Boston's schools after the battle

Ford, Maurice deG.

DESEGREGATION, RESEGREGATION, & DEMOCRACY Boston's schools after the battle MAURICE DeG. FORD TEN YEARS have passed since Federal District Judge W. Arthur Garrity rendered his decision in the...

...Open enrollment, when first proposed, was generally thought to be an aid to integration because it would enable black pupils to attend previously white schools...
...IF one were to stroll into the cafeteria of South Boston High School today, the scene would be almost unrecognizable...
...Indeed, much of the long history of discriminatory acts by the Boston School Committee took place long before Joe was born...
...Now there are about 1,100 minority teachers out of a 4,000 total...
...But partnership with universities and businesses shows great promise, especially since an infusion of both talent and money can come from them...
...FORD, a Boston lawyer, teaches law and psy-chiatrv at Harvard University...
...Coleman argued that students coming from academically motivated homes were the most important ingredient for learning...
...The liberal Boston Globe, which supported Garrity unstintingly through all the years of violence, wants him now to get out of the case and "leave education to the educators...
...A committee has been appointed...
...But when Denise herself got to school, she found Commonweal: 240 out that it did not quite work that way...
...Black, she entered Hyde Park High, one of the persistent trouble spots, as a freshman in 1975...
...Teacher hiring practices discriminated against blacks, and what few blacks were hired tended to be relegated to black schools...
...To rise anywhere within the administration, one usually had to have attended Boston State Teachers' College or Boston College...
...But for students polled in 1984 by the Boston Globe, the results do not seem nearly as happy...
...Some favor a black superintendent for a now black system...
...Has desegregation been a' 'success" ? What are the problems and challenges for the future...
...Some blacks, reflecting black power concerns, have advocated a ' 'freedom of choice'' plan, giving blacks more control of their children's destinations, despite the fact that this option failed miserably earlier in the South...
...The simple truth is that Judge Garrity had no choice over what he did...
...Unless its public schools can provide a ready and continuing flow of talent for such industry, Boston's fortunes will suffer...
...Native Bostonians knew differently...
...You get upset when they're going to school with you and your best friends aren't...
...Troy Norris, a black student enrolled at South Boston High School, said that it took him over two years to get rid of his uneasiness and suspicion: "I had a lot of mental scars because I didn't trust anybody...
...In 1983, tenth-grade students were in the twenty-second percentile in reading and the twenty-eighth percentile in math on the nationwide Metropolitan Achievement Test...
...Such partnership between business and inner city schools is, in the long run, crucial, for Boston or any other large city...
...Another reason was that the upper-class parents and school board were more cooperative, a contrast to the constant rocking boat that is Boston...
...This was not just a soggy system with a little too much parochial Irish flavor needing a clean-up...
...As Jonathan Kozol's 1967 classic, Death at an Early Age, subtitled "The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools," showed, prejudice was endemic in the city and in the inbred, largely Irish Catholic, school system...
...But Joe Farina and his buddies have very few options, too...
...As for the teaching "I wasn't taught anything about writing papers...
...It's like civil service...
...That other businesses, such as the Bank of Boston, are also donating large sums to the Boston public schools is an important vote of confidence in the system...
...The problem is that Joe Farina is right...
...And if desegregation would do it, she was all for it...
...The changing composition of the students has brought other changes as well...
...Business is apparently starting to realize this...
...At 15 Beacon Street, long the encrusted administrative headquarters of "the system," "the McDonoughs," as Schrag described it, "spoke mainly to the O'Learys, the Caseys, and the Hogans, directing the work of 68 Sullivans, 61 Murphys, 21 Lynchs, 18 Kelleys, 14 Kellys, 25 Walshs, 30 O'Briens, 40 McCarthys, 22 Dohertys, 21 McLaughlins and some 3,700 teachers and administrators, most of whom are Irish...
...Most of the nation was shocked at the level of violence which festered in "the Athens of America...
...Innovation, not surprisingly, won few points...
...Is it all our fault that blacks didn't get an education...
...That Garrity" and his liberal friends are castigated because they went to places like Harvard Law School, live in the suburbs, and send their children to private schools...
