Councilors’ views of BPS school moves differ

May 25, 2012
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The Boston City Council was slated to decide the fate of the controversial Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) $19 million school-move plan this week. Councilor Mike Ross, who represents Hyde Square, is calling it a “bad plan,” while At-Large Councilor Felix Arroyo is battling an internal conflict on how to vote.

“I’m still deliberating within myself what to do,” said Arroyo, a Jamaica Plain resident.

The Council was expected to vote on Wednesday after the Gazette deadline.

The BPS plan calls for several schools to move, including the Mission Hill K-8 School coming to the now-vacant Agassiz School in JP. The K-8 school would share the building with the new bilingual Margarita Muñiz Academy.

The K-8 school leaving Mission Hill is what has particularly angered Ross.

“This is a bad plan because it injures a school community,” said Ross. “[BPS] Superintendent [Carol] Johnson said as much [during a May 17 meeting.] She apologized for what it does to the Mission Hill community. But that falls on deaf ears if she’s not willing to change the plan.”

Ross said that BPS rushed the process and mistakes were made because of that. He added that the superintendent is reluctant to pull back the proposal because she has been criticized for doing that too often in the past.

Last summer, Johnson announced a plan to move Boston Latin Academy to the old Hyde Park High School, but withdrew the proposal after a public backlash.

“They never considered that the plan is flawed,” Ross said of the current BPS plan. “The public thinks this plan is flawed. [BPS] never once tried to provide a different plan.”

Ross said that if BPS’s plan is approved, it is “not a victory but a defeat” and it would “forever change the Mission Hill community.”

BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder said, “We certainly respect Mike Ross’ concerns and have answered his questions, but this is the best plan for hundreds of students across the city, not just one city councilor’s district.”

He added, “We are trying to expand highly successful schools that have a proven track record of success.”

For Arroyo, the plan is not a clear-cut issue. He said that there is a lot of good in the plan, including the creation of the Muñiz Academy as the first bilingual school in the city.

Arroyo said that to the best of his knowledge, he can’t vote for parts of the plan and that it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. He said he realizes whatever he chooses, some people will be happy, while other will not be happy.

“I have to worry about what is the best move for the city of Boston,” he said. “I represent the whole city.”

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