A city, a school and a lot of moms

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The debate over how best to improve urban school systems in major American cities is robust and complicated. But one Boston community found a way to transform public education almost by accident. For the neighborhood of Charlestown, it turned out that success came as a result of a group of new moms looking for a night out without husbands or kids.

Ten years ago, most Charlestown families did not send their kids to the Boston Public Schools, opting for parochial or private schools instead. Many more residents moved out of the city as their kids were turning elementary-school age. For decades, this pattern had defined not only Boston, but cities throughout the country. Slowly, however, families began returning to cities.

In Charlestown, newcomers began arriving for different reasons. For Katie Bigelow, it was her husband’s short walk to his downtown law office. Nea Hoyt’s in-laws owned a local business. As a college student, Kristina Gallant fell in love with the neighborhood while visiting from Chicago and wound up transferring to Boston University. Both Bettine Boyd, a concierge at the Four Seasons, and Suzanne Morris, a sales executive at Digital, loved the ocean and wanted to commute to work using the water shuttle. Whatever their different reasons for moving to Charlestown, they all had one thing in common. They all became mothers in 1996.

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