THE NEXT BPS SUPERINTENDENT ? JOHN McDONOUGH SHOULD APPLY

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^ the gentle face of an underestimated reformer ? John McDonough just might be he

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Who should be Boston’s next public schools Superintendent ? A recent article in Commonwealth Magazine got me thinking that it should be the man who already IS the ‘super” : John McDonough.

The 40-year BPS employee now holds that job on an interim basis. He has said he won’t apply for the permanent job. He should rethink that decision.

Mayor Walsh’s first budget plans a $ 39.6 million increase for the BPS. Most of that added funding will, however, be devoured by contracted pay increases for BPS teachers. Hardly any money will remain for facilities upgrades, new technologies, an extended school day. The allocation of these increased funds to pay hikes asks an obvious question : is the mission of Boston’s public schools primarily to raise teachers’ pay ?

For that question John McDonough has, says the Commonwealth magazine article, a workable response. If we are to pay teachers top dollar, and spend almost no added funds on anything else in the schools, the least we can insist upon is superior teacher performance. McDonough, says the article, has a strategy : give the principal of every Boston public school autonomy to hire whom he or she wants. He admits that his decision is risky. Because many of the system’s underperforming reachers have tenure, they cannot be fired. If no school principal wnats them they will simply have to be reassigned to something, or (as the Commonwealth story puts it) paid not to teach.

Paying union employees with contractual rights not to work is nothing new. When the nation’s railroads were losing their passenger customers, many railroad workers ended up being paid not to work. But the BPS situation is different : the number of “customers” — school kids — is increasing, not declining. What is wanted is not fewer workers but better workers. In short, the dreaded “performance evaluation” standard that the Boston Teachers Union resists.

It will be difficult enough for McDonough, the quiestest of leaders, to achieve such a huge changer in the culture of BPS work. His insider position might just make all the difference. When I first met him again — I had known him back in the day when I worked for elected school committeemen — on last year’s Mayor campaign, he was sitting at a table in the cafeteria of BTU headquarters, in the company of former BTU president Ed Doherty and current BTU activist Shirley Pedone — both long known by me. Neither Doherty nor Pedone is shy about pushing the entire BTU agenda; but they and McDonough go back a long time, obviously on a friendly basis, as fellow BPS employees. It matters. Difficult it is to imagine an outside superintendent hired by “nationwide search” being so easily casual with BTU activists.

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^ teacher by example : John McDonough at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School

How many BPS bosses as readily liked by BTU activists as McDonough also have the confidence of John Connolly ?  One of Connolly’s campaign themes was to break up the central BPS bureaucracy. Yet, says Commonwealth, “John Connolly, who campaigned to be the education mayor, says he is a big believer in McDonough. ‘John was often the only high-level voice of reason inside BPS,’ Connolly wrote in a December e-mail while away on a post-campaign vacation. ‘He wants to do the right things and he knows BPS inside out. If John is given the backing, he won’t hesitate to clean house and make critical changes that really should happen before the next superintendent is hired.'”

This has already happened, as the Commonwealth article notes, at the John Marshall school on Corona Street in Boston’s Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood. There an outside non-profit, Unlocking Potential (UP), was brought in to re-think and manage. UP terminated every one of the John Marshall’s employees and hired back only three. All of its new teachers were thus young — some very young. This had several beneficial consequences : ( 1 ) Because the new teachers were young, they were paid less even as BTU members, saving scarce budget money ( 2 ) Because the school day was longer, it engaged more of the students’ day to day life ( 3 ) because the teachers were so young, their method and technological awareness were up to date. (This latter is something that I have previously opined in favor of : that teachers of skills and skill thinking should be as young and new to teaching as possible, not the other way around.) Not surprisingly, a much higher percentage of John Marshall students — of whom 99 % are of color — achieved high marks. As for the teachers who were displaced, some found teaching jobs elsewhere, some took other work within the system, others left teaching entirely.

McDonough says that he will not allow displaced teachers to go unused. “There’s plenty of work within our system,” he told Commonwelath. Yet he knows that his principals’ autonomy decision makes teacher tenure — a core union contract principle — look an obstacle. The BTU won’t allow tenure to be put at risk in future contracts ; but McDonough, and only he, may just be able to negotiate a buy-out of some tenure, or a reclassification, so that tenure won’t force young, exciting, cutting edge teachers into not being rehired — as it famously already has done. I’m not bullish that a superintendent outside-hired could get this work rule reform done at all.

