Wednesday, October 23, 2013

0 A Boston Public School Student's Email to John Connolly, Mayoral Candidate

During Tuesday night's mayoral debate on WGBH, John Connolly made the statement: "I will bring students in so their voices can be heard." This reminded me to ask my daughter Rhianwen if she had received a response to her email sent to Mr. Connolly a week ago. She has not.  

Background: Rhianwen is 12, an extremely smart, loving, giving and thoughtful child who has known Mr. Connolly through my volunteer work in Boston Public Schools, especially the Roslindale Pathway, since 2009. Rhianwen has also attended the majority of school SPC/SSC and pathway meetings as well as the school committee, school choice community and EAC meetings for the past two years. Hence, my 7th grader knows far more about education policies and issues than most adults do. Over the past 7 months, Rhianwen became very involved with the mayoral race, working on a mayoral campaign herself. Rhianwen is not shy and has always spoken up about issues that concern her or to defend something or someone when necessary as she is fiercely protective and loyal. 

All of the above said, Rhianwen is also a child with special needs, who struggled for years to pass from one grade to the next and constantly would tell us that she was "dumb" and "stupid" no matter what we tried to tell her and what other successes she experienced. Since 1st grade Rhianwen has been receiving at least 45 minutes per day of services, every single day of school. Toward the end of 4th grade things started to change and she was able to really start showing, via her work, how smart she is (which everyone knew, but it was not evident via tests or classwork consistently.) This came about because Rhianwen has always worked hard and tried to do her best, but also thanks to help from the fabulous teachers and specialists at both the Mozart and Irving public schools. Over the past year Rhianwen has finally begun to experience more consistent success in school with her academics, yet even now she struggles with organization and writing, so she does not really like writing all that much.

Given the above, you can imagine my surprise last Wednesday night when she stated that she had written an email to John Connolly. I asked her to share it with me, so I am now sharing it with all of you:
From: rhianwen
Date: Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 9:33 PM

Hello Im hopeing this goes straight to John Connolly him self. Im a 12 year old kid in Public schools and I want to be  heard Now Mr. Connolly please do not make my schools go into the dump for one I love my school how it is and I know you want to raise the charter cap thingy but please I want to tell you how important Public schools are to me. They are where I have my friends my help because I am on an IEP and I don’t want no charter schools to take away my love of my schools now. Please Don’t take away my education because I want a successful future and with no public schools no city year and stuff like that it will be harder for me to work. I got to the Washington Irving Middle School. Please don’t take the one thing I care about so much away from me.   To contact me email me at <removed to avoid spam>
I am very proud of Rhianwen, for many reasons, not the least of which includes showing more civic engagement than many voters in Boston have so far, for even thinking to send an email to Mr. Connolly, for taking the time out of fun endeavors like Webkinz, Minecraft and Skyping with her cousins to look up his website, get the email address and then putting herself out there: that she has an IEP, her thoughts and feelings about her school, her education, her future and charter schools and his stance regarding them and her understanding that more of them will impact her school and education. Sometimes my daughter literally takes my breathe away, this is one of those times. 

Now, given his schedule, maybe Mr. Connolly has yet to see this email himself. Maybe someone, whether it was Mr. Connolly or a staffer, saw the last name and dismissed the email thinking it was from me (as I have questioned Mr. Connolly quite frequently about his education policies.) Maybe Mr. Connolly did see it and thinks I put my daughter up to it, though clearly he should know better. However, given the "voices heard" similarity to Rhianwen's email subject line in Mr. Connolly's answers last night, I suspect he has in fact read her email. So, why no response?

No matter what the endless possibilities are that Mr. Connolly or one of his staff may have contemplated, I think that his lack of response to a BPS student who reached out to him about her concerns regarding his mayoral education goals and platform speaks volumes about the reality behind the campaign rhetoric Mr. Connolly has been stumping on. 

Semantically, he may have "heard" my daughters voice when she wrote the email to him, but what does it say that she has received absolutely no response from Mr. Connolly or even a courtesy email from the campaign? 

Does this seem like the action of a person who claims he "has fought to give parents and students a voice in the Boston Public Schools" as his website claims?

Actions speak louder than words, campaign ads or stump speeches Mr. Connolly. Shame on you for not responding to Rhianwen. 


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