Public Hearing on Proposed Charter School Scheduled for Dec. 14

A decision on the Somerville Progressive Charter School will be made Feb. 28.


The state will hold a hearing about the proposed on Dec. 14, according to a press release from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

The group that applied to open the charter school, the Somerville Group for Progressive Education, seeks to open the school in September 2012, and by 2018 it could have 425 Somerville children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

You can read the Somerville Group for Progressive Education’s final application to the state, and about the group iteself, here

The hearing

The Dec. 14 hearing is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in  auditorium.

Each speaker will have three minutes to comment on the document.

There will be childcare and translators on hand, and the city’s cable channel will broadcast the hearing for those who can’t attend, according to a post by Somerville School Committee Chair, Adam Sweeting, on the Somerville-4-Schools listserv, a forum for parents to discuss education issues in the city. 

At least one member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will attend the hearing and summarize it for other members, according to the press release.

The board will also accept written statements through Jan. 3. Mail them to: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, c/o Charter School Office, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148; or send an e-mail to charterschools@doe.mass.edu.

Then Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner, Mitchell Chester, will review the information gathered by the board and make a recommendation to either grant or refuse a five-year charter to the founding group. Finally, the board will take a vote at its Feb. 28, 2012 meeting.

The School Committee will speak against the proposal 

Members of the Somerville Public Schools’ School Committee the opening of the Somerville Progressive Charter School at the hearing.

With regard to enrollment, committee member Teresa Cardoso, who put forward a motion in October to object to the charter school in writing, said the school poses "a threat to our numbers.” 

Since then, the Somerville Public Schools’ administration has published a one-page sheet estimating the amount of state funding that could be diverted from the public schools to the charter school. Staff calculated that over five years, the public schools might lose $15,230,000. (See attached PDF.) 

The loss of an additional $4,790,000 over five years in state aid through the Chapter 70 Program, the sheet states, could cause the district to lay off 75 teachers, close an elementary school and eliminate extracurricular activities.

Have questions about the Somerville Progressive Charter School? Attend a meeting at a meeting for English speakers Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 1, at 9 a.m. at 26 Flint St., Somerville. The group will schedule meetings for non-English speakers shortly.

