By Edith Morgan
We can do it now.We can do it easily and we can do it quickly. I am referring to the proposed change to the composition of the Worcester School Committee, changing it from a six-members Committee, which for very long has been composed primarily of white Worcester West siders – and opening opportunities for other sides of our city to be represented.
Over the years, the population of Worcester has become more ethnically diverse, but that change has not been reflected in our civic power structures. But now, with so many other changes taking place in the city, in America, the time has come to bring our school committee composition into line with the present population.
Many years ago we realized that whole sections/neighborhoods of Worcester were not represented on the decision-making bodies of the City. So the City Charter was changed and we added District counselors to the At-Large group. I really do not know why, at that time, we did not also change the Worcester School Committee composition.
At that time, the Worcester School Committee had much more power than it now has – the main one being fiscal independence, which allowed our city’s public schools to originate their own budgets – and the Worcester City Council could not reduce those proposals.
Now school expenditures are approved by the City Council, in competition with other City departments. Other areas in teaching/our schools also have been taken over, such as the incessant and ubiquitous testing and the many strings attached to the State and Federal funding on which we so heavily depend.
Expanding the Worcester School Committee the easy way has already been committed to by the City Council, as a result of the lawsuit brought by a group of organizations which includes Worcester Interfaith and the NAACP, as well as other interested individuals.
The Home Rule Petition way avoids the need for the very cumbersome and time-consuming process of having to change our City Charter.
WPS STUDENTS NEED TO HAVE MINORITY TEACHERS AT THE HEAD OF THEIR CLASSROOMS. THE CITY OF WORCESTER NEEDS TO HIRE MORE BLACK AND BROWN TEACHERS – PROVIDE ROLE MODELS to our kids – and not give out the plum jobs to relatives, wives and pals of the WSC and City Council/city govt.
Thus far the upcoming WSC race has not generated a large number of school committee candidates (nine papers with signatures in) … But people have until May 15th to pass in their papers. We will see at least two new faces on the committee: member John Monfredo has said he is not ruing again and, more recently, member Jack Foley also has indicated he will not seek another term.
But for me, these things pale into near insignificance beside the herculean task facing our nation’s schools. We are still one of the few, maybe the only one, without a curriculum that focuses on the great need of this nation’s youth to be able to think critically, analyze data intelligently, have a thorough understanding of the power structures that make up our nation, and teach kids an unbiased and thorough knowledge of our history with all its glories, as well as all its warts.
We should never lose sight of the primary job of public education today: to produce, after 12 years, a full-fledged American citizen. A person ready to function as a citizen in a democracy.
Judging from the daily news, we are a long way from that goal. And time is running out on us.