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Historical Note

Scope and Content Note


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Title: Citywide Educational Coalition records
Call Number:M130

Historical Note

The Citywide Educational Coalition was established in 1972 when Mary Ellen Smith, Hubert Jones, Francis Parkman, Matthew Good, and Clyde Miller met with other citizens, parents, and community activists throughout Boston to participate in choosing a superintendent for the City's public school system. The Coalition sought input from large numbers of neighborhood residents and organizations to help develop the "Community Agenda for the Boston Public Schools," an outline of questions and issues to guide the interview process. Even though the new superintendent was chosen from within the Boston Public School system, the Coalition built consensus on many areas of school reform and established a broad-base of community supporters.

Successful as an ad hoc group, the Coalition became a legal entity in 1973. During its first year, the group advocated for community control of Boston's rapidly expanding Community Schools program, participated in a process of examining options for school governance, and began monitoring the policies and practices of both the School Committee and the School Department. In addition, the Coalition provided information to parents of Boston Public School children and other concerned citizens on Massachusetts' racial balance law, Chapter 766, and sought ways in which to expand opportunities for citizen participation in public education. The Coalition's ability to disseminate information to parents about the decision-making process and practices of the Boston School Committee and the Boston School Department made it a reliable source for information.

The desegregation of Boston's public schools began in 1974 when the Massachusetts Superior Court handed down its racial balance orders along with Judge W. Arthur Garrity's impending court order. The orders set off a crisis in the city to which the Coalition responded by establishing its Information and Resource Center. Also known as the Rumor Control Center, it provided parents and other concerned citizens credible information about school desegregation. The Center handled hundreds of calls a day, and served as a place where distraught parents and children could go for moral support. During this time, the media began to contact the Coalition to learn how the desegregation plan was going to affect Boston's schools.

To keep peace on the first day of school, Coalition staff recruited hundreds of volunteers to monitor bus stops, patrol school corridors, and to maintain a presence at schools where trouble was anticipated. Moreover, it hired, trained, and assigned Neighborhood Coordinators to school districts affected by desegregation. The Coordinators joined the city's Neighborhood Safety Teams and recruited other citizens to participate; worked with students, parents, and teachers on racial problems; organized parent meetings; arranged student transfers; and rearranged bus routes. They also began working with individual schools and with parents and students to find ways to improve educational opportunities in the schools.

As the school year progressed, the Coalition's focus turned from public safety to educational reform issues, such as equal education opportunity, student rights, and bilingual and vocational education. Since the Coalition was focused on promoting school reform by including parents in the decisions relating to their children's education, it did not sponsor on-going programs. Instead, it sought funding for parent training workshops, technical assistance projects, and parent organizing. Early projects consisted of training parents to serve on the court ordered parents councils and to become more involved in the educational decisions made in the public schools. The organization's other function was to research and disseminate information on school reform issues, including the promotional rating process for principals, magnet schools, and special education. In August of 1974, the Coalition newsletter was published. Soon renamed Common Ground, it was the first of many newsletters, fact sheets, and guides for parents that covered all aspects of education and school reform.

Phase II of court ordered desegregation encompassed the 1975-76 school year and required the formation of nine new school districts. Accordingly, the Coalition reorganized its Rumor Control and Information Center in an attempt to provide complete information on Phase II – specifically student assignment. Drawing on its past experience, the Coalition again focused its efforts on the public safety aspects of school opening, including establishing good relationships with public safety officials, organizing parents to become bus monitors, training volunteers to monitor bus stops and routes, and providing parent groups with school assignments and transportation information. Awarded a three-year grant by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Education, Bureau of Equal Education Opportunity in 1976, the Coalition began the Parent Education and Technical Assistance Program to provide technical assistance services on major reform issues, including Chapter 636, Promotional Rating, and Chapter 766, and to address specific needs identified by the three parents councils. Moreover, it held informal neighborhood meetings, conducted surveys of parents with children in the public schools, and continued to monitor the School Committee's activities for the U.S. District Court. It was also during this time that the Coalition began acting as external liaison for the School Department, a role it held until 1978.

Included in Phase II was the creation of two new councils: the Community District Advisory Council and the Citywide Coordinating Council. The Citywide Coordinating Council was established to monitor the implementation of Phase II and to act as advisor to the Judge. The Citywide District Advisory Council monitored the Phase II plan in each of the nine school districts and reported directly to the Citywide Coordinating Council. Recognizing that these councils would be essential to promoting its reform agenda, the Coalition succeeded in having members of its staff appointed to serve on them. As a result, the Coalition was able to identify parent participants and provide the necessary training that would make those parents informed members of their councils. Also, several key documents were produced, including Changing Boston's Schools: A Survival Kit for Parents and Students, which explained the nuances of what was taking place in the schools in language parents could understand; Chapter 636: An Analysis, which explained how funding for desegregation was to be allocated; and Facts About the Phase II Desegregation Plan in Boston.

