closing of Margaret Fuller, JP loses more than an elementary school
of the generations of the neighborhood's residents began
their education at the Fuller School
Her eyes fill
with tears. Although she has a thick accent from her native Puerto
Rico, Amaryllis Nieto speaks perfect English-- a language she studied
at the Margaret
Fuller Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.
next fall, the Fuller school will no longer be an academic option
for the neighborhood's children.
a historic facility for me because I started there and wanted my
son to start there," Nieto said. "Fuller is a very good
Joseph Ruiz, is a kindergartner at Fuller. Although this is only
Joseph's first year at the school, it is also his last. Fuller is
one of five schools in the Boston Public School system closing its
doors in June due to budget cuts.
of Schools Thomas Payzant said rising costs and decreasing revenue
led him to recommend closing
the schools. Payzant must reduce his budget by $81
million and closing the schools will save $5.8 million annually.
decision will also displace students and staff and raise class sizes.
size of class increased in 2003
Boston Public School district, the number of students per class
will jump from 22 to 25 in the kindergarten, first and second grade
and from 25 to 28 in the third, fourth and fifth grade.
comfortable raising class size, but we must do it under these circumstances,"
Payzant said. "We can't escape the fact that these cutbacks
are going to hurt a lot."
The people most
hurt by these changes are teachers, parents and students. The Fuller
school's 16-staff members now wonder about their professional future
and the school's 195 students and their parents worry about their
resorting back to overcrowded schools where kids can't learn,"
Sharon Miller, whose daughter is a third grader at Fuller, said.
is concerned, the Fuller school has historical significance. The
building at 25
Glen Road has been a school for 111 years making it
the oldest building used for educational purposes in the Boston
Public School district.
means the school has deep roots and deep meaning to the residents
of Jamaica Plain. Like Nieto, many generations of families have
the school destroys the fabric of our community," Sonia Ibanez
said. Ibanez attended the Fuller school as a child. Her 22-year-old
son also went to Fuller and even had some of the same teachers.
Ibanez and her husband, Felix, had hoped their youngest son, Felix
Ibanez IV, would continue the family's tradition. That dream has
been shattered and in its place emerges another goal.
to know that I am going to get my first choice for my son's reassignment,"
Sonia Ibanez said. "Not my fourth or fifth choice, my first."
Oldest school in Boston Public Shool
district, used for 111 years
One-third of teachers have taught
at school for over 20 years
Student population: 68 percent African
American, 24 percent Hispanic, 6 percent White and
2 percent Asian
77 percent of students eligible for free
lunch. School provides all students with
free breakfast each morning
5. Students have a 95 percent attendance
98 percent of students promoted to
next grade annually
Only school in JP to offer free instrumental
lessons to its fourth and fifth graders
Only school in JP to offer weekly Parent Coffee
Partnerships with Leslie University,
Wheelock College, the Franklin Park Zoo and the Boston
Awarded National Science Grant, a
state literacy grant, a local grant for school culture
and a ReadBoston grant
Parents of kindergarten
through fourth graders must complete their child's application ranking
each school in the West Zone of the Boston Public School district
in order of preference. The West Zone encompasses Jamaica Plain,
Roxbury, West Roxbury and Roslindale.
There are 27
different schools with seats available in the West Zone for the
2003-2004 academic school year. But for parents like the Ibanezs,
no number of choices could make up for the convenience and sense
of community found at the Fuller school. The couple enjoyed walking
Felix to school in the mornings and picking him up each afternoon.
Next year, Felix faces the possibility of being bussed to another
school in Jamaica Plain or to a school in an entirely different
neighborhood in Boston.
extremely upset," Felix Ibanez said. "My
wife has been doing a lot of research to figure out what the next
best school is, but no school will be within walking distance."
is one of about 58 students who enjoys the convenience of walking
to the Fuller school each day. The building is nestled in a residential
area of Jamaica Plain, but is also only a block away from the neighborhood's
second largest commercial district on Washington
is also ideal for the school's partnership with the Franklin Park
Zoo, the only school in the West Zone to team up with the zoo. Fuller
Principal Suzanne Federspiel said students visit
the zoo to compliment lessons learned in their science classes.
The zoo is less then two miles from Fuller's
Road to Reassignment
meeting was held for parents of Fuller students on April 10. School
committee members, the superintendent and the staff of the West
Zone Family Resource Center were on hand to answer parents' questions
about which school would best fit their child's needs. Parents were
also given a guide
to Boston Public Schools detailing the programs each school in the
West Zone offered to aid the decision making process.
the school destroys the fabric of our community"
Ibanez, former pupil and now mother of
a pupil at Fuller
is the ombudsperson for the superintendent and on the staff of the
resource center. She said parents come to the center to seek advice
on a variety of school related concerns including special education,
bilingual programs and transportation.
primary concerns are where do we go from here and how will you take
care of my child," said Lumley. "It's a sad time for all
son is a third grader at Fuller. He has a learning disability and
Rodriguez said she has worked hard to get services for him at the
Fuller school. But now she worries about what services will be available
to him at a new school.
situation is not unique. Aida Ramos, assistant program director
for Cluster 6, said the Fuller school has 12 resource room students
and eight all day special education students. Instead of reassignment
on an individual basis, the superintendent has decided to relocate
the entire special education class to the Ohrenberger Elementary
School in West Roxbury, so as not to further alter the learning
environment for these students.
room students, like Rodriguez's son, spend only half of the day
outside of a regular classroom. These students will face individual
assignments and start off the next academic year with an entirely
new teacher in a new school with new classmates.
also worried about her son's health. He suffers from chronic asthma,
along with 14 other Fuller students, according to school nurse Cathy
Couture. Rodriguez takes comfort in the fact that Couture is familiar
with her son's medical history and that Rodriguez lives within walking
distance of the school if a medical emergency were to arise. However,
her son will more than likely be bussed to school next fall and
encounter a school nurse unfamiliar with his medical past.
Margaret Fuller Elementary School
has served the Jamaica Plain community for over 100
are also on the minds of parents. Director of Student Assignment
Jerry Burrell guarantees a seat for each child at another elementary
school in the West Zone, but there are not enough seats at one particular
school for an entire grade or class. Thus, students could face being
split apart from their friends.
"Her friends will be dispersed," Miller said referring
to her daughter. "She's sad."
Miller's frustration. Her son went through a tough transition from
pre-school to kindergarten at the Fuller school this year and now
he will have to adapt to yet another institution this fall.
September through November was really hard for Joseph, but he got
used to the Fuller school and his teachers," Nieto said. "Now
that he has to start all over again I'm worried that he'll reflect
on those old emotions and go through another difficult time."
agrees and stresses that becoming acquainted with a new school and
staff will also be difficult for parents.
"All the teachers and kids at the Fuller school know you and
you can speak to anyone at anytime," he said. "There are
always parent activities, like math night every month; it's very
Nieto also praised the interaction between parents and staff of
the Fuller school, especially the Friday morning Parent Coffee Hours
meets with parents every Friday morning and that will be missing
at another school," Nieto said.
that during those weekly meetings, parents voice any concerns they
may have and also help her to plan events like concerts, field day
and literacy night. However, a new topic has been dominating the
most recent meetings.
Principal Suzanne Federspiel
hopes to keep in touch with the school's students.
her explain her thoughts about the
loss of her school.
parents are very worried about reassignments," Federspiel said.
"I feel like we're going backwards because low enrollment provides
us with the opportunity to reduce class sizes, not eliminate them."
since 1998, elementary school enrollment in Boston Public Schools
has leveled off and actually begun to drop.
the decreasing numbers in K-5 students as an opportunity to reduce
class sizes and provide students with increased individual attention
from teachers. Facing budget cuts, the school committee saw the
drop in enrollment as an opportunity to save money by closing several
schools and reassigning students. Three of the five schools closing
for the fall are elementary schools.
promises to inform parents of their child's reassignment by May
9, no amount of research or planning can guarantee a parent will
get their first choice school for their child. Children are reassigned
based on a lottery system. The better the number, the better the
chance of the student being reassigned to his or her parents' top
crap shoot," Dean Stevens, whose son is a kindergartner at
Fuller, said. "It's all fate of chance."
with their options, residents at April's community meeting expressed
concerns about how the neighborhood would react to the loss of the
school. The Census
2000 reported that the population in Jamaica Plain
decreased more than any other neighborhood in Boston dropping by
7.3 percent. The high price of real estate in the area is one reason
for the decrease, but residents said they now fear people might
also consider relocating in search of a better school system.
Fear Next Academic Year
are not alone with their fears for the upcoming school year. The
future of Federspiel and her staff is also in limbo. About one-third
of the school's teachers have taught at Fuller for over 20 years.
Their years of job security have been ripped out from underneath
Like the parents
of Fuller students, each staff member must rank in order of preference
which school to be reassigned. While students are reassigned based
on a lottery system, teachers are dispersed based on seniority.
Those teachers who have been in the Boston Public School System
the longest will receive their first choice for reassignment. Federspiel
said that provisional or non-permanent teachers would more than
likely be laid off.
empty Fuller school playground
will become a common sight next fall when the school
fails to reopen.
to know our reassignment before the end of the school year, but
lay offs could drag this process out into the summer months,"
the news of the school closing marks the end of a milestone in her
life. She accepted the job as principal only three and a half years
ago and it was the first time she had served a school in this capacity.
As in a thick fog, Federspiel is unable to clearly see her future
in the Boston Public School system.
to sit down with the superintendent and discuss my options,"
she said. "Some principals may be retiring or I might have
to look outside of this school system."
the aspect of her job she will miss the most is knowing all of the
children at Fuller. She greets each one at 9 a.m. every morning
and makes sure each student climbs on the bus safely in the afternoon.
If she is forced to leave the Boston Public School system, she hopes
to run into her students around the city.
hopes that the school committee will remain true to its promise
to continue to use all of the buildings being closed for educational
repeatedly said that none of the schools will be sold, but instead
used to house other programs for the school district. Using the
Fuller school as an international high school was one possibility
he shared with residents during the community meeting.
lacks a gym, a cafeteria and an auditorium, but other than that
it's a great building," Federspiel said. "I hope it continues
to be kept as a school."
her staff and the parents and students of Fuller await their reassignment,
a bumper sticker which hangs above her desk captures the sentiment
of the community. It reads, "It will be a great day when our
schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold
a bake sale to buy a bomber."