School board discusses arts magnet school

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Board of Education met on Wednesday, July 11, and heard public comments regarding the creation of an arts magnet school, as well as voted on their feasibility study decision.

Bristol teachers, Lea McCabe, Sarah Divenere, Kathryn Morales, and Kelly McCabe, expressed their concern with the plans to convert the Memorial Boulevard School into an intra-district magnet school, and the effect it would have on the rest of the Bristol Public Schools.

Their concerns focused on two main thoughts; will funding an arts specialty school take funding away from other art programs? And, will students enrolled in a specialty school still receive a well-rounded education?

“When I heard about an arts magnet school I was super excited like… And then the union part of me, and the part of me that knows how school systems work, and how teachers are distributed, started to question [how] the opportunities in Bristol for the other schools could be affected with this magnet school. I’m assuming if you’re spending all these millions of dollars on a magnet school, it’s going to have state of the art equipment, and facilities, and instruments, and lighting and all of those things,” said Kathryn Morales, Bristol Federation of Teachers vice president of elementary schools. “I also know… that when high schools put on productions, they have to come up with that money on their own to buy the rights to the play, to pay the orchestra… and they have to raise the money through fundraisers. With an arts magnet school, I don’t know if that would be part of their budget, and then the equity there between these teachers are getting all of these things as part of their budget, and these teachers are struggling to put two dimes together to put a production together.”

Morales also questioned how the supposed lottery system would work, saying, “I don’t understand logistically how you can have a lottery, but then say that you’re going to be placing outplaced Bristol students into a magnet school to keep them here… so, is the lottery fixed? Or, are we just saying that half of it is for people that are already in magnet schools?”

Superintendent of School Susan Moreau said “I welcome the opportunity to share the educational perspectives of this school because I’m not sure you have the right idea about what has been planned.”

Commissioner Karen Hintz gave the operation committee’s report, which included their decision on the feasibility study. The study was performed by architectural firm, Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc, and was originally presented to the board in January, 2018.

“Two years ago, the Board of Finance allocated $60,000 for us to perform a feasibility study… and we do feasibility studies periodically to assess the condition of our buildings, the appropriateness of the buildings, for the program studies that are going on, and to look at demographic information… and how do we best utilize the funds coming from the city and the BOF to maintain our schools,” said Hintz. “The architects who performed the study presented us with a number of options, and one of the options is titled, ‘Do Nothing Option,’ which is kind of a misnomer because we’re never going to do nothing… The ‘Do Nothing’ option was passed in the operations committee, and that’s the option we’re going to put forward.”

Hintz explained that this option entails continuing “to attack the items that need improvement” such as “the construction projects that need to happen… while the administration and the BOE does their work to plan for the preparation of the Memorial Boulevard Arts Magnet.

Much discussion followed, with commissioners Jeff Caggiano, Jennifer Dube, and Kristen Giantonio voting against the decision during the roll call vote.

The decision passed, 4-3.

Comments? Email tmurchison@bristolobserver.com.