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Young wins Cambridge superintendent post

Posted by Leslie Anderson  April 7, 2009 10:11 AM

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By Calvin Hennick, Globe Correspondent

CAMBRIDGE — In a meeting that featured heated comments about race and a split vote by School Committee members, Jeffrey Young was named the new superintendent of the Cambridge Public Schools on Tuesday night.

Young, 56, Newton’s superintendent, will try to move toward the school system’s stated goal of closing the achievement gap between white students and students of color. But the selection process seemed to cause a rift between community members, with many white residents at a pre-vote public forum speaking in favor of Young, who is white, and many black residents supporting Cambridge’s interim superintendent Carolyn Turk, who is black.

‘‘I think that we have to now come together as a school committee,’’ said board member Alfred B. Fantini, who along with Mayor E. Denise Simmons backed Turk. ‘‘We have to support Dr. Young.’’

Simmons, though, voted ‘‘present’’ when Fantini asked for a second vote to make the board’s decision unanimous. The original vote was 5-2 and the second was 6-0 with one present.

‘‘The record will show how I voted,’’ Simmons said when asked to explain her vote. ‘‘Carolyn Turk is an extraordinary woman. I think Cambridge has lost a great opportunity.’’

Young is in the second year of a three-year contract in Newton, where he earned $247,870 last year.

He has overseen high levels of student achievement there and previously served as superintendent in Lexington and Lynnfield, but he lacks experience in a district with the diversity of Cambridge.

The city’s school population for 2008-09 was 36 percent white, 34.6 pecent black, 14.1 percent Hispanic, 11.3 Asian, and 3.3 percent multiracial.

‘‘The professional challenge for me is spreading my wings,’’ Young said. ‘‘That’s what excites me. That’s what makes me passionate about coming to a place like this.’’

Cambridge’s advertised school superintendent position listed a salary of about $200,000 plus benefits.

Some of Turk’s supporters portrayed Young as an outsider without a vested interest in the community, while many of Young’s supporters said his detractors were ignoring his record of success in other districts.

‘‘It is unfortunate that the process did not put more weight on the candidate who is a vested accomplished member of the community,’’ said Kathy Reddick, the president of the Cambridge branch of the NAACP and a Turk supporter.

‘‘To push ahead someone who has served several school committees in different towns but who is not truly vested in any of them makes me wonder if this is just another job and a paycheck, benefits, and pension.’’

But Angela Hofmann, a multiracial woman whose son will attend high school in Cambridge next year, saw Young as better qualified.

‘‘It shouldn’t be about race,’’ Hofmann said. ‘‘It should be about experience.’’

Others in the mixed-race crowd of 100 last night argued that Turk had the necessary experience.

‘‘Dr. Turk should be our superintendent because she is the best qualified,’’ said Jeffrey Brown, minister at Union Baptist Church in Central Square.

‘‘There are some folks who feel that that might be a little too much color.’’

School Committee member Patricia M. Nolan objected to the idea that race was a factor in the choice.

‘‘We’re in a post-Obama era,’’ she said, referring to the president. ‘‘And to say that people in Cambridge would be in favor of a candidate because of [race] does not reflect the Cambridge that I know.’’

Young succeeds Thomas Fowler-Finn, who retired in February.

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11 comments so far...
  1. Typical Bad globe reporting.

    Why does the Newton Superintendent want to move to Cambridge?

    Halfway through a contract? For less money?

    Ok, ones black ones white. That got all the lines. But what is the difference in educational philosophy?
    Why did cambridge prefer one over the other?
    How do their views vary?

    etc etc etc

    Posted by charles April 8, 09 12:10 AM
  1. The School Committee Members of Cambridge Public Schools have just committed Polital Suicide. As a long time supporter of such members as Joseph Grassi, Fred Fantini and others, this year's vote will not be for them. Perhaps these members should remember one thing... We voted for you because you were Cambridge born, raised and went through the Cambridge School System. Apparently this was not good enough for our beloved Dr. Turk. Dr. Turk is an amazing woman with qualities that exceed what Cambridge was looking for. This was not about black or white but what a person with standards could bring to the students of Cambridge. Dr. Turk has those standards and many more. Your decision to hire Dr. Fowler-Finn turned out to bite you in the end...I hope for the Children of Cambridge you have not made the same mistake twice!!!

    Posted by Mary April 8, 09 08:24 AM
  1. This xxx race thing is obnoxious already. Obama won the presidency, not because he was black, but because he's smart and was perceived as the best candidate for the job.
    I'm not saying this woman wouldn't be qualified, but, why should she get the job because she's black? It's enough, already.

