School Committee Candidate Profiles, Group 2 of 2

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Twelve candidates will go head-to-head for Cambridge’s six School Committee seats this November.

The mayor joins the School Committee to make a seven-member board that serves two-year terms. The city runs a proportional representation election where all candidates run at large and are not connected to specific districts of the city.

Scout is putting together profiles on every candidate running for School Committee in Cambridge so that voters can get informed about the slate of people who could shape Cambridge’s schools for the coming years.

Election Day is Nov. 7. Find your voting location here.

The School Committee candidate profiles are not grouped in any particular order. Read batch 1 here. Candidates’ answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

William MacArthur

What should we know about you? 

I graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin in 2016 and attended Cambridge Public Schools for 13 years. I’ve lived in this city for my whole life and I love it, and I’m currently a sophomore at Harvard studying sociology.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

1) Closing the opportunity gap in both academics and student life.

2) Promoting civic engagement with a focus on facilitating community service and reducing systemic barriers to political participation for students, teachers, and families.

3) Bringing teachers into policy conversations at every level to inform school and district decisions with classroom experience.

What are three specific new programs or changes you would make if elected?

I support creating a clear pathway for expanding teacher-driven initiatives to every school in the district once they have been successfully piloted.

I believe in the power of relevant local curriculum to promote civic awareness and I would support teaching the history of local activism in every upper school.

The outcomes that we choose to measure say a lot about our priorities, and I support gathering and publishing data on extracurricular participation that is disaggregated by race and gender. I also support a study of controlled choice investigating potential correlations between race and socioeconomic status and a family’s chance of getting their top choice school and would support further changes to the program based on the results.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

I am the only candidate who is a current full-time student. Although I plan to take time off of school if elected, I believe that this gives me a perspective, and an ability to understand and validate the perspectives of students, that would be a positive addition to the committee. I have prioritized school climate and student experiences of schools in my platform and would continue to do so if elected.

Give us a fun fact about you.

My dorm at Harvard is across the street from my elementary school (the Graham and Parks). Every day on my way to class I walk past a peach tree that I helped plant 10 years ago with the CitySprouts program.

 

Piotr Mitros

What should we know about you?

I am the parent of a wonderful boy starting in the MLK elementary school. I served as the founding chief scientist of edX, an MIT/Harvard education initiative for over a half-decade, and had the pleasure of working with schools around the world, with students at all levels, and with most of the education research communities to successfully improve learning outcomes. A few parents pushed me to run to bring that background to help improve the Cambridge school system.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

1) Bringing the science of learning into our school system. I don’t think we’ll address many issues unless our decisions are made on robust, scientific evidence.

2) Empowering parents, teachers, and other community members to make positive changes in our schools.

3) Fixing organizational issues so that the school committee acts as a genuine board-level body.

What are three specific new programs or changes you would make if elected?

1) Teachers mentorship programs, based on the KIPP/Relay/March Education models, where teachers visit each others’ classrooms, learn from each other, and provide feedback.

2) Greatly increased transparency, so we know what happens in our schools, whether through data or through classroom visits, not for the purposes of accountability, but for policy-making, feedback, spreading best practices, and otherwise.

3) Increased support for different learner backgrounds. Right now, many learners—underrepresented minorities, advanced learners, multilingual students, special needs students, and otherwise—aren’t met where they are. While that may require a stop-gap through programs like RTI, in the longer term, this should be core to the design our student experience. There are good models for doing this, they’re just not widespread (which brings us back to point #2 for identifying classrooms which do this, and point #1 for helping spread those practices).

What sets you apart from other candidates?

I have a deep background both in how people learn, and in how effective organizations work. I’ve been involved in three organizations since their early stages since receiving my doctorate. The least successful of these sold for $200 million, and the most successful is valued at over a $1 billion. All have had a positive social impact. I’ve also been involved in education my whole life, in formats from peer teaching to small group projects to a variety of technology-enabled formats, and in cultures around the world. I’ve been immersed in education research. As an elementary school parent, I’m looking at all of the schools my son will go through for the next 13 years, and I’m strongly motivated to fix the issues that affect them.

