This post is an update on my earlier post concerning DHSP's inability to provide ~500 afterschool spots to the families that need them, including 42 low-income students.
I have 3 updates on this question. None of them is an answer. But they're what I've got, so I thought I'd share. They are:
PART I: The ordinances I should have written about before show it's all about a City Manager who cares. (This one doesn't.)
Thank you to one mom who called me to walk me through important history I left out of my Advocacy post. In that post, I discussed:
Upshot: it seems like Louis DePasquale (our current, but soon-to-be retired City Manager) did not agree to take these up. At least, little seems to have happened.
Digression to bash on DHSP just a little more: (So sorry DHSP), but what better place to share that, this March, City Council also unanimously passed this ordinance "requesting" (oh, damn! there's that word again) the City Manager to
[Back to actually relevant info.]
Part II: DHSP's City Councilor said that we should pressure Ellen Semenoff but kind of also need to wait for (and pressure) the new City Manager
Last Tuesday, May 3rd, City Councilor and liaison for DHSP Marc McGovern met with me and 4-5 parents who I recruited with some others mostly off of Facebook. A group of ~12 had informally gathered via email. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be in on any more shenanigans we get up to. This is a fully open group, if pretty inchoate. (Bias note: I know Marc from other work and am a big fan of him.)
[Take-away #1]: Marc will ask DHSP Head for information
Part III: The City Budget implied expanding AfterSchool is not top priority
In this part, I paraphrase the recent Budget's page 42, aka "Key Initiatives: Out of School Time:"
- "In Cambridge, City-operated and community-operated OST programs have capacity for approximately 40% of the JK-5th grade Cambridge Public Schools population."
- CPS has ~3,600 elementary students.
- Before 2021-22, City programs had 1,100 afterschool seats + nonprofit programs had ~350. [Total of ~1,450.] [Does not say how many seats are available today.]
- "The pandemic seemed to increase the demand for afterschool programs." [But DHSP's report indicates that demand didn't so much increase as low-income families were fully shut-out of services they wanted - see that advocacy post I keep talking about.]
- Award for best use of passive voice: "The cost of programming and knowledge of programming options are often barriers to access for families. Additionally, staffing and space are major challenges that need to be solved."
- More editorializing: please say more on staffing and space, as we can solve this thing for everyone if we figure out these 2 pieces!
- "AFCOST will lead this effort over the next fiscal year and work closely [obnoxiously pointing out a typo: missing "with"] stakeholders to map out a process to examine OST expansion opportunities for Cambridge." [This sounds like it's going to take a year to create a process to look at expansion + then another year to actually expand? It does not sound urgent.]
- "It will also involve input and feedback from families and caregivers about their needs for afterschool, as well as input about access and equity - with a focus on centering voices of the most traditionally marginalized residents." [Just guessing that families want quality childcare they can afford.]
Apologies for all the editorializing.
At any rate, it seems clear that speed is not the top priority in the City's budget. It seems like they're taking a year to study the issue. I don't think that's the same as a year to *solve* the issue, but I hope I'm wrong.
In terms of the upcoming meeting with Ellen Semenoff, I think focusing on this page of the City Budget will be important. Why does it seem like this is being punted for a year of study? Why can't we solve it sooner? Or are am I just misinterpreting?
Part III: New City Manager isn't coming for a while
My feeling on all of this is that things won't change until the new City Manager takes the job and replaces Ellen Semenoff with someone more attuned to the needs of families, particularly low-income ones.
Unfortunately, a Crimson article today on the City Manager search states that it's possible that "the selected candidate might not be ready to take over by June [when DePasquale is set to retire]" and so “We’ll have to make some kind of decision as to who’s running the show,” according to Marc McGovern. “Do we keep Louis on for a couple months? Do we appoint somebody else? That’s a whole other ball of wax we have to consider and think about.”
I think that's more bad news for getting this afterschool situation resolved sooner rather than later.
Thoughts? Corrections? Suggestions? Please email me at email@example.com.
Eugenia Schraa & Amanda Beatty
Cambridge moms of young kids, going slowly nuts trying to wrangle basic info from the City about schools, after schools, preschools, and probably much more.