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Charter schools get voice on school board

Menino’s pick signals a shift

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has appointed the founder of a Dorchester charter school to the School Committee, in the latest signal of warming relations between Menino and the independently run institutions.

The appointee, Meg Campbell, is founder and executive director of the Codman Academy Charter Public School. The school has been noted for its good track record for college admissions, the mayor’s office said yesterday in a prepared statement.

Campbell said last night in a telephone interview that she believes Menino made a bold choice by appointing her to the panel, given her leadership position at a charter school.


“I think it’s a tribute to the mayor’s overriding commitment’’ to education, she said. “It doesn’t matter to the mayor where you go to school. It matters that you get a phenomenal education.’’

Charter schools are autonomous public schools known for education innovations, in part because they have fewer restrictions from unions, which are frequent critics of the charter system.

But Campbell said that she does not expect to have any problems negotiating with the Boston Teachers Union as a committee member.

“I’m really clear that my mission is children and their families,’’ she said. “And if that’s the mission of the teachers union, then we have nothing to disagree about.’’

She also said she would recuse herself from any committee votes that might directly affect her school.

“I wouldn’t want to have even the appearance of a conflict of interest,’’ she said. “I’m really accustomed to transparent accountability, so I kind of bring that spirit . . . to my service on the School Committee. I don’t have anything to hide, and I think that’s the way we make great schools.’’

Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, declined to comment last night on the disagreements between charter schools and unions. But he did criticize the way committee members are selected.


“Having an appointed school board is not the first choice of many people interested in moving the school system forward,’’ Stutman said yesterday. “However, both of the individuals the mayor appointed are esteemed individuals who are deeply dedicated to improving public education in Boston.’’

Menino also said he would appoint Claudio Martinez to another four-year term on the board.

In 2009, the Globe reported on a Codman Academy meet-and-greet event, in which about 30 college representatives spoke to juniors in five-minute intervals. The students received a crash course in potential college destinations, from Harvard University to Bunker Hill Community College.

Campbell, who is also a poet, has lived in Dorchester for over 30 years and has lectured at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, according to the Codman Academy website. She will succeed outgoing vice chairwoman Marchelle Raynor of Roxbury, who has served on the committee since 1999.

Much of the conflict over charter schools has been over funding. Boston pays out about $55 million a year from its state education aid to cover the charter school tuition costs of about 5,000 city children.

City leaders have long argued that charter schools have courted the best and brightest students and have encouraged students who do not measure up to academic or disciplinary standards to go back to the city’s school system.

Charter schools have repeatedly denied those assertions, saying they seek to educate students of all abilities and admit students through a blind lottery.


Campbell’s appointment comes about three months after the School Committee approved a historic compact between the city and its charter schools aimed at providing more students with a stronger education. As part of the agreement, charter schools pledged to more aggressively recruit students to better reflect the city’s demographics.

The compact also included a provision for the city’s school system and the charter schools to share educational practices that boost student achievement.

The School Committee approved the agreement by a 5-to-2 vote, with Martinez and Mary Tamer dissenting.

Martinez, 46, of Jamaica Plain, has served on the seven-member board since 2008. He is executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force and has more than 20 years of managerial experience in the private and nonprofit sectors, according to the task force’s website.

In an interview, Martinez said he will remain focused on leading the subcommittee for English-language learners, advocating policies that foster diversity in public schools, and overhauling the school system’s method for assigning students to schools.

“I think we have a big challenge in front of all of us this year. The city of Boston has changed significantly in many ways,’’ Martinez said. “Currently, we have, in many ways, an enrollment and assignment system that is outdated and is not serving many of the kids who need our help the most.’’

Martinez said such efforts fit into the larger trend of ethnic diversification and urban transformation.

“This is an issue affecting not only Boston but also the state and country as a whole,’’ he said.


In September, Martinez apologized for publicly ridiculing a participant at a contentious School Committee meeting last December.

“The Boston School Committee plays an essential role in our city, working to make sure all of our children learn and thrive,’’ Menino said in the statement. “I am pleased to appoint two respected leaders who can help raise our schools to the next level.’’

Committee member Michael D. O’Neill, who has served since 2008, has the next expiring term, on Jan. 7, 2013.

A panel accepted nominations to the School Committee this fall and recommended candidates to Menino, who interviewed finalists, the statement said.