Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November Meeting of the Board of Education public comment

The agenda is here. It will start with comments by the Chair, the Commissioner, the Secretary, and the public.
updating as we go
Oh, and they're livestreaming

Sagan calls Board to Order: all members present save Morton (Sagan says he's in traffic)
Sagan: a few comments to begin
Board held retreat; particularly pleased "that we talked about mission and goal"
often caught up on what we need to process
"effectively reaffirming the mission of the Board"
closing proficiency gaps, preparing all students for life after graduation
where are the challenges and what makes a difference in kids' lives
calls on Noyce on Commissioner's evaluation
Board members have criteria for evaluation of Commissioner; asks for comments on balance or items to be sent to her (cites personal email address...kind of a problem, since Board members are subject o public records laws)
asks Commissioner for what they can get done
hope to have subcommittee meeting sooner rather than later

Commissioner: thought retreat discussion "a terrific discussion"
updates: some promotions and appointments
Note still three more #ESSA forums: tonight, Brockton High
December 1, Holyoke High
December 6, Collins Middle, Salem
Update on New Heights in Brockton: making "very good progress"
have cleared "a number of key hurdles"
nobody has appealed the decisions of the zoning board to approve their parking
construction on Brockton site continues on schedule; hopes to move in during next few weeks
updates on UP Holland and on the Dever (which I have in writing; hope to update as possible)

No comments from Peyser

Public comment
some parents from the Mattahunt are expected "but are still on the bus"
instead comment on American Sign Language licensure: requirements set forth by department "are essentially unobtainable" due to course work available in the state right now
"not equal opportunity for all teachers for all subjects"
"I believe that if you look at the numbers right now there are zero certified teachers in ASL in Massachusetts right now"
why not ask those who are in and doing it to create an MTEL?
no paper trail to show he learned ASL (as he grew up with it)
department requires teachers to be certified in the field they teach; certification virtually impossible to get
Sagan asks what could be done about this (to Commissioner)
Chester says he'll come back to the Board

Sagan calling parents from Mattahunt forward
Sagan "appreciate when parents and students, who we don't get to hear from nearly enough, come"

mother of daughter at Mattahunt since she was in K-1, when the school became a turnaround school
"my daughter loves her school; we walk to school every day. We live down the street."
daughter is now in third grade
"As a parent, I don't know what Level 4 means. I don't know what turnaround status means...all I know is that my daughter does well."
picked that school because there are kids there from all over the world
79.9% ELL students
some of the kids speak four languages; "English will be their fifth language"
school is a very big school; could hold up to 900 students
second floor for first grade "kids behave differently"
"kids become an 'excess school' in first grade" if kids don't have anywhere else to go, they come to the Mattahunt School until parents can find a place to fit their needs
many have been expelled from elsewhere
issue with teachers not showing up for work
"when they closed the Greenwood, a lot of teachers stopped showing up for work"
Sagan: "Normally people ask us for something; do you have a specific request?"
"I take it you're in opposition to the city's decision to close the school."
she responds: city needs to address what the issues are in the letter
"you'll never know what those kids' issues will be, as those kids will never take a high-stakes test"
another mother: two children at the Mattahunt
decision to close the school "does not speak to the experience of the parents"
"this is their school home"
"my family--my mother--can walk to the school to get my child"
"my child, coming from a traumatic situation, he doesn't want to go to a new school"
"they're trying to make decision for us, without taking us in"
"how do you expect the school to be successful, you're not supporting the school"
"we all have people in our lives who help us with our children who are in the community"
BPS parent, but have put kids in private school to Boston Latin, who is a BPS graduate
"every school I went through is closed except for the Charles Taylor"
46 year resident of Mattapan
"seeing those schools closing and closing, particularly in Dorchester and Mattapan"
"we don't have the resources"
"you're supposed to provide the resources, but you don't provide the resources"
"and charter schools are not the option, because we know the problems with charter schools"
"ask that you provide the resources to keep the Mattahunt open" and expand it to K-8
why does he still live in Mattapan? "I'm from Haiti"
not enough language specialists for the needs of schools

