Letters to the Editor: The Boston Schools Debate

Clap Elementary parents press case for staying open

(Editor’s Note: The following “open letter” was distributed by the Roger Clap Elementary School’s Parent Council on Nov. 23.)

We are the parents of K1-5 students at the Roger Clap Elementary School in Dorchester. Since October 6th we have been working tirelessly to keep our small neighborhood Boston Public School open. During this week of Thanksgiving we would like to thank our many supporters and update them on our progress.

Our school currently enrolls 149 students, small by BPS standards but it is our size that makes us special, the “hidden gem’ so often mentioned. Despite our size our school works.

We are thankful for our students. We have a very diverse school where no one ethnicity or race predominates. Our children get along with each other and do not see the differences that so many people today use as a barrier to getting to know others. We are also diverse in our learning capabilities.

Special education students are integrated. There are no boundaries or limitations and as a result, our children understand that people learn in different ways. One of the results is we have no bullying or disciplinary issues. Our school is safe.

We are thankful for our teachers and our principal, who everyday make wonderful things happen with a shoestring budget. Their dedication is shown in the fact that despite our proposed closure they have been moving on with programs and initiatives-like a new after school program, academic coaching, partnerships and professional development-to enhance the learning and raise the academic standards in our school. Those who speak of unmotivated teachers and laissez-faire principals do not see the commitment of our faculty who arrive at school early and some days do not leave until well after the last student goes home. Our faculty are not just teaching our children, they are engaging them, mentoring them and directing them to success in life.

We are thankful for our parents, who have put their own lives on hold to come together to rally the support and resources needed to keep our school open. When we need something done, need a donation of time or goods or just a shoulder to lean on, our parents are there. For our families, school is not just about a learning environment, it is about making lifelong connections. As families who have become entrenched in the politics of schooling, we understand the difficulties facing the BPS and believe our parents can be a model for engagement and support.

Our Parent Council is active both officially and non-officially, meeting regularly to hash out ideas and come up with results. We would not be where we are without our parents.

We are thankful for our supporters. Located in a residential neighborhood within and abutted by Savin Hill, Columbia Road, Andrew Square and the Polish Triangle we have been embraced by our civic associations, businesses and our politicians. Our neighbors have engaged with us, met with us, and supported us in any way they can. Our Civic Associations have listened to us, and offered us their
resources and support. Our local businesses have donated goods and services for fundraisers, often generous beyond measure. Our city councilors (specifically John Connolly, Bill Linehan and Maureen
Feeney) and state politicians (Jack Hart, Marty Walsh and Nick Collins) have helped us understand the issues, educated us, listened to our concerns and made themselves available. We thank all of them for their continued support.

We are thankful for our Dorchester neighborhood. It sustains us and we sustain them. The relationship is mutually beneficial and integral to the success of a city neighborhood. Neighborhood schools anchor families and in turn families support the neighborhoods they live in.

Finally and unexpectedly, we are thankful for the process. While we always knew we had something wonderful, this past month and a half has helped us define ourselves and realize what we can do with what we have. Without the proposed closure we may not have realized these things and therefore are grateful to have been given this opportunity to unite and find our voice. We are committed to keeping the Roger Clap open and to ensure that all students succeed.