Tonight!! Jackson Mann School Community Meeting

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Anthony D'Isidoro

Mar 4, 2020, 10:38:00 AM3/4/20
to Anthony D'Isidoro

Jean Powers

Mar 4, 2020, 10:51:03 AM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006
Thank you, Tony!

Jean Powers

Mar 4, 2020, 1:11:23 PM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006

Some background on this issue:


1. In 2017 I around 5 pm I picked my son up from the Jackson Mann and saw a rat running through his classroom. I contacted our city councilor, who took immediate action. ISD, BPS facilities, the exterminator, and the councilor were at the school that night and again early the next morning. I was able to walk through the building and observe serious structural issues. The walls were bowing out, causing the windows to leak or in some cases to pop out. The roof had detached from the walls. Serious exterior and interior leaks were found all over the school; some rooms had what appeared to be black mold. Evidence of rodents was widespread. Ceiling tiles were missing or damaged; fire extinguishers were rusted into their holders; teachers were using broken bookcases and cardboard panels as walls, as the building has few actual classrooms. (You can see some photos here: It became clear to me during that walk-through that the structural issues of the building, combined with the fact that its layout was totally inappropriate for a school, meant that it needed to get demolished and rebuilt.

2. Later in 2017, the city released a facilities review of all BPS schools (See: Executive Summary of 2017 SMMA Report"). This report stated that the Jackson Mann building was in "good" condition. (Ominously, the report states that the Lyon k-8, Winship, and Edison are in only "fair" condition.) I challenged these findings at the May 23, 2017, "BuildBPS" meeting at the Edison School. I was told that the building needed repairs but had no serious structural issues.

3. In 2018 I noticed that enrollment at the Jackson Mann was shrinking dramatically. I asked a BPS official and they confirmed that they were no longer assigning students from other areas of the city to the JM. In the past, the JM had taken students who were unable to be assigned close to their homes. I asked if this was because they were planning on closing the school and I was told no, it was simply a result of more efficient assignment practices.

4. On January 17, 2019, BPS held a BuildBPS meeting at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston. The only Allston-Brighton item in the BuildBPS budget was a new boiler for the Lyon K-8 school. I asked why the Jackson Mann was not on the list for rebuild. I was not given an answer.

5. On Feb 25, 2019, Councilor Essaibi-George held a City Council hearing on Build BPS. At that hearing, I asked BPS leadership if they were planning to close the Jackson Mann. They said that the Jackson Mann was one of the schools they were looking at closely for facilities issues. The Councilor asked for a direct answer and that "It's frustrating to hear that we're planning to make a timeline for conversations." They promised a direct answer soon.

6. In early April 2019, I received a call from then-BPS COO Hanlon. He wanted to let me know that the decision had been made to demolish the Jackson Mann facility. I talked with him at length. I asked him if any space appropriate for a school was available in Allston-Brighton: No. I asked if the city had plans to end the lease on the former Hamilton school to relocate there (I don't think they should do that, I just wanted to cover all options): No. I asked if there were any plans to build a school in Allston-Brighton: No. I asked how long it would take to build a school in Allston-Brighton if they did decide to do so: at least 7 years, probably more like 10 years.

7. On April 9, 2019, BPS announced that after June 2021, the Jackson Mann facility, which houses the Jackson Mann K-8, the Horace Mann School for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing, and the Jackson Mann Community Center & Preschool, would be closed and demolished. BPS insisted that the school was NOT closing.

8. On April 10, I attended School Committee to testify about the Jackson Mann. I was not allowed to present my full testimony, but I shared it on Facebook and Twitter and it was published by Schoolyard News. I challenged the claim that BPS is not closing the school. I was not given an answer from that body.

