Register Forum (RF): What distinguishes you from other candidates?
Daria Johnson (DJ) : I am the only single mother that is working a full time job, that has a single income … Also, the message that I am running on. I am specifically focusing on decolonizing our curriculum. Not us becoming anti-racist, us being anti-racist. We use that word a lot: ‘Let’s move towards anti-racism, let’s become antiracist’ … no we need to just be anti-racist, which means we need to decolonize our curriculum.
I also feel that I am the only one that is speaking really strongly towards back and brown students and their success, towards LGBTQI students… towards female students that have to deal with misogyny and some of the other things that are going on not only at the highschool but at younger stages… I am also [a] true to, born, Cambridge resident and I have kids who were and still are in the system, so I feel like I have a 360 view of all aspects of what Cambridge was, what Cambridge is, and what Cambridge can be.
RF: You mentioned decolonizing the curriculum, can you elaborate on that a little more? How do you think we can get to that and be anti-racist? And how do we track the progress we’ve made?
DJ: So that takes a team, for one. It is not one singular person, so I can not do that on my own. For me it looks like a lot of anti-racist work. Decolonizing the curriculum means we’ve got to stop the tracking systems. We’ve got to stop the system where it says only these kids can take honors classes at the high school.
And so, decolonizing is not going to sound good for some, some parents are going to hate it because they’re going to say what about my child… Why can’t they have these special classes? But if we are a tribe… then everyone should be afforded that opportunity. It’s not saying that kids can’t be in those classes. What it’s saying is we need to allow the opportunity for all kids to be in them.
RF: So in terms of narrowing the achievement gap, would you say that what is lacking is that we are not looking at every aspect of the solution and just focusing on part of it?
DJ: Exactly! We tend to just look at one aspect of it, and that doesn’t fix the problem. Just like in a machine, the heart of the machine keeps pumping because of all the gears around it. … So that’s why one of the big priorities of mine is attacking the budget, seeing where the money is going and why is the money going there.
RF: You mentioned budgeting as one of your priorities, what about others?
DJ: Well, an anti-racist district, that’s the number one priority. Because within that anti-racist school district you’re deconstructing the budget, you’re decolonizing the curriculum, so that’s the administrative side. You’re requiring cultural administered trainings, LGBTQI trainings … You’re requiring those training to our teachers,… administrators, … staff, … students, … the whole entire CPSD community, … school committee, coaches, and athletic directors … We need to have a village mindset. Parents, teachers, students need to be at the table with the school committee when we are talking about changing those things.
If I get elected I still want you all to challenge me and hold me to my tasks. I want to have a time when I am meeting with students on a regular basis … getting input along the way … So that you all can say “Hey Daria, can I talk to you? Can we sit down and have a forum?” … I also want to have those meetings with caregivers and teachers.
That’s why I am saying [that] even if I don’t get elected, if my words create a change within the School Committee, not just listening but dialoguing and challenging, then I feel like I have succeeded.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.