Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Neighborhood Schools and the Achievement Gap: Councilor-At-Large Candidates Respond to Questionnaire

Many of the candidates for the Boston City Councilor-At-Large seat responded to the Brighton Centered questionnaire. Here you can see all of their responses to one of those questions.

QUESTION: Some people have proposed that the BPS return to “neighborhood” or “community” schools. Do you support such a proposal? How would such a move impact the achievement gap?  

COUNCILOR FELIX ARROYO: No. As a parent of five children who either attend or graduated from the public schools, I know firsthand that the current school choice system is far from perfect. However, there simply aren’t enough quality public schools in each neighborhood to fully serve the children of each neighborhood. With that reality, a move to a complete “neighborhood” school model would likely increase the achievement gap and set back our decades-long effort to truly integrate our public schools.

JOHN CONNOLLY: As a former teacher of at-risk youth, I know the importance of parental involvement in a child’s education. One way to support greater parental involvement is by sending our children to school in the communities in which they live. Neighborhood schools build greater cohesion within a community as students and parents share experiences and collaborate with other families from their neighborhood. Neighborhood schools also reduce burdensome and costly commutes and make more resources available to ensure that all of our schools are of the highest quality, which is ultimately the best way for us to reduce the achievement gap.

COUNCILOR MICHAEL FLAHERTY: As a parent with three children in the Boston Public Schools, I have a vested interest in strengthening our public school system. By calling for smaller classroom sizes, extended school days and an increased supply of quality educational resources for each student, I have consistently supported measures to close the achievement gap. I intend to keep pushing for a school system that has the confidence of every parent from every Boston neighborhood. I wholeheartedly understand the concerns of parents who want to send their children to their neighborhood schools and agree that more parent-student AND parent-teacher time plays a valuable role in student’s academic success. Furthermore, I cannot overlook the fact that the tens of millions of dollars currently spent on transportation could be significant money invested in improving our most vulnerable schools. Nevertheless, I think it is unrealistic and socially reckless to go to 100% neighborhood schools overnight. Changing the structure of our school assignment process is an enormous undertaking that necessitates serious discussion and careful thought. Should we consider any proposal to change the school assignment process, we must be directed by the goal to assure ALL Boston students of a quality public education. I will work hard to facilitate productive and responsible dialogue on this issue by bringing together all stakeholders: educators, parents, policy experts, city and community leaders.

MATTHEW GEARY: With an unaccountable, unelected school board it is no surprise that BPS schools have widely differing success rates. Boston needs a democratic, fully funded educational system, this would go much further to giving kids the opportunities they deserve then simply tweaking a dysfunctional system. As the war in Iraq continues, costing the city approximately $1,000,000,000 that could have transformed the BPS, I will continue in campaigning to make our schools no-recruiting zones for the military.

MARTIN HOGAN: I have always believed that the power of the government for the City of Boston belongs in the hands of its residents. That includes voting for your best representative at city hall and it includes schooling. While I strongly believe in neighborhood schools, I believe it is up to each parent to decide where to send their child for the best possible education. As parents, you deserve to choose to keep your child close to home or if a school has better opportunities such as vocational training or special education, across the city, you can choose that option.  We do not need to bus children all over the city on nearly empty buses wasting precious time, money and resources.  We should not be worrying about rich schools versus poor schools. We need every school to be well funded and held to the highest standards for safety and quality education. We need more parental involvement, attention and resources for each child to close the achievement gap and give them the opportunities to succeed.

COUNCILOR SAM YOON: I support the movement toward community and neighborhood schools so long as a every school aged child in every neighborhood has access to a quality school. In schools all across the city, I am seeing families, parents and the community invest energy, volunteer time and interest in their neighborhood school. Education quality and school pride are vastly increased by this investment. I am working to find ways to support parents who want to become active in their child’s school, by increasing the number of Family Community Outreach Coordinators (FCOC’s) and pushing for paid leave time for working parents to visit at their child’s school. Unfortunately, not all schools are functioning at the level or achieving the results we seek for our children and so we have work to do before implementing an overhaul of our school assignment plan based on strictly walk-to schools.

Candidate David Wyatt and Councilor Stephen Murphy did not respond to the questionnaire.

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