The End of an Era

Six days to the first day of school (in most schools), and counting. This eleventh year in the Boston Public Schools promises to be a different experience for the Parent Imperfect and his family. For the first time, they will not have a student in the Rafael Hernández School.

Against some predictions, Vince will be back at the nation’s oldest public school. Hope springs eternal that the experience of summer school will convince him of the importance of keeping up with the ridiculous amount of work expected of him. As if the seventh and eighth grades weren’t difficult enough, the nation’s oldest adds another core subject for ninth grade. Vince will now have six core classes that each meet every day. He continues to insist that he loves the school and will do anything he needs to do to stay there. Inertia may be the most powerful force in nature.

After five years at the Rafael Hernández School, Connie will shift to an Advanced Work Class at the Hennigan School. She is very attached to her old school and her friends there, but by the end of fourth grade she was ready to try something else. For once, Liz, the PI and Connie, herself, were all on the same page, so the discussion was much easier than it had been when Connie was entering fourth grade.

Liz and the PI just yesterday received a call from the Boston Public Schools saying that, although the removal of PCB-tainted paint from the Hennigan is complete, the school won’t open until September 12, four days after the rest of the schools open. When C. finally walks in to school for the first day, she won’t know a single student in her new class. Even though the Hennigan is located just a few blocks from the Hernández, the composition of the school is radically different. Over 80% of the students at the Hernández were Latinos and the majority of students at the Hennigan are African-American. Will this make a difference to how Connie experiences her school? Since the Hennigan is a “late” school, classes will begin at 9:30AM and won’t end until 3:30PM. She will have no classes in Spanish, not even a simple Spanish class.

Why would the parents expose their daughter to such a transition when they could have easily left her in one of the most over-subscribed schools in the system? When they visited the classroom that Connie will be part of this year, they had a very good feeling about what was going on there. They liked the teacher and the way she interacted with her students. While the students didn’t know Connie, most of them (especially the girls) were very welcoming of her. People in the know who had been at the Hennigan AWC program, or are there now, gave the program high marks. Liz and the PI know very well and like the teachers that Connie would have for fifth grade at the Hernández (and did their best to explain to those teachers their reasons for changing schools), but it seemed time to offer Connie a change of scenery.

Liz and the PI are not now and have never been advocates of the AWC program. The Boston Public Schools would be better off if the resources devoted to AWC were invested in maintaining quality across the system in grades 4-6, assuming that is how the resources would be used. That change is not even on the agenda, however, as AWC is a very popular program among some parents whose children might not be in the system, otherwise.

So, while eating crow after years of high-horse critiques of AWC, the PI goes with his family down a new path. Once, again, hope springs eternal…

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