Ed reform group to hold forum on BPS future; BPS not invited

Stand for Children, a controversial nonprofit organization that lobbies for public education reform, is staging a series of forums about “the future of the Boston Public Schools,” including one at the Tobin Community Center on July 31.

But BPS has not been invited to the forums, and a City agency has complained about the use of its logo on a mass-mailed flyer advertising them.

The forum will be an “interactive conversation” where participants can talk about what BPS does well and needs to improve, according to Stand for Children Massachusetts spokesperson Sam Castañeda Holdren. It also will have an “educational presentation on the role parents can play in shaping policy decisions that affect BPS,” he said. It is specifically being hosted by the Stand for Children Leadership Center, a separate spin-off nonprofit focused on training activists.

“The goal of these conversations is for parents to leave empowered to make a difference and to be heard,” according to Holdren.

Originally founded to promote increased funding for public school systems, Stand for Children now lobbies for increased charter schools and has battled teachers unions for contract concessions, moves that have garnered both praise and criticism nationwide. Stand for Children also has been criticized for contributors and board members tied to for-profit educational institutions.

Despite the Boston forums’ topic, BPS officials have not been invited to the forums, according to BPS spokesperson Lee McGuire.

“We have spoken to a few of the organizers to see how we might be helpful, but we learned of the forums through the flyers that were sent over the weekend,” McGuire said in an email to the Gazette. BPS will not have any “formal role” in the forums, he said, but is working to see whether any BPS officials can attend informally.

“We certainly see value in community conversations about how we can continue to improve our public schools together,” McGuire said.

Next week’s forum at the Tobin Center is listed on the flyer as “hosted by” Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF), a City agency headquartered at the Tobin. It also includes the the BCYF logo and the names of Mayor Thomas Menino and BCYF Executive Director Daphne Griffin. The use of the logo was unauthorized and BCYF is just providing a public room, “not endorsing anything,” according to BCYF spokesperson Sandy Holden.

“We are not co-hosting this event nor should our logo have been on the materials. I actually reached out to Stand [for Children] yesterday and asked them to remove the co-hosting language and our logo from their materials, which they have done,” said Holden in an email to the Gazette, adding that BCYF is concerned it “will be confusing to people.”

The local forum is slated for July 31, 5 p.m. at the Tobin Center, 1481 Tremont St. and is free and open to the public. It appears that reservations are required to attend. Eight other forums are slated in other neighborhoods from July 25 through Aug. 8. For more information, see stand.org/bostonconvos.

Updated version: This story has been updated with further comments from BPS and Stand for Children Massachusetts.

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