“High expectations…”

Over the next few days, the Liz and the Parent Imperfect must decide where Ms. Connie will be attending school next year. True to form, even the deadline for this process is very much in doubt. Connie’s original Advanced Work Class invitation letter said that the enrollment form needed to be handed in by this coming Friday, March 12, but the letter from Connie’s school that came as a cover letter to the enrollment form says that the form doesn’t need to be in until March 26. Which is it?

Anxious to confirm the actual date, the PI called the AWC program office twice on Tuesday, but he has gotten no answer. Covering all bases, he also called the West Zone Family Resource Center. The person who answered there told him, “Advanced Work? Didn’t they already finish the registration for that?” She passed the phone to someone else who asked him if the letter he has included a date, and she then confirmed that the deadline was, in fact, the 26th of March. The PI wouldn’t bet the farm on that confirmation.

Going back to the reasons given by the Hernández for Connie to stay there, number three on the list reads:

Your child and your family add tremendously to the school community. They bring ideas and resources that enrich the entire classroom.

This recognition of the strength of the school community and the contribution that each family makes to the community strikes a chord for the PI. The RHS community is a powerful selling point of the school, and each family definitely brings something to the community. The PI and family were probably more involved in the community when both Vince and Connie were there, but this remains a strong selling point of the school. If Connie leaves, the entire family will miss that community.

Speaking of selling points of schools, the proposal of the Headmaster of the nation’s oldest private school to quite significantly change the school’s honors system has become a battle cry for some parents. Well over 100 parents showed up on Tuesday at a special meeting of the school’s Parent Council to discuss only this issue.

The Headmaster, who was clearly under the weather, explained her proposal and then listened to comments by over 20 parents. The Headmaster’s main point is that the current honors system is arbitrary and unfair, and that by “making the entire curriculum an honors curriculum” the school can open up more opportunities for more students. She continued to emphasize the two principles of “high expectations of all students” and “equity.”

If 22 people spoke, then 19 of them spoke against the plan, some with much emotion. Many were parents of honors students who did not want their sons or daughters to lose that opportunity. No one suggested that the honors program was an equitable system, but they seemed to feel that the school owed that opportunity to its “best” students. The idea that the honor students would be in the same classes with others who were merely in the top 10% of all public school students in Boston would be, for them, a great injustice.

The father of one of Vince’s former basketball teammates calmly waited his turn to speak. Dressed in a suede jacket and a bow tie, he seemed destined to demand the the Headmaster drop her plan. Instead, he spoke quite eloquently in favor of the plan. He agreed that the way students get into the honors program is not at all fair or clear, and insisted that the system does damage to many of the students who don’t win when the sorting happens. More than a few in the crowd clapped in support of his remarks, and the Headmaster’s eyes said, “Thank God there’s somebody here who supports what we are trying to do.”

The PI could only wonder what he had gotten himself and his son into. Having been in the role of criticizing and taunting decision makers at many, many community meetings, he felt odd sitting there rooting for the powers that be. Such is the Tea Party world of 2010.

Emotions almost boiled over when a teacher got up to speak “as a parent.” He essentially said that the Headmaster was a “smart person” doing the best she can for all students and families. Parents should feel privileged to get such an education for their children for free, and if they didn’t like the new directions, they had full access to the door. Much hooting and heckling ensued, and the PI was looking for the sergeant-at-arms. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and the meeting continued. The PI desperately wanted to get up and put in his two cents, but he couldn’t get himself up off the chair. Maybe the role reversal was just too much for him. If he had been there to ridicule the Headmaster’s decision, he would certainly have been in line to speak.

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