A Chat With Meghan Bouchard, Opponent of Somerville Progressive Charter School
The Somerville resident talks about why she doesn't believe the proposed charter school differs enough from the programs within the district schools to justify its opening.
Somerville resident Meghan Bouchard has taught students learning English in the Lynn Public Schools and is the mother of two young children, one of whom is a student at the Argenziano School. And for the past few weeks, she's organized Progress Together for Somerville, a group of parents and others that formed to oppose the proposed Somerville Progressive Charter School. Some 250 people have signed the group’s petition online appealing to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to reject the application for the charter.
Bouchard invited Somerville Patch into her kitchen to talk about her concerns about the proposed charter school and the sort of parental involvement and progresive education she would like Progressive Together to help bring about in the public schools.
Somerville Patch: What about charter schools do you think attracts parents?
Bouchard: I think parents seek out charter schools because they might like the style of the education or the educational philosophy represented by certain charter schools. A lot of charter schools are advertised or promoted as being better than public schools, which is not proven.
Somerville Patch: In a letter to the Somerville Journal, Progress Together for Somerville states that the Somerville Progressive Charter School is focused on serving the interests of a few parents. When writing that, how many parents did you have in mind?
Bouchard: I’m sure there are more people than just the founders, but I haven’t heard from them. I haven’t seen them out talking to people. I’ve been to almost every PTA night in the past two weeks, and I’ve met, besides the founders, only very few people who are really interested in this charter school. The majority of people did not know about the charter school.
Somerville Patch: The Progress Together website states that you all are “focused on providing the best public education for all children across the city.” Do you think Somerville parents must support educational programs that benefit not just their own children, but also everyone’s?
Bouchard: Not every parent is going to want the same thing for their child. There are certain parents who did not choose Unidos for a reason, or the Healey’s Choice program for a reason, but they at least have those choices. A lot of parents just want to know that sending their kids to the neighborhood school is a good choice for them because they can trust that their kids will get a quality education and that they’ll have the same educational opportunities that others will. Schools don’t have to be uniform, but they all have to be continuously improving, and I think in a lot of cases, they are.
Somerville Patch: What sort of progressive education would you like to see in the Somerville Public Schools?
Bouchard: There are a lot of progressive aspects of the Healey School that I admire and would love to see at the Argenziano: more hands on projects, more project based learning. There’s some, but I think they’ve got it going on at the Healey.
Somerville Patch: Would you give an example of the kind of project-based learning that happens there?
Bouchard: Taking students to Nature’s Classroom. They raised money for students from three grades to go. That’s the kind of parental commitment and engagement that’s happening at the Healey. That’s progressive because it includes every child at the school.
Somerville Patch: Proponents of the charter school have said that the school would be a way of testing progressive methods of teaching and integrating successful ones into the district schools. Do you think that would be an effective way of bettering education for all Somerville students?
Bouchard: No. Somerville already has a school that offers progressive education to all, in the Healey. Somerville already has a comprehensive English language learners program. They have a two-way bilingual immersion program. All of these programs are improving every year. I don’t think the proposed school is substantially different enough to validate the sizeable dent it will make in the school budget and the effect it will have on the remaining 4,000 of so students in the system.
Somerville Patch: What does Progressive Together for Somerville stand for besides opposing the proposed charter school?
Bouchard: We want to continue the conversations citywide about what we can do to help all schools in Somerville improve. One possibility is having some kind of School Improvement Council meeting that’s an open forum that could have a representative from every school. There’s a lot happening at the other schools that I know about now only from talking to people from other schools.
Another idea that somebody mentioned in our group is providing a forum for a parent with a child who is having a hard time at school. There are a lot of people who we’ve been hearing from who are dissatisfied with the schools or district’s response to some of the issues they’ve been having. I think a lot of people have really felt alone in some of their concerns.
Meghan Bouchard will speak during the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s public hearing about the proposed charter school Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the high school’s auditorium.