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Good evening welcome to black perspectives the half hour feature focusing on black issues information and lifestyles in the communities of Boston and it's all sure I'm your host Charles Desmond. Tonight it's with pleasure that I continue the series that we have been conducting over the last two weeks on the Boston School Committee elected officials and educational policy. This has been an extremely informative series for us since we've been able to get a closer view of how the Boston School Committee goes about the business of promulgating educational policy in the city of Boston. I'm very pleased tonight to welcome Daniel Burke who is the guidance counselor at Catholic Memorial High School and serves as the treasurer for the Boston School Committee. You probably have one of the most difficult jobs on the school committee looking at the complex issue of the budget and the finances of the school department. Can you talk to us a little bit about how in your capacity as Treasury you go about all this this treasure of the voice and school committee I chair the budget subcommittee. And what this means essentially is the superintendent with the help of
staff develop a budget for the coming fiscal year. And then I chair the meetings that the committee has regarding. What they would like to see and what they would not like to see in their budget. I also chair a public meeting but I guess it's my affinity to numbers that has made me so much comfortable in the position of the last three years. But it's when priorities get mixed up it can be very frustrating. There has been a lot of talk lately around the question of privilege and ship between the budget and quality in the education of our friends in the Boston public schools. Some people believe that the department the school budget is insufficient to have broad spread quality and I said broad spread because I think that there are some excellent programs in the Boston public schools and that we're doing some things very well in the Boston public schools. But it's also undeniable that there are some areas where there is room for growth and improvement.
Do you is this strictly a function of budget. Do you think that budget plays a major impact on the question of quality in the schools. Well I think that in this so much as budget dictates who works and who doesn't and how many people work where then budget is in fact a very effective tool for improving education. As far as the role of budget with regards to how much program costs what programs are expanded and in fact budget plays a very important role. I don't think however that simply by being the budget by spending more money we necessarily have better education and I think that's an opinion that our superintendent also concurs with at this particular time. I think that a general consensus in the city of Boston today that the quality of the public schools in Boston is improving and that there has
seems to be a decided turn for the better and with regards to the attitudes of teachers the attitudes of students as well as the public perceptions about what's going on in the public schools today. This obviously is a function of good management in some respects as well as reinvigorated perspective in optimism about the Boston Public Schools and the capacity of the sea. How do you see it what do you see happening right now. Well you have to understand something else I guess. I have a member of the purser's school committee as an avocation my vocation is that of an educator and I've been doing that for 25 years. And I concur very much with what you say. The Boston Public Schools very much on the rebound. We're strong enough to admit we don't do everything correctly. We're strong enough to assess and evaluate our programs critically. And that's something that hasn't always happened. I think that we have developed a healthy respect for the dollar bill. We've also
raised the aspirations of a lot of the students in our school system. We've insisted on better attendance. We have brought back promotional standards. We've implemented a discipline code. We are pushing student safety to the forefront in many many areas we have come a long way in the city school system. I think this teaching corps has a great deal more morale than just three short years ago. Just recently with these pending school closings we saw our very active vibrant excitable and excited enthusiastic student body but they were orderly. They presented their arguments intelligently. There weren't any sit ins. No one threw any rocks. And that is I think says a great deal for a Boston school system I think it's very definitely on the comeback. I know myself and I've said in previous shows dealing with this issue that
you could not help but be impressed by some of the presentations that were given by young people with regards to their sincerity and with regards to their real compassion about their schools. I know that when we read these reports about schools at recess and students at recess and what's wrong with the public schools there to hear some of these young people coming forward and speaking so and passionately compassionately about the schools was extremely encouraging I felt very much even though I think the issue itself was controversial. I felt that these students did a very good job in showing that students are being taught how to think critically how to be persuasive about presenting an idea as well as having their own opinions about these issues. There were there were four very distinct bodies of people who came before the school community. There was an outside community civic an educational leaders group in the one area there were our own staff for a myriad of reasons and a myriad of different.
