July 27, 2009
At the special school committee meeting on July 22, the committee voted to move the Prospectus for a Horace Mann Charter School at the R.H. Conwell Elementary School in Worthington forward for review by the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Assuming that the Gateway Teachers’ Association also votes to allow the Prospectus to move forward, this means that the next step in establishing a Horace Mann Charter School in the district will have been taken. It was noted during the meeting that this is not the final approval by the school committee or teachers’ association, but rather an opportunity for the Worthington Charter School Committee to continue its work including firming up many of the details required before gaining both local and state approval of the Charter application. In fact, the Prospectus is not meant to provide the nitty-gritty details of the charter school’s operation but rather show a broad overview of what the gist of the idea is for establishing Conwell as a Charter School.
At the school committee meeting there were numerous questions posed for the Charter Committee to answer as they move forward with writing up their more in-depth proposal for consideration by the district. These questions were far ranging from student numbers to busing to the details of financing and budgeting. The Charter School Committee members reiterated their position that if the Charter School at Conwell was not financially advantageous to the district the proposal would be voluntarily withdrawn but that they thought that both financially and educationally, the Charter School would be beneficial to the district as a whole.
This is only the second step in the formal acceptance process (the first was a letter to the DESE of the intent to apply for a charter). In reviewing the application process, it appears that each step in the process becomes more difficult and time consuming requiring ever-greater detail, specificity and supporting documentation. It has been apparent from the presentations that this Charter Committee is motivated, energetic, dedicated and willing to put in the time required to Shepard this idea through a rather rigorous process required to establish a Horace Mann Charter School. Whether individuals agree or disagree with the idea, no one can fault the committee members for their hard work and single-mindedness in moving this process forward or the hours of hard work that they’ve committed to this project to date. I’m sure that we all look forward to seeing the idea fleshed out and in getting detailed answers to the many questions raised by the school committee.
I also want to alert our students and parents of a potential change to the 2009-2010 school calendar brought about by the state’s finalization of MCAS testing dates after the adoption of our school calendar. These are relatively minor changes and essentially move the two parent teacher conference dates one week earlier (November 9th to November 2nd and March 22nd to March 15th) to accommodate MCAS testing. These changes are tentative at this point, as they have to be accepted by the school committee and teachers’ association. As a reminder, the first day back for students is September 2nd and I’m pleased to report that our custodial staff is doing a great job of preparing our schools for the opening day of school.