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Brockton

Charter school proposal passed over by state

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File 2012

A proposal to build a charter school in Brockton has failed to make the short list being recommended to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for approval on Tuesday.

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester backed five new charter applications on a list of 11 finalists. The International Charter School of Brockton was one of six that did not make the cut.

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Chester’s Feb. 15 decision takes the proposal for Brockton off the table, said state education spokesman J.C. Considine.

“The board only votes on proposals that the commissioner recommends,” he said.

Chester has recommended City on a Hill Charter Public School II in Boston, UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester, City on a Hill Charter Public School in New Bedford, Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School in Springfield, and Pioneer Charter School of Science II, serving Saugus, Peabody, Lynn, Danvers, and Salem.

The proposed Brockton charter school would have opened in 2014 with 540 students in kindergarten through Grade 5, and gradually expanded to 1,200 students through Grade 12. A nine-member board of trustees, consisting of community members and area business leaders who belong to the founding group, would oversee the school, while Sabis Educational Systems operated it. The international for-profit company runs charter schools in Springfield and Holyoke.

While Sabis has a proven track record in the state, Considine said the charter goes not to the company but to the founding group.

“The biggest concern of the commissioner was the quality of the board of trustees and the skill set and proven track record they bring to carry out their education model,” he said. “What it boils down to is the merit of the application and the ability of the founding group to get it up and running on time and oversee its management.”

Founding member John T. Yunits, a former longtime mayor of Brockton, took issue with Considine’s comments.

“We have a talented banker along with educators and professionals,” Yunits said. “I ran a city of 3,300 employees. I certainly wasn’t concerned about the ability to oversee a charter school, if that’s the excuse.”

Brockton public school officials were pleased with the commissioner’s decision.

“I think the commissioner recognized the good work we are doing,” interim School Superintendent John R. Jerome said in a press release.

He said the charter school “did not offer anything that was not already in place in Brockton public schools.”

The Brockton teachers’ union had also lobbied against the charter school proposal, and in the release union president Kimberly Gibson called the commissioner’s decision “an affirmation of our hard work to be innovative and meet the needs of all students in our school.”

Brockton School Committee member Michael Healy was also celebrating the decision, but said charter school opponents will not “rest on our laurels” until after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s vote on Tuesday.

Healy said opponents are concerned the school proposal could be raised for reconsideration that day.

“We’re probably going to give a show of force at the meeting, with one or two committee representatives and one or two administrators,” he said.

Jose Afonso, Sabis’s director of US business development, said a proposal is dead once it has been rejected by the state commissioner; Healy’s plan to make sure it does not resurface “goes to show the mind-set of what we’ve been dealing with — it’s an all-out war,” he said.

Opposition from the district’s administration and staff was not unexpected, since charter schools get funding for student tuitions from a district’s state aid. Brockton stood to lose about $10,800 in state dollars for every student leaving to attend the charter school.

“They’ll fight tooth and nail to protect their monopoly,” Afonso said. “It’s about power and money.”

Charter school founding member Faelton Perkins said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the commissioner’s action.

“It’s politics, and we were on the wrong side,” Perkins said.

Yunits said the governor’s recent appointment of former Brockton school superintendent Matthew Malone as state secretary of education did not help the charter school’s cause, as Malone had led the charge against the proposal last fall.

“When Matt got the secretary’s position, the writing was on the wall,” Yunits said.

This latest failure is not the proposed charter school’s first. In 2008, a plan for a Sabis-run school, based in Brockton and serving 13 school districts, met with stiff opposition and was ultimately denied a charter by the state.

It probably will not be the last charter school application in the city. Afonso said he will meet with founding members to reevalute their application.

“There’s clearly a demand for this in Brockton,” he said. “We had over 900 signatures on a petition.”

Chester was expected to send feedback to proponents of passed-over projects. Considine said those with failed proposals will be invited to submit applications for next year’s cycle “but they would have to go back to the starting line with other new applicants.”

The other proposals that did not make the cut were Argosy College Charter School in Fall River; Edward W. Brooke Charter School 4 in Boston; Pioneer Charter School of Science IV serving Woburn, Stoneham, Medford, Melrose, Wakefield, and Saugus; Springfield Collegiate Charter School; and YouthBuild Academy Charter School in Lawrence.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.

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