BTU President Jessica Tang testified before the Boston School Committee on October 17. Watch her testimony beginning at 20:30 and many others from students, teachers, parents and allies and read it below:
Yesterday, our BTU staff attended the meetings, along with BPS staff, where school communities were informed about the potential changes and proposals being shared tonight. It was heartbreaking to witness. Because while we know our students deserve new school buildings and improved facilities, schools are not just buildings, they are communities of people who hold relationships, often inter-generational, between students and teachers, teachers and parents, and teacher to teacher and it is these relationships, that are often the most important keys to student success.
Any plan that ignores the true definition of a school—that it’s not just a building, but a community of stakeholders who come together to serve the needs of our students–will inevitably hurt the very people it is supposed to benefit. The very people who have been fighting so hard for the success of their school communities despite decades of neglect, under-investment, and an often disruptive context that includes changing district leadership, competing priorities, competing directives and the latest educational fads.
Based on what we have seen of the plan thus far, we are concerned about whether or not the plan will create better opportunities for impacted students. Many teachers feel that more attention needs to be paid to what current students will gain or lose as part of this plan.
Again, while we strongly believe in and have advocated for new and improved school facilities, it is critical to keep in mind that many current students will not reap the benefits of the new buildings, so we must ensure the BuildBPS program truly lives up to its goal of yielding benefits for all students across the city, particularly our highest need students, during any transition period.
There are several ways to accomplish this:
- Ensure the preservation of successful academic programs that currently exist at the impacted schools for the benefit of students
- Maintain continuity and stability by keeping educators in teaching positions that maximize their ability to positively impact the learning experience of students
- The district should remain fully open to adjusting these plans and to other solutions based on stakeholder and community feedback
Our educators, parents, students and community allies have many more insights, questions and ideas that, together, can make any plan better. What we ask for, and continue to ask for, is details and data about what exactly the challenges are, what the possible options are (we strongly believe there is always more than just one option), and how we can utilize the history, knowledge and expertise we have to best confront the challenges ahead.
You will hear many of those questions, ideas and suggestions tonight from our school communities, and we ask that you hear us out, because any disruption to the learning of our students, particularly those that have the greatest need for stability and access to all opportunities possible, should be well thought out and clearly lay out how the disruption will result in better opportunities for them, even while new buildings are being built or renovated.
Again, we want to be a part of the solution, engaged in true dialogue, and be heard. As practitioners on the ground, in the classrooms, we are able to pay attention to the details that are often the downfall of even the most well-intention-ed plans, when they are ignored. Educators at all of these schools had already proactively began plans on their own time and of their own initiative to improve their schools. They have done so because they care, they go above and beyond and they are open minded to changes that will truly help their students. We hope the district is just as open-minded to what they have to offer, too.
The staff at these schools have done everything asked of them for years, and they have met the challenges over and over again. They have taken risks, broken apart, re-merged, redesigned, recertified and innovated over and over again because they were making a commitment to their students, to their schools, to the community, and yes…to their employer. Now it is time for BPS to do whatever it has to do to honor that commitment in return.
Boston School Committee Meeting, October 17, Part 1:
Boston School Committee Meeting, October 17, Part 2: