thumbnail of Say Brother; The School Issue; 320
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
So you know how it's going to our black community for 65 years the Boston School Committee has consisted of five members elected at large. No black man or woman has been elected to that body. That lack of representation for black people has become more and more critical as the proportion of black students in predominantly black schools has risen 36 percent of the public schools 95000 students are black. Sixty seven schools have student populations more than 50 percent black. But again no black seeds on the body that decides what those youth will be taught that determines the criteria by which teachers a hired that controls the school departments 109 million dollar budget. On Tuesday April 2nd there will be a special referendum in Boston a referendum to choose one of four plans for restructuring the Boston School Committee this April referendum is actually a primary. The plan chosen
on Tuesday will be paid off in a November election against a proposal saying there should be no change in the school committee structure. But that does not make Tuesday's referendum any less important. The referendum is vitally important. The sponsors of each of the four plans on the ballot say their plan will provide the most democratic and effective representation for all. Tonight we're going to explore each of those four plans. We're going to see what they offer and what they don't offer. We're not going to tell you which plan to vote for. That's for you to decide. But we'll try to do is provide you with information by discussing the pros and cons of each plan we have with us three guests who are very qualified to speak about these plans and other educational issues. They are Bill Owens. Dorothy Jones John
O'Bryant and moderating discussion will be lead Daniel staff reporter for the evening compass Lee. Thank you Tucker. Before we get into a plan by plan discussion with our guests let me briefly outline the specifics of each plan. Plan one was proposed by the present school committee member Paul Tierney. It proposes a school committee of nine members that would consist of eight members elected at large with the mayor sitting as an ex officio member. That is he would have no vote except in cases of a tonic. Plan Two was proposed by the parents league for better education. It proposes an 11 member school committee. Each member elected from one of 11 zones within the city. This plan would also create 22 members who Congress comprised of two members elected from each of the 11 zones. Congress members would be empowered to monitor school committee meetings report back to the voters of their district quarterly intervals and hold specific hearings on the
total education budget. They would have no vote in school committee proceedings but could notify actions of the school committee taking taken without the Congress presence. Plan Three was officially proposed by the committee to support plan three and it is known that this plan has the mayor's support. It is by far the most sweeping plan and provides for both a measure of community control of schools and a more direct and powerful role in school department affairs plan three proposes to eliminate the present school committee structure to centralize specified budget making and appoint of powers under the mayor and to decentralize specified personnel hiring and evaluation curriculum and staff development and I'm sorry curriculum and staff development school repair and budgetary matters through several layers of committees reaching down to the neighborhood school councils and high school councils. On a chart that looks like this.
The mayor would appoint the superintendent of schools who would run the school system the mayor the superintendent and his deputy would be advised by a citywide advisory committee drawn from an area Advisory Committee and a citywide high school Advisory Committee. Members of these two bodies would be drawn from neighborhood school councils and the high school council. Plan four was proposed by Boston city councillor Gerald O'Leary. He proposes 11 school committee members five elected at large and six elected from six individual districts. Boston's voters would vote for five At-Large candidates and one candidate from their district. Those are the plans we're going to ask our guest to identify and to comment on their strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned who Our guest are John O'Bryant Dorothy Jones and Bill Owens. I'd like to open discussion now and plan one that is the plan which would expand the present school committee to 8 At-Large elected members with the mayor serving as a
non-voting ninth member except in cases of our time. And I'd like to address this this question to Dorothy Jones supporters of plan one argue among other things that expanding the number of school committee members increases the opportunity for and representing areas and minorities to gain a voice on the school committee. I wonder what you think about that. It is possible of course that the minority community might get one of the eight seats in that large election but I think that's not the point at issue. Plan One does not really provide for any effective change. Having a person sitting there who can speak for us who will have one vote out of eight doesn't guarantee that anything is going to change in the schools in our community and in the other schools in the city where parents feel frustrated when teachers feel frustrated. Plan one to me essentially continues what we have now
adding three more people all elected at large. I'd just like to add to that. Even with an eight member school committee it does not guarantee the black in minority communities that we may be able to elect. A person into that body just in the last elections where persons running for city council where there are nine at large elected persons it was demonstrated that was very difficult to get a black person elected. In fact we did not get a black elected and there has only been one time in in the history of the city here that we have been able to get a black elected to that council and that was back in some years ago. I believe the first time I came in number 8 it was only after he had served in office that he was able to move up. Where is the at large system that is perhaps at fault here.
The supporters of the plan say that the at large system ensures that community members will emphasize the general interest. Are you disagreeing with that I wonder if you know what I mean only have approximately 60 percent 16 percent. The Boston population is black. The voting population. I think that what you have in that lines of election is the same as you have no fact that you will get people elected based upon the majority group in the city. My major concern here is that as an extension of what we already have we still will not be able to hold the school committee members accountable for their actions. And I think accountability is a key factor in helping one to develop the kind of quality within their schools in the neighborhood that you need. And incidentally top but there is no shift in the balance of power. That does not change it remains the same is still does not provide an awful parent participation it does not offer community
participation. The that has been the hue and cry in the community that parents want to have their voices heard they want to participate and curriculum development they want to. Have something to say about the kinds of teachers and administrators that are in their schools. Under that plan none of this will happen. But what about including the mayor on the committee. Supporters say that will streamline efficiency and reduce squabbling between the school committee and the mayor since the mayor only votes in case of a tie. I don't see that much of a change there are not likely to be that many instances when the mayors vote is going to be significant and for the rest of the time he's just a voice as he is no. So again I don't see that anything changes the majority of the school committee usually votes pretty much the same way they represent the same kinds of interests and those are not educational interests. The At-Large system encourages people who are not concerned with what's happening in the classroom but people who are concerned
about the city as a whole and political ambitions within the city and plan one change doesn't change this one whit. Who are some of the. Big groups some of the people supporting. Plan one. They're very visible. The only person frankly that I have seen speaking for plan one has been Mr. Tierney himself. I have not been aware of other support there may well be but I haven't been aware of and I've been all over the city talking about the referendum. We would you characterize a planned one as as some opponents of it have said as simply the status quo. Yes I think more than any of the other plans it simply maintains what we have with a facade of adding something. Well there's one interesting point that it raises which I don't think any of the other plans raise and that is the matter of compensation he would propose to pay I think school committee member $75 per meeting. And Mr. Tierney said this week that that would ensure. School Committee members attending meetings and being in
that sense accountable. I'm wondering what you think about idea. I've noticed the attendance at the school committee meetings and it seems to mean that there's enough press involved for the school committee members to attend because of the ambitions that they have and I haven't noticed the absence of many of the members because of the lack of receiving a salary. I am not opposed however to some form of increment being paid to members of of the school committee because I think there ought to be some kind of expense account built in there that is a services being provided. And I tend to believe that it ought to be compensated. I'm ambivalent about that one. Theoretically I agree with you but when it comes down to the actual fact that this business of paying $75 per month per meeting up to a total a
maximum of 10 meetings a month to eight people will end up costing the city upwards of seventy two thousand dollars in addition to all the money we now pay out. There is no provision for any kind of accountability. They simply have to go to meetings. And as Bill has said they go to meetings now. And yet we see our education dollar going up up up with men one third of the city's tax forms for education and no matter where you turn no matter who the parents are you're talking to it's very difficult to find a parent in the city of Boston was completely satisfied with the education of the children. In addition to that Dorothy I think it's important to point out that this in fact is an extension simply because this plan nowhere talks about quality of education. And they talk about at large elections and compensating people in streamlining but nobody's dealing with the control aspect the quality of the education that's taught within the schools. So that
is in fact an extension of what we already have on a larger scale. One thing I noticed was that the plan never mentioned your point Mr. Brown. The plan ever mention the control of the school operating budget or control of the school construction budget which are are separated now the mayor controls the school construction aspect in the school committee controls the school operating budget and also it doesn't really talk about patronage which I think you have to talk about. I think that's one of the swap offs in the present system. OK where there is no compensation there are other swap offs in terms of the patronage jobs because I know I remember a while back I was informed that the people who work as assistants or secretaries to school committee members were making upwards of a hundred fifteen hundred sixty dollars a week and who knows what they do while they're on the job. I mean they're there to answer phone calls and to carry out whatever activities the school committee member wants. And one doesn't change that and so no it doesn't it continues. Can we just momentarily talk about some of the
issues that we face when we talk about educating black children in Boston. I think that might lend some insight to the discussion. And again under this system there's no way of changing some of the concerns that we have relative to staffing for example. For example we you know we don't have near enough minority and black teachers attendance offices secretaries custody ins as a matter of fact black children in the Boston school system at this point have no way of seeing themselves in any role other than occasionally they may see a teacher. I think we have to move around to plan to now. I just like to ask Mr. O'BRIEN. Joe terminally Senator Joe Tumulty it was week said among other things this is a supporting argument for a plan to their plan to ensure that every group has a plan that would create an 11 member school committee and a 22
