Riley’s strong-arming is hard for this longtime Mass. educator to watch
Let me see if I understand what the state is asking Boston to do: Sign a compliance document by Tuesday or be subjected to more requirements and more oversight — Tuesday, the day before the School Committee meets to choose a new Boston Public Schools superintendent (“Movement stalls on deal to avert BPS takeover,” Page A1, June 23).
While Mayor Michelle Wu has called for a “partnership,” this is not a partnership. From the first, when Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley admonished the mayor to commit to always putting student needs before adults and demanded unrealistic timelines, with oversight but no support, partnership has not been the tone.
The document lays out in excruciating detail what needs to be done and by when but no details on how. It requires much data, report writing, and auditing and many meetings. There is no vision and no direction on implementation, but there is a great amount of micromanaging signaled from Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff. This is not a plan that a seasoned administrator would welcome, and maybe that’s why some candidates for superintendent were not interested.
It has been very difficult to watch this sort of process play out between the commissioner and our new female mayor of color. It does not seem like the Jeff Riley I know. I think President Biden would say, “Come on, man,” and I think Tom Menino would have said — I’ll leave that to your imagination
Margaret A. McKenna
The writer is the former chair of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, a former member of the Boston School Committee, and president emerita of Lesley University.
Green New Deal for city’s schools mustn’t slip away
As Mayor Michelle Wu and state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley arm-wrestle over a reform plan for Boston’s schools, the opportunity for a profound transformation — renovating the buildings themselves — could be slipping away.
Boston’s aged school buildings endanger students’ health, education, and self-esteem. In the age of COVID-19, three-quarters of our schools lack modern ventilation systems. Ancient heating systems leave many classrooms so hot or cold that students can’t focus on their education. Some even pass out. These schools’ conditions send students a message about their worth, and it’s not a motivating one.
Wu’s Green New Deal for Boston Schools could fix all that. After collecting data on each school’s needs, skilled staff will lay out renovation schedules that prioritize the most needy buildings and, ideally, eliminate the use of fossil fuels across BPS.
This is not a quick task. With some 120 schools and sketchy data, the city says that it needs till December 2023 to finish its plan. Riley wants it six months earlier. That is one of the issues hanging up an agreement between the state and city, leaving the question of state receivership looming.
I ask the commissioner to please embrace the city’s facilities plan. This mayor has clearly shown the vision, will, and capacity to transform our decrepit schools. The Green New Deal offers us a double opportunity we can’t miss: transforming our decrepit schools and eliminating their climate footprint.
The writer is a member of the Boston Climate Action Network.