Desires came before us almost universally to tell us there wasn't such a grand idea. They were very concerned and thoughtful parents. And then there was a very large group of diverse students and you're very right. The students presented themselves in a way that impressed everyone. I mean I as you know I voted for school closures backed by superintendent a hundred percent on that one because I thought it was right. But the most compelling arguments that I heard were the ones presented by this truth. Well we have sort of talked around this issue of the superintendent's recommendations with regards to school closings and I think that obviously in the capacity of your position and the budget person that there must have been some very compelling reasons from your own perspective on why you felt that this time this was. A sensible thing to do. And would you be willing to share with us. Oh sure. Your
own thinking with regards to the matter. I don't have any secrets Mike. My feeling was that as a committee last year we. Endure the idea of closing and consolidating some high school seats because we have too many high school seats and we chose and voted for I think for 10 to 3. The closing of the U minus school converting it to middle school which was its original purpose and consolidating that program in a technical high school building. Judge W. Arthur Garrity did not particularly become terribly enthusiastic or an image of that idea and consequently the process died in his court. He has since as you know left the case. The number of seats has in fact grown that are empty in our secondary school system. So we thought that with 5000 empty seats which you had as a number of schools offering programs on a limited basis
because there are a limited number of students there it only made extraordinarily good economic sense and I believe good educational sense to draw your resources together to be able to offer more programs in a setting that would have more students and we have 13 you know 35 million dollars allocated for Boston Latin School Improvement in Boston Latin Academy to find a home. The only proposal that I have seen is one that involves spending 18 million dollars on land school and building a new hole in the ground for a new building for Boston Academy right next to a Latin School. Now Charles when you have a situation where you have 5000 empty seats in the city it does not make very good sense to build a new high school. So one had to then look around and find a location. Where could we put the school.
And that was the reason when we looked at it. We found that to make a play in high school was one of our less or attended schools. It was a school that if in fact we decided to close the students there could be offered. The law just number of options including stay with the program as they are presently and then travel either with the programs to other schools or in fact if they wish to change their program they had the maximum number of educational alternatives and it also gave a central location to a school which is an exam school and supposed to be a city wide school. To me it made extraordinarily good sense. It also meant that we were going to another part of the program. It was going to combine the Indies at the Roosevelt school the Roosevelt would have absolutely no problem be absorbed in
neighboring Middle Schools. The Hannity's would have a a full fledged hundred percent school rather than half of a kitchen facility that they now enjoy on the road. I think you know the probably most compelling thing for me was if we could find a home that was an existing building full an academy that would free up 17 million dollars to fix those roofs and fix those boilers in those schools are falling apart. It's very very difficult to teach children for children in settings that have been painted for 15 or 20 years. So that's that was the motivating factor behind my vote in my support of the superintendent and I'm sure the superintendent understood. He just made good sense that he could spread rather than duplicating effort and spending money where it wasn't needed to put the money where it would do the most good for the most number of joy.
Well I think that those again are very compelling reasons why. Why such a plan was put on the table in the first place and I think that there was an awful lot of as everyone knows and the public is aware of and then he did a big about the matter notwithstanding the fact that these things are not going to happen immediately as the superintendent has has suggested. What do you see again in your capacity as the as the budget person the one most closely looking at the numbers what do you see the implications of a postponement on what some people believe is an inevitable event that will come. Where do you see in the city having to do to now rectify aiming to cope with the fact that we will again for another year be dealing with the large surplus of seeds. Well if I can just go back for a moment as far as the extended heated debate of school closings. As a
committee we are committed on any school closings to have public hearings. I think that is in our rules along with a number of other rules which will be to the benefit of public access for those folks who want to know what's happening in their community. And it may seem to those people outside to look like a form of self-torture as far as public hearings go. But I think that's I think any chance we're going to close a school we should go forward and meet the public and tell them why we're doing it. Unfortunately when we do that some of the folks might get a little nervous. But I think it's a matter of principle as far as as far as what's going to happen now that the plan has been taken off the table or voted down so to speak. I think that we have two options we either have to cut our costs to community or to 88 or we have to go and ask the mayor for more money and the city council for more money. This puts us in a very
difficult position because as a committee and I am a member of the committee even though I voted against a majority we are going to have to go before another elected body and say we think we need more money. You know by the way yes we did in fact vote not to consolidate and eliminate spending. Thats a very difficult position to defense. When you go across the street as far as the limiting programs go. There were several initiatives that the superintendent had in mind a student at risk program for one. We have historically given 6 million dollars to maintain the buildings and I say maintain the buildings. I mean fix heating fix broken windows the emergency day to day kinds of things a handrail falls off and has to be fixed.
That money usually runs out on or around mid April and we have no money after that. And that's how the building seriously deteriorate. What we're looking to do at this point is what the superintendent was suggesting is should we double that to 12 million. I think that money is gone at this point. That's something that just can't happen at this time. I know for sure knowing the superintendent that whatever recommendations are made will be those recommendations that will maximize program benefits to the children and minimize the negative kinds of things of having not being able to have money. I know there's going to be some cutbacks administratively. There is some talk that there may be some teacher Riffe program involved where we have to reduce our force at this point in time.
