Dedham’s schools are undergoing a change and many people in town are not quite sure what that change will mean.
Right now, the School Committee's policy subcommittee is once again mapping how to distribute the students among the school buildings.
Subcommittee members would seem to have a relatively simple task of redrawing the district boundaries. What could make it so difficult?
While waiting for the redistricting to take place, Dedham has had an electoral shock. Throughout the election season there was no campaign in the School Committee race. But there was a grassroots drive that amazingly put a new write-in candidate into one of the winning spots. Jen Barsamian was her name.
Much was unusual here: because there was seemingly no contest, there was no debate about the issues and the electorate knew nothing on Barsamian’s platform; when asked for an outline of her stances, she said the press should talk to her aide.
Most candidates have at least some inkling of what they hope to accomplish.
What was clear was that a well organized group succeeded in getting its message delivered at the polls. They wanted more say. Voters are waiting to find out exactly who is saying precisely what about school policy.
Also clear was that the new electorate disliked specific votes made by the School Committee. It was passing broad police sanctions for non-school activities, but without enough input from parents. Eventually selectmen halted that for more details; selectmen had power over the police - half of the agreement with schools.
Clearly parents wanted some sway in these negotiations.
They deserve it.
Another problem they had was with the redistricting of schools.
Here, too, many parents felt their desires were not counted when the policy subcommittee released its first map, naming some streets that would change from one local school to another. Towns must redistrict to avoid too many or too few students in any school.
Avery School seemed like just the sort of school that parents would want to send their children to; the construction of a beautiful building and plenty of room just finished.
Yet some parents absolutely objected to having their kids go to the Avery School, with new equipment and facilities - all this did not change their minds.
So why did some parents balk?
Some said switching to Avery would disrupt their children’s schooling.
But other problems also seem to be present, even if they are not mentioned directly.
Avery is in a relatively poor section of Dedham and some parents do not want to have their children enrolled there. There may be a greater diversity of ethnic background at Avery, too. Nobody is saying that this is a problem because everybody knows that would be discrimination against Avery. Still, if there is any whiff of bias against the people or the housing or the less wealthy habitants around Avery, the town must fight it.
Now, everybody is sitting down and talking about how to divide up all of Dedham’s enrollees among all the schools fairly.
All Dedham’s schools should be equal.
That is the law.
All parents, all teachers, all School Committee members must realize this. More important, the students must realize it.