Dear Members of the School Committee,
As parents of a former and current Muraco student who live in the Cedar-Tremont- Swanton-Winter St neighborhood, we are truly outraged with the proposed redistricting plan. We appreciate the difficulty the committee faced in determining which neighborhoods would be moved to different schools, but the recommendation does not appear to take our neighborhood’s strong arguments for safety and walkability into consideration as evidenced by the outcome and the Redistricting Advisory Committee’s (RAC) own report. Our neighborhood presented thoughtful and reasonable arguments based on children’s safety, walkability to school and preservation of the fabric of this Muraco neighborhood community.
Since the Redistricting Advisory Committee is no longer meeting and the School Committee will most likely make their decision based upon the RAC’s final recommendation, perhaps our comments will have little effect. Nonetheless, we want it noted that we are justifiably upset and have valid, unanswered questions. The RAC’s primary mandate was NOT the safety of our children as evidenced by their own statement in the report:
Safety: Although the public raised comments about the safety of traveling to and from school on busy streets and/or poor sidewalks, the RAC was not charged by the Superintendent to assess how safe an access route was for a family walking to school.
However, as members of the School Committee (even though there are overlaps between the School Committee and the RAC), you MUST consider all these other crucial factors such as safe access to schools and walkability. Do not be rash. Your decision has significant implications for families for many years. Winchester residents have entrusted vital aspects of our community to your service and stewardship. Do not permanently alter communities and neighborhoods when the RAC had only one main priority in mind.
With all due respect, may we ask:
- How are our children supposed to walk safely to school now? Why were health and safety not considerations for our neighborhood, as stated in the RAC report? Do we now have to drive more, hire more child care providers since Lynch is beyond walkable distance for children, and there is no safe walking route to Lynch for our children? We will no longer have a healthy “walking school bus.” The RAC stated in their report:
Any student who lives two miles or greater from a school in grades K-6 must receive free busing service, according to state law. Therefore, by keeping all student travel to 1 1⁄2 mile or less, the district would not absorb any new operational expenses.
In other words, the RAC is recommending that the residents in our walking neighborhood should incur the added expense of either busing or driving our children to Lynch or hiring additional child care providers to assist with rides. All of the residents in our neighborhood purchased our homes with walkability to schools and other expenses in mind. The recommendation forces our socio- economically diverse community to make all the sacrifices in safety and the health of our children. Many families in our neighborhood have modest means and you are forcing our diverse community to bear the brunt of economic costs resulting from redistricting. Families who currently drive to their respective schools purchased their homes with the driving necessity already in mind. Please take that into consideration.
- Was it really just about numbers of children, rather than keeping them in their neighborhood schools? The RAC stated in their report:
Ultimately reaching target enrollments was prioritized over keeping a school community intact.
This will rip our children away from the teachers, school community and other Muraco families who have been our “village” in raising our families. Teachers and specialists who have known our children for years will be ripped away from them. Balancing numbers may be an important factor, but should not be the only factor.
- Was the geographic information system (GIS) your primary source of technical guidance? The GIS mapping system is far from accurate and does NOT take into account the safety of children’s access to schools and the nuances of walking routes that families actually use. For example, our neighborhood children walk on Swanton, then make a quick left turn to Florence. This takes them directly to the side entrance of Muraco on Irving St which is 0.4 miles. We never take the circuitous route through Washington and Bates Road. GIS does NOT take into account the unwalkable distance and safety hazards from our neighborhood to Lynch.
- What about the rights and well-being of the children currently in their home schools? After all, last year a number of families from Lynch were allowed to move schools because of Lynch’s record of underperformance. Lynch is a good school community, but if accommodations of that nature were made for those families, what about the rights of our children who are currently in these home schools? Do their well-beings not matter? Why are our children forced to make all the sacrifices?
- Why are neighborhoods closer to Lynch (who vote at Lynch as well) and currently drive to Muraco not affected, yet families who walk to Muraco every day (and vote at Muraco) have been redistricted arbitrarily? We are not trying to present an either/or argument since we care about those neighborhoods as well.
However, this clearly indicates that Walkability and safety WERE NOT determining factors in this case.
- IMPARTIALITY: Do any members of the RAC live in an area that was under consideration for potential redistricting? Was that area left untouched? Were they truly impartial? We did not volunteer ourselves for selection in the RAC to ensure integrity and impartiality in the process. Can you honestly confirm that for every member of the RAC?
- At the May 22 School Committee meeting, it was stated that “neighborhood stability was defined differently.” What definition was applied in the case of our neighborhood? It has always been a part of Muraco for generations. If members of either the RAC or the School Committee do not reside in our neighborhood nor are familiar with its residents, it is your responsibility to truly listen to the concerns of the diverse families who reside here. We have always defined ourselves as Muraco walking families.
Please note below, our original comments to the RAC in its entirety. We urge you to read it, if you have not done so already. We urge you to read or re-read the comments from our neighbors and the extensive petition signed by numerous neighbors and residents who also affirm the importance of walkability and safety. For transparency and accountability, the entire body of letters and petitions that were made prior to the May 22 School Committee meeting should be made public.
It is not too late. We urge you to reconsider removing our neighborhood from the Muraco Community. We urge you to hear us.
Sue and Stephen Kim
Julia (McCall), Noah (Muraco)
Sent by Sue & Stephen Kim to the RAC on April 12, 2012
Dear Redistricting Advisory Committee,
Thank you for all your hard work and your openness to hearing feedback from the community. Having been involved in the Winchester school community for many years as a parent volunteer on a number of committees, I truly appreciate your effort and countless hours of service. You’ve embarked upon a very difficult task.
