City Outlines Deals With Boston's Charter Schools, Superintendent

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Believed to be the first in the nation, a proposed compact between Boston and the city's charter schools drew praise from Mayor Thomas Menino.

The deal that Menino and the city's 14 independent charter schools have agreed to could end years of squabbling. Under the compact, charter schools would take more neighborhood students and special needs students. In return, the city may lease empty school buildings to charters.

"The charter schools have stepped forward and said it's our responsibility also," Menino said. "It's public money, we'll have to share in that responsibility of educating not just some of the children, but all of our children."

Menino says he believes the school committee will support the proposal, which must be approved by the committee and the boards of the charter schools.

Massachusetts Charter School Association President Kevin Andrews says there are a lot of issues they still have to discuss in the months ahead.

"At the end of the day, we are not going to agree on everything, but also at the end of the day, there are going to be many areas of common ground," Andrews said.

But Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman says much of the compact is a "symbolic show," noting the city should have pressured charters to take on special needs students years ago.

"They need the compact because they're desperate for buildings, and the city needs to save a little face," Stutman said.

In a conversation with WBUR's Bob Oakes, Ellen Guiney, executive director of Boston Plan For Excellence — a local nonprofit focused on improving the city's public schools — said that the agreement with Boston charter schools is historic.

"I think it's crucially important that the charters begin taking on students who are really the most difficult, who have the least advantages and present the most challenges," Guiney said.

Guiney said the agreement would be beneficial to both Boston Public Schools and charter schools.

"We've got to begin getting kids going to school closer to their home — $70, $80 million in transportation has to be dealt with," Guiney said.

New Deal For Superintendent Johnson

In more education news, Carol Johnson would stay on as the superintendent of Boston Public Schools until 2015, thanks to a new contract approved Wednesday by the school committee.

Johnson's five-year contract was not set to expire until next year, so the committee's decision to bring forward a new contract now comes as something of a surprise.

Not everyone is happy about the superintendent's new contract. Teachers Union President Stutman says Johnson hasn't done enough to work with the union.

"We wish the school committee and the superintendent would take the same interest in trying to settle our contract, which affects 7,500 people," Stutman said.

On the other side, supporters say Johnson has done a lot to reach out to parents and add school programs. Guiney said the decision to renew Johnson's contract was a wise one.

"If they didn't make a gesture and extend their hand to her now, then she very naturally might be recruited by somewhere else," Guiney said.

Guiney said Johnson has taken on bold issues in her time as superintendent — working with charter schools and improving the student assignment process.

"We know if you work seven or eight years you can solve some of the most difficult problems of urban education," she said. "You can't do it in three years."

Johnson's biggest challenge in the coming years, according to Guiney: evaluating the work of teachers and principals, and working toward in-classroom improvement.

— Here's the proposed BPS - charter school compact (on Scribd):

This program aired on April 28, 2011.


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