John Barros scanned classroom 201 this afternoon, and fished around for questions. The first one came from a teacher, who asked him what he thought was wrong with the city’s schools.
Barros, a former school committee member, had a list. He said teachers need better training and professional development. And as mayor, he would add funding in the city’s budget to pay for professional development for the city’s teachers.
Barro also said that as mayor, he would press to give schools more authority, resources and a better say in decisions that affect the students they serve.
“The average reading level at the [Jeremiah] Burke High School for ninth grade is fifth grade,’’ he explained. “You can’t tell me that the Burke gets the same resources as another school. The Burke needs longer school days, the Burke needs partnerships, the Burke needs something totally different than other schools, but it doesn’t get it.”
Barros, former head of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, made his comments during an education forum at Boston Latin School this afternoon, in which candidates were shuttled from classroom to classroom to field questions from small groups of students and adults.
Each candidate was given 10 minutes to make a pitch and answer questions, and then at the sound of a bell, they were told to stop and head to another classroom.
The event was organized by the League of Women Voters of Boston and Ward Fellows, which encourages Latin School students to become educated voters and learn more about civics, said Pamela Julian, president of the League.
“The purpose of the event was to encourage critical thinking so voters would be informed on Election Day,’’ Julian said. “Through this process, students learn how the election process works. But they also learn how voter education matters.”
Some of the candidates used their time to sound off on familiar campaign themes, and others were peppered with questions about transportation, charter schools, and the push to update the bottle bill to include non-carbonated beverages, water, iced tea, juice, and sports drinks in the state’s container deposit system.
Before his presentation in room 204, City Councilor John Connolly quickly surveyed the students, asking them what neighborhood they were from. Brighton, Roslindale, and the North End were the responses.
With his sleeves rolled up, Connolly, a former teacher, stressed that he would close the “daunting equity gap” between the rich and poor residents that has squeezed out the middle class. He said he would create more jobs and opportunities to help stabilize families.
He also talked about another great divide when it comes to public safety, and made the point to note that some neighborhoods are plagued with crime, and others are not. Connolly said providing “great jobs’’ would help improve the health and safety of all communities.
“All of us are living in the same city, and you have people who are living in two different worlds,’’ he said. “That’s not OK.”
During one of his session, City Councilor Felix Arroyo addressed questions around education, saying he would extend the school day “to ensure that we bring back theater, arts, physical education.”
Martin J. Walsh, the state representative, stressed that he would make major improvements to the city schools such as building up the vocational technical education and targeting the drop-out rate. He’d also seek to extend the school day and invest in universal early childhood education.