It’s going to be a difficult enough task even for John McDonough’s soft-spoken, career-long determination. As John Connolly remarked to Commonwealth, “‘That said, I am always wary of BPS statements about changes to teacher hiring and placement rules, timelines, and policy. There is so much off-the-radar deal making and just plain skirting of the rules behind the scenes that undermine supposed changes. In sum, I won’t believe anything has changed until I see it actually happening’.”

Connolly’s skepticism is warranted. The BTU opposes many of the changes that have already happened, much less those proposed. I see no sign, either, that Mayor Walsh wants a difficult enough City budget made even more difficult by any kind of fight with the BTU. At best, an outside hire will need much time just to learn what’s going on. at worst, she might stumble negligently into a huge avoidable fight. That won’t happen with McDonough at the helm.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON SCHOOLS : THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING

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^ Boston public school students lined up to testify and support the issues on order at Mayor-elect Walsh’s education Hearing

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Last night Mayor-elect Walsh’s Transition team held its Education Public Hearing, at English High school in Jamaica Plain. For two hours, from 5.30 Pm to 7.30, three of Walsh’s Transition Team menbers, including his Education Team chairman, John Barros, heard testimony from at least fifty witnesses. Students, school parents, teachers, advocates all spoke.

Less people attended than came to the previous night’s education rally held by Boston Truth. There were at least a hundred vacant seats at English high’s auditorium. listening to the testimony, it was easy to tell why. With hardly any exceptions — more on these later — every witness said basically the same thing : more funding for public schools, downplay charter schools. It was the sound of one hand clapping.

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^ plenty of vacant seats : the elephant wasn’t in the room

There isn’t much to learn from a soundless sound and hardly much more from hearing the same message repeated again and again, with only the age, gender, or skin color of the speakers differing (and these aren’t policy matters, although identity issues were raised by some of the witnesses).

photo (17)^ Boston Latin student (and Student Advisory Council President) testifying against charter schools and thus, basically, that there shouldn’t be any additional Boston Latin schools. “Making history,” wrote one activist about my post of this photo 🙂

It was especially odd — unsettling, too — to hear the students who testified. How does a 17-year old Boston Latin student — smart, yes; Chairman of the Studernt advisory Group; but — acquire an interest in curbing the number or funding of charter schools ? Did he learn his view in debate at school ? Was he coached to his position ? Quite possibly, because he read his testimony from a prepared statement. I found his testimony manipulative. Contradictory, too ; after all, Boston Latin, the City’s totally competitive exam-entry school, is the ultimate “charter” school. Was he really telling us, not that charter schools are bad, but that Boston Latin doesn’t like having its exceptionalism duplicated ?

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^ respectful : Education Transition team members George Perry, Jen Robinson, and John Barros (Team Chairman)

The Transition Team members, George Perry, Jen Robinson, and John Barros, listened respectfully to all. Barros, at least, knows all these issues masterfully. At numerous Mayoral Forums during his candidacy for the office he heard, and responded to, all manner of school reform agendas. Last night surely tried his patience. At times I saw a bored look in his eyes. Did he really need to hear the applause given the various witnesses — the louder, the more in agreement — by the Hearing’s audience, heavy with Boston Teachers Union members (including its President, Richard Stutman, and its organizer, Jessica Tang, who testified) and Boston Truth activists, in order to get the evening’s message ?

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^ “I’m a Boston public school parent,” she said, and told of her difficulties getting her child properly assigned to a school convenient to her home. I wondered : Hadn’t she asked Councillor Connolly to help with that — as did so many Boston school parents ? Then I noticed her LOCAL 26 T shirt…

Fortunately for those who might have expected the incoming Mayor’s Education Team to hear a diversity of views rather than a one-hand clap, a few witnesses did offer opinions credibly their own. Jason Williams, an executive with of Stand for Children, hoped that Mayor-elect Walsh would continue his commitment to charter schools, noting that as a legislator, Walsh worked to increase their number. Applause ? None. Another witness, who said that he was a Boston Harbor captain, suggested that BPS should offer 6th grade students a course with sailing experience. Applause ? A few. Karen Kast, organizer of Boston Truth, challenged Mayor-elect Walsh to keep his campaign promises. Aplause ? plenty.

