GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 17, 2012

Charter board poised for final plea

Gloucester Community Arts Charter School trustees, set to present a last-ditch plea in front of the state’s highest education board today, were preparing for at least two possibilities Monday night — one possibility that would shut the school down after the school year closes and another that would shut it down almost immediately.

Initially, the charter school had essentially been given the traditional five-year startup period that the state’s charter schools have been granted to get on their feet. But, in the wake of low MCAS scores in math and science, and a gloomy third-year site review in October, state Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester gave the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education a recommendation to revoke the school’s charter as of June 30, 2013, the end of the current school and fiscal year.

“I expected to see far more progress than we see today,” Chester wrote in a Dec. 7 memo to the board. “I have concluded that GCACS is no longer a viable organization.”

The state education board is due to vote on Chester’s motion to revoke the charter at the board meeting in Malden this morning, after discussing the school’s condition and viability.

One of the state’s criticisms of the school revolves around issues with funding, though charter trustees said finances have been controlled with the landlord of the school’s rented building offering a flexible rent agreement, as well as new loan opportunities arising.

If the state finds the school to be financially insolvent, the state board could carry out an “emergency” revocation, a move that could pull the charter almost immediately, or likely by the end of December.

Though charter revocation still leaves open the possibility for trustees to appeal up to 15 days after the state board’s vote, Trustees Chairman James Caviston said Monday he is unsure whether the board would decide to appeal.

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