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Heath School Parents Look to Build Bigger Auditorium [POLL]

Parents at the Heath School have offered to raise $1.8 million to expand the existing auditorium. The Brookline School Committee debates.

Some parents in town are putting bricks and concrete on their Back-to-school lists. A group of parents with kids at the Heath School offered to raise $1.8 million to pay for a larger auditorium, the Globe reports

As a result of plans to expand the school, add new classrooms and make it more accessible, the auditorium is slated to lose a few seats. By the Globe's calculations, only about 36 percent of students enrolled in the school would have a seat in the auditorium--which is why the parents want to expand it.

However, the school committee says they need to run this plan by the policy subcommittee. They plan to examine this issue before the end of the school year, and revisit the proposal then. 

See the Globe for the full story.

What do you think? Take the poll and tell us in the comments. 

Bill Davidson March 27, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I voted "yes." I believe parents have every right to fund school improvements. We already pay for the public school system with our taxes. The town should embrace the parents' involvement, particularly when it does not require additional financial support from the community. 9 people voted "no" in the poll, but none of them explained why "it sets a dangerous precedent." Please share your thoughts. I'm curious why you think the Brookline School Committee has greater authority than the families they serve.
sylvia kuzman March 28, 2012 at 01:30 PM
I agree with Bill. In a time when no one wants higher taxes for all, a group of parents have volunteered to effectively pay more taxes for something they believe in. I am not in the Heath School District (I am in the Runkle district) and in fact my kids are--reluctantly--in private school; the town system was not a good fit for my kids, despite lots of trying. But I see no reason why the town would not choose to accept reasonable donations like this which benefit the town. This feels like a very pure form of democracy--townspeople voting with voluntary tax dollars to fund a project they very much want, which benefits a large segment of the population and hurts no one. Please do explain why this sets a "dangerous precendent."
Pam Roberts March 28, 2012 at 03:16 PM
We elect town officials to make tough decisions on budgets, priorities, etc. To circumvent those decisions is to thumb one's nose at our government system. It also teaches our children that money talks bigger than proper process. The School Committee DOES have more authority than parents -- we gave it to them when we elected them. (If you find yourself in disagreement with the School Committee, then run for office!) We have to operate on the principal that all eight schools are equivalent. Each has its own quirks, but it's important that every incoming freshman at BHS has as much an equal opportunity in the sciences, the arts, technology, athletics, etc. as his or her counterpart from across town. To allow parents to set up "funding" of extras at wealthier schools is to create a situation of "haves" vs. "have nots", which flies in the face of the spirit of the Brookline public school system. Another point: what happens if, down the road, the project goes over budget? Who pays? And what if something goes wrong (there is a defect, someone gets hurt, etc.)? Who is liable, the schools or the parents?
Cassia Wyner March 29, 2012 at 02:31 AM
There are many cogent arguments against the Heath parent proposal presented in letters to the TAB and to the school committee. Some of them can be reviewed at http://equity4brookline.wordpress.com/. I might point out that Heath represents only about 8% of the student population (1% of the town), and a larger and more updated theater does not benefit the town but only that small population. It is worthy to note that Baker and Heath are the only schools with a full theater already. The other schools have either small auditoriums or multi-purpose rooms, and none of them hold the entire school or close to it (even Runkle, with its complete renovation, will have only a multi-purpose room.) I heartily applaud Heath parents for their generosity. I suggest they invest in updating the theater they are fortunate to have, perhaps by purchasing new seating or a sound system or whatever is needed. But a capital project is a vastly different and complicated venture. It's not something we should jump into without serious debate and forethought. We need a robust policy at the system level to address these issues before we end up with commercial billboards at the front door.
Bill Davidson March 29, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Pam, I respectfully disagree with your claim that the School Committee is entitled to more authority than Brookline parents. We elect public officials to serve our community, not to rule over it. We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship. I reiterate my opinion that it is refreshing to see parents so invested, literally and figuratively, to the improvement of the Heath School. This project would benefit not only their children, but generations of children to come. As for this project illustrating a case of "haves" vs. "have nots," I'm curious how you come to that conclusion. Does the Heath School receive more funding from the town than the other K-8 schools? Do you feel as though other Brookline schools are located in underserved neighborhoods? Do you or did you have children that attend or attended another Brookline K-8 school? Cassia, are you a member of the Equity for Brookline (EFB) group? Are you a parent of a child or children enrolled at another Brookline K-8 school? The letters posted on the EFB site seem to be largely from parents of other Brookline K-8 school children. Are parents in other areas of Brookline prohibited from raising funds to help improve their neighborhood public schools?

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