member school Congress ensures that every group and every section of the city will be represented on the school committee and have its voice heard. He says that speaks to the measure of both representation and accountability. Well I think technically speaking he's right. There will be some representation but I view that as like a voice in the wilderness if you are one representative. Out of 11. I mean it's the same as having one positive liberal member on the present committee always the vote coming out for one. But the policy remaining the same and I I would see this is happening on the plan too whereby we'll have one or two representatives and then the vote will be 9 to 2. And incidentally with the whole concept of the Congress the Congress doesn't have a vote. You have twenty two persons who whose responsibility will be to observe the Boston School Committee
when the school committee goes in next executive session. They may not be able to attend. I'm just wondering what does that really mean and whether just by having 22 people to observe what the school committee is doing. How much change will that make. I wonder Bill if you would speak about executive session because that's something. Let me interrupt for a minute. You're wrong. One of the. I get minutes for plan too. Is that even an executive even i Congress must be there. If the Congress is not present at a meeting nothing can be decided all the Congress has the legal power to nullify guns eliminate the behind the closed door official decision. Well I understood you know that they could notify in the meeting but I did not understand that about the executive session. We define executive session for our audience and some people while the executive session is when the committee would go behind closed doors really
to make certain decisions that it does not want to make out in the public. And there has been no ruling to this point that the executive sessions would be open and the state house in the House of Representatives for instance the various committees have voted to have open executive sessions and that is not the case with the Boston School Committee so they may go behind closed doors there are no minutes taken of those meetings and nobody none of the public has. It will ever know what happens in in those executive sessions. And that's one of the reasons I raise that question because I know that that I've been raising that question with people and proponents of the plan too and those people have not been able to give me a very firm. Leigh Yes that they'll be able to get in those executive sessions and what they will be able to do. So how do we define the zone's How do those zones come to be
those items are spelled out in the legislation they parents league defined it zones in the legislation and they are essentially within the limits of the one man one vote requirements ethnic neighborhoods and plan two would guarantee the black community two zones and with the possibility in the south end of a third. But that still we get representation along with frustration because there is no guarantee that our needs and desires and ambitions for our children would be satisfied under a plan to plan to does not change the power relationships either. It does guarantee representation the way planned one doesn't. But once we have the representation then what do we do with it. If if I were a member of the school committee under Plan two I could foresee endless frustration because I cannot expect representatives of the majority of the city based on
past performance to vote along with me on the issues that are most important to my community. Supposing the Spanish community had a representative it would be the same thing and they would only have one. The one group that might do better. The Italian community has never had a member on the school committee and they would be guaranteed a member. But I still don't see him plan to. The real possibility of change I keep going back to where it counts. What happens to the child in the classroom what happens to the individual classroom teacher who wants to teach children. And it was stuck in the system as truly as the child is and plan too does not address itself to that. It seems to me that plan 2 is just putting a lot more people into what is an already existing structure that does not change the way the decisions will be made in that structure but it will be much more cumbersome because there
will be just a lot more people trying to make those same decisions. You want one aspect of a school Congress intrigue me. It says that the school Congress members are to report back to the voters of their districts at quarterly intervals. I understand that to be three months every three months which which strikes me as strange in a plan that presumes too to stress accountability and representativeness. I'm wondering if if perhaps the time measure to report back to voters of the district shouldn't have been shorter I mean three months is a long period of time and a lot can happen. Well it seems to me that there should be an ongoing mechanism of reporting to voters I wish. If if I were not to receive phone calls or if I had three months to prepare to get back to the people of my district what it is that I'm doing or have been doing or the decisions that are being made in the legislature would make that job really a very easy kind of job it seems to me. But
I think that we can't just say that we can go back every three months we have to do it on an ongoing basis in order to really have any kind of accountability built in. And another problem that I see here in terms of the 22 member Congress. You need staff right in the U.S. if you're going to do reporting if you're going to be attending meetings if you're going to begin to have bills going to begin to have some kind of a budget to work on it is going to cost money. And I don't see where any funds are appropriated for planned to to support the Congress with the staff you know to do this reporting. Furthermore once the Congress reports back to the community and gets the community's reactions there is nothing in the legislation that says that the school committee is required to listen or pay attention. So in that sense. Except for the Congress's ability as I read it to sit in on executive sessions
there their power is no different from the power I now have to go and attend school committee meetings to tell the school committee how I feel about things. They don't have to listen to me. They don't have to listen to the Congress. Who are some of the people supporting this particular plan. It's a group of parents who got together after the state hearings a year ago on the racial imbalance plan. There are people on both sides of that struggle some who'd been going for years to try to repeal the state racial imbalance law and others who'd been going for years opposing them and trying to maintain the law who decided that they need to do something for their children and got together and developed this plan. I know some of them quite well I think that they are parents who are sincerely interested in their children I just think they came up with a plan that doesn't go as far as they need it to go. I have a I'm returning back to the matter of compensation again both for this plan and both generally speaking no matter what plan comes out the