Most interestingly, Mary Pierce, who heads a special eduaction advocacy group, voiced her personal experience of frustrations dealing with Boston School Department administration. This was risky territory : reform of Boston Schools administration was a centerpiece of John Connolly’s education agenda. A door was opened — a bit; but the moment passed.

Sometimes the elephant is in the room; sometimes he is not in the room. John Connolly was the elephant not in the room. Other than Jason Williams, there likely wasn’t a single person testifying (or applauding) who on November 5th stood with Connolly’s 48.5 % of the vote.

Education became a key issue in the campaign entirely because John Connolly made it so. Most of the other candidates would gladly have left it aside — Walsh too — to be dealt with at the State House. Connolly made sure that Boston schools would be front and center — the decider — on election day. The major effort now being assembled by the Boston Teachers union and its allies, to push the schools reform agenda in its direction, would likely not be taking place had John Connolly not forced school reform sharply, radically forward.

This history makes many people wonder why the Mayor-elect even bothered to have an Education Hearing last night. As I was preparing to write this column, I found on my facebook page the following comment (excerpts follow) by friend Lisa Moellman :

“At 5:30 on a school night, just before Christmas — thry are stacked so that BTU representation/agenda dominates. picking up and feeding kids, holiday commitments prevent so many parents from participati9ng. Why would Walsh hold these important forums…at a difficult hour….? Why not the first weeks of January when actual diversity of participation could happen ?”

Why, indeed ? Myself, I think it’s public relations — Walsh’s showing the voters (and the media) that “he will listen to the people.” Nothing more, nothing less. Education is an issue that Walsh wants to put aside as much as possible ; to hand over to whichever poor sucker accepts becoming his new School superintendent, so that Marty can get on with his first priority : keeping the Boston Building boom alive and expanding, so that his building trades workers — including the many new hires that he will insist upon — can keep on earning hefty pay checks.

As for public schools and charter schools, compared to the issue debate that took place the prior evening at Boston Truth’s gathering, and much more so at every Mayoral Forum during the campaign, last night was a complete waste of auditorium heating oil.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE at 3.11 PM 12/11/13 : am informed that during the 20 minutes prior to my arrival at the Hearing at 5.50 PM, other opinions, including from representatives of charter schools, were given. These sure didn’t last long. Still, it’s good to know that the Hearing wasn’t completely one thing. — MF

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : WHAT THE ENDORSEMENTS (SHOULD) MEAN

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^ John F. Barros, John R. Connolly, Felix G. Arroyo : good news for all three (and for Rob Consalvo) this morning

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Early this morning, two major endorsements in Boston’s exciting Mayor campaign were given. The Boston Globe endorsed John Barros and John Connolly, with honorable mention to Mike Ross and Bill Walczak; the Boston Teachers Union selected Felix G. Arroyo and Rob Consalvo. They join the Boston Herald, which last week endorsed John Connolly and Dan Conley.

Here and Sphere is not going to make any endorsement before the Primary. The Globe speaks of the 12 candidates, by means of multiple wide-ranging Forums, having forged something like a common agenda. That is true; there is less commonality, however, in the major contenders’ bases of support. We feel that all Boston’s voters matter, and that, as many of the candidates have proven that they authoritatively articulate most if not all the major issues, we cannot pick two of them, but not a different two, and thus leave many bases of support on the sidelines.

In the “Final,” with only two contenders running, bases of support will not stand out so sharply. Each candidate will have to build a coalition of many bases of support. each, likely, will have to win votes as well from the other’s support base. Our endorsement will thus not unjustly raise up some political communities and downgrade others.

We also want to see more of how our potential endorsee manages his or her campaign. Mayor is a managerial job as well as one of policy vision. If a candidate can’t manage his or her campaign smoothly, what confidence do we have that he or she will manage the job of Mayor ? That said, many of the likely Finalists have managed their scheduling and outreach commendably — some better than that. Less of them have shown the degree of issue preparation we expect of an endorsee. A Mayor must be familiar enough with every City department, including Inspectional Services and the Public Health Commission (including its smoking ban section), to know what in each of them needs reforming — and what doesn’t; and how to explain his or her reforms convincingly to Boston’s interested voters, and to the department employees.

