At an education debate at the Brooke charter school in Roslindale tonight, most candidates supported lifting or increasing the current cap on charter-school seats in Boston.
John Barros, Charlotte Golar Richie, Mike Ross, John Connolly, Bill Walczak and Dan Conley all said they favor increasing the number of charter seats in Boston.
Felix Arroyo, Charles Yancey and Rob Consalvo all opposed it.
Arroyo said as mayor he would double down on BPS and invest more money to ensure every student has a chance at an excellent education. "We must at long last say to every family in the city of Boston you're a taxpayer, you deserve best school system in the United States of America," Yancey said, adding BPS needs more investment, not disinvestment.
Marty Walsh said he recognizes the good work charter schools have done but did not explicitly say whether he supports expanding them in Boston.
Among the pro-charter candidates, the level of enthusiasm varied.
Conley said the question for him is why the city hasn't already fought to increase the number of seats in charter schools, because they've proven their worth. He said limiting charter seats is like limiting the number of iPhones Apple can sell.
But Ross, while saying that "charter schools have made Boston public schools better," also said, "That doesn't mean you turn every school into a charter school." Public education is "a delicate ecosystem" and major changes need serious study first, he said, adding BPS also has to be careful not to disrupt education for kids with autism and other special needs.
Golar Riche agreed and noted that charter schools can take years to develop. "We have students who need attention now," who can't wait for new charter schools to ramp up. "They need a champion."
Both Ross and Barros called for a single lottery system for student assignment that would combine both BPS and charter schools. "We need to reclaim charter schools as public schools," Barros said.
Walsh said parents and students need more choices. He asked why Boston has just one trade school.
Connolly, a charter advocate with two children at a BPS school, said "we're trapped in a big false choice of a political debate right now:" BPS schools vs. charter schools. What kind of school it is shouldn't matter, he said. "The question should just be: Is it a great school?" Orchard Gardens and Hernandez are examples of how BPS can innovate, he said, adding we need a mayor bold enough to bring them together.
Walczak said equally important is increasing the length of the school day.
Other questions and answers:
What ddo you want in a new superintendent?
Barros. Committment to our children and a track record in management and executing policies. Decentralized system that gives more power and resources to individual schools. Because that's where students learn.
Golar Richie. Track record in an urban school district who will be prepared to hit the ground running. Somebody who can raise standards so that all our children can succeed in Boston public schools. Increase parental involvement by at least 10% in the first year.
Ross. Collaborative, ability to work with everybody. Someone who can engage at grass roots level. We need the best urban superintendent in the country. Have to expand the school day. Called on school committee to hold off on new supt. until new mayor is elected.
Connolly. Top-heavy centralized bureaucracy has to be decentralized. Has to remove the dysfunction. We have to reform our teacher contract. I'm a former teacher. It's a sacred job. But it's not OK give our kids one of the shortest school days in the country.
Walczak. We need a visionary and an entrepreneur. Partnerships with downtown businesses and colleges. Has to inspire, recruit and retain the absolute best principals.
Arroyo. Someone who has shown committment and dedication to urban PUBLIC education. Who believes Boston can be the best urban school system in the country.
Walsh. Most important decision I will make as superintendent. We need real change in the school system. A good negotiator. I'm going to pick somebody to run the schools.
Conley. Person of integrity, experience and with respect. Innovation. Someone who believes they don't have all the answers. Goal-driven, results-oriented teacher evaluation system. Building a complete education pipeline. STEP. Parental engagement.
Consalvo. Strong educator, with proven record in innovation. Latest, most innovative practices from across the country. Somebody willing to fight on Beacon Hill and even Washington for funding.
Yancey. Supt. who has high expectations of students and teachers. Proven record of success in closing the achievement gap.
Ideas for recruiting and retaining high quality teachers and holding principals accountable?
Yancey. Obviously we have to replace teachers who are not performing, so we need an effective evaluation system.
Consalvo. We have to recruit the best of the best. Boston Public Schools have a great story to tell. We have to sell BPS, but reality is people want to come here. All time high in enrollment, waiting lists at some schools.