I'm not really up to speed on what those recommendations might be so I think I would be. A little irresponsible to share with any audience at the end of which we're sharing this evening in this program to go into a new detail because frankly I don't have all the details as the superintendent let me say that we're going to pause briefly for a public service announcement. You're listening to black perspectives on WNBA Af-Am University of Massachusetts. Please stay tuned we just zoom our discussion on the Boston School Committee elected officials and educational policies after this brief message w a theme we thought were educators a touch of class. We talked to a family health education and prevention model program whose goal of healthy adolescent development. We talk members argue adults parents and professionals trained to teach sex and help education workshops for their peers. We talk to dynamic theatrical
presentation addressing sexuality drug and alcohol abuse. Right and violent talk executive director Christine bond and Clary Dean MOORE James are experts with 27 years of collective experience teaching programming family. If you think this kind of education is important for your family's survival and content talking rating 25th Street math. At. 1 7 4 9. 1 7 4 9. We're back from a brief intermission and WNBA FM ninety one point nine. I'm your host Charles Desmond in tonight I guess for the third part of our series on the black perspective series and focusing on the Boston School Committee elected officials and educational policies. And tonight we're talking with Daniel Burke a guidance counselor at Catholic Memorial High School and treasurer for the Boston School Committee and we're back from a brief break. During our
intermission I was saying that we'd like to talk a little bit about the future of the schools and what we see on the horizon. What are some of the problems as you see them from your unique perspective and I hope that we can pick up on the discussion from there. While I ask him what the future of the Boston Public School System is a little like asking what the future of the waterfront is probably the only thing that's changing faster than downtown Boston is the make up of our school system. As you are aware we are a port city. We are an import city as far as immigrants go. We have a large number a growing number of Cambodians Vietnamese Laotians our numbers of Hispanics are growing markedly. We have a real commitment to meet the challenge of bringing those
different and diverse student bodies and moving them through our school system and developing in them the skills that will give them marketable positions when they leave our system some to employment some to further education and some to the service. In some respects we are also a school system that is attached to a some kind of a leg going to our past and I think probably the heaviest responsibility of our new superintendent is to break our leg and get us moving towards the 21st century. We all walked into driving children from one minority school to another in the yellow school busses. I think right now our committee is ready to focus on the educational achievement
of what those children are doing. I think you'll see a lot less of high school students driving on buses and they're going to go to school as they go to work on the MTA. I think there's going to be less attention paid to numbers firers racial quotas go and there's going to be a great deal more attention paid to what the reading level in achievement of youngsters is in the system. I I've talked to a great many minority parents and I have not heard a single minority parent tell me they think that their son or daughter is educated any better or any worse. If that son or daughter is sitting next to a Chinese student in a spandex suit to a white student but they are all universally concerned about the fact that their son or daughter have enough
books to read that they be motivated they be shown the alternatives that they are going to have after education that in fact we bring education not. Has some time spent in an institutional building. But as a ticket to a worthwhile livelihood after they graduate I've said a number of times that the school committee is a very different school committee than any other in the city of Boston. The original school committee in the city of Boston had the first public school you may be interested to know to teach the male students how to read the Bible. We don't read the Bible much anymore in public schools just I'm sure you're aware and we teach everybody males and females. We went through a political revolution where we had lawyers on our committee and decisions in education made from a legal point of view.
We now have a lot apartment but if you looked at the makeup of the 13 schools many members there are no lawyers. In fact there are a number of people who are rather serious about their educational background and their educational profession. We have a vice president of what we call it John Bryant. We've ever killed Brown who has served in private school. I'm in Procul school just about every member we have a faculty member at Salem State remember Salem State because we have Jean McGuire who runs the Mexico program and all the suburban school systems between us in this room school systems around Boston. So there's a very serious commitment. I mean we have we've read Ostrava Seanie who although she's not a graduated matriculated educator she is a person who has Center children to Boston public schools and she
has come right up from a volunteer in a local school to head of her local parents organization and there was a school committee and brings a wealth of knowledge within that area because of the personalities involved. Professionally among the school's committee members the focus is going to be much easier for a superintendent to look at the educational offerings. I don't think anyone has any problem fighting for better education. Our approaches may be different. We may have to focus less on personnel and more on programs we have going for three years trying to develop an overall program budget for the bus of public schools because presently all we have is a personnel budget where we have a number of bodies in the school. That's how much money we spend. We will by the end of this year be able to say this is how much we spend in French
is how much we spend in math this is how much we spend in this district as opposed to that district. And I think those figures might be very revealing. Well I think that part of the intention of this series that we're doing now is specifically to do what I think you just and you just did most eloquently which is to say that in many respects this is probably the most the best educated and most informed school committee that we have seen at least in the last 10 years. You've got a lot of depth and a lot of experience and people who are coming from a variety of different perspectives but are committed to this whole question about building quality public schools. And I'm I'm very encouraged and I think that the nature of the debate as it presents itself with regards to the committee itself is educational for the people who watch the school committee as I'm sure it is for the school committee itself certainly has. Now you have these and I think I should add that the the 13 member that the depth
of the experience on the committee is another factor I think that's contributing a lot to the dialogue that goes on with regards to public policy right now in the city of Austin I think that you can now get beyond some of the issues that we were bogged down with two decades ago. But the issues that were very real they were very critical in. No I don't think that I don't mean to in any way imply that they were not instead still continue to be still important issues. But I think that. Put putting touching those issues around is the overall objective of that. Primarily we're in the business of educating students. You know as long as that remains remains at the forefront I think that we can move aggressively ahead in the capacity of the position that you have encountered them or you get a unique opportunity to look at different systems What do you see do you do you see things that are transferable from one system to the other oh it should be. It's interesting that you said that because when I
first came to the system I was impressed with the fact that we had quotas and we have so many seats for white students and black students. And I was very much taken up three years ago by the fact that people believe that that was a very very important. But then when I went down to the theater a high school in the south end and I saw a school or Snape. Well no maybe 98 maybe 65 to 75 percent minority and doing very well. And I went to our grammar schools in Dorchester which go the gamut from being almost all minority to almost all white and have every particular percentage in between. It became abundantly clear to me what I had already known and that was. What kind of a person sits next to somebody who is not nearly as important as does that student who's sitting there have facilities the books the paper the pencils.
