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Winchester Faces Investigation Over School Redistricting

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint about the redistricting plan devised by Winchester Public Schools.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint about the redistricting plan devised by Winchester Public Schools, according to the Boston Globe.

The Civil Rights office will be reviewing allegations that Winchester Public Schools created a redistricting plan that assigns hundreds of children to "new elementary schools beginning in September (that) discriminates against some of the children on the basis of race, national origin, and limited English proficiency," according to the Globe.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, told the Globe that the probe was opened on Feb. 15 and said, "The complaint is currently under investigation."

A Dec. 19 complaint, which was submitted with a letter of support from nearly 100 foreign-born Winchester residents from more than a dozen countries, claims Winchester Public Schools redistricting plan “targets and disproportionately adversely affects foreign-born families, English language learners, and students and families of color,” moving them “from schools that are high-performing to the district’s only elementary school that is not making adequate yearly progress under the [federal] No Child Left Behind Act,” according to the Globe.

Some parents have contended that the redistricting plan would move children of modest means to the Lynch Elementary School — Winchester’s oldest elementary school — while sending the children of affluent families to the new Vinson-Owen Elementary School, which is expected to open in September, according to the Globe.

To read the complete Boston Globe report, click here.

M March 01, 2013 at 02:18 PM
What a waste of our town resources. Just because of a few cry babies. I am embarrassed for those who filed this suit.
M March 01, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Well said.
AJ March 01, 2013 at 02:42 PM
M, you sound like a typical SC member:
AJ March 01, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Ben, Mark, John, M - I think you are all missing the point, and I assume that none of you were negatively affected by SC decision. Probably most agree that all Winchester schools are good, and that the redistricting "process" was fair. But the facts simply cannot be ignored: The SC's decision was against the Superintendent's recommendation, as well as the majority of Winchester residents with an opinion. Their decision was also the one which will cause the most upheaval/harm/change to the largest amount of student families. And the SC probably didn't care to investigate that a great proportion of the negatively affected student families happen to be minorities, or foreign-born, or speak ESL, and are on the lower end of the income scale. Hundreds of families also want to know why the SC chose the option which caused the greatest harm, instead of the greatest good.
Sox Fan March 01, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Winchester is the best. If you don't like it, the problem is with you. In fact, I am embarrassed that you can be so full of yourselves to complain. Why don't you just go where I tell you you can go, and be thankful that you are even here. That line of reasoning was used in practically every civil right dispute between a majority and minority.
John Swartz March 01, 2013 at 03:26 PM
"as well as the majority of Winchester residents with an opinion" - the majority of the people that gave their opinion were those that would be affected, hardly a majority of Winchester residents. Then again, such matters are not up for a vote. My suspicion is that the SC went against the recommendation because that was a more complicated, and probably costlier (at least in the short term) solution - redrawing district lines is not a permanent fix, but it is a more straightforward change (one that they've done before) - and just because that some of the people affected are foreign-born doesn't lend credence to the claims of racial bias. No, I was not affected by the process, as my kids are beyond elementary school now - however, I am proud to say that both my kids went to Lynch School and received a fine education, and I reject the notion that this process is placing anyone in this town into an "inferior" school.
Debbie Chasse March 01, 2013 at 03:53 PM
All due respect, but you sir are missing the point. This allegation is about "targeted" discrimination, NOT that the SC went against the Superintendent's recommendation. That is the only fact that matters in this particular discussion. You say yourself that although many didn't like the outcome, the process was fair. Which tells me that you don't really believe that anyone was "targeted" for discrimination, and therefore this charge is groundless.
