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November 23, 2012

Charter faces new scrutiny by state

State chief sees challenges to 'viable, effective program"

GLOUCESTER — The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in its latest site visit to the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, found a school with much more room for improvement.

And when the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education takes up discusson of Gloucester’s charter school during its Monday meeting in Malden, it will draw from a report issued by Commission of Education Mitchell D. Chester that the school “faces substantial challenges to its ability to implement a viable and effective school program.”

The Monday review will be the third such forum regarding the school’s progress, dating to eight conditions imposed on the school when it was placed on probation by Chester and the board in December 2010.

Of the eight conditions imposed in the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, Chester wrote in his advance notice to the state board for Monday’s meeting, “Despite the school’s progress in meeting some of the conditions, evidence shows that (the school) faces substantial challenges to its ability to implement a viable and effective school program.” In addition, Chester added, “In May 2011, I stated that a major indicator for the school’s potential viability would be future enrollment numbers. This year’s first-quarter enrollment (123) is lower than last year’s (136) and far below the school’s reported pre-enrollment numbers.”

The drop in enrollment numbers this fall have come despite the fact that the school, now in its third full year, has added two new grades — a kindergarten and first grade. It also came after a tumultuous spring and summer that included wholesale staff changes, the controversial ouster of the GCAS Head of School in early June, and a series of complaints — never backed with any documentation — filed with the school’s Board of Trustees by a handful of parents calling for an investigation into alleged actions on the part of then-Executive Director Tony Blackman.

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