Saturday, February 27, 2010

No citywide status for Young Achievers & Mission Hill after all

Thanks to an alert reader for pointing this out. It appears that Young Achievers and Mission Hill won't be reverting back to citywide schools as planned because of budget pressures.  The proposal to go from zoned schools to citywide was supposed to be presented to the Boston School Committee this past Wednesday.

This is from the BPS registration website:

"* February 25, 2010: The proposal to restore citywide status to Young Achievers and Mission Hill K-8 Schools was not presented to the School Committee as has been previously planned. In light of the extreme financial challenges the district is facing, the Superintendent felt it would be premature to create additional city-wide options without knowing the full range of decisions that will need to be made that could impact student assignment. The schools will retain their current zone status."

Is this a busing issue again?  That was the rationale for initially changing these two citywide schools to zoned schools last year -- they would supposedly save money by not busing students from all over the city.

I guess I can scratch Young Achievers off my list. :-(  I really wished they hadn't teased me like that.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our charter school applications are in

Sorry for the gap in posts. We were on vacation last week and I feel like I've been on an extended mental vacation since then. 

I realized this week that charter school applications are due and that I still hadn't completed our paperwork for Conservatory Lab.  (That app is due Friday, by the way.) We drove up to Brighton this morning to hand deliver it because I didn't think the post office could get it there it in time. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. The woman at the front desk had us pegged right away as a prospective family. We apparently had "the look." (Confusion? Desperation? Sogginess?)

Now, we wait.

I still haven't formally toured any charter schools. Since there's no harm in applying, we applied to all three that offer K1 -- Conservatory Lab, Renaissance, and Neighborhood House. If we happen to get into one of them, we'll have a closer look.  My biggest reservation is that none of these is particularly close to Roslindale.

However, Boston Renaissance is moving from Stuart Street to a new Hyde Park location next fall. I was hoping to get more information on this school and their move at the charter school showcase earlier this month, but they didn't have any representatives there (the flier had said otherwise). That would have been helpful to know before I made the trek down to U-Mass Boston on a Saturday. Demerit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BPS budget hearings rescheduled

The Boston School Committee has rescheduled most of its budget hearings until March. At the Mar. 10 school committee meeting, BPS CFO John McDonough will detail how the district will make up the remaining $32 million shortfall for FY2011. The public hearings will follow. Here are the new dates:

Thurs., Mar. 11, 6-8 pm
English High School Auditorium, Jamaica Plain

Mon., Mar. 15, 6-8 pm
Madison Park Vocational High School, Cardinal Hall, Roxbury

Wed., Mar. 24, 5-6 pm
Winter Chambers, 26 Court Street (prior to 6 pm School Committee meeting)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Advocating for smaller, but high quality, schools

The Globe has published a letter to the editor from Roslindale’s own Carter Wilkie advocating on behalf of the city’s smaller schools. BPS’ chief financial officer John McDonough had hinted at an earlier budget hearing that school size could play a part in determining which (if any) schools close in this year’s budget crisis.

"Underperforming schools that have proved impregnable to improvement efforts should be the first candidates for closing, not small schools that are performing well and attracting families in a time of declining public school enrollment," he writes. He cites the Mozart school as an example of a small, yet strong, school.

I hope BPS is listening.

Friday, February 5, 2010

BPS schools raising money for Haiti

Second-grade students at the Sumner have made a video to try to raise money for Partners in Health to help with earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. One of the student's parents is a doctor working with the organization in Haiti. They hope to raise $1000. So far, they're at $281. To donate, go to the Partners in Health website.
Other West Zone schools have also participated in fund-raising for Haiti.
  • The Beethoven raised $2,045 with a "Hats for Haiti" Day. Students who contributed to the Haiti relief fund could wear their favorite crazy hat.
  • The Ohrenberger had a "No Uniform Day" and raised $2,300. Students who made a contribution did not have to wear their school uniform for a day. 
  • The Kennedy school had a pajama day, in which students who gave $1 or more got to ditch their school uniforms for a day and wear pajamas. Sounds like blogging. They raised $610.
  • The Lyndon school held a penny drive.
Good job, kids.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

BPS trying to cut $60 million

The Globe has coverage of last night's school committee meeting. In short, they're trying to trim (or hack) $60 million from the FY11 budget. The following items will make up part of the gap: freezing administrative salaries, turning down heat in schools and offices, and reducing custodial staff. Other possibilities include school closings, reduced busing, furlough days, wage freezes, or pay cuts. They don't foresee any teacher lay-offs.