Give us a fun fact about you.

I just finished a pair of mandatory United Nations security courses so I can travel to the Middle East to help with education systems being set up for refugees from ISIS. I now know which color to paint pebbles to indicate landmines (red), or what to do when there’s stray gunfire (hit the ground, crawl for cover, and don’t panic)!

(Don’t worry; the trip is perfectly safe; the training is just standard UNHCR procedure.)

 

Kathleen Kelly (Note: Kelly currently serves on the School Committee.)

Kathleen Kelly did not answer Scout’s questions for this series. You can read about her platform on her website.

 

Laurance Kimbrough

What should we know about you?

I’m a lifelong Cambridge resident, a CPS graduate, a former CPS employee (guidance counselor, club advisor, tennis coach, special education teacher, and paraprofessional) and a current CPS parent. I’m the only person who has run for school committee in the past 20 years to have been all three of those.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

1) Addressing gaps in educational achievement/outcomes by improving engagement and changing how we measure student growth.

2) Dismantling the legacy of racism and white supremacy within the Cambridge Public Schools.

3) Creating activists who will graduate from our schools prepared to take on the challenges of our current democracy.

What are three specific new programs or changes you would make if elected?

1) Portfolio presentations of student work as a requirement for graduation.

2) Standards-based evaluations that measure student growth, rather than grades.

3) Putting language in the superintendent’s district plan that addresses the legacy of racism within the Cambridge Public Schools and an anti-racism plan for the district to adopt for moving forward that is also part of the district plan.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

I’m the only guidance counselor running and the only person running to have one of their former students also running for the Cambridge School Committee (Elechi Kadete was in my home room his senior year and I was also his freshman basketball coach). I’m also proud of the fact that my treasurer, social media coordinators, and door-knocking staff are all CRLS alumni.

Give us a fun fact about you.

I’m confident that I’m the only CRLS student to play varsity football, basketball, and tennis in one year … though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

I also turned down a role in the film “Good Will Hunting.” My junior year of high school my history teacher Larry Aaronson came to me and said, “a few CRLS alum are working on a movie and need some kids to play basketball in the film. Do you want a part?” Thinking that I could lose a chance to earn a college scholarship for basketball (and for the record, I was never ‘scholarship-worthy’ on the basketball court to begin with), I passed on the opportunity. Had no idea the film would end up winning a Golden Globe.

My favorite book about education is “Teaching to Transgress” by bell hooks. I put the final paragraph of the book on the back of my campaign t-shirts!!

 

Patricia Nolan (Note: Nolan currently serves on the School Committee.)

What should we know about you?

I grew up with five sisters in a middle class family and attended Catholic and public schools until college, when I was the first in my family to go to Harvard. Since then, I have done a range of professional pursuits, from research on child care, women’s history, to corporate consulting and running a social enterprise (after graduate school at the Yale School of Management). I chose to return to live in Cambridge after 10 years away—and fell in love with a local Boston guy, David Rabkin. Our two kids went to Cambridge public schools K-12 and keep me grounded in my job on School Committee, which I love.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

1) Support the new superintendent in implementing the strategic plan and monitor progress toward the goals

2) Implement the part of our controlled choice policy of expanding successful programs so 100 percent of families get into a choice school

3) Support teachers starting in elementary school to get all students to successfully learn algebra by the end of 8th grade

What are three specific new programs or changes you would make if elected?

1) Reduce the number of standardized tests and increase the use of teacher-led formative assessments

2) Expand the pilot world language program in our elementary grades

3) Use student surveys for teachers to use in assessing their effectiveness

What sets you apart from other candidates?

My combination of governance and management experience coupled with an intense focus on understanding the appropriate use of data in all policy decisions makes me an effective member of the committee. My courageous stands for public accountability and a willingness to question the status quo when it has not advanced student learning. One example being my sole vote against an extension of the contract for our former superintendent who had not met any of the goals he had agreed to (e.g. no progress on closing achievement gaps) and had not done key parts of his job (no evaluations of 75 percent of top administrators including principals for five years).