...Thirty-two of the principals of the 123 schools remaining open are minorities, as contrasted with only 5 when the judge took over...
...Many of Boston's major corporations agreed to help as well by providing training, in partnership with the schools, in technical, job-entry skills, and through employment...
...Her mother was one of the original plaintiffs in the school desegregation case...
...One of these was the concept of "magnet schools," each of which was to have additional resources and a theme: the arts, engineering, foreign languages and cultures, and the like...
...The fact that Arthur Garrity also graduated from Holy Cross Qike a good Irish Catholic) and actually sent his children to public schools (albeit in Welles-ley) does not absolve him...
...In 1984, only 822 students attended, 43 percent black, 28 percent white, 15 percent Asian and 13 percent Hispanic...
...If prejudice had not erupted over Judge Garrity's order, it would have exploded over something else...
...We suffer because they have to catch up...
...In 1973, "Southie High" contained 2,200 students, almost all of them white...
...In 1973, racial distribution was: 53,593 white, 31,963 black, 6,052 Hispanic, and 1,954 Asian...
...It is getting almost impossible to please Garrity...
...Why have they occurred...
...In addition to the reduction in the number of students and the accelerating percentage of blacks and other minorities, the fiscal burden on the city has increased dramatically since desegregation began...
...Sic transit gloria, the Andrea Doria...
...In Boston, under Judge Garrity's prodding, there has been a great change in the composition of the teaching and administrative staffs of the schools...
...Certainly, in retrospect, Judge Garrity seems to have made a mistake in integrating black and lower-class Roxbury with white, fiercely defiant, and lower-middle-class South Boston as his first order of business...
...But academics at Southie still have a long way to go...
...Just because it happened to them a long time ago.'' Not all the white responses are like that, but they make up a substantial percentage of the Boston Globe's sample...
...The Constitution required desegregation...
...Yet Joe and company have had to suffer the consequences...
...One of "Yesterday's Students" is Denise Pruitt-Pope...
...He has taken the tests and scored well...
...In addition to ordering busing, Judge Garrity tried a number of innovations to bring about equal educational opportunity...
...The feeling of getting "gypped" continues today...
...Teddy Kennedy is the one who sent his children to private schools...
...The factual case developed by lawyers for the black plaintiffs (one of whom, J. Harold Flannery, was an Irishman) was irrefutable and overwhelming...
...There has, of late, been considerable dissatisfaction with Garrity from some surprising quarters...
...When people were nice to me, I thought there was a catch to it...
...By 1984, these figures had shifted to 15,327 white, 26,662 black, 8,896 Hispanic, and 3,991 Asian...
...The desegregation order, he has charged, has driven the more able students out of the city's schools, leaving the cripples behind...
...Student prejudice now seems focused, in the good old immigrant tradition, on the latest arrivals, the Cambodians...
...Gone, too is School Committee Chairman John Kerrigan, who was nearly convicted of criminal contempt by Judge Garrity for his refusal to carry out the judge's orders...
...The question then became how to go about it...
...High school is supposed to be the best time of your life, but it wasn't...
...Denise recalls that her mother marched "because she believed in quality education...
...To understand this, one must first understand what had gone on before...
...They did not cause segregation of blacks in the Boston public schools...
...Our law must still grope for a way to make the solution fully fair for all concerned a far from easy task...
...Although the parents' councils, often highly critical, have sometimes been a thorn in the side of the school superintendent, increased parental involvement in the schools can be a training ground for leadership and eventual elective office...
...What has happened to the students who were forced to undergo the early years of school desegregation...
...The Globe and others favor more experimentation...
...Apparently, Judge Garrity wants to withdraw from the case sometime in 1985...
...What is on the positive side of the ledger...
...That is, unless a metropolitan desegregation solution can be found, a result that seems unlikely given the composition of the present Supreme Court...
...The level of daily racial conflict has decreased...
...But because of court-ordered affirmative action, he is dubious about his prospects...
...Judge Garrity may have had very few legal options in ruling as he did...
...Segregation had been deliberately maintained in a number of ways...
