Local resident pens book about BPS

June 8, 2012
By

(Photo Courtesy Susan Naimark) Susan Naimark.

Susan Naimark, a Jamaica Plain resident who has lived on Paul Gore Street for 35 years, has written a book about her experience with Boston Public Schools (BPS) as a parent, parent organizer and member of the School Committee.

She said the book, titled “The Education of a White Parent: Wrestling with Race and Opportunity in the Boston Public Schools,” looks at the racial dynamic in the system and how that plays with equity and privilege.

“There is a lot that goes on that people don’t like to talk about,” said Naimark.

Naimark said one part of the book deals with her time spent as the co-chair of the Trotter Elementary School Parent Council in 1992. She said at the time, 15 percent of the children at the school were white, but made up the majority in selective programs such as chorus and school newspaper. Naimark said the council discussed such racial issues, which brought problem-solving to another level.

“It wasn’t easy, but the sky didn’t fall down,” she said. “We put these issues on the table to talk about.”

Naimark had two sons go through BPS from kindergarten to 12th grade and had a foster child attend BPS for two years. All told, they went to 11 different schools from 1985 to 2002.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “What I found, there are a lot of pretty good schools in the system. More than I expected. But there are also serious problems in the system.”

Naimark was a member of the School Committee from 1997 to 2005. She said it was a challenging experience that gave her a lot of gray hairs, but was glad she did it.

“It’s important people step up and participate that way,” said Naimark.

Naimark still follows BPS news and commented on its controversial school-move plan, saying that BPS should have collected public opinion before making the decision.

“One thing I learned on the School Committee, when people aren’t involved in the process, that’s a problem,” she said.

Naimark also remarked on BPS’s attempt for a new school-assignment plan, saying it is an issue that is visited every five to 10 years. She said it was a problem when she was on the committee and that people who feel empowered are very quick to request neighborhood schools.

But, Naimark said, BPS should not reduce choice for people who don’t live near decent schools. BPS needs to make sure all schools are decent before it starts restricting choices.

Naimark said she hopes people take from her book that public schools are worth supporting for the sake of communities and democracy.  But, she added, people have to talk about race in order for schools to be equal for all people and that white people can play an important role in addressing these concerns.

For more information about the book, visit levellerspress.com. Naimark will also be speaking about the book July 12 at the Jamaica Plain Forum at the First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian-Universalist.