matter of compensation whether you put the school committee members and supporting bodies and certainly the school Congress is going to take a long time of this plan passes. A lot of time on the part of its members. I'm just wondering I know Dorothy Jones you spoke about the amount of compensation and started to speak about in a general way. Do you think that school committee members should be paid should they be paid an annual salary. Should they be paid a salary by meeting they be paid at all ideally. I think that there should be some compensation at this point in time given the whole history of Boston and its crazy politics. I would oppose putting a salary on the job because I'm terribly afraid of getting people who go into the job for the money and not because they're interested in education. I do believe however that we have to have some mechanism for paying expenses because otherwise poor folks can't participate. You just don't have it to lay out. So I think some
kind of balance there but I I am not at this moment in favor of putting a salary on the job. One other concern that I have we notice very clearly how the school committee members presently and in the past have been very hungry for publicity and do anything to get publicity to promote their own cause on the plant to where you would have one to up possibly three minority representatives on the school committee. I see this as a vehicle whereby committee members who are doing business as usual will get twice as much publicity since since there will be a confrontation within the meetings over emotional issues such as bussing such as accountability. And I think that in many instances you may end up having a circus up there on the Hill. When people I suppose we're dealing with education issues. We will find all methods of provocation so that people can just keep the cameras rolling and they can get that million dollars with but
let's say that they get with confrontation. I think we've got to move on a plan to revisit the plan that would put the mayor in charge of the school department through his superintendent deputy superintendent and those superintendent Superintendent and his deputies would be advised by city wide advisory committee that would be drawn from an area advisory committee a citywide high school Advisory Committee and neighborhood school council and a high school council and I'm I'm wondering on a program the campus Weekly this past week to the spokeswoman for Plan 3. Marilyn Van Arsdale said that this is the only plan which which really addresses the issues of accountability and community participation decentralization access to authority I'm wondering what will I want and what you think about that. Well first of all I'd like to say Leigh that this really does a lot clearly put the mayor in charge of the people in charge with plan three and the real power is that the
neighborhood school council at the local level. The mayor incidentally as the chart would point out as the direct line to the superintendent then there is the one that the superintendent is immediately accountable to. The mayor may propose a superintendent but the council has to ultimately decide whether or not to accept or reject the superintendent. That's very important. And the citywide advisory council will have a great deal of power in the selection of that superintendent and those persons on that council will be representative from the local level. So that's the first piece but in terms of. How decisions will be made. All of the decisions will be by and large made by people on the local level because they'll really have control of at least 10 percent of that budget. They will be able to determine their
schools how schools will be built. You know where schools will be built. They'll be able to participate in the development of the curriculum they'll be able to participate in the selection of administrators and teachers. They'll be parents students and teachers on these councils and that's a great deal of power. Let me ask you who who will draw up the budget the overall operating budget for the school part will that be the superintendent. Yes that's the superintendent's job as it is in most school systems. The superintendent is responsible for drawing up a budget presenting it to the mayor and to the citywide Advisory Committee. The mayor will indicate his approval of the budget after receiving a review the results of the review of the city wide Advisory Committee. Then the budget goes to the city council for final approval as all budgets must and the citywide advisory committee can have its say there if it disagrees with the mayor's position. I want to stress this
involvement of the citywide advisory committee in the selection of the mayor because the process is really quite simple we have the president in the way in which the president of the United States appoint Supreme Court justices. He nominates if the Senate of the United States as we saw last year does not approve of the person he is proposing that person is not appointed. The citywide advisory committee has exactly the same power in terms of the appointment of the superintendent the may or may not meet if the citywide advisory committee says no. That person is not appointed superintendent. That's in the law that's written into the legislation it's very clear and very easy to understand. And I think it's also important to point out that I think that the mayor can only submit that name twice. That's right he can't wear down the committee if he's being stubborn. So in your estimation do you think this this particular plan affects the balance of power. It certainly does it removes POA
from a city wide body. Elected at large as it is now and places it close to where the decisions are implemented. I think if you read the chart from the bottom up instead of from the top now it makes sense in a neighborhood school council is organized around a middle or junior high school and the feeder schools that the elementary schools that feed into it in any particular neighborhood. The teachers in each of those schools will elect a teacher to represent them in each of those schools. The parents will elect a parent to represent them. Those teachers and those parents along with five residents selected from the neighborhood will serve as the neighborhood school council. In the high schools in each high school the teachers will elect three teachers the parents will elect three parents and the students will elect three students. That makes up the high school council for that high school. Many of the power has knowledge vested in the Boston School
