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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 .

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 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 .

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 to the new . 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.

karen April 05, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I'm still confused by the logic of upsetting neighborhoods to accomplish the redistricting. There are several neighborhoods that do not have neighborhood schools. Why not move all of those children to the Avery in order to fill those seats. For example, why not send all of the children who were once in the Ames School district to the Avery. Or, all of the children who live on Rustcraft Road, They are all being bused to school anyway.
Chris April 05, 2012 at 05:54 PM
No one has mentioned the disparity between MCAS scores in this discussion except to say Avery has not met AYP for the last two years. We need to look at overall scores and though both schools have aligned ELA and Math curriculums, Oakdale scores across all test areas are MUCH higher. It is reasonable to ask, why would a parent in the current Oakdale zone want to send their child to the school where approx 50% or more children have tested in the Needs Improvement or Warning categories in all test areas? (Avery, Grade 5, 2011) Would they rather be at Oakdale where almost 48% of students tested were Advanced in Math, 46% in Science, and 34% in ELA? Probably and you can't blame them. What happens if Avery doesn't meet AYP this year? Will parents once again have the option to send their children to another elementary school? And if so, how will you fill these seats?
Abby April 05, 2012 at 06:45 PM
We were nervous about moving from Riverdale to East Dedham because of the elemtary school system. We, like others, were ignorant of the strong teachers, emotionally healthy learning atmosphere, Title V program, beautifully diverse children and active parental involvement. After speaking with parents of children that actually attend Avery and visiting the school on several occasions, our fears were dispelled and we enrolled our children without worry. Since then our children have aclimated to Avery and they continue to score high on MCAS as well as do very well on their classwork. Their enthusiasm for learning has increased. Both of my children are thriving. It is sad that the prejudice we had exists throughout Dedham. With the excellent staff and now a school building to match we couldn't be happier!
Dan O'Neil April 12, 2012 at 02:33 AM
I went to Avery as a youth as did my nephew. There is a very bad prejudice in this town directed at East Dedham and it's really sad. It's like the 60's are still here. Everyone assumes everyone in East Dedham is poor or a thug. The Avery has a nice brand new school that borders both E.D. and Oakdale. After 5th grade you all go to school together until you graduate the school system anyways. This is truly sad and disheartening.

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