This matters a lot. The Boston Teachers Union has, by its endorsement of two candidates — Felix G. Arroyo and Rob Consalvo — both polling well out of the Final but who align closely with the Teachers’ own agenda, given the impression that it is unready to understand that dramatic reform of Boston’s public schools is going to happen. The newspaper endorsements proclaim it. The strong poll showing of John Connolly so far proves it. The Teachers’ Union risks, by its endorsement, being left out of the conversation that has been going on for months now — a conversation which it feels threatened by — and has said so.

Wiser it would have been, in our opinion, had the Union endorsed one favorite (Arroyo would have been our BTU choice) and one of the moderate school reformers, such as John Barros, Mike Ross, or Marty Walsh. Other endorsing Unions have done that. Union solidarity is commendable, and no workers work harder or contribute more importantly to society than teachers. But realism is also a necessary skill in the world of high politics and ;policy. Such realism will also be needed by the next Mayor if he or she is to not face serious conflict with the employees of any City department that he or she insists on reforming.

Our endorsement process begins now. Candidates should know that not only our editor, Mike Freedberg, our chief reporter on this campaign, will be involved in the decision. Our co-founder, Heather Cornell, will be equally involved. Cornell is Boston’s most gifted life-style writer and knows as much as anyone we have met about in-school issues, children’s health — both mental and physical, emotional and social education, drug abuse problems, health care and hospitals, and the gap between education and securing a decent job in the work force of tomorrow. Candidates should be prepared to answer her questions — and Freedberg’s — and, hopefully, may even add to their knowledge of the issues from conversing with us.

—- the editors / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : FORUM AT BOSTON TEACHERS UNION

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^ the lineup. next came the interrogation.

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Most of the candidate Forums of this campaign for Mayor have taken place at churches, conference centers, theaters, auditoria — public gathering places. Not so with the Forum called by the Boston Teachers’ Union (BTU). This one took place in their union hall and had the feeling more of an interrogation than a debate. The BTU feels threatened by developments in public education and advocacies for school change, and it made plain that it strongly disagrees with the direction and purposes, charter schools especially. BTU President Richard Stutman read portions of a 10-page manifesto — which in a printed handout was available on a literature table — of opposition to charter schools and to school reform by “corporate executives, entrepreneurs or philanthropists.”

The union hall was full — of teachers, especially the union’s activists, and they knew exactly what they wanted to hear. And not to hear. Not surprisingly, some of the eleven candidates on hand — Dan Conley was the absent — told the BTU gathering what it wanted to hear and were loudly cheered and applauded. Quite the surprise was that John Connolly, who pointedly advocates school “transformation — his word — by corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists (and by the Mayor), told the gathering exactly that, in well exampled detail. He gave reasons and stated goals, and he did not waver. He was received in almost total silence.

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^ John Connolly stood his ground.

David Bernstein — Boston’s premier political reporter (full disclosure: we both wrote for the Boston Phoenix), moderated. Being a playful and even ironic sort, he asked each candidate questions that would be hardest for them to answer; then picked out others of the eleven to give, he hoped, a competing view. It worked at first, but eventually the candidates began to interrupt, or to veer a response toward their agenda . Bernstein tried to cut off such manipulation but was not always successful. As he called upon the eleven in random order, occasionally he forgot one or two. Candidates had to raise their hands to be recognized.

The entire 90 minute event looked very much like a teacher and his class; appropriate, I suppose, for a Forum presented for teachers.

Still, many issues were raised : charter schools, the longer school day, arts and music, standardized testing (the MCAS), school kids’ health, parent involvement, diversity, students for whom English is a learned language, transportation, school construction and renovation. The diversity of responses was strong and plain to hear.

Rob Consalvo told the activists exactly what they wanted to hear, on every issue — charter schools too, of course — and passionately. as passionately was he cheered.

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^ Rob Consalvo : the BTU agenda is his agenda  (photo taken at a previous Forum)

John Barros outlined school reforms and problems with the detail and insight that he has gathered as a member of Boston’s school committee. particularly true was his observation that the public school system has been asked to do what so many of society’s systems have failed to do and that this is unfair to the schools. Barros thanked charter schools for finding new and innovative methods which the regular public schools have then adopted.

Charles Clemons, who opposes more charter schools, noted that Boston people today are 56 % of color, and, noting that diversity in the BTU has failed to meet 1975 goals, asked, “how many of the people in this room look like Boston ?”

