At the Charlestown community meeting on school choice options that was held last week by Boston Public School (BPS) officials, two goals that will affect the children in our neighborhood who attend or might attend the public schools were brought to light.
The first goal dealt with the commitment of BPS and Mayor Menino to improve the quality of teachers and leaders at all Boston elementary and middle schools. While the Elliot School in the North End and the Kent Harvard and Warren Prescott Schools in Charlestown are excellent K-8 schools highly sought after by parents not only in these neighborhoods but throughout the city, there still are 21 schools in Boston that are underachieving and need high support according to BPS officials. These schools have now been targeted to be given added resources to improve their educational standings. The improvement of these schools could very well determine if some of the more than 18,000 Boston school aged children who attend private schools today could decide to attend the BPS system. The ambitious plan to take on 21 schools for a dramatic turnaround may seem unrealistic, but BPS officials did exactly this for 11 troubled schools in 2010. These low achieving schools were given not only attention, but also resources, to make effective change. Today, these schools have achieved many measures of academic success.
This proves that BPS officials do have the know-how to improve the schools. The larger question is whether BPS system will have the resources, not only to keep maintaining the performing schools, but also to commit and manage the added resources to raise the bar at the 21 non-performing schools. A BPS teacher who attended a meeting in Charlestown stated that “it is too easy to be a lousy teacher and school leader in this city.” This crucial need to be able to advance good teachers over underperforming teachers and administrators is probably the most important component of turning around Boston public schools on a citywide basis.
If the BPS plan to provide a quality education at any neighborhood school is successful, then today’s need for parents choosing to have their children bused from their neighborhood to a high performing school more than a mile and half away would become moot. With excellent neighborhood schools throughout Boston, it would follow that our present neighborhood schools would certainly have enough spaces to accommodate the neighborhood children and then some.
Another stated goal at this neighborhood session was the possibility of a new downtown school. For years, parents in Beacon Hill and Back Bay have tried unsuccessfully to have a public neighborhood school built that could accommodate the children from these neighborhoods. Plans for a neighborhood elementary public school that have been bandied about included parents donating a building on the flat of Beacon Hill to talk of an elementary school being built in the complex of the Government Center Garage redevelopment when it was aired almost three years ago. The possibility of a new public downtown school could have a very positive impact for the families in Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Charlestown.
These two goals being discussed by BPS officials deserve the support of not only parents in our neighborhood, but also all property owners in our neighborhoods.