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Cambridge Public Schools Engages Law Firm to Probe Toxicity Allegations Against Principal

Graham and Parks Alternative Public School is a Cambridge City public elementary school.
Graham and Parks Alternative Public School is a Cambridge City public elementary school. By Emily L. Ding
By Darcy G Lin and Emily T. Schwartz, Crimson Staff Writers

Cambridge Public Schools engaged a law firm to “conduct a thorough review” into allegations that Graham & Parks Elementary School Principal Kathleen M. Smith fostered a toxic workplace environment at the school, according to a Jan. 5 email from CPS Superintendent Victoria Greer.

Greer’s email, obtained by The Crimson, came in response to concerns raised by G&P Caregiver Coalition — an anonymous parent group — about Smith’s leadership practices. The group first shared their concerns about Smith with the Cambridge School Committee late last year.

Parent organizers sent the letter to the committee after discovering a 2019 Newton Public School Human Resources investigation into Smith’s tenure as principal at Newton’s Underwood Elementary School. The coalition obtained the investigation from a public records request in late December.

The Newton investigation found that Smith perpetuated a “toxic working environment” with reports of employees “in fear for their positions,” facilitation of an “in-group” and an “out-group – mean-girl mentality,” and lack of “empathy for staff.” Shortly after the Human Resources complaint was submitted, Smith left the Newton district, ending her 8 years as Underwood’s principal.

In a Jan. 2 letter to the Cambridge School Committee obtained by The Crimson, the G&P Caregiver Coalition wrote that the Newton report corroborated behavior that Smith also exhibited at Graham & Parks.

In response to a request for comment about the toxic workplace allegations at Graham & Parks, Cambridge Public Schools spokesperson Sujata Wycoff wrote that “the district does not comment on personnel matters.”

Smith and Greer did not respond to a request for comment.

The coalition alleged in its letter that some members of the school’s staff are scared to speak publicly about Smith’s leadership because they are concerned that they will face retaliation. They also claimed some parents expressed concern that the environment at the school might encourage “beloved, experienced, and skilled teachers” to leave the school.

Two members of the coalition, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about their experiences with a school their children currently attend, alleged Smith directed teachers during a staff meeting to not speak with parents and that she targeted “out-group” Graham & Parks teachers who disagreed with her.

In the letter, the coalition raised concerns about the district’s hiring process, in particular pointing to reports of workplace toxicity during Smith’s tenure at Underwood Elementary School in Newton.

Smith’s tenure as principal at Graham & Parks began in July 2022, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“This information would have disqualified Smith from becoming our principal if it had been uncovered in the hiring process,” the G&P Caregiver Coalition wrote. “We are shocked that the Superintendent failed to exercise the diligence necessary to protect our school and we elaborate on the district wide pattern of her negligent hiring practices.”

—Staff writer Darcy G Lin can be reached at

—Staff writer Emily T. Schwartz can be reached at

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