BEA president responds to New Heights relocation

Kim Gibson, president of the Brockton Education Association, reacted on Wednesday to the news that the New Heights Charter School, which was supposed to open in Brockton this fall, is instead planning to move to a temporary location in Norwood.

According to a letter from New Heights posted on its website, the uncertainty is not over, since the move depends on approval by Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester.

Recent reporting by the Enterprise newspaper in Brockton indicates that the school’s opening has been plagued with problems, including low enrollment numbers, construction delays and, most recently, a construction halt due to the lack of needed permits.

New Heights was approved in February as a regional charter school serving students in Brockton, Randolph and Taunton. Approval by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was granted over strong objections from elected officials, parents and educators in all of the affected communities, particularly Brockton, from which the school expects to draw most students.

Brockton school supporters contended that Brockton Public Schools are an excellent example of successful urban public education and that the New Heights plan offered nothing new that wasn’t available in the public schools. They expressed concern that the loss of funds to New Heights would impact the ability of the public schools to provide all of the services currently offered.

In response to the announcement of the move to Norwood, BEA President Gibson made the following statement:

“This latest change of plans is hugely disruptive for the students who have signed up to attend the New Heights Charter School. It is also disruptive to the Brockton Public Schools, where classes are beginning on Tuesday. If a flood of students return from New Heights, we will gladly accommodate them because that’s what public schools do, but it won’t be smooth or easy for anyone.

“Hard questions need to be asked of New Heights and of Commissioner Chester. As of today, August 31, does New Heights still have 315 students enrolled, as called for in the school’s charter? If not, how many students are enrolled? Will the department allow New Heights to open with fewer students than planned? What impact will the long commute to and from Norwood have on the school’s schedule and course offerings? What impact will the loss of revenues have on the planned programs if students decide not to enroll, or drop out shortly after the school opens? How can the disruption to students be minimized during this difficult time?

“I think this fiasco should serve as a cautionary tale to the rest of the state, as voters will soon be facing Question 2 on the ballot. If Question 2 is approved, opening the floodgates to new charter schools across the state, what assurances do we have that such disruptions and chaos won’t become commonplace in the future?”