Guest Op-Ed: A Renewed Vision for Boston Public Schools

By Supt. Brenda Cassellius

We’ve learned a lot since closing our doors in 2020. We’ve learned that we are stronger and more resilient than we could have imagined. The pandemic spurred a remarkable collective response to support our community and re-minded us of the value of our relationships with our students, families, and each other.

The pandemic also forced us to reckon with the deep and systemic challenges that have kept too many of our children from fully realizing their potential. The devastating impact of this year-long crisis, particularly on communities of col-or, highlighted what we’ve always known: the Boston Public Schools (BPS) expe-rience is not equitable for all students.

There has never been a stronger economic, moral, and collective imperative to address long-standing and fundamental inequities in BPS. Doing so will require strategy, persistence, and a continuation of the resolve we have shown throughout this past year. 

It also requires us return our attention to the roadmap we charted before the onset of the pandemic, when we were on the cusp of deploying a new five-year Strategic Plan and realizing the $100 million investment from Mayor Walsh. Now, with additional City investments and new federal stimulus funding, we have the resources to shift our focus to the promises we made to the commu-nities that helped us craft the strategic plan.

We start with better access to high quality early childhood education. Research shows that high quality early education leads to improved outcomes for chil-dren, especially children of color and those who come from economic disad-vantage. We will expand our high quality early education programming this year and bring the successful model to more students. We will also expand partner-ships through the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Connector program.

A well-rounded education for children in every grade requires whole child sup-port. We have added family liaisons and social workers to every school and are expanding our Hub Schools model to bring additional services to students and families. And every student should have art, music, physical education, civics, science, and outdoor play spaces: fundamental pieces of an excellent education parents have been asking for years. We will tap our federal funding to invest in access.

Every student also deserves a great teacher in every classroom; teachers who receive the right mix of support and resources that allows them to address the unique needs of each of their students. Our plan includes continued efforts to recruit and retain more educators of color and investments in curriculum and continuing education for our educators.

Students and families deserve predictable educational pathways that start in K0 and continue through high school. We are reviewing grade configurations to lim-it transitions for students and investing in all of Boston’s comprehensive high schools to offer opportunities in rigorous academics, athletics, arts, and co-curricular programming. We are focused on preparing students for the chal-lenges of higher education and a competitive workforce by partnering with local businesses. By connecting them with internships, apprenticeships, and industry experience, students can see their own potential and build a path to a brighter future.

In order to successfully realize this vision, we first need to do big things in the immediate future: launch enriching summer programming, bring students safely back to full-time in-person learning in September, and welcome them joyfully as they walk through our doors. We will partner with students to recover what might have been lost by helping them rediscover their innate love of learning, fostering steady and supportive relationships, and focusing on academic recov-ery.

Dealing with the toll of the last year beckons us to reimagine the possibilities we created while developing our community-informed strategic plan: a school dis-trict where every child has the opportunity to achieve their dreams. A district where every school, in every neighborhood, in every part of the city is equipped to help every student unlock their unlimited potential. 

The pandemic disrupted almost everything we know and hold dear. It lifted up with new clarity the disparities that have persisted in our schools and our com-munities for far too long. But it also reminded us all what is the best of Boston: our shared faith and determination that working together, we can do big things. That together, we will always rise.

Brenda Cassellius is the Superintendent for Boston Public Schools.

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