BPS questioned on how to achieve strategic goals

February 28, 2014
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The Boston School Committee held a roundtable session in Jamaica Plain on Feb. 24 for the Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) strategic vision. The meeting was planned to discuss the content of the vision’s goals and priorities, but attendees were mostly concerned with how those would be implemented.

About 30 people attended English High School for the roundtable session, the last of five such meetings that the School Committee held. The School Committee will now take the input it has received and come back later this winter or early spring with a finalized version. That will be a culmination of a process that started in 2012.

The strategic vision covers five thematic categories: improved student outcomes; improved school quality; strong district leadership and high-quality teachers and staff; effective resource allocation; and greater community engagement. Each category then has a goal statement and priority area.

While attendees quarreled with some of the language in the goals and priorities, the strongest criticism was directed to how the vision would be implemented.

“We spend a lot of time on the what, but not enough on the how,” said Kim Janey of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

She said she wants a lot of thought to go into structuring of the “how.”

Other attendees talked about the implementation happening behind closed doors and that there are barriers, such as institutional racism, that need to be discussed and broken down.

Ivan Reyes, a 2010 graduate of Charlestown High School and member of the Latino group South Boston en Accion, talked about growing up in a Boston Housing Authority housing development and the challenges faced by such students.

“BHA is not an environment that encourages educational improvement,” he said.

Michael O’Neill, chair of the School Committee, discussed a three-tier system for at-risk students that involve teachers, students, and at least one caring adult. He also said that while it is the School Committee’s role to develop the vision and BPS’s and Interim Superintendent John McDonough’s role to implement it, he does believe the process should be open.

“I agree there has to be community involvement in every step along the way,” he said.