School Committee votes to cut, merge schools

Agassiz studentAgassiz fifth grader pleaded with committee.The School Committee voted tonight to shut nine schools and merge eight other schools into four.

Committee member Michael O'Neill said he voted for the painful move proposed by Superintendent Carol Johnson because "it's clear beyond a doubt that additional assistance is not coming to us," not from the city, not from the state and certainly not from the federal government. Member John Barros said the choice was either to make cuts to bolster the remaining schools or drag down all the schools in the system with cuts.

Chairman Gregory Groover said the reorganization will put the system on a stronger footing so that "we will see quality schools in every single neighborhood and every child will have access to quality schools." In the meantime, though, the reorganization is only expected to save $10 million; BPS says it still needs to come up with $53 million to close an anticipated budget gap.

The vote came at the end of a long and contentious public hearing, in which parents and students at the affected schools pleaded for their schools to continue.

Save the Fifield

Schools to be shut: The East Zone Early Learning Center in Dorchester (students to the Matahunt); Fifield Elementary School in Dorchester (students have priority at other East Zone schools); the Middle School Acadamy in Dorchester (moves to the current Gavin building); Emerson Elementary in Roxbury (students have priority for other North Zone seats; Cape Verdean SEI student move to a different school); Farragut Elementary, Mission Hill (students have priority in other North Zone schools); Alighieri Elementary in East Boston; Agassiz Elementary, Jamaica Plain (students have priority for other West Zone seats); the Engineering School and the Social Justice Academy in Hyde Park.

Schools to be merged: Lee Academy and Lee Elementary in Dorchester; the Alighieri and Umana in East Boston; the Urban Science Academy and Parkway Academy of Technology and Health in West Roxbury; the Brook Farm Business and Service Career Academy and the Media Communications Technology High School in West Roxbury; Excel High School and Monument High School, South Boston.

Gavin Middle School and Green Academy in South Boston and Clap School in Dorchester will become in-district charter or "innovation" schools.

More details.

Many in the large crowd booed the committee and yelled their disagreement throughout the evening. Tom Menino came in for his share of criticism as well, with some wondering why he could find the time to address the chamber of commerce yesterday but not parents tonight. City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Charles Yancey joined parents in opposing the closures.

Agassiz backers

There was a heavy police presence to deter trouble:

Police

Some video from the hearing:

Neighborhoods: 

Free tagging: 

Comments

And-

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-here we go. Record profits for corporations, huge tax break for the wealthiest prolonged, and we're all but taking education away from the most important people in this country, the children.
America should be ashamed of itself. Ashamed. But it won't be. Because it's a greedy cesspool of capitalism.
We should be so profligate with education, we should be wasting money on these kids. Disgraceful. Utterly disgraceful.

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It's not a money problem

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At well over $20k per student among other stats, there is no lack of money in the BPS - but there is a terrible lack of efficiency. At least in Boston we ARE so profligate with education - unfortunately large sums go directly through the pipes into Boston Harbor.

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Empty seats

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There are 5600 empty seats at Boston schools. It takes a lot of money to keep those empty seats heated, clean, maintained, etc. They should consolidate more than 18 schools - this only takes care of a quarter of the excess capacity.

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Wait, what?

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There are 5600 empty seats at Boston schools. It takes a lot of money to keep those empty seats heated, clean, maintained, etc. They should consolidate more than 18 schools - this only takes care of a quarter of the excess capacity.

They only account for a quarter of the empty seats? 5600 seats * 1/4 = 1400 seats. 9 schools closing + 8 schools consolidating = 13 schools effectively eliminated. 1400 seats divided by 13 schools = 108 students per school. Ain't no way the 17 affected schools are averaging a hundred students apiece.

Also, people do realize that these "empty seats" are what keeps class size down, right? And that class size correlates almost directly with performance? So that cramming 30 kids into one room with one teacher is just going to exacerbate the problems that BPS already has? And that this will save less than $10 million, or just over 1% of BPS' total budget? And that when the population of the city continues to grow, as populations are wont to do, they'll have to expand back into the old buildings, and that it will cost ten times as much to re-open the buildings that will inevitably have been left to decay?

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Teachers in from 1900-1960

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Teachers in from 1900-1960 regularly taught class sizes of roughly 30 children to a higher academic performance standard than we have today. Class size is a red herring in most cases.

