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Would the proposed New Heights Charter School in Brockton be a benefit to the city?

YES

Omari Walker, a Mansfield resident, is a founding member of the proposed New Heights Charter School and a former principal of a Fall River public school

Omari Walker.
Omari Walker.Handout/Handout

We have spoken with Brockton families about their wants, desires, and dreams for their children. With less than half of public school children in Brockton performing at grade level, the families of Brockton are in need of a high quality, public school alternative.

What we are proposing for Brockton is a new approach to teaching that focuses on the success of all children. We have streamlined the entire education process by educating students from grade six to grade 13. By removing the transition from middle to high school and from high school to college, we can strategically provide targeted interventions and tiered services that set our students up for success at the secondary and postsecondary levels. What's more, by enrolling students into college while still in high school, our students will be twice as likely to earn a four-year degree than students from a traditional comprehensive high school.

We know that Brockton public schools are a lot of things for a lot of students, but we are offering an alternative where 100 percent of our students attend college while still in high school for free. No comprehensive high school in Eastern Massachusetts can say that, and almost no school in America offers as many college credits as we are proposing.

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No one can debate the fact that the achievement gap is a major challenge. However, I am proud to say that I have spent my entire professional career serving poor, "at-risk," and predominately minority youth. Working alongside some of the most talented educators in the state, we have stretched the boundaries about as far as you can within the traditional public school in terms of providing resources for vulnerable teens. And I can say from experience that even when we succeeded in getting at-risk students to graduate, we could not keep them off the streets the following year. They gained the knowledge to graduate but didn't earn the tools to compete. This is the plight of urban education and this is what we intend to address with our early college high school model in Brockton.

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So why a charter public school in Brockton? Why not Brockton?

NO

Tom Minichiello , vice chair of the Brockton School Committee

Tom Minichiello.
Tom Minichiello.Handout

The unsolicited attempt by a charter school to open its doors in Brockton is wrong for a host of reasons; most importantly, students, parents and members of the Brockton school community have not requested or welcomed the concept at this time.

The Brockton Public Schools offers numerous pathways for student success including high level AP and International Baccalaureate programs, partnerships with colleges that allow our students to take part in dual enrollment and credit-bearing courses. And our high school –the largest in New England – has been repeatedly recognized as one of the nation's highest performing in an urban district. Yet we have another attempt by a charter school to open shop in Brockton for the sake of having a charter school in Brockton.

Let's look at what students the charter school wants: not our 30-plus percent English language learner population or our approximately 14 percent special education population. No, charter advocates want students from our grades 6-12 student population that testing shows are making progress. The data shows that the longer students remain within the Brockton school system, the more successful the test results.

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Brockton met the state guideline for achievement, but there is now a movement to modify the rules by granting the charter school a waiver. It is just plain wrong to circumvent the rules and demoralize a teaching staff whose hard work made measurable gains.

We also know that the cost to educate students in our at-risk populations is more expensive. Specialists and small class sizes are essential for real growth. Our fiscal environment is fragile; The district has a $6 million deficit this year, which has resulted in staff and program cuts. The charter school would add to our financial challenge, siphoning essential funding from an already deficient budget.

What is also curious is that so many components of the proposed charter school have been secretive: there is no word on location, facility design, local supporters, academic structure and design, or extra-curricular offerings. This only serves to reinforce distrust and tells me as a parent of two Brockton High School students and member of the school committee that there is much reason for concern.


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.