trying not to be the point man : Boston Public Schools’ Rahn Dorsey being nice at Boston Compact’s “unified enrollment” meeting at Mattapan Public Library

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Last night i attended a meeting hosted by the Boston Compact to discuss the Boston School District’s proposal to establish a “unified enrollment” system, whereby parents will choose among several schools offered, as always, except that henceforth the list will include charter schools as well as standard public schools.

Why Boston’s School; Department (BPS) needs an outside, non-profit organization to barnstorm its proposed enrollment system, I have no idea. Can’t the 500 central office staffers at BPS Headquarters find at least a few among them to do this ? As it turned out, two BPS staffers participated in the meeting, led by Rahn Dorsey. So why Boston Compact ?

Granted that the Boston Compact people I met or saw at the Mattapan public Library affair seemed competent, and polite, attentive and sensitive, very emblematic of corporate sensitivity training in action; nonetheless, the “unified enrollment” proposal doesn’t seem to require a booster any more than an egg needs eggo.

The proposal boils down to this : parents will now find, on their “individually prepared” (as Dorsey described it) list of school choices appurtenant to their home’s zip code, charter school choices as well as standard school choices arranged in three tiers.Sounds good, but any parent who chooses the charter school in her “individual” list will still have to compete by lottery, and that lottery will, so far as I know, still be city-wide.

Which immediately raises an almost impossible question : the Governor’s bill to create up to 12 new charter schools a year specifies that they be created only in “underperforming” school districts. This raises a huge red flag for Boston, where the loudest outcry for increased charter school seats arises. Because Boston really is not just one school district. Boston has many top performing schools, many second tier, many thi9rd tier, and many schools the State rates as needing intervention. How, if the “unified enrollment” charter school choices go into a citywide lottery, does that lottery assure that the parents choosing a charter choice reside in an under-performing zip code ?

I ask this because the BPS enrollment policy puts a premium on choices that are as close as possible to the parent’s home address. Will parents’ charter school lottery chances be enhanced if she lives in a zip code with more under-performing schools than not ? Is it even legal for BPS to make that kind of discrimination ?

In sum, how in practice will BPS assure that the addition charter school seats to be allotted via Governor Baker’s bill actually get to the parents most desperate to have them ?

To this question I could get no answer last night. I wasn’t even permitted to ask it. But ask it I am doing right now. I wonder if I will receive any answer at all, much less a workable one.

And I still do not get why BPS needs Boston Compact to negotiate a responsibility that is BPS’s solely.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere