City Councilor Tito Jackson had some bad news today for Roxbury residents who want to preserve the historic Dearborn school building and move its science-based classes to another location in the neighborhood: State officials told him they would rescind the $36 million grant it awarded Boston for a new school because it's based on a plan calling for tearing down the old building.
Neighbors of the school, many of whom said they only learned of plans to tear it down from the Globe, have proposed alternative sites, including the old B-2 police station. But losing the state money would force the city to double the $36 million it's already budgeted for a state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and math high school.
Jackson broke the news at a meeting at Roxbury Community College. At the meeting, residents and Dearborn teachers opposed a separate BPS plan to turn over the new $72-million school to a private charter-school group called BPE.
Residents called on the School Committee to delay a Sept. 17 vote on letting BPE run the school as an "in-district" charter school - a deal that was only first mentioned publicly last month.
Residents said that beyond the issue of whether they can trust a group whose board members include executives at banks and mutual-fund companies but no parents is simple fairness, related to the way students are selected for the school - and promises that were initially made to parents and students about who would get priority for seats in the new school:
Under the current system, nearby residents would have a preference for seats in the Dearborn - the same process used at other BPS schools. But under the charter plan, they wouldn't - they would enter an assignment lottery with the same odds as students from across the city.
School officials have said the Dearborn, ranked as a Level 4 school on a 1-5 scale with 5 the worst, is in danger of a state takeover and that handing the school over to BPE would forestall that.
Parents pointed to the Irving Middle School in Roslindale and the Clapp School in Dorchester as examples of schools that were turned around by parents and teachers, and said BPS should give the Dearborn the same chance.
LuAnn Silva, a teacher at the school, said she has students who got accepted into Boston exam schools but turned them down because they were excited about staying with a new Dearborn. Now, "this was ripped away from them," she said. "It's completely unfair."
The City Council's education committee - which Jackson chairs - will hold a hearing next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Grove Hall community center on the Dearborn issue.
Teresa Rodriguez, director of student life and school climate for BPE, said teachers at a BPE-run school would all be members of the Boston Teachers Union. She said she wants to work with current teachers but could not guarantee they would all be offered jobs at the new Dearborn.
She downplayed the influence of corporations on the school - while it's true Bank of America has an executive on the BPE board, it contributes only a small amount of money to the group, she said. She added she would look to add a parent representative to the board BPE would set up to oversee the Dearborn directly.