiring processes and communicating with the community,” Burke said. “I hope that the next person has strengths in those areas.”

“I don’t expect that I would be pleased with them all the time or that any other caregiver will be,” Jaikumar said. “What I would like to see is a commitment to having a conversation about why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, to listen to dissenting voices, to hear concerns, and not dismiss them.”

—Staff writer Darcy G Lin can be reached at darcy.lin@thecrimson.com.

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