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Harvard-Affiliated Consulting Group to Conduct ‘Equity Audit’ of Cambridge Schools’ Budgeting Process

The Cambridge City Council and Cambridge School Committee discussed plans for an equity audit by a Harvard-affiliated consulting group at a Monday meeting.
The Cambridge City Council and Cambridge School Committee discussed plans for an equity audit by a Harvard-affiliated consulting group at a Monday meeting. By Julian J. Giordano
By Jina H. Choe, Sally E. Edwards, and Ayumi Nagatomi, Crimson Staff Writers

The Cambridge City Council and Cambridge School Committee discussed plans for an “equity audit” by a Harvard-affiliated consulting group at a joint budget meeting Monday.

Councilors and committee members detailed an impending two-year assessment of its budgeting process by Thrive! — a consulting group incubated in Harvard Innovation Labs — as well as other plans for the future of the district and its 2024 budget at the virtual meeting Monday evening.

The School Committee is set to partner with the Cambridge Community Foundation to implement the audit of the district’s budgeting practices beginning in 2024.

“There is a consultant group — Thrive! — which will be conducting an assessment of our expenditures and policies with the purpose of exploring how our budget process and resource allocation aligns to equity and success for students,” said Claire B. Spinner, Chief Financial Officer for CPS.

Thrive! — founded by Omolara O. Fatiregun ’00 — will use its academic research on investments in equity to compare and assess the district’s performance. Fatiregun said in Monday’s meeting that the group’s work is most effective when conducted in partnership with school officials.

“It was most important to get school board, the district really partnering with us through a relationship to best understand their practices and obtain points from their perspective,” Fatiregun said.

The meeting also explored the city’s other educational initiatives, including those to support increased math and literacy proficiency and a universal preschool system.

City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 outlined a long-term implementation process for the city’s proposed universal preschool initiative. Huang said universal preschool would have a “pretty significant impact on the budget,” and may be more feasible in fiscal year 2025, but that the city can “create a bit of a ramp” by beginning to plan in this year’s budget.

“There’s a lot of planning that needs to happen before universal pre-K happens,” he said.

Victoria L. Greer, superintendent at Cambridge Public Schools, discussed the district plan for the next three years, outlining the School Committee’s 2024 focus on the areas of college and career experiences, universal preschool, self-evaluation systems, and professional learning.

“It was extremely important to our School Committee and our administration that we not only have realistic goals but also aspirational targets,” Greer said.

The School Committee began planning and analyzing the next year’s budget during the fall, before developing the proposed budget early this year. The budget will undergo review by the School Committee between mid-March and early April. Once adopted, the budget will be submitted to the city manager and City Council for final approval and adoption into the city budget.

During Monday’s meeting, the committee discussed the goal of increasing literacy and math proficiency to 100 percent of grade-level expectations by 2025. Greer said the committee hopes to allocate a portion of the budget to a “pretty comprehensive plan for not only strategic tutoring but also targeted tutoring.”

Spinner said the budgeting process prioritized collaboration with students and their families. She added that the district held four community meetings and offered multilingual materials on the budget process throughout last year, as well as conducting a survey of families in the district earlier this month.

“As part of our overall budget planning process, we do have a fairly robust community engagement process,” Spinner said.

The School Committee will host an additional meeting with students to discuss the budget for the upcoming fiscal year Tuesday morning at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. The final budget proposal will be presented by Greer to the School Committee on March 14.

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at sally.edwards@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @sallyedwards04.

—Staff writer Ayumi Nagatomi can be reached at ayumi.nagatomi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ayumi_nagatomi.

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Cambridge City CouncilCambridge SchoolsCambridgeMetroFront Middle Feature