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Boston School Committee members offer no opposition to Dearborn school conversion plan

Dearborn could be home to a charter school next year.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Dearborn could be home to a charter school next year.

Members of the Boston School Committee raised no objections Wednesday night to a proposal to convert the Dearborn STEM Academy into a charter school in hopes of averting a state takeover of the failing middle school.

Under the proposal, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School would operate the Dearborn, starting in the fall of 2015, and the school would eventually move into a $70.7 million building that is being constructed in Roxbury. The building, when completed in about three years, will be the first new school building in Boston in more than a decade.

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“What do you need from us -- a vote?” asked Meg Campbell, a School Committee member who runs a charter school, after hearing a presentation on the move.

A necessary vote from the school board to convert the academy is expected to take place in September. The proposal will also require approval from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which oversees all charter schools and has final say on whether to place the Dearborn into receivership.

Michael O’Neill, the School Committee chairman, said he was intrigued by the plan, although he raised a number of questions and concerns.

He noted, however, that he attended a ground breaking for the Dearborn’s new building just a month ago and many people there were proud of the new school, also in Roxbury.

“I’m extremely sensitive having been at the Dearborn about the work the community did,” he said. “They fought passionately for the school.”

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In public testimony during the meeting, a volunteer at the Dearborn expressed concern about handing over the academy to a charter school.

“Please consider alternatives to charters as options,” said Yvonne Powell. “Those children deserve the best.”

Two parents from the Dudley Street School, which currently is an elementary school, also testified, with one offering support for the proposal to have Dudley run the Dearborn.

“Unfortunately in that part of Roxbury not enough schools are excelling,” said Hakim Harris, whose daughter will be a third-grader this fall at Dudley.

Under the plan, Dudley would run the Dearborn as an “indistrict” charter school, allowing Boston’s School Department to maintain some oversight. It is the same arrangement Dudley has with the department in running an elementary school on Shirley Street in Roxbury.

All Dearborn students would be guaranteed seats and Dudley would continue programs specializing in the math and sciences. Dudley also would carry out plans to add high school grades to the Dearborn.

It remains unclear, under the proposal, if the Dearborn name would continue.

In introducing the plan, interim School Superintendent John McDonough said, “we have a sense of urgency for the success of students at the Dearborn.”

“We are concerned the school is not demonstrating sufficient academic improvement,” he said.

As the proposal is being debated, McDonough has replaced Dearborn’s principal, Jose Duarte. Mweusi Willingham will serve as the interim headmaster.

A community meeting will be held on the proposal on Aug. 19.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.

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