Committee will be exercised at that level. All of the money except the money that is now establishing fixed costs and contracted salaries will be expended by those councils they will have the decision as to what to do with that discretionary money they will have the power to interview teacher candidates coming in to fill new positions and establish a rated list from which principals in that neighborhood will select teachers to fill vacancies. They will have the responsibility to evaluate the principals in those districts and send their recommendations to the area superintendent. Every person who serves on an area advisory committee or a citywide advisory committee is first elected at the neighborhood. From the neighborhood school council you get a parent a resident and a teacher from each neighborhood council in an area to serve on the in the area Advisory Committee. Each area advisory committee committee will send a parent or resident and a teacher to the citywide in the high schools they
will send a parent a teacher and three students from the high schools to serve on the citywide Advisory Committee. So you get a real pyramid structure with the people at the top directly accountable to the people who initially elected them at the neighborhood level. And it ought to be pointed out one other piece that when the neighborhood people are disenchanted with the way people are representing them at the citywide level they may remove those people at any time. Let me let me serve at the will of the neighborhood. How are the neighborhoods defined I think that's a critical question and then who supports this plan. A lot of be interested in knowing both of those things. You know who are some of the groups that support this plan. Well I'll speak to the group sometime. There are groups throughout the city of Boston. The plan was developed by a number of people who got together over a long period of time. And in just about every neighborhood in every area in the city
there are persons who have come together to support this plan. A couple of years ago there was and see a citywide education committee and that drew upon people from all over the city. That group supports the plan the Massachusetts Black Caucus supports the plan. Neighborhood people in South Boston in East Boston and West Roxbury Hyde Park MADD upin many of those areas are very supportive of this land so I I I just it's a it's a sweeping as you said earlier it's a sweeping plan to how our neighborhoods define and neighborhood is the geographic area. Around a middle or junior high school and the elementary schools feeding into it that is the neighborhood. One of the other advantages of
clan 3 over the other plans it's the only plan that allows for participation in governance regardless of what happens in terms of transfers of students. For example if I live in a neighborhood over here and my child is going to school in neighborhood X over there. I participate as a parent in selecting or may even run as one of the parent representatives of any school where I have a child and rolled the definition of parent in the legislation is clear it's a person having a child in a particular school. By the same token if I choose to continue to be involved in my neighborhood regardless where my child is going to school if I don't have a child in the system I participate as a resident. In those the governments of those schools where I live so that no matter where a child is transferred the parent can be assured that there is a person that parent can hold accountable as representing them.
The major argument I've heard against this plan is that it is too complicated that it is too radical that you are not going to get the deep involvement that the plan offers from parents from high school people from high school students from teachers from from administrators from residents that are you. The plan is too big. People have said that of a number of people involved that have to be elected. Are you not going to get a great turnout for these kind of I'd like to just take. Very like in a point that you picked up. You know I think it's the second point that influences all the other arguments that one develops in that second point is that it's too radical it's too radical to give people some control and say over the schools within their districts that's what's radical. You know as a result of the status quo wanting to continue to control one hundred nine hundred ten million dollar budget and continue to set policy for the total system
they are doing whatever they can to destroy a plan that will provide control and input on a local level so we start with the statement that it's too radical and then from that we get the other arguments that are trying to defeat the plan there's no way you can say that this plan does not provide a vehicle for people to participate. The question of the other piece is that the plan is not that complicated. People first of all it's probably the most simple of all the plans and because if I were going to get involved I'd want to know where could I begin to get involved. And clearly I could get involved at my school level at the school where my kids go and if I get involved at the school where my kids go that may be the extent of the involvement that I would like to participate in. But then of course that can be broadened and it can go to the next level and then it can go to the area level and then to the
citywide level. And before you know it people will clearly understand what the whole chart looks like and they will be not only participating probably at the school level but they'll go to the area level and then possibly to the citywide level. So the plan is very simple and but it gets it gets across to people how they can participate in a citywide. School you know I saw Bill if you want to run for office and participate on a local level from then which will come so it won't be necessary for you to hold testimonials have to raise sufficient funds that is on a local basis that is first. Some people have to have a philosophical argument against against decentralization and they both do that by pointing to the centralization in New York. Oh I mean which I don't know very much about but people raise that point when they say that the centralization in New York hasn't worked. Therefore to expect this infiltration to work in Boston First of all I was in New York for a while even though I grew up in Boston I was in New York for a while and I'm back in Boston