...the much heralded Coleman Report on public education contended that integrating lower-class students of any race led to educational disaster...
...Throughout the city, a very high proportion of those who enter the ninth grade fail to graduate from high school...
...In September of 1974 and 1975, South Boston High and Charlestown High were surrounded by mothers shouting epithets few mothers would want to hear, and riot police were a nightly feature on nationwide news...
...It is perhaps too early to assess the effect of these innovations...
...Our evidence, as yet, remains anecdotal...
...The five-member Boston School Committee which, when elected at-large, rarely had black representation, has now been expanded to thirteen members, including four blacks and a Hispanic...
...Farina wants to work for the Boston Police Department or Boston Fire Department or even the transit system...
...According to Superintendent of Schools Robert Spillane, in 1972, busing and other transportation cost $1.3 million...
...These include curriculum reform, leadership by a strong principal, teacher evaluation and accountability, and strong emphasis on the mastery of basic skills by each student...
...In 1973, the year before busing, 93,647 pupils were in the system...
...Gone is Louise Day Hicks, the "Great White Mother," who symbolized the city's resistance to desegregation in the sixties and seventies...
...When new schools were constructed, they had been placed in the middle of a black or white area, rather than on the 19 April 1985: 239 border to facilitate integration...
...All the good, lifetime jobs are gone...
...Shortly thereafter, in late February, Spillane himself, like so many of the other whites who have fled the city school system, decided to get out...
...In practice, however, open enrollment was perverted to help white students escape from schools with a racial composition not to their liking...
...the metal detectors at the entrance are gone, along with the police dogs...
...due to heavy immigration from Southeast Asia, Haiti, and the Cape Verde Islands...
...Much of this stems from what is seen as a too rigid adherence to maintaining fixed racial percentages in a system that cannot ever be realistically desegregated...
...The most startling change in the Boston schools is in the enrollment figures...
...In 1974, only about 400 of 5,000 teachers in the schools were minorities...
...He accepted a job, at a salary of about $90 thousand per year as superintendent in Fairfax County, Virginia, probably the wealthiest system in the nation and virtually all white...
...Superintendent Spillane, in a fit of anger, accused the judge of running the schools like his "private plantation," a remark he later apologized for because of its racist overtones...
...As Peter Schrag's Village School Downtown details, the Boston school system was, for generations, homogeneous to a stifling degree...
...Ten years later, what changes have occurred...
...One school, the Umana, envisaged as a citywide science center, has not been able to attract the quality of students it had hoped...
...Gradually, even many Irish began to realize that something must be done about their humdrum, deteriorating system...
...We suffer because they have to catch up...
...Citywide parents' councils were also created to monitor the desegregation process and to give a diverse group of parents access to a system formerly dominated by insiders...
...Boston, recently rated as the second most attractive city in the country by an influential survey, depends on high tech industry...
...Not only was there the much publicized violence (in-school stabbings and the pulling of a black out of his car and attempting to kill him when he inadvertently drove through the streets of "Southie" in October, 1974...
...Judge Garrity found that the evidence ' 'established that the school authorities had knowingly carried out a systematic program of segregation affecting all of the city's students, teachers, and school facilities and had intentionally brought about or maintained a dual system...
...There was continual shouting and fighting in the corridors...
...In Children of Crisis, Robert Coles, writing about the early years of school desegregation in the South, found the experience to have been "a vale of soulmaking" for many students, who emerged from the ordeal surprisingly healthy and stronger...
...There was a shared set of backgrounds and attitudes...
...TEN YEARS later, perhaps the best news is that there is little news, as far as racial violence is concerned...
...High school and high school athletics are, indeed and sadly, "the best time of life" atSouthie...
...Inordinate emphasis was placed on politeness, order, and submissiveness traits all linked to an authoritarian system...
...Recently, the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, one of Boston's largest employers, gave a grant of $1 million dollars to assist students in Boston's neglected middle schools, which enroll young people just entering into adolescence, in order to try to get at the drop-out problem early...
...Thus, by 1984, only 28 percent of the "Boston Irish" school system remained white...
...School district lines were gerrymandered to create white and black schools rather than mixed schools...
