Racial Equity Update from Superintendent Salim
Published on Jan 31, 2020 21:02

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January 2020

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Dear CPS Community

I am writing today to share some updates on our work to advance racial equity, to become an actively anti-racist school district, and to ensure positive outcomes for all Cambridge Public Schools students, including information on five specific actions that we are taking right now.

CPS Racial Equity & Anti-Racism Work: 2017-2019
Following my entry into CPS, we launched a new District Plan, crafted by the voices of hundreds of participants who called for many improvements, including a deep and urgent need to address inequities in our community. Guided by our District Plan, we took action to prioritize equity and racial equity through district-wide efforts to expand access to opportunities for students, build staff understanding and capacity to address bias and racism, to infuse instruction with culturally-responsive practices, and better recruit and support educators and staff of color. Learn more about these efforts here.

This is difficult work, and like communities across the country engaging in this work, we know that success will require a long-term commitment, continuous effort, and a willingness to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. It also requires attention to the structural and institutional racism present in all levels of our school system and society - a challenge not unique to Cambridge.

With the support of the Disruptive Equity Education Project (DEEP), we conducted initial racial equity training for district leaders and School Committee. We developed a definition of racial equity, formally adopted by the School Committee, which noted that “Achieving racial equity requires proactive and continuous investment in communities of color, who have endured centuries of systemic oppression. CPS is committed to dismantling structures rooted in white privilege, to hearing and elevating underrepresented voices, and recognizing and eliminating bias.”

With that commitment in mind, our school district embraced the opportunity in 2018, to apply for a grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to identify the root causes of inequity in our school district, and develop recommendations to address them. Through that joint project with the Cambridge Education Association, known as the Building Equity Bridges (BEB) project, we spent 18 months engaging with hundreds of students, families, staff, and community members in new ways to listen and learn, particularly from our students of color, their families, and staff of color. The BEB project found nine barriers to equity in CPS and a set of 12 recommended actions to address them.

CPS Racial Equity & Anti-Racism Work: 2020
As I shared in my December 20, 2019 message to the community, Cambridge Public Schools must accelerate its efforts to address the impact of racism on our students and families and become an actively anti-racist school district. We must become more transparent, learn from the findings of the BEB Project, our surveys of students, families, and staff, and student outcomes. We can - and must - do better.

I am hopeful about the future. I know that members of our community are continually affected by the pain of racism and other injustices in our society. I also believe that Cambridge Public Schools has the will and capacity to be come an actively anti-racist school district, especially now. Our students’ voices are energizing our community, our School Committee is aligned in support, and CPS educators and staff are prioritizing their capacity to do this work more effectively.

This work must happen at every level. District-wide actions will provide vision, consistency, coherence, accountability and support for school-based action, where our staff work directly with students, families, partners, and each other.

Update on CPS Anti-Racist Actions - January 2020
Below you will find an update on some of the newer work underway, including commitments I shared in my December 20 message. Click on each action step for more details, key contacts, and next steps.

  1. Improved response system for student reports of racist and other inappropriate behavior by adult staff members
  2. Develop anti-racism & racial equity statement
  3. Mandatory staff training strategy on anti-racism and racial equity issues 
  4. Dedicated office focused on racial equity, reporting directly to Superintendent
  5. Review curriculum for cultural responsiveness, historically-accuracy, and representation

Looking ahead: The work we’re doing this spring on these issues to advance racial equity will be incorporated into the CPS District Plan. More information to come about the District Planning process.

Your Voice Matters
Your voice is essential for the work ahead. “Business as usual” will continue to perpetuate inequities - we must be more transparent, inclusive, and center the experiences of students in the way we do our work. We are committed to regularly updating and engaging the CPS community on our efforts:

  • Each area of work will include ways for students, staff, and families to share their perspectives.
  • Monthly updates via this newsletter and on our Equity & Access website
  • Community meetings to provide in-person updates and discussions on these anti-racism activities, as well as other District Plan development. The tentative date for the first meetings are April 4 and 14. More information to come.

Kenneth N. Salim, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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Learn more about CPS’s broader work to advance racial equity >>

What does it mean to be actively

Author and Hisorian Ibram X. Kendi's description is summarized here >>

Disrupting the barriers to equity means

  • Promoting equitable school and classroom experiences.
  • Investing in relationships.
  • Centering youth.
  • Centering and supporting educators of color.
  • Actively addressing white supremacy, privilege, and bias. 
  • Equitably distributing power in decision-making.
  • Disrupting structures and practices that perpetuate inequities. 
  • Committing to coherent frameworks, structures, and accountability measures for anti-racist work.

Stay tuned for additional updates
on related work including:

  • Enhanced support for staff affinity groups.
  • Structures to engage youth, staff, and families from traditionally marginalized groups in decision-making.
  • Support for school-community-based discussions with family and staff.
  • Improvement of student discipline practices, including restorative approaches.
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Cambridge Public Schools
135 Berkshire Street, Cambridge, MA 02141
www.cpsd.us  •  617.349.6400
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