Give us a fun fact about you.

My friends and family still remember that as I walked down the grass path after getting married, I did a cartwheel (one-handed no less, so the bouquet was safe).

 

David Weinstein

What should we know about you? 

As a product of public schools, a former public school teacher, and a parent of two current Cambridge Public Schools students (kindergarten and 5th grade), I’m deeply committed to our students and our schools. My public education shaped who I am as a person, as an educator, and as a citizen.

I was fortunate to go to school in and later teach in a community just north of New York City that, though smaller than Cambridge, had a similar level of racial, cultural, and economic diversity, and which was committed to ensuring every child reached their potential.

More diverse classrooms benefit all children. This is why I’ve lived in Cambridge for more than 16 years now: for the diversity and excellent education I experienced growing up. As a former classroom teacher, I know that along with the skills and content I taught, my students learned from the “curriculum” that was me. And their learning was strengthened when my colleagues and my supervisors and my students included many people not like me in terms of race, as well as other aspects of identity and experience. We must ensure Cambridge builds on its successes hiring excellent teachers of color, including Black teachers, and works to support and retain those teachers.

I want the same thing for my children and all of the children of Cambridge: an excellent education grounded in a diverse, loving community of families, teachers, administrators and community members who are not afraid to challenge each other to grow and improve.

What would your top three priorities be if elected?

1) Guide the superintendent’s implementation of our new strategic plan, so that all of our schools have the resources they need to serve our children well, including supporting and strengthening our still-relatively-new upper schools (grades 6-8).

2) A laser focus on closing the opportunity gap in the Cambridge Public Schools with a multi-pronged, JK-12 approach. Many of the specifics I’ve outlined in my platform support this effort.

3) Ensuring that all Cambridge Rindge and Latin School graduates are prepared to succeed—in college, in careers, as members of the community.

What are three specific new programs or changes you would make if elected?

We need to continually improve our schools, with a sense of urgency. Every child only gets one shot at this, and we can’t afford to wait. Yet we need to combine this focus with a long view. We cannot simply churn through policy ideas and program trials. Evaluating, tweaking, supporting and improving existing programs is just as important as creating new ones. That being said, three specific new programs or changes I would work for if elected:

1) Expand public junior kindergarten to include all four year olds—in developmentally appropriate classrooms. Quality pre-kindergarten options for families that need it are hard to find and hard to pay for. We should ensure all Cambridge families have this option available, and we should take this goal into account in our school renovation plans.

2) Hire full-time family liaisons for each of the upper schools. Our elementary schools and high school already have these professionals. Family engagement is just as important in grades 6 through 8 as it is before and after. This should be part of a comprehensive approach to supporting and strengthening the upper schools, also involving support for teacher collaboration, fostering planning between schools, and implementing evidence-based social and emotional learning programming.

3) Hire enough teachers and guidance counselors at CRLS so that the increasing high school student population has reasonable access to the courses they need and want to take, and so guidance caseloads are small enough that all students get the support they need during high school and as they transition to colleges and careers.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

I was a full-time public school classroom teacher for 5 years, and studied education, school reform, and teacher leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I have firsthand experience with the classroom, which is where so much of educational policy ultimately succeeds or fails.

For 15 years I have worked in communications program management at education-related non-profits and at Brandeis University. I have bridged scholarship, public understanding, and action at non-profits and at Brandeis University.

I know the classroom. I know our community. I know how to build consensus. I will work to ensure all of our graduates are prepared to succeed—in college, in careers, in life. I will be accountable to you.

Give us a fun fact about you.

I’m an avid photographer, and have done some professional photography as well. Starting when my daughter was in kindergarten, every two years she and I have exhibited artwork we create together, combining my photos and her paintings, in a faculty/staff exhibition at Brandeis University. Last year was our third joint exhibit!

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