City, News

Boston district considers shuttering floundering public schools

Boston Public Schools, facing a budget crunch and lackluster graduation rates, is considering closing five elementary schools in Dorchester, Mattapan, Brighton, Hyde Park and Roxbury in an effort to reduce the dropout rate to 3 percent by 2012.
The proposal calls for fiscal responsibility and innovation in Boston Public Schools. With the creation of nine new kindergarten-to-eighth grade programs and sixth-to-12th grade programs, there will be fewer transitions in education for students, according to an October BPS statement.
The ‘Pathways to Excellence’ plan proposed by BPS superintendent Carol Johnson will be debated in community forums throughout the city this month.
The schools the plan intends to close will be consolidated. Though the plan is expected to reduce costs by around $13.8 million over the next five years, it also calls for an emphasis on the education of students without cutting corners, promoting the ‘Graduation for All’ initiative, which aims for a three percent dropout rate by 2012.’ It also includes the opening of a public Montessori school and a two-way bilingual school in East Boston seeking to educate native English and Spanish speakers in both languages.
Myriam Ortiz, assistant director for the Boston Parents Organization Network, said the network was informed of the ‘reorganization’ plans in a May meeting with Johnson.’ Families did not receive letters about the plans until September, though BPON called for the superintendent’s office to send notice earlier, Ortiz said.
‘Parents expect better quality and options, and there are still a lot of questions,’ she said.’ ‘It’s not clear where they are going next.’
Ortiz said BPON’s main concern is to get families involved in the October forums about the new plans.
‘Any school closing is disruptive, no matter how small or bad the building’s conditions are,’ she said. ‘Schools should not be combined without specific plans.’
Patty McMahon, organizer for Mayor Thomas Menino’s Youth Council, a council made up of high school junior and senior volunteers from every neighborhood in the city, said Boston Public Schools’ superintendent met with students last spring to discuss reorganization plans.
‘To high school students, their education is of immediate importance,’ McMahon said. ‘The superintendent has done an excellent job of involving young people. Their voice has been engaged.’
Boston Teachers Union spokesman Stephen Crawford said the BTU was also informed of the developing reorganization plan before the public.
‘We have a great relationship with the current superintendent; the best it has been in years,’ he said.Crawford said the plan must be scrutinized publicly before the School Committee votes on the final proposal Oct. 29.’
We understand that there needs to be consolidation, but have to make sure that they make the best decision for the students,’ Crawford said.

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