50th Edition, News

METCO students integrated into South

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

Volume 11
October 19, 1971

This year Newton South is hosting eleven METCO students. The METCO program, initiated in 1966, is a program designed to offer a viable educational alternative to inner-city schools.
The initials METCO stand for Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity. According to Mrs. Cathy Jones, “METCO is based upon giving students a change for the best possible education.”
The total METCO program began with two hundred students and, in the six years of its existence, has grown to include 1500 students. The Newton school system started out hosting fifty students and presently there are 141 METCO students in grades one through eleven. These students come to suburban schools from Roxbury, North Dorchester, and Mattapan. They represent a cross-section of Boston’s black community and enter the program in a completely voluntary manner.
The Newton community was one of the first suburbs to host METCO students. Says Mr. Geer, “I think originally Charles Brown, then superintendent of the Newton schools, was probably the founder of the program. What he was attempting to do was to give black parents a viable alternative to public schooling in Boston. Many people have seen this as a way of creating a cooperative endeavor between suburban schools and Boston. This way, the suburbs take some responsibility for the problem of education in Boston.”
Meadowbrook Junior High School hosts thirty-three METCO students while South hosts only eleven. Mr. Everett Freedman, principal of the Junior High, finds the program to be a very rewarding experience. “Schools should be real, dealing with real issues. By having kids from the inner-city, we are dealing in reality.”
Mrs. Jones feels that the program is as equally beneficial to the suburban students as it is to the black students. “It is very important for kids coming from an inner-city, black community to have experiences outside of their own environs. It is equally important for students who have grown up in an isolated suburb to have contact with different ways of life. This is a part of education.”
But is busing really the answer to problems of inner-city education? Those who disagree with it argue that it disturbs youths from the city when they compare their own neighborhood to that of their classmates. “I don’t think that busing is a final solution, but I’m not going to condemn it,” states Mr. Freedman. “It’s the best way we have so far, and at least it attempts to speak to the issues of equal educational opportunities and experiences. But these kids are residents of Boston and we cannot expect them to come here and just forget the problems that their brothers and sisters are facing at home.”
Mr. Geer sees the possibility of the different environments causing a problem. “There are a lot of students in this school who may tend to erect very subtle barriers of words between themselves and black students. I think that wealth is a problem; it must be extremely difficult for kids from Roxbury to come to South and take a look at our parking lot with all its cars. These are very difficult things to do.”
Mr. Geer continues, “I think that one of the hardest things is that they have to deal with the fact that they are leaving the slums, the ghetto. I mean, last year in particular, when most of the black students in Boston were striking, what was it like for these kids to come to ‘lily white’ Newton South where there were no problems? Black students in Boston felt that they were fighting for their rights and it was a very critical struggle in the schools. What happened to the kids who were getting on the buses and going out to the nice, quiet, peaceful suburban schools? Were they ‘copping out?’”
For METCO to be fully successful, the support of the suburban communities is mandatory. Mrs. Jones commented that the Newton community has been “very supportive of the program. As a matter of fact, the people of the community were really responsible for it getting off the ground. This came from the feeling on the part of the parents that their children were not getting the best possible education because of the limited types of contact they were exposed to.
“The black community represents a cutting edge in our society. I think that the needs and concerns of black students, teachers, and administrators have been to include more materials relevant to the Afro-American experience, not only for blacks but for white students as well. We have been miseducated in many areas of Afro-American history, such as the part that blacks have played in the United States history.
“Because of METCO there have been attempts to recruit more black teachers and administrators. Also, it has made white teachers more aware of the needs of black students. They have to deal with the subtle racism that comes with growing up white in America.”

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