Dorchester’s Clap Elementary Is Spared

Published December 2, 2010

Roger Clap Elementary, the tiny school in Dorchester threatened with closure, has won a reprieve.  I’m told Clap will be converted to an “innovation school,” which would give the district authority to fire teachers and impose new academic standards.

Clap Elementary parent Kenny Jervis distributed pictures of heartbreaking posters like these.

Clap Elementary parent Kenny Jervis distributed pictures of heartbreaking posters like these.

I wrote about Clap back in October, after it was included on a list of six schools that Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson said she planned to shut down. Parents there mounted an extraordinary defense.

One particularly savvy  parent was Kenny Jervis, a private chef, whose 7-year-old, Sophia, and 4-year-old, Nigel, attend Clap Elementary. He was working away from home — literally on an island — when he got the news.

“They put letters in our kids’ backpacks,” he said. “Having my four-year-old translate the school closing — without me being able to translate to him what that meant — was devastating.

Jervis started an e-mail and Twitter campaign from his cell phone, rallying parents to save the school. When I attended a meeting with Johnson on Oct. 14, turnout was nearly 100 percent. School officials assured parents that Johnson might revise her closure plan after hearing public feedback.

Today, Johnson expanded that plan — bringing to 12 the number of schools that would be closed or merged to help fill a $63 million budget gap next year. Parents at the affected schools received phone calls (instead of notes in their kids’ backpacks) but Johnson won’t reveal the list of schools until a meeting at 6 o’clock tonight.

Speaking to WBUR’s Morning Edition, Johnson called school closures a difficult but necessary decision.

Jervis said he received a call from City Councilor Bill Linehan and state Sen. Jack Hart that Clap would be the only school converted to an innovation school. Test scores at the 166-child school are among the lowest in the district.

The “innovation” concept is similar to a pilot school or an in-district charter school, but only existing schools can win that designation.

Jervis is skeptical of the concept and worried that Clap is just being put on life support. “There have been many cases across the country where they go in with these ideas that don’t work — and then pull the plug,” he said.

Matt Wilder, the BPS spokesman, said he would not comment before tonight’s meeting.

Update: BPS mistakenly revealed the full list of proposed school closures on its website for a few minutes after I wrote this story.