The crisis caused by desegregation lessened throughout the 1977-78 school year, and gradually the Coalition's emphasis shifted from crisis intervention and neighborhood organizing to monitoring the School Department, organizing around specific reform issues, and representing the interests of parents, students, and other citizens in educational decision making. In 1977, the Technical Assistance Project focused on helping teachers and parents develop and implement career exploration programs and on researching and publishing A Parents' Guide to the Magnet Schools in Boston. Other publications produced included But Can They Read?, a report on university-school parings, and one on the Conference of Councils, detailing the first city-wide conference of all court-created parent groups.

Also in 1977, the Coalition joined with the Federation for Children with Special Needs to open the 766 Parent Education Resource Center. Designed to train parents to understand and advocate for both their and their children's rights, the Center provided training workshops and informational programs on occupational education, student assignments, and learning disabilities. Other Coalition projects included providing technical assistance to the Department of Implementation staff on ways to improve communicating public information to parents, participating in the School Committee's Budget Committee, and writing summaries of Federal District Court, School Committee, and Board of Superintendent meetings for dissemination throughout the Boston Public School system.

During the 1978-79 school year, the Coalition moved away from organizing and providing technical assistance and turned to providing parents with information to help them make informed decisions about their children's education. To do this, parents were hired and trained as research assistants and then assigned to schools. Their findings were published in the second edition of Magnet Schools in Boston: A Guide for Parents and Students, which featured profiles of the magnet elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Boston. In 1978, the Coalition also developed a questionnaire with the League of Women Voters to identify areas of concern to parents and to determine the extent of parent participation in the Court-ordered parent councils, the Home and School Association, and other parent groups. In 1980, the Boston Public School system introduced the Basic Skills Improvement Program into its curriculum and enlisted the Coalition's help. Among other activities, staff assisted the School Department in involving parents in committees, publishing the "Introduction to Basic Skills" booklet and other informational material, and organizing homework assistance workshops for parents.

Late 1980 through 1983 were transition years for the Coalition. Unstable leadership made fundraising difficult, and the Coalition had only one contract. Ellen Guiney, a Board member who volunteered to step in temporarily, eventually became the Executive Director, and the Coalition again began to find funding for its projects and publications. Also during this time, the Boston Public School system was experiencing its own transition. Three school superintendents quickly succeeded one another, 27 schools closed, student enrollment decreased by 35,000, and a much smaller percentage of Boston residents had any personal connection to the schools.

To try to prevent a further decline in enrollment, the Coalition initiated the School to School Project, which sought to stabilize enrollment by reaching out to parents and explaining the programs that were available in their children's new schools by distributing fact sheets and arranging school visits. In addition, staff worked with other organizations, including the Massachusetts Advocacy Center, the Private Industry Council, the Cultural Education Collaborative, Goals for Boston, and the Corporation for Boston, on issues, such as after school programs, drop out prevention, and student employment opportunities. In order to generate interest in the public schools, staff focused on the elected School Committee and began a city-wide voter education campaign which included publishing fact sheets on the candidates and the issues, holding candidate workshops, and co-sponsoring meet-the-candidate nights. Moreover, for the first time in the history of the Boston School Department, parents and citizens participated in salary negotiations between the Boston Teacher's Union and the Department's Negotiating Committee. Coalition involvement included testifying in the hearings and reporting the progress of the negotiations in the Common Ground newsletter.

From 1984-1989, the Coalition launched new publications, conducted an in-depth study of the physical condition of the public school buildings, and initiated the Changing Schools Project, which advanced the reforms that would take place under school-based management and restructuring. The Boston School Committee Report, first published in 1985, provided summaries of every School Committee meeting. 1986 saw the first BPS in Brief, which was geared for the business and educational communities and focused on School Department activities. Also during this year, the Coalition began investigating the state of early childhood education in Boston and reported its results in Early Childhood Education in Boston. Through Boston Parents' Notebook parents of children attending the public schools were kept informed of the nuts and bolts of how schools work and what actions parents could take to enact change. A report entitled Boston School Facilities: A Neglected Resource and publications focusing on curriculum reform, bilingual, and special education were also produced during this time.

