The board of Jamaica Plain Community Centers (JPCC), also called a “council,” would like to set the story straight in the latest chapter in the saga of Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ (BCYF) draining resources from the “oversaturated” neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. JPCC has four centers—at Curtis Hall, English High, the Agassiz School and the Hennigan School. The word “saturate” means “to fill completely with something that permeates or pervades.” To that charge, we plead guilty.
JPCC permeates the halls of English High with programming for teens after school hours that includes a cooking and nutrition class, MCAS tutoring, fitness and aerobics, conflict resolution, drama, dance and sports. We also saturate the building with our Adult Learning Program (ALP). Some are here to learn basic English and then move on to literacy while others work to complete GED or learn both job and advocacy skills as they prepare to seek better jobs.
Our gym is in constant use with PeeWee Basketball, teen leagues, CYO and our adult teams. The dance studio hosts both dance and karate classes, and the weight room is available for the sports teams at English and teens under adult supervision.
Many residents have attended community meetings in the English High auditorium and/or the cafeteria. A neighborhood needs gathering places that are open to the public, affordable, handicapped accessible, close to public transportation and have free parking and are safe.
Each local community center received a phone call from BCYF recently. I received a call in the evening, but when I returned the call, it was not returned. I found out from a reporter at this newspaper that half the JPCC sites, the one at English High School and the one at the Agassiz, would be consolidated.
As to BCYF Executive Director Daphne Griffin’s quote in the April 30 Gazette, “We can’t notify them before our union,” I will say that, as a union vice president for over 20 years, I know she is being disingenuous.
Ms. Griffin opines that, “There was a wide range of input” at community meetings about closures, but she neglects to define “wide range.” The Roslindale meeting had about 15 people who weren’t city employees, and the other two meetings weren’t significantly better attended.
She said the meetings offered the one chance for the local board members to be heard, but that is not how the meetings were billed. I am an active council chairperson, a member of the citywide board and former chairperson of that board for many years. I am crystal clear about the purpose of those community meetings. Smoke and mirrors come to mind, but not local board input or dialogue with us as “partners” with the City.
The JPCC board is prepared to advocate for our site at English High to remain as a community center with city staff when it re-opens after summer building renovations. We readily acknowledge that the Agassiz center will have to be downsized. We are prepared to work with the Boston School Department to offer after-school programs for the children with our council staff.
The “new partners” that Ms. Griffin says she wants to entice may well take notice of the nature of the relationship that the old, long-term, proven partners have and continue to endure. The JPCC council wants to continue to saturate English High and our neighborhood with programs, accessibility to community space and the provision of a safe haven for teens. We implore the mayor to direct BCYF back to the table. We are willing to do our share, but we need to be at the table, not on the table.
Kerry A. Costello