9. On April 30, 2019, a meeting about the Jackson Mann was held in Dorchester. I was one of four caregivers in attendance. At that meeting, BPS insisted once again that the school was not closing. They stated that they had not identified any available spaces in Allston Brighton for the school. They said that since almost half of the Jackson Mann students live outside of Allston-Brighton, the school may be relocated to Dorchester, Roxbury, or Mattapan. A parent asked if BPS was planning to let the remaining Allston Brighton schools absorb the current Jackson Mann students. BPS replied that they are looking to "build capacity" in the Dorchester area in particular, and that Allston Brighton schools are enrolled under capacity and can easily absorb the current Jackson Mann students. A BPS official stated that the Jackson Mann has one of the largest autism programs in BPS, and that is not ideal. The district's goal is to distribute autism programs "more equally" among BPS schools.

10. On July 22, 2019, WBUR published a heartbreaking story on the terrible conditions at the Jackson Mann: That article, like all the others, failed to question the increasingly ridiculous claim by BPS and the city that the Jackson Mann is not closing.

11. In late 2019, West End House Boys & Girls Club began calling all their Jackson Mann families to ask if they were aware that the school facility was closing. The majority of their families had heard nothing about the closure.

12. On February 4, 2020, West End House sent all Jackson Mann families a letter stating that the Jackson Mann was closing and that families should transfer as soon as possible. The letter provided resources for transferring and offered assistance. BPS responded with a robocall to all families saying that the claim was false and the school was NOT closing.

13. In my opinion, it's clear that BPS has intended to close this school for at least two years, probably more. I believe that BPS refuses to call it a "school closure" because doing so would generate press and a possible outcry. So instead, they have chosen to let the school dwindle away. The families with resources and means will transfer out; the rest will be moved to some remote location far from Allston-Brighton. At this point, BPS says it will move the entire school into swing space, preserving the very successful autism and inclusion programs as a unit. However, BPS said the same thing to West Roxbury Academy and Urban Sciences Academy in 2018. And when the time came to move those schools, the families suddenly found that themselves scrambling to transfer to other schools, because BPS reneged on its promise to them. I sat through hours of testimony from crying parents and students at West Roxbury and Urban Sciences Academies. They pleaded for BPS to keep its promises to their students. They talked about how their kids had finally found stability and a supportive learning environment at their schools, and now all of that was being taken away. I don't want to hear our Jackson Mann families begging BPS to provide the public education every student deserves.

14. BPS needs to be honest with us. If they plan to move the school to another neighborhood, they need to let families know immediately. They need to provide Jackson Mann students with an open transfer period (not limited to certain dates) and allow them to transfer online and/or in person at convenient satellite locations like the Jackson Mann, West End House, or the library. (Currently you have to drive to a Welcome Center in Dorchester, West Roxbury, or Roxbury to transfer in person during business hours). They need to guarantee placement at an Allston-Brighton school for current Jackson Mann students who wish to stay in the neighborhood. And during this difficult transition period, when resources are shrinking and families are leaving, BPS needs to provide arts, music, fitness, science, and library teachers for the students. Our students can't afford to lose a year of schooling just because the city wants to save face. 

I hope you will come to the meeting tonight to support public education. This is happening to the Jackson Mann now, but it's happened to other BPS schools over the past few years and it will continue to happen unless we push back.

Public education is the cornerstone of democracy. Strong schools make strong communities. This isn't just MY fight and it isn't just a Jackson Mann fight and it isn't just a public school parent fight -- this is everyone's fight. What kind of city do we want to be?


