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Grove Hall Families Demeaned with New Student Assignment Plan

Project RIGHTAccording to Michael Kozu, Community Coordinator for Project Right, "The new Student Assignment Plan for Improving School choice will limit access and opportunities for Grove Hall families.  And it will destabilize our neighborhood!  There is no clear, accessible pathway for Grove Hall families to be prioritized into having their child(ren) be assigned to their neighborhood Lilla Frederick Pilot Middle School!" 

Project RIGHT is asking EVERYONE to speak out, to contact the Boston School Committee to register their concerns.  Speak out!  Send in your comments to the Boston School Committee and Superintendent John McDonough.

Click here for contact information.

Grove Hall Families Lack Equal School Access

School Assignment Plan Unclear
Despite months of discussion, there has been no change for Grove Hall Families in having equal access to quality, neighborhood schools.  The recently approved Student Assignment Plan for "Improving School Choice", along with the proposed "Grow with Boston" (Capital Facility Master Plan Update: FY 2014-2018), raises too many questions, and provides not enough answers or information, to justify a rushed process to push through a decision in changing how students are assigned to Boston Public Schools.

Prefer Separate Middle Schools
How the traditional middle schools (Grades 6-8) are being addressed identified in this process is problematic.  A significant number of parents prefer the traditional middle schools which isolate the middle school developmental issues from those experienced by elementary school students.

Lilla Frederick School Popular in the West Zone
The Lilla Frederick Pilot Middle School has been one of your more highly sought after schools in the West Zone.  Some parents, from all parts of the West Zone, keep their students in the school rather than having them go to other schools (including exam schools).  There is a disproportionate number of English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities who are assigned to the LGFPMS, because of the quality of the programs that are offered at the school.

Access to Local School and School Building for Community
Finally, the Grove Hall neighborhood has a quality school building that is new, with up to date technology (one to one laptop program), modern science facilities, spacious gymnasium and multi purpose field, auditorium, cafeteria and kitchen facilities, library and specific rooms dedicated to the arts, dance and music and supportive services that engages students throughout the school day, after school and Saturdays!  The Grove Hall community also uses it intensely after school and during the summer given the lack of comprehensive, safe havens in the area.

How will the New Plan Work for Grove Hall Familities?

The proposed feeder schools for the Frederick will be the Holland (Bowdoin/Geneva), Holmes (Four Corners) and Mather (Bowdoin/ Adams St.), which is outside of the Grove Hall neighborhood.  Previous proposed assignment maps for both Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners excluded the vast majority of the Grove Hall neighborhood from the Frederick.  This exclusion takes places even though the present student assignment process has disproportionately assigned a significant majority of students to the Frederick who is English Language Learners, former students from the English Language Learner program and Students with Disabilities.  At the Frederick, students who are English Language Learners and/ or Students with Disabilities are not segregated within the school; rather they are included with all students throughout the school day.

Adding insult to injury, the new assignment plan (and proposed Middle School pathways) rushes through the idea of converting the Trotter elementary school into a K-8 school building with an undersized gymnasium and cafeteria, limited technology, library, science and arts resources.  School officials are proclaiming the illusion that this proposed K-8 school will be equitable to the lost access, and opportunities that Grove Hall neighborhood students are giving up in not being able to apply to the Frederick under the proposed plan.  The Trotter also only had 7.6% English Language Learner students and 13.7% Special Education students in the 2011-2012 School year.  In comparison, The Frederick has over 42% English Language Learner students, 15% Special Education students and 11% FLEP (former ELL) students this year.

The Grove Hall neighborhood which has fully supported the building and implementation of this school, during the past twelve years, will now be effectively excluded from having an opportunity to choose this school.  It is only a myth that Grove Hall will have school choice and an opportunity to go to a neighborhood school that has competitive resources with suburban schools!  There are no Grove Hall Elementary schools that is proposed to be a feeder school for the Lilla Frederick Pilot Middle School!

Lack of Community Process for Grove Hall Families

There is not enough discussion, and not enough information is being provided, to understand the differences between the proposed K-8 models and the traditional middle schools (Grades 6-8).  What we do understand in looking at the proposed maps, there is a complete bias towards providing the general public information about the K-8 schools and while mostly deemphasizing the traditional middle schools and making it hard for parents to search for them.

We are not surprised by this lack of community process, or having a one sided process, by the Boston Public Schools.  After all, they completely bypassed Grove Hall community process in the past closings of the Higginsom and Quincy Dickerman school buildings.