Councilor Tito Jackson: speaking on behalf of the 638 students and their parents
School Committee voted to close the school
the Mattahunt community opposed decision but also opposed downgrade to Level 5
20 students have been part of a school closing already
asks the Board extend Level 4 status and appoint a "district-friendly receiver"
community strongly believes this will allow committee to reconsider their decision
"who otherwise would be scattered without their consent"
accord them the same degree of regard you have show other communities in the Commonwealth
working together "rather than fear and the byproducts we see from fear"

Barbara Fields former BPS teacher, "looking at issues of equity and fairness"
come as part of the Mattapan community to address the correspondence that was received from Commissioner Chester
"I have not seen the level of concern and dedication to an issue as I've seen around the closure of the school"
"one of the reasons we were late, is we were waiting for additional parents"
timing of the meeting makes it impossible
proposals: instead of closing school, create an innovation school
give an extended Level 4 status, with receiver being superintendent
those who have already gone through one school closure not be put through it again and not separating children (of different grades)
"it's about the children"
"we know the state, the city, and the school department has the capacity to turn that school around"
recommending Jeff Riley (currently receiver in Lawrence) as a receiver

Fryer: question to Chester about what can be done
Chester: Level 4 since 2012
plan from local stakeholder group
$2M over last few years to support turnaround plan
fewer than 1 in 5 student on grade level on ELA, math, science
gains are also low
Chester says ELL students are 1/4 of students in school (WAY different than testimony from public)
put on a "concern" list: "more of the same isn't going to get us improvement"
Committee voted to close school; students to get preference to slots in districts
parents will get counseling for placement
district will create an early learning center
"met my criteria as to if students would get a stronger education"
parent referred to "an excess school"
where there are many open seats; where students who didn't get into other options
Q: 70% of students are black students; is it possible that there's an issue with coding of ELL?
Chester dances through background of parents, process of decision of if kids need ELL services

Lisa Guisbond, ED of Citizens for Public Schools:
urge you all to resist the impulse to intervene without listening to the Mattahunt community
"clear that the Boston School Committee's vote to close the Mattahunt was a preemptive move to prevent takeover"
"all sides agreed that state takeover would be a tragedy for all"
accountability system isn't working for cities, isn't working for communities of color
a system that gave greater weight to growth scores would result in a different rating for the Mattahunt

co-chair of Mattapan United: recognize parents and stakeholders for being here today
context to this conversation: school notified parents over the weekend by notes in backpacks (without context of what the meeting was about)
community "resolute and vociferous in their opposition to the plan"
"the temperature as it relates to this has not changed"
collected signatures, gathered testimony for Committee meeting
community's contention that the resources need to get the Mattahunt where it needed to be where never extended: "that money is primarily extended towards extended day program"
"if you don't understand the language" you can't make the changes
need English in order to do math
"victim of benign neglect"
has had four principals in six years under three superintendents
"if this was the school of your children, would you accept that this is the only answer?"
looking for true partnership with community, not delivering a plan that is already organized
"this is fundamentally an equity issue, primarily to communities of color"
Mattahunt cannot afford to lose an elementary school

Weisenberg: the Mattahunt "not a highly chosen school" under the school assignment plan
"is supposed to be an equity analysis every year...those analyses have not been done"
"issue of assignment that needs to be revised"
one mile assignment zone; school abuts a cemetery; fewer families demanding the school
"if DESE had a good operator lined up, I believe we would have heard of it" (Chair O'Neil)
committee basically has no confidence in state takeover
asks that Commissioner withhold approval of closure (which isn't required) and extend Level 4

Robert Jenkins, 46 year resident, community center had been closed
74% of residents of Mattapan own their homes; a lot of neighborhood went to Mattahunt
graduate of Madison Park
"a number of schools has closed down...looking at breaking up that legacy"
"kids aren't going to be able to go to a neighborhood school"
"you're supposed to be monitoring all the schools in the state"
"I see that Mattahunt did not get the necessary resources for what they had"
 Stewart Q: Mattapan United: community organization in Mattapan to champion issues that are critical to Mattapan
end public testimony
Item is third on the agenda

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