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Superintendent Greer Extends Graham & Parks Principal Contract Despite Teacher Discontent

Graham and Parks Alternative Public School is located at 44 Linnean Street. Graham and Parks Principal Kathleen Smith will remain in her role for at least one more year after her contract was extended late last month.
Graham and Parks Alternative Public School is located at 44 Linnean Street. Graham and Parks Principal Kathleen Smith will remain in her role for at least one more year after her contract was extended late last month. By Frank S. Zhou
By Darcy G Lin and Emily T. Schwartz, Crimson Staff Writers

Cambridge Public Schools Superintendent Victoria L. Greer allowed Graham & Parks Elementary School Principal Kathleen M. Smith’s contract to extend for an additional year on March 31, even as the school’s climate survey results confirmed some parents’ concerns over its workplace environment.

Greer’s decision came in the face of demands from a parent coalition at Graham & Parks who have said Smith was a problematic leader and needed to be replaced. The move also comes amid an ongoing investigation by a third-party law firm into toxicity allegations against the principal.

Pressure had been mounting against Smith for weeks ahead of a March 31 deadline for Greer to notify Smith of changes to her contract. During a March 19 School Committee meeting, dozens of parents donning Graham & Parks stickers spoke out about their concerns.

But on April 4, Greer posted an announcement to Parentsquare, a CPS communications platform, that “Dr. Smith’s contract is in effect until June 30, 2025.”

The deadline to notify Smith fell between two closed-door School Committee discussions on whether Greer’s contract should be renewed. Though The Crimson reported on April 3 that the committee had asked Greer to resign, the district has not yet announced a decision about whether the superintendent — who has herself faced criticism and calls to resign over her hiring practices — will stay on.

One day after the deadline for Greer to notify Smith about her contract, on April 1, CPS publicly released the individual schools’ results from climate surveys of staff, students, and parents, which at Graham & Parks depicted frustration among teachers but still a positive experience for students.

CPS spokesperson Sujata Wycoff said the timing of the survey’s release was unconnected to the renewal of Smith’s contract.

According to the climate survey, only 14 percent of staff members responded that Graham & Parks’s working environment was positive — the lowest favorability rating of the 12 elementary schools in the district. Still, 80 percent of students in grades 3-5 responded favorably that teachers seem to be excited about teaching classes.

Two Graham & Parks teachers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity over fears of professional retaliation, said that they were “not surprised” at the negative responses from teachers and described the workplace environment as “tense” and “divisive.”

They said they witnessed colleagues leaving meetings with Smith crying and that after disagreeing with Smith in meetings, some teachers received worse evaluation reports or were asked to step back from leadership positions.

According to the two teachers, Smith’s contract renewal has led some teachers to begin looking for employment elsewhere — a reversal for the school that previously very little turnover, they said.

In an emailed statement, Wycoff declined to comment on criticisms of the Graham & Parks workplace environment, citing the ongoing investigation. No end date for the investigation has been announced yet.

“The purpose of the ongoing review is to investigate the concerns that have been raised,” she wrote.

Several parent members of the Graham & Parks Caregiver Coalition — which has led the campaign to oust Smith — said that the data confirmed what they had feared: teachers were struggling, but kept the toxicity out of the classroom.

“There’s a real problem in the school building,” said Daniel S. Farbman, a parent and member of the Caregiver Coalition. “I’m deeply troubled by the fact that even seeing this data, the district would preempt the investigation and renew its contract before we have a chance to sort of let everything play out.”

However, Graham & Parks parent Isabella C. Ehrlich said a lack of data from previous years made it difficult for parents to understand whether Graham & Parks’ environment had changed drastically under Smith.

“Clearly there are problems,” Ehrlich said. “But from what I’ve heard from the teachers in the public meetings, there have been problems for a long time.”

Despite Smith hosting Principal’s Coffees and speaking at School Council meetings, Farbman said that neither the district nor the school has facilitated spaces for effective open dialogue, where caregivers can engage productively.

He said parents, teachers, and school administrators needed spaces to have open conversations about the culture at Graham & Parks, adding that it was troubling that discussions about the school are being primarily hashed out in the press.

“What a terrible way of running a building to have people sending letters to The Crimson, of all places,” he said.

“We are currently not in a place where there are any safe spaces to engage in honest conversations with each other,” Farbman added.

—Staff writer Darcy G Lin can be reached at

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

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