Debbie Chasse March 01, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Does anyone really understand the implication of the allegation, and the resulting devastation to the entire school system if for some reason the SC is not able to completely disprove discrimination (and who knows what will be required - were they supposed to send a notice in every possible language??) Winchester, as does every other town, relies on outside funds to run the public school system, as well as many important projects. The financial impact to the overall town's school budget could be devastating. Will we be able to finish VO?? Will we be able to move forward with a plan for the High School?? These projects depend on the funds that are now jeopardized by this desperate attempt for some disgruntled neighbors to get their own way. Redistricting is disruptive, but throughout our town's history it has been a necessary part of making sure that enrollment is appropriately distributed across the elementary schools. I am a product of Winchester redistricting, and I survived and thrived in my new school. And by the way - if you feel so strongly about something, do us all the courtesy of using your full name. It's easy to say whatever you want anonymously, but I can't respect the opinion of someone who is afraid to publicly stand behind it.
AJ March 01, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Debbie, it's AJ here, your neighbor. The "process" was really just a schedule of meetings. The "decision-making process" was far from fair, thoughtful, or prudent. Because a certain group or groups may not have been specifically targeted, does that at all change the makeup of the affected groups??? The town's history of redistricting is completely irrelevant; did they have any better alternative options the last time redistricting occurred?? The fact you "survived" is also irrelevant. Anyone can "survive" redistricting - it is not a fatal disease. Any potential outcomes that might happen to negatively affect the entire school system are solely on the hands of the SC, and the SC alone. By the way, do you find it odd that a large percentage of the redistricted families can't vote? I'm sure the SC didn't find it odd.
Mark Ouellette (Editor) March 01, 2013 at 05:32 PM
A comment was removed for swearing and violating Patch's Terms of Use: www.patch.com/terms
Debbie Chasse March 01, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Suggesting that a group was "targeted" implies intent, and I just don't think that there was any intention on the part of the SC or the RAC to discriminate against anyone. And I don't understand how the process should have changed - parents were given an opportunity to be on the redistricting committee, meetings were open, input was accepted and considered. The decision was delayed to give the community more time to respond. Honestly, is it the process that is the issue, or the outcome? There were valid arguments against the map presented - walkability, safety, splitting up neighborhoods - and the families who will have to deal with these issues have my sympathy. But to file a claim stating that the SC was intentionally discriminatory, one that puts the entire school system at risk, is more than I can forgive. The Town Charter dictates that the final decision falls to the members of the School Committee - elected officials who volunteer their time to meet the educational needs of the town to the best of their ability. If you are correct that a large percentage of the families can't vote, that's a bigger issue and certainly not the responsibility of the SC to correct as part of the redistricting exercise. I would suggest that each of these families, since they are clearly concerned about their children's eductions, take the steps necessary so that they can vote, and have a voice in the process going forward.
J R March 02, 2013 at 01:49 PM
I find it interesting how all of these comments are written with such fine language, grammar and punctuation! Everyone is making arguments so soundly and politely. The Winchester schools are clearly doing something right. This discussion in other regions would be full of expletives and exclamations...
C.L. March 02, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Sounds like they know what they are doing... waiting for the fact to speak.
winchester joke March 02, 2013 at 04:07 PM
....This is EXACTLY why we removed our kids from Ambrose, to private schools where redistricting, accusations of racial bias and neighbors fighting over which school their "perfect" (cough, cough) should attend, doesn't happen. The amount of time, energy and money this town and parents spend on this is ludicrous. If you don't like the situation you are in----remove yourself from it. Simple.
DonnaD March 02, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Simple for you; not all Winchester families have that option.
Logic March 02, 2013 at 09:35 PM
I just think this is all so sad. The reality is that these issues were brought to the SC's attention. Higher need students do demand more resources. The SC could have used redistricting as an opportunity to more equally divide the resources and instead chose not to. How can Lynch be expected to perform as well when it must allocate more resources than the other schools- they don't get the traveling map enrichment programs, and organic gardens or ADA complaint playgrounds. I don't think the SC openly discriminated; I just don't think they cared. Not a single SC member has a child at Lynch AND while there were Lynch parents on the redistricting committee- not after the redistricting- now all members of the redistricting members are also out of the Lynch school district. I don't attribute discrimination to them but certainly insensitivity and a missed opportunity.
