Hold leaders accountable for Boston school closings

District leaders have let down West Roxbury high schools

WHAT I HAVE learned as a Boston Public Schools teacher for the last 14 years is that my teaching has to be consistently scrutinized by the administration to make sure I am held accountable for my actions: how I design my classes, how I respond to my students and their caregivers, how I keep my records and logs. Even though the system can be cumbersome, I understand that I have to be held accountable as a teacher and a city employee because inadequate teaching can be damaging to youth.

With this in mind, I question the recently announced proposal under BuildBPS to close both Urban Science and West Roxbury Academies, two high schools located at the West Roxbury Education Complex (WREC).

At the end of October, just four weeks after we were promised another three years of a functioning building, BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille made the announcement that BPS had come to the “difficult conclusion to close Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Complex due to unhealthy building conditions.”

After hearing the superintendent’s statement, the dedicated WREC staff gathered in the cafeteria felt silent, the kind of silence that is loud with anger. Nearly deafening, the quiet held the space in a strong grip of confusion and disbelief. We wondered what had happened between the end of September and beginning of October that we were suddenly not only losing the building but also losing two academic programs.

Our school is deemed Level 3 in the state accountability system and has been improving. Why doesn’t BPS value our programs and what we bring to our youth every day?

WREC educators like me are wondering how we can we hold the leaders of the BPS system responsible for their inadequate decision-making that is going to cost at least 750 students and more than 75 staff members their long-standing community, opportunities, and future.

If the expectation for all BPS employees is accountability, professionalism, and transparency, then shouldn’t the BPS leadership team meet and exceed these same expectations?

As a responsible and efficient employer, BPS should have been preparing our school and its two programs to transition out of the building at least three years ago when our facility started experiencing major structural issues. The rumors about our school’s potential move or closing have been swirling around the building since then. With building safety in question, BPS leaders should have been sitting with us at the table, discussing the issues and collecting feedback from staff on how best support our unique community.

As of right now, our incredible WREC students are set to lose their established academic ground: strong personal relationships and a solid academic program with an array of community partnerships through YouthBuild, Harvard University, college readiness programs, the ICA, Mass LEAP, EdVestors, Pathway, and others. Our amazing students will have no guarantee of being enrolled in a similar or better school next year.

BPS leaders have shown their failure to focus on the needs of students over property. But it’s not too late — they can do the right thing. It is essential for BPS to take responsibility for the damage they are creating in both Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy communities.

Meet the Author
BPS leaders need to shift their focus from property to people by focusing on students and their futures. We need to hear assurances of how our communities will be kept intact, and we need to understand BPS’s step-by-step plan for a new West Roxbury traditional open-enrollment school that serves children from all around Boston. Let’s hold BPS leaders to the same level of accountability we demand of BPS teachers.

Yana Minchenko teaches 9th grade English at Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury.