The Boston School Committee voted on December 15 to support the Superintendent’s plan to close or merge more than a dozen schools in the 2011-2012 school year. The vote was unanimous. This unanimity came as no surprise for those who follow the activities of the school committee. Since 1992, all school committee members have been appointed by the mayor and they have voted unanimously on virtually every issue of substance in accordance with the mayor’s wishes.
On Tuesday, December 14, addressing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Menino clearly indicated that he expected his appointed school committee to approve the Superintendent’s plan.(See the Globe coverage.) He couldn’t have picked a friendlier audience to deliver his message to. The Superintendent’s plan was, in fact, the plan that Boston business community demanded; Dr. Johnson’s earlier “ more modest plan “ was publicly attacked by the city’s business elite. And the Globe editors and others intimated that if she could not make harsher cuts then maybe she was not the right person for the job.
In the end, the plan had clearly revealed its real nature: not a plan driven by what would best serve students but a plan that would let the city’s economic elite continue to profess their commitment to serving Boston’s neediest students while letting themselves off the hook for failing to provide the resources required to deliver the results they say they want.
So it’s not surprising that our self-styled, populist, “education” mayor never chose to address the parents, students and staff at any of the School Committee hearings over the last month where his message would clearly not receive the same warm reception. Some say that by speaking out at the Chamber of Commerce meeting the Mayor was stepping out to “protect” his Superintendent. But to us, it looks more like he pushed her to assume responsibility for a plan that was not”¨ her choice or of her own making.
The Final Plan
The Superintendent’s plan for 2011-2012 closes the Agassiz, Fifield, ELC-East, Farragut, 2 of 3 high schools at Hyde Park High (Engineering and SJA would close), 2 of 4 at West Roxbury High*, 1 of 3 at South Boston High*, the Emerson, and the Alighieri. In addition, the Gavin will close after a charter, UP Academy, was given a no-bid contract to run it, and the Odyssey HS at South Boston will be taken over by Green Academy, a Horace Mann (in-district) Charter. UP will also become a Horace Mann Charter. The Lee Pilot will change its grade structure to a K0-1 structure and co-exist in its new form in the same complex as the Lee Elementary, which will become a 2-8. The Clap will become an Innovation School.
(* at West Roxbury and South Boston EC, the plan is unclear as to how the schools would merge and/or be consolidated. The word ‘close’ is not actually used.)
Boston filmmaker Robert Lamothe has condensed more than 20 hours of enlightening school closing testimony into a short, moving video, “”TEACH, The People Behind the Curtain, What’s Happening to Our Public Schools. View the video here.
The school-closing plan will displace a few hundred teachers and thousands of students from their current assignments. The BTU has already begun meeting with staff in the affected schools to help them understand what the future holds and the options open to them. The BPS has promised to help parents and students navigate the process of finding a new school for SY 211-2012.
All those parents, students and staff who fought so hard for the preservation of their schools and its programs should be proud of the effort they made. Your unity and the heartfelt but articulate and well-researched arguments for why this redesign program was not in the best interests of the students was impressive. You organized; you asked the right questions and spoke out: unfortunately, Boston’s political leadership and business elite weren’t listening.