Monday, December 5, 2016
By Dasan Harrington, Parent, Dorchester Resident
Dasan and Zoraida Harrington
My wife and I first enrolled our son in Boston Public Schools, at the Russell Elementary School in Dorchester, in January of 2012. He was three years old and needed assistance with speech, sensory issues and fine motor skills development, which qualified him for placement in the kindergarten special needs curriculum.
We had recently relocated from New Jersey back to Boston for employment advancement and researched a good number of schools throughout the area for the best possible solution for our son’s education. Having grown up in the area, I knew there was a negative stigma about BPS being a choice of last resort if you couldn’t find placement in another school or district. We were not naïve about the bad reputation of the school system; however, we researched a vast amount of information for ourselves. The conclusion we made was that, despite all the lukewarm reviews, BPS has a great special needs program that tailors to the child’s individual needs.
When our son started at the Russell School, he got the one-on-one attention he needed from both a speech therapist and a physical occupation therapist to help him reach his goals with a carefully crafted Individual Education Plan (IEP). As parents, we were fully involved with how his goals would be achieved. We were in constant unison with his teachers, the specialists, as well as the school’s administrators. We were provided timely progress reports that contained critical feedback, along with techniques to use at home reiterating a continuous learning environment. This helped us to better understand our son’s learning style, which helped him grow at a phenomenal pace.
After about five months of collaboration, our son was evaluated for his progress and next course of action. To our amazement, he exceeded the expectations of the IEP and special needs services were no longer recommended. He was then enrolled in a regular education class, where he thrived in an inclusive learning environment and continues to do so today. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the hard work and dedication of his teachers, specialists, and administrators at the Russell School who made it possible.
Now our son is in the second grade and continues to show progress in his learning development. We are very happy with the partnership we established early on with the school community. We also enrolled our daughter with the Russell School’s regular education curriculum and she is showing the same progress track, despite having a different learning style.
We attribute our children’s education achievements to the unending strides the school’s administrators and teachers have made through the years since we began enrollment. When we started, the Russell School was a Level 3 school. Today, it is at a Level 1 status. From my point of view as a parent, I attribute this to the dynamic, effective teachers, coupled with strong leadership from an administration that fosters a strong collaboration with parents. Teachers focus on student development as a whole by incorporating the values of culturally diverse student body families into the equation. Also, the faculty and staff create a healthy environment to support students’ wellbeing, both physical and emotional.
Drawing assistance from outside the school’s location proves critical by building relationships with partner organizations in other communities. This engenders an exchange of fresh ideas and much need resources (i.e. human or financial resources) to keep programs and initiatives accessible. Lastly, transparency in the school’s governance is important and parents are highly encouraged to stay proactive in their child(ren)’s advocacy. A parent council was formed to tighten up the awareness of information that filters down from administration to parents.
We are extremely content with the education plan that the Russell School has helped us create for our children. I highly stress that parents looking at BPS and doubting the positive impact an inner-city public school education has to offer should really do research for themselves. The predominant factor in education success starts with parent advocacy by establishing a steady, positive, conducive relationship with the entire school community.