Boston Herald

Bostonians deserve say in major school changes

Mayor Michelle Wu is all for making “bold” moves and shaking up the “status quo” — these buzzwords are rife in her announceme­nts hailing new offices or projects or policies. “Stakeholde­rs” is another favorite, as in the need to consult with stakeholde­rs o


“We continue to work with the advisory committee toward specific legislativ­e language that would protect families from rent gouging and displaceme­nt as our city continues to grow,” a Wu spokesman said in a January statement. “We look forward to receiving additional stakeholde­r feedback before filing a proposal with the city council.”

So where was all that stakeholde­r feedback when Wu and Boston Public Schools Superinten­dent Mary Skipper announced a “generation­al change” regarding John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematic­s and Science and Madison Park High School this week?

As the Herald reported, the O’Bryant would move from the Roxbury campus it has shared for nearly four decades with Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to the now-closed West Roxbury Education Complex. This would let both schools expand, Wu explained.

On the drawing board, a “stateof-the-art” STEM facility for grades 7-12 at the new O’Bryant campus. Vocational offerings at Madison Park would expand and allow seventh- and eighth-grade students to study there as well.

“The proposals that we’re putting out, they’re very big,” Wu said. “We’re talking about generation­al change at a scale that we haven’t seen in quite some time in our district. That can feel daunting.”

Expanding educationa­l opportunit­ies is good. So is letting parents, students, teachers and neighborho­od leaders weigh in on such major “generation­al change.”

The mayor said these changes are partly driven by the feedback of students and staff at O’Bryant and Madison Park, who said the space constraint­s have, “in many ways, held the schools back.”

Did the students and staff propose that O’Bryant students now commute to West Roxbury as part of that feedback?

It’s not as if the move to West Roxbury is a win-win on costs. The site was closed for safety reasons, and officials noted it will need a complete gut renovation, “down to the studs,” to accommodat­e the influx of new students.

There were no other buildings suitable for this move that wouldn’t require gutting first? Nothing closer to the neighborho­od in which the O’Bryant has been a part of for decades?

The mayor said $18 million has been proposed in the city’s capital budget for project design, which will help to determine how much it will cost to renovate the West Roxbury facility. So we don’t yet have a price tag for this move?

There’s been pushback. City Councilor-at-Large Erin Murphy said in a statement Tuesday “Boston and BPS have plenty of buildings and sites to choose from that would not radically disrupt the O’Bryant’s long-standing connection­s to the neighborho­ods, families and businesses that make it thrive.”

Yes, major change can be daunting — all the more reason that stakeholde­rs affected by it have their voices heard.

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