All Spring debate has raged both within and outside of the A.D. Healey School about how to resolve the severe income gap between the two K-6 programs in the school, Choice (38% low income) and Neighborhood (90% low income). Last night the school committee heard the Superintendent’s long-awaiting recommendation on the future structure of the school and people were invited to speak. Over 60 parents, teachers, and community members spoke. My comments are below.
I am here first and foremost for my kids. Kerri and I choose to move from the Marblehead and Groton suburbs we grew up in to Somerville because we wanted them to grow up in an environment as richly diverse as the world they will live in. We believe that Somerville is the best place in Massachusetts to raise kids and we intend to do everything we can to make this belief come true.
But diversity is hard. Kids and adults naturally self-select to build community with people who are like them. Sometimes, however, whether it is with a relative or with a neighbor or with a college roommate who you would never otherwise connect with, one point of connection can break through all the other dis-similarities to provide a window and connection into new ideas, languages, and ways of the thinking about the world. I like this. I want this for my kids.
While all three options being considered for the Healey could work, if you believe that racial and economic balance should not be made worse, the two options which separate the programs become less optimal. Balancing would require a more controlled student assignment plan, with legal ramifications, which would reduce flexibility and innovativeness in the Healey. There is no need to separate the programs. Our school is well balanced as it is. Now we need it to become excellent.
Not all kids are the same. Each is unique, and varied in different subjects. All parents in the school want differentiated instruction, project-based authentic learning, high academic standards, and an active parent community. Individual kids need individual attention, not individual programs or classes. Kids need not be tracked by class to receive instruction in small groups and extra help or challenges. This is what Healey teachers are already doing. We need to support them in doing this more.
When Mike Sabin was named principal of the Healey, I thought our school could be one of the best urban elementary schools in America. I still believe that.
I see a school that taps our natural diversity as a strength to drive grants and university partnerships and cultural events that could make us the envy of the Commonwealth.
I see a community of classrooms committed to innovation and individualized instruction with a partnership of teachers and parents working together to spread our successes and willing to do the hard work to improve the classrooms not yet meeting out standards.
I see a partnership with Tufts with student teachers, Literacy Corp, a Community of Practice, and other meaningful program components which will ensure that every child in the school gets all the time and resources they need to read by the end of second grade.
I see a LEGO robotics program during the day and after school that connects the innate engineers in every kid to build things for fun and to solve problems. I see the Healey leading a new citywide elementary school league of athletics, LEGO, model UN, math team and other good natured competition that provide opportunities for kids to compete and show what they are great at.
I see a school that refuses to let any kid fail. The best schools I know have a mission like “we rise and fall together.” They are focused like a laser beam on student success. No kid is allowed to fail. No kids success is considered enough. They bring the team work and competitive spirit of the Celtics this year and the Red Sox of 2004 to create incredibly breakthroughs for kids. ALL KIDS.
I came here for my kids, but now I am a member of this school and I am committed to ALL the kids here. I will not stop until I have done everything in my power to ensure that ALL kids here are successful. I do this for all the kids, but first and foremost, I do it for my kids.