Roslindale Public Schools Meeting

The Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, Dr. Carol R. Johnson, came to Roslindale Community Center this morning to listen to local parents. These are the personal but public notes of one parent. I’ll link to any other accounts of the meeting as I become aware of them.

Nut-Free ZoneI arrived a little after the published start time of 10:30am. The door proclaimed the room to be a nut-free zone. That’s good news, since parents have been known to get nutty (myself included). There was further good news inside in the form of coffee and mini-donuts (yes, Dunkin). I’d say that the room was set up for about 100 people. There were fewer than that when I arrived, and many more than that when CRJ arrived.

Two signin sheets were passed around. One asked for name and some demographics. Most of the people who signed it before me identified themselves as female, 25-54, and looks around the room reinforced that. The other signin sheet had Philbrick in the lead in terms of school affiliation at the early stage at which I saw it. A later show of hands suggested that “Haley wins.”

The superintendent was running late, on her way from a meeting in Dorchester. Councillor Rob Consalvo said a few words while we were waiting for her. At 11.05, she arrived and he introduced her. The message of his introduction was that “Doctor Johnson gets it.” Her opening was appropriate: thank you all for being here; sorry for being late; let me introduce some other members of the team. All the Roslindale principals were present.

Here are the questions and points from the parents, in the order they came up. I’ve captured the questions, rather than the answers, because I wanted to listen to CRJ and to her answers. My overall impression is that she good at listening, at appreciating multiple sides of an issue, and at gently giving people a side of the issue other than the one they raise. To illustrate this, I’ll leave in my notes on her response to the first question. The question was about the issue central to the meeting: changing schools from K-5 to K-8.

  • Change to K-8: economic necessity? It would help economically, in that it would consolidate facilities. But some parents prefer smaller, more intimate schools.
  • Advanced work: can it be accomodated in a K-5 school?
  • Assignment policies are inhibiting parental involvement, whereas involvement could be increased with K-8 in Roslindale, more walk zone slots,…
  • What is the possibility of K-6?
  • Boston is divided along lines of race and class: look around the meeting room and see that it’s not representative of Boston families.
  • There’s no real/good school choice, especially for grades 6-8.
  • Why put resources into “the K-8 thing” when we could fix what we already have, especially by making schools safer? (Next parent reinforced the same point.)
  • What’s the process for making decisions about changes to the school system?
  • On the aborted merger of Bates and Mozart into one K-8: it failed because the schools would have shrunk in terms of classes within each grade.
  • What decisions led to the establishment of the new pilot school in the particular form it is taking?*
  • Need more spaces in local schools for autistic kids.
  • There has been a lack of transparency and involvement in the decision-making process.
  • Improving the Irving school, and guaranteeing that the Roslindale elementary schools will feed into it, would be better than the current “scattered to the wind” regime.
  • Let’s be aware that the next few years will be a period of transition. Parents are flexible, but want to know where there kids will end up in the future.
  • City Councillor John Tobin, who arrived during the meeting, reported that he hears a lot of support from his constituents for the K-8 idea.
  • Would like to hear more from CRJ about what is going to happen.
  • Account of how the BTU pilot school* got to be the way it is: the programs, including grade 6, are being designed by teachers who are also parents.
  • The Haley school improved because parents were determined that it would do so: what would it take to make the same happen for the Irving school?
  • 6th grade transition presents “a dilemma and a nightmare.”
  • Fear that the small K-5 schools will become less chosen and hence less viable, leading to question: could 6th grade be added to exam schools, rather than to K-5?
  • Need more “social cohesion,” which is threatened by things like advanced work and exam schools.
  • As a new superintendent, how do you think that the things you’ve seen elsewhere might apply in Boston?

CRJ had to leave at 12:40, running even later than when she arrived. Despite starting late, the meeting was actually a little longer than scheduled. Other members of her team were able to stay on for further discussion (but I wasn’t).

I heard about the meeting through the Haley school, where my daughter has just started in K1. (So far so good, thank you for asking.) I didn’t see any advance notification at the Boston Public Schools site when I checked.

The meeting did turn out to be nut-free, in that the tone of discussion was reasonable. It wasn’t just the parents who were well-behaved: the kids who were at the meeting were very good and patient.

By the way, there is a wireless network in the Roslindale Community Center. But it is secure, and hence not available to the community.

That’s all from me for now. If you have written up your own account of the meeting, or of related issues, please let me know and I’ll link. If you have comments, please feel free to make them here.

* From the Boston Public Schools site: A new K-8 pilot school governed by the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) would open in the former Parkman School building in Jamaica Plain. The same web page gives further details of the recommendations in CRJ’s “Pathways to Excellence” plan.

8 thoughts on “Roslindale Public Schools Meeting”

  1. Thanks so much for this….I didn’t make it to the meeting so it’s great to see some notes about what was discussed. Have you thought of posting the link on the Haley listserv?

    Kathy Cahill
    Mother to David (K2 @ Haley) and Chris (4th at Bates)

  2. Thanks for the great writeup, Andrew. I’ve posted a link for this blog entry to the Haley parent listserv.

    – Jeff Fabijanic, dad to Susan (3rd grader @ Haley)

  3. Thanks so much Andrew. I could not make the meeting and it was really helpful to see your detailed notes.

    Mom to Lev (K1 at the Haley)

  4. Thanks for this account. I also was not able to attend this meeting, but really wanted to be present. I am concerned that the district interprets parents concerns about middle school options as a desire for more K-8s. While this could work, I would like to see more possibilities explored. So I am glad to see the range of issues/solutions that were raised at the meeting. What, if anything, was the district’s response to any of them?

    (mom to Samuel, 1st grade at Philbrick)

  5. Jackie, thanks for the kind comment.
    I would say that the super’s response to most points made was along the lines of: we’re listening to you – and also to those who disagree. She certainly wasn’t there to be pushed into a K-8 corner, or into any specific corner or commitment.
    By the way, the strongest expression of desire for more K-8s came from Councillor Tobin. That’s the way it seemed to me, anyway.
    I do hope that others who were at the meeting will chip in, even if – especially if – their impressions were different from mine. And if you’ve written up your own account, or if you know of another online account, please let me know so that I can link to it.

  6. I know this is an older post, but I found it while getting ready for the upcoming vote at school committee pertaining to the proposed “Roslindale K-8 Pathway”. Thank you Andrew for posting such great notes – it is helpful and may combat some resistance to the overall plan the Supt & IAG have been working on to address the concerns of the Roslindale school communities. I am a member of the Irving Advisory Group that was formed last year at the March meeting with CRJ. If you would like more information, please feel free to email me at

    And Jackie – I was with you – both my girls attended the Mozart (younger is still there), older is now at the Irving which has already made huge strides with Arthur Unobskey at the helm and we anticipate even more great things! 🙂 I want my children to have the small school atmosphere as long as possible in elementary, then move up and experience new things, people etc in middle and high school, so the proposal to merge the 6 Roslindale schools into the Irving gives me that. 🙂

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