Educator unions call for boycott of Old Sturbridge Village

Educator unions call for boycott of Old Sturbridge Village

The Massachusetts Teachers Association and Educational Association of Worcester are calling on Old Sturbridge Village to withdraw its application to open a new charter school in Worcester pending decisions by the State Auditor and Inspector General to investigate the financial relationship between the publicly funded school and privately operated museum.

The unions also call for a boycott of the museum if it persists in trying to open a publicly funded school to support the private business.

The Worcester School Committee unanimously voted Feb. 27 to request State Auditor Diana DiZoglio and the Office of the Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro to look into the financial arrangement among OSV Inc., and OSV Academy Charter School and the proposed Worcester Cultural Academy Charter School. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to vote on Feb. 28 whether to approve the OSV’s Worcester Cultural Academy Charter School application.

MTA President Max Page pointed to documents produced during a public hearing outlining OSV’s strategy to open “academies” as a means of providing a revenue stream for the museum, which has already opened one charter school in the state.

“This is a money grab, pure and simple,” Page said. “OSV President Jim Donahue stated ‘the academies will provide reliable, contractual revenue to the museum, safeguarding us against … factors that impact admission revenue’ – revealing the true agenda of creating cash cows for OSV rather than putting Worcester student needs at the forefront.”

The MTA is also urging supporters of public education to boycott Old Sturbridge Village as long as it continues to siphon funds from the public schools educating the vast majority of students.

MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy called it “unconscionable” that the museum is already taking resources away from Southbridge schools, which are struggling under years of state receivership and to now target Worcester which is finally going to receive a boost in funding thanks to the Student Opportunity Act.

“The board should not even consider this application and await the review of the State Auditor and Inspector General,” McCarthy said. “While these offices look into the questionable financial arrangement OSV has set up, a boycott sends a clear message – we won’t support an institution that skims money from public schools to support private businesses.”

Educational Association of Worcester President Melissa Verdier noted that not only did opposition to the charter far outweigh its support at a public hearing held in December, but also that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received substantially more letters in opposition to the proposal than it did letters of support.

“This charter proposal offers nothing new to our students and will only hurt our schools by taking away resources,” Verdier said. “Stand with Worcester students, educators, and the community – tell OSV you will not visit or contribute to their exploitative financial model of profiting off Worcester students.”

Worcester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rachel Monárrez stated, “The Worcester Cultural Academy proposal is financially motivated with many flaws, and will not serve the educational needs of the diverse student population of Worcester. It is imperative that the Worcester School Committee, the families and community members of Worcester, our legislative delegation, and state Board of Education members understand the significant impact this plan could have on students.”