, Gloucester, MA


October 1, 2012

Editorial: Blackman's drastic cut shows need for charter reforms

The drastic step by Gloucester Community Arts Charter School Executive Director Tony Blackman to cut his own job to save the school some $80,000 toward a $550,000 budget deficit indeed shows his commitment to the school, which never could have opened without his efforts and those of several parents in the late summer and fall of 2010.

Yet his perceived need to take that step also spotlights for the state and the local charter’s Board of Trustees the flaws in funding these programs based solely on a per-pupil, early-enrollment projection basis — a per-pupil count that, in this case, has been set up to fail in each of the school’s three years.

So as the board, GCAS Education Director Beth Del Forge, and, yes, the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ease into a transition with Blackman leaving Oct. 20, it’s important that all parties take a fresh look at how this situation has evolved, with this year’s deficit outstripping funding gaps that have also forced mid-year cuts in the school’s staffing in the past as well. For the goal, as Blackman noted himself, must be for this school — fresh off a mixed bag of MCAS scores, but some showing significant improvements — to move forward and continue providing school parents and their children this important educational option.

It’s not difficult to tell what prompted Blackman’s choice — and the hesitant acceptance of it by the trustees, who, Chairman James Caviston noted, had been poised to offer Blackman a multi-year deal with a pay hike, then shifted its negotiating sessions toward a “separation” agreement that still needs final approval: In each of its three years, the charter school has drawn expressions of interest from students and families on one level, then found far fewer of them actually firm up registering and attending.

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