The Parent Imperfect was up early for the first day of school. But this year, for the first year since 2001, no one from this house is among the 56,000 on their way to a BPS school for Day One. Just for the record, I did have to drive to Forest Hills today to give Dear Vince a chance to get to work on time in Alewife. That’s right, WORK! This September marks a big change for him, as well. He must now find a way to get up every day and ride the T all the way to end of the Red Line. I bet that there are many days when he wishes he was going to school.
Vince saved us from the anguish that some people seem to feel on those first “empty nest” days, after the kids are gone. In May, he appeared here with about 1/8th of the stuff he had taken with him to Ithaca over the past four years, and moved back in. Not only did he move in, but he immediately launched an advocacy campaign to take over our finished attic, where I have been stockpiling valuable materials for the past 13 years. The campaign was a tough one that took most of the summer, but he has learned the value of persistence. My displacement is now complete. Perhaps the newest area of my parental imperfection involves making it much too attractive for him to re-settle here. How can I miss you if you keep coming back?
There is still one student in the family. Connie’s first day of classes was Tuesday, but she is hours away and very much on her own. She now faces other challenges than the demanding schedule at the nation’s oldest public school. Her current college is real newbie compared to her recently-completely high school. BLS was already over 250 years old when Connie’s current institution was founded in 1889. I should say that the college was founded because of the refusal of its “parent” university to admit women. Funny, none of the promotional materials mention that inconvenient truth. I note in passing that the first female students did not cross the threshold at BLS until the mid-1970s.
But I digress. Driving to Forest Hills along Washington Street this morning, I saw many kids waiting for yellow school buses (or MBTA buses), and a good number of parents waiting alongside them. Nostalgia did not strike. I feel certain that, as I write this at 8:40AM, more than a few parents are looking nervously at their watches, wondering when their kid’s bus is going to show up. The new BPS Superintendent, Brenda Cassellius, tweeted very early this morning from some dark and chilly bus lot where she had arrived to greet BPS bus drivers on the first day of school. I’m not sure I remember the Super ever being with the bus drivers on the first day of school. Let’s hope that her thoughtful gesture somehow means that this morning we’ll avoid the major school transport snafus that have plagued the first few days of school in each of the past few years.
I must say that I am somewhat sad that our tenure as BPS parents ends just as Dr. Cassellius’s tenure as Superintendent begins. Two months after she started on the job, I remain cautiously optimistic that she will be a force for positive change in the system. A daunting task awaits her and the history of this position is absolutely full of the stories of promising people who eventually succumbed to the inertia of a deadening school bureaucracy and the pitfalls of Boston’s clannish politics. Hope springs eternal (almost). To her credit, Cassellius recently published a remarkably honest “report card” confirming what any parent in the system already knows…that over the past few years, the BPS has made precious little progress on the goals it set for itself in 2014. I wish Dr. Cassellius well. The education of over 50,000 kids depends heavily on her success.
Now that a new school year is beginning without us, it feels as if the Parent Imperfect should officially expire. That sounds a little drastic, but you know what I mean. This blog (almost 300,000 words worth) has been a great way to reflect on the meaning of BPS parenthood for one of its oldest and largest practitioners. Doing it has forced me to learn so many things. To my surprise, more than a few people continue to read some of the older posts here, so I’ll leave this up for a while. I may even write something occasionally. After all, I’m still a parent.
I thank all who have taken the time to read this, especially those who have commented on this or that, either in the blog or directly to me. Most of all, I thank those parents who have invested their time in trying to make this school system deliver on its promise of a quality education for ALL children in the City of Boston. I won’t list all the groups that fit this description. You know who you are. For better or worse, there is much more work to do. Identity matters! I will no be part of the BPS as a parent, but I will remain a member of the community who feels strongly about public education. Rather than just fade into the shadow of Peters Hill, I have decided to try to bring my interest in education and my participation in the workforce together. Necessity is, after all, the mother of contention. I’ll be coming soon to a theater near you with a somewhat different hat askew on my head.
Oscar Wilde is rumored to have said that “the problem with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.” From this perspective, education is infinitely more problematic.