I really get nervous when I hear about inefficiences and school size. Many of the little elementaries in the West Zone are gems.

The president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau told the reporter that school closings seem inevitable. Yikes.

I'll try to delve into the budget documents myself a little later.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

School Committee looking at the budget tonight

Superintendent Carol Johnson will present the recommended FY2011 budget to the Boston School Committee at their meeting tonight. It doesn't look good. They're facing similar problems as last year, only this time, there's no federal stimulus money to save the day. The chief financial officer gave a presentation to the committee in December that gave a taste of what's to come. BPS is expected to face a budget gap again due to increasing costs, grant reductions and restrictions, and investments in certain academic priorities.

The school committee has scheduled a host of public hearings around the city:

Tuesday, Feb. 9., 6-8 p.m.
Harbor Middle School, 11 Charles St., Dorchester

Thursday, Feb. 25, 6-8 p.m.
Madison Park High School, 75 Malcolm X Blvd., Roxbury

Monday, March 8, 6-8 p.m.
The English High School, 144 McBride St., Jamaica Plain

Wednesday, March 10, 5-6 p.m., (prior to School Committee meeting)
Winter Chambers, 26 Court St., Downtown

The committee is expected to vote on the budget at their March 4 meeting.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Charter school showcase this Saturday

I confess -- I haven't had a chance yet to tour any of the city's charter schools. I was scheduled to check out Conservatory Lab, but a certain photo shoot came up at the last minute.

There is still hope for anyone like me. There is a charter school showcase this Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at U-Mass Boston (100 Morrissey Blvd., McCormack Building, Ryan Lounge, 3rd). Representatives from 19 charter schools will be there, including those offering elementary education:  Conservatory Lab, Boston Renaissance, and Neighborhood House (all begin at K1) and Edward Brooke (begins at K2).

Reminder: First registration period ends this Friday

If you're planning to send your child to kindergarten (or grades 6 or 9) this fall, you need to register in the first round to maximize your chances of getting a school you're happy with. Registration ends Feb. 5.  There is a second round that begins Feb. 10, but there are fewer slots available.

First-round results should be mailed to families in early-to-mid March. Second-round results are sent out in May.

Irving Advisory Group requests extended learning for all Irving middle schoolers

Last Monday, I attended a meeting at the Washington Irving Middle School along with other concerned Roslindale parents and Superintendent Carol Johnson.

Background: Roslindale does not have any K-8 schools. The neighborhood's elementary schools end at fifth grade, and exam schools don't start until seventh grade. The Irving Middle School has not had a stellar reputation in the community. So Roslindale parents have been faced with the dilemma of what to do with their kids in the sixth grade. The Irving Advisory Group, made of of parents of elementary students and Irving students, was formed to find ways to improve the Irving.

The things I came away with:
  • The community and BPS are trying to find creative ways to extend the school day. Currently, the Irving’s school day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. That’s a lot of time in the afternoon from dismissal to when most parents get home from work. (My work day doesn’t even begin until around that time.) 
  • One option is to have the school day start an hour or two later, pushing dismissal back.
  • That would still leave several hours in the afternoon. One of the key recommendations of the Irving Advisory Group was to fund extended learning for all Irving students. Currently, only 200 out of 700 students are served in the extended-learning program.  
  • There was a lot of love in the room for principal Arthur Unobskey, who is in his first year at the Irving. Parents said they have seen a lot of improvement in the school and student behavior in the community.
For more on the meeting, I’d recommend this article in the Roslindale Transcript. Unfortunately, that issue of the Transcript also reports on a recent incident at the school where two girls were arrested for fighting. Bad timing.