Doe, Coughlin Open to Minor Changes to New School Map
Several parents upset with the superintendent and School Committee for what they called a lack of communication and transparency.
Dedham Public School parents called for more communication and more transparency from the School Committee and superintendent June Doe following what parents have labeled a mishandling of the elementary redistricting issue.
Families affected by the changes questioned how the policy sub-committee chose specific streets and made recommendations on how the map could get altered at a School Committee meeting at Dedham High School on Wednesday evening.
"This process was insane," said resident Paul Chaplin. "I understand we need to redistrict and I’m not bothered by it, but I am saying we found out about this map by chance."
School Committee chairman Kevin Coughlin announced at the beginning of Wednesday's meeting that the committee would not vote on the map at that meeting. The policy sub-committee will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11 at Dedham Middle School.
Roughly 70 residents attended Wednesday's meeting along with district teachers and administrators.
Parents questioned why they weren't notified sooner about plans to change several streets from one elementary district to another.
"The problem is the transparency of the plan," said Rachel McGregor, pointing out several other instances of what she called a lack of communication with residents.
"This is a surprise to everybody. Much of this conversation could've been avoided," she said.
Doe described the process of redistricting as a 3 1/2 year endeavor that began when the department first sought state aid to build the new Avery Elementary School.
That work culminated in the map presented to parents at a committee meeting on March 21.
"This is one that was carefully thought out in a 5-year phased-in plan. We will not achieve balance in terms of enrollment in a 1-year implementation," Doe said.
The last major overhaul to the school district's map came in the early 1980s when the town closed four neighborhood schools, according to Doe.
School officials said that the new redistricting will impact 11 families for the upcoming fall. Incoming first grade students with a sibling in elementary school will not be forced to change schools.
Doe said the district looked at census data, surveyed the district's kindergarten students and private kindergarten students when trying to predict enrollment for upcoming years, but called it an "imperfect science."
Officials, however, did not look at families with children not yet in the school system.
Families of younger children who will be affected down the road weren't notified of the new map or of the meetings, one parent said.
Jen Luszcz, a Morse Avenue resident, said the redistricting will move her young daughter, not yet in kindergarten, from Oakdale Elementary School to the new Avery School. She found out about the plan and the meetings through online media and a local parent group, she said.
Several parents called on the committee to allow parents to be involved in the redistricting process moving forward, with each elementary school represented.
Parents on affected streets asked the committee to alter the map and study the impact on kids. Doe and Coughlin both said the committee will work to improve the district's map, but said if changes happened, they would likely expand on the 63 streets that are moving schools.
"Although no decision has been made [...] that particular topic is being taken under advisement. We have paid attention," Doe said.