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Tensions Flare At Greer’s Final School Committee Meeting Over 3-Year District Plan

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Tensions flared at a School Committee meeting on Tuesday as committee members and Cambridge Public Schools officials sparred over the details of the three-year “strategic roadmap” for CPS launched by Superintendent Victoria L. Greer in 2022.

The meeting was a bitter final note for Greer, who was terminated by the School Committee a year early following a year of parental outrage over her hiring decisions and management at Graham & Parks Elementary School and other schools. She is set to leave office Aug. 5.

After CPS Chief Strategy Officer Skyler Nash delivered a presentation on the three-year plan, some school committee members — particularly Richard Harding, Jr. and Elizabeth C.P. Hudson, who were elected last November — raised concerns about the lack of metric-based goals in the presentation.

“No other business in the world that I know of would you be able to have no metrics at all in a strategic plan and everyone would be OK with it,” Harding said.

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But Greer countered that the plan did contain metric goals established by the School Committee in a lengthy process during the development of the district plan.

“I’m not going to let this be my last night and you act as though we have not had metrics over the past three years,” Greer said.

Still, Harding contended that metrics had been set by a previous class of School Committee members, adding that they should have been included in the presentation as a “reeducation” for the new members and to give them the opportunity for feedback.

“I mean, Ms. Hudson, did you ever sit in a meeting where they did a discussion of metrics on this? I don’t think she did!” Harding said.

The exchange became so tense that Mayor E. Denise Simmons, the chair of the School Committee intervened to shut down the discussion, which she described as “getting a little cantankerous.”

Earlier in the meeting, Hudson had requested that Nash utilize plain language and metrics to align expectations and make the district’s plans clearer for parents and School Committee members.

“I read the slides and I listened to your presentation and I have no idea what most of this means,” she said.

Though Nash had agreed with Hudson to use “plain language” in the future, Greer pointed out that “there is clarity that should happen on both sides.”

“At times, we don’t know, as a body, what this committee is looking for because each of you have different expectations of what you want the work to look like,” Greer said.

“You know, in the future, as you all are working with your next superintendent, it would be nice if many of you come in and spend some time with those people — the superintendent — so you can put some clarity on the table,” she said.

Under the district plan, CPS has worked to align platforms and resources across all schools — just one component in a recent trend of Cambridge standardizing school curriculum and practices. For instance, in 2023, CPS introduced BranchingMinds and ParentSquare, two platforms to centralize student data and parent communication.

Nash also spotlighted Excel Afterschool Tutoring and Cambridge’s universal preschool program, two new programs that were created in response to educational equity concerns.

Nash said Excel Afterschool Tutoring served 286 students across 11 elementary schools between its November launch and May. According to Nash, before entering the program, 68 percent of students were two grades behind in English and 72 percent of students were two grades behind in math. By the school year’s end, those figures dropped to 43 percent for both ELA and math.

He added that CPS has provided professional development opportunities to all preschool teachers to prepare them for the launch of the Cambridge Preschool Program in the fall.

During the meeting, the School Committee also voted 4-2 to adopt two contracts worth nearly $33 million total with NRT Busing, the company that supplies CPS with small buses and vans. The company will transport unhoused students and approximately 395 students whose Individualized Education Plans require specialized transportation.

The new contracts also address a March complaint to the U.S. Department of Education by parent John H. Summers, who alleged that the lack of bus tracking devices for students with IEPs who go to out-of-district schools constituted disability-based discrimination.

According to Chief Operations Officer David Murphy, NRT Busing has agreed to install GPS tracking devices by the start of the 2025-2026 school year, but that CPS has reserved “the right to install the equipment ourselves for next school year.”

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

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