, Gloucester, MA

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November 29, 2012

Parents support charter petition

As the clock ticks toward the mid-December day when the state’s education board will decide the next step for Gloucester’s charter school — with charter revocation being a possibility — a petition to keep the school open is being circulated, capturing more than 400 signatures in less than two days.

After an October site review of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School — and a damning report citing low MCAS scores in math, a continuing fiscal struggle, subpar enrollment and high teacher turnover — Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester earlier this week said he was reconsidering his initial decision to grant the school five years to pull everything together. He said he would be reluctant to “subject” its students to more time within the “struggling” school.

A pro-charter school Internet petition, created on the website, immediately went up and the signatures started pouring in. The petition calls on Chester, legislators, the state’s Secretary of Education, and Mayor Carolyn Kirk to preserve the charter school’s five-year term. The petition says the community will lose an asset if the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education revokes the charter at its Dec. 18 meeting.

“This would mean over 120 children and their parents will be denied the choice they made to attend this innovative school against their will,” the petition, started by former chairman and founding charter school board member Peter Van Ness and the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization treasurer, Vickie Van Ness.

Charter parents, school teachers and board members said the growing number of signatures on the Internet petition shows just how real the school’s support is.

“I’ve noticed support coming from a few places that even surprised me,” Peter Van Ness said, noting a preschool director who had commented that she refers the parents of her students to the charter, as well as relatives of charter students and people who have benefited from charter schools in their own communities.

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