Parents complain about lack of school assignment details

Some local parents voiced their displeasure during a Boston Public Schools (BPS) community meeting to discuss crafting a new student-assignment plan. About 30 people attended the March 31 meeting at English High School.

James Lesnick, a Jamaica Plain resident with a son at West Roxbury’s Kilmer K-8 School, said there was a lack of substance in packets handed out to attendees and criticized the BPS for filling those packets with surveys.

“This is generality,” said Lesnick. “How can we move forward if we have a meeting on generalities?”

He added later, “I assumed you knew why people are choosing different schools and are unsatisfied.”

BPS officials responded that the feedback gathered at the meeting would help them create the new plan.

“The plan has not been determined. What you tell us here will help us formulate the new plan,” said BPS CFO John McDonough, a lifelong JP resident.

McDonough also noted that they have gathered fruitful information about the issue in the past, which has led to some changes, including expanding the K-8 structure. He said BPS needs to know what drives the issue today.

BPS plans to hold more community meetings during the spring, summer and fall. There will be another meeting in JP today April 13 at the Hennigan Elementary School from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

BPS also has formed a school-assignment advisory committee, which recently held its first meeting that was clouded by the fact the committee had an unknown mission statement. BPS plans to submit a new school-assignment plan to the School Committee in December.

The March 31 meeting broke into several groups discussing the pressing issues with school assignment. Alex Pelletier, a JP resident, spoke about the need to get information about school admission early so she can make real estate, financial and school decisions.

“I need data to inform my probability of getting my kids into a school,” she said. “I need to know if I have no chance of making this work out.”

She spoke about her experience in trying to get her daughter into three different schools for kindergarten this year. When she wasn’t accepted to any of them, the daughter attended another year of preschool at a private school.

Asked by the Gazette if she felt the community meetings were productive, Pelletier responded, “I think they can be fruitful. I think the methods and process needs to more specific and concrete. These questions are very vague.”

The groups gathered towards the end of the meeting to discuss the ideas and comments they had come up with, which included:

  • Conducting a more transparent school-assignment process.
  • Having qualitative and quantitative data to help inform parents about school choices.
  • School choice becomes less important when schools across the board are equal.
  • Providing a group-choice option. That would entail three or four families being in a group, and whichever family was accepted into the best school, the rest would also be allowed to attend.
  • Issuing a concrete proposal early so the public can provide feedback.

“We want real ideas sooner rather than later,” said Sarah Rocha, a JP resident with two kids about to enter the school system.

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