Commissioner won't recommend Haverhill charter school

Commissioner won't recommend Haverhill charter school

Haverhill Education Association members at Dec. 12 2018 charter school hearing
More than 250 Haverhill Education Association members turned out for a hearing on Dec. 3 to oppose the proposed charter school.

Plan opposed by educators will not go forward

Educators and community supporters of public schools in Haverhill can breathe easier after learning that they have been victorious in their battle against a new charter school in the city. It was announced today that state Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley will not recommend approval of the Wildflower Montessori charter school. The application, which was supposed to have been voted on next Tuesday, is dead for this cycle.

"This is a huge victory for the students who attend our public schools,” said Ted Kempinski, president of the Haverhill Education Association. “Our schools desperately need more funding. What we don’t need is another charter school that will drain money from the public schools that educate all students.”

"What we don’t need is another charter school that will drain money from the public schools that educate all students.”

Haverhill Education Association President Ted Kempinski

The proposal called for creating a 240-seat Montessori charter school in Haverhill that would have taken away more than $1.6 million a year from the district public schools. At a packed public hearing on the proposal on Dec. 3, more than 250 HEA members turned out to oppose the plan, along with the mayor, school administrators, elected officials, and community members who value publicly funded, democratically led public schools.

In a memo to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education dated Feb. 6 but released two days later, the commissioner wrote that his primary objection was that “the applicant group is at the beginning stages of developing the necessary knowledge and capacity to implement all aspects of the proposed school design, including governance and management.”

Educators had other concerns in addition to the funding loss and its deep impact on the public schools, MTA President Merrie Najimy noted.

“We were very concerned about Wildflower’s plan to place sensors in students’ shoes to track their movements every moment of the day,” Najimy said. “This invasion of privacy is alarming.”

To make the case that the planned Wildflower charter probably would have served a disproportionately small share of high-need students, Kempinski pointed to 2017-18 Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data about Hill View, a Montessori charter school that has been in operation in Haverhill for several years. The data show:

  • Students whose first language is not English: 3 percent Hill View; 16.5 percent HPS
  • Students with disabilities: 14.9 percent Hill View; 23.2 percent HPS
  • Economically disadvantaged students: 18.2 percent Hill View; 47.1 percent HPS

“We are glad that we have won this important victory for our public schools,” said Kempinski, who had been urging Haverhill educators to email BESE members to vote against the proposal. “Now we can focus on what will really make a difference for our students: more resources and support for our public schools, the very things we are seeking through the statewide Fund Our Future campaign.”

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