Bill Walczak did not mention casinos even once. He affirmed his work in connecting the charter school that he created to the city’s health system and saw that as a model for all Boston schools.

Marty Walsh, who sits on the board of a charter school, passionately defended the school’s role in creating “best practices” for the entire system to adopt. He rejected the BTU’s assertion that elimination of difficult students is systemic to charter schools. Walsh called for a program of school construction and for a meaningful longer school day.

Mike Ross insisted that standardized testing is crucial to assuring that students will acquire core knowledge, and he called for the establishment of a city technology high school, noting that google.com did not open a Boston office because it doubted being able to fill even entry-level jobs with Boston high school graduates.

David Wyatt made no attempt to get an answer in if not called upon and, when called upon, said little — he the Stoic; but he did support charter schools for bringing competition into education, and he endorsed standardized testing.

Charlotte Golar-Richie was occasionally overlooked but, when she interrupted to speak, supported an arts and music longer school day. As for charter schools, she found them useful but did not find a need to increase their number.

John Connolly’s points have already been noted.

Felix G. Arroyo reminded the crowd that he is the husband, brother, and son of Boston public school teachers. He emphasized the language diversity, at home, that challenges so many Boston students in the classroom. He also saw an immediate need for arts, music, and crafts in the longer school day, noting how important crafts classes were to him.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo and John Barros : articulate and knowledgeable,  and not uncritically so, on public school concerns

Charles Yancey came late but made his time count. He called for the building of high schools which, he ranted, had been called for for years but nothing done. He would enforce a 1994 city ordinance granting school parents three days’ leave to visit their children’s schools and reminded the crowd of his mother, Alice Yancey, and how passionate she was about making sure that her son studied and learned.

And so it went. There was the beginning of a conversation about the City’s hugest and most intractable system. But only a beginning; with eleven hopefuls on hand, the school conversation stands at the sorting-out stage. Just as does the Primary itself.

That the conversation is just beginning was obvious from the many issues that were not discussed : school assignment reform (and transportation costs), teacher pay, funding school reforms, even the assaults, by students, sad to say, that afflict teachers almost daily. Some of these issues were discussed after the Forum as teachers and various newsies (including me) conversed in small groups.

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^ teachers were eager to converse with newsies and the candidates after the formal Forum

The BTU knows that it is losing the battle of public opinion about school reform. It wants badly to be heard — respectfully but forcefully. I hear the BTU. I have long experience of politics involving Boston schools, and I have nothing but respect for the energy, the poise, the courage of teachers who on every school day face exactly what John Barros said : the problems of society dropped at the school door for teachers and principals to deal with even as they try to perform their teaching mission : the teaching of knowledge.

Any school reform that does not find a central mission for the teachers, and pay accordingly, and that does not accord the teachers the last word on creating a curriculum and a classroom format is a reform that begins on the wrong foot. Any reform that seeks to downplay the teacher solidarity that a Union assures them is no reform at all. How can school transformation be a good thing if its first strike is to the one security that teachers, often overwhelmed by school problems, can count on ? Let us seek to make teachers’ jobs easier, not harder.

That said, I do not agree with the BTU’s position that charter schools detract from the public schools. No matter what format and curriculum the teachers decide (and I hope it is they who decide), charter schools offer a useful “but look here.” Useful because not even teachers know all that needs be learned about what works to educate.

All of the above needs be said, and often. But right now there is voting to be done. So how will the BTU teachers vote ? They are not stupid. They knew who was pandering, who was seeking common ground, and who was confident of him or herself. By no means should Consalvo, who was so noisily cheered, assume that the teacher activists are in his corner. My impression of their cheering — and not only for him — was for the statement, not the candidate. The teachers have a pretty solid idea of who is likely to win and who isn’t. After the Forum, I spoke to several, and they were quite clear about that being a factor in their vote on Primary day.

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^ Marty Walsh found friends at a union gathering hours after being slammed as a unionist by the Herald.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : SCHOOLS FLAP — THE BTU FIGHTS BACK

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^ The BTU’s Richard Stutman : a man who insists.

