Boston is globally celebrated as the premier city of higher education. But, the Boston Public Schools (BPS), the nation’s oldest public school system, cannot be held in the same high regard. Indeed, a number of schools are having difficulty in delivering quality instruction to their students. While some may consider additional funding to be the answer, others favor a more creative approach. Boston City Councilor Frank Baker belongs to the latter group. He filed a home rule petition to reorganize the Boston School Committee.
At the moment, the mayor appoints all seven members of the school committee. Baker’s petition, however, calls for three of the seven members to be elected at-large while the remaining four would be appointed by the mayor as legislation currently provides. To appreciate the thrust of this idea, it is important to remember that the Boston School Committee is the governing body of the BPS. It articulates its vision as well as its mission and goals. The committee equally establishes the annual operating budget for the BPS and monitors it. Finally, this body selects the superintendent and puts into place the district policies that support student achievement.
In light of the critical role that this body plays in shaping the future of the city’s children, Councilor Baker believes that there should be a greater rapport between it and the people. He says, “The committee needs to be connected to the neighborhoods, and I don’t think that they (the members) necessarily are.” In further discussing his approach, Baker insists that it is not adversarial. He acknowledges that the school system is not responsible for all of the problems with which students are met. He also readily points to the success stories of the BPS. Nevertheless, he thinks that these stories should be more frequent. He states, “We are spending enough money to have better results.”
Ultimately, Councilor Baker would like the Boston School Committee to be more “transparent” and “accountable to the people” in its operations. Aware of the past difficulties with a committee to which all members are elected, he considers a hybrid version of the body to be the best solution. At a meeting in City Hall tomorrow afternoon, Baker hopes to initiate a substantive discussion about the future of young Bostonians and by mandatory extension, that of Boston, too.
If you are interested in testifying or if you would like more information, please contact Frank Baker at 617-635-3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.