Jean Powers

Mar 4, 2020, 1:18:51 PM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006
My name is Jean Powers, and I am the parent of a fourth grader at the Jackson Mann K-8 school in Allston. I learned last night that the Jackson Mann building is closing in two years. The building is also home to the Horace Mann School for the Deaf, and Allston-Brighton’s only BCYF community center. As the needs and requirements of the three entities are very different, my remarks today address the Jackson Mann K-8 only.
I want to thank you for reaching out to me and to the rest of the Jackson Mann community. Giving us two years’ notice makes things harder for you, but it’s important for us. It was a respectful and compassionate gesture, and I am grateful for it. I also appreciate that you want to engage in a community process over the next two years in order to determine the best course of action for our students, teachers, and staff.
However, I believe that the letter you sent families was misleading in regard to your plans for this school. The letter states that BPS will, over the next two years, “engage in a community process to consider what options might be available to us regarding possible alternate locations.” There are no available school buildings in Allston-Brighton, you have no plans to build a new school in our neighborhoods, and two years is not enough time to plan for and construct a new school. Your Build BPS plan asserts that Allston-Brighton schools are under capacity and that other neighborhoods are your priority. I ask that you call this what it is: a school closure.
The closure of the building is a surprise to nobody: the facility was hastily and poorly built, and its open plan layout has caused confusion and misery. No amount of maintenance could have saved it, and it will be a relief to see it torn down. But eliminating a school entirely, in response to the current demographics of Allston-Brighton, is a terrible mistake. According to your own estimates, our remaining four elementary schools are at enrolled at 92-107% capacity. Allston’s households are projected to grow by 57% over the next 10-20 years. Short-term, reactive thinking is what saddled us with poorly designed and constructed schools that are crumbling after just thirty years. We cannot continue to make these important decisions without taking the long view.
Of the more than 600 students at the Jackson Mann, nearly 50% are English language learners, 26% are disabled, 89% are high needs. The school hosts a popular inclusion program, and, at ten classes, the Jackson Mann has one of the largest and most successful autism programs in the city. None of our other Allston-Brighton schools are currently equipped to absorb large special needs populations. Where will these kids go?
As we enter this transitional period, I ask you to recall Eve Ewing’s research showing that students begin to lose ground when a school closure is announced. Talk to the teachers and staff at the Jackson Mann and ask them what they need in order to help their students through this difficult time, and then give it to them. For my part, I request that you:
1.    Send simple, straightforward, factual communications to families in all the languages spoken at this 50% multilingual school. Also provide this information online and on social media.
2.    Engage in meetings with the inclusion and autism program families and staff, and find out what they want going forward. If they want to move as a unit — students and staff — to a new location, facilitate that process. Provide a legally binding agreement detailing the terms of the plan, so that the process will not be affected by changes at the district or city level. These students need stability. We need to keep our promises to them.
3.    Restore the Jackson Mann’s librarian position, which is supposed to be cut next year.
4.    Buy books and technology for the library and the classrooms. Those items can go to another Allston Brighton school in a couple of years, but the students at the Jackson Mann need them now.
5.    Increase the school’s counseling and SPED services in order to support students through the transition.
6.    Provide supports to teachers to help them prepare students for leaving their school.
7.    Provide additional assistance to all MCAS and ISEE grades.
8.    Arrange for Welcome Services to hold special early morning or evening registration sessions in Allston-Brighton to facilitate transfers. There is no Welcome Center in Allston-Brighton, and accessing those centers is a significant burden for our families, particularly those who rely on public transportation. Provide full translation services at these sessions.

