Supt. Cassellius releases framework for public school plan

After more than six months of visits to all 135 school buildings in the Boston Public School district, and conducting more than 100 community meetings, Supt. Brenda Cassellius submitted her final strategic plan to the Boston School Committee last week.

It’s a plan that, Cassellius and administration officials said, came together with the advice of thousands of voices from all over Boston – voices that included parents, teachers, community groups, students and elected officials. It will be a roadmap for Supt. Cassellius and contains general goals for the district. The bones of those goals will be filled in with specifics on Feb. 5 when she submits her School Budget draft to the School Committee.

That’s when parents in Boston will know with more certainty how the strategic plan will specifically affect schools like the Hurley K-8, the Blackstone School, and the Josiah Quincy Upper and Lower schools.

That budget plan is expected to be voted on by the Committee Feb. 26.

For now, though, Cassellius is looking for input and attention on her strategic plan released last week.

Instead of goals in that plan, she has released commitments to the families, students, staff and overall Boston community for BPS going forward under her leadership.

The five commitments outlined in the plan include:

•Eliminate Opportunity and Achievement Gaps.

•Accelerate Learning

•Amplify All Voices

•Expand Opportunity, and

•Cultivate Trust. 

Each commitment is tied to a set of priorities and progress will be measured by clear and measurable goals, district leaders said. The plan aspires to lift up and support schools, starting with those most in need, increase academic rigor in all grades across all schools, improve funding equity in the way resources are distributed, and provide deeper engagement with students and families.

“This plan, and the thousands of voices that played a part in shaping it, are a testament to the value Bostonians place on our students and their future,” continued Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “Together, we will hold ourselves accountable to these commitments through transparency, shared decision making, and regular reporting of our progress to better outcomes for all of our students.”

Dr. Charles Grandson, chief equity and strategy officer at BPS, told the Sun the document contained input from around 2,100 unique voices from all across Boston – including several meetings the South End and Back Bay.

He said one of the pieces of those commitments was around doing basic things better.

“What we heard from stakeholders was there was a real clear call to action from parents and families on improving basic things we’re not fully doing,” he said. “Those are things like maintaining school buildings, improving the cafeteria, heating and ventilation in the schools, and fair and equitable funding across all schools. We also heard a call for a clear and productive pathways from pre-school to graduation.”

Other such examples, he said, included fixing transportation issues, making registration easier, having a rigorous curriculum across the district, better food/nutrition and improving opportunity for students with disabilities and who are English Learners.

“One clear goal is that every child, every classroom and every school gets what they need to achieve the highest potential,” he said. “These are strategies. Supt. Cassellius did not outline goals, but rather five commitments.”

One of the unique pieces in her plan calls not only for high-quality schools in all neighborhoods, but also “joyful classrooms,” a statement not often seen in a strategic document.

“It is unique and we want school to be a place young people want to be and the school environment to be happy so they can thrive,” he said.

Another piece that parents will be anxious to see more about is a new customer service approach to the central office and regional leadership. As part of a regional effort in the strategy, superintendents will once again be in charge of schools within a region of the city.

Hiring a more diverse pool of teachers, staff and administrators is also a priority in the new strategy so that those leading the schools reflect the demographic population of the district – which overall is predominantly made up of black and Hispanic students.

A strategy involving the upkeep, maintenance and construction of buildings is to re-evaluate the steps toward following BuildBPS- the $1 billion commitment announced by Mayor Martin Walsh two years ago to fix, maintain and build new schools. By bringing a Capital Strategic Plan, they hope to stretch out the BuildBPS initiative for more of a long-term strategy.

“A capital strategic plan will allow us to see where we’re going over a longer period of time,” he said.

The new plan builds upon the Boston School Committee’s current strategic plan, which was created through a community-driven process in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The next phase of this process includes continued community engagement through a 30-day public comment period through Feb.. 14. Community members can review and comment on the strategic plan at bostonpublicschools.org/strategicplan or attend an in-person review of the plan during the following public meetings:

• Jan. 30 at East Boston Library, 365 S Bremen St, East Boston

• Feb. 6 at Condon Community Center, 200 D St, South Boston

• Feb. 11 at Thelma D. Burns Building, 575 Warren St, Dorchester

The final strategic plan will be presented to the Boston School Committee on Feb. 26 for approval.

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