, Gloucester, MA


September 21, 2009

Editorial: Ed chief's e-mail kills his, secretary's and charter's credibility

Well, the message sent by state Education Secretary Paul Reville to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, as reported in Saturday's Times, sure provides the primary reason Chester apparently backed the application for the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School.

While we would have liked to have thought Chester, who reports to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Reville, the state education czar appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick, agreed that the Gloucester charter deserved approval on its merits, we know now that the state's two education chiefs seem to have given Gloucester the nod because:

They feared rejecting all three charter applications would have "crippled" them with "moderate" allies such as The Boston Globe and the Boston Foundation.

Reville's top priority was "positioning ourselves (the Patrick administration) so that we can be viable to implement the rest of our agenda." As Reville wrote, "we have to show some sympathy in this group of charters or we'll be permanently labeled as hostile."

Gloucester was the only choice left, given that Chester could not "stand behind" the application from Waltham, and Reville conceded he was "not inclined to push Worcester" — where, it turns out, he had two children in the Worcester public schools at the time of his appointment by the governor.

So, when Reville followed through with a state ed board vote that delivered the Gloucester charter, and Chester went against the recommendations of charter school experts in his own office, it apparently had little or nothing to do with the opportunity for a group of local education activists to create an independent Gloucester public school with multi-age classrooms and a curriculum based on the area's rich arts heritage. And it had nothing to do with the concerns of the planned charter school's critics — from virtually every school and city official to many Gloucester school parents — who cried long and loudly about how a public charter school would wreak financial havoc on the rest of the school district.

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