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The fat is in the fire. Boy, is it ever. A Mayor campaign that was already hotting up pretty good has now, beginning with yesterday’s announcement by SFC that it would spend at least $ 500,000 on John Connolly’s campaign, become a heat wave. Even yesterday, the Felix G. Arroyo campaign expressed its anger at the SFC money dump and at the schools agenda it advocates. Now comes the release, by the Boston Teachers Union (BTU), of a poll which — so it told the Globe — that it had intended to keep private until the SFC money dump made it imperative to release to the public.

Believe that one, and I’ll offer you a bridge in Brooklyn.

In any case, the BTU now has its poll, which, according to the Globe, reported low support for an increase in charter schools and strong support for “working with” the BTU. Upon its poll the BTU has now made explicit that it will endorse a candidate, for the first time in twenty years, and it will almost certainly endorse a candidate who opposes any increase in the number of charter schools, any lengthening of the school day, and any additions to the rigor of teacher evaluations and of school performance.

Here the BTU has set itself against state schools policy enacted into law in 2010 and further agreed to by all parties in 2012; against Governor Patrick’s schools agenda; against what the Boston Globe, the Boston business community, and most school parents want.

Of course the BTU doesn’t need to take the entire State into account as does the statewide Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). It need only answer to Boston voters. The BTU is relying upon Boston voters’ well-attested favorability to Labor Unions and their mission, indeed hoping that Boston voters will put protection of the Union’s bargains above the large changes that candidate Connolly — and others — want to bring about in the ways of Boston schools. This is a risky move for the BTU to make. After all, schools exist for the benefit of children first, the society at large second. Schools do not exist to give teachers jobs. Teachers obtain school jobs because they are wanted for the work of educating children.

As children, not teachers, are the focus of schools, so the BTU must recognize that, either it gets on board the school priorities that best educate children for the workplace they will face in this age of technology, social media, and a world economy, or parents and the workplace community will have to act without the BTU.

This would be unfortunate. No one wants to consider teachers an adversary. their job is difficult, the pay less than they could make, with similar skills, in the corporate workplace. Teachers make the City stronger.

The changes enacted into State law, and which Mayoral candidates like Connolly are now resolving to establish in Boston, do not erase the BTU. All they intend is to get the city’s public school teachers to adjust their job descriptions to the needs of schools today. Adjustment is difficult for labor unions; only by hard bargaining did they win the job rules that they now have. Their reluctance to unbargain those bargains is understandable.

Understandable, but not final.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo : will the BTU endorse him ?

Combat about Boston schools policy has given Felix G. Arroyo his chance to break free of the five other “new Boston” candidates and become a serious contender in the Primary. If Arroyo secures a BTU endorsement, his rise will almost certainly cut down the prospects of John Connolly, already a bit embarrassed by the infusion of “outside” money into his campaign.

And more : the rise of Arroyo and the downturn of Connolly will almost certainly advantage the campaign of Marty Walsh, whose strong Labor support, accompanied by a compromise approach to schools policy, looks — for now — like the ultimately winning agenda in November.

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^ Marty Walsh : the winner in any Arroyo vs. Connolly donnybrook

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE SCHOOLS ISSUE GETS DIVISIVE

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^ John Connolly : SFCs $ 500,000 guy

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The cat is out of the bag now. Big-time.

About a week ago we mused, on our Facebook page, that there would soon be huge money entering the Mayor election on behalf of a “major” candidate. As Marty Walsh had already said, “and it won’t be for me,” we concluded that the money at issue would go to John Connolly.

Today’s Boston Globe confirms it. Stand for Children (SFC), a non-profit, school reform advocacy group based in Oregon, will spend at least $ 500,000 to promote John Connolly’s candidacy. And why not ? His schools agenda conforms almost exactly to SFC’s. He, like SFC,supports a longer school day, more stringent teacher performance standards, counseling for all children, and — yes — an increase in the number of charter schools. None of this should have been fire-storm news.

Still, no sooner did the Globe article appear than all hell broke loose. The brother of candidate Felix G. Arroyo attacked SFC on his Facebook page as “anti-teachers union, pro-privatization …group ‘Stand ON Children'” and linked to an article about SFC headlined “profiteering and Union-busting repackaged as school reform.”

Nor is Arroyo the only candidate who supports the Boston Teachers Union in opposing authorizing more charter schools. So do candidates Charles Clemons, Rob Consalvo, and Michael Ross.

Meanwhile, candidates Barros, Conley, Connolly, Walczak, and Walsh support lifting State law’s current limitation on how many there can be of charter schools. Of these five, SFC picked Connolly as its “most aligned with us” candidate. That is what advocacy groups do.

