Boston School Committee Set to Stifle Opposition

Mary Jo Hetzel (Photo by Larry Aaronson)

Commentary by Mary Jo Hetzel and Sandra McIntosh

The code of rules intended to silence dissent that will be voted on at an upcoming Boston School Committee meeting this fall is only the last in a long series of anti-democratic measures which have rendered the committee useless as a forum for community input.

One by one, all democratic avenues for community input have been destroyed:

1)  The school committee is no longer democratically elected, but appointed by the mayor and beholden to him, with the record showing that committee members do exactly as he wishes.

2)  The school committee process consists of lengthy school department reports and committee member questions, with only two minutes each for community members to speak. No genuine discussion of the crisis facing BPS students, parents, educators, and the community can occur in this setting.

Sandra McIntosh

3)   Under Superintendent Payzant, all major parent groups were defunded and essentially destroyed, leaving parents with no consistent and effective avenue for input into BPS policy and practice. At the same time, teachers are under attack for problems beyond their control, problems created by the same political and business leaders who are leading the attack.

4)   The only influence of any significance is exercised behind closed doors by local and national business elites who steer the mayor and state reps toward their high stakes testing/scripted curriculum, pro-charter, anti-public school, anti-union/community agenda, a corporate agenda that has taken over most of the country’s urban school districts.

5)   School Site Councils don’t exist at many schools, and where they do, tend to be tools of the principals.

6)  All temporary, ad hoc bodies for community input are set up by the school department to provide a democratic veneer, then disbanded when no longer useful.

Because there are no avenues for consistent, effective, democratic input into BPS policies and practices, we in the community are always forced into a reactive position. We react over and over again on an ad hoc basis to one destructive decision after another — as our schools and young people are being destroyed before our eyes.

But we are not alone. Even the superintendent and the school committee are the recipients of policies made without their input. Why would they be consulted when the Mayor controls them, and business and political elites control the Mayor?  It’s nice that we have many fine people on the school committee, and it’s nice that we have such a fine superintendent; but they don’t have any power. The only power they exercise is the power of legitimation. That is, by going along with policies that have already been decided, and allowing a few minutes of frustrated public comment, they have performed the charade of democracy that is their appointed role.

But a charade is not something that most of us, especially youth, take seriously; hence we can expect to hear lots more booing and hissing, and see lots more unruly protests, and when we speak, rest assured that we will not only face the school committee, because they are, sadly, irrelevant, but speak instead to each other, seeking to affirm and strengthen each other by sharing our experience and ideas, in order to find ways to move positively and strategically into the future. We invite the school committee, and even the mayor, to return to their roots, and join us as we struggle for an educational system that meets the needs of our children, and our communities, rather than destroying them.

We will not be silenced.


Mary Jo Hetzel and Sandra McIntosh are affiliated with the Coalition for Equal Quality Education and Work-4-Quality, Fight-4-Equity. Sandra is a member of the CPS Board of Directors. Mary Jo can be contacted at
[To return to the Backpack, close browser page.]