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Letter: Redistricting Plan Could Set Winchester As 'The Gold Standard'

Winchester parents share their stance with the proposed redistricting plans.

The community involvement in the redistricting discussion has been a great example of democracy in action, and we have been proud to be even a small part of this process.

The superintendent and school committee members should be applauded for keeping their ears, minds, and hopefully their hearts open to ideas that may go beyond the normal paradigms of traditional redistricting exercises.  

The presentation of the 5 redistricting maps on Oct. 11 did little to reduce parents’ concerns around walkability, safety, fairness, and costs.  We feel that among the alternative plans put forward, the Advanced Learning Opportunities Program (ALO) represents not only a novel means to harmonize enrollment and capacity, but also an opportunity to set an example for the rest of Massachusetts and the country.

Since I learned that we are 48th out of 50 states in advanced class funding, I have found it even more disappointing that affluent towns such as Winchester are no further ahead of any other towns in offering ALO-type programs. Whether our child would qualify for an ALO program is unknown at this juncture, but if he were, we would absolutely have no problem driving some distance to an ALO program, given the huge upside for his academic development.

Since it was unveiled, the ALO program has struck a positive chord among a large cross section of town residents. The models of many different towns have been cited (Acton, Arlington, Brookline, etc.) during these discussions.

If we implement the ALO program, I would envision that other towns would cite Winchester as the benchmark, the gold standard, of a town which arrived at a long-term quality solution to redistricting by implementing a sustainable plan that additionally addressed the educational needs of all children across the performance spectrum as so clearly and elegantly outlined in the ALO proposal.

We urge the superintendent and school committee to seriously consider the ALO option.  

-Dennis France & Olga Burachenko

Resident of Spruce Street

Lisa October 16, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Not even including all the other arguments as to why this ALO plan is not a good idea, the one thing that could make ALO not needed is to do subject blocking at each school from 3rd - 5th grade. This would allow for neighborhood school while also providing tracked academic learning environments.
Liberativependent October 18, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I agree with Lisa. ALO is not a solution for the capacity issues which are driving the need for redistricting. I believe ALO is a great way to give advanced students the challenging coursework they need in order to maximize their potential, but choosing to limit access to ALO by putting it only at VO feels like a workaround way to get ALO into Winchester rather than a holistic solution to the capacity challenges. As the data shows, more students will qualify for ALO than will be needed to solve capacity issues related to VO. Telling those students who qualify, but don't get selected for the ALO program that they can't get the type of curriculum they need and want is just as unfair as some of the hard-line redistricting proposals. I say make ALO a core part of ALL Winchester schools, and solve the capacity issues with a flexible, long term plan i.e. not by drawing new, hard-line districts.

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