Caring for City Schools
What's a conscientious Cantabrigian to do?
The 13 candidates for the six seats on the School Committee all agree that there are no real issues dividing them. So if you're not one of their mothers, you may have a tough time deciding to which candidate you want to give your number one vote.
But that's not to say there is nothing for those elected to the School Committee to do.
Among the problems currently facing the committee are parent involvement in the school system, how to improve the quality of teaching, and how to better minority achievement at Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School.
But most candidates agree that these issues are of universal concern and do not serve to differentiate the candidates.
"There are really no issues in the school committee race," said incumbent Alfred B. Fantini who is running for his fourth term. He added that he thinks the lack of issues in the race is actually a positive reflection of the state of the Cambridge school system.
"It's probably a big plus to the incumbents that they've been able to work together and create an election where there aren't any issues," he said. There are four incumbents running for the Committee.
There are five independent candidates running, and eight Cambridge Civic Association (CCA) members, but unlike in the City Council race there are not many ideological gaps between the two groups. "It almost comes down to a non-partisan election," said Fantini, an Independent, who said he thought the best way for voters to make their choice was to review the accomplishments of the various candidates and try to meet as many of them as possible.
The CCA platform calls for increased community support, efforts to increased the quality of teaching in the Cambridge schools, and assuring equal opportunity for students at different schools in the city and from different backgrounds. Candidates said that for the most part, these are not issues on which CCA candidates and independents disagree.
But there are some places where agreement between candidates breaks down. The issue of parent involvement in teacher evaluation creates some friction, as most CCA members support an active role for parents, while Independent candidates say that formal evaluation of teachers should be left to the administration.
"In a formal way they are entitled to be evaluated by professionals," said Independent James J. Rafferty.
"On the Independent side members and two are Indepenteachers fearing involvement of parents," said CCA member Henrietta Davis, a parent and first-time candidate.
"On the CCA side there are more of us who have actual involvement with the schools as either parents or teachers," said Davis, a parent and first-time candidate. "It's an accountability issue."
Another issue which stimulates conflict between CCA and independent candidates is whether or not the Cambridge Teacher Association should be divided into two bargaining units, one of teachers, and one of administrators, said incumbent Larry Weinstein, a CCA member who has been on the school committee for two years.
Weinstein, who supports division, said the issue tends to break down with the result that CCA members support the division of the union and independents oppose it. But this rule does not always hold. CCA member Donna Brescia opposes the move, saying she thinks it would be union busting, and she also opposes formal parent evaluation of teachers.
Of the four incumbents running for re-election, two are CCA members and two are independents, so the voting on Tuesday could determine which sector gains control of the board.
The Independent incumbents are Fantini, and Timothy J. Toomey Jr. On the CCA side, the incumbents are Frances H. Cooper and Weinstein.
Others endorsed by the CCA are Brescia, Davis, Richard Griffin '51, Henry Lukas, Denise Simmons, and John St. George '70--'72. The three challenger Independents are David Maher, Fatima Martins, and Rafferty.