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Cambridge Public School system

As some of you know I am very involved in various local political activities - these days mostly the public library, but that isn't the subject here.

The Cambridge Public School (CPS) system like most urban systems is in trouble in many ways - failing students, etc. And the challenge is tough - many Cambridge students come from families who don't speak English at all or well, are quite poor, and in general don't have all the support systems that many of us had when we were growing up (yes we are still growing up, but you know what mean) such as educated parents, books at home, a quiet place to do homework, et al..

The enrollment in CPS has dropped by over 15% in the past ten years even though the census showed a >5% population growth in this age group. So what with inflation, too much administration and declining enrollment the per-student cost is skyrocketing (it is the highest in the state even though CPS is near the bottom of the list in test scores).

The elected school committee and the superintendant (who they just declined to rehire) have been battling for the past year and a half about plans to close and/or merge some schools and save some $$ in the process. They give the Supe many contradictory micro-managing instructions and then when she submits a plan they vote it down. Tomorrow is the final deadline for the latest plan and it looks like they might vote it down, too.

They have to do something since they have been given a budget cap (only allowed a 3% increase) and any closing/mergings have to be decided now since CPS requests incoming parents to choose which Kindergardens to apply for in January and that can't be postponed. This choice is important since the location, the reputations, and the educational styles of the various schools are important factors and the assumption is that a child stays in the same K-8 school. So much angst is normal among parents and the closing/merging chaos has increased it.

I've watched some of the hearings on cableTV with streams of parents saying "not my school". That is why the school committee is likely to not act since they all have to be re-elected next year. One of the parents created a web site that is a nice discussion board that has been quite active. I've posted about evaluating and then firing bad teachers and supplying the right training for the rest as well as doing exit iunterviews of parents leaving the system to find out why.

We'll see what happens tomorrow. There is a move to consider replacing the elected school committee with an appointed one as did Boston a bunch of years ago with considerable success.I'll probably be working on that.

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Who appoints the board? And what is his/her/their agenda? It's not a cure all.

Consider for a moment your Beloved Red Sox. I would wager that their annual salary costs come close to the annual salary of all the teachers in CPS.

Why would anyone want to teach? You get blamed by everyone when something goes wrong. You rarely get any credit. In addition to teaching, you have to be their parent as well.

And to top it all off, when What's-his-name throws one pitch, he just made more than you did for the entire year.

The CPS salary and benefits budget is ~80 million - somewhat less than the RedSox whose players made about 120 million last year. I don't know the breakdown but there are 760 teachers, and a total of 1450 employees (not all overhead since there are a couple of hundred aids) so probably about 50mill is for teachers.

In Boston, the school committee is appointed by the Mayor. In Cambridge it would be the City Manager who is appointed by the City Council (elected). We have some pretty good experience with City Manager appointed committees formulating / advising on policy matters about zoning, housing, the library, etc. Boston switched because of a complete impasse /meltdown caused primarily by racist members during the desegratation / bussing situation. Their system is much more stable now. It would take an act of the legislature to make the change. It is unlikely - things would have to get worse before better.

Lots of people actually like being teachers. Other than in the movie Rookie (I think, I didn;t see it) they don't become baseball players.

P.S. I taught 7th and 8th grade science for a year while I was a Physics grad student at Columbia and I also didn't become a baseball player.

You missed the point. As long as society values a functionally illiterate goombah who can throw/hit/kick a ball really well over the person teaching their children our schools will continue to decline.

Lots of people actually like being teachers.

And this explains the chronic teacher shortage in just about every state how?

One of the (few) things I miss about my days living in the Boston area was the sense of community politics. I lived in Somerville (or as I called it, "Cambridge Light," where folks live if they want to live in Cambridge, but can't afford to) and I was really amazed by the sense of local government. Having grown up in suburban Atlanta (unincorporated DeKalb County) and later having lived in downtown Atlanta (Georgia Tech campus), I didn't have any clue that such things happened. Toronto had much the same feeling (that people actually had opinions about local matters), but San Francisco politics is what I really miss. Anything is fair game there. Local politics, state politics, national politics, and international politics all get mixed together as San Francisco tries to make itself into what it wants the whole world to emulate.

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