School committee meeting addresses longstanding policy issues



Members of the Brookline School Committee (BSC) convened over Zoom on June 15 at 6 pm to discuss policy issues, specifically as they pertained to the Hancock Village construction project.

Members of the School Policy Review Subcommittee came together at 6 p.m. on Mon, June 15 to discuss the academic future of students living in Hancock Village and to update school policy to address recent events in regards to the reduction-in-force notices (RIFs) issued to many educators in Brookline.

For the past couple of months, Hancock Village, a large apartment complex located at the border of Roxbury and Brookline, has been under construction and could potentially separate students within Brookline from the Baker School and Brookline High School. The construction company responsible for the renovation of Hancock Village would have had to separate some of the residents into Roxbury. Recently, Interim Superintendent Ben Lummis issued a waiver to all residents in Hancock Village ensuring their children will be part of the Brookline Public Schools (BPS) system for the fall semester.

Brookline School Committee (BSC) Vice-Chair Sharon Abramowitz stressed the importance of further discussion regarding the Hancock Village construction project.

“Hancock Village is a special scenario because it covers two municipalities, which could potentially separate residents. We have to discuss the next steps with other parties for the residents and their children enrolled in our schools,” Abramowitz said.

Peter Bleyleban, a member of the advisory subcommittee of the BSC, raised a more general question regarding the district’s policies on whether or not outside residents can enroll their children in BPS. This opened further conversations about how the policies and guidelines should be updated.

“The issue that we encountered with the Hancock Village situation is that we had no idea the initial plan on the developer’s side was to relocate all of these residents within Brookline and possibly risk the enrollment of these students,” Bleyleban said. “The question becomes whether you have to be a Brookline resident to be a student in our schools.”

Abramowitz frequently mentioned the idea of creating further subcommittees that could resolve these recurring issues. According to Abramowitz, these problems have arisen due to unclear policies about the relocation of students.

“If we know a construction in one community will take lots of capital and there is the possibility of dislocation of some students, there should be some mechanism where the School Committee can be part of that, and can issue waivers to the impacted people,” Abramowitz said.

According to Abramowitz, the problems in Hancock Village cannot be addressed without solving the underlying problems with the outdated guidelines of the BSC policy. Until the policies of the BSC were updated, she suggested a waiver for the residents to maintain their Brookline addresses for an extended period as a temporary solution.

The next topic on the agenda was updating the committee policy regulations, which, according to the BSC members, have shown to be outdated based on recent monetary problems within the district.

BSC member Jennifer Monopoli pointed out many of the policies of the BSC were irrelevant and needed immediate attention.

“The last time the policy was fully updated was in 1997, so there are many issues that need to be included in the updated guidelines,” Monopoli said. “We should start to develop a framework for our educators to ensure their placements for the fall.”

Monopoli also mentioned that the BSC should prioritize the people that would be impacted over the present financial restrictions.

“We have to consider the extent of our actions when we create these new guidelines because these will impact everyone, and when discussing the removal or reduction of some departments, we have to consider the public’s response,” Monopoli said.

Many members discussed the recurring issues within the BSC, such as the recent RIFs that were issued to 362 Brookline educators. BSC member Carol Levin, who examined Section D of the policies which specifies the district’s fiscal management and budget guidelines, mentioned a problem regarding the budget obligations of the committee.

“There is nothing in the handbook that specifies the School Committee has to maintain the funds, so that is a major flaw,” Levin said. “The new Section D should prioritize maintaining the funds and ensuring those funds would be available.”

To conclude the community discussion, School Committee member and Finance Subcommittee Vice Chair David Pearlman laid out a rough plan for updating these policies that have presented problematic situations, which includes revising these policies throughout multiple meetings.

“Revising these policies will take months of discussions and planning, but will be worth it in the end because the present policies are outdated,” Pearlman said.