Tuesday, April 27, 2010

City Year Boston's blog gives inside look at work done in Boston schools

One of my latest discoveries is City Year Boston’s blog, which showcases the work the organization does in Boston’s public and charter schools. It’s really inspiring to see all the enthusiasm these young adults bring into the classrooms.

Here are some recent highlights from posts about West Zone schools:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Philbrick wins grant for gardening supplies

The Philbrick has won a grant from Welch's for $1,000 worth of gardening tools, seeds, and educational materials, according to the West Roxbury Transcript. The students will be able to grow some of their own fruits and veggies. I'm curious what happens to the school gardens in the summer months. Do some diligent parents, students, and staff weed and water the gardens, keep an eye out for blight and that sort of thing?

Neighborhood Plus Plan proposed

Douglas Johnson of Boston has proposed a new assignment zone scheme he calls the Neighborhood Plus Plan. He laid out the basics of the plan in a letter to the Globe this weekend. He said that families from each neighborhood would be allowed to choose from five to eight elementary schools. That includes walk-zone, within about a 1-mile radius for elementary schools, and three to five other schools that would be "chosen for capacity, diversity, programs, and reduced transportation. This would preserve a range of quality school choices, provide educational continuity, and better match students and classrooms," he writes.

Currently, BPS has divided the city into three large assignment zones. Families could potentially send their children to one of twenty-some schools. The district is currently reassessing its school assignment policy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

School start date announced

Most Boston Public School students will report to their first day of class on Wednesday, September 8, 2010. This is one day earlier than usual to accommodate Rosh Hashanah, which begins on the 9th. The district calendar did not specifically say this, but I suspect that kindergarteners will start the following Monday (Sept. 13), as usual.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

More on Tobin and changing the school assignment process

Adrian Walker has a decent column in the Globe today about why school assignment in Boston is such a "third-rail" topic in city politics. City councilor John Tobin's child did not get into a K1 school this year, and Tobin has been pushing for change in the assignment process. This follows a Globe article on the same issue. I'm eager to see what he and BPS propose because there's no easy solution here.

A group of parents has also gotten together to advocate for change in the lottery system.

Walker gives some good background about the school assignment system, for those who are new to it. BPS tried to change to a five-zone system from a three-zone one last year, but that plan was withdrawn because of community opposition. Underperforming schools tend to be clustered in neighborhoods with a higher percentage of minorities.

I know that some families really like all the choice they have with our current system. I found it a little overwhelming. I like some choice, but 20-some schools is too much choice for me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Councilor Tobin says school assignment system needs to be fixed

City Councilor John Tobin, who represents West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and parts of Roslindale and Mission Hill, had the pleasure of going through the BPS lottery for K1 with the rest of us this year.

And his child is unassigned.

He writes in the Allston-Brighton Tab, that he and his spouse were "outraged and disappointed," like other unassigned parents. "We believe in public education. We entered the BPS lottery with high hopes and were excited about our choices. We were not looking for special treatment. We wanted a seat in a quality school near our home."

In the past, Tobin has advocated for more K1 seats in the city. In 2004, when BPS was reexamining its assignment policy, he asked BPS "to increase the number of students allowed to walk to neighborhood schools from 50 to 100 percent. Once local kids had a chance to enroll, the remaining seats would be opened to children citywide." Obviously, that didn't happen. We're still at 50% walk zone.
Now, he calls for transparency in the lottery system, like holding the lottery in public, similar to what charter schools do. He also calls for a return to neighborhood schools (The city currently spends about $77 million on busing students around the city):

"The simple truth is the assignment system must change if we want families to stay in Boston. I am again calling on Mayor Thomas Menino to create a system that allows children to go to school in their own neighborhood. In the meantime, the Tobins and many other Boston families will go back to the drawing board and develop a back-up plan."

I wish his family luck and hope some positive change can come from his experience.

West Zone ELC may lose its prinicipal

Boston Public Schools plans to transfer leadership of the West Zone Early Learning Center to the Hennigan school and cut the ELC's principal position, according to a letter sent to families on the West Zone Parents Group listserv. Currently, the ELC exists within the walls of the Hennigan, but it is run by a separate principal.

With the author's permission, I'm reposting her letter here.
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Dear West Zone Families-

Below is a copy of a letter that the West Zone Early Learning Center Parent Council composed to inform ELC families and community members of the shocking decision of Superintendent Carol Johnson to roll the ELC in under the purview of the Hennigan School and terminate the Early Learning Center Principal position. This decision undermines the very reason why the ELC exists. We currently have a wonderful interim Principal, Kathleen Sullivan, who in her short time with us has made incredible and innovative ideas flourish, while continuing to uphold the stellar standards of her predecessor, Eunice Fernandes. The Early Learning Center is a unique gem and offers amazing resources, including a teaching and support staff that is unparalleled. Losing our Principal for the annual financial savings of approximately $12,000.00/year is asinine and a paltry sum with regards to the BPS budget. As the real ramifications of this decision such as staff attrition, reduced enrollment, loss of extended care programs, loss of grants, loss of services for children with IEP's, possible loss of NAEYC accreditation, come to light, it makes one wonder what is motivating this decision. Please join us in expressing your displeasure with Dr. Johnson's decision by calling her office at 617-635-9050. The ELC is a very special place and it breaks my heart to think that the children who need the services provided by this school might not receive them.

Thank you,
Sara Mallach mother of a 1st grade ELC student.

We recently heard the devastating news that BPS Superintendent, Dr. Carol Johnson has decided to terminate the Principal position at the West Zone ELC. This would mean that Kathleen Sullivan, our wonderful interim Principal, would not stay on as a permanent replacement for Eunice Fernandes. This decision will also have very distressing ramifications for the WZELC in the future. Please join us in expressing your outrage at this terrible decision. There will be an Open Forum meeting for WZELC families and community members at the school on Tuesday, April 13th at 5:15 p.m. Please join us! You may also telephone Dr. Carol Johnson’s office at 617-635-9050 and express your displeasure over this shocking turn of events.

Thank you, The WZELC Parent Council.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Vote for Latin School's Real Food YouTube video

Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network has created a 3-minute video describing what real food is. They're competing for $1000 for their cafeteria food project through Farm to School. They're up against the very adorable "I Fell in Love with Broccoli," so they could probably use the votes. You can vote for their video here. Voting ends Friday.