A pledge in Mayor Thomas Menino’s annual State of the City address has Charlestown City Councilor Sal LaMattina excited over the possibilities. During Menino’s speech LaMattina was happy to hear that the Mayor plans to overhaul the Boston Public School’s school assignment process.
“It is the number one issue here in Charlestown,” said LaMattina. “Space is so limited at schools like the Prescott that parents are opting to leave the neighborhood.”
In his speech, Menino said he plans to completely overhaul the student assignment process across the city.
“The Boston Public Schools have come a long way in the last twenty years,” said Menino. “When I became mayor, many parents considered sending their children to only a handful of schools. Today, more than 100 of our schools have waiting lists because they are so popular with parents.”
In Charlestown schools like the Prescott and the few schools that offer parents a pre-kindergarten program typically have long waitlists and are almost impossible to get into. For many parents this means having to send their children across the neighborhood to another school because the school in their area may be filled.
“Something stands in the way of taking our system to the next level–a student assignment process that ships our kids to schools across our city,” said Menino. “Pick any street. A dozen children probably attend a dozen different schools. Parents might not know each other; children might not play together. They can’t carpool, or study for the same tests. We won’t have the schools our kids deserve until we build school communities that serve them well.”
Menino said that one year from now Boston will have adopted a radically different student assignment plan – one that puts a priority on children attending schools closer to their homes.
“I am directing Superintendent Johnson to appoint a citywide group of dedicated individuals,” said Menino. “They will help design the plan to get us there and engage the community on this transition. I know I have talked about changing the student assignment plan before. We have made many improvements over the years. 2012 will be the year to finish the job.”
LaMattina applauded Menino’s effort to return the city and neighborhoods to community schools.
“The one way you can stabilize schools in the city is go back to a community school model,” said LaMattina. “First, all schools should be performing the same and the amount of money we spend on transportation can be redirected to making all schools better. Returning to a community school model would allow more parents to become involved in their neighborhood school and I think you will see more parents taking ownership of the school and forming parent groups to help the school succeed.”
LaMattina said when he was a student in BPS the schools he attended were made up of all his neighbors.
“All the kids knew each other, we were all friends because we went to school together and played together after school,” said LaMattina. “All of our parents knew each other and were involved in the school because when there was a meeting it was a quick walk around the block and not a drive to the other end of the neighborhood or to another neighborhood.”
LaMattina called the student assignment process the greatest concern among young parents that are fleeing the city at a record pace if they do not get into the school closest to them.
“I hear it all the time from parents in Charlestown that if their child does not get into their first choice school they are leaving the city,” said LaMattina. “That does not help stabilize the neighborhood or schools because we are losing people that want to be involved.”