GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 10, 2013

Letter: Writer using revisionist history on charter school


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

In his column this past week (the Times, Monday Aug. 6), Gordon Baird took issue with my assertion that the presence of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School impacted the decision by the district to declare the Fuller School as surplus property, a fact that is well documented.

Additionally the column contained a number of errors and poorly drawn conclusions.

I understand his effort to spin a more positive version of events surrounding the GCACS than reality supports, but it serves no one to have a re-visioned history on the record.

Mr. Baird balks at my characterization of him as “an architect” of the school. To be fair, I have no direct knowledge of his actual contribution to the development of the GCACS other than his name appearing in the original Nov. 14, 2008, application submitted to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

He resigned in December 2012 at the school’s most critical moment, right before it collapsed in January 2013. If he wasn’t an architect, he certainly was significantly involved for nearly the entirety of the school’s existence.

Mr. Baird states that the charter “hadn’t taken dime-one from the city yet because the state pays for the set-up and implementation phase over three years.” I believe this is incorrect.

While the actual dollar figures will have been adjusted to reflect the substantially disappointing enrollment, the Department of Local Services “cherry sheets” clearly document that about $2 million in funding was slated to be diverted from Gloucester’s local aid to the GCACS during fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2013. (For full documentation: http://1.usa.gov/HBcvM1 )

The state does pay 100 percent of the cost of the first year of the school. However the reimbursement scheme, designed to lessen but not eliminate the financial burden on host districts, plunges significantly in the second year and for four more years after that.

• Mr. Baird erroneously credits the GCACS for delivering $440k in Race to the Top funding to Gloucester. RTTT was first announced by the Obama administration in July 2009, five months after the GCACS was granted its charter, yet Massachusetts received no funding in the first round of applications. It wasn’t until August 2010 that Massachusetts received any RTTT funding, following the Patrick administration’s partial lifting of the charter cap (a criterion of RTTT) and the granting of two additional charters.

Gloucester received funding because the School Committee, administration and district teachers agreed to adopt the RTTT framework, not because we had a charter school. Manchester/Essex also received RTTT money, while Rockport declined it.

While it’s true that the GCACS scored higher than O’Maley Middle School students in two categories — sixth- and eighth-grade English (pitting the results of 20 or so students against O’Maley’s 200-plus), in 12 of the 14 MCAS tests administered, in Grades 3-8, the Glopucester Public School District consistently outscored GCACS.

In the math and science scores, GCACS scored “proficient/higher” only 10-12 percent of the time in the middle school level, or in real terms, about two students per grade. By any objective measure, the “whipping” that Mr. Baird boasts of was most assuredly not suffered by the district schools. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester cited the disappointing results as one of the factors in his decision to close the school.

No one has ever suggested that the GPSD is run by “geniuses.” The GPSD is run by hard-working, dedicated administrators, teachers and staff, along with parents and volunteers working with a very complex and challenging range of educational, socio-economic and budgetary issues. There has been, and remains, room for significant improvement.

Those of us who challenged the granting of the GCACS have indeed “moved on” from that fight, but we remain committed to improving the educational landscape for all of Gloucester’s children.

I suggest Mr. Baird consider doing the same.

JASON GROW

Marble Road, Gloucester