Boston City Councilor At-Large John Connolly credits the School Department with doing a lot of work on their proposed five plans for changing school choice - but the Council's Education chairman also has major concerns with the proposals.
"First it was clear from the presentation that the 'no zone' plan and the '23-zone plan' are not under real consideration. And it seems as BPS wants to drive the process towards a compromise on the '6' or '9' zone plans," said Connolly, in an interview with Patch.
"My second concern is that there were not a lot of specifics on upgrading quality across all schools. And so I think those are the big factors going forward. The citizen advisory committee needs to push for some different options," said Connolly, who attended the public Monday night meeting.
Boston Public School officials said they feel all five plans are viable. Read Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's column on the school choice process here.
Connolly said all of the plans lack specific quality upgrades to schools. He said the 'no zone' and the '23-zone' plans are the two that do the best job at getting students closer to home.
Connolly said the public was always told the proposals would also include providing quality schools. He said he'd like to see more inclusive programmings for special need students, a better teacher and principal accountability plan, and adjusting the funding formula for schools.
Like his fellow councilors, Connolly said he's still digesting the plan, but stressed that BPS has a short time period to choose a plan. No official date has been made public, but it is known a plan is expected to be approved by November.
There will be 11 public community meetings across the city for residents to attend, whether you have a student in schools or not.
But Connolly stressed he wants the process done with and soon, balking at slowing down the process. "No. No. We need to do this. We could take all the time in the world. We need to do this and upgrade quality and get kids going closer to home. We still have a lot of questions that need to get answered. Hopefully it will happen in a very short time."
On two specific neighborhoods, Connolly said all plans seem to divide West Roxbury and Roslindale into two areas, and the '23-zone' and '11-zone' plans give West Roxbury it's own assignment zone. But he added that BPS "basically telegraphed that they don't feel those plans are viable. I don't mean to get folks' hopes up."
Connolly said on first glances none of the plans present a horrible situation for any neighborhood. "It wasn’t about a neighborhood thing. It was about to make sure (every school) has real support to make them high quality."
Connolly's advice to parents and resident? "I think it’s very important that people push BPS to get more specific quality upgrades on the table on the whole for any plan. So real close-to-home options can pass."
At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley offered a written statement on BPS' plan: "Although there has already been an extensive community process, the most important part of the process is only now just beginning - critical feedback from teachers, parents and students about five possible scenarios for a new student assignment plan. Like families throughout our city, I am still digesting the proposals and will have many questions. Moving forward, I want the community participation process to continue, and feedback from families to be taken seriously. Achieving consensus and reaching common ground will be challenging, but I'm hopeful we'll get closer to meaningful and sustainable reform that provides quality education, ensures equal opportunity, cost savings, and maintains the diversity within every classroom."
District 6 City Councilor Matt O'Malley did not attend the BPS meeting, but a legislative aide did. On Tuesday, O'Malley sat in a council briefing with Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson about BPS' plans.
"There a number of different options out there. I’m excited. I think some great work and innovate plans are being offered. This is a very deliberative process because we’re making some significant changes," said O'Malley to Patch. "I’m looking forward to continuing a robust transparent process. And working ultimately toward strong vibrant schools in every neigborhood and providing every student the opportunity to go to schools closest to their houses.
Like Connolly, O'Malley said more data needs to be provided and how each plan would work and be implemented.
O'Malley added he will attend the Oct. 4 School Choice meeting at the Ohrenberger School from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.