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Parents Criticize Cambridge Superintendent During School Committee Meeting

Superintendent Greer’s midpoint evaluation was postponed until April 2.

Superintendent Victoria L. Greer sits at a Tuesday meeting of the Cambridge School Committee in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin school. Nearly 30 parents demanded change from Greer and district leadership during a Tuesday School Committee meeting.
Superintendent Victoria L. Greer sits at a Tuesday meeting of the Cambridge School Committee in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin school. Nearly 30 parents demanded change from Greer and district leadership during a Tuesday School Committee meeting. By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Darcy G Lin and Emily T. Schwartz, Crimson Staff Writers

Though Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Victoria L. Greer’s widely-anticipated midpoint evaluation was postponed during a Tuesday School Committee meeting, nearly 30 parents took to the podium to demand change from Greer and district leadership.

A previous evaluation in July of Greer found that her job performance “needs improvement,” while a recent climate survey revealed widespread dissatisfaction from school staff about the district. Greer has also come under scrutiny by many parents who say she mishandled the hiring of Graham & Parks Principal Kathleen M. Smith, who has faced allegations of fostering a toxic workplace environment and failing to communicate with parents.

The meeting comes amid a remarkable swell of dissatisfaction with both Greer and Smith, whose contracts are both up for renewal this year. If the committee chooses to end Greer’s contract, it must say so by June 30, while Greer must notify Smith about her contract by March 31. Otherwise, both contracts will automatically renew.

During the meeting — which also featured an extended discussion of the CPS budget for fiscal year 2025 — parents tried to balance politeness with deep-seated disappointment and frustration while delivering public comment to the overflowing Cambridge Rindge and Latin School meeting room.

“In Cambridge over the past year, we’ve faced one district issue after another under Dr. Greer’s leadership,” said Laura Clawson, a parent at Graham & Parks. “All with common themes of exclusionary top-down leadership, a lack of transparency and communication, and a hostility to hearing from stakeholders.”

At the meeting’s onset, the School Committee voted unanimously to postpone Greer’s midpoint evaluation until their April 2 meeting.

According to an email from School Committee member Elizabeth C. P. Hudson to a parent email list sent forty-minutes into the meeting, the two additional weeks will give the committee time to “not only identify areas where we can improve — but also to suggest a path forward there, at the same time.”

In an interview following the meeting, Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons added that the postponement will give the committee time to take a “deeper dive” into Greer’s evaluation.

“It seemed like a good idea to date, and then the date was on us, and we still had more to do,” Simmons said.

The announcement was met with quiet resignation from parents in attendance, who nevertheless rose to share their concerns about Greer’s leadership.

Most parent complaints were centered around Greer’s handling of what parents termed a “crisis” at Graham & Parks. The day before the meeting, dozens of anonymous Graham & Parks parents published an anonymous open letter calling for Greer and the School Committee to not renew Smith’s contract.

“Hiring principals is, I think, one of the most important things that superintendents do,” Graham & Parks parent Brook Hopkins said. She added that the hiring process of Smith was “rushed” and that “by the time we got to the community forum part of the process, all the candidates but one had dropped out.”

Following complaints about Smith’s leadership at Graham & Parks, Greer hired a third-party law firm to investigate allegations of a toxic workplace environment.

But several parents said Greer has tried to “minimize” parent concerns at G&P.

Fiery A. Cushman ’99, a Harvard Psychology professor, said that after over a hundred parents petitioned for better communication from Smith, Greer dismissed the group as a “small, but vocal minority.”

“I was shocked by her use of ‘small,’ because it implied that our concerns are not important and our concerns can be dismissed easily,” added Graham & Parks parent Ying Dong.

Rachel T. Kelsey said that she had “never before felt such a sense of unrest” in her ten years as a Cambridge Public School parent.

“I strongly believe that we need new leadership immediately at Graham & Parks and in the district,” added Rebecca S. Lester, another parent at Graham & Parks.

Only one former parent — Tara Edelschick — praised Greer for her approach to leading the district focused on academic results.

“From her time as the head of special ed for the district, I knew that she was laser-focused on results, especially for our poorer students,” Edelschick said. “I have never felt more confident with a superintendent at the helm than I have with Dr. Greer.”

Corrections: March 21, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Victoria L. Greer’s contract will end on June 30 and Graham & Parks Principal Kathleen M. Smith’s contract will end on March 31. In fact, Greer must be notified by June 30 and Smith must be notified by March 31 whether their contracts will be renewed.

—Staff writer Darcy G Lin can be reached at darcy.lin@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Emily T. Schwartz can be reached at emily.schwartz@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @EmilySchwartz37.

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