At 20k per student the BPS should be producing the same results as a private school. Honestly, if there were enough private schools in the city it would be more cost effective to just pay people to send their children to private school. Hell some of these children would probably actually GO TO SCHOOL instead of playing hooky if they were getting paid to attend.

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population trend?

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Is the city really continuing to grow? The population is certainly a lot lower than the historical high.

The other issue is distribution of schools- if a new elementary school was opened in West Roxbury, I'm sure it would quickly be at capacity with kids who would otherwise leave the BPS after not getting into a neighborhood school. This might not be a problem with a politically realistic solution (i.e. spending money on schools in a neighborhood with good schools), but the the existence of empty seats doesn't provide a complete picture on the situation.

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This is a pointless exercise, and ultimately hurts BPS.

Well said in this comment.

It certainly seems shortsighted re: the class size/capacity issues.

Also, it's disturbing to me that the money just can't be found; with a stroke of a pen, local corporations and philanthropic interests can't commit $10 million into the community for schools, buying themselves huge publicity, goodwill, and (I'm presuming) some sort of tax benefit in the process?
It seems to me that this could happen if the right people wanted it to happen.

Ultimately, it just further hurts BPS, not least in the eyes of parents of prospective students. It's already difficult to contemplate a system in which resources are an issue to an extent that one's child might attend a school without, say, music or art, and it's less confidence-inspiring to consider a system in which lack of funds may close your child's school one day. This is a "solution" that never should have been on the metaphorical table.

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They have given money to the schools

The schools have won grants for millions of dollars and simply lost it in the system. I'm not being rhetorical about this; the money has just disappeared and nobody can tell you what they spent it on.

The businesses, the state, the Feds, the foundations and the general white suburban taxpayer have decided in so many words that they're not going to keep paying into the lifetime employment agency that is the BPS. That's what Waiting for Superman was all about.

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Empty seats, not total students

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1. The schools consolidated would each have 100 EMPTY seats, not total students. The stats come from the Globe:

http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles...

2. "Small classes = better students" is a myth fostered by teachers' unions, since small classes - more teachers - more dues to the union.

"The literature on the impact of class size on student performance is largely inconclusive."

http://economiclogic.blogspot.com/2009/05/class-si...

"...some of the countries with some of the world’s highest achieving student bodies — like Korea and Japan — have the biggest class sizes."

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/11/class...

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I don't know...

I've done my own study on class size / student performance, and it goes like this:

1. I went to public schools, and I enjoyed relatively small class size. As an adult, I believe that I would rather my children be in a smaller class than larger when possible. I don't believe it's a "myth", since I can recall quite a few circumstances when being able to interact at length with the teacher benefited me and others. That's it. I didn't go to school in Korea or Japan, or any other red-herring locale that muddies the issue.

1a. I believe that complaining about conspiratorial teachers' unions is often a mark of petty, right-wing thinking. (Aside: with all the crabbing that (wealthy) conservatives do about the declining morals of our youth, and their sub-par academic skills, shouldn't we be encouraging environments where figures of authority and guidance can keep a handle on things, and have a chance at providing each kid the attention he/she needs?)

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Excess capacity

It's not that the schools themselves have 108 seats per. It's that, after the schools (which may have empty seats) are shut down, and after all the thousands of students are crammed into other schools (which may have empty seats), they estimate that there will be 1,400 fewer empty seats.

The math getting to the number of empty seats is problematic, however, as they tend to count classrooms that have 8 special needs kids (the legal maximum) as having empty seats up to the legal maximum for mainstream classrooms, and to count rooms not filled with desks (say, art rooms or utility rooms) as full of empty seats.

But it sure is going to be fun to see half the ELL program at the Agassiz moved over to the Lyndon.

They've got lots and lots of "extra seats" over at the Lyndon. You know why? Because they have an art room. That's 22 extra seats to be eliminated right there! (Isn't that why they call art and music "extras?") I wonder where the other thirty-eight "extra seats" are. Probably the extra seats in the music room and the computer lab.

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Whatever, dog

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A bunch of paper champions like yourself have come on this site during the last few days talking about the "terribly" inefficient spending of one of the most improved districts in the world without a damn thing to back it up besides union envy and a raging arousal for charter schools in a city where academies and "exam schools" already work. Amid all your heartache brought on by "caring" so much about students who either A) Aren't sent to schools by your family (if you have one) or B) Don't live in your town (suburbanites with some lingering resentment from moving out of the city because the were scared of the schools), you never once propose actual solutions like increased vocational training. I'm in favor of the mayor's plan to shrink the bussing zones and to increase teacher accountability, but the math still doesn't tell us how closing schools and adding class size to successful, functioning city schools solves the problem. No school is beyond repair as long as a city throws some innovation at the problem along with its money.