Is the person sitting in front of that student actively engaging in the educational process. Is he making education something that's interesting something that's rewarding for the youngster if he is. She is. But frankly a lot of those other things don't matter a lawful one. And I think over the long haul that's what we're coming to and I see as a major difference is you know the parochial system pays thanks to the dedicated staff that give their lives to education. As far as the religious teachers are concerned but their per capita is a great deal lower than ours and the one thing that comes from a lot of the parochial side is that there is that commitment personal commitment and what I heard from a lot of the students on the school closing just recently was that they heard that same kind of commitment. These people care about me I don't want to leave I don't break this up. This is all right for me.
And that's why I said it was probably the most compelling of all the i give us so present it instead of the students. I think I'm inclined to agree with you and I think that if I were teaching in the park and one of the schools even in the Boston schools at this time I think that I have seen the students come in and speak out as they did in Trey's the learning experience was perhaps as valuable to them as a reification of the importance of the work that they're doing as anything any of us can do were sort of academicians in other types of professionals in the in the field. It gave a lot of people very high marks. And I'm so done talking about people who they care about. I mean they were concerned about their teachers they were concerned about what happens to this teacher or their teacher if our school was what happens to me I've got my friends here I have I have my society within the school right here. And that was a very relevant thing in
comparing the two systems can be done and both positively and negatively but probably the most encouraging thing a feeling I had as a school for the last few weeks was the fact that there must be an awful lot going on right in the schools. Well I think that that's a very good way to conclude this program this evening because there are a laughable an awful lot of good things that are going right in public schools and I think in large part that's due because of the dedication and commitment of people such as yourself who serve on the school committee. And let me tell our listening audience that would like to give special thanks to Tanya Warren for her technical assistance and food in our show this evening and to Gary Pierre Louis who has produced this show. Let me also again thank Daniel Burke who is a guidance counselor at Catholic moral high school in treasure for a Boston School Committee. And let me add parent Thetic Lee that the producer actual Gary Pia Louie I understand time was at your school and speaks very highly of you as an educator as well as a policy maker in the city of Boston a very good student while he was there
Black Perspectives
The Boston School Committee and Educational Polices. Part 3
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Episode Description
Part three of a four-part series on the Boston School Committee and its role in policymaking, featuring guest Daniel Burke, school committee treasurer and guidance counselor at Catholic Memorial High School. Topics discussed include Burke's role in developing the Boston Public Schools (BPS) budget, the impact of insufficient funding on educational quality, recent efforts to improve/revitalize BPS, the rationale behind Superintendent Laval Wilson's recent controversial recommendation to consolidate BPS and close schools, the future of BPS, including the impact of rapidly shifting demographics, the strength and uniqueness of the current committee, and transferable lessons from the Catholic school system to BPS.
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Black Perspectives is a public affairs talk show featuring in depth conversations about issues of interest to the African American community.
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Politics and Government
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Copyright Holder: WUMB-FM
Guest: Burke, Daniel
Host: Desmond, Charles
Producer: Pierre Louis, Gary
Producing Organization: WUMB
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Identifier: BP58-1986 (WUMB)
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Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “Black Perspectives; The Boston School Committee and Educational Polices. Part 3,” 1986-05-28, WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 20, 2022,
MLA: “Black Perspectives; The Boston School Committee and Educational Polices. Part 3.” 1986-05-28. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 20, 2022. <>.
APA: Black Perspectives; The Boston School Committee and Educational Polices. Part 3. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from