Eliot School Family Council parents that worked toward the school expansion join with officials at the celebration.

There was resounding applause at the Eliot K-8 School on Tuesday night as North End and Downtown Boston families joined with City and Boston Public School officials to celebrate an agreement substantially expanding the Eliot to a second campus at the nearby North Bennet Street School buildings. Importantly, BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson announced that a third strand of classes, starting with 22 new K-2 students, will be introduced at the new space as soon as Fall 2012. The goal is to complete the third strand through the eighth grade that could expand enrollment by 33% at the overcrowded school. The celebratory event surrounding the expansion agreement was held in the North End at the Eliot School on Tuesday evening, May 22, 2012.

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Highly regarded Eliot School Principal Traci Griffith expressed her excitement to lead the expansion of the “Best Public School in Boston.” The North End-based public school currently has 322 students, but a waiting list of nearly 300 more anxious to enter. Superintendent Johnson was quick to credit Griffith with a remarkable turnaround at the school that has reinvigorated public education in Downtown Boston.

Much of the credit garnered at the celebration went to Mayor Thomas M. Menino for leading the agreement to expand the Eliot School. For his part, Menino credited his Education Advisor, Martha Pierce. The Mayor presented a wooden toolbox to Principal Griffith that was hand crafted by Pierce’s grandfather in 1889 at the North Bennet Street School, symbolizing the historic trade school’s part in the agreement. Menino noted that the Eliot School hails back to the early 1700s and was once located on North Bennet Street.

“The Eliot School is a proud example of all that Boston Public Schools has to offer,” said Mayor Menino. “Over the past five years, the Eliot has emerged as a powerhouse – demonstrating remarkable progress in its MCAS scores. The Eliot’s explosive growth is brought about because of the intensity, focus, hard work, persistence, and the incredible spirit of the school’s leadership, staff, and parents.”

The Eliot expansion is made possible by a previously announced $11.35 million building and cash swap exchange between the North Bennet Street School and the City of Boston which is selling  the 150 North Street (former police station) and 130-140 Richmond Street properties (former city printing plant). For NBSS, the swap will allow the non-profit trade school to consolidate and expand its own programs within the North End.

In addition to the breaking news of an immediate expansion toward a third strand of classes, BPS announced that the Eliot would be designated as an “Innovation School” allowing for more flexibility in operating the school. The decision, subject to school board approval, was praised by officials to introduce new educational methods that have been successful elsewhere in the city.

“The Eliot School has demonstrated it is a high-achieving school with so much potential,” said Dr. Johnson. “I can’t wait to see how far this school community will go in the years to come. This Innovation School status is exactly the right plan to move this school to the next level.”

Speaking at the event were ardent supporters of the Eliot expansion including City Councilor Sal LaMattina, State Senator Anthony Petruccelli and State Representative Aaron Michlewitz. Representing the Eliot School parents were Israel Ruiz and Carolina Garcia, co-chairs of the school’s Family Council.

Present at the gathering was President of the North Bennet Street School, Miquel Gomez-Ibanez joined by behind-the-scenes supporter Amos Hostetter of the Barr Foundation. Also signaling their strong approval in the audience were leaders of both North End / Waterfront neighborhood groups, NEWRA President Stephanie Hogue and NEWNC President Donna Freni. The two groups hosted several meetings and wrote letters in favor of the long-awaited agreement.

A short Q&A session revealed that many details still need to be worked out and officials asked parents to “engage in that process” with them. Still, the sense of accomplishment was readily apparent for a deal that will allow the North End and Downtown Boston neighborhoods to attract and retain families by offering a quality public school education at an expanded Eliot School.

(L-R) BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Eliot School Principal Traci Walker Griffith, City Councilor Sal LaMattina and State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz

 

Eliot School students sing an original song thanking everyone involved in expanding their school.

 

North End School Partners - Eliot School Principal Traci Walker Griffith and North Bennet Street School President Miquel Gómez-Ibáñez

 

Representing the Neighborhood Groups, NEWRA President Stephanie Hogue (left) and NEWNC President Donna Freni

 

Mayor Menino and his Education Advisor, Martha Pierce, present a gift to Eliot Principal Traci Griffith, an 1889 toolbox hand crafted by Pierce's grandfather at the North Bennet Street School.