Conley. Look at what I've done as DA. Boston is a great city, the way to recruit talent is to run a great office or school system. Young teachers are going to want to come here. I run a very diverse office, a welcoming office, an inclusive office. That's all doable in BPS. Training key.
Walsh. Important to listen to teachers.
Arroyo. Training. You have to value diversity. School system is 87% of color, we need more minority teachers. Pay and treat teachers like the professionals they are.
Walczak. 36-year track record of hiring people from the community at Codman Square Health Center. Inspirational leadership needed.
Connolly. Adam Gray, 2012 Mass. Teacher of the Year wasn't allowed to continue teaching at his school because he didn't have enough seniority. We need to treat education as a profession, not an assembly line. Have to change our teachers' contract.
Ross. Quality has to be above seniority. Then we have take highest quality teachers and pair them with students who need their help the most. Need to hire teachers who look like the students they're teaching. And more male teachers. Merit pay. We need to give teachers real training.
Golar Richie. In the Athens of America, it's so frustrating that we have to find fixes for our public-school system. But our local colleges and community-based organizations are places to look for good teachers. In terms of diversity, it's not rocket science, but it's hard work. We want our teachers to be residents, so we need affordable housing and safe communities for them.
Barros. We need to have a strong pipeline, give students good experience so some of them would come back as teachers. Need more male teachers of color. Support for training. Leadership opportunities.
48 of Boston's 127 schools are in lowest 20% of school achievement. How to turn these schools around?
Connolly. I'm a BPS parent at a low-tier school, the Trotter. Longer school day, merit-based hiring, today the school is in a dramatic turnaround. I want that at every Boston public school. Let the principals hire teachers for merit without regard to restrictions in the contract.
Walczak. We have to make sure we have strong leadership in every school. We need to lengthen the school day.
Ross. We have to get expanded learning done. For all schools. We could have done that with the last teacher contract. The reality is it didn't happen, the realiity is, we failed. Music, arts, gym classes, things that keep kids in school, keep them engaged.
Golar Richie. Move best and brightest from central office to schools that need them.
Barros. We have too much disparity in Boston public schools.
Early childhood education - how to ensure all children have access to it?
All the candidates agreed that early childhood education is important and that they'd support funding to ensure seats for all.
Yancey said it needs to be paired with programs to get books into kids' homes, to convince parents to read to their children - as he said he did to his son, even in utero.
28% of BPS students are in English-learning programs. What improvements will you make to ensure they have access to quality education?
Walsh. We can't turn our back on them. We spend $1 billion on our school system every single year. Our graduation rates are low. I will be expecting a 100% graduation rate.
Arroyo. I was an ESL student. Dual-language programs like at the Hernandez work. We can't fix schools until we end cycle of poverty in this city.
Yancey. We must fight to improve level of diversity of all languages and teachers in our system. We need more Latino, African-American and Asian study programs.
Consalvo. Number 1 is quality schools. Need to invest in buildings. Strong quality teachers. And we need to fight on state and federal levels, we've been shortchanged on ELL programs.
Conley. Not sure what the answer is, but all the studies agree that quality education is the key.
Male students of color continue to graduate at below-average rate. What to do?
Ross. As long as a kid is showing up to school scared, or going to sleep hungry, we have problems wider than what schools can fix. Community-based organizations.
Golar Richie. We have to care about our girls as well. But epidemic of them not doing well in school and then ending up on our streets, perhaps dealing drugs, then filling our jails. We need to prevent this from happening in the first place.
Barros. Education is a way to make sure we have productive systems. And right now, the performance of our black and brown males is unacceptable. We need a welcoming and respecting school systems. We need to have good teachers who look more like their students.
Walczak. We need to make sure young males of color feel they have a future. Reconstitute our high schools and build partnerships with businesses and organizations so students have a real shot at getting a job after they graduate.
Connolly. Need early childhood education. Fully staff social/emotional support staff in schools to help students stay on path. Raise the graduation age to 18. Let's collaborate with our charter schools, which have a better graduation rate.