Friends, I am writing to you today from two perspectives: as a neighborhood parent and as a member of the broader Winchester school community. I am a resident of Cedar Street (Cedar, Tremont, Winter, Summer neighborhood off Swanton) and am writing to express my support for maintaining our walkers along safe routes to neighborhood
schools (Model J). For generations, our small neighborhood has always been a walking neighborhood to Muraco School. Some parents in our neighborhood were Muraco students themselves and have been committed to the concerns that are often specific to our neighborhood and Muraco community.
The primary commitment in our neighborhood has always been to maintain a safe walking school community. In fact a grandmother in our neighborhood used to be the crossing guard on Swanton Street for years to ensure our children’s safety to and from Muraco. That is how committed this neighborhood has been to seeing our children safely to and from school as well as maintaining strong neighborhood ties of support. Our children also consider themselves friends and neighbors of Mr. and Mrs. Muraco who lived on Irving Street until recently (until Mr. Muraco’s passing and Mrs. Muraco’s failing health). My own children have walked to the Muraco’s home to deliver flowers, sweets and smiles as they are honorary grandparents of the whole neighborhood community. This is an enormous part of our neighborhood identity- the school, the families, the people.
Our children have a “walking school bus” to and from Muraco, with only Swanton Street to cross. Walking has always been encouraged by the district, health professionals, administrators, faculty and parents for reasons of health, as well as alleviating the need for more cars on the streets. Children in our community are close to friends and neighbors from Spruce, Florence, Harvard and Irving Streets as they look out for one another. Senior citizens like Nana Kathy off Florence Street watch out for my children and countless others. Even local businesses like Mamadou’s Bakery know our children by name. They often observe siblings from Muraco and McCall meet on their steps.
My daughter Julia walked from Muraco with neighborhood children for years. Now our 2nd grader, Noah, walks from school and meets Julia at Mamadou’s as she and other older siblings return from McCall. This is a common meeting spot as older siblings collect younger siblings and walk safely home together after thanking the crossing guard.
I recently returned to work full time after years of being home and serving our school community. At present, I do not have a sitter or nanny in place. My children walk home together to waiting grandparents. If this walking option is taken away, it will require the hiring of additional care providers and drivers. This similar situation would apply to other children in our Cedar-Tremont-Winter-Summer-Swanton Street neighborhood. This concern is not exclusive to our neighborhood. It would be likewise in all the school communities. These additional costs may be prohibitive to some families in our Winchester community and calls to mind the importance of supporting the socio- economic diversity in our community. This financial impact must be taken into consideration.
A redistrict to Lynch (as proposed by models K & F) would eliminate our neighborhood children from sidewalks completely. We would no longer be a walkable neighborhood to all our schools (Muraco, McCall and the High School). It alters the very fabric of our
neighborhood. I urge the committee to refrain from drawing lines without having walked in our children’s shoes both literally and figuratively.
I support Model J in the Redistricting Proposal, as it is based upon a walking radius from school of under .5 miles. In this model, my neighborhood remains at Muraco, as it has for decades. I urge you to keep neighborhood schools in place with Model J or some form of “walking” schools, to the best of your ability. I urge you to keep our neighborhood in Muraco.
I would also like to write to you as a member of the broader Winchester community, I completely understand the strain on our schools with regard to over-crowding. Over the years, I spent significant time and care in support of passing the Vinson-Owen Override as a member of Town Meeting, Co-President of Muraco Elementary School Parents Association (MESPA), Co-Chair of the Parents’ Inter-School Council. In those roles, I strove to find positive solutions to over-crowding and other district-wide concerns with collaboration and mutual respect. In these roles, I observed something vital about this wonderful town: At the heart of our community is the willingness of fellow parents and friends to support each other across school communities. Parents are better equipped to be supportive across schools, knowing that residents of specific school neighborhoods understand the characteristics and needs of their particular school community, far better than someone across town. Parents who are invested in their neighborhood schools and care deeply for their school’s revitalization or needs can also articulate their concerns effectively to the broader Winchester and Massachusetts community. As a result, I have observed passionate, yet fruitful dialogue in which an Ambrose parent leader spoke up in support of technological equity in Muraco and Lynch, for example. I have seen Lincoln parents defend their Lynch friends as they spoke passionately in defense of their wonderful school community when others unfairly judged Lynch’s performance. This camaraderie is priceless- thanks to those who were invested and able to articulate their neighborhood school’s concerns. Do not change this. It works.
Yes, we are one Winchester, despite struggles. Yes, we want equity. Yes, we want to solve difficult problems. But I urge you to consider-- NOT at the expense of something that already works so beautifully – our neighborhoods. Cutting our Cedar-Tremont- Winter-Summer-Swanton Street neighborhood off from the Muraco community, eliminating natural and daily community-building that occurs as neighborhood children walk to and from school through Swanton, Florence, Harvard, and Irving St, and severing children from the safe and healthy environment of our “walking school bus” would be deeply disruptive to the fabric of our neighborhood that has been a proud member of Francis J. “Butch” Muraco School community for generations-- and is still thriving with the current generation of children and families.
Thank you so much for your receptiveness and willingness to hear our feedback. My husband and I are truly grateful for your consideration and all your hard work.
Sue & Steve Kim
Julia – McCall, Age 12 Noah – Muraco, Age 8