Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Notes from the Board of Ed

These are specific to the charter section of the agenda.

Chester:"maintain the integrity of the process""grounded in the merit of the application" --it's been a process that looks at the merit of the application"
continue to believe that the Lynn application" is a good one"
"we have to be careful"
"Legislature did not give this board the authority of evaluating the fiscal impact"

PULLING his recommendation on Lynn: issue on whether this is a private school applying for a charter (it's too unclear if this is what's happening in the case of Lynn, he says)
"don't want to foreclose any possibility of anyone...from the private realm...applying for a charter"
instructed legal counsel for some standards around this, as we can't convert from private to charter
Lynn's application was put in from the Hathaway school, which is a private school in Lynn, which would close the private school and open the charter school
Objections from the proponent of the application, who says that this was not brought up before, that he'd be happy to answer questions, that he hasn't heard previously from the delegation.

Mayor O'Brien speaks of what they will not to do: students not served
Novick speaks of they will do: no outreach to ELL, low income, special ed communities; college prep
Monfredo speaks of programs already in place in WPS: engineering pipeline at Doherty, Tech, Mass Math Academy, etc
Boone speaks of the lacks in the application and the ways in which Worcester meets needs
Allen speaks of the 25% dropout rate in the application (academically gifted programs). 1/3 of speading on non-instructional needs.
"The financial plan doesn't add up."
Toomey speaks of the record of those applying for the charter: it isn't good, say the least, particularly as the primary applicant was fired by her previous board in the charter for which she worked before

Really long part when they talked about new regs which had nothing to do with charter schoolsItalic

Reville is recusing himself as the school is attempting to rent space at All Saints' Church, where he is a member

Chester: 14 initial, 7 applications by deadline, 1 dropped out; outside reviewers, hearings, public comments solicited, final interview
people Chester worked with said 1 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down (Chester says "not ready for approval"), 2 mixed
the application "that was a clear thumbs up was the Spirit of Knowledge charter school"
2 possibles were Lynn and the Discovery charter
Lynn withdrawn not on merits but on precedent setting on private schools becoming charter schools

THUS ONLY SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE is on the table, as the Commissioner is saying he's taken Lynn entirely off the table
one member of the Board of Ed said that his impression was that community members were
preponderingly against; the proposed Board of trustees spoke, as did WPS, but he isn't weighing that in
another member says that he made a note on 6 in opposition versus 25 in support; he is including all those who spoke, including the trustees
if you remove all that are associated either with WPS or with S of K, "there wouldn't be very many left"
question about management: professional opinion from ESEA of those who are proposed to lead the school ("to dispel some of what was said around people who were fired...")--"I don't know that I've met anyone who has a sense of perservance on getting the job done" says someone from the Charter schools department from the DoE

interview: "school is different from Marlboro...not going to be elitest"
short turnaround time between charter approval and lottery (restrictions around outreach)
ESEA says the school WILL BE SUBJECT to the new ed reform law in distribution of student population
80% or more applications are from minority students, reports the school (How do they know this, comments someone in the crowd, as there is no line on the application for it?)

comment from Board member that there are few kids at Mass Academy

"why there should be any concern around which students are going to charter schools..who their parents are, and so forth?"it sounds like she wants a survey of why parents want charter schools...thinks it would be useful to districts
why there might be disproportionate numbers of particular groups of children applying to charters--she's under the impression that some groups are more satisfied with public schools than others
Chester says we haven't done a good job in learning from one another--charters, public, ESEA

pre-enrolling before they get a charter? population has to be reported to districts by March, so people enroll before the school has a charter
questions around elitism...track record in Marlboro was not good, AMSA doesn't reflect sending district:"hard to know what to believe" says one board member
anticipate students that need pull-out special ed services in a school that has substantially AP classes
"with all due respect...if I saw this, I would know that this was not the school for my daughter"
part-time ELL position when there is "a priority placed on" (this from Ruth Kaplan, the parent member of the Board)

"What they've done in Marlboro is create a regional school of excellence" says another member
cites exam schools "very, very important, and in many ways better than the usual model"

"completely creditable to me that this can be done" citing Boston Foundation report
"exhortation to the charter school office" that these conditions apply

Shrewbury superintendent's letter said that it largely a qualitative difference (uniforms, length of day) in what parents who leave public for AMSA
ALSO said that a majority of kids sent to AMSA from Shrewsbury ALREADY were advanced when they left Shrewsbury
Board is not charged with creating elite schools, charged with creating schools that address the achievement gap
S of K has no record in serving underachieving schools
new law says only if the applicant has a record of serving ELL and other underperforming groups
"lots of drama" around AMSA
don't see how this school is reflecting the population they are supposed to be serving under the new law
what does the pay for performance mean?
Soka education : is this being used anywhere else? No ("one of the things that makes this proposal innovative")
underrepresented diverse population: starts at gr.7 : by then you have to have a platform in order to achieve at high levels
"this has clearly been a theme" particularly by Legislature under ed reform

Commissioner: population that represents the community as a whole
all new applications coming forward starting next year, but also all existing charter schools MUST be representative of sending community
student member likes school calendar and curriculum
charter doing things that were not expected (AMSA not originally chartered for districts from which it's been drawing; it now draws from 57 communities)
asks if this is a precedent that we want to set: how does the new law hold charters accountable? the short answer is that we don't know yet

Board votes 6-2 in favor of granting the charter.


Jim Gonyea said...

Chester is a weasel.

Neil and Joan said...

This is unreal. A charter school proposal gets accepted because no one else has tried it and it is innovative. Shame on Paul Reville for letting this charter pass. Quite often, since he left the Alliance and went to Harvard, he has been on the opposite side of Worcester public schools. Guess this is the 25 pieces of gold he owed for his new job. I wonder what "REAL" politics were behind the Lynn school not going forward. Something as simple as stating they do not want to set precedent for a private school to become a charter should have come up long before the BOE meeting.

Neil and Joan said...

Did anyone speak to the qualifications or the contradictions outlined in the curriculum vitae and personal statements written by the "founding" members? Sean Carroll states he has worked as a teacher in the WPS for 11 years. When I checked his bio he has several years at parochial schools (last I checked they were not part of WPS), one year as an IA in the WPS, and 4 years working for the Worcester Collaborative---technically not WPS but an agency the WPS contracts with for alternative education for students who otherwise would not be in school. That is only one of the people---I can only imagine the flaws with the others. If not, this was a missed opportunity.

Tracy Novick said...

Joan, yes, that was covered in Councilor Toomey's comments. She had several examples of that.
It did seems as if the department planned to move forward with Lynn Prep despite the concerns of it being illegal (or potentially so) until it became clear that they would probably face a lawsuit for doing so.