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Somerville superintendent making case for closing Grade 6 at Brown School

Posted by Travis Andersen  October 14, 2009 11:00 AM

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The Benjamin G. Brown School could lose a grade next year.

Superintendent Anthony Pierantozzi is scheduled to make his second pitch to the School Committee tonight for eliminating Grade 6 at the Benjamin G. Brown School.

Pierantozzi first proposed the measure last spring for the current academic year, but the committee tabled it.

"I led the charge against [the proposal]," said committee vice chair Mark Niedergang, adding that he remains open to the measure for the following academic year.

He said the committee delayed a vote last spring to give parents more time to find alternatives to Grade 6 at Brown, if necessary.

For more than a decade, Niedergang said, Brown sixth graders have moved en masse to the John F. Kennedy Elementary School for grades 7 and 8, where students have excelled in a national history competition in Washington.

The notion that Brown students could end up at other schools starting in grade 6 irked parents, according to Alderman Walter Pero, a School Committee member.

"There was a lot of pressure from parents [against the change]," Pero said.

But Pierantozzi felt financial pressure, according to Niedergang. He said the superintendent told committee members that a growing number of fifth graders at Brown would require two teachers in Grade 6, which the school district couldn't afford. Thirty-five fifth graders are enrolled at Brown this year, a "substantially higher" number than usual, Niedergang said.

Pierantozzi did not return messages on Tuesday. Gretchen Kinder, research and development director for the school district, said in an e-mail that the budget crunch is only part of the story.

"While motivated by financial considerations, there is an instructional concern as the Somerville Public Schools, at the direction of the School Committee, is in the midst of a significant overhaul of its instructional programs for youth in grades 6-8 at all of our schools," Kinder said.

Niedergang said the committee would vote on the proposal by the end of December, noting that if members approve the measure, seniority status would determine the fate of the current sixth grade teacher at Brown.

Tonight's meeting - scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Somerville High Library - will not include public comment. A public input meeting is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 30, and Niedergang expects a crowd.

"This is one of the hottest topics," he said.

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5 comments so far...
  1. Oh Neidergang once again you twist the truth to suit your image. Watching the televised school committee meetings, you and the Super were pushing, sofltly, but pushing nonetheless, to shut down the 6th grade at the Brown. Now during election season, you change your tune. And the vote to eliminate the 6th grade at the Brown will come after the election. Cute Mark, real cute.

    Posted by somerspeak October 14, 09 03:29 PM
  1. Somerspeak, you are once again right on with Neidergang. I watched all the meetings last year regarding the budget and he seemed to agree with Pierantozzi.

    Posted by Janine D. October 14, 09 03:54 PM
  1. I haven't been following this lately, so it is good to read about it here. This has been an issue since my kids were in the sixth grade seven years ago and every year people will not want their kids effected and will fight for their kids. If the city came up with a long term plan that would gradually get the kids over to the Kennedy they would have better success. They could try moving one class at a time in a city organized transition. Splitting the kids (and parents) so they loose their support network in the transition is going to cause stress.

    Posted by Kate Z. October 15, 09 11:43 AM
  1. Regardless of whether they close it or not, some cost cutting within the district has to be done to fix the entire system and it seems everyone is ignoring that fact. I watched the meetings and listen to people say they don't want these teachers laid off, or this school closed, etc. But these people have no plan to fix it. It is amazing how selfish some people in this city are. They are over protective of their school(s) but could care less about others within the city. And before anyone complains, I have a toddler and another child on the way and was planning to send them to school in Somerville. But seeing how dysfunctional everything is, I see private school as the only viable option.

    Posted by Janine D. October 15, 09 04:48 PM
  1. I resent that a person who has no students in the Somerville public schools says that everything in Somerville is "dysfunctional". Wake up! - we are in a State budget crisis and all public schools are going to be effected- no matter where they are. Somerville has done an admirable job of cutting costs while maintaining a strong learning and teaching culture. The administration is lean; the new young teachers ( especially at SHS) are phenomenal. Yes there will have to be more cuts and no answer about budget cuts is going to be palatable to everyone. But before you claim that "dysfunction" is what is sending you to private school-- you may want to talk to some students, teachers and parents of children in the actual schools. I am the parent of a successful, high-achieving, well-adjusted and generally happy senior at SHS who will gladly tell you about her positive experiences in the Somerville Public Schools.

    Posted by jane b October 19, 09 04:25 PM