January 3, 2022
Picture this: Your union leader calls you frantically and informs you that a group of politically-connected parents at Boston’s most gentrified public school (the Eliot) have submitted an official, 45-page proposal to close your school and reopen it as an “innovation” school. This “innovation” school is similar to an Exam school, and the proposal has a deadline of the end of the month! You immediately identify similarities that the proposal has with a colonial takeover, with no input from current parents/students, and that it excludes many Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners.
What would you do?
This is the question that the teachers, students, and families of Charlestown High School are answering.
A group of four parents, whose children currently attend the Eliot School in Boston’s white and elite North End neighborhood, wrote and submitted a 45-page prospectus declaring their intentions to close the existing Charlestown High School and open the “Charlestown Innovation and Inclusion High School”. The authors claim to be motivated by a desire to improve the school.
But current members of the Charlestown school community have a different view and analysis of what’s happening.
As History teacher Cecil Carey sees it, “This feels like a hostile takeover. The unstated goal is to empty out a school full of experienced teachers and families of color so that they can use its resources,” said Carey while testifying at a recent Boston Public Schools Committee Meeting. This sentiment is supported by the testimony of another teacher, Sarah Grimmett. As Grimmett puts it succinctly, “Zero Charlestown students, families or staff were consulted”.
Other staff highlighted how the prospectus leaves out certain students with disabilities who are not best suited for a full inclusion model as well as certain English Language Learners.
And it’s not just teachers who are making their voice heard on what they think about this prospectus. Students are as well. More than 40 students wrote testimonies to deliver to the School Committee and a handful of them even signed up to deliver their testimonies at the committee meeting before they were told at the last minute that they could speak only if they were on camera.
One student shares, “It is extremely disrespectful that you never asked for our opinion of our school and what we can do to change it. It’s so weird you think it’s better to ask for four unknown adults’ opinions when they, to my knowledge, have never been here.”
Another student wrote, “The fact that you didn’t consult us shows how lacking you guys are about caring about our education. Let’s be honest, it’s for the benefit of certain kids in Boston and we’re not the young people you have in mind while you’re proposing this future school with all of these great resources.”
And that’s exactly what teachers, students, and parents of Charlestown High School have been, and continue, advocating for: the great resources our students deserve now. Fully funded public education, inclusion done right, and the passing of the BTU contract proposal which includes advocating for common good demands. This includes creating lesson plans, hosting workshops to write testimony and public comments, and organizing community forums not only to share why we’re against the prospectus but also to share what kind of school we are fighting for.
“There are many things in the proposal that I would like to see at our school, including three good meals a day. I am wondering why we can’t have these things now?” asked one student.
The truth is we can have these things now. And we’ll get them if we unite and organize our schools and communities, and fight for them.
Hands off Charlestown High School! Fully fund public schools now!