Mondays With The Mayor
Wu talks about problems facing Boston schools, and the search for a police commissionerPlay
Allowing state receivership of Boston Public Schools "is unacceptable as a starting point," Mayor Michelle Wu said during an interview on WBUR's Radio Boston Monday. Instead, she wants to guide the district's recovery in partnership with the state and other stakeholders.
Wu spoke about the needs of the district and its students during an interview with host Tiziana Dearing. She also discussed the city's ongoing search for a new police commissioner and summertime youth programs.
Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited.
On how she's thinking about her role in addressing issues at BPS:
"I take very seriously my responsibility and also my role as the first BPS mom to be elected into this role. It's something that can't be separated from how I see any issue, and especially not the Boston Public Schools. And so I know it feels like there's so much happening right now.
"The reality is that much of the stress and the challenges that we've seen exacerbated by the pandemic have been persistent, longstanding challenges for our school communities. They're not going to get solved overnight. They're not going to get fixed in the first six months of our administration.
"But we will see huge steps forward. And some of the announcements that have come out in recent weeks; whether it's our Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools around a renewed and restructured plan for school facilities; or our early college and innovation pathways to draw in and provide the platform for partners across the city to get involved; our newly settled contract with the school bus drivers, which will really provide major operational changes in how that moves forward. These have all been months in the making and so everything seems to be bursting into fruition right now and right around the time of our new school school superintendent search.
"But we're in a very important but also very opportune moment for the Boston Public Schools. And I remain excited that this is a city where we have a real chance to showcase what's possible through public education."
On the state of negotiations between her office and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE):
"We're still in talks. I know our teams met. Some of my team went out to DESE in Malden, I believe, on Friday, and had a very productive conversation. So we're still honing in on what exactly the major action steps will be and how that will be codified in the documentation and in the agreement that will be signed. But we're all on the same page in terms of how urgent the issues are.
"I think from our end, and particularly in my role as helping to draw all the pieces together, I really want to make sure that this is setting the system and the district up for success, setting individual schools up for success, as well as our new superintendent, who, we are weeks away from having that search concluded."
On why she's against state receivership for the school district:
"Receivership is unacceptable as a starting point. It is a destabilizing force. And even if it is tailored and well-intentioned and there are pieces that are tied in to the needs on the ground, we need a long-term, sustainable vision for the Boston Public Schools that comes from the Boston Public Schools.
"And so that is my starting point, I think, in terms of the long standing issues that we're looking to tackle, particularly around serving students with disabilities, English language learners, school transportation, ensuring that our facilities are up to par. All of these areas we welcome and demand partnership from the state and sectors all across the city to plug in and make sure that our students can have what they deserve as quickly as possible."
On her priorities as we head into this summer:
"One big category is making sure we're not losing out on this very important period of time to be ready for the next school year, both in terms of where our students are and the summer school and social emotional supports and programing that's available, so everyone is excited and can continue learning all throughout the summer into next school year. That's also true for our facilities; that there are many improvements that are just much easier to make when our buildings are more empty and available. And so not missing out on this window.
"And then there are the organizational pieces, right? We'll have a new superintendent transitioning in and new likely some positions being filled along the central staff side or at various schools across the district. How do we ensure that everybody is prepared and ready for the vision that we have starting from day one for the next school year?
"And then I think in terms of non-BPS, non-academic pieces. We are working very hard to coordinate all of our services and create spaces that are safe, active, fun, so our kids can just be kids again. And to have a summer where they can see their friends and not have worries and get some professional experience in a summer job that the city helps support. Go to one of our youth centers and community centers, which will have longer hours open more into the night and on weekends so that that space is available. Attend one of our many events that we're programing throughout the city. For example, our Open Streets, which is shutting down streets to vehicular traffic so that community can bike and walk and experience the the music of local bands and food from local food trucks."
This segment aired on June 6, 2022.