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Having run for state representative twice already, Rufus Faulk knows the issues facing his community well, and is prepared to speak at length about them. Though he was unsuccessful in those bids, the Roxbury native and resident has also gained on-the-ground experience helping lead the Gang Mediation Initiative at the Boston TenPoint Coalition. We asked him two questions about Boston Public Schools that we are asking all of the candidates.
What do you believe is the current state of Boston Public Schools? What grade would you give them now? And what grade would you give them when Marty Walsh started four years ago?
I speak as a former Boston Public Schools student, and I think that it’s important, before we start giving out grades, to be aware that we have 125 schools and over 58,000 students, and one of the realities of BPS is that your grade will largely depend on the school you attend and your interaction with the teacher. It’s such a fluctuating grade scale. I think we all can agree that the Boston public school system needs improvement, but it’s also important to realize that it has tremendous potential. We have great students, we have teachers who dedicate themselves.
We’re leaving the education of our children to BPS when it should be a citywide initiative. All of our city agencies, all of our city services should be fully invested in ensuring that our young people are being prepared to be productive adults. As a community, as a city we are failing in that respect, but I believe our public school system is in a place where it needs improvement. Today, and when I was a student 20-plus years ago, our teachers are trying to be educators, but are also having to be clinical caseworkers and support systems for our students. We’re leaving them to have to bear that by themselves.
What specifically are you going to do to improve schools? How many are you going to visit? What programs would you add or subtract? How much more money, if any, do you think the schools need?
I have been blessed to visit over 75 [BPS] schools. I’ve been doing work in the community and have visited places like the Garrison and the McKinley, Community Academy, doing a sneaker drive. [The work we have done] is to address some of the out-of-school issues that some of our students are having, like not having the finances to have a pair of sneakers. It may seem like a small thing, but if there’s one obstacle that we can remove for students to make their journey a little bit easier, then that’s something I try to do.
I’ve been doing alumni and college fairs for Temple University, and I try to explain to BPS students that I was just like you. I was a Boston Public Schools student, I went to the King Middle School, I went to Latin Academy. And like so many young people, I wasn’t able to finish at Latin Academy because I didn’t receive the social and emotional support that I needed. I had to go an alternative route to Temple University, and then to Boston University, and now I’m working on my doctorate at Northeastern.
We have to do a better job of showing young people that it’s possible to achieve, and of creating a platform for them to do so… We want to make sure that our students are not only being prepared to enter the workforce, but to enter higher education or the trades. Some of the programming I would like to add is a [Ten-Point Coalition] initiative that focuses on the self-identity piece, so you can be cool and also be the smart kid. We still see achievement gaps between black and brown boys and some of their white and Asian counterparts. We want to make sure we are closing those gaps by dealing with social and emotional issues outside of the classroom.
I think about Madison Park, our vocational tech high school. What are we doing to support that school? The fact that we don’t have a voc-tech program that serves as a pipeline for all of our city services is something that we need to look at. How do we expand the cadet program for the BPD and the fire department? But also, how do we make a co-op model for our city services, whether it be parks and recreation, water and sewer, or the Boston Center for Youth & Families? Madison Park should be the feeder for our next generation of teachers. That right there can address our diversity issues… Building that voc-tech feeder system would do wonders.
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