again. I was there when the decentralisation began. This is very different from what's in operation in New York now in New York the situation is not as clear cut. There is not a clear definition of the powers of the Central Board of Education which was maintained in New York and the local community boards and that creates conflict as the boards try to get more power in this legislation. The power at each level is clearly spelled out. That's one thing. Second New York purports to have a community control situation which is not really so because again control was not taken away from the Central. This is not a community control plan it's a plan for a great deal of community involvement in decision making at every level. There are checks and balances between the elected group and the appointed
administrators. First of all that at each level the administrator is appointed with the approval of the relevant elected group. When the superintendent wants to appoint an area superintendent he has to get the approval of the relevant area advisory committee principals have to be approved by the neighborhood Committee. There are checks and balances there. The other argument that people won't get involved. I think we can see the evidence within the city now that people are being involved in mechanisms with far less clear cut power. Take for example the community schools that was set up they Hennigan is one where I met with the council there. They are very much interested in this plan. I found that people around the community schools are interested in model neighborhood board people are interested. Various civic groups I have been all over the city talking to people about the referendum. I've talked to many people in the school system and not just in my own community. It begins to make sense to a great many people because they can see very
clearly what role they can play. Teachers many teachers find the possibility of being involved at the neighborhood council of working with parents for the first time without the restraints of the present system puts on them so that we do not will no longer have the situation where parents blame teachers and teachers blame parents and they never get together to work out the problems that concern them both. I think we have plenty of evidence that people will be involved once they give in a role. Parents are apathetic now not because they don't care but because they don't see any possible role. The way in which parents all over the city of Boston Hyde Park Brighton you name it. Beginning to see possibilities in Plan 3 indicates to me that the apathy has grown out of frustration at not having a role to play. I have two questions 1 What powers does the mayor have I wonder if you would would specify those powers and to some people an
argument against the plan is that with this plan looks fine now under Mayor White. But if you had a more conservative minded mayor in office this plan would not look so fun. I want if you would know we could be. Could you speak to that point. Well let me just say that if the plan is entrenched and people at every level begin to exert the amount of power that they have it probably would not make a great deal of difference who the mayor was because the don't forget the real power. And if this plan is passed on is at the local level and that's where the real decisions will be made the real decisions will not be made by the mayor but by the people at the most local level. But in addition to that I think it's important to point out. That the mayor can be held somewhat accountable under this plan whereas now he simply
points to the school committee and says well it's out of my hands I have no control or influence over the schools. So by involving the mayor he can be held somewhat accountable and you can rest assured that any educational issues that he's dragging his feet on may hurt him when it comes to election time so I you know I think that this could be a very positive factor in terms of a mayor being very positive about the school system that he's supposed to have control over and influence in your estimation of assaulting Powell generally. Do you think that this is the planet best serves the interest of the black community. I think so and I'd like to go back for a second to the mayor and the mayor has two specific powers under this plan. One is the nomination of a superintendent. And two is his involvement in the budgetary process. Beyond that point the superintendent is the person who is held responsible for running the schools and that's another significant change. Boston has according to all the studies one of the weakest if not the very weakest superintendency of any urban school system.
We pay a decent salary to a well trained individual who presumably knows how to run a school system. And then we don't let him because the powers of vested in the school committee including many administrative powers that the superintendent can't even routinely change the name on the records of a female teacher who gets married. That has to go to the school committee for a vote and one of the things they plan to does is strengthen the administrative arm of the school system at the same time applying the question of accountability. The administrators have to be evaluated by the elected official neighborhood council area Advisory Committee and the citywide Advisory Committee. But on a day to day basis they administrate as a given the power to run the schools. The freedom to do so and then I held accountable for what they accomplish. And I think that's an important change too.
And let me just speak to two points here in terms of being the best plan for the black community I clearly think it is. You pointed out earlier really I believe that there are about six to seven schools now that are predominantly black. There's been a lot of fighting around whether or not to implement or implement the racial imbalance plan or desegregate the schools and if whatever happens with that piece it seems to me that people at the most local level will be able to participate in the process and education of their children which is vitally important in the black community and that we have been discriminated against and there has been no equity in the education that our children do in fact receive. The other point is that if the mayor. Time does not act responsibly and responsive through the budgetary process can and will not be just hurting the black and minority communities but he will be
hurting all communities and he will certainly be held accountable for that. There is one final point I'd like to make and that is speaking to Executive Sessions kind of things. You know when executive sessions are called and even though in the legislature we have open execs all in a powerful chairman has to do is poll the membership on a certain piece of legislation and that serves to intimidate people so that open execs really don't have to be very meaningful at all. And though you may have people open and coming in sitting in listening to what is happening some of the work for getting a measure through would have could have been done prior to the exact happening or you can always have a measure tabled until such time that that the chairman can get that out.
