Councilor holds school assignment meetings

April 27, 2012
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At-Large City Councilor John Connolly feels that there is a middle road that can be reached on the attempt to modify the Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) school-assignment plan, he said in a recent Gazette interview. He has been holding meetings with parents throughout the city on the matter.

“I’m more convinced than ever that there is a way to build a consensus policy that works for all kids,” he said.

Connolly, who is the chair of the Council’s Committee on Education, has held 20 meetings so far, several of which have been in Jamaica Plain, and plans to hold another 20 in May. According to Connolly, each meeting consists of five to 20 parents discussing their thoughts on the school-assignment plan. The meetings are arranged by the parents contacting Connolly.

The councilor said he will gather what he has learned from the meetings and offer his findings in June to the external advisory committee. Mayor Thomas Menino and Superintendent Carol Johnson formed that committee to help design a new school-assignment plan, which BPS plans to submit to the School Committee in December.

The first time the advisory committee met was March 19 at English High School, where members were unclear on the mission statement. Comments about the vagueness of the process were also reported by the Gazette during a community meeting held March 31 at English High School by BPS on the school-assignment plan. Some parents there expressed disbelief that BPS didn’t already know what was wrong with the current plan and what improvements they wanted.

For his part, Connolly commended the mayor on forming the advisory committee and said he wants a transparent process that will succeed.

During his meetings, Connolly said he tries to keep his personal comments brief, instead opting to spend the majority of time listening. The councilor likes the meetings to cover three main subjects: the parents experience with the school lottery; general beliefs about what makes a quality school; and the parents overall experience with BPS, such as what’s working and what’s not working.

“There’s really no monolithic opinion anywhere,” said Connolly. “I have heard varied opinions across the groups I have met with.”

The councilor, who called the meetings fascinating and informative, noted he is covering every neighborhood and cross-section of the city, including meeting with Chinese, Somalian and Cape Verdian parents. He’s also not limiting himself to just BPS parents, as he is meeting with parents of private and Catholic school children, too.

“We’ll go to listen anywhere in the city where someone will have us,” said Connolly.

To contact the councilor, call 617-635-3115 or email John.R.Connolly@cityofboston.gov.

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