Letter to CoaH Boston Families – December 10, 2019

Dear CoaH Circuit Street and Dudley Square Families:

On Monday, December 9, after hearing from many members of the CoaH community, the Board of Trustees evaluated two options for ensuring the health and sustainability of our schools. The first option was to “co-locate” students at our Boston campuses (with 9th and 10th graders at our Circuit Street campus and 11th and 12th graders at our Dudley Square campus). The second option maintained our schools in their current states until the end of this (2019-20) school year.

In evaluating the two plans, the board considered which plan would most likely (1) ensure a rigorous college-preparatory experience for students; (2) ensure the safety, health and well-being of our students; and (3) reflect the concerns of our community. The Board determined that only one plan can ensure a strong academic experience and keep students safe. After considering the pros and cons of both plans, we decided that we will co-locate our two Boston campuses, effective January 8, 2020.

We heard from some members of our community on Monday night, and we realize that many parents and students prefer to keep our two schools separate until the 2020-21 school year. Your concerns and comments factored heavily in our deliberation. However, with all of the facts in front of us, we made the decision that we believe is in the short- and long-term best interests of students.

We also recognize the countless hours our teachers invested to create a plan that would maintain the status quo. We greatly appreciate their effort and their sincere concern for students. However, the plan that our teachers put forward would have required additional cuts, caused nearly 20 students to move back and forth between our campuses, required modifications to a greater number of student schedules, and would have resulted in a reduction in the number of AP courses we would be able to offer, among other things.

The co-location model is not perfect either, and we realize that we risk some students leaving our schools. We sincerely hope that you will give us the chance to prove to you that we can make this change and provide your children the high-quality, college-preparatory education we have promised, all with attention to their socio-emotional health and well-being. 

To ease this transition and address questions and concerns, we are planning many more meetings for teachers, students and families. We hope that these meetings can be future-focused, and allow us to move forward through this change as a united community, all with the best interests of kids at heart. The Board has full confidence in CEO, Kevin T. Taylor, his team of dedicated administrators, and the skilled principal leaders of our Boston schools, Sonya Pratt, Laura Edouard and Carrie Wagner. We firmly believe that this group of people can deliver on the promises City on a Hill made to you when you enrolled your children.

The following page provides information about the situation that brought us to this point and the rationale the board used to arrive at our decision. We hope that you find it useful. The third page provides information about upcoming meetings. We hope to see you there and at all future board meetings, which are always open to the public and posted on City on a Hill’s website.

Please know that Kevin T. Taylor and I are always available to speak. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or Kevin (ktaylor@cityonahill.org) directly. Thank you, as always, for continuing to entrust us with your children.

Sincerely,

Dr. Cara Stillings-Candal

Chair, Board of Trustees

cara.candal@gmail.com

City on a Hill’s Plan to Strengthen Academic and Student Supports

The Current Situation: Throughout the fall of 2019, City on a Hill experienced declining enrollment, which surpassed the school’s already conservative budget projections. As a public school, we rely upon funding from the state. That funding is tied to each pupil we enroll. In order to maintain and strengthen programming for students, the Board must immediately make adjustments to operations and staffing at both schools.

The Undesired Outcome: If City on a Hill were to maintain its current state of operations (two separate 9-12 schools) until June 2020, the schools would be unable to provide adequate support to students because it is not financially feasible. The number and quality of our course offerings would also decline. Additionally, many students would see dramatic changes to their schedules–changes that could have a negative impact on college applications. For example, if we maintained separate campuses:

  • Many students would need to be in classes with a teacher instructing multiple sections at the same time (e.g., AP English and English 4 in the same class), 
  • Multiple students would need to “self teach” through independent study in the absence of teacher
  • Many students would need to take classes at BOTH Circuit Street and Dudley Square within a school day in order to take their required classes. This would require walking from one campus to another.

The board determined that these features of the plan compromise the academic experience we have promised to provide and also compromise student safety.

The Desired Outcome: City on a Hill provides a college preparatory high school experience for every one of its students. In order to provide that experience, every student needs to have a full course-load of college prep and/or Advanced Placement classes and be taught by a teacher experienced in the subject-matter. Students must have access to mental health and college counselors, and students with special education needs and English language learners require individualized support.

Co-locating our schools allows us to maintain these things. While we recognize that making this change midyear is not easy, we believe it is in the best interest of our current and future school community. 

The Board-Approved Solution: City on a Hill will combine its teaching and student support resources across both the Circuit Street and Dudley Square campuses in an effort to strengthen the students’ academic experiences. Whereas we would have needed two teachers to teach 10 students at one school, one teacher will be able to teach all 10 students while still attending to individual needs. By placing all of our 9th and 10th grade students at the Circuit Street campus and all of the 11th and 12th grade students at Dudley Square, 96% of students will experience no changes in their course schedules. Co-locating the schools also preserves common planning time for our teachers, maximizes flexibility for staff and student scheduling and ensures that no student will have to move from one building to another during the school day.

The Board understands that this is a difficult transition for all students and families to experience in the middle of the school year. We realize it will be difficult for some students to get used to a new building. But, there are also great opportunities for learning: Seniors will graduate with a diploma from the school they started with alongside their peers and new colleagues they met from their sister campus. Students will have the opportunity to experience new teachers and forge new friendships. Most importantly, these steps will enable City on a Hill to continue to serve students in the years to come.

Informational Meetings for the CoaH Community

In an ongoing effort to help you understand what these changes mean for your child(ren), Ms. Pratt, Ms. Edouard and Ms. Wagner will be available to answer your questions and discuss the details of the colocation plan further during the following windows:

DateTimeLocationParents ofDesignation
Wednesday, December 118-9 a.m.Circuit Street9th and 10th gradersLower School
Saturday, December 149:30-10:30 a.mDudley Square9th and 10th gradersLower School
Saturday, December 1410:30-11:30 a.m.Dudley Square11th and 12th gradersUpper School
Monday, December 164-5 p.m.Circuit Street11th and 12th gradersUpper School

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