In reviewing the newly approved Student Assignment Plan for Improving School Choice and "Grow with Boston" (Capital Facility Master Plan Update: FY2014-2018), the new plan would accelerate the inequalities within Boston public schools by neighborhood and not address the fact that access to quality, neighborhood schools for students in an area like Grove Hall will be a myth.  There are far, too many students and not enough school building capacity in the Grove Hall neighborhood.

Students in the Grove Hall neighborhood will more likely be forced to get onto a MBTA bus to go to middle school.  For example, students from the David Ellis Elementary School are in a feeder system with the Dearborn Middle School (Dudley Square) rather than the Frederick Pilot Middle School which is much closer.  The proposed plan divides Grove Hall up, and will make it impossible for families who presently have children going to the Frederick, from having future siblings go to this school.  Presently, you can watch the Frederick’s students walking from all areas of Grove Hall to the school in their uniforms.

What will the New Plan Deliver?

You will have less choice, less opportunities and unequal accessibility!  The proposed plan will force more parents to rely upon the MBTA to send their child to school rather than having the School Department transport the student.  Public transportation is very uneven in the Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan neighborhoods, especially if you are not close to a main bus route (which many of our public schools are not). 

What choices can you make?  What schools or programs will you have access to?  Who will disproportionately be bused given that there are not enough middle school seats in our Grove Hall neighborhood in comparison to how many children who live here?  What turf issues will your middle school student face in being assigned to schools outside of their neighborhood? 

Let’s be clear about the disruption that may occur in this transition from going from one assignment process to another.  Those issues need to be discussed thoroughly before rushing through a decision process.  Let’s not repeat the same rushed and flawed process of the past school closure decision and then realizing that there are not enough seats for new and young incoming students.

Strong Grove Hall Partnerships Growing for Decades

For decades, the Grove Hall neighborhood has suffered through inadequately funded schools and school buildings that were out of compliance.  Over fifteen years of organizing took place by the parents, students and the community finally resulted in the significant renovation of the Jeremiah E. Burke High School/ Grove Hall Community Center and Grove Hall Library Branch.  Over twelve years of organizing took place by the parents, students and the community that has led to the establishment of the Lilla Frederick Pilot Middle School as a safe haven for the Grove Hall neighborhood.  After all these years, it is ironic, that once comparable resources become available to our neighborhood, this "school choice" proposal is being floated that will exclude Grove Hall families from accessing these opportunities.

These partnerships that have been created, which also includes the police, schools and representatives from other community and public agencies, have significantly changed the overall climate of the Grove Hall neighborhood.   These gains can be quickly reversed with significant consequences.  Densely populated, with limited local after school and prevention opportunities, Grove Hall is facing destabilization with this proposal!  Don’t rush the process.

Transportation and public safety for these children will create significant challenges for these students to get to schools within one mile of their homes, especially since BPS will not provide school bus transportation.  (If you live by the Holmes, you will have to take the 23 and then the 16, which are not the most reliable buses to get to the Frederick.  From the Mather, you could take the 15 and then the 16 which also are not the most reliable buses to get to the Frederick)  Or you can walk and try to get past the busy traffic of Columbia Road (we had a student struck by a vehicle on Columbia Road and we have three pedestrian deaths including a nine year old crossing Columbia Road). 

There is no clear explanation about how Grove Hall students who may pick the Lilla Frederick Pilot Middle School (Grades 6-8) based upon that they may live near the school, will be selected as opposed to the students who are in the proposed feeder system of the Holland (near Bowdoin/ Geneva) or the Holmes (Four Corners) or Mather (near Bowdoin/ Adams St.).

The school department has continually imposed an artificially low cap on student enrollment at the Frederick which limits the number of Grove Hall neighborhood students from being assigned to the school (and decreases the school’s resources).  Also, there is a disproportionately number of English Language Learners, FLEP and Students with Disabilities assigned to the school (we certainly welcome and will continue to recruit these students).  For the FY’14’s budget and student enrollment figures, the school department is using the number of 619 students (November 2012) to project that there will only be 606 students for next year (creating a smaller school budget), rather than use the actual number of 653 students (June 21, 2013) as a starting point.

Speak out!  Send in your comments to the Boston School Committee and Superintendent John McDonough:

The School Committee Office
26 Court Street, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02108

Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Email:  feedback@bostonpublicschools.org
Phone: 617-635-9014
Fax: 617-635-9689
Superintendent John McDonough
Boston School Department
26 Court St.
Boston, MA 02108

Email:  superintendent (@bostonpublicschools.org)
Phone:  617-635-9050
Fax: 617-635-9059

Contents submitted by Michael Kozu, Project RIGHT, Inc. Community Coordinator (617.541.5451.x102 or m_kozu@hotmail.com)
Formatted by Uphams Corner News

Posted: November 22, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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