, Gloucester, MA


November 27, 2012

Editorial: City schools must prepare reponse to charter questions

We won’t know until sometime next month whether the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will let the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School carry on beyond this academic year — or really even finish it, given Tuesday’s comments by state Commissioner of Education Mitchell D. Chester (See news story, Page 1).

But given Chester’s damning remarks about the school, its lack of progress, and its never-ending struggle with enrollment and thus with its financial support, one thing is clear:

Officials with the Gloucester Public School District need to start preparing for how they would welcome back students and parents who – for a variety of reasons — chose the public and independent GCACS over a city school system that many felt did not adequately meet their wants or needs in the past. And those same officials should be aware that, if indeed the state does pull the plug on Gloucester Charter Arts, they cannot fairly expect these students and parents to return to “business as usual” and programs in which they chose not to take part in the past.

That prospect became all too real Tuesday, when — while pushing back any action regarding Gloucester Charter Arts’ future to a BESE meeting in December — Chester let it be known that, given the latest state site review and a host of other issues, a “revocation” of the school’s charter would be on the proverbial table, in his “realm of possibilities for my recommendation.”

Indeed, while Chester and board officials have been willing in the past to give the Gloucester school the usual five years to sort out any growing pains, his finding that, in its third year, the school is still developing a curriculum document and grappling with other issues expected in a “first-year school” is particularly troubling. And the perpetual lack of accountability and any oversight on the part of a badly overmatched Board of Trustees – spotlighted now by a questionable $75,000 loan and $2,500 loan fee taken on by former Executive Director Tony Blackman without any board role — certainly doesn’t spur any confidence that the board has learned from its myriad past mistakes.

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