Of course a hue and cry also arose about “outside money” coming into what has paraded itself as a locally funded, “people’s pledge” campaign (the pledge refers to an agreement made between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in their 2012 Senate race, not to accept outside PAC money.) Candidates opposing SFC’s schools position cried the loudest; Consalvo even asked all Mayor candidates to take that “people’s pledge.”

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^ Rob Consalvo : people’s pledge not to accept SFC money …

It is a given that big money is spent on big elections, and in Boston there’s none bigger than an open election for Mayor — especially now, with the City in the midst of a construction boom and a Downtown revitalizing as a place to shop, work, party, and live. Connolly has latched onto the downtown wave, and his schools agenda hews close not only to SFC’s but also to that of Governor Patrick, to legislation adopted in 20120 and to a schools agreement concluded in 2012. It signals that he absolutely means to see the agreements enacted in 2010 and 2012 adopted throughout the Boston School system. Also that he, if elected, will powerfully push for more charter schools and for a longer school day. Radical ? Not at all. most voters agree with all of it. Anti-union ? only if the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) sees it that way.

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 Marty Walsh : Labor’s guy supports lifting charter schools cap

Fascinating it is, to see how far out of step with voter sentiment the BTU has become. Forty years ago, Boston teachers were being elected to the City’s School Committee simply because they were teachers. the profession had that much respect. The schools of that day were racially segregated, and that was wrong; but to most parents they provided an education that comported well with what parents then expected : preparation to enter the then industrial and public-employee workforce.

Today public employee jobs still exist aplenty, but industrial employment mostly does not. If your child is going to be hireable into the technologically savvy economy — even into public employment — he or she needs more than just to pass an MCAS test or three. He or she needs to become computer fluent, conversant with mobile technology, program languages capable; failure-free in spelling, grammar, technical writing, Windows, Unix, network administration, mathematics, and, yes, current events; as well as able to create an Adobe PDF document, not to overlook all kinds of other forms and formats that today’s businesses create and modify every minute. These skills and arts cannot be mastered in a school that settles for average achievement in a short school day. The children of 40 years ago needed to know mainly how to respond to a boss and to concentrate on tasks repeated over and over. Today’s child needs to master work teams, social graces, how to take and respond to criticism and give it; how to book travel and negotiate airports; to speak and read more than one language; and such like.

That corporations might just have an interest in seeing that Boston’s school graduates can handle strongly all these skills and arts may seem like “corporatism” to some. To us it seems only common sense. Corporations hire a large number of those graduating. If they cannot fill that large number of hires in Boston, why shouldn’t they relocate to cities whose graduates can fill them ? The same is true for start-ups. Boston has far more than its share of these because we care about education. we will not settle for the out of date or the average. Teachers Unions, like all institutions, develop an institutional undertow of their own; the Union is led by those who began in it decades ago and then rose to power inside it, notwithstanding the huge societal and economic changes going on outside. Because Teachers’ Unions leaders must respond to its membership, and because its membership goes by seniority just as it insists on seniority as a job securement, so the Teachers’ leaders fight to hold on to bargains already won — even as these bargains lose their cogency to what is needed of schools. And thus the Teachers; union has lost a great deal of the solid support and respect that it once had among Boston voters.

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^ Felix Arroyo : advocate for Boston Teachers Union

The BTU seems not to understand how cornered it is in the arena of public opinion. While the MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Alliance) has heard the message and opted into the State’s reform process, it is not clear that the BTU has faced the music. Until charter schools, it was the BTU way or no way; public schools, or off to the suburbs or to parochial school. The coming of charter schools, however, which operate something like parochial schools, in which teachers are paid less but have much more input, along with parents, into curriculum and administration, parents now have choices. No wonder that they are exercising those choices.

It is no way a bad thing that Boston school parents now have choices. Heck, they want even more choices ! Why should they not have them ? It is their children who are going to school, after all; and schools exist for their students, not for their employees. School employees only serve. SFC’s backing of John Connolly’s campaign puts the ball of school improvement and school flexibility directly into the Teachers’ court — and to the voters.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : Because of today’s release, by the BTU, of a poll purporting to show that few voters support more charter schools, we will be posting a follow-up to the above story. This story is likely to grow even bigger as Primary Day approaches.