MPU Parent Voices: Back to School

By Rodolfo Aguilar

Kids and families are settling back into their routines as summer winds down and we start the new school year. While some parents are super excited for their kids as they attend the school of their choice, other parents might be nervous, frustrated and or even angry.

My niece was attending 6th grade at Haley School in Roslindale last year, which is a Level 3 school. This year, she will be going to 7th grade at the Boston Latin Academy. Her parents have always been involved in school activities at Haley School, they have a great relationship with the teachers, but they realized they needed a different type of school for their children. They realized they wanted school choice. In the past, they have even thrown their names in the hat to see if their names get picked to attend the Brooke Charter School.

The biggest problem that parents are experiencing is the way that Boston Public Schools operates and the way that children’s schools get assigned to them, which is often not necessarily the schools of their choice. Year after year, we hear the same story – my kid is trapped in a Level 3 or 4 school. The curriculums in the classrooms are simply not preparing kids in the urban areas to the academic challenges they will face in the years to come— and we don’t even have a viable vocational option in the city of Boston.

When it comes to bringing new schools to the city, BuildBPS seems to be stalled. After years and years of waiting, parents finally witnessed the opening of the new Dearborn STEM Academy, a fancy building with a price tag of more than $70 million.

We welcome the idea of a new school with state of the art rooms, chairs, boards. But this school only hosts 600 students. And when you think about the fact that there are 54,312 students in the BPS system, many of which are attending failing schools, this one new building doesn’t say much about the sense of urgency that seems to be missing. Not to mention the fact that these schools won’t feature new educators or leadership — two of the most important things that can really impact school performance — especially a school like the Dearborn that has been failing for a very long time.

Just the other day, I was driving around ourneighborhood and noticed old school buildings converted into condominiums. The number of these buildings in Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Roxbury, and Dorchester is staggering.

Apparently, during the time when Thomas Menino was Mayor, he was closing schools left and right. I remember when he closed down Jamaica Plain High School and moved English High in order to sell the building to Emmanuel College. Years after his death, the New Dearborn STEM Academy is supposed to be his legacy. Unfortunately, when it comes to Menino’s legacy in regards to Boston schools, not much good comes to mind.

I don’t know if you are catching on to what I am sharing with you, but it makes my blood pressure go up just thinking about it. Public education in this state and in this country has got to change, and it’s up to us as parents. We the parents need to stand up for what is best for our kids, we can’t keep gambling with their futures by signing their names up to all different schools in hopes that they will finally get into a good one. All kids should have access to a great school, but the reality is that the majority of our kids of color are attending failing schools.

Today, we have Martin Walsh as our beloved Mayor of Boston. He has promised over a billion dollars to build more public schools for our kids, and I welcome his gesture and hope he delivers on this promise. I have recently seen buildings going up everywhere, but not a single school. And it’s been more than five years!

Parents – I have suggestion for you, and that is to get involved in your kids education. Attend parents meetings, talk to your kid’s teacher, make sure he or she is not falling behind in their academics. Remember, you are the only one that can make a huge difference in the present and future academic success of your kids.

I encourage you to be part of Massachusetts Parents United.

What do you think?

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