Mayor’s Weekly Column

MeninoFacePicFrom the Desk of Thomas M. Menino

This week, school buses returned to city neighborhoods as more than 56,000 Boston Public Schools (BPS) students headed back to the classroom to begin the 2010-2011 school year. The beginning of the school year is one of my favorite times of year in the City of Boston and we have been working all summer long to create new programs and expand existing ones to ensure that every child attending our schools has the opportunity to succeed both academically and socially.

Superintendent Johnson and I met with teachers and school officials at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School, one of the city’s 12 “turnaround” schools, to highlight a number of exciting improvements and changes for BPS this year. Last year, Dr. Johnson unveiled the BPS Acceleration Agenda – a 5-year strategic plan for the school district detailing how BPS will improve underperforming schools. This summer the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approved all ten school improvement plans submitted by BPS and Boston is among the first of the school districts in the state to take advantage of an expedited process for implementation school improvement plans. As a result, students and their families who attend our turnaround schools will immediately see the benefits, with more time with teachers every day and more resources to attend to the social and emotional needs of students.

While there is much attention being directed to the city’s 12 turnaround schools, BPS has also been hard at work on several other investments and new programs. Extensive work has also been underway within the Circle of Promise, developing a comprehensive community integration plan to transform public education in Boston. The City of Boston and BPS continue to work in collaboration with community organizations to expand the resources available to students and their families within this geographic area of the city, which encompasses Roxbury, North Dorchester and sections of Jamaica Plain. This fall families will be asked to help identify barriers of student achievement and once the barriers have been identified members of the City’s Circle of Promise team will work to systematically remove them.

We are also moving forward with our plans to create in-district charter schools, taking advantage of the Education Reform Law signed into law in January. Superintendent Johnson has submitted plans to the Boston School Committee outlining the creation of three in-district charter schools in the City of Boston. If approved by the state, the three in-district charters would undergo extensive planning during this school year and open in the Fall of 2011.

Additional improvements include investing more than $10 million in the English Language Learners program to fund materials, school-based translation services, specialists, and teacher training for our English as a Second Language students. To further improve the social and physical health of our students, we are also emphasizing anti-bullying training for staff and expanding access to healthy foods by offering fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for student meals. These changes will give students the support they need to learn and thrive during the school day.

Massachusetts is known for excellence in education, and with these improvements and an ambitious education reform agenda, the City of Boston continues to be ahead of the curve. Together with our outstanding students, teachers, staff and leadership throughout the City and BPS, we are committed to providing every young person in the city with the education opportunities and support they need to succeed. I wish all of our students, teachers and families a happy and healthy school year and look forward to the year ahead.