Brockton ramps up fight against New Heights Charter School

Brockton parents, teachers, students and elected officials are turning up the heat in their opposition to the proposed New Heights Charter School. They are asking supporters to learn more and join the fight by liking the NO to New Heights Charter School page on Facebook.

The Brockton mayor, School Committee, City Council and local legislators, as well as the Brockton Education Association and the MTA, have come out against the proposed school. They contend that the school would drain funds from the Brockton Public Schools without adding any new programs or opportunities for students.

“We have more and varied choices already in place and with a successful track record.”

- Brockton Schools Superintendent Kathleen Smith

Kathleen Smith, Brockton schools superintendent, challenged the contention that Brockton students need this charter because they don’t have enough choices.

“We have more and varied choices already in place and with a successful track record,” she said, echoing the views of numerous parents and former students who testified at a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education hearing on December 8. More than 200 residents packed the hearing in Brockton’s main library, most of them against New Heights.

“Inexplicably, this proposal does not serve our fastest-growing population — English language learners — improperly lumping ELLs in with special education students. These are two vastly different groups,” Smith continued. “As a parent, a resident and a taxpayer, I cannot support a school that would drain critical resources and not provide adequate services to the most vulnerable students.”

Yolanda DiFalco, vice president of the BEA, testified on behalf of the association.

“I am a product of the Brockton Public Schools,” she said. “My education prepared me for the successes of graduating from high school at age 16, from college at the age of 20, and obtaining a master's degree when I was 23. I am now proud to say that I am a resident of Brockton, teaching in my hometown, and raising two girls who will be attending school in a few short years. New Heights Charter offers nothing new or innovative.”

The Brockton School Department is suing DESE for allowing the charter application to go forward. DESE staff had originally determined that the application could not proceed because Brockton’s test scores do not place it among the lowest-performing 10 percent of districts. Brockton was lifted above the 10 percent threshold after DESE adopted a rule – following extensive public testimony – to include student growth measures along with absolute score levels in calculating which districts fell above or below that threshold. State law mandates that the first two charters approved in a given year be in the bottom 10 percent.

Despite DESE’s determination that Brockton was not in the bottom 10 percent and despite intense advocacy by supporters of the Brockton Public Schools, BESE voted 8-3 on November 25 to waive its own newly developed formula for calculating the bottom 10 percent of districts. With that waiver, the New Heights application was allowed to proceed.

Once the waiver was approved, the focus of the debate shifted to the quality of the application itself and whether it offers Brockton students anything new that isn’t currently available in district schools.

In written testimony opposing the application, MTA President Barbara Madeloni said, “I urge you to listen to the many educators, parents and public officials in Brockton who will tell you that the vast majority of Brockton residents who have a stake in public education do not want this charter school. In a true democracy, doing what’s best for students as determined by the will of the community should be the driving force behind your vote on this proposal.”

BESE is scheduled to vote on the application on February 24.

For more information, visit the MTA's charter schools toolkit.