A sweeping five-year strategic plan drafted by Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius that centers on rigorous coursework, effective school operations and building trust amid a lack of consistent curricula and graduation requirements was presented to the public at Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting.
“One of the No. 1 things that we heard from the community is about trust and cultivating trust and relationships and amplifying all voices,” Cassellius said at a media roundtable Wednesday morning, discussing her recent community tour that included 125 school visits.
The measures outlined in the draft of her plan, which will be opened up for a 30-day public comment period, have never been implemented in the district before, according to Cassellius.
Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement, “I am confident that Superintendent Cassellius’s draft strategic plan, which is supported by our recent $100 million commitment to students, will create more opportunity, remove inequities, and create a stronger foundation for our students to succeed.”
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Cassellius said “every cent” of that budget is tied to her plan, which will start with the most needy schools.
“We are really putting it on the line by saying, ‘We really value family engagement. We really value what the community has to say,’” Cassellius said, adding that BPS will invest in family liaisons who will act as navigators to keep families connected.
Boston City Councilor and Education Committee Chairwoman Annissa Essaibi-George said she was “excited” about Cassellius’s plan, especially about priority funding mental health resources and needy schools.
“There are certainly gaps that persist and work that still remains undone, and I’m hopeful that over the next month we find ways to fully realize all of those missing pieces,” Essaibi-George said.
Cassellius said parents want rigorous classwork along with accelerated learning, advanced classes and professional development. She noted the current lack of clear, consistent curricula and graduation requirements.
“We know that not all of our high schools are offering advanced coursework and rigorous courses to our students,” Cassellius said, adding that high schools will be redesigned with programming for internships and partnerships with higher education institutions.
Functional school operations like busing and speedy communication were also a priority for the BPS community, according to Cassellius, who said she’s already begun restructuring the central office for efficiency.
Students asked for increased access to sports, co-curriculars and mental health resources, Cassellius said.
“I want to make sure that the youth also see that what they told me is reflected in this plan and not like an afterthought,” she said.
Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teacher’s Union said she felt optimistic about the plan’s goal of gaining trust. “That has been something that has been missing in our district for some time.”
Tang said, “We’re interested in looking at the details of implementation and want to know the goals are aligned to a budget that can execute the plan.”
Long-time education advocate John Mudd, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said, “We all have these goals, the question is, how do we get there? And I haven’t seen that yet and I’ve been concerned about that part.”
Specific operational and budgetary measures will be released Feb. 5, and a final copy of the plan will be presented to the School Committee on Feb. 26.