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Friends of Madison Park says BPS withholding resources

Yawu Miller | 4/30/2014, 11:21 a.m.

Members of Friends of Madison Park are questioning the school department’s decision to intervene at Madison Park, given what they say is a pattern of neglect at the school.

“We feel that Gary wasn’t given a fair chance to turn the school around,” said Wilson, noting that Gary was only at Madison for six months before the department stepped in. Now with the department forming intervention teams, Gary is in a sort of limbo.

“You can’t run a school like this,” said Friends of Madison Park member Bob Marshall.

Marshall says a program targeting students with learning and behavioral problems was terminated two years before Gary was hired.

In the meantime, Marshall says, teachers at Madison Park asked the school department for other resources, including a reading clinic, but received no additional assistance.

“We have kids coming into high school reading at a 3rd and 4th grade level,” he said. “We’ve lost a whole population of kids in those two years.”

Wilson said vocational technical high schools in Massachusetts commonly have no more than 19 percent special education students. And other Boston high schools have far lower percentages. At Another Course to College, an alternative high school in Brighton Mass, the percentage is 19.5 percent. At Boston Day and Evening Academy it’s 13.9 percent. The Jeremiah E. Burke school has 20.7 percent. And West Roxbury Academy has 19 percent.

Typically, schools with higher percentages of special education students have dedicated staff trained to work with students who have learning or behavioral difficulties.

At Madison Park, Gary, who has been headmaster since September 2013, had no specialized staff. And with no assistant headmaster, the task of mediating disputes and dealing with disciplinary procedures fell on Gary. In the 180 days of the 2012-2013 school year, the school meted out 205 suspensions — more than one a day.

While Gary was struggling to keep the school functioning with little support, the school department did dedicate $1 million in federal Race to the Top funds to Madison Park last year, bringing in high-paid staff to create partnerships between the school and businesses, evaluate teachers and enhance the school’s technological capabilities.

None of the extra staff had any expertise working with special needs students. And no new partnerships were created with businesses or other educational institutions, according to Friends of Madison Park members.