CPS ‘Educating the Whole Student’ Conference Informed, Inspired

Panelists (from left) Willie Rodriguez, Carl Sciortino, Barbara Fields and Jay Kaufman.

Panelists (from left) Willie Rodriguez, Carl Sciortino, Barbara Fields and Jay Kaufman.

Parents, teachers, administrators, policymakers, legislators, researchers and others filled a large conference room at Bunker Hill Community College Saturday and were treated to a rich presentation on “Educating the Whole Student.” A dynamic group of speakers and participants informed, inspired and challenged us to do the work needed to bring about the change we need. We may have miles to go to reach our goals and vision, but we have a large and growing community of thoughtful, dedicated and energetic allies ready to make the journey.

Keynote speaker Deborah Meier set the tone by urging us to be feisty and flex our democratic muscles to remake schools so that all children can bring their innate drive and curiosity and trust that it won’t be crushed. We need to fight for schools that model and nurture the skills needed for a vibrant democratic society, not schools that train children to choose a predetermined right answer. “If there is one right answer,” Meier said, “then we don’t need a democracy.”

Professor Louis Kruger’s powerful film, “Children Left Behind,” bookended the conference, with screenings at the beginning and end of the event.

A lively panel discussion followed the keynote, including State Representatives Carl Sciortino, Barbara L’Italien and Jay Kaufman addressing the legislature’s role in promoting or inhibiting progress toward “educating the whole student.” They agreed that wholesale change is a long-term struggle but change can begin now with our efforts. Willie Rodriguez, executive director of the Boston Campaign for Proficiency, and CPS co-president Barbara Fields described efforts to address achievement gaps and serve the needs of English language learners.

Rep. Kaufman shared a fitting Frederick Douglass quote on his desk: “Power yields nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Conference participants concluded a productive and exhilarating conference by breaking into working groups for strategy sessions on exactly how to make the demands that will get those in power to yield the schools all our children deserve. The working group topics were “Addressing Readiness Schools, Charter Schools & Privatization,” “Securing Funding & Resources for Public Education,” “Educating the Whole Child” and “Achieving MCAS Reform.”

We’ll be updating this site with more details on the results of those working groups and next steps for CPS in the days to come.

–Lisa Guisbond, CPS board of directors