...White, and now a twenty-five-year-old bartender for the Bayside Club at Southie, he had been a star athlete in grammar school...
...Ten years since the buses rolled, bringing blacks into unfamiliar ethnic enclaves of the city...
...He has tried to put the system on a computerized financial basis and has instituted many of the reforms recommended by black educator Ron Edmonds...
...Superintendent Robert Spillane has also had an impact in his four recent years at the helm...
...He just gave me and other black students A's just because we were in class...
...My exposure to leaders in the black community convinces me that they strongly agree with this toughening up of discipline and standards...
...The support of colleges and universities in the educationally rich Boston metropolitan area was enlisted, with each institution linked to a particular school district...
...Severe cuts in funding, largely beyond the school committee's control, have limited how much the magnet schools can achieve...
...By 1983, after the court desegregation order, that cost was up to $16.4 million, a 1,100 percent increase...
...Some have wondered whether it might not have been more beneficial to put that kind of money directly into the education of children...
...Yet, even now, dissension continues...
...Joe Farina's wounded aspirations reflect the cries of firefighters in Memphis and police in Boston who feel aggrieved by federal court "affirmative action" decisions...
...One of his reasons for leaving was that he needed the money in order to pay the college tuition of his younger children...
...The titles of the articles are instructive: "A Long Road Traveled and a Long Road Ahead," "Yesterday's Students A Sense of Loss and Survival...
...Harvard, for example, is working with staff and students at Roxbury High School...
...Hancock's partnership with largely black English High School, particularly in finding jobs for students, has been described by the Boston Globe as "a model of cooperation between the public and private sectors...
...By 1984, only 55,135 were left...
...But when he went to South Boston High after the beginning of desegregation, most of the fans were gone...
...Perhaps these conflicts are the inevitable price democracy pays for more representative government...
...Joseph Farina is another veteran of The Battle of South Boston...
...Approximately 21 percent of the school population is either physically or emotionally handicapped, requiring a present outlay of $48 million...
...Courts and commentators (as recent articles by Charles Murray and Derek Bok in The New Republic indicate) are still wrestling hard with the question of the impact of remedies for past discrimination on individual versus group rights...
...The search for a new superintendent for Boston has already begun...
...To mark the tenth anniversary of Judge Garrity's decision, in June 1984, the Globe published a short series of articles attempting to survey what changes had taken place...
...Sometimes Superintendent Spillane has seemed to lay the blame for much of this at the feet of Judge Garrity...
...One need only drop in at the Bayside Club bar to see the potbellied letter sweaters of men in their forties and fifties, continuous reminders of "That championship season...
...When white or black schools became overcrowded, portable classrooms were erected right outside them to contain the races...
...Enter Judge Garrity, called by opponents of desegregation "the Scourge of Boston," and by others a "Profile in Courage...
...The number of pupils requiring bilingual education nearly doubled between 1977 and 1983, Maurice DeG...
...This may have made symbolic sense in terms of breaking down long-established barriers, but it made little sense otherwise...
...Minority members of the school committee feel that the search committee does not contain a sufficient number of minorities...
...Of course, there are occasional skirmishes in the boys' and girls' lavatories, but tension has subsided to a remarkable degree...
...One major change, as the Boston school system heads into its second decade of desegregation, has been in the actors...
...My math teacher was totally intimidated by the black students...
...Very few from "Southie High" go on to college...
...In 1975, when bumper stickers reading ''Southie is my roots" and ' 'Bus judges, not people'' seemed to be everywhere, residents of quiet Beale Street in suburban Brookline, the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, awoke one morning to see emblazoned on the pavement "Bus Teddy...
...FORD TEN YEARS have passed since Federal District Judge W. Arthur Garrity rendered his decision in the Boston school case...
...We got gypped...
...I got A's inalgebra and I didn't understand it...
...Dual system" was exactly the kind of language the federal courts had applied to schools in the deep South...
...For sure, the McDonoughs still 19 April 1985: 241 speak mainly to the O'Learys, but there are fewer of them...
...He hopes to make the Fairfax, Virginia system "a model for the nation...

Vol. 112 • April 1985 • No. 8


 
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