Boston School Committee votes to close failing school

The Boston School Committee, over the objections of parents and neighborhood activists, voted Wednesday night to close the Mattahunt Elementary School on June 30 in an effort to avoid state receivership.

“It’s frustrating we are at this place,” said committee member Regina Robinson, who abstained from the vote.

The six other members voted in favor.

The state gave Boston a Nov. 18 deadline to submit a revised turnaround plan for the school to avoid receivership. But Superintendent Tommy Chang recommended closing the school, which the state officially declared underperforming four years ago. Chang had little confidence that the state would approve another plan.


“We’ve run out of time at this school,” Chang said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Under Chang’s recommendation, the Mattahunt will be replaced by a new early learning center a month later. Mattahunt’s kindergarten and preschool students can enroll in the new program, while all the other students will have to find new schools.

The Mattahunt serves about 600 students. The early learning center will use only a portion of the building, leaving the rest empty. Chang said Wednesday night the new program could eventually add other grades so it becomes an elementary school again.

Parents put forward their own ideas to turnaround the Mattahunt, such as allowing receivership if the state appointed Chang as the receiver instead of an outside operator. They also said it was unfair that a community of color was being targeted with another school closure. Almost all Mattahunt students are black or Latino.

Grace Richardson, whose two children attend the Mattahunt, urged the School Committee to vote against closure, saying the school is making positive progress, especially in building stronger relationships with students and parents.

“Innovation is booming in Boston,” she said. “That means the children are our future and let me just say this to you black children matter and all the children in all the schools should graduate and be part of this innovation that is going on in Boston.”


Peggy Wiesenberg, an education and civil rights activist, criticized the school system for springing the school closure plan on parents just two weeks ago, saying “you would never do this in a white neighborhood.”

City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who initially endorsed Chang’s plan when it was announced, told the committee that she was withdrawing her support after speaking with parents who oppose closure.

“I stand with the parents,” she said.

Chang stood behind his plan, arguing it was the best way to avoid receivership.

“My decision did not come easily,” Chang said. “Unfortunately student achievement has continued to lag. The school is still in the lowest 1 percent statewide.”

James Vaznis can be reached at jamres.vaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.