We’ve learned a lot since closing the doors to the Boston Public Schools in 2020. We’ve learned that we are stronger and more resilient than we could have imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a remarkable collective response to support our community and reminded us of the value of our relationships with our students, families, and each other.
The pandemic also forced us to reckon with the deep and systemic challenges that have kept too many children from fully realizing their potential. The devastating impact of this year-long crisis, particularly on communities of color, highlighted what we’ve always known: The Boston Public Schools experience is not equitable for all students.
There has never been a stronger economic, moral, and collective imperative to address long-standing and fundamental inequities in BPS. Doing so will require strategy, persistence, and a continuation of the resolve we have shown throughout this past year.
It also requires us to return our attention to the roadmap we charted before the onset of the pandemic, when we were on the cusp of deploying a new five-year strategic plan and realizing the $100 million investment from former Mayor Marty Walsh. Now, with additional city investments and new federal stimulus funding, we have the resources to shift our focus to the promises we made to the communities that helped us craft the strategic plan.
We start with better access to high quality early childhood education. Research shows that early education leads to improved outcomes for children, especially children of color and those who come from economic disadvantage. We will expand our early education programming this year and bring the successful model to more students. We also will expand partnerships through the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Connector program.
A well-rounded education for children in every grade requires whole-child support. We have added family liaisons and social workers to every school and are expanding our Hub Schools model, which brings together health and human services to the school setting to the benefit of students and families. And every student should have art, music, physical education, civics, science, and outdoor play spaces: fundamental pieces of an excellent education parents have been requesting for years. We will tap our federal funding to invest in access for all students.
Every student also deserves a great teacher in every classroom; teachers who receive the right mix of support and resources that allows them to address the unique needs of each of their students. Our plan includes continued efforts to recruit and retain more educators of color and investments in curriculum and continuing education for our educators.
Students and families deserve predictable educational pathways that start in pre-kindergarten and continue through high school. We are reviewing grade configurations to limit transitions for students and investing in all of Boston’s open enrollment high schools to offer opportunities in rigorous academics, athletics, arts, and co-curricular programming. We are focused on preparing students for success in higher education and a competitive workforce by partnering with local businesses. By connecting them with internships, apprenticeships, and industry experience, students can see their own potential and build a path to a brighter future.
In order to successfully realize this vision, we first need to launch enriching summer programming and bring students safely back to full-time in-person learning in September. We will partner with students and their families to recover what might have been lost by helping them rediscover their innate love of learning, fostering steady and supportive relationships, and focusing on academic recovery.
Dealing with the toll of the last year beckons us to reimagine the possibilities we created while developing our community-informed strategic plan: a school district where every child has the opportunity to achieve their dreams. A district where every school, in every neighborhood, in every part of the city is equipped to help every student unlock their unlimited potential.
The pandemic disrupted almost everything we know and hold dear. It revealed with new clarity the disparities that have persisted in our schools and our communities for far too long. But it also reminded us all what is the best of Boston: our shared faith and determination that working together, we can do big things. That together, we will always rise.
Brenda Cassellius is the superintendent of Boston Public Schools.