Somerville Schools – The Debate Continues

A few weeks ago a friend showed me the Boston Globe article, “Should they stay or should they go?” which looks at the ongoing debate over whether or not parents want to send their kids to Somerville public schools. The article mentions families who’ve made the decision to move out of the city because they wanted a “better” school system for their kids (citing low MCAS scores and a high drop-out rate). “In the 2010 MCAS results for 10th-graders, the benchmark age group projecting graduation, Somerville was ranked 258th out of 284 public school districts statewide. Somerville fared better than several nearby urban districts, including Lynn, Everett, and Chelsea, but for some parents, that’s not enough.”

The Globe article prompted an heated response from Somerville Mayor Curtatone at a recent school committee meeting. The mayor argued that comparing Somerville’s MCAS scores to other less diverse and more affluent communities (like Belmont – specifically referenced in the Globe article) is like comparing apples to oranges. “Somerville and Belmont, no offense to Belmont, they can’t hold a torch to us,” said Curtatone, “We take on the challenges put before us, and we do a damn good job of it.” Here’s a link to the mayor’s letter to the Globe which notes, “Somerville High School was just named Innovative School of the Year by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation,” and that “the article also fails to mention that 71 percent of Somerville High graduates go on to college.”

As a Realtor, I get asked all the time about Somerville (and Cambridge) public schools. While it’s not ethically permissible for me to give my opinion, I encourage parents and future parents to do their own research – check out the schools and test scores online, visit the schools, talk to students, teaches and parents – and then decide what works for you and your family. All the pronouncements and articles aside, choosing a school for your child is a very personal decision. I know families who’ve moved out of Somerville because (among other factors) they weren’t interested in sending their kids to the public schools. And I know families who’ve stayed in Somerville and whose kids have thrived. (For a great article by a long-time Somerville resident and parent of two boys who went to Somerville schools, check out Brandon Wilson’s letter to the Somerville Scout.)

Thanks to Brandon (she’s the Executive Director of the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission) I recently got to meet several Somerville High School students at the city’s annual Historic Preservation Awards ceremony (I’m a Commissioner). In addition to honoring recently renovated historic homes and the homeowners who did the work, the awards ceremony featured an art exhibit and prizes awarded to high school students who drew (or painted, sketched, or did CAD drawings) of the nominated properties. It was a great evening for the community – bringing together history buffs and preservationists, artists, Somerville homeowners and neighbors, high school students, art teachers and the general public. (By the way, if you know of a house in your neighborhood that’s been recently renovated and you think deserves recognition by the Somerville Historic Commission – the property doesn’t have to be historically designated – you can nominate a property here. This may be last year’s form but it’ll work for next year too.) For articles on several of the featured properties, check out the Somerville Journal series. * The drawings at the beginning of this post are by Somerville High students of award-winning properties.

I left the event feeling happy about my community and proud of the students and their accomplishments!

For more information about Somerville Public Schools check out the Somerville Public Schools site or contact Gretchen Kinder.