Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why not close Morton?

Whew! Morton supporters can breath a sigh of relief! The School Committee has voted to keep the school open and last nights rally proved to be a success. Morton is safe, at least for one more year!

Closing Morton is an idea the prompts some serious questions. Is there enough room in the other 3 middle schools to hold an additional 600 children? What will the effect be on classroom sizes? Does the estimated 4 million dollars in savings take the additional transportation costs into effect?

And personally this is a big part of why I was not in favor of closing Morton. I'm concerned that doing so would result in overstuffed classrooms and rooms that are dedicated for other uses, such as computer labs being turned into classrooms. After finding out that closing 10 schools and opening up 3 new ones is going to cost us $250,000 more AND an additional 1-1.7 MILLION in transportation costs I'm not convinced that a 4 million dollar savings would be realized by closing Morton.

I believe that before we consider closing anymore schools we need to go through our school budget line item by line item and justify why we can't cut from other areas first.

On the other hand....

What if there was ample room in our other schools to absorb Morton's students? What if this could be done without losing labs or over stuffing classrooms? What if 4 million was the absolute savings after factoring in all other costs? What if no amount of 'fat trimming' would result in nearly so much savings?

If that were the case, why not close Morton?

The argument I keep hearing is that we can't close Morton because it is the best school, with the best test scores. It is the school that serves the North End and making those kids travel to the other schools is unfair! We can't close Morton because of nostalgia and tradition! It has great teachers and the best leadership!

That's the argument I keep hearing and to tell you the truth I've heard enough of that argument. Best leadership? While the parents seem to like Principal Murano, the Superintendent feels a change is needed. Mr. Murano has also come under fire for his handling of the After School Programs budget for his school. Best teachers? It's silly to think that one school somehow got all the 'good' teachers! I think it is fair to say that the staff at each middle school is comparable and equally qualified. It serves the North End! There is nothing special about the North End that requires it to have it's 'own' school. The children at Morton go to a Fall River school, not a 'North End' school. Our High School is not centrally located. Children from Berkley have to travel to Somerset. I hardly think this would be some undue burden. Because Morton has long been considered 'the good school' there have been parents who have requested that their child go there regardless of where they live. So just how many at Morton actually live in the North End? Nostalgia and tradition? They take a back seat to overall health of the school district. Test scores? While Morton does have better test scores this can partly be attributed to the fact that it has the lowest rate of poverty of our 4 middle schools and we know that socio-economic factors have an impact on education.

The bottom line is, Morton may be a good school but there is no reason that its students couldn't receive the same quality education from any of the other 3 schools. In our haste to 'save' Morton we failed to discuss both the merits and flaws of this plan. My guess is that this is an idea that will come up again and next time public reaction might not be enough to save it.

See also:
DOE Morton Middle School
DOE Kuss Middle School
DOE Talbot Middle School
DOE Lord Middle School


Dr. Momentum said...

No dog in this fight, but couldn't the argument simply be that it fundamentally doesn't make sense to break up a successful school? Why do nostalgia, teachers and whatnot even enter the picture?

I don't envy Fall River its school problems or its budget problems.

Lefty said...

I personally don't think Morton should be closed. I have doubts that the 4 million in savings would be realized. However with such dire budget issues I think that everything has to be considered and that the protests were reactionary and not really well thought out.