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Boston nixes school closings

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson decided to nix her budget proposal that would have closed three Boston schools last week after parents, students and teachers vocally opposed it.

Johnson’s original budget plans were presented in September and included a series of school closings, consolidations and staff changes and transportation improvements aimed at lowering spending, according to an Oct. 1 BPS press release.

Instead of closing the Academy of Public Service and the Noonan Business Academy, Johnson decided to merge the schools and also decided to keep Elihu Greenwood Elementary School open, after members of the schools presented strong arguments to keep the schools running, BPS spokesman Christopher Horan said.

‘The purpose of the past month was to hear from everyone we could hear from,’ Horan said. ‘Lots of people came forward about their differences in very respectful and constructive ways.’

The rising cost of utilities, salaries, pensions and the lack of external aid made spending a pressing issue for BPS, Horan said.

‘Like every entity around the country, we’re feeling the crunch of these challenging economic times,’ he said. ‘We’re trying to confront the fact that there are going to be fewer resources, especially from federal and state aid.”

Horan said BPS is making efforts to ensure the cuts in spending do not affect students’ experience.

‘Our number one criteria is identifying things we can change that students and families will feel the least,’ he said. ‘But with every decision made to not close a school or make a cut in a program, something else is going to have to be cut.’

With the new revisions, the proposal will save an estimated $27.8 million over the next five years, according to a BPS financial analysis.

‘This is going to be a very challenging year,’ Horan said. ‘Even if this proposal passes, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Greenwood Elementary family community outreach coordinator Judy Vance said the parents at Greenwood played a crucial role in convincing Johnson to keep the school open.

‘The parents made a great effort to get together to work with the superintendent, the students and the school,’ she said. ‘It’s all about how we, as a system, can support the superintendent . . . to make sure our students are getting the best education they can.’

The considerable age of the school, poor grades and lack of students opting to go there as a first choice contributed to Johnson’s initial decision to close Greenwood, and parents understood that those problems needed addressing, Vance said.

‘We shouldn’t have made the superintendent make the decision to close the school,’ she said. ‘It’s not like she came along and picked Greenwood out of the sky. There were reasons.’

Vance said parents of Greenwood Elementary students promised to take an active role in improving their children’s grades and the school’s overall performance.’

Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman said students, teachers and administrators will all be better off with the continued operation of the schools.

‘Merging is a lot better for us and for the kids,’ he said. ‘The kids don’t lose their schools and teachers don’t lose their ability to teach.’

Stutman said there will be few pay cuts and few teachers will lose their jobs as a result of school consolidations because most teachers will follow students to the new schools they attend.

Stutman said the district will face a shortage of available positions for new teachers.

‘It’s going to be slightly rough on people trying to get jobs in the area,’ he said. ‘We understand the budget is tight.’

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