Maura In The News

Councilor says school lines drawn
By Megan Tench, Globe Staff, 1/22/2004

Accusing public school officials of withholding information from parents, Boston City Councilor Maura A. Hennigan yesterday said plans already are underway to change the student assignment policy to a system that would let students go to school closer to home.

"I know the lines [for new school zones] are already drawn," she said at last's night community forum in East Boston. "And I think they owe it to the people to put their plans out there and tell people what's ultimately going to happen."

School officials deny there has been any deceit on their part.

"If the inference is that there is a definitive plan already in place, the answer to that is absolutely not," said Michael Contompasis, the school department's chief operating officer, who was also at the forum. "To suggest that there are plans written in stone is disingenuous."

Under pressure from parents and city leaders, school officials have been gathering data about city demographics for more than a year, saying they may change the way students are assigned to schools by 2005-2006.

The changes could signal the end of crosstown busing, which has been in effect in Boston since court-ordered desegregation in 1974.

After a year of compiling information, and tallying the population of school-age children with the number of schools and special programs in each community, officials started the community forums.

And for the past month, a special task force has been asking parents their opinions about student assignments, insisting at each meeting that no plans or decisions will be made until they hear from all city sectors.

The process is expected to last until June, when the School Committee plans to decide whether to change the policy, school officials said.

Currently, Boston uses a "controlled choice" assignment plan under which students are assigned by lottery to schools within three geographical zones.

While she applauds officials for seeking parent input, Hennigan insists that school and city officials, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino, already have decided to change the policy to create more zones. If that is the case, students may be assigned to schools closer to home, but have fewer campuses to choose from.

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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