Public Education forum 9/23/20

Towards a Vision of Student Health, Wellness, and Racial Justice in Cambridge Public Schools.

On behalf of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, Our Revolution Cambridge, and Citizens for Public Schools, thanks to everyone who joined us for our recent panel discussion, "Towards a Vision of Student Health, Wellness, and Racial Justice in Cambridge Public Schools.”

More than 100 people joined the Zoom meeting to listen to and engage with the powerful and dynamic panelists. For those who were unable to join us, we are pleased to share the video of the event [link].

Here are some highlights from the six panelists. Watch the video [link] for the full panel discussion.

Cambridge School Committee member Ayesha Wilson, a product of the Cambridge Public Schools and now a youth program developer at CRLS, spoke about what it takes to create safe, equitable systems and the need for Cambridge schools to adopt contingency plans during the pandemic. She asked what it means to be an anti-racist school district and shared the example of fellow panelist Betsy Preval using A Raisin in the Sun to teach anti-racism to her students.

Betsy Preval, Director of the National Education Association Massachusetts, Cambridge Education Association Board member and on the leadership team of Educators of Color,  has been an English teacher in Cambridge for eight years. She said we have a society of haves and have nots by design, not by accident. While COVID has created new problems, many of these problems were not caused by but exacerbated by the pandemic. She spoke of the need to have meaningful shared power with marginalized youth and families of color and to bring an intersectional perspective to the work of anti-racism in education.

Kini Udovicki, born and raised in Cambridge, has been a school adjustment counselor for the last 19 years, and has worked at the Cambridge Street Upper School since 2012. She is a cultural proficiency seminar facilitator and Co-Founder of the Friday Night Hype mentoring program for Cambridge students. She addressed the need to Integrate social-emotional learning with anti-racist teaching.  She said this anti-racist work should happen across the district, affecting the choices of literature, how math is taught, and how history and science can be integrated into anti-racist teaching.

Emie Michaud Weinstock, a Haitian, Black mother of two, is a founding organizer of Cambridge Families of Color Coalition (CFCC) with a long history of advocating for racial justice in Cambridge schools. She described Building Equity Bridges, which seeks to eradicate nine barriers to racial equity. She named white privilege, bias and lack of coherence, all of which have inequitable impacts in the district. She said CFCC has demanded regular meetings with The Superintendent and shared advocacy skills to empower folks to attend school committee meetings and join the Superintendent’s working groups.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) Senior Leo Austin-Spooner is one of the co-presidents of the student body as well as co-president of Project 10-East, CRLS’s gender-sexuality alliance. He served on the Superintendent’s COVID-19 Task Force as well as the CPSD Student Task Force to help advocate for students during the school-reopening process. Leo said returning to school has been anxiety-provoking for students, with constant, stressful last-minute changes.  If administrators are not going to be accountable to meet students’ needs, he said, student government is looking at what they can control. They’re looking at what makes an equitable, anti-racist school. To support students, they created a community resource directory with information on where to find academic support. He called for uplifting black excellence and black joy, black heroes and scholars, and dismantling the centering of white narratives.

Lisa Guisbond, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Schools and author of numerous articles in the NYT, Boston Globe, and elsewhere, linked anti-racist work with the fight against high stakes standardized testing.  She quoted author Ibram X. Kendi, who said “Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies.” Kendi says that to be an antiracist, is to work to expose and eradicate such ideas wherever you encounter them. So antiracist work must include the fight against testing policies that disproportionately negatively impact students and communities of color. CPS [link] continues to do this work and invites others to join them.


Drew King, Nella LaRosa Waters, Shelley Rieman, Lisa Guisbond, and our affiliates at CRA, ORC and CPS

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published this page in Forums and Summit 2020-10-05 14:29:32 -0400
Cambridge Residents Alliance