If you are to look at the changes in time as an issue by itself, it is easy to get sucked into an argument about “optimization” and “algorithms.” It is easy to begin to look at it as an attempt, an effort worthy of a pat on the back, if not failing in some ways, to try and change the systemic issues of Boston’s inequalities. An attempt from an outsider, with a background as an educator.
Most people you talk to are saying it is a mixed bag of reactions. Even teachers who see the benefit to their own schedules are concerned about the young children and children with disabilities who will be affected negatively by the changes.
But should we really be talking about the plan itself or should we be talking about improving the schools and the city? Ultimately, what is the end GOAL of this plan?
Supporters will quickly point to the BPS home page which sells a meta-narrative with talks of research that would put The Bell Curve to shame, if that’s what you’re into. It is a very nice website.
But it is very strange, when looking at all the issues in Boston, when looking at all the issues this BPS, that schedules would be the solution, or even in the conversation about how to improve Boston’s Public Schools. As a white passing male, who pulled his kids out of BPS, leaving the entire state, I was curious if perhaps I deserved some of the narrative thrown at me that inferred I was a part of the old system that benefited from the oppression of others and THAT was why I had a knee jerk reaction against the changes, even though I am not affected, and would not have been affected even if my children had remained at the Curley as walkers who would still comfortably run a block or two from their home.
Certain schools are getting the shaft with these time changes and supposedly teenagers are somehow benefiting. Something felt off and I wanted to touch base with the “other” Boston, that I had not been truly a part of since the South End gentrified. The Boston whose struggles are something I thought of as history, but which are very real to many Bostonians, even if you don’t always hear about it i the newspaper.
Domingos DaRosa, who worked for the city as far back as Ray Flynn’s administration when he got summer job at the age of 16, shed some light on what’s what.
AC: “What do you think of the changes to the school schedules that will be put in place in the fall? Good? Bad?”
DaRosa: “One of the worst decisions they ever made. One of the worst decisions to move forward with. I understand that “studies say this” and “MIT says that” but this will only benefit a certain part of the population. It’s going to benefit single mothers or grandmothers who have custody of the grandkids. Studies say that if everybody gets 8 hours of sleep you should be fine but that is not really the case.
Look, changing start times for teenagers is not getting them ready for the real world. So even though it is supposedly benefiting them… is it?
And now you are really making it hard for parents who cannot afford to hire someone to drop off and pick up their kids. Before they could maybe adjust their day and get it done.
I lead the Boston Bengals, a cheerleading squad. And a lot of the mothers I work with are single parents. One of the mother’s has one kid who goes to school at 7:15 and another one in another school who starts at 8:30, and then you have to go to work outside the city, because most of us who live here, in Dorchester, in Mattapan, in Roxbury, we don’t work in the City. Say they work in Malden, or in Cambridge.. Why? Because folks don’t have the education to get those jobs inside the city. And young professionals who work in the city…. They don’t have kids! This doesn’t concern them.
But for the single parent mother it sucks.”
AC: “Are your children in BPS?”
DaRosa: “No. I chose to take my kids out of the system because of all the bs! They are in Concord which spends less money per student every year and yet we get services. You know why? Because the School Committee is voted in!
And if you look at which schools are being affected the most negatively, you start to see a pattern. It’s the schools in the inner city with the worst times.”
AC: “I know a working class white mother who has her child in the Manning which she was really excited to get her son into. And it’s going to be tough for her too because her and her husband both work. But because they start at 7:15 the release time is 1:15…”
DaRosa: “Well look at what population the Manning is serving. It’s not a lot of kids in Brighton, in West Roxbury… a lot of the kids going to that school are from Hyde Park, from Dorchester, from Mattapan, and a lot of them are special needs!
So maybe they don’t have high test scores. Maybe they don’t have a Student Parent Council that can fight back.”
(I mentioned that my children had been at the Curley which seemed to be blessed with great start and end times.)
DaRosa: “Yeah the Curley… I used to work around the corner from there. Very organized. They have involved parents that can organize and fight back and even raise money to support their school.
Look of course this benefits some people. I have a cousin that teaches at the Hennigan, and when she heard the new schedule she was like, “Yes!” because now that means that she can come in early to work from outside the city. And the other teachers, many of them do not live inside the city. So now when they drive in, no traffic. Early release time means they can get home, less traffic, and they can spend time with their family and cook dinner and take care of their kids.
And that’s good for them, but they chose that profession. Whereas some of the parents affected, they don’t have a choice.”
AC: “Okay, so I felt like minus the race riots… that this is kind of like busing when it started. Some people were against it, some people were for it, and it is true that there were people who were against it because they were racist. And it is true that the purpose of Judge Garrity’s decision was to integrate the schools. But what actually happened was the people who could… the white people who had money, left. And even though Boston is gentrifying, I feel that the kids of those families that left are not the ones coming in. They won’t come back because-”
DaRosa: “They won’t come back because they want to maintain the lifestyle that they have. Look, they left because of the BS. I chose to take my kids out because of the BS. The way they see it one bad apple spoils the bunch so they would rather that their kids not interact with any of us.
So now when I go to a parent event in Concord to raise funds for the school, I’m the only person of color there, and guess what, people don’t want to talk to me. And me, being the type of person that I am, I come in and I’m like, ‘Hey! What’s Up! How you doing!’ And I shake everyone’s hand and hug them and my son is looking at me like, ‘Dad, why are you acting so happy?’ And tell him, ‘Because if you kill someone with kindness then they have to go home and look at themselves in the mirror.'”
AC: “I mean the way it is now.. I mean the whole problem, it seems to me, with schedules, is that so many kids ride the bus…. Is it racist to say that maybe we shouldn’t have busing anymore? I mean wouldn’t that solve the problem?”
DaRosa: “They will never get rid of busing, it is too big of a voting block. All of those bus drivers vote. You see I was hired by Flynn, I sat at the Union table for 17 years, and there are more back deals and that kind of thing that happen behind closed doors then what happen at the table.
The four big unions are Teachers, Bus, Police, and Fire. Now to me the teachers should get a contract first out of all of them. But the police get a 40 million dollar contract, and hey hey guess what, 70 police officers donated heavily to Walsh’s campaign. Now when it comes time to get the teachers a contract, there’s no more money. Okay so there’s no more money but what can we do for you? You see?
But to me this is not dealing with the real issues. Tommy Chang hasn’t been doing much. When Madison Park was in trouble, he couldn’t get off his ass to do something about it. So to take attention away from that, we’re going to do something controversial so that we’re not talking about the fact that there aren’t any jobs for these kids that do put in the work and don’t mind getting up early in the morning to go to school.
Madison Park is failing not because of the school hours. You will see that oh it has 1100 students but when you look at the attendance only 800 are going. You want to change the times for teenagers so they can sleep in? THEY’RE NOT GOING TO SCHOOL! And the ones that are don’t care about the early hours.
If you have a good trade school that can train kids to make a living and the jobs for them when they graduate, you can change a community. But instead of talking about fixing that or ending busing, or helping the communities through after school programs like BCYF, which I worked in for 21 years, we’re talking about school times and schedules.
Instead of talking about where a lot of the MONEY is going towards in the school system, in the city, in certain after school programs… we are talking about teenagers getting more sleep.”
DaRosa had much more to say on the state of the City and the way it works in Boston, which we will continue to discuss in later articles.