Miss Lady March 03, 2013 at 03:36 PM
I saw this process as an attempt to improve property values for some. For example, it moved multi-million dollar homes on streets like Wedgemere away from Lynch and realigned them to higher performing, shiny new schools. Meanwhile, kids who live in homes in the $350k to $500k range near the town dump and railroad tracks were moved to Lynch. Lynch only underperforms on state tests because the special needs students all go there. My friends who sent kids to Lynch felt their children had richer life experience at school because there was a wonderful variety of children with as many gifts as they had challenges. It's not a bad school in any way, it just takes some explaining to get the whole picture. I would look to discrimination based on economics and political power rather than race or ethnicity. We live in the Muraco area, number 1 school for years, it's in the 'low rent district' of Winchester, and I oddly don't hear people fighting to get aligned to it. Muraco has an unbelievably diverse student body with many ESL students and it still outperforms the other schools. So what's the real motivation here? I vote for property values.
Canadian March 03, 2013 at 09:46 PM
If so, Mark, why bother redistributing to begin with? If the worst school in Winchester is the best school in 90% of this great country, what about the one in Winchester "that is not making adequate yearly progress..."? Does that imply at least 90% schools of this great country are not so great?
Suburbanmama March 04, 2013 at 05:57 PM
The motivation was shifting kids from the east side of Winchester to the west side, because there is a big new school in a part of town where not many kids live. Nobody wants to leave their school. I agree with Logic, I don't think they meant to discriminate but they were insensitive. I wonder if all the kids being moved from Muraco to Lynch will make the test scores go up at Lynch?
Lauren Costello March 04, 2013 at 07:16 PM
You are spot on, Debbie Chasse, in questioning whether it is the process or the outcome that is the issue.
C.L. March 06, 2013 at 10:34 PM
M, I bet your children are not moved... or your children moves from Lynch to V.O.
Jennifer Wang March 08, 2013 at 02:55 PM
yes! because these immigrant families should really be thankful and never complain because if they do they should go back to where they came from! this logic is surely excellent and unbiased.
Peter March 11, 2013 at 01:37 AM
You might be rejecting a fact that can be substantiated. Lynch actually has been performing worse than the other elementary schools in the area based on the criteria that they rate schools. Are you saying that this criteria is wrong and it means nothing or are you saying that the school was not rated correctly. What exactly is your point?
Peter March 11, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Hey, what if the people who filed this complaint don't believe in God? I guess then they'll just have to thank themselves.
C.L. March 15, 2013 at 02:18 PM
As elected sc officials, no matter how good their intentions are, no matter how perfect they thought the process is, they need to have more sensitivities to the outcome than the regular people. With high power comes more resposibilities...now what a waste of town resources! How sad things have to come to this end.
G.C. March 24, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Winchester will be labeled as a discriminative town if the number can show it.
C.L. April 04, 2013 at 09:37 PM
let us predict the results of investigation - SC will provide way more information than necessary for an lengthy investigation, then an enlonged investigation will prevent any remediation to the redistricting this fall. CRO is unhappy, they cut the funding for Winchester public system. Who is the loser here? I say it is all the Winchester residents expect the SC.
Resident April 05, 2013 at 11:41 PM
You should be embarrassed for the SC and those who came up with such a boneheaded plan. Just a quick look at the map makes it obvious it's a bad choice. Far flung neighborhoods that are not within walking distance to the school anyway, like the south part of the town along the Main St that goes to Lincoln should have been moved to Ambrose. Assigning the Washington St area that is with 0.5 mile to two schools to the remote Lynch is just ridiculous. And not, my kids have not been affected, it's just common sense.
Lu Zhong May 15, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Any updated on the investigation? Will it impact the redistricting result in Fall 2013?
M May 16, 2013 at 01:10 AM
Redistricting is moving forward. The Government been investigating for months and months and not found any reason to stop it. I am sure the Government will find some issues should have been handled better such as communication and ding the administration but no substantive bias.

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