Within just a few hours of a Superior Court judge's Tuesday decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 15 Gloucester school parents intent on stopping the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, their Boston-based attorney, Ian Roffman, said the ruling was, "by no means the end of this process."
Please, say it ain't so, Ian.
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert Cornetta to summarily dismiss should indeed be the end of any legal process aimed at challenging the continued, rightful operation of the school.
And Gloucester school and city officials should disavow any additional challenges that could be seen as threatening the charter school's continued operation and progress as well.
For while the parents' lawsuit understandably raised lingering questions about the manner in which state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education granted the charter's approval, there can be no more questions of whether the school can or should continue to operate through its five-year renewal period.
Did Chester wrongfully withhold the Charter School Office's negative recommendation from the board prior to its February 2009 approval? Absolutely.
Were there bidding process foulups during the school's 2010 construction? Yes, including one no-bid deal that went to a company headed by the brother of state Ed Board chief Maura Banta.
But, as we've noted time and time again, those issues should be — and some have been — addressed by the state Legislature through reforms in the charter application and approval process.
In the wake of Judge Cornetta's ruling, neither the state nor the city should tolerate any more actions that could — beyond the state ed board's own reviews and renewals — question whether the school can or should go forward.
Does the school still face its own challenges? Yes — and, after last year's horrific showing, all eyes will especially be on Gloucester Community Arts' next round of students scores on the standardized Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System or MCAS tests.
Yet, the judge's ruling alone should help the school overcome other challenges. That's because, as Executive Director Tony Blackman rightfully noted, he, the school's other administrators and the Gloucester Community arts Board of Trustees can now effectively reach out to prospective students and teachers without having to answer bogus questions about whether the school will remain open.
The attraction of new students will indeed help the school past its budget shortfalls, because its funding, unlike that for the city school system. is on a per-pupil basis. And further growth of the charter school may also, perhaps more subtly, help ease costs for the Gloucester Public Schools, where budgets have risen or held steady despite a loss of more than 1,000 students over the last decade.
From attorney Roffman's response, it sounds as if the plaintiff/parents, however well-intentioned at the start, simply see Judge Cornetta's ruling as just another bump in their road toward derailing the school. But that's not the message we hear at all.
Cornetta's ruling should be seen as a sign that — despite the need for legislative changes — the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School should be here to stay as long as it succeeds on its own merits.
That means GCACS students and parents can rightfully continue to pursue this alternative educational opportunity. And city leaders and residents alike must now move forward, and end the bitter divisiveness that has cast clouds over the school for far too long.