Because approximately 300 Jackson Mann students will likely be moving into our remaining four Allston-Brighton elementary schools, there is an immediate and pressing need for additional resources at those schools. Use some of the $21 million surplus in the city’s FY2018 General Fund now; in two years, the money you will save on maintaining the Jackson Mann facility, and the inevitable sale of the land, can be put towards much-needed improvements to these long-neglected schools:
1.    Immediately reallocate student funding for all Allston-Brighton elementary schools in anticipation of transfers from the Jackson Mann over the next year. Those schools have already received their budgets and given notice to teachers, so this funding adjustment has to happen now.
2.    Immediately restore funding to all programs and support positions at area schools. Reallocate funding to the Winship for Playworks and City Connects. Reallocate funding to the Gardner for Art and Science teachers. Whatever positions have been cut at other area schools, restore them. They will be needed next year. Hire at least one permanent full-time on-staff counselor for each school. Fund these positions through the BPS central budget, so they will not be subject to cuts in the next two years as schools struggle with wildly fluctuating enrollment.
3.    The Jackson Mann day begins at 715, and families have scheduled their lives around that start time. Provide free before-school care at all late-start Allston Brighton schools, beginning September 2019.
4.    Every Allston-Brighton school needs a full-time nurse. This needs to happen immediately. It’s not a question of whether or not a child will die from lack of access to an inhaler or an epi-pen — it’s a question of when. In addition, our urban students have high rates of asthma and other chronic health problems that a full-time nurse can identify and assist the student in controlling.
5.    Provide facilities upgrades to all Allston-Brighton schools. The Edison auditorium needs to be renovated to remove the broken seats bolted into the floor. The Gardner needs a My Way Café. Ask the school leaders what they need to in order accommodate these new students. Perform these upgrades in summer 2019.
6.    Plan to transition sports and special programs, such as art, music, and Chinese, from the Jackson Mann to other area schools over the next two years.
7.    Commit to moving the Jackson Mann library collection and new furniture and decorations to the Edison, and establish a permanent, full-time librarian staff position at that school. Fund that position through the central budget.
8.    Find a new home for the neighborhood’s only AWC program. I’m aware that AWC isn’t a current priority for BPS, but for families in the program it is the highlight of our kids’ BPS experience, and it needs to be continued. It’s a fully enrolled program staffed by just four teachers, so it shouldn’t be too much of a burden on the district to maintain it.
9.    Inventory salvageable furniture, equipment, books, and tech at the Jackson Mann, and provide other Allston-Brighton schools the opportunity to claim these items as they become available. We are NOT shipping this stuff off to a remote storage facility to get thrown into a heap and forgotten. 
I’ve been to many Build BPS meetings over the years, and I’ve heard a variety of statements about the expense and inconvenience of providing schools for students: Our smaller schools are not cost-effective to staff and run. Our larger schools have discipline problems and are low-performing. Our older schools are too expensive to update for “21st-century learning.” Our newer schools are poorly constructed and beyond repair. All of which leads me to ask: If you close our smaller schools and our larger schools and our older schools and our newer schools — will we have any schools left?
Every problem our schools face today was created by our own mistakes and our own neglect. We have the most innovative, dedicated, and highly qualified teachers in the nation. We have strong, compassionate, experienced school staff and leaders. We have families so passionate about public education they turn advocacy and volunteerism into an unpaid full-time job. We have students so committed to learning they take to the streets to protest for more challenging classes and more rigorous programs. We have close-knit communities with residents who grew up in the neighborhoods and attended these same schools, and want to support them now. We have new residents who moved here for the opportunity to provide a quality education and a better life for their children, and are eager to participate in their schools. We have almost everything we need to create the best school system in the country — all we lack is the city’s will to fund and support it. I ask my city now to stand up for our kids, to take pride in our schools, and to dedicate itself to providing the best public education for every Boston child.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony.

Jean Powers

Mar 4, 2020, 1:21:13 PM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006

Laura Bethard

Mar 4, 2020, 1:36:13 PM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006
I'm 100% behind you Jean, and will see you at the meeting.  The facilities at the Jackson Mannare a disgrace but the teachers and community have been top notch. The Kid has really blossomed since we transferred him there.  We need to preserve that for Allston.

This list constantly asks why we can't keep families in Allston/Brighton.  Appropriate housing is definitely one aspect, but without schools being a neighborhood priority, many folks with means will flee to the burbs as soon as their babies are kindergarten age.



-Yf thou were a latyn tretise ich wolde putte thee in the vernacular.

On Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 01:21:16 PM EST, Jean Powers <> wrote:

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Jean Powers

Mar 4, 2020, 3:33:55 PM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006
I also want to note that the current school leader is an Assistant Superintendent on temporary assignment at the Jackson Mann. As far as I know, her assignment ends this year. I have had really positive interactions with her and I've heard good feedback from the students and staff as well. I understand that she is probably eager to return to her real job, but she's been a very effective leader at the school this year, and her departure will result in more instability.
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Jean Powers

Mar 4, 2020, 8:51:13 PM3/4/20
to AllstonBrighton2006
I am so grateful to everyone who came out tonight to support public education in Allston Brighton. What a powerful message you sent to our families and to our city and school leadership. There was a line to get into the meeting, and it was packed inside the room. Thank you so much. I really cannot express how much your support means to me and my kids.
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