Boston charter school among four approved by state
Revised law allows for new openings
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved four new charter schools yesterday for Boston, Holyoke, Lowell, and Springfield as part of a broad effort to expand educational opportunities for students in urban areas.
The Holyoke, Lowell, and Springfield schools will operate independently of their city’s school systems and will open this fall or next fall. The one in Boston - the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School - will be overseen by the Boston public schools in partnership with two nonprofit organizations and will open this fall.
The Dudley Street school will initially serve a few dozen students in preschool through first grade, and will gradually expand over the years to accommodate about 300 students in preschool through Grade 5. It will take over the shuttered Emerson School on Shirley Street in Roxbury.
The school was developed by the nonprofit Boston Plan for Excellence and its highly regarded Boston Teacher Residency program, which recruits and trains college graduates to become teachers, as well as the nonprofit Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
“We are pretty excited,’’ Jesse Solomon, executive director of the Boston Plan for Excellence, said after the vote. “There’s a lot of work to do.’’
The school has been recruiting students since last fall, and the deadline to apply is Friday. Enrollment is open to students citywide. An informational meeting for parents will be held tomorrow at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s offices at 504 Dudley St.
The schools in Holyoke, Lowell, and Springfield were approved under a two-year-old revision of the state’s charter school law that allows for doubling the number of charter school seats in districts with the lowest scores in the state on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
The revised law also enabled Boston to open at least four “in-district’’ charter schools, without the approval of the teachers union, to help the city compete more aggressively with the independently run charter schools as they expand.
However, the School Department must negotiate any changes in the teacher union contract that it wants at the in-district charter schools, such as having teachers work an extended the school day.
Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said he did not anticipate any problems with making contract changes for the Dudley Street charter school, noting the union has had a good relationship with the Boston Teacher Residency program.
“We wish them well, and we look forward to working out a suitable arrangement that improves education, respects our members, and is good for children above all,’’ Stutman said.
Originally created under the 1993 Education Reform Act, charter schools are intended to be laboratories of innovation and operate with more flexibility than traditional public schools. Charter schools are overseen by their own board of trustees and generally employ nonunion teachers.
Many charter schools have among the highest MCAS scores, but others have poor academic records, prompting the state to close a handful of them.
The opening of the independent charter schools can take a hit on local school budgets. Students who leave their districts take with them thousands of dollars in state aid to the charter schools. However, if a school system runs its own charter school it keeps the tuition money.
Boston expects to funnel more than $60 million next year to roughly 20 independent charter schools to educate 5,800 students, according to the state’s website.
The other charter schools approved yesterday were the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Holyoke, to open this fall; and the Baystate Academy Charter School in Springfield and Collegiate Charter School of Lowell, both due to open in fall 2013.
While no independently run charter schools in Boston were up for state consideration yesterday, three are planning to open in Boston this fall, having secured state approval last year.