The superintendent and the school committee started out trying to sell the recently proposed round of school closings and mergers to BPS parents and students as the road to better educational outcomes and closing the achievement gap. But in the public hearings that followed, it became clear that parents and students weren’t buying this line. Each of the schools targeted for closing offered counter-arguments “often using the department’s own data “ for keeping their school open.
Last week’s school committee provided more of the same. Thirty-eight parents, students, and teachers signed up to speak. The speakers were eloquent and ‘real.’ One parent from the Roger Clap pointed out that the seven schools proposed to receive the Clap’s students, should it close, were each no better academically than the Clap. Further, she stated, the Clap was the most integrated elementary school in the city. And so it went, as speaker after speaker lambasted the school department by pointing out flaws in the department’s plan.
Faced with a mounting tsunami of criticism from parents, students, and staff, the superintendent abruptly switched gears last Wednesday and blamed a looming school department deficit “ not individual school performance “ as the reason behind school closings. While this is clearly closer to the truth, the fact is, this does not bode well for those who support the improvement of our public schools.
Expect a more ambitious plan from Superintendent Johnson in late November. In her words:
“We originally planned to ask the School Committee to vote on our entire redesign proposal this Wednesday, November 3, at English High School….we will return to the Committee with a larger set of recommendations in December.”
The superintendent’s tentative plan is to develop a school-closing proposal over the next two weeks and announce it on November 17. Public hearings will presumably be scheduled at that time, a final plan will be developed by 12/8, and a school committee vote will take place on 12/15.
The school committee has scheduled its next three meetings at school department headquarters, in a room that holds approximately 30-40 spectators. The last two school committee events drew 600 and 300 spectators respectively. Clearly the appointed school committee is anxious to push its plan through with as-little-as-possible input from the people who rely on the public schools. Not being elected officials, they have apparently gotten out of the habit of learning to listen and respond to the people they are supposed to serve “ hence their plan to hold these meetings in a user-unfriendly location and space.
The Globe continues to lobby in its editorial pages for school closings. See Education in the News below to read more about what we need to prepare for in the months ahead.