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. My "concerns" with Dr. Johnson and her team is that they do not learn from experience. Finally, the North End Community gets a green light on the expansion of the Eliot School. On the eve of partially returning to neighborhood schools, and as punishment to parents and teachers who pushed for this, Mayor Menino via Dr. Johnson wants to designate the Elliot as an "Innovation School!" They didn't even let the glow dim, and made this part of their expansion announcement!

    What an unwelcomed surprise! The community didn't request this, the teachers didn't want or vote for this! So why is there a need for the Eliot to be an "Innovation School?" The Elliot is not under-performing; people actually want to send their children to the Elliot! The Eliot wait list and explosive growth came because the Menino administration eliminated public schools in the North End and downtown. Parents don't want their children riding busses for hours every day; there is nothing productive or educational in it.

    History is repeating itself here. The parents and teachers of the Clap School fought hard to keep their school opened. Then, as punishment, Dr. Johnson replaced the Clap principal and designated the Clap to be an "Innovation School." Staff had to reapply for their positions and, if they chose to stay at the Clap, they were required to work 280 HOURS UNCOMPENSATED! Only 1 teacher remained! Today, Clap is a shell of what it once was! Data shows, and Dr. Johnson has mentioned this on several occasions, that successful schools have a long term stable staff.

    In the North End, there are wait lists for any paid parking spaces, and it is blocks away from the school, and costs $400-450+ dollars a month. How many experienced teachers do you think will want to come to a school requiring all those additional hours, uncompensated, in a community with no parking, at a school that ends when rush hour traffic starts! Once you get a paid parking space, plan on paying for July and August, or be prepared to be back on the wait list! Don't even think about resident parking for teachers, I'm not sure but I think there were 4000 resident stickers for 1000 spaces! Then you have to consider the "street cleaning days" when available spaces are even more limited! Knowing this, how many teachers do you think will stay at the Eliot?

    The Menino administration has not been a friend to the North End and sticking the "Innovation model" on the Eliot School is testament to this. Mayor Menino wants this to fail, and turning the Elliot into and Innovation School will accomplish that. A failing school can be closed and the city can recoup the building for other purposes. Parents need to talk to teachers! Eliot Teachers need to vote NO to the proposed "Innovation School" model for their school.

  2. Sirs,

    The previous post by Mr. Shore makes for interesting reading but unfortunately misrepresents the facts and the process by which the Eliot became an Innovation school. The author’s post, deliberately or otherwise, betrays a complete lack of knowledge about our Innovation School application process and should not be taken seriously.

    As a Boston Teachers Union representative, teacher, Innovation Committee member and parent at the Eliot, I take offense to Mr. Shore’s rather ludicrous contention that this process has been somehow forced upon the Eliot by the mayor and the Superintendent. Nothing could be further from the truth. The post implies that the Eliot teachers are merely pawns in a political endgame between the mayor, the North End, and the Superintendent. This, quite simply, is not the case.

    Our Innovation school process was open, collegial, and vetted by the faculty, the administrators, and parents all along the way. Our staff, along with our administrators and some parents, met each Friday (and more during the week) to create a plan that we believe represents an opportunity to build upon the fantastic growth and achievement that has defined the Eliot in recent years. The meetings were open to all and we welcomed any and all who wished to participate. Speaking for myself, I was (and am) excited to be a participant in a process that will enhance the educational experience of our students and my two children – both of whom attend the Eliot School.

    At no point was the staff coerced into signing onto something we didn’t believe in. The proof: last week our faculty voted nearly unanimously (27-1) to approve an innovative plan that we believe will create a superior educational environment for all who pass through the doors of our school. It is our firm belief that the Eliot plan encompasses all that is great in urban education. Here at the Eliot, we believe in our students, the North End community, and ourselves. Our Innovation Plan reflects that belief.

    Thanks,

    Mike Lally
    Eliot School

    • Hi Mike,

      I’m a BPS Teacher and resident of the North End. The first time I heard about the Eliot innovation plan was from the event. I figured that was the agreement the school community made with the BPS to expand. Perhaps, you can have BPS post the plan on the BPS school webpage to assuage any concerns.

      Regards,

      Regina Temple

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