Reading Parents Unhappy with Children’s Middle School Assignment
Say others feel the same way about a small group of students from Birch Meadow Elementary School headed to Parker.
Reading parents Ken and Cathy Young are unhappy with the way Birch Meadow sixth graders were assigned to middle school for the next phase of their school careers.
The Youngs know other residents in what Ken described as a “swing area” on the south side of the Birch Meadow elementary school district who are also “very upset,” he told the committee, about their children’s middle school assignment.
Students from the Killam Elementary School are also split between the Parker and Coolidge Middle Schools, Young said, but more evenly: roughly 60 to 40 percent.
None of their daughter’s three best friends will be going to Parker, Young told the committee, and their daughter is reacting negatively to her school assignment. The town is focused on the issue of peer pressure, Ken pointed out. His daughter will make new friends at Parker but, Young said, the assignment process is “not fair.”
When parents met with the principal of the middle school to which their child was assigned, the group with children going to Coolidge was happy, Young said.
The other group of parents, which included the Youngs, was unhappy, he said.
“If I felt isolated and alone, how’s my daughter going to feel?”
The Youngs will lose part of their own social group and their school support system – backup transportation, for example – he said, with their daughter’s assignment to Parker.
Ken Young and his wife, who he said have been active at Birch Meadow School, will not have the same relationship with the Parker School, either, he said.
Young is also concerned that his four children will be split between the town’s two middle schools.
“I know it’s tough, a numbers game,” Young said. He said he hadn’t seen the issue brought to the committee’s attention.
“I didn’t stay in this town to get this angry at the process,” he said. “We do not want to fight the school system.”
Young said he has spoken with Superintendent John Doherty. Assignments are based, Doherty told the committee and audience, on class size. You can’t just add a teacher, as you might in elementary school, Doherty said, since Reading middle schools are taught by teams of teachers. Moving more students from Killam to Parker would runs into transportation costs, Doherty said. The superintendent said he has talked to several other parents besides the Youngs about middle school assignments.
School Committee member Chris Caruso said he wants to talk about this issue at a future School Committee meeting.
“We drew the (elementary school) district lines,” he said.
Public hearings are held before lines are moved, said Doherty. He described the assignments as an administrative issue rather than a School Committee issue.
School Committee member Hal Croft suggested that the Youngs bring other disgruntled parents to speak with Doherty.
Parents can also call School Committee members, said committee Chairman Karen Janowski. She plans to speak with Doherty, she said, about middle school assignments.