October 8, 2008
Though children clamber over a shiny new playground outside the art-deco style Lucy Stone School in Dorchester, their school's days may be numbered. The Stone and the Pauline A. Shaw School in Mattapan are two of five schools marked for closure in Superintendent Carol Johnson's plan to trim a bloated Boston Public School system budget while trying to improve upon performance and choice.
Parents waiting for their children to get out of school at the Stone on Monday seemed to have a variety of feelings about the plan. Those with deep roots, such as former graduates and parents who lived nearby, felt an attachment that would be missed.
"It's very upsetting, I went to this school," said Marjorie St. Leger, who hauls her three kids from South Boston to the Stone, her first choice for them. "I came back here because it's a community school. I feel like they work hard with them. Now I'm going to have to find new places for them."
Others said the school was their second or third choice after the popular Patrick O'Hearn or Richard Murphy elementary schools.
"He's on the waiting list on two other schools," said Nirupam Barua, whose son attends the Stone. "I will check there. I don't know if not there what can I do?"
The Stone could not improve performance in MCAS testing for English Language Arts last year, according to the state's database on public schools. Scores were particularly low in the same subject among fourth graders. The overwhelming majority of its 169 students - one classroom for each grade - are black and Hispanic.
Conversations outside the school on Monday did not neglect to note the irony of the playground, which was completed three days after this school year began last month, costing upwards of $40,000.
At the Shaw on Tuesday, the feelings were also mixed, but the side against closing the school seem to be a touch more organized. Karen Morson, a parent, called a meeting of concerned parents for Oct. 16, 5 p.m., presumably at the school, to talk about the school's closing.
"I believe that we have the power of making a difference if we care enough about our school and our children," she wrote. "We could be setting our children up for failure, if we are not careful of this transition if one needs to be made."
According to the superintendent's "Pathways to Excellence" plan, students from the Shaw School would be reassigned to the Mattahunt School, just over a mile away.
The student body at Mattahunt is about twice the size of the Shaw, an idea that doesn't appeal to some Shaw parents.
"A lot of parents chose the school because it's small," said one BPS teacher who knows the school well but didn't want to give her name. "Now they gotta send their kids to a school that's bigger?"
Teacher to student ratio at both schools, however, is roughly the same this year, according to the state's department of education website.
Meetings for parents and teachers at both schools are scheduled for later this month, Saturday, Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. for the Stone School and Thursday, Oct. 23, 6 p.m. for the Shaw. A meeting for the entire East Zone will be held at the Mildred Avenue Middle School on Tuesday Oct. 14, 6 p.m.
The Boston School Committee will vote on the plan on Oct. 29.