School assignment panel to meet at City Hall on Saturday

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Feb. 22, 2013

Awash in data and comments from the school department, parents, and outside groups, the panel tasked with revamping the city’s school assignment system will meet at City Hall for a Saturday morning (Feb. 23) discussion. A vote is still planned for Monday night (Feb. 25) at Suffolk University.

The 27-member panel appears to be leaning toward the “home-based” models as they look to make a recommendation to Superintendent Carol Johnson and the School Committee, according to its members.

The panel, appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino, is considering an 11-zone option, a 10-zone option and two “home-based” models, with the family’s address determining the pool of schools. The “home-based” models offer the school department some flexibility in making changes as needed, making the models an attractive option to a number of the panel’s members.

The current system, in existence for 24 years, has three zones. A new plan would go into effect in the 2014 school year, though students and their siblings in the system will be grandfathered. “These guidelines mean students will remain in school as assigned through the three-zone model for many years to come – and [Boston Public Schools] will continue to transport students through these schools through at least 2019,” a BPS preliminary transportation analysis says.

One of the panel’s co-chairs, Boston University Dean Hardin Coleman, joked that he was channeling President Lyndon Johnson in counting votes, since he is reading the fourth volume in Robert Caro’s series on LBJ, “The Passage of Power.”

The Saturday meeting is set for 9 a.m. on the ninth floor of City Hall, in the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s boardroom. The Monday night meeting starts at 6 p.m. at 73 Tremont St. on the ninth floor.

“Plan on a long meeting” on Monday night, Helen Dajer, a co-chair, told members of the panel on Wednesday night.

More information on the panel and the options is available at bostonschoolchoice.org.