Paula Woolley December 01, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Besides the School Comm. opposing this charter, a large number of parents of SPS students are also strongly opposed. (See info below on a group called Progress Together for Somerville formed to organize opposition, from Somerville 4 Schools yahoo group.) I personally hope the charter proposers will withdraw their proposal and have a discussion with others in the community rather than letting an 11-member state board make a decision that will negatively impact all our schools, both financially and otherwise. -PW Progress Together for Somerville is against this proposal because it: -is being rushed, with 3 weeks between submittal and review -will divert 10% of our school budget. -Represents `progress for some,' while depriving the remaining students of resources - Doesn't effectively address the needs of ELL students. - Doesn't propose anything substantially different than what is already in place in the schools. - is divisive and distracts attention and energy from the efforts already underway in the schools We advocate for: - Better schools for ALL Somerville students. We are not satisfied with the status quo. - An inclusive, respectful and data-driven dialog about the proposal - Rejection or delay of the proposal, until it can be discussed email: progresstogethersomerville@gmail.com Facebookt: https://www.facebook.com/progresstogetherforsomerville
Amanda Kersey December 01, 2011 at 04:02 PM
@Paula and anyone else: It seems that out of the five school districts where groups applied for a charter, Somerville was actually given the most time to consider the final application (due Nov. 7) of the Somerville Progressive Charter School before the Dec. 14 public hearing. <http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=6532> Do you think that the state should allow more time for districts to think over applications? Should there be any other changes in the process?
MB December 01, 2011 at 06:51 PM
The original public hearing for this proposed charter was on November 29th. We would have had the least amount of time if it weren't for the school committee's push to reschedule the meeting to Dec. 14th.
Amanda Kersey December 01, 2011 at 06:55 PM
That's true. Is anyone here planning to go to or speak at the hearing?
Chris Orchard (Editor) December 01, 2011 at 07:54 PM
I'm eager to hear from the charter-school group, too.
Denise December 02, 2011 at 04:14 AM
Chris, we'd love to talk with you about the plan. I'm not a SPCS founder myself but I fully support the Somerville Progressive Charter School as a mother of 2 children in the SPC. Here's the SPCS website: http://www.thespcs.org/
Chris Orchard (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Hi Denise, Thanks for the link. I know Amanda Kersey, who wrote this article, is getting in contact with the SPCS founders for a future article.
Denise December 02, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Anytime Chris!
Denise December 02, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Yes Amanda, my husband and I will speak at the hearing in favor to the SPCS.
Amanda Kersey December 02, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Anyone who has questions for the founding group about the proposed Somerville Progressive Charter School, please leave them in the comments section or e-mail them to me at amanda.kersey@patch.com
Amanda Kersey December 03, 2011 at 02:24 PM
On Sunday, founding members are holding a meeting for Spanish-speaking parents who want to learn or have questions about the proposed charter school. The meeting is at 2 p.m. at 26 Flint St, Somerville.
Joe Beckmann December 04, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Is it your intent to prepare a virtual press release for the charter right before the hearing or are you interviewing advocates on all sides, including parents, teachers, students, and policy wonks? If the former, your timing is, at least slanted; if the latter, ya better get a good night's sleep!!
Jeff Levine December 05, 2011 at 03:14 AM
The state's regulations require that the Charter School "describe how elements of the proposed program ... will enhance options for students in the district(s) served (603 CMR 1.05)" I would ask them how their proposed charter school would enhance options for SPS students. The City already offers a bilingual education program at Unidos. It already offers a progressive education program at the Healey (where my son attends, and I do beleve it is still a progressive school despite the awkward unification process.)
MB December 05, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Questions for the charter founders: What formal- and public- proposals were made to the school committee prior to proposing this substantially separate school that is under the state's control, not Somerville's? With a lottery system and little to no information being circulated (and English only as far as I can tell) about this school until this week, how does the charter propose to serve the targeted language groups? What wide-spread outreach has been done?
Denise December 06, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Hey Amanda, are you going to write an article about the SPCS founders plan?
Barry Logue December 09, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Why is SPCS spending $ 350K - 400K PER YEAR on 4 FTEs for NON-INSTRUCTIONAL professional administration? 14 Salaries - Administrative (Professional) YEAR 1 Year 2 Year 3 295,000 303,850 312,966 NOTES : 14 Non-instructional personnel on payroll such as executive director, business manager, director of operation, etc. on payroll. (Principals and Instructional Leaders should be noted in line 210). 15 Salaries - Administrative (Support/Clerical) YEAR 1 Year 2 Year 3 58,000 90,640 93,359 NOTES 15 Non-instructional administrative support personnel on payroll who support the organization as a whole by preparing, transcribing, systematizing or preserving communications, records and transactions. 1. And who among the founders is going to be hired into these "non-instructional roles"? 2. Over 10% ($280K) of the first year operating revenues ($2.8M) is coming from, I presume, future "grants" and "other" which I believe starts in 2012 - so SPCS is running a deficit from the beginning. I think the fiscal modeling is generous on outside revenue sources which means a reduction in the educational services SPCS could potentially offer. I don't feel that the charter founders have any experience in running such a educational business offer little evidence that this business model is viable. see the complete budget at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=6532
Barry Logue December 10, 2011 at 02:32 AM
Yes I plan to oppose the charter based on its flawed operating budget assumptions listed in the budget submitted to the state which includes excessive 'non-instructional professional & administrative staffing expenses' of $358K as well as teaching 'paraprofessionals' $280K and the ... Teachers (and principal/asst principal) salaries $587K How many FOUNDERS will SPCS employ ? Many are educational/instructional professionals - are they limited from being paid - because otherwise this seems like a special interest group grabbing for public funds.
Paula Woolley December 14, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Patch didn't report on this: The International Parents Group at the Welcome Project, based at Somerville's Mystic Housing Development, has asked the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to postpone a decision on the proposed Somerville Progressive Charter School so that immigrant families can find out about it and make an informed decision as to whether opening this school will be good for their children. "We represent many different schools in Somerville. We are concerned about the decisions that are being made in regard to the new charter school," the parents wrote in a letter to DESE's Charter School Office. "We ask for respect and equality for all students in Somerville schools. We feel pressured to make a rapid decision about this issue. We need more information about what is happening and what the benefits are of their academic plan… "We feel that a decision needs to be delayed until the concerns of the parents who have signed this letter are clarified." The International Parents Group formed last year to ensure that the needs of immigrant families were addressed during the Unification process at the Healey School. The group now includes parents from several schools and they meet regularly at The Welcome Project. They continue to be an independent voice of immigrant parents at the Mystic Housing Development. A majority of the parents are Latino, though the group also has members from Haiti, Ethiopia, and Viet Nam.
Paula Woolley December 14, 2011 at 02:07 PM
The more I've learned about the process for applying for a charter school, the more aghast I've been. The state seems to assume that a district doesn't need any substantial amount of time to discuss a potential charter. Three weeks notice at Thanksgiving is not sufficient, especially when the founders talked to so few people about their plans and didn't hold public meetings until Nov. There should be a requirement that charter proposers must hold a public meeting (publicized in all local media and languages) during the school year prior to the public hearing. Also, I wonder whether all the board members making this decision currently have children in urban public schools? The schools have changed IMMENSELY since Ed reform and even more since 2000. I see one member is a former Worcester principal (not sure re public/private or charter) and one is a current student at Brookline High, but others are business people. I feel very uncomfortable having business people make decisions about education.


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