Letter: Mission Hill School should regain citywide status

March 15, 2013
By

A version of this letter was sent to Boston Public Schools officials, Mayor Thomas Menino and the Boston City Council:

We are writing to express our deep concern about the impact of the proposed school assignment plans on the Mission Hill School (MHS) specifically. In summary, MHS is a phenomenal, unique, internationally recognized school. Its staff and community are deeply committed to maintaining the school’s diverse socioeconomic balance and serving specifically underserved families and neighborhoods. At present, the Home Based/A plan, approved this week by the External Advisory Committee, will only marginally maintain the socioeconomic diversity of Mission Hill.  We ask that you consider making Mission Hill a citywide school.

We urge you to ensure that MHS maintains its socioeconomic diversity, as such diversity is inextricably connected to the school’s mission and is a draw for families and a critical part of the school community. The most straightforward approach could be to have the school regain its citywide status, which it retained for 12 years but lost two years ago. Or is it possible to reserve seats for families with low economic status and grow this population, too, just as we reserve seats for students with special needs? However the diversity is achieved, economic, learning, racial, religious and language differences (among others) are crucial elements to sustain the MHS community.

The documentary videos now being released at ayearatmissionhill.com, as well as the new book by Matthew Knoester, “Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School,” point to this school’s wide recognition and value. The upheaval the school faced by moving to Jamaica Plain was tremendous, yet this phenomenal community rallied. A condition of the move was that students in the North Zone would still be able to attend the school, to try to maintain the school’s diversity. This compromise was both incredibly important and insufficient; the socioeconomic diversity of the school has changed markedly this year because of the school’s move from Mission Hill to Jamaica Plain and the change in which neighborhoods are within the walk zone.

We believe a quality education for every child, and certainly for every student in the city of Boston, is of utmost importance for the survival of our fundamental values and democracy. We hope you will seriously consider the feedback from QUEST and similar groups expressing reservations about the current school reassignment process, the speed at which these weighty decisions are being made, the impact such rapid and abrupt changes have on the faith of parents in the school system, and whether the proposed changes will actually improve school quality and/or socioeconomic diversity.

Because there are many voices advocating on the greater process, we are focusing specifically on the needs of Mission Hill in the BPS system and imploring you to ensure that it regain its original socioeconomic diversity by becoming a citywide school and uniquely giving all children in Boston the diverse, high-quality education that they deserve and require.

Arianna Montgomery

Roslindale

Amy Banzaert

Jamaica Plain

Editor’s Note: The writers are parents at the Mission Hill K-8 School.