Boston Foundation announces $400K in Pilot School planning grants for Boston

Demand for Pilot Schools soars after long stalemate

March 4, 2008

Boston –A total of 20 Boston schools have applied for financial support to begin the process of converting to Pilot School status—potentially doubling the number of students served by the innovative school model.

In response, the Boston Foundation has announced it will distribute $400,000 in planning grants. The planning grants, typically between $18,000 and $20,000, are given to schools that have made the internal decision to seek Pilot status. They cover the incidental costs related to the first phase of the process. Schools that complete that process will be eligible for up to $100,000 each in implementation grants from the Foundation.

“This is a testament to the power of a successful idea,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation and a leading advocate for Pilot Schools. “The sheer number of applicants is exciting news for everyone who understands how critical education is for this region. The language in the teachers’ contract promised at least seven new schools, but this is a clear indication of pent-up demand. Research has proven beyond a doubt how effective this school model is, and parents are demanding more of them.”

Boston already has 20 Pilot schools operating within the public system today. The new applications range widely in terms of the plans each school proposes.

Who is applying for Pilot School grants
Twelve schools seek to convert to Pilot status; five existing Pilots want to expand. Three proposals represent new schools, including Fenway, an existing high school planning to expand and to replicate itself. The schools that are planning to expand typically add grades, rather than more students in existing grades. The Mary Lyon School in Brighton, for example, currently has students in grade kindergarten through eight. Its proposal is to add a high school, grades nine through 12. The list of schools that have applied and the neighborhoods where they are located includes the following:

Seeking conversion:
ABCD, high school, Downtown Boston
Haley elementary, Roslindale
Dever, elementary, Dorchester
Community Academy of Science and Health, high school, Hyde Park
Edward Everett, elementary, Dorchester
Parkway Academy of Technology and Health, high school, West Roxbury
Social Justice Academy, high school, Hyde Park
Charlestown High School, Charlestown
Lucy Stone, Elementary, Dorchester; Gavin, middle school, South Boston
Media Communications Technology, high school, West Roxbury
Urban Science Academy, high school, West Roxbury.

Seeking expansion:
Tech Boston Academy, high school, Dorchester
Boston Arts Academy, high school, Fenway
Fenway, high school, Fenway

New schools:
Mary Lyon, elementary, Brighton (would retain k-12  school, add new Pilot high school )
Cornerstone Academy, high school
Fenway (a replication of the existing school)
Educational Choices for Career Opportunities, middle and high school
Locations have not yet been determined for the new schools.

Multiple changes
William Channing, currently an elementary school in Hyde Park would create a new high school, and both the existing and new schools would convert to Pilot status.

If all these schools are successfully converted, it will add an expected 6,347 student to the current Pilot School population, effectively doubling the number, and representing a full 22 percent of the total Boston student population.

A new beginning
The last school in Boston to convert to Pilot School status was the Gardner School in Brighton, in 2007. In response to recent support for the Pilot School model expressed by Boston’s School Superintendent, Carol Johnson, 20 schools applied for planning grants to begin the conversion process were received by the Boston Foundation in February, 2008.

A national model
Following the planning process, a school takes a vote of all employees who are members of the Boston Teachers Union. If two-thirds of personnel vote to seek Pilot status, the proposal goes to a joint committee of the Boston School department and the BTU. Then an implementation process is designed and executed. It typically takes about a year for a school to become a Pilot School.

Pilot Schools were first created in Boston in 1995 as the result of a partnership that included the Mayor of Boston, the office of the School Superintendent, the School Committee and the Boston Teachers Union. They are part of the Boston school system, but are freed from district mandates and union work rules in order to give individual school staffs greater control over budget, staffing, curriculum, governance and scheduling.

Since the creation of Pilot Schools in Boston, the idea of greater autonomy as a way to create a culture of academic achievement, has been adapted for use in Los Angeles, which opened 10 schools serving 4,000 students in the fall of 2006, using the Boston model. Pilots have also been used as a model for reorganizing failing schools in the Commonwealth. Overall, four schools, including English High School in Boston, have been converted to “co-pilot” status as part of the state’s plan to reorganize so-called turn-around schools. Other co-pilot schools include two in Springfield (Duggan Middle School and Putnam High School), and one in Fitchburg (Academy Middle School).

Collaborative effort
“This news reflects the creative leadership of Boston’s School Superintendent, Dr. Carol Johnson,” said Grogan. “She examined the record of performance of the 21 Pilot Schools already in operation, and gave her support—which was critical. Today’s news is possible because of the willingness of all parties to support innovation that will serve the students of Boston and their families: Mayor Menino, who has made a commitment to excellence in education a centerpiece of his administration; the office of the Superintendent; and the Boston Teachers Union, which was a partner in creating Pilot Schools in the first place.”

A timeline going forward
Here is the full timeline of the current granting process:

    • 12-14-07 The Boston Foundation releases a Pilot School Planning RFP
    • 1-4-08 Boston School Department and Boston Teachers Union hold a joint information session for schools considering Pilot status
    • 1-7-08 A bidders conference at the Boston Foundation draws more than 30 representatives of 15 Boston schools
    • 2-15-08 Final deadline for responding to the RFP and requesting planning grants
    • 2-29-08 Planning grant award letters mailed
    • 3-5-08 Pilot School panning grants mailed by the Boston Foundation
    • 3-12-08 Breakfast information session at the Boston Foundation for all planning grant recipients
    • 3-17-08 to 3-20-08 Center for Collaborative Education Pilot School residency
    • 4-8-08 to 4-11-08 Second CCE Pilot School residency
    • 5-15-08 Boston Public Schools deadline for a two-thirds vote of the schools BTU members
    • 5-30-08 Final proposals due to Boston Public Schools
    • Summer to September 2008 BPS-BTU Joint Committee votes on Pilot School proposals
    • September 2008 Approved Pilot Schools open with some autonomies; may now apply for implementation grants from the Boston Foundation
    • September 2009 Pilot Schools open with all five key autonomies.


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of over $964 million.  In 2007, the Foundation and its donors made more than $92 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of more than $155 million.  The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit or call 617-338-1700.