Fred we have to move on to plan for this plan a plan for proposes 11 school committee members five you elected at large and six elected by a district. A voter would choose five ad large candidates and one candidate from his or her district. Supporters of the plan argue that the plan combines the best of both forms a representation that that is that the general good will be observed and that represented areas will get a voice in on the school committee and wonder what the panel thinks about that. I first of all since we don't know what the districts will be under the legislation the city council will decide on the boundaries of those six districts. I don't even know for a fact how much representation we would get. I presume we might get one person out of the 11 and the arguments I had against Plan 2 would then stand. There's also the fact that by
continuing 5 at large we guarantee already. The continuation of essentially the present school committee with six new people many many of whom might be essentially the same kind of person. This plan to me isn't terribly different from Plan One one one argument thoughts one argument I've heard against Plan for is that the members elected from the districts would be at a disadvantage to those elected at large for reasons simply that of the at large members would have more support and more powerful support simply because they had to run on a citywide basis. Well each of the 11 would have a vote of equal weight in the committee operations. But I see they the six who were elected by districts having to account to at least a constituency whereas the 5 at
large would be wouldn't have a constituency and that might make a difference. I don't see that it would be much of an advantage one way or the other and that large election will cost more. Yes and I think that's the point that I would like to continue to pursue. The fact that you're going to have Atlanta elections means that there will be politicians who continue to badger and threaten any teachers or administrators who did not support their testimonials or the fund raising affairs. I think we need to eliminate that aspect because what we have now in the Boston school system is we have teachers who are buying their way up if you will. They make sure that the scene of every testimonial they make sure that they provide any support and assistance for any other people or candidates that the particular school committee member wants them to in as a result of people trying to buy their way out. We have a
sacrifice in the performance in the quality of education that we have and we have administrators being appointed who really may not be competent and we can see this every day in terms of the kinds of jobs some of the present administrators are doing. On that planned for with the people elected from the local level as well as the large people I think it would be a psychological problem because the people who are elected at large psychologically may have some advantage over the people because of the constituency level. The people on the local level would feel it seems to me that the people who were elected at large did in fact have. A broad based constituent than did the people on the most local level. And it seems to me that
the people at the local level might not be quite as effective as I would like to see them. The one argument supporters of the plan to advance is that they fear under several of the other plans plans 2 and 3 that the squabbling among subgroups will block or hinder any kind of educational progress. And they say that a combination of the two is a is a much better way of going about it. That would increase the swap off. That's all that'll do. I mean you know people say well I'll do this if you do that without again any concern for accountability in quality education. I think that will just increase the possibility of people swapping off to get their boats through for the mark. I've attended a lot of meetings of various groups. Take for example some of the councils elected in the community schools
or take the model neighborhood board as an example has been in existence now going on five years. It is to me very interesting to watch how people progress and develop. People are elected from a fairly narrow base but if they are concerned about a common issue you find that the votes in these groups do not follow what you might expect as in the district interest groups I think the kind of squabbling you're talking about doesn't really happen in the community school councils for example I have watched teachers divide parents divide community residents divide they don't vote as teacher as parent is community resident they vote on the issues and you'll find all of the groupings on all sides of the issues. You'll find people making accommodations to each other for the greater good. And I predict that the same kind of thing will happen in the neighborhood school councils as people begin to grapple with the
real issues. The fact that I'm a parent and you're a teacher or vice versa is going to become irrelevant we have two people who are concerned about what goes on in the schools in this particular neighborhood and we will. I go out and thrash out I think the very planning group that developed a plan three is a case in point these were people who came together around the one issue of what can we do to make our school system better. And not really in many cases not knowing each other before that and having many different ideas and plan three is the result of months and months of talking it out of trying on different concepts for size and coming up with a consensus that this is something that can work. What do you think. Blandford strong points are. Frankly I don't see any in plan for I have to be honest with you. Let me pull the panel on them. Bill what do you think who has strong points. I I agree with Dorothy had don't see it as strong points and