Throughout the 1990s, the Coalition collaborated with local parent and education organizations, including the Chapter One Parents Advisory Council, Citywide Parents Council, Hispanic Office for Planning and Evaluation, and the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts to form the Parents' Institute for Quality Education (PIQUE). The Institute was established to organize, train, and support parents who were disenfranchised from the Boston Public School system to become involved in their children's education. In addition, the Coalition worked with the Right Question Project, a national program that worked with minority parents on issues including advocacy and students' rights. The Coalition was also involved in the 0-8 Coalition, which was comprised of organizations, such as Action for Boston Community Development, the Early Learning Centers, Parents United for Child Care, and the Massachusetts Department of Education. The 0-8 Coalition focused on improving the quality of early childhood education by preparing pre-school children for kindergarten. Another aspect of its work included guiding the reorganization of the Boston Public Schools kindergarten program by preparing a report on early-childhood services for four-year-olds.

Along with the projects involved with the Parents Institute for Quality Education and the 0-8 Coalition, the Coalition had its own projects, including the Parent Outreach and Empowerment and Family / Community / School Projects. The purpose of the Parent Outreach and Empowerment Project was to train community leaders in the Right Question Project and to discuss local concerns, such as racial and cultural problems in the schools, at the Powerful Parents' Summits. The Family / Community / Schools Project was part of the 21st Century Schools grant funded by the Boston Plan for Excellence, which advocated for whole-school reform. Coalition staff conducted parent training and workshops, provided Right Question Project training, and published newsletters. The Codman Square project, which was designed to ensure that education was a priority in that community, connected community organizations, businesses, and schools to achieve its goal. New publications included BPSReview which combined features of the Boston School Committee Report and BPS in Brief and provided in-depth coverage on issues and decisions facing the public schools.

The change in leadership in 1999 and limited funding ushered in another period of instability for the Coalition. While many options were explored, including merging with the grass roots organization Critical Friends, the Board of Directors of the Citywide Educational Coalition voted to disband in 2000.
1972Group of citizens organizes to participate in the selection of a superintendent for the Boston Public Schools.
1973Citywide Educational Coalition is formed.
1974Citywide Educational Coalition volunteers monitor School Committee meetings, School Department policies, and a variety of educational issues throughout the Boston Public School system.Judge W. Arthur Garrity hands down a court order to desegregate Boston Public Schools and establishes two parents councils: the Racial Ethnic Parents Council and the Citywide Parents Council. Phase I is implemented.
1975Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR), an anti-desegregation group, calls for two-week boycott of schools.Citywide Educational Coalition establishes Information and Rumor Control Center, publishes the first issue of the Coalition newsletter, deploys field staff to meet public safety demands, and organizes groups of parents to participate in policy and decision-making processes at their schools.Citywide Educational Coalition acts as external liaison for Boston Pubic School system.Boston School Department sends parents of pubic school students an assignment application.
1976Phase II of Judge Garrity's plan for long-term student assignment is implemented.
1977Citywide Coordinating Council is formed by the Court to monitor implementation of Phase II desegregation plan. Community District Advisory Councils are established to monitor the Phase II plan in each of the nine school districts, reporting directly to the Citywide Coordinating Council. Citywide Parents Advisory Council is organized to develop multi-racial councils in each school and to support their activities.
1978With the Federation of Children with Special Needs, the Coalition begins pilot program to train parents to understand and advocate for their and their children's rights.
1982Phase II requires that business and universities pair with local schools or school districts to develop appropriate educational offerings.
1984Allen v. McDonough is filed for system-wide failure of Chapter 766.
1985Citywide Educational Coalition establishes the Parent Education and Assistance Program to provide specific needs identified by the Community District Advising Councils, the Racial / Ethnic Parents Council, and the Citywide Parents Advisory Council.The School Committee is cited for good faith efforts in complying with Judge Garrity's order; Judge partially withdraws from case. State Board of Education is named monitor.Boston Public Schools announces list of proposed school closings.Judge Garrity issues final orders on school desegregation.
1987Citywide Educational Coalition presents first Golden Apple Awards to 15 Boston Public School teachers.
1988Citywide Educational Coalition launches three major studies on school reform.
1991Visions for A Better Way, a citywide conference for parents, is held.
2001Citywide Educational Coalition closes.
Chronology of Executive Staff
1972-Jan 1979Mary-Ellen Smith
1978LeRoy Walker, Acting Director
Feb 1979-Apr 1979Allyn Gardner, Interim Director
Apr 1979-Sep 1980Marvin Shapiro
1981-1988Ellen Guiney
1988-1992Paula Georges
Jan 1993-Aug 1999Loretta Roach
Sep 1999-Nov 1999Citywide Educational Coalition Board of Directors, Interim Directors
1999-2001Tiffany Roach, Interim Director

Citywide Educational Coalition, Annual Reports, 1976-2000 (Box 1).