    Posted by hms April 8, 09 08:34 AM
  1. I am very disappointed that the Cambridge school committee decided that Dr. Turk was not qualified for the job. I remember Dr. Turk from her teaching days at the Tobin school. Dr. Turk has been within the Cambridge school system for many years and her qualifications are amazing. I cannot understand how the committee decided to get someone from Newton who has no experience working with a diverse school system such as Cambridge. Dr. Turk has also been the
    interim superintendent, if they felt she was not good enough to be the superintendent why did they even offer her the interim superintendent ? Typical Cambridge.

    Posted by Teri Pierre April 8, 09 09:03 AM
  1. Well, there is now an opening in Newton. Dr. Turk can go there and accomplish what Cambridge would not let her.

    Posted by JustForComments April 8, 09 10:01 AM
  1. ‘There are some folks who feel that that might be a little too much color.’’

    Where are these people getting these claims that this is based on race? Just because they don't support the colored candidate does not mean it's because their black. Young has so many qualifications, as does Turk, that it shouldn't surprise either side why the other supports their candidate.

    Once again, race is brought up in a situation as an excuse for why a candidate lost. We have an African-American president and governor, DAMN THE RACISM!

    Posted by Dexter April 8, 09 10:02 AM
  1. Do all these people supporting Dr. Turk have children in the school system? I believe if they did they would understand why the School Committee voted for Dr. Young. There is a big problem and being a long time employee and "Tenored" is part of the problem. I now understand why all my neighbors moved to better school districts or sent their children to private or charter schools. My child just started CRLS and I am not impressed at all. Justin Martin does a good job at selling CPS but I feel duped. I hope that Dr. Young can do what he did in Newton for Cambridge.

    Posted by Cabridge parent April 8, 09 10:17 AM
  1. @Dexter, just because there is an African American president and governor does not mean that all of our country's racial problems have been solved. If that were true, Cambridge wouldn't even be having this argument.

    Also, in 2009, we don't say "colored" anymore.

    @Mary, just because people are Cambridge born or whatever doesn't make them more qualified. That itself is a kind of prejudice.

    Posted by alex April 8, 09 11:28 AM
  1. It's possible that race and or racism was a factor here. But I think it is also possible that this situation is exactly what it seems on face value. Dr. Young has had a 10-year run in Newton, which is a good run for a superintendent anywhere. Newton is about to get a new mayor, a new principal at South, and at least a couple new School Committee members; it's not a bad time for a change. It sounds like Cambridge had two good choices for just one job; it is not unheard of for interim positions to be filled by an external candidate -- especially if the search team feels that an outsider will better cut across entrenched lines. It does not follow that giving Dr. Young the job means Dr. Turk is unqualified.

    That said, I'm also not ready to say that having a black President or Governor means that our country's race problems are behind us -- Obama is president because even knuckleheads said Enough to Republican misrule. Something like that probably applies in Deval Patrick's case, too. I suggest that one remain vigilant against racism and any other -ism that might undermine civil society.

    I also suggest that Dr. Turk apply for the Newton job. I'd be very interested in seeing her candidacy.

    And finally I'd suggest that Cambridge give Dr. Young a fair chance; his tenure in Newton wasn't perfect, but I think he is a smart, decent, thoughtful administrator and with a fresh start might get a lot of good things done.

    Posted by fnd_in_ma April 8, 09 12:39 PM
  1. Best Wishes for a Super team of Dr. Jeffery Young and Dr. Carolyn Turk.

    Cambridge Goal: No City Left Behind

    Posted by Cambridge Parent April 8, 09 02:19 PM
  1. As former 30+ year Cambridge educator and Newton resident, I know withot a doubt that the Cambridge School Committee has made a HUGE mistake, in their choice for Superintendent. Dr.Young's Newton contact most likely would not have been extended. He needed a place to land until he has enough years to retire at the max of 80% Becaise of the huge salary paid in Newton, he already has accumulated his "best 3 years" so it doeasn't matter that the Cambridge salary is less. My guess is that he will spend two/three years" listening and learning" and then be gone.
    There is an elitist group of parents in Cambridge who think that by hiring someone
    from Newton, the achievement gap issues will suddenly be solved. They are in denial that Cambridge is not Newton.The two districts could not be more different. The fact that Dr Young has NO experience in an urban setting will be his downfall.
    It is a shame that so many School Committee members, folks who are supposed to be looking out for the best interests of ALL the children in Cambridge, seemed to be only looking out for their own children's.

    Posted by Cambridge teacher April 9, 09 10:59 PM