planned for and I don't see how it could serve the interest of the good of anybody. Is any different than the president does. Mr. Mike I see a plan for it's business as usual and I've been so frustrated in trying to deal with the school system in the administration and I think this if it's possible this would just heighten the frustration that I don't even know if that's possible at this point. But I see that as business as usual. What kind of support this plan for city water. I have not heard one person except Mr O'Leary speak on plan for and I think it's Mr. LEHRER That is right. Because it will air and I've only heard him really on the radio once. So I don't know that planned for has an appropriate moment. But the thing that doesn't interest me even with the plan that Paul Chani put forth the plan that Alarie put forth and the
plan that the citizens group put forth for planned to and the coalition that put a plan three together tells me that people want change. And it seems to me that if we are really about the business of making change we would be moving with a plan like Plan 3 which speaks to for reaching changes in the structure. As another point we should make a couple of years ago little commission. Recommended. That the school committee the bus and school committee should be abolished and planned for decentralizing the system to be developed. They did not choose to develop such a plan. But I think that that began to get a lot of people thinking about the possibilities and that's one of the things that the coalition the school system reform which was the original group developing plan 3 had in mind. You know one of the things that I'm very concerned about. And that is the inability of the people in the city of Boston in general the majority
group. To see the schools as a vehicle whereby their children can get what they need to survive. The reason I say that is because. Too often it's already been demonstrated. People more concerned with emotional issues than they are with educational issues. And at some point I hope that this could be a rallying point. Whereby the majority group in the city as well as I now do you know for years it's been the black community who has confronted the school system in the school committee which has improved the education throughout the city in some aspects in some areas. And I would like at some point to see the majority group and I think I see some of that happening now with people beginning to rally around plan three. We're by starting to look at the level and the quality of education the children are getting. And if this begins to happen I think that plan three will not only win big in April but it will win big in November.
I'm sorry as usual we find ourselves with too little time to discuss issues of great importance. I think we need another three or four hours to get down deep into these plans three or four hours which we don't have. But there will be two hours of further discussion of these plans of the compass weekly another channel 2 program will show a repeat of Tuesday's program Children's roulette which is a primer on the four plans on Saturday on channel 2 at 7:00 and on Channel 44 at 10:30. Let me briefly summarize again the four plans that are on Tuesday's referendum. Plan one school committee of nine members eight members elected at large. The mayor sits as a ninth member of voting only in case of a tie planned to a school committee of 11 members each member elected from a zone within the city. A 22 member school Congress would be created comprised of two members from each of the 11 zones planned three abolishment of the present school committee structure replaced by a superintendent appointed
by the mayor with approval of a citywide Advisory Committee. Councils of parents teachers residents and students teachers residents and students. Excuse me in each of the intermediate school districts and high school districts would exercise community control over their school districts. Plan for 11 school committee members elected at large. Six elected from six individual school districts are elected at large. The voter would vote for five adenoids candidates and one candidate from his or her district. Those are the plans. The choice is yours. Vote for the plan of your choice on Tuesday April 2nd compered. Thank you and thanks to our guests for their comments. I don't think there's anything more to add except to back up what Lee and I guess have said about the importance of this referendum and the importance of your vote. So be sure to do that this Tuesday vote. And good night. Remember be good to yourselves.
Thanking them. Thank you. When. To say.
Say Brother
The School Issue
Episode Number
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-94f1mj2z).
Episode Description
Program explores the upcoming, special, April 2, 1974 referendum vote in Boston to chose one of four plans for restructuring the Boston School Committee, the results of which will be up against a referendum in the fall that proposes no changes be made to the School Committee. Guests Bill Owens (a Massachusetts State Representative), Dorothy Jones (of Model Cities of Boston), and John O'Bryant (of Dimock Community Health Center) debate the merits and weaknesses of each of the plans and speak to the need for local and minority representation in the school system. Discussion moderated by Lee Daniels, staff reporter for Channel 2 News.
Race and Ethnicity
Public Affairs
African Americans Education; African Americans Politics and government; Boston (Mass.). School Committee; referendum
Rights Note:It is the responsibility of a production to investigate and re-clear all rights before re-use in any project.,Rights Type:All,Rights Credit:WGBH Educational Foundation,Rights Holder:WGBH Educational Foundation
Rights Note:Media not to be released to Open Vault.,Rights Type:Web,Rights Credit:,Rights Holder:
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Publisher: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 72b97437236a7ce42594cad4f927e602e8838623 (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
Format: video/quicktime
Color: Color
Duration: 01:00:21;00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Say Brother; The School Issue; 320,” 1974-03-28, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 1, 2023,
MLA: “Say Brother; The School Issue; 320.” 1974-03-28. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 1, 2023. <>.
APA: Say Brother; The School Issue; 320. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from