EAC Fails to Address New School : Downtown Grammar School Not on Agenda

Under perfect weather, the annual Beacon Hill Civic Association Block Party was held on Sunday afternoon. Residents and community organizations had a great time. Shannon Lee (Church School Director), Ciael Hills (Chair of the Adult Religious Program), Dianne Arakawa (Senior Minister), Todd Lee (member), and Ray Hardin (Membership Chairman) at the King Chapel Church School table.

While many applauded the efforts to date of the External Advisory Committee (EAC) on Improving School Choice and School Assignment at Wednesday’s community meeting, a resounding concern among those in attendance was that their work doesn’t address the need for a new grammar school to serve downtown neighborhoods.

“We very frustrated again in this situation, despite our many pleas to be heard,” State Rep. Marty Walz said. “When are you going to acknowledge the need for a school and plan for it?”

The 27-member EAC was convened by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Dr. Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools (BPS), to gather data on demographics, equity and enrollment, with the intention of overhauling the lottery system for public grammar schools to put priority on placing children in quality schools near their homes. To date, The EAC has held more than 30 public meetings on the matter and solicited feedback from more than 2,300 citizens, officials said.

At last week’s meeting, City Councilor Mike Ross said that while EAC data showed that 76.7 percent of students citywide were placed in their schools of choice, whereas the rate for students in Beacon Hill and Back Bay dropped to 41 percent. “You have to come up with a plan that’s going to provide equity,” Ross said.

Johnson responded that the EAC was aware of the disparity, and that a collaborative effort would likely be needed to solve the problem.

The EAC will continue to solicit the public’s feedback on proposed models for school-assignment process at meetings and online throughout September and October before making its recommendation to the superintendent. In December, the superintendent will bring a proposal to the Boston Public School Committee, which will hold additional public meetings before voting on the new plan this winter, according to officials.

To learn more, visit www.bostonschoolchoice.org.

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