BPS to reconsider elementary start times

Faced with angry parents and city councilors, School Superintendent Tommy Chang announced today he and his staff are going to be doing some hard thinking over the next few weeks about what time elementary schools will start next year.

Although he remains committed to trying to get elementary students to school earlier and high-school kids to school later:

BPS is committed to addressing the input we’ve received and trying to find solutions to concerns that have been raised. Schedules will be finalized in mid-January. BPS hopes this additional time will allow the district to work through issues that have been shared regarding start and end times. In order to do this, we need your help. We ask that you join us at one of 10 meetings we are holding next week. We look forward to discussing constructive solutions with our school communities.

Chang wrote the School Committee would take up the scheduling issue again on Jan. 10. He added:

Families who are making enrollment decisions for next year will be able to register for schools when the Priority Registration Period begins on January 3. If any adjustments to bell times are made to schools chosen by families during this period, they will have the opportunity to amend their choices within the Priority Registration Period, which will end on Friday, February 9.





A pattern of management has emerged

Setting aside for the moment whether you agree or disagree with changing school times, there is an obvious management leadership problem that exist within the City of Boston and it begins in the Mayor’s office.

It would seem that having gone through the ill-faded Olympics initiative or the botched plan to bring Formula 1 Racing to the Seaport district, city leadership would have learned that if you want do things that effect broad swatches of city residents, communications and transparency would be the first steps in undertaking change or introducing new ideas.

Effective communications and thoughtful leadership motivated by obtaining your stakeholder’s (e.g. parents of Boston students) engagement and agreement are critical components of implementing transformational reform within the BPS. Mr. Mayor and Superintendent Chang, step 1 is for you to help people to understand that your efforts are not just “one more thing” that will come and go but rather a new way of thinking and vision for our schools

Successful communications require focus groups, community forums, surveys, and other strategies before you announce the change. Parents and your constituents must be engaged early as partners. You need get their input before you decide to make a change, you need to keep them informed about what the change might involve and you adjust you thinking about when or how to do something when you learn why resistance might exist.

If you make the effort to connect people to the larger vision through meetings, communications, and input, they will believe it’s worth it. Carefully consider the timing and sequencing of your communications.Take tangible action to incorporate in your change plan to what you want people to know, feel, and do. Most people will endure a change if they know “the why” and feel that these efforts will make a difference for students.

Remember that one size does not fit all. Sometimes a plan needs to be built around a district’s specific needs and where the district is relative to reform efforts. Test pilot the implementation on a small scale to see if the plan will actually work or what adjustments might need to be made. Don’t jam things down people’s throat.

Watching yet another initiative being executed without a lot of thought does not speak well of city management skillset. This ain't rocket science folks, just leadership 101.

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But the bus schedule!

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Very well said, Dave-from-Boston. I absolutely agree.

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Educational administrators and autocracy

They don't like being questioned. If you think this is bad, the poison is far stronger in smaller communities where decisions like "we have to ban couches in classrooms to prevent spread of the flu" or "we can't turn on the AC in the middle schools next to the freeway because just drinking more water than they are allowed to carry will prevent asthma attacks" come with massive bogus anti-scientific nonsense and absolutely obscure reasoning - if you get any idea of process at all.

I get the impression that the entire culture is accustomed to top-down management, including community engagement = we'll tell you something when we are ready.

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Gotta satisfy those "metrics"

The school administrators listened to the pitch of educrats and MIT wonks who figured that if changing school times was going to work, it had to be implemented immediately, damn the parents who had to change their schedules ("Your job? Pfft...we've got 'metrics' to satisfy - get your kid here by 7 or she's late!"). The educrats and school administration didn't expect their institutional arrogance to be heftily and righteously pushed back as tone deaf and unworkable ("I'm not going to satisfy your 'metrics!' My kid is not going on a bus at 6 in the morning and I'm not losing my job over it!")

All of this pushback could have been avoided with serious testing and retesting of a one year pilot program (with one elementary, one middle school, and one high school). rather than an autocratic all-at-once approach. The administrators could have gotten input and feedback from parents ("My high schooler is more rested but comes home at 5pm from football, but my elementary school student falls asleep at 6pm"), in order to refine the school times, then added more pilots until the school times ran seamlessly, and only then could the new school times be implemented. The all-at-once approach is why the parents are pushing back and having none of it.

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Several months ago I do recall reading about MIT getting involved with helping to make the school bus routes more efficient - seemed like a smart idea.
That said, did the City not give MIT some parameters?? Like school start times can't be adjusted more than 20 minutes? I'm sure the brains at MIT could have come up with some improvements that met that criteria.
Instead it seems it gave them carte blanche so what MIT did was totally re-work the school system.

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Classic modelling issue

Just because you can't quantify it or haven't quantified it doesn't mean that it wont be an issue.

