The Mayor has himself a big problem now. “Kicking that hornet’s nest,” as my friend Mary calls his conflict with Boston Latin School and its powerful community, accurately depicts what he has on his hands. Faculty, students, parents, administrators, alumni — and the City’s taxpayers : the Boston Latin School community is enormous; and is also a large part of the leadership of our City, in everything. For Mayor Walsh and his unhappy Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang to have refused BLS headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta their full confidence — to have refused to accept her resignation, and that of head of discipline Malcolm Flynn — was to slap the City’s leadership in its collective face.
Perhaps Mayor Walsh thinks the BLS community is just another “elite,” at a time when elites are under enormous political attack ? If so, he doesn’t know his City very well. Elites are under attack because they have forgotten that, in exchange for high position, they owe a huge debt to the communities they are elites in. That is NOT true of BLS and its people. BLS students are OUR elite. First, every parent in the city wants her kids to go to “Latin” and, if not lucky enough to get in, at least glad to have had an equal chance at the rigorous entrance exam. Second, you do not have to be an elite child to be admitted; BLS for a very long time has taken kids from all backgrounds and economic circumstances. Third, a major portion of BLS graduates stay in Boston to be the City’s leaders — and the leaders of almost every neighborhood in it.Which is why the outcry from BLS supporters has arisen in every neighborhood. BLS is indeed OUR elite, our precious treasure.
The two students who touched off the entire controversy by complaining of racial incidents may have seen how similar students, complaining of similar incidents, have been able entirely to overturn administrations at big colleges and install their own, students’ rules. If something like that outcome was what the BLS pair wanted, they badly misjudged. Well ? Young people make mistakes. I don’t find the two students’ misjudgment a big deal. I don’t fault them at. all. The Mayor and his Superintendent, however, should know better.
The Mayor, at least, should know that elites, when they acknowledge their debt to the community that has raised them high, and perform their obligation to be its voice, are the essential bulwark a community erects against arbitrary leadership. Time and time again, elites have stood fast against tyranny, blocked the path of demagogues, dispersed mob rule. Elites framed our Constitution, articulated our national purpose, fought and died for civil rights, led the nation politically; they’re the voice of civic reform, of betterment, of moral commitments between diverse peoples and ways. Perhaps the mayor does not grasp what a morally committed elite is. In the world of labor Union conflicts that made him who he is, it’s power versus power, force against force; moral obligation has little to do with it.
He is learning that lesson now. Unfortunately, his first move is a wrong one. Boston.com reports that an “interim” headmaster will be appointed. (Read more at this link : https://www.boston.com/news/education/2016/06/26/interim-boston-latin-school-headmaster-named-week ) Chang made the announcement. It is a mistake. No one in the BLs community is going to accept it.
I am not sure that Superintendent Chang can recover; on this and on the Mayor’s schools consolidation plan, he has looked like an afterthought and sounded like a human talking point. (The City’s REAL education chief is Rahn Dorsey, the Mayor’s personal education executive.) But the mayor CAN recover — if.
If he very quickly settles with Lynne Mooney Teta and Malcolm Flynn; if he commits support to BLS’s rules of operation; if he makes clear to student and parents that he wants BLS to go forward as is, to pursue its rigorous excellence as it sees fit; and if he stands with BLS’s leaders at a press conference at which he declares all of the above with the passion and solidity that i have seen him give to the Boston Building Boom, to Labor, and to Civil Rights.
He can do this. He needs to do it soon. Making an opponent of BLS is a very good way for him to put his upcoming re-election at serious risk.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere