Dearborn abutters raise objections to demolition, charter school status

Nate Homan | 9/3/2014, 11:45 a.m.
BPS officials got an earful from opponents of their plans to raze the Dearborn school building and build a charter ...
Interim Boston Public Schools Superintendent John McDonough spoke before the crowd at the Southern Baptist Church. (Banner Photo) Banner photo

Judging from the conversation last week between abutters, former teachers and Boston’s school superintendent last week, it appears that there is little chance of stopping the demolition of the Dearborn School and the construction of a new charter school in its place.

“The facility cost is a different thing than money used to address the Level 4 status of the school,” BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough said in a meeting at the Southern Baptist Church. “It will be the only school in the state designed to support the improvements and efforts addressing their current problematic standings. The cost of the facility is only related to the improvement efforts in housing the opportunity, potential and promise that it will provide.”

The Dearborn is one of four Level 4 underperforming Boston Public Schools teetering on the brink of state intervention despite improved MCAS test scores and transitioning into a science, technology, engineering and mathematics academy.

McDonough said that the BPS will likely partner with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School to develop the new charter as a preventative measure to avoid Level 5 status, which would automatically trigger a state takeover.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires Level 4 schools to turn around in three years. Dearborn has been in Level 4 status for five years as of this year and, at present, is lacking a rapid improvement plan according to BPS Chief Communications Officer Lee McGuire.

“If we don’t intervene, the state will move in as soon as this September,” McGuire said. “Other schools in the same Level 4 category have laid out clear plans with the state and other partners for improvement. Most BPS schools are Level Three.”

McGuire said that the state could potentially move in to take the school over as soon as September.

In the meantime, Dearborn students will be housed at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester in a “swing space” with their own floor, rest rooms, and classrooms separate from Burke students.

“Whenever you co-locate schools, there is always a level of concern in integrating the students,” McGuire said. “In this case, I think part of positioning the Dearborn students to succeed in that location is based on prior working relationships between the headmaster and the headmaster at the Burke.”

Amid the discussion of the Dearborn’s academic issues, residents of Winthrop Street voiced concerns over the impact of the demolition of the Dearborn building.

“This is a neighborhood with very old buildings on a very narrow street,” Loraine Wheeler-Payne, a Winthrop Street resident said. “The Dearborn was dedicated in 1912 and opened in 1913. It’s part of the landscape here.”

“This is a historic district with structures built in the mid-19 and mid-20th style. It’s not possible, at the beginning of the 21st century, to build a 19th century building,” Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of African American Artists Edmund Barry Gaither said. “What’s here is uniquely here.”

Gaither said that many neighborhoods were torn down during urban renewal after WWII. Residents of the Moreland Street Historic District lament the loss of the architecture and cultural identity.