Could have been solved with a simple survey to drive inputs on tolerable limits, but that wasn't in the scope of work (or the school administrators didn't want anybody to know what they were up to).

Something to keep in mind any time you read a risk assessment for something like a nuclear power plant or chemical factory: if you don't include a risk like an earthquake or terrorist attack or hurricane flooding, it isn't reflected in the final numbers.

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Good point. Though I only

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Good point. Though I only have 1/2 a brain but I could save them even more money. Allow elementary school children go to their nearest neighborhood school instead of busing them to the other end of the city.

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Missing the point

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Which would be swell if all the neighborhood schools were equally good. But if your nearest school is sub-par, you want a better school for your kid.

Also, not every school has the programs kids with IEPs need. A lot of the busing all over the city is getting SPED kids to the correct set of supports.

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They’ve been moving to a

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They’ve been moving to a location-based assignment for the past three years. It takes time. Thy can’t rip kids out of their existing schools, so they are starting with new students in a “home-based” assignment. Most elementary students entering into BPS now attend school within 1 mile of their home since they started.

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More Than Inconvenience

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Far more than inconvenience. Despite the suggestion that BPS would "send a letter" to employers to assist the working class with their needs of an offset start and end time, few if any industries will work with that as a concept, at least not in the current mindset.

Parents are straining to balance job schedules and school start times. For some -- if not many -- a change in start times can mean a loss of job, if not for the morning start time, for the afternoon dismissal times.

Many low-income families qualify for state subsidies to help pay for licensed after school child care but that is a pool of money that is limited and has a waiting list a mile long. Then, even if they qualify, if BPS does not have a bus moving in the direction of the after school facility that the family managed to get, then the kids cannot get there and the state subsidy is withdrawn, and you go back to the end of the line. This is a real time issue that I have experience with on the day care end of things. I've experienced families moving to other cities and even out-of-state just because of that.

The extended day schedule worked for some parents; kids in the school till 4 pm, parents get out of work at 3 pm, travel time just enough to grab the kids. With an earlier dismissal that goes out the window.

These two real time issues are of concern. Add to that the possibility of needing before-school care which itself is a limited commodity citywide, you increase the number of panicking families.

The current schedules have forced the program I am associated with to maintain a licensed staff person (regulations require it) just to bring kids in off buses, but the vast and widespread arrival times means we maintain a paid staff person to stand in the cold for over 2 hrs every afternoon just to get buses and 1-5 kids per bus. That's a person not dedicated to working with the kids on their homework and other activities. An earlier dismissal time would benefit us greatly but if the families are out of work that creates a whole other set of problems. Do we complain about the buses? Sure, but since it's not our kid we are dismissed out of hand as having no dog in that fight. The after school care programs are an afterthought that never counts. So feeling left out to flap in the breeze is well-known to us.

The plan is not considering all of the variables, so any genius plan that fails to crunch all of the data is a flawed equation.

Either way, child care operations will have to suck it up and figure out how they will serve the community -- or survive -- when ever a final plan is adopted.

Fourth Down. Do we kick or try to run the ball in? That's where people like us are in all of this, and we're not even deemed a player. Remarkable.

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This is exactly why this

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This is exactly why this whole process is flawed -- because people who made the decisions think they are just an "inconvenience" to families.

It's a whole lot more. For some, it's a difference between being able to work or not. For some, it's a difference of being able to pick up their kids after-school and having to pay hundreds of dollars each month for an after-school program. Those issues are real and not just an inconvenience.

They say there are benefits to sleeping in, but how do those benefits weigh in compared to the harmful effects of financial hardship and spending less time with family?

And it's not just the families. Teachers have families too, and I've spoken to teachers who have young children who will now have to find a daycare that will take their children as early as 6am to make it to school on time. Some are considering moving to other districts if necessary to make things work for their own family. I don't think BPS is ready to face an outflux of qualified teachers and our schools and children will suffer as a result.

A time shift of 15 min may be an inconvenience. When nearly half of the schools are changed by 1 hr+, and some over 2 hrs, that's not an inconvenience but a major systemic disruption.

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This doesn't seem real to me.

This looks more like a classic negotiating tactic, when the initial proposal is ridiculously outrageous. When the proposal is met with disbelief and utter rejection, the next proposal is made, and it's much closer to what was desired in the first place. I don't believe the city is serious when they say they're going to make little kids start at 7:15 a.m., but they're waiting for the outrage to get big enough that they'll "bow to the will of the people" and present a modified proposal which is what they had in mind in the first place.

I'm guessing that what they have in mind is either going back to this year's start times, or going to a modification where more elementary schools start at 8:15, and taxes are increased to pay for this change. They are $7 million in debt for transportation, after all. How will they get money to pay for that, unless they get it from us?

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