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I hereby propose

Increased vocational training.

Because I need a goddamn plumber who will actually call me back.

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Godamned plumber

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We had some work done by some most excellent plumbers last summer. E-mail me if you want the deets.

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Throwing money at a broken

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Throwing money at a broken system is for the children? How about actually FIXING THE BROKEN SYSTEM instead of racking up the debt for a children to pay later down the road.

BPS is woefully inefficient, throwing money at the problem hasn't and will never fix the problems which are inherent with the system. We are way past putting band-aids on this corpse. The whole system needs a top to bottom reboot.

And I hate to break it to you but capitalism had nothing to do with the FAILURE of BPS. A century of cronyism, racism, patronage, union extortion, and utter incompetence wrecked the system.

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Good-

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-point.
But how do greedy capitalist pigs privatize something that should be left public? Make it so incompetent and make it fail so completely that parents and the community 'choose' to privatize it and then make money off the backs of our children's education, instead of, as another commenter said, fixing what's broken but leaving the system. Because once all these things are privatized, as prisons are going, well, kids will become simply nothing more than slaves to a profit, and whatever body runs the school, your kids will be secondary to money.

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If capitalists were trying to

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If capitalists were trying to kill public education in order to establish a for profit monopoly they would have done so by now. Witness the auto industry vs. public transit. The only people to blame for the collapse of public education are crooked politicians, administrators, teacher's unions, and the general disengagement of parents from involvement in their children's education.

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I'll start caring about closed schools when they care about me

I can't understand why parents want to keep the status quo. Do they care that their kids are underserved or are they just looking for babysitting? Do they understand that this arrangement is sucking money away from the students who work hard and succeed? That the exam schools, full of kids from poor neighborhoods, are running on fumes?

These schools and the kids in them have had plenty of time and resources to get their act together. Somehow they couldn't do it. Yet the kids who did work see resources drained away towards schools that wouldn't succeed if you gave them $30K/kid.

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The parents don't think they're being underserved

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It's not so simple. A lot of the parents who spoke think their kids are in a good place. There were a couple of parents who spoke about the good education their autistic kids are getting. Here's one:

Completely unrelated tangent: The woman who appears briefly at the end of the video, looking like she's just come from band practice, is none other than Barney Frank's Dining Room Table, who for some reason showed up with a couple of her LaRouchebags to say the real answer to problems in Boston schools is a return to Glass Stegall. Chairman Groover let them drone on for their allotted two minutes, although towards the end of the third one's "testimony," you could hear some murmuring in the crowd about what this had to do with anything. The two Socialist Workers Party members who spoke at least stuck to the point of school closings.

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How can this not be seen as offensive?

From JP Patch:

Claudio Martinez—a JP resident and head of the Hyde Square Task Force was heckled by a man in the crowd. In rsponse, Martinez snapped, "When I need a comment from a white privileged kid like you, I'll let you know."

If you said that to my white privileged kid, I'd have him kick your ass, good sir.

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See the racism discussion

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See the racism discussion thread in the "Roxbury shrinks as the city adds to South End" story.

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Ah, so he did say that! Yeah, moronic thing to say

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Martinez seemed to have an oversized chip on his shoulder.

It came at the end of the meeting. I was right up front, but, I admit it, was busy writing up my post, after it became obvious they were going to approve Johnson's plan. So the first I heard of that was when some pregnant white lady from the Agassiz contingent got up and started screaming at him about how DARE he say something like that when she's spent the last ten years working to promote Latino kids. And then she sort of crumpled back into her seat and another lady got up and started yelling at him about what he'd just done to this poor pregnant woman.

I turned to the reporter next to me and asked "Did he just call her a privileged white woman?" I think he was busy writing up his notes, too, so he wasn't sure, either.

Martinez should be ashamed of himself. I agree with the woman - how dare he accuse parents looking out for their kids of crap like that. If he can't handle the pressure of being in a room with several hundred angry people, he should either ask Groover for lessons or resign.

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Wow

"When I need a comment from a white privileged kid like you, I'll let you know."

He really said that??? Wow. Sounds like he went to the Henry Louis Gates School of Diplomacy. ;-)

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