For over 30 years I dedicated my life’s work to Boston Public Schools (BPS) as a bilingual teacher, co-head of school, school founder, center director, and special advisor to the Superintendent. I was then, as I am to this day, a fierce advocate for district public education, for arts in education, and for providing access to under-served students throughout the city.
When it came time for me to leave BPS and pursue new opportunities in my role as Director of the Institute for Creative Educational Leadership at Boston University (BU), I felt as though I was leaving the home in which I grew up. I wasn’t going far, but that thought did little to mitigate the disquiet I felt in leaving the urban public school classroom for the halls of higher education.
Thanks to the inspiring leadership of Hardin Coleman, Dean of the School of Education, I have spent a fruitful two years at BU, a time in which many educational and community leaders have benefited from the Institute and the talent of my colleagues Carmen Torres and Robert Weintraub.
Nevertheless, the tug of the public school classroom has remained strong, especially in combination with a long-held dream to lead an arts-based elementary school. Recent developments have given me the opportunity to rekindle direct involvement in both areas.
On July 1, 2016, I will be joining the Center for Artistry and Scholarship (CAS) as Executive Director. The Center’s mission states: The Center for Artistry and Scholarship (CAS) is a nonprofit that fosters and mobilizes creative, arts-immersed schools, where students are making and doing, teachers are asking how and why, and schools are engaged in their community.
The Center is currently partnered with Conservatory Lab Charter School in Dorchester, MA. Unlike Boston Arts Academy (BAA), which has five arts disciplines, the singular artistic focus at CLCS is music. The school has successfully implemented El Sistema, an international system of orchestral training, as its core approach to music education as well as Expeditionary Learning teaching principles. The school is also lottery based, just like other district schools. Both BAA and CLCS share the fundamental belief that an arts-based education is transformative and gives students skills that will carry them for a lifetime, no matter what careers they pursue. And now that CLCS serves students through 8th grade, more graduates are attending BAA.
It is important to note that while BAA is a pilot school within the Boston Public Schools district, CLCS is an independent charter school. This may come as a surprise to some, yet I have always maintained that charter and district schools have much to learn from each other and it is my firm intent to serve as a bridge, one that will share the best practices of each. As a beginning to this conversation, I wanted to share this thoughtful piece by Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers: Charter Schools as Incubators or Charter Schools Inc. (http://huff.to/1Li69LQ)
To facilitate dissemination, I am so pleased to be joining CLCS’s in-house not-for-profit, the Center for Artistry and Scholarship in Education (CASE), to which I will bring much of the leadership work that I began at BU. The Institute’s work will carry on; I am delighted that I will be able to re-name CASE after two of my mentors: Vito Perrone and Ted Sizer. I know that the Perrone-Sizer Institute for Creative Leadership at CASE will collaborate closely with BAA and Mission Hill School among other autonomous and district schools locally, nationally and internationally. We will continue to explore the intersections between arts-based and community-based teaching and learning. I also will remain closely tied to Boston Arts Academy as a trustee, supporter, and advocate.
As always, I will try and document my experiences as I move into this new role, including what I learn and where I see tensions. I hope you will continue to push my thinking as well. I look forward to speaking with many of you in the weeks and months ahead. Please know how grateful I am for your encouragement, advice, and support as I contemplate my new role and the strides we can take together in nurturing the academic and artistic achievement of Boston’s youth. There is much work to be done!