Even as childless professionals and empty-nesters stream into Boston, the city is still struggling, after decades of effort, to create a public school system that offers high-quality education to all of its children. Bostonians have debated adding more charter schools, bringing in tutors, and extending the school day, among other things. The system, which still bears the scars of the desegregation fight of the 1970s, just revamped its method of assigning children to schools. Still, skepticism remains.
So, how to address it? We asked the Boston mayoral candidates what they would do if they could wave a magic wand and fix one single thing about the public schools. Here are their answers. If you have suggestions of your own, post them in the comments section below, or tweet them at #BosMayor.
Dan Conley, @DanFConley
Suffolk District Attorney
My "magic wand" fix for Boston Public Schools would be to close the achievement gap between minority and white students. Ensuring that all children, regardless of background, are reaching academic proficiency is the best thing we can do to guarantee greater social and economic accomplishment later in life. Our young people have made Boston into one of the greatest cities in America -- imagine our potential when every child is given the tools they need to fully participate in the economic life of this city. But there is no magic wand to wave. Instead, I'm pushing for common-sense reforms to our education system that will improve opportunities for every child, and in the process, close that achievement gap. This includes lifting the cap on charter schools, implementing metrics-based teacher evaluations, and targeting at-risk schools for turnaround measures before they fail. As mayor, I'll commit to these reforms and much more- with or without a magic wand.
Feliz Arroyo, @FelixArroyo
Boston City Councilor
John Connolly, @JohnRConnolly
Boston City Councilor
We need to decentralize the top-heavy Boston Public Schools central bureaucracy and reform our Boston teachers contract to provide every school with the level of autonomy that innovation, pilot, turnaround, and in-district charter schools have. When we give schools more autonomy, we have the opportunity to empower great principals and teachers to be creative and reach every student. To make this work, we have to invest in developing world-class principals. As mayor, I will partner with nonprofits and educational institutions to recruit, develop, and support the highest-caliber principals. Principals need to have the flexibility and autonomy to work with teachers and parents to make their schools great. Principals should be empowered to make hiring, budget, and programming decisions without interference from the BPS bureaucracy. Empowered school leaders would be able to extend the school day and forge community partnerships in order to provide students with academic enrichment and innovative, engaging learning opportunities.
Rob Consalvo, @RobConsalvo
Boston City Councilor
If I had a magic wand, I would make sure that every kid with special needs has everything they need to learn and to grow as successful, well-rounded students with the same educational opportunities as their peers. It seems like common sense that more resources should be dedicated to the children who need the most help, but all too often that's not how it works. Improving struggling schools and investing in the futures of children who need a little extra help is the single most effective action we can take to make Boston Public Schools better.
Charlotte Golar-Richie, @Charlotte4Mayor
Former State Representative
If I could wave my magic wand, I would make Madison Park Vocational Technical High School a world-class, skills training, and job readiness institution for the youth of Boston. I envision making the school the best in the nation through a concerted collaboration that includes business, community, public and private academic institutions, organized labor, and young people working together. I would work to make it a school that prepares our students for jobs in the emerging and growth sectors such as: green energy, healthcare, and life sciences. We need to lay a strong foundation that supports a rigorous educational curriculum backed by direct work experience and on the job training where necessary. This guarantees that jobs will be made available to successful graduates. A strong vocational education